When you try to talk to a christian who believes that Jesus is God, when you try to explain the contradiction they live with, there are two things that makes it hard to reason with such a person. One is his belief in the dual nature of Jesus, the God nature and the human nature, which I spoke of before when I wrote about “The monster: the God-man Jesus.” And the other is the first chapter of the fourth gospel of their christian bible, which they give the name “John.” For now, I’ll go with that name. So this John 1 is used by many christians almost as the foundation of their Divine Jesus belief. But I’ve found throughout my experiences that it’s not the chapter or certain verses that make up the foundation of that christian’s belief. It’s not the text of the chapter that unambiguously points to the Jesus-is-God doctrine. It’s actually the oral explanation of the text, an interpretation built on centuries of church tradition and doctrine.
Me, the commentator of a christian text?
Ok, ok! I know you’re wondering why I would speak about anything in the new testament, scriptures that I don’t even accept the basis of. Well, because I used to be a christian who was serious about his beliefs, and I can read! That last bit is the most important! When it comes to so many doctrines that are spouted by anyone at all, even me, if you read the text, you can actually see a lot to explain the problems (or support) for a person’s view. Whilst I was a christian I experienced all the scriptural proofs for Jesus being God. I believed it for a short time before a bit of study and thinking, and advice from another christian, put me right. So my issue with the Jesus-is-God crew is not the fact that I don’t accept Jesus as Messiah. Accepting someone as an anointed king (which is all a messiah really is based on the Hebrew Scriptures) is not the worst thing in the world. It may be wrong, but you don’t lose your soul over it if you keeps God’s foundational revelation as the most important thing, i.e. the Torah of Moses, and not allow anyone to change those commands for you, whether you are a Jew or a Gentile.
The main issue is that christians use this text (amongst others) to prove their belief. The question is whether the words of the text are clear enough for someone to forsake the intial commandments of Moses and add someone else into the Godhead who can change into a human when the plain words of the Hebrew Bible forsake such a view. And yes, I do mean the plain words of the Jewish Bible, not the ones that have to get processed by church tradition first.
So let me show you the issue is with John 1.
John 1:1 – When the text can’t speak for itself
I’ll just show a neutered translation of the first verse, bereft of as much doctrinal fluff as possible.
In the beginning was the word and the word was with the deity and deity was the word.
Most christians don’t come at these words as if they are reading it for the first time. They read it with their heads already full of church doctrine they can hardly read the words for what they say. Let me help show you what happens in the minds of a lot of christians. What they will in fact see is the following:
In the beginning was the Son, and the Son was was God and the Son was God.
In the beginning was Jesus and Jesus was with God and Jesus was God.
The way that christian translations inject meaning to this verse by capitalizing the first letter of the term “word” to say “Word” helps lead a person to the direction they want, but even with that capitalized “w”, it doesn’t change what seems to be hidden in plain sight. Can I tell you what that is?
Help me, I can’t read!
All John 1:1 says is that in the beginning there was a word! It doesn’t not say in the beginning was Jesus! It does not say in the beginning was the Son!
It would have to say these things for someone to really have a strong point! Because it doesn’t, so they don’t!
If you’re such a christian and you’re reading this, I’m going to ask you to hold on for a moment! Don’t think to yourself just yet that in John 1:14 it says something about the word becoming something else or becoming someone because the fact you jumped there means you haven’t grasped what John 1:1 actually says. Just stop and realise that John 1 verse 1 only says that some word was in the beginning with God, the Deity.
If you’ve stopped yourself for long enough, you should then ask the question “what is a word?” What is the normal definition of the term “word?” Now it’s important to ask this question just out of simple consistency. What do I mean? Look at that same phrase “In the beginning was the word and the word was with God …” When a christian looks at this text, they choose to take the word “in” as its normal definition. They choose to take “the” and “beginning” in their normal senses. Every other word in the sentence, they take in its normal definition. It is not because of the text why they choose to all of a sudden pour tons of doctrine into a simple term like “word”. All I’m saying is take the term “word” to mean what it says by asking what is its normal meaning.”
When then question is asked, it will obvious that a “word” is a thing, not a person. It should seen as an “it” not a “he.”
Remember, the reason why we look for the normal definition of word is because there is something in that english term that reflects the Greek word it is translated from (English and Greek has more similarity than either language and Hebrew).
