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John 1:1​—“In the Beginning Was the Word”

John 1:1​—“In the Beginning Was the Word”

 “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was a god.”—John 1:1, New World Translation.

 “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”—John 1:1, New International Version. a

Meaning of John 1:1

 This scripture reveals details about Jesus Christ’s life before he came to earth as a human. (John 1:14-17) In verse 14, “the Word” (or “the Logos,” Greek, ho loʹgos) is used as a title. The title “the Word” apparently describes Jesus’ role in communicating God’s commands and instructions to others. Jesus continued to make known God’s word during his ministry on earth and after he returned to heaven.—John 7:16; Revelation 1:1.

 “The beginning” refers to the time when God began his creative work and produced the Word. Thereafter, the Word was used by God in the creation of all other things. (John 1:2, 3) The Bible states that Jesus is “the firstborn of all creation” and that “by means of him all other things were created.”—Colossians 1:15, 16.

 The phrase “the Word was a god” describes the divine or godlike nature that Jesus possessed before he came to earth. He can be described in this way because of his role as God’s Spokesman and his unique position as the firstborn Son of God through whom God created all other things.

Context of John 1:1

 The Bible book of John is an account of Jesus’ earthly life and ministry. The opening verses of the first chapter reveal Jesus’ prehuman existence, his unique relationship with God, and his central role in God’s dealings with humans. (John 1:1-18) Those details help us to understand what Jesus said and did during his ministry on earth.—John 3:16; 6:38; 12:49, 50; 14:28; 17:5.

Misconceptions About John 1:1

 Misconception: The last phrase in John 1:1 should be translated “the Word was God.”

 Fact: While many Bible translators render the verse this way, others see the need to render it differently. In the original-language text, the two occurrences of “God” (Greek, the·osʹ) at John 1:1 are grammatically different. In the first occurrence, the word “God” is preceded by the Greek definite article, while the article does not appear before the second occurrence. Many scholars note that the absence of the definite article before the second the·osʹ is significant. For example, The Translator’s New Testament says regarding this absence of the article: “In effect it gives an adjectival quality to the second use of Theos (God) so that the phrase means ‘The Word was divine.’” b Other scholars c and Bible translations point to this same distinction.—See “ John 1:1 From Additional Translations.”

 Misconception: The verse teaches that the Word is the same as Almighty God.

 Fact: The statement “the Word was with God” indicates that two separate persons are discussed in the verse. It is not possible for the Word to be “with God” and at the same time be God Almighty. The context also confirms that the Word is not Almighty God. John 1:18 states that “no man has seen God at any time.” However, people did see the Word, Jesus, for John 1:14 states that “the Word became flesh and resided among us, and we had a view of his glory.”

 Misconception: The Word has always existed.

 Fact: The “beginning” referred to in this verse cannot mean “the beginning” of God, because God had no beginning. Jehovah d God is “from everlasting to everlasting.” (Psalm 90:1, 2) However, the Word, Jesus Christ, did have a beginning. He is “the beginning of the creation by God.”—Revelation 3:14.

 Misconception: To call the Word “a god” teaches polytheism, the worship of many gods.

 Fact: The Greek word for “God” or “god” (the·osʹ) often corresponds to the Hebrew words ʼel and ʼelo·himʹ, used in what is commonly called the Old Testament. These Hebrew words are thought to convey the basic meaning “Mighty One; Strong One” and are used with reference to the almighty God, other gods, and even humans. (Psalm 82:6; John 10:34) The Word is the one through whom God created all other things, so he certainly could be described as a mighty one. (John 1:3) Describing the Word as “a god” is in line with the prophecy at Isaiah 9:6, which foretold that God’s chosen one, the Messiah or Christ, would be called “Mighty God” (Hebrew, ʼEl Gib·bohrʹ), but not “God Almighty” (ʼEl Shad·daiʹ, as in Genesis 17:1; 35:11; Exodus 6:3; Ezekiel 10:5).

 The Bible does not teach polytheism. Jesus Christ said: “It is Jehovah your God you must worship, and it is to him alone you must render sacred service.” (Matthew 4:10) The Bible states: “For even though there are so-called gods, whether in heaven or on earth, just as there are many ‘gods’ and many ‘lords,’ there is actually to us one God, the Father, from whom all things are and we for him; and there is one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom all things are and we through him.”—1 Corinthians 8:5, 6.

 John 1:1 From Additional Translations

 “In the beginning the Word existed. The Word was with God, and the Word was divine.”—The Bible—An American Translation, 1935, by J.M.P. Smith and E. J. Goodspeed.

 “The Logos existed in the very beginning, the Logos was with God, the Logos was divine.”—The Bible—Containing the Old and New Testaments, 1950, by James Moffatt.

 “The Word was in the beginning, and the word was with God, and the word was a god.”—The New Testament in an Improved Version, 1808, edited by Thomas Belsham, based on a New Testament translation by William Newcome.

 “In the beginning was the Word. And the Word was with God. So the Word was divine.”—The Authentic New Testament, 1958, by Hugh J. Schonfield.

a Wording is the same in the King James Version.

b The Translator’s New Testament, page 451.

c Scholar Jason David BeDuhn states that the absence of the definite article makes the two occurrences of “God” “as different as ‘a god’ is from ‘God’ in English.” He adds: “In John 1:1, the Word is not the one-and-only God, but is a god, or divine being.”—Truth in Translation: Accuracy and Bias in English Translations of the New Testament, pages 115, 122, and 123.

d Jehovah is God’s personal name.—Psalm 83:18.