IN THE BEGINNING WAS THE WORD

By Juan Baixeras

 

John 1:1-14 is the backbone of the Doctrine of the Trinity. The Trinity is the outcome of a Greek philosophical interpretation of this verse in the 3rd and 4th centuries from the great intellectual center in Alexandria by such men as Clement of Alexandria, Origen of Alexandria, Athanasius of Alexandria, and Tertullian of nearby Carthage. Their argument is that "the Word" in John 1:1-14 is Jesus. With this premise they ended up with a Jesus who has always existed and is part of a triune God. This is an incorrect interpretation of John 1:1-14.

Can we on the other hand prove that "the Word" is not a reference to Jesus? Yes we can, quite easily as a matter of fact. Surprisingly, the clarification comes from John himself in his first epistle that we will be discussing in depth.

There are some scholars who believe that John wrote his first epistle for the sole purpose of correcting the misinterpretation of John 1:1-14 that was occurring even in his own time. I believe they are correct in this assumption because as we shall see John goes into great detail to tell us exactly what "the Word" is. In John’s first epistle I see a strong effort by John to clarify his position and definition about "the Word." He leaves us with no other way to interpret "the Word."

In this paper we will be examining John 1:1-14 and comparing it to verses in

1 John. John’s first epistle will shed an incredible amount of light on John chapter 1.

Before starting one thing must be said, John’s gospel was not written to prove that Jesus is God, but that he is the Son of God, the Messiah. These are John’s own words.

"But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ (Messiah), the Son of God..." (John 20: 31).

This is the context that John’s gospel must be read in. To take it out of this context is to interpret John in a way in which John did not intend.

In the beginning was the Word.

The main argument with this verse is whether "the Word" is another way of saying Jesus, or whether it is what it has always been, a message from God. Yet, theologians have taken the liberty to substitute figuratively and literally "Jesus" for "Word" in this verse. Is this accurate? Judge for yourself. Let’s first see the definition of "Word." It does have a real definition after all.

"Word" in this verse is a translation of the Greek word "logos." In the original Greek text, "logos" does not have the capital first letter given to "Word" in the English translation. It should properly be translated "word" (with a small "w").

Another important point to be recognized is the fact that the same exact word (letter for letter) "logos" is used in other Scriptures and nobody has ever capitalized it, or claimed that it referred to Jesus.

Examples:

2 Timothy 2: 8 - 9

"This is my gospel, for which I am suffering to the point of being chained like a criminal. But God’s word is not chained."

1 John 2:7

"Beloved, I am writing no new commandment to you but an old commandment that you had from the beginning. The old commandment is the word that you have heard."

Revelation 20: 4 –5 - "I also saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for their witness to Jesus AND for the word of God"

Revelation 1:2 - "His servant John, who gives witness to the word of God AND to the testimony of Jesus Christ."

The two verses above from John’s book of Revelation use the exact same word "logos" which is translated in English as "word." It is important to notice that they were beheaded for their testimony of Jesus AND the word (logos) of God. John gives witness to the word of God (God’s message of salvation) AND to the testimony of Jesus Christ. It is obvious that Jesus is not the Word. Logos is used in many places in the New Testament, and it is never used as a reference for Jesus.

The New American Bible has this to say about the word "logos" in a footnote:

"May denote an internal reasoning process, plan, or intention, as well as an external word, speech, or message."

In Greek, the word "logos" according to Vine’s Expository Dictionary means:

Logos - The expression of thought. As embodying a conception or idea.

According to Liddell and Scott Greek Lexicon, it also means:

Logos - the inward thought which is expressed in the spoken word.

This unfortunately is not what it meant to Greek philosophy. In Greek philosophies such as Stoicism, and Neo-Platonism, "logos" was considered divine. To a Stoic, logos means "the divine principle of life." This is basically a definition of God. In Gnosticism "Logos" was the actual name of one of the intermediary gods.

Someone educated in one of these philosophies would interpret John 1: 1 in the following manner.

"In the beginning was the divine principle of life, the divine principle of life was with God, and the divine principle of life was God." Verse 14. "The divine principle of life became flesh."

Now you have God in heaven and in the flesh at the same time. The explanation came in the form of a dual natured Messiah who is fully God and fully man at all times (This definition of Jesus is in the Creed of Chalcedon which is the Trinitarian creed of all Trinitarian denominations). Thus the trinity.

