A review of The Kingdom Interlinear Translation of the Greek Scriptures, in reference to John 1:1.
John 1:1 is often seen as the most crucial point in refuting or affirming Christ’s Deity. The 3rd clause of the verse (better known as John 1:1c “and the Word was God“) has been under severe scrutiny for quite literally an eternity. Many Muslims and Jehovah’s Witnesses use this text to show mistranslation, or corruption in translation, stating that since the Greek word for God θεὸς (Theos) does not have the definite article ὁ (ho) preceding it, the phrase should be translated in English with an indefinite article as “and the Word was a god.” Let’s dig deeper into the JW’s own Kingdom Interlinear and review their reasoning behind translating the clause with an indefinite article.
When turning to the Appendix section 2a of the “Kingdom Interlinear Translation of the Greek Scriptures”, the Jehovah’s Witnesses provide details on why its translators chose to render John 1:1c “a god” instead of “God.”
Section 2a starts out by giving 8 examples of how other translators have also translated John 1:1c differently from the standard “and the Word was God.”
One of eight examples phrases it as “and the Word was divine,” another translates the clause as, “and a god was the Word,” two examples contain the “word(or logos) was a God,” and one of the examples is their very own New Word Translation version of John 1:1c, “and the Word was a god.” The last 3 of the 8 examples are all taken from a man known as Johannes Greber.
Greber was a Roman Catholic priest in the 1920s, who became interested in the Spirit world and often had communication with spirit beings who spoke through his wife (a medium), and these spirit beings would inform Johannes that the Bible was full of errors. His translations read as follows, “and a god (or, of a divine kind) was the Word,” “and godlike sort was the Logos,” and “and a god was the Logos.”
I’m under the impression that these 8 examples, (one of which is their own translation), are supposed to be viewed as a nail in the coffin, supporting that 2000 years of church history have been completely wrong and we have all been brainwashed or fooled into believing the Deity of Christ. Obviously for the sake of brevity they only chose these 8 examples, but within these 8 examples supporting the Watchtowers translation of the last clause of John 1:1, three came from a Catholic priest who had constant communication into the Spirit realm, and one being its own translation. (Personally, I probably would have thought that one through a little bit more, or maybe only listed 4 examples.) With that being said, are these 8 examples really supposed to convince the Trinitarian that there could be another possible way to translate John 1:1 rather than how the KJV, NKJV, and the other versions translate the clause, even using its own translation as an example?
Next in the Interlinear, we have 4 paragraphs defending the proceeding 8 examples, and explaining why the clause should not be translated as “was God.” The first of the paragraphs are as follows and I quote,
“These translations use such words as “a god,” “divine,” or “god-like” because the Greek word θεὸς (the-os’) is a singular predicate noun occurring before the verb and is not preceded by the definite article. This is anarthrous the-os’. The God with whom the Word, or Logos, was originally is designated here by the Greek expression ο θεὸς, that is, the-os’ preceded by the definite article ho. This is an articular construction of the noun points to an identity, a personality, whereas a singular anarthrous predicate noun preceding the verb points to a quality about someone. Therefore, John’s statement that the Word, or Logos was “a god” or “divine” or “godlike” does not mean that he was the God with whom he was. It merely expresses a certain quality about the Word, or Logos, but it does not identify him as one and the same as God himself.”
Now, as a Trinitarian, I agree with the teaching that this is a qualitative singular noun that describes the subject noun. Also, any true Greek scholar would also affirm this teaching. All Orthodox Trinitarians agree that the Word is not the same person as who He is facing in the second clause of verse 1 (καὶ ὁ λόγος ἦν πρὸς τὸν θεόν). This may show the ignorance on the part of the Watchtower as to what the Trinity exactly is, or perhaps a blatant misrepresentation, as to argue against a straw man. Either way, let’s continue with the second and third paragraphs of section 2A.
“In the Greek text, there are many cases of a singular anarthrous predicate noun preceding the verb, such as those listed in the accompanying chart. In these places, translators insert the indefinite article “a” before the predicate noun in order to bring out the quality or characteristic of the subject. Since the indefinite article is isterted before the predicate noun in such texts, with equal justification the indefinite article “a” is inserted before the anarthrous θεὸς in the predicate of John 1:1 to make it read “a god.” The Sacred scriptures confirm the correctness of this rendering.”
The section continues,
“In his article “Qualitative Anarthrous Predicate Nouns: Mark 15:39 and John 1:1,” published in the journal of Biblical Literature, Vol. 92, Phildelphia, 1973, on p. 85 Philip B Harner said that such clauses as the one in John 1:1, “with anarthrous predicate preceding the verb, are primarily qualitative in meaning. They indicate that the logos has the nature of theos. There is no basis for regarding the predicate theos as definite.” On p. 87 of his article, Harner concluded: “In John 1:1 I think that the qualitative force of the predicate is so prominent that the noun cannot be regarded as definite.”
