JOHN L. McKENZIE AND THE TRINITY BROCHURE.
In the brochure "Should you believe in the Trinity"(1989) published by the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society the Catholic scholar John L. McKenzie was quoted in a section entitled "The Word was God"(pp.26-28) in the Chapter "What About Trinity "Proof Texts"?"(pp.23-29) The use of McKenzie in this brochure has occaisioned criticism. One such has been from Robert M. Bowman in his book "Why You should Believe in the Trinity" (p.95).
The quotation was from McKenzie's Dictionary of the Bible under the topic "God"(p.317):
"And Jesuit John L. McKenzie wrote in his Dictionary of the Bible "Jn 1:1 should rigorously be translated..."the word was a divine being." "
Bowman's objection of the brochure by it's use of McKenzie here is that it "quoted[McKenzie]out of context." Bowman goes on: "The JW booklet implies that calling the Word "a divine being" makes him less than Jehovah. Yet on the same page McKenzie calls Yahweh(Jehovah) "a divine personal being"; McKenzie also states that Jesus is called "God" in both John 20:28 and Titus 2:13 and that John 1:1-18 expresses "an identity between God and Jesus Christ."
So has the WTB&TS brochure mis-applied and mis-used McKenzie?
We feel that it is rather the case
that Bowman has not alerted his readers as to the purpose
of the section in the brochure "The Word was God."
What this section is primarily concerned with is the translation of John 1:1c "KAI QEOS HN hO LOGOS," literally " and God/god was the Word/Logos."
The section first quotes the very well known King James Version's translation "and the Word was God" and that Trinitarians claim that this means that Jesus Christ was "Almighty God." After noting how the context argues against this translation the brochure then cites 8 Bible translations(aswell as the New World Translation of 1950) that render the above Greek construction somewhat differently. Six of these use the English indefinite article 'a' ("a god," "a divine being," "a divine kind") and the other two says "divine" and "godlike." The brochure than discusses what authority these translations have for so rendering.
The brochure quotes the article by Harner in the Journal of Biblical Literature as saying that the word "QEOS" in John 1:1c is "primarily qualatitive in meaning" and that the predicate QEOS "cannot be regarded as definite." Then a little further on the brochure shows that in other places where the Greek sentence structure is the same often times Bible translators will use the English indefinite article. We then come to two quotations: one by Thayer and the other, which is our concern here, by McKenzie. Has the brochure quoted McKenzie "out of context"?
If it was to try to imply that McKenzie thought that the Word was not "God," in a trinitarian 'kind' of sense, then that would be true. But, as can be seen, the purpose of this particular section has more to do with how the Greek construction can be translated and then the meaning being discussed/shown by looking at contextual matters. It is evident that McKenzie was quoted simply because he was one scholar who translated the predicate QEOS in "KAI QEOS HN hO LOGOS" with an English indefinite article: "and the word was a divine being." McKenzie even saying it should be "rigorously translated" that way. He was not quoted in how he thought this was meant to be understood. Throughout this section the brochure is trying to both discuss how the construction we have in John 1:1c can be translated and its meaning. As Mckenzie said what he did about the translation of it then it would certainly be fitting and proper to quote him especially after the brochure had indicated just before quoting McKenzie that "...since John 1:1 shows that the Word was with God, he could not be God but was "a god," or "divine."-p.27. By saying this the brochure is correctly argueing that the Word cannot be the "hO QEOS" he was with. Even Trinitarians would agree with this for they believe that the "HO THEOS" was the Father and then to go on to translate that the Word was "God"(as the English translation of the definite and anarthrous QEOS' in John 1:1, 2 does not alert the English reader to the use or omission of the Greek article with each occurrence) would make an indentity between the Father and the Word, that they are the same being! But that they are not is well brought out by translating it how McKenzie much prefers "and the word was a divine being." But it is not only the Father that the Word or "LOGOS" is not. The Word is not the "hO QEOS" here in John 1:1c. McKenzie states right before he says "Jn 1:1 should rigorously be translated "the word was with the God[=the Father], and the word was a divine being" that "..the title ho theos, which now designates the Father as a personal reality, is not applied in the NT to Jesus himself " Hence, we are not too sure that Bowman has himself 'used' or understood McKenzie correctly when Bowman says, as already quoted, "McKenzie also states that Jesus is called "God" in....John 20:28." Actually, what Mckenzie said was that "Thomas invokes Jesus with the titles which belong to the Father...John 20:28," and, bearing in mind that McKenzie said before this that hO QEOS" is "not applied to Jesus himself" we think Bowman should have alerted his readers to this aswell, so that how we are to understand Mckenzie here in this section of his discussion of the word "God" is not that clear. What is clear is how he thought John 1:1c should be translated which translation agree wholly with the New World Translation's "and the Word was a god." McKenzie did in fact describe Jehovah God as "a divine...being" as Bowman reports. But this means that there are others who are also 'divine beings' yet not the Almighty "divine being," God. Exactly! Also in John 1:1 what we have here is the Word, the "Logos," being described as a "divine being" but as this "divine being" was "with" God this Word is not the "divine being" that is Almighty, Jehovah God.