How you can be fully of two different things is a mystery in itself. You can be part Italian and part French at the same time, but you cannot be fully Italian and fully French at the same time. This is why people explaining the trinity always end up saying that it’s a mystery.

To a Hebrew like John, the phrase "word of God" According to Vine’s Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words means, "The revealed will of God." In other words, "A message from God." In 2 Kings 3:12 when it says:

"He has the word of the LORD."

It means that God revealed His will to him. We can also compare other verses to verify this definition.

2 Peter 3:5: "They deliberately ignore the fact that the heavens existed of old and earth was formed out of water and through water by the word of God."

Revelation 4:11: "for you created all things, by your will they came into being."

Sirach 42:15: "At God’s word were His works brought into being."

As you can see, word and will are interchangeable. God’s word represents his thoughts, which is His will. Sirach 37:16 provides us with an excellent example:

"A word is the source of every deed; a thought, of every act."

Your thoughts are the source of your actions, a word (your will) is your thoughts expressed. This is an important definition to remember in order to better understand "The Word was God" which we will explain in the next few pages.

It would be easier if John were here right now to tell us exactly what he meant, but in a sense he is. He has left us so many clear verses of what he meant by "word" in his first epistle that sometimes I find it difficult to see how people have misinterpreted his gospel. Let us look at 1 John to find the answer.

In 1 John 1:1-3 it states:

"What was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we beheld and our hands handled, concerning the Word of life – and the life was manifested; and we have seen, and bear witness and proclaim to you the eternal life which was with the Father and was manifested to us. What we have seen and heard we proclaim to you also."

John 1:1 - "In the beginning was the Word." 1 John 1:1 – "What was from the

beginning, what we have heard."

Notice that in John what is from the beginning is the word, and in 1 John what is from the beginning is something that they heard (a message). Now let us tie in these other verses of John’s first epistle.

1 John 2:7 - "Beloved, I am writing no new commandment to you but an old commandment that you had from the beginning. The old commandment is the word that you have heard."

In 1 John 1:1 what was from the beginning is something that they heard, here in 1 John 2:7 the old commandment is what they have had from the beginning, (sound familiar?) and the old commandment is the "WORD" that they what? Heard! The same as in 1 John 1:1. Your next question should be,

"What commandment is John speaking about?"

He is speaking about what Jesus called the greatest commandment, (Mark 12:29) the commandment of love which God gave the Hebrews from the beginning. The message of love that the proclamation of the Kingdom of God brings with it.

How do we know for sure that this is the message and/or the commandment that they heard from the beginning? Because John tells you so in 1 John 3:11 and 1 John 3:23:

"For this is the message you have HEARD from the BEGINNING: we should love one another."

"And his commandment is this: we should believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ, and love one another."

Loving one another is how the world will know that we are followers of Christ.

John 13:30 – "This is how all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another."

According to Paul (Romans 13:9), the law of love is the fulfillment of the Mosaic Law and it is the Law in the coming Kingdom of God which the Messiah has come to proclaim. These are Jesus’ own words.

Luke 4:43 – "To the other towns also I must proclaim the good news of the kingdom of God, because for this purpose I have been sent."

Is Jesus’ good news about the kingdom the same thing as "the word" that John speaks about in his writings? Yes it is, this is the word that they have heard. Look at the parable of the sower.

Matthew 13:19 – "The seed sown on the path is the one who hears the word of the kingdom without understanding it."

The message of the Kingdom of God is a message of love. In other words, "the word" is the message of love in the coming Kingdom of God in which love is the rule, not the exception. The New Age (the Kingdom of God) which Jesus will establish when he returns will be a kingdom of love. This is what proclaiming the word of the kingdom is about, a New World order (new heavens and new earth) based on love. This is the message ("the word") that Jesus has brought us. This is the "word" Jesus spoke about.

John 16:20 – "Remember the word I spoke to you."

John 17:8 – "Because the words that you gave to me I have given to them, and they accepted them."

Because of God’s love for us, God has provided us with a message of hope, the hope of entering God’s Kingdom of love. He has demonstrated His love for us and at the same time provided a way for us to enter into his kingdom as His pure, sin-free children by sacrificing for our sins the only unblemished lamb of mankind, Jesus of Nazareth.

John 3:16 – "For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life."

We can also examine the writings of the Apostolic Fathers who are the men that the Apostles or the Apostles disciples put in place to see what they considered "the word" to be . One of the Apostolic writings, The Epistle to Diognetus in verse 8:11 says:

"But when he revealed it through His beloved Son, and manifested the purpose which He had prepared from the beginning."