Now here we have an example of prevarication. Cherry-picking at its finest. Philip Harner is a trinitarian scholar. Let’s look at another piece of Harner’s same article the Watch Tower quotes.
“In all of these cases, the English reader might not understand exactly what John was trying to express. Perhaps the clause could be translated, “the Word had the same nature as God.” This would be one way of representing John’s thought, which is, as i understand it, that ho logos, no less than ho theos, had the nature of theos.”
As we can see from this other section of the article, Harner fully understood the weight which the grammar in John 1:1c carries, as it relates to the deity of Christ.
The fourth and final paragraph of Section 2a of the Interlinear is as follows:
“Following is a list of instances in the gospels of Mark and John where various translators have rendered singular anarthrous predicate nouns occurring before the verb with an indefinite and qualitative status of the subject nouns.”
The Watchtower then goes on to list 14 occurrences (2 from Mark and 12 from John) of where this anarthrous noun precedes the verb and has been translated as indefinite.
But before we go through each of these 14 occurrences, let’s take a quick look at the Greek grammar of John 1:1c.
Kai theos en ho logos
Conjunction, noun (without the definite article), verb, definite article, noun
Literally from left to Right –and God was the Word
The Reason we translate “backwards” in English is that we place the subject before the direct object. In Greek, word order doesn’t matter, basic Greek grammar will tell you what the subject and direct object nouns are. In this case, the subject is “logos” since it contains the definite article. “Theos” precedes the verb and doesn’t have a definite article in front of it, therefore it is the direct object and qualitative of the subject.
Now back to the Interlinear.
The 14 occurrences of a noun not preceded by a definite article, and are translated with an indefinite article from the Interlinear are as follows,
“Mark 6:49 an apparition
Mark 11:32 a prophet
John 4:19 a prophet
John 6:70 a slanderer
John 8:44 a manslayer
John 8:44 a liar
John 8:48 a Samaritan
John 9:17 a prophet
John 10:1 a thief
John 10:13 a hired man
John 10:33 a man
John 12:6 a thief
John 18:37 a king
John 18:37 a king”
Now lets examine the Greek Grammar in each example, keeping in mind the grammar found in the third clause of John 1:1.
Mark 6:49 an apparition Conjunction, noun nominative, verb, conjuction, verb
Mark 11:32 a prophet Conjunction,noun, verb
John 4:19 a prophet Conjunction, noun , verb , pronoun
John 6:70 a slanderer Conjunction, preposition, personal pronoun, Adjective, adjective, verb
John 8:44 a manslayer noun, noun, verb, preposition, noun
John 8:44 a liar conjuction, noun, verb, conjuction, article, noun, posessive pronoun
John 8:48 a Samaritan conjunction, noun, verb,possessive pronoun
John 9:17 a prophet conjunction, noun, verb
John 10:1 a thief pronoun, noun, verb, conjunction, noun
John 10:13 a hired man conjunction, noun, verb
John 10:33 a man conjunction, conjunction, possessive pronoun, noun, verb
John 12:6 a thief conjunction, noun, verb
John 18:37 a king adverb, noun, verb, possessive pronoun
John 18:37 a king conjunction, noun, verb, possessive pronoun
Notice how none of these passages contain the same exact grammar used in John 1. Wouldn’t the nail in the coffin for the Jehovah’s Witnesses to prove their point would be to find a passage containing the same exact grammar and show how the Trinitarians translate the passage incorrectly? It would have made more sense to do that than just finding anarthrous pronouns to prove the point. Surely there must be one other example in the New Testament where an author uses this same exact Greek grammar found in John 1:1.
Luckily for the Jehovah’s Witnesses there is one passage that contains the same exact grammar as the third clause of John 1. Yet the Kingdom Interlinear doesn’t even reference this passage. The verse we will be looking at is contained in the second chapter of Mark verse 28.
“So the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath.”
Or in the Interlinear Greek
ωστε κυριος εστιν ο υιος του ανθρωπου και του σαββατου
so then Lord is the Son (article) of man also of the sabbath.
Wait, look at what we have here, conjunction (ωστε, hoste), anarthrous nominative singular noun (κυριος, kyrios), verb indicative active (εστιν, estin), definite article (ο, ho), singular nominative noun and the subject of the sentence ( υιος, huios) verb (και, kai) the definite article (του, tou) and noun (σαββατου, sabbatou). And actually, the (του ανθρωπου, of man) affects the grammar here none whatsoever. We could end it at Son or add the“tou anthropou” and the grammar here would not change, it would still mean the same thing.
The same exact grammar here is found in John 1, now if the JW would be consistent in translation, they would have translated this passage “So then the Son of Man is A Lord even of the Sabbath.” But why is this not translated like this? Could the translators of the New World Translation have been biased against Trinitarian passages when translating?
Personally, it seems fishy that the translators of the Kingdom Interlinear would purposefully translate this clause differently or (correctly) when compared to John 1:1. For JW’s, translating the third clause of John could be catastrophic when witnessing to those who may actually believe that the Word is God.