In both Greek and English, the term “word” (or in Greek λογος logos which is linked to a verb meaning to speak or reckon) means things like discourse, speech, expression, law, inner discussion or wisdom, all inanimate objects.
So to say again, “word” should be seen as an “it” not a “he”.
I’m not the only one …
Now before someone throws something sharp or blunt at my head, accusing me of just making up a heresy all on my own, let me get my christian witnesses to back me up on treating a word not as a person but as a thing.
In the beginnynge was the worde, and the worde was with God, and the worde was god. The same was in the beginnynge with god. All thinges were made by it, and without it, was made nothinge that was made. In it was lyfe, and the lyfe was the lyght of men, and the lyght shyneth in the darcknes but the darcknes comprehended it not (William Tyndale, The New Testament, 1534).
In the begynnynge was the worde, and the worde was wyth God; and God was the worde. The same was in the begynnyng wyth God. All thinges were made by it, and wythout it, was made nothynge that was made. In it was lyfe, and the lyfe was the lyght of men, and the lyght shyneth in darcknes, and the darcknes comprehended it not (Great Bible, The Byble in Englyshe, that is to saye the Content of al the holy Scrypture, both of the olde, and newe Testament, London: Edward Whitchurche, 1539).
In the beginning was the Worde, and the Worde was with God and that Worde was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by it, and without it was made nothing that was made. In it was lif, and the lif was the light of men. And the light shineth in the darkenes, and the darkenes comprehended it not (Geneva Bible, The Bible and Holy Scriptures conteyned in the Olde and Newe Testament, Geneva: Rouland Hall, 1560).
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. This was in the beginning with God. All things were made by it, and without it not a single creature was made. In it was life, and the life was the light of men. And the light shone in darkness; but the darkness admitted it not (Alexander Campbell, The Sacred Writings of the Apostles and Evangelists of Jesus Christ, Commonly Styled the New Testament, Translated from the Original Greek, Buffaloe, Brooke County, VA: Alexander Campbell, 1826).
So this is just a few pieces of evidence out of many, that the “word” can be seen as an inanimate object.
But my translation says “he” ….
Yeah, I know what some of you may be saying.
But what about the fact that my bible translates the next verse as “he” and “him” referring to the word.
And some may add:
The little I know of Greek shows that the words related into word in the Greek are masculine and personal and singular, so it should be translated as “he” or “him”, thus it is a person.
Look, I hear you. But hear me out!
The only reason we can give, based solely on the text, as to why the Greek uses masculine pronouns that are normally translated as “he” or “him” is only because of the rules of Greek. The rule in point here is that the term “logos” is a masculine noun (all Greek words have genders, even for things), so that means any word connected with it must also be masculine. It is not because ancient Greek people thought that a “word” is a person. They didn’t believe that we speak out little people or little males when we speak. It is simple one of their rules of language. But once the term is translated into the English term “word” we have to be consistent and translated the related words and pronouns as “it” because a word is a thing. This is what is done quite consistently throughout the whole Bible; words that relate to things which have a gender in another language are referred to by “it” in our language.
Now, based on the text, it would have been proper to translate it according to the translations above, i.e., “The word was in the beginning. The word was with the deity and the word was deity. The same was with God in the beginning. All things were made by it and without it not one thing was made which was made.” But unfortunately we are dealing with theological agendas here, not really honesty or consistency.
Those translations that chose to translate the following verses using pronouns like “him” or “he” were not simply putting across what was in the Greek texts, but had their conclusions about the issue before they came to the text. It wasn’t consistency. They had a belief about what or who this word was and wanted to make sure that was imposed on those who could only read English.
What? A word with God and being God? That makes no sense! … or does it?
You see, if we imagine that the writer of the gospel was a Jew (which can’t really be substantiated, but we can at least imagine), and we even imagined that the writer of the fourth gospel had some knowledge of the Hebrew Bible, it would be easy to understand that in the beginning God spoke or expressed his will and wisdom, or “in the beginning was the word.” Based on the Hebrew Bible it would be easy to understand how God’s word or wisdom could be with him, since using metaphorical language like in Proverbs and Job, God’s word or wisdom is personified into an agent or agency that God uses (remembering that it is just metaphor and not literally, and that word and wisdom are things and not people).
And even in our own experience, we see the words of a person being that person in a figurative way. If someone reads my article, they are seeing me in the way I express myself. So for this “word” to be God, if it is taken for its normal meaning, still points to a powerful way to God expressed Himself.