When God revealed what? The word (message) that Jesus brought us. Notice that what was prepared from the beginning is God’s purpose, and it was revealed to us by Jesus.

Another of the Apostolic Fathers named Polycarp, who knew John the Apostle personally, wrote in his Letter to the Philippians in verse 7:2:

"Wherefore let us forsake the vain doing of the many and their false teachings, and turn unto the word which was delivered unto us from the beginning."

Polycarp is urging the people to turn away from false teachings and turn unto the word. In other words, "Turn away from false teachings and return to the original message that was delivered to them from the beginning." His usage of word is very Jewish, and identical to the way that John the Apostle uses it. This is fitting because Polycarp was a disciple of John, and one would expect his views to coincide with John’s, which they do.

Polycarp has no idea of "the word" being Jesus. He even says that the word was delivered unto us in the beginning. Jesus was not delivered unto us in the beginning, He was revealed to us in the final days, the last days. Hebrews 1:2 states:

"In these last days He spoke to us through a son."

1 Peter 1:20 says:

"He was known before the foundations of the world, but revealed in the final times for you.

But God’s message, or will, (the Kingdom of God based on love and ruled by the Messiah,) was delivered unto us in the beginning through the Patriarchs and the Prophets. What is from the beginning is God’s love and His message (logos) for our redemption and salvation that He revealed to us through Jesus. Ephesians 3:11 confirms this.

"This was according to the eternal purpose that He accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord."

What is God’s eternal purpose for us? That we live a life of love and not perish. This is provided for us through His Son Jesus. Because of Jesus’ sacrifice we are able to enter the Kingdom of God when Jesus returns.

John 3:16 – "For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life."

And the Word was with God.

If John was really trying to say that Jesus is God, he would simply have written; "in the beginning was Jesus, and Jesus was with God, and Jesus was God." I do not think that he would have written it in a kind of code that would not be understood until the 3rd century by Greek philosophers.

When John says that the word was with God, he simply means that the "word" (message, plan) was present in His mind. It was with Him, just like a person’s thoughts are with them until they speak. The New American Bible defines "word" as:

"Was thought to be a reality lodging within the person, and that it goes out from that person when spoken or written and then lodges within the person to whom it is directed."

This idea is confirmed by Jerimiah:

Jeremiah 4: 14:"How long must your pernicious thoughts lodge within you".

Now let’s look at 1 John 1:1-2 to shed some light on this verse. John refers to the Word as the "Word of Life."

"Concerning the Word of life – and the life was manifested; and we have seen, and bear witness, and proclaim to you the eternal life which was with the Father and was manifested to us.

Notice that in the verse above it is the eternal life that was with the Father. In John 1:1 it is the Word that was with God. This is why John calls it the Word of Life in 1 John 1:1. Word of Life is another way of saying "The message that brings us eternal life."

This is the message that they heard, this is the message that was with God from the beginning. God’s Word of Life (His plan for our salvation) was known to God from long ago. It was with Him from the beginning.

Acts 4:28 - "To do what your hand and your will had long ago planned to take place."

Acts 20:27 -"For I did not shrink from proclaiming to you the entire plan of God."

And the word was God.

The word is God’s thoughts and will which He uses to communicate with us and which He can transfer into power. God’s will and power is God. What John is saying is, God’s will (word) is fully expressive of God’s mind. God’s word (thoughts, will,) are reflective of the attributes of God. Word = God’s Will = God.

The Trinitarian (Catholic) New American Bible states the following on this verse:

"Lack of a definite article with "God" in Greek signifies predication rather than identification."

And,

"The Word shares Yahweh’s covenant qualities."

According to Webster’s Dictionary, predication means, "to affirm as a quality or attribute." Even the Roman Catholic Bible tells us that it does not signify identification.

In simpler terms, what somebody says or writes usually reflects that person. You can see that person's personality or intellect by what they say or write. For example, if you ask someone who is reading Romeo and Juliet "what are you reading?" They might answer you, "I am reading Shakespeare." Literally this is impossible. How can you read a man? Yet, this statement is very common and we all know what it means.

Shakespeare = Shakespeare's words.

God = the Word of God.

We can also cross-reference other Scriptures to prove that the Word (God's message which reflects his thoughts and will) is God.

Examples:

Jonah 1: 1 - 3

"The word of the LORD came to Jonah son of Amittai, "Go to the great city of Nineveh and preach against it, because its wickedness has come up before me." But Jonah ran away from the LORD and headed for Tarshish."

