Introduction to John 1:1-18

In this book John 1:1-18 is studied from the Greek text, looking at its tremendous emphasis on the eternality, deity, work, and the incarnation of our Lord Jesus Christ. A basic understanding of these theological themes is basic to a biblical Christology and adoration of Jesus Christ.

Lesson 1: John 1:1

1.1 Text

̓Εν ἀρχῇ ἦν ὁ λόγος, καὶ ὁ λόγος ἦν πρὸς τὸν

θεόν, καὶ θεὸς ἦν ὁ λόγος.

1.2 Vocabulary

̓ΕνPreposition (takes dat.)“in”
εἰμίVerb“I am”
ὁDefinite Article“the”
λόγοςNoun (nom. masc. sg)“Word”
πρόςPreposition (takes accus.)“to,” or“toward”
θεόςNoun (nom. masc. sg)“God”

1.3 Grammar

̓Εν ἀρχῇ

̓Εν is a preposition that takes the dative case.

ἀρχῇ is a dative “in the beginning.” We recognize the dative by the η with the little iota subscript underneath the ῃ. In Greek we decline a noun. When declining, we give the nominative, genitive, dative, and accusative of a form in the singular and plural. So here a little iota subscript gives it away as the dative. This is a temporal use of the dative with ἐν, “at the time of the beginning.”

ἦν is a verb. It is an Imperfect Indicative Active 3rd person singular from the root ἐιμί. It is showing continuous existence in past time. So at the first or at whatever beginning we are speaking about Jesus was eternally existing as the Word.

ὁ λόγος

ὁ is a definite article. It is a nominative masculine singular.

λόγος means “Word.” It is a nominative singular masculine. The ending ος gives it away as a masculine singular noun. In this first clause, before we get to the second, we see the eternality of the Word. The Word here refers to Jesus Christ; we know that because in verse 14, the Word became flesh. This first clause is showing the eternality of Jesus Christ. John is using the Septuagint in the background which also begins ̓Εν ἀρχῇ εποίησεν ὁ θεὸς “In the beginning God made,” and so whatever beginning we speak about, the Word, that is Christ, was eternally existing. Some refer the Greek word λόγος to a Greek background in which the λόγος was a demiurge bringing things together, almost like universal reason through which things were created. But, in the Hebrew background λόγος reminds us of several things. First of all, in Gen 1:3 we are told ‏וַיֹּ֣אמֵר אֱלֹהִים‎ “and God said,” and so now, God is speaking through the eternal Second Person of the God-head and it is through Him that all things are spoken into being. He is the agent of the creation. Another interesting Jewish background is from the word ‏מֵיאמְרָא‎ (the Word) for when we look at the Jerusalem Targum, we find that the word ‏מֵיאמְרָא‎ which is the Aramaic word for word is used interchangeably for God or ‏אֶלֹהִים‎. And so a Jewish reader will clearly see here that we are talking about God’s divinity, except here we are seeing Jesus Christ, who is the Word, who is eternal and divine, just as God the Father. So, in the beginning was the Word”, who is the divine Son of God.

καὶ means “and,” and is a conjunction.

πρὸς τὸν θεόν

πρὸς is a preposition that takes the accusative case here. It means “to or towards.” So the Word was “to” or “towards” God, meaning face to face with God, showing intimacy of relationship.

τὸν is the definite article masculine singular in the accusative case which is the case of the direct object.

θεόν means “God.” This is also in the accusative masculine singular case.

θεὸς ἦν ὁ λόγος

θεὸς is also masculine singular nominative with the ος ending but it is without the article and when we find a noun as in this case where we have two nominatives with the to be verb, one with the article, and one without the article, we are looking at what is called a predicate nominative. The word θεὸς without the article is a predicate nominative. And the purpose of this predicate nominative is to declare that the Word was in full quality God or divine so it looks at the very nature of the Word as being fully divine. Hence we can translate this phrase: the Word was Divine.

ἦν again is that imperfect indicative 3rd person singular from the verb εἰμί.

ὁ λόγος Again ὁ is the definite article with the nominative masculine singular λόγος. So in this statement the word was in quality fully divine. Some want to translate this, especially Jehovah Witnesses, as the Word was a God, as though the Word had a beginning and was not God eternal. This is not a grammatically sound translation; it needs to be translated the Word was Divine or fully God. An example of this can be found in I John 4:8 where it reads, ἀγάπη ἐστίν ὁ θεός “God is love,” and we would never translate this verse as “God is a love”, but instead “God is love”. Hence He has the full quality of love. Again the predicate nominative is giving a quality significance to the subject of the clause which occurs without the article in I John and here, and so, we need to translate this “and the Word was Divine”. This agrees with John 8:58 where the writer John records Jesus as saying before Abraham was ἐγὼ εἰμί “I am,” looking at the eternality of our Lord and hence declaring His full Divinity sharing the same title as Yahweh in Exodus 3.

Study the 1st and 2nd declension nouns and the εἰμί verb in the grammar section.

1.4 Translation

“In the beginning was the Word and the Word was face to face with God and the Word was divine.”

1.5 Application/Interpretation

We have three great statements that are made here about the Word, which is Jesus Christ who becomes flesh in verse 14. The Word is eternal in the first clause, and in the second clause the Word is a distinctive person in face to face intimacy with the Father, and in the third clause the Word is fully divine or having full deity. It is interesting to notice the three fold use of the verb ἦν in contrast to the three fold use of the verb ἐγένετο in this prologue. First, if you look at verse 3 it reads: πάντα δἰ αὐτοῦ ἐγένετο “all things came into being through him”. In contrast to being eternal all other things had a beginning and the verb ἐγένετο from γίνομαι shows that beginning point, where the Word is eternal.

Secondly, the Word was face to face with God in intimate relationship with Him from all eternity as the second person of the Holy Trinity whereas concerning John it reads ἐγένετο ἄνθρωπος ἀπεσταλμένος παρὰ θεοῦ in verse 6. In other words there was a man that came to be or had a beginning in John. So John is not face to face with God and one who is eternal in that relationship, but he had a beginning in point of time, having been sent from God. John is ἀπεσταλμένος παρὰ θεοῦ “sent from God” whereas Jesus is eternally face to face with God, showing the contrast here in the second ἦν and second ἐγένετο. The third ἦν is contrasted with the verb ἐγένετο, in verse 14. The Word was divine and ὁ λόγος σὰρξ ἐγένετο “the Word became flesh.” In other words, the humanity of Jesus Christ began when he took upon Himself our human nature yet without sin. And so in the third clause, the Word as eternally divine is in contrast with the eternal Word becoming human in the incarnation in verse 14, as “the Word became flesh.”