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What does it mean that “the Word was God” in John 1:1?

the Word was God

In John 1:1, the apostle John writes, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” In this statement, John reveals three things about the Word (Gk. Logos): that in the beginning, when the world was created, He existed; that He existed with God; and that He was in fact God and therefore made all things. In other words, the Logos existed eternally, distinct from the Father, yet equal to the Father.

In the beginning reminds every reader of Genesis 1:1, “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” Both in Genesis 1:1 and John 1:1a, the word beginning refers to the origin of all things, and it is by the Word of God that all things came to be (Genesis 1; John 1:3–4). John uses the word Logos to refer to God’s “divine self-expression” (cf. Hebrews 1:3). If the Word created all things, then it follows that the Word is uncreated. By definition, God is the only uncreated being. Therefore, the Word is God (John 1:1c).

Some have argued that John 1:1c should be translated as “and the Word was a god” because the Greek text lacks a definite article before theos (“God”). They reason, therefore, that the Word was divine but not God. This is unacceptable for the following reasons:

1. The Greek word for “divine” is theios not theos.

2. There are many New Testament passages where a definite article does not precede a subject and yet the subject is specific. For example, in John 1:49 (“you are the King of Israel”), there is not a definite article before King in the original text.

3. In John 1:1b, theos clearly refers to the one true God. Therefore, 1:1c must also refer to the one true God rather than a lesser god.

4. In John 1:1c, the Word is the subject of the sentence, and God is part of the predicate complementing the subject. The word was is a linking verb, or an equative. Thus, the Word is equal to God.

The question arises that, if the Word is God, how can He be with God? Does this mean that there are two gods? The Greek text gives the answer. In John 1:1b, the preposition for “with” is pros, which means “to” or “towards.” The same preposition is used elsewhere in the New Testament (Mark 6:3; 14:49; 2 Corinthians 5:8; Philemon 1:13; 1 John 1:2). In these passages, pros shows the relation of two persons who are with each other, usually in a close and intimate way. Hence, the Word is inseparable from God yet distinguishable from God (John 17:5). In other words, God the Son has the same essence as God the Father, but they are not the same person. As the Athanasian Creed says, “We worship one God in trinity and the Trinity in unity, neither confusing the persons nor dividing the divine being.”

The Word of John 1:1 is plainly identified as Jesus in John 1:14: “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.” In this way, God’s ultimate self-expression made His way to the cross to lay down His life for ours (John 10:11, 15).

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What does it mean that “the Word was God” in John 1:1?
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This page last updated: March 23, 2023