It says the word (revealed will of God) of the LORD came to Jonah, then it says that Jonah ran away from the LORD. God came to Jonah and told him His will or plan (which was to go to Nineveh), and Jonah ran away from God. The Word (God’s will) is God.

Isaiah 55: 11

"So shall my word be that goes forth from my mouth; It shall not return to me void, but shall do my will, achieving the end for which I sent it".

In this verse, when God speaks, His thoughts and power (His word) go out from Him to do His will. God’s will is God. The Word is God.

The gospel which is God’s plan of salvation for us (the kingdom of God message), which is His will, is reflective of the mind of God. My mind is reflective of me. It reflects who I am as a person. The gospel is referred to many times in the New Testament as the "word of God," or just the "word." The gospel (His word) is the expression of God’s thoughts. In other words, the gospel is the mind of God. The mind of God is God. Another way of saying it is, "the gospel is God," or: "The Word was God."

Through him all things were made

John is describing how God made the world and universe, through his word. The translation "through him" should be "through it" (His word). This again reflects the theological bias of the translators. Here are a few examples:

2 Peter 3:5 - "But they deliberately forget that long ago by God’s word the heavens existed and the earth was formed."

Revelation 4:11 - "For you created all things; because of your will they came to be and were created."

Ephesians 1:1 - "In accord with the purpose of the one who accomplishes all things according to the intention of His will."

Proverbs 8:27, 30 – (speaking of wisdom) "When he established the heavens I was there," Then was I beside him as his craftsman."

Wisdom 9:1 - "God of my fathers, LORD of mercy, you who have made all things by your word" (will).

Sirach 42:15 - "At God’s word (will) were His works brought into being."

Remember earlier when we covered creation, that YHWH alone created everything. This is why it is important to have a solid foundation in the Old Testament before reading the New Testament. Everything was created by God’s word (His plan, will), not by Jesus. In other words, God has a plan (logos) to create the universe. Wisdom is the ability to create thoughts. God’s wisdom creates his thoughts. When He speaks (word), he is expressing His thoughts. His thoughts are His will, and whatever God wills happens. This is how everything was created by the word (His will).

Wisdom, word, and will are basically interchangeable. This is why the verses above credit creation to God’s word, wisdom, and will. They are one and the same thing.

John 1: 14

The Word became flesh

The prophecies that God had spoken of in the past to the fathers and the prophets about the Messiah were fulfilled when Jesus was born. In order to understand this verse better I am going to use an analogy of which most of us can relate to. Say that you and your spouse decide to have a child. You have an idea, (logos) a plan in your mind to have a child. That plan becomes flesh when your child is born. God’s logos (plan of salvation) became flesh, became a reality when Jesus was born. We can see this type of expression used again by John in 1 John 1:1-2 and John 9:3:

"Concerns the Word of life - for the life was made visible."

(The blind man) "Neither he nor his parents sinned; it is so that the works of God might be made visible."

God’s plan and works, became visible in the person of Jesus and of the blind man. It does not mean that God’s Word became incarnate in Jesus or that His works became incarnate in the blind man. It is the same in John 1:14.

In the Bible, attributes of God are commonly personified. This does not mean that they are separate persons of the same God. Take Psalms 85:11-14 for example:

"Love and truth will meet, justice and peace will kiss. Truth will spring from the earth; justice will look down from heaven. The LORD will surely grant abundance; and our land will yield its increase. Properity will march before the Lord and good fortune will follow behind."

Obviously love and truth are not beings. Justice and peace cannot actually kiss. Prosperity cannot march, etc. They are attributes of God that are personified. The NAB has the following footnote on this verse:

Psalms 85:11-14 - "Divine activity is personified as pairs of virtues."

Another example which is very closely related to John 1:1-3 is in Proverbs chapter 8. Here wisdom (which is synonymous with "word" because God’s wisdom is expressed in his word) is personified as a woman. It is very obvious that it is personified. All major Bible scholars and commentaries will agree that wisdom here is personified and is not another being. In the first verse it says;

"Does not wisdom call, and understanding raise her voice."

The problem is that if we make "wisdom" a being, then we also have to make "understanding" one also. Please read all of chapter 8, it will help you immensely.

