St. John's Gospel
Explanation of the opening verse of St. John's gospel, (John 1:1)
In the beginning was The Word
and The Word was with God
and The Word was God
Your browser will probably not have a 1st Centuary Greek font installed by default so I have created the above line from the opening statement of John's Gospel as an image rather than actual text. However, you can download the Theodotus Font free of charge by clicking here and following the instructions, this will allow you to explore the text in more detail.
So now for the explanation:
The verse begins with (pronounced
'en') which literally means In. However can
also be short for (pronounced
'ena') which means the number 1. There is no doubt that John
intended to start the gospel with because it mirrors the opening words of the Book of Genesis but
the number 1 is significant as in ancient Greek the number 1 is the start of
everything. Before 1 there is nothing and 1 therefore represents
the starting point.
The next word (pronounced 'ark hee') is where we get such words as Archaeology, Archaic and Chaos from. In English translations of the Bible we literally translate as
'In the beginning'. However has a deeper meaning when it is broken up into syllables. The first syllable is , the Alpha and the Ro, pronounced 'are', is
significant because it is the very first utterance a baby makes when
it is born, it's the sound of the breath of life. John uses this
in 'The Revelation of John Chapter 22 Verse 13' when he recals God saying to him, 'I am Alpha
and Omega, the first and the last'. The Omega being
the final 'O' sound a person makes as he exhales for the final
time at the point of death.
The second syllable is significant
as it is a common noun for 'land'. When the two syllables are put together as you have the birth of land.
Greek's would have immediately
understood the meaning of John's words because in Greek Mythology the
Earth Goddess Gaia was born from Chaos, the great void of emptiness.
So, although in English we say 'In the beginning' you can see the
Apostle John's Greek text is very rich in meaning.
The next word (pronounced
In) simply means 'was'.
The next word (pronounced
O Logos) is translated in English as The Word. The 'O' being the
article, or 'The'. In Greek the article is placed in front of nouns and is spelt and pronounced differently
depending on the characteristics of the noun that follows.
The word Logos is complicated and entire books have
been written attempting to explain it.
'The Logos' is the noun used to represent the
nature of Our Lord Jesus Christ before he was born human, Son of
God and Son of Man. He is the Word of God through which all things
were created. John describes him in Chapter 1 Verse 14 'And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the
glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth'.
The next word simply translates as 'And'.
The next significant phrase (pronounced
O Logos In Pros Ton Theon) is translated into English as 'The Word
was With The God', or more properly, The Word was With God. The interesting word here is , translated into English as 'With'.
It literally means 'Towards' and is still used today in modern
Greek. A Road sign for instance might say 'Pros Athena' (towards Athens).
Now lets think outside the box for a moment, think of the word 'Towards' and how you would describe its meaning
to a child. You would probably say 'Towards means The Way To'. I think this is interesting
as John uses the same word in his Gospel when he records the words of Jesus in John 14:6 saying, 'I am
the Way the Truth and the Life, no one comes to the Father except
through me' . So you could translate it as 'The Word was the Way
To God' as well as 'The Word was With God'. Technically both would be correct but in order to comply with the true meaning that John was conveying we should translate it as 'The Word was With God'.
Finally we get the last phrase (pronounced
'Ky Theos In O Logos) which is the most important phrase as it
describes the relationship between God and The Logos (Jesus prior
to being born a human). It literally translates in to English as
'And God was The Word'. However in English we would more properly
say, 'And The Word Was God' as we promote the objective noun to the beginning of the sentance and the subjective noun is demoted to the end.
Virtually all translations of the original Greek
texts into English have translated this important verse correctly.
However, The Watchtower and Bible Tract Society (Jehovah's Witnesses)
have mistranslated the last phrase to read, 'and The Word was
a god'. They justify this because of the
lack of the article before Theos in .
However, this is an incorrect argument.
Note, there are two nouns in the last phrase, 'Theos' and 'Logos'.
In Greek, when there are two nouns, the subjective noun (the most important noun) of a sentence is always prefixed with the
article to avoid any misunderstanding, remember the subjective noun is what the sentance is about. In English we avoid such
misunderstanding by placing the subjective noun at the beginning of a sentence.
Therefore, the direct, word-for-word translation would be, 'and God was
The Word' is more properly written, 'and The Word was God'.
So, Why did St John use the term 'The Logos' ('The
After all, he is the only New Testament writer to use it.
Well, the Apostle John obviously wanted to deal with the question,
'who, (or what) was Jesus both prior to his birth and after his birth
as a human? As a human he was often referred
to as both 'Son of Man' and 'Son of God'.
- He was 'Son of Man' because he
was born of Mary and therefore a descendant of her family line.
From the writings of the New Testament we read that he referred
to himself as ' Son of Man' 88 times. The phrase 'Son of Man'
is also found in the writings of the Profit Daniel Chapter
7:13-14 in which he says, 'In my vision at night I looked,
and there before me was one like a Son of Man, coming with the clouds of heaven.
He approached the Ancient of Days and was led into his presence.
He was given authority, glory and sovereign power; all peoples,
nations and men of every language worshiped him. His dominion
is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and his kingdom
is one that will never be destroyed.' So, when Jesus referred
to himself as 'Son of Man' he was assigning
the prophecy of Daniel to himself. The Jewish leaders and people
to whom he spoke would have been well versed in the scriptures
and would have immediately understood the significance of the use
of the term.
- He was 'Son of God' because he was conceived
through The Holy Spirit of God. The angel (Gabriel) announced to the Virgin Mary...'and behold, thou shalt
conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his
name Jesus'. Then said Mary unto the angel, 'How
shall this be, seeing I know not a man'? And
the angel answered and said unto her, 'The Holy Ghost shall come
upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee; therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God' (Luke Chapter 1:Verse 30 onwards).
He therefore could rightly claim
to be both. However:
'Who, or what was Jesus
before he was born a human'?
Remember, according to St John, The
Logos (or The Word) Was With God at the very beginning
of all creation and that, 'The Logos Was God'. Perhaps
it is easier to think of him as the Executive, through whom
God created all things and communicated with mankind.
Consider some of the writings of the Old Testament in which The Logos (or Word) was mentioned,
in particular the following verses:
||By The Word of the LORD were the heavens
made; and all the host of them by the breath of his mouth.
||He sent his Word, and healed them, and delivered [them] from
||And, behold, there came a man of God out of Judah
by the word of the LORD unto Bethel: and Jeroboam stood by
the altar to burn incense.
||And it came to pass the same night, that the word of God
came to Nathan, saying,
Also consider some New Testament verses:
||The word which [God] sent unto the children of
Israel, preaching peace by Jesus Christ: (he is Lord of all)
||Then remembered I the word of the Lord, how that he said,
John indeed baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized with
the Holy Ghost.
The term 'Logos' was also used by stoic philosophers,
beginning with Heraclitus, to name the rational principle by which
the universe and everything in it exists. Heraclitus,
along with Parmenides, is probably the most significant philosopher
of ancient Greece prior to Socrates and Plato. Heraclitus, like
Parmenides, postulated a model of nature and the universe which
created the foundation for all other speculation on physics and
metaphysics. The ideas that the universe is in constant change
and that there is an underlying order or reason to this change
which he called The Logos of God.
The Apostle John knew that his reference to 'The Logos' in his
Gospel would be understood by the people of his day from Greeks
to Jews and the growing Christian community. With the statement,
'In the beginning was The Word and The Word was with God and The
Word was God' the Apostle John made the case very clear for all
to understand that The Word that became flesh Was actually God.