Since God has expressed himself in many ways in the past, by means of the way he created the world, gave commands to His servants, giving the law to Moses and Israel, teaching people his wisdom, performing miracles, giving his prophets, we can see this as God’s expression or wisdom taking different forms. So that helps a monotheist understand how God’s word then became flesh. If John was simply a Jew with a few deviant ideas (deviating from Judaism) but still holding some aspects of the Torah, then all he is saying that God made himself known through Jesus in a special way. It wouldn’t be to say that some “god” that was with God (i.e. there are two Gods here, something forbidden by Torah) changed into a man, but rather that this Jew believed that God expressed himself through the life and action of this man, Jesus.
But in steps the idolator!
If we imagine that John is trying to be innocent of creating or writing about a second “god” or a second “God” which is contrary to God’s law, then we can see how a gentile who doesn’t know the Hebrew Bible could take up John’s gospel and because of his own experiences come up with the idea of a second God. For such a person, they may not be able to understand how a word can be with God. They see the Greek says something like “deity was the word” or they have the text “helpfully” translated as “the Word was God”. They may see the masculine pronouns that can mean “him” and “he”. And based on their own pagan background, all they can see is that God has some Word with him, and that this Word was a God as well (the Greek has no definite article “the” in the phrase “deity was the word” so a person can use an indefinite article in its place). Then this person would see how this other God was instrumental in creation and how this other God was light and so on and so on. And then he sees how this God which was the Word becomes a flesh, becomes a man and lives amongst humans. (Note, it doesn’t say that the Word split himself into two natures, but the Word actually became flesh).
The problem is as much to do with the wording that John uses as well as the ideas already floating around the head of this biblically-illiterate gentile. What makes it worse is that a lot of the christian church are happy to push this gospel first into the face of the unlearned in order to convert them to their faith.
But someone who knows anything of the Hebrew Bible will already see the issue. Once you are going to go along these lines of thinking, you are no longer a monotheist, not matter how you try to scream it. You may accept that this Word, which was a God, was with God and then read the Hebrew Bible later where the text and the nation that is custodian to the text (national Israel) are adamant about there just being one singular God and then construct some way for your two Gods to be one in some attempt to keep the conclusions you’ve already made and wedge it into the one God concept. But at the root of everything, this person is still worshipping (or accepting the existence of) two Gods.
The absence of clarity
But of course all this is based on the notion that John is innocent of creating or writing about a second “god” or “God”. The worst thing for Protestant christianity, i.e., namely most, if not all, churches are not Catholic since the reformation, is that they reject tradition. They have no clue what the writer of the fourth gospel actually meant, what was in his head. The writer never told it to his disciples who kept some unbroken tradition of the meaning of the text. Protestants generally hate the idea of oral traditions. You should see how many of them slander the orthodox Jews and Catholics about it.
You should notice how inconsistent this is when the text only speaks of a “word” whereas the unwritten (i.e., oral) interpretation of christians force the text to say something more akin to the pre-existent person called Jesus. And where does this interpretation, this doctrine come from? They will swear blind that they are only using the text … that is until you study what the text actually says and how ambiguous it really can be. And there is no one to authoritatively clarify.
To end all this, let me just summarize.
The text of John 1 doesn’t automatically lead to the conclusion that Jesus is God. It’s not even possible to conclusively make Jesus and this “word” the exact same thing. The problem is that people are lead more by translations than the actual text, thus they leave their lives in the hands of translators.
It is because christians generally are more interested in starting with doctrines first, and then using these doctrines to read the new testament, and only then will they use both things to twist the “old testament” into what they want. If they had a knowledge of the Jewish Bible first, a lot of this debate and confusion could be avoided.
But if John is promoting the teaching of there being two Gods, then we have polytheism, and it then becomes obvious that christians are forsaking the foundational teaching of Moses in the Torah and putting later writings, such as the book of John, as much more authoritative than God’s own Torah. That’s why those who accept the Torah tradition have to see such people as idolators. Because they have no link to the writer of the fourth gospel apart from his writings which they interpret as they will, they have no strong basis for their views. It becomes very subjective, driven by the interpretation tools they deem as good.
John 1 is not a strong Jesus-is-God proof when it is studied. And no portion of the new testament should be used to interpret Torah but rather the Torah must test the new testament.
But I have tested the new testament using the Torah. And you’ll see from this blog and James Wood’s book, Leaving Jesus, the new testament is found to be severely lacking.