Wisdom is attributed with being with God from the beginning ( just like the word was in the beginning). When God created the heavens and earth she was his craftsman (v.22), ( just like the word created everything). She was beside him (v.30 just like the word is with God). The LORD begot her, the firstborn of his ways (v.22). It sounds exactly like the Trinitarian pre-existent Christ. Yet, when one reads this chapter it is clear that it is an attribute of God that is being personified. The NAB footnote states:

Proverbs 8:1 - "Wisdom here is personified as in Prv. 1:20-33 to confirm the words of the teacher of wisdom."

Wisdom in chapter 8 is spoken of as if she created the heavens and earth. In 2 Peter the Word is spoken of as creating the heavens and earth.

2 Peter 3:5 - "That long ago by God's word the heavens existed and the earth was formed out of water."

In John 1:14 when the Word becomes flesh. It is easier to understand John's intention if you think of Proverb's wisdom. God's wisdom became flesh, meaning that in Jesus, God's wisdom was manifested. In other words, Jesus brought us God's wisdom because God anointed Jesus with his own spirit so that Jesus could speak to us on his behalf in the final days (Hebrews 1:2). In other, other words , we heard and saw God's wisdom in the person of Jesus because God commanded Jesus what to say to the people on his behalf (John 8:40). Paul speaks in the same fashion in 1 Corinthians 1:30, he states:

"Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God."

This does not mean that a being called "wisdom" incarnated into a human being. It means that Jesus brought us wisdom from God. The Amplified Bible says the following about this verse:

"Revealed to us a knowledge of the divine plan previously hidden."

It would be absolutely correct to say, "God’s wisdom became flesh," just as it is correct to say that "God’s word became flesh," in the person of Christ.

Jesus brought us God’s wisdom which is revealed to us in his word. They are one and the same thing. Let us compare the two.

"Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God."

"The Word became flesh."

We must always keep in mind the reason that John wrote his gospel. John’s gospel was not written to prove that Jesus is God, but that he is the Son of God, the Messiah.

"But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ (Messiah), the Son of God..." (John 20: 31).

One final thought. If you believe that the Word is actually the incarnation of God which became flesh as Jesus, then why would John end his thought in John 1:18 by saying that;

"No one has ever seen God."

Thousands of people saw Jesus in the flesh. John later repeats this statement in:

1 John 4:12 - "No one has ever seen God."

John 6:46 - "Not that anyone has seen the Father except the one who is from God."

1 John 4:20 "For whoever does not love a brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen."

A lot of people have been falsely lead to believe that John 1: 1 - 3 is saying that Jesus is God, when in fact it has nothing at all to do with the deity of Jesus.

CONCLUSION - The outcome of the Greek philosophical interpretation of the Word becoming flesh is called Dualism.

Dualism - The view that reality may be divided into two essential forces. There are two forms of this understanding. From a cosmic perspective, the world struggles between two opposing forces - typically, one of evil and one of good. From a philosophical approach, the essence of a person is divided between two incompatible natures - that of the body and that of the soul. Early Christianity incorporated both views from those religions and philosophies with which it came in contact. This is the same concept used not only in Greek philosophy, but also in Greek mythology. Hercules is the son of Zeus and the mortal Alcmene. He had a dual nature, he was a man that had supernatural strength which he inherited from his father Zeus. The Pharaohs were godmen and so were the Caesars. The Bible even provides us with an example of this belief in Acts 14:11 when God healed a crippled man through Paul and Barnabas:

"When the crowds saw what Paul had done, they cried out in Lycaonian, "The gods have come down to us in human form."

The idea of gods becoming men was very prevalent in the Roman-Greco world. This is why it was so natural to inject this belief into Christianity. As you can see, the idea of Dualism is the exact definition that Trinitarians have used for Jesus: He has two natures. He is fully God and fully Man. This is stated in the Chalcedon Creed of 451 AD. Jesus is not a godman, he is the Anointed (the Messiah).

With the proper definitions a proper understanding of John 1:1-3 & 14 is not difficult. The problem arises when you bring a lot of preconceived ideas with you when trying to interpret this verse.

We today have to do the exact opposite of what Bible scholars of the 3rd, 4th and 5th centuries did. They injected Christianity with a huge and dangerous dosage of Greek philosophy. We have to remove all the erroneous interpretations that that philosophy brought with it in order to understand God’s message for us. These verses are a good starting point. As you can see many people have been falsely lead to believe that John 1: 1 - 3 is saying that Jesus is God, when in fact it has nothing at all to do with the deity of Jesus. 

CHRISTIAN

DOCTRINES