John 1:1

John 1:1 is the first verse in the opening chapter of the Gospel of John. In the Douay–Rheims, King James, New International, and other versions of the Bible, the verse reads:
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

John 1:1 opens the larger section sometimes described as the "Prologue to John" which deals with Jesus, the "Word made flesh" who "dwelt among us". The verse has been a source of much debate among Bible scholars and translators.
The phrase "the Word" is widely interpreted as referring to Jesus, as indicated in other verses later in the same chapter. This verse and others throughout Johannine literature connect the Christian understanding of Jesus to the philosophical idea of the Logos and the Hebrew Wisdom literature. They also set the stage for the later development of Trinitarian theology early in the post-biblical era.
According to Matthew Henry in his commentary, Jesus is called the "Word" in this opening verse because he was the Son of God sent to earth to reveal his Father's mind to the world. He asserts that a plain reading of the verse written by John the Evangelist should be understood as proof that Jesus is God; that Jesus has the same essence as God and existed with God the Father from the very beginning, the Word was with God, and the Word was God.


in the early third century wrote:
Now if this one is God according to John, then you have two: one who speaks that it may be, and another who carries it out. However, how you should accept this as "another" I have explained: as concerning person, not substance, and as distinction, not division.

And a little later:
And that you may think more fully on this, accept also that in the Psalm two gods are mentioned: "Thy throne, God, is forever, a rod of right direction is the rod of thy kingdom; thou hast loved justice and hated iniquity, therefore God, thy God, hath anointed thee." If he is speaking to a god, and the god is anointed by a god, then also here he affirms two gods... More is what you will find just the same in the Gospel: "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God": One who was, and another in whose presence he was.

Origen of Alexandria, a teacher in Greek grammar of the third century, wrote about the use of the definite article:
We next notice John's use of the article in these sentences. He does not write without care in this respect, nor is he unfamiliar with the niceties of the Greek tongue. In some cases he uses the article, and in some he omits it. He adds the article to the Logos, but to the name of God he adds it sometimes only. He uses the article, when the name of God refers to the uncreated cause of all things, and omits it when the Logos is named God Now there are many who are sincerely concerned about religion, and who fall here into great perplexity. They are afraid that they may be proclaiming two Gods, and their fear drives them into doctrines which are false and wicked. Either they deny that the Son has a distinct nature of His own besides that of the Father, and make Him whom they call the Son to be God all but the name, or they deny the divinity of the Son, giving Him a separate existence of His own, and making His sphere of essence fall outside that of the Father, so that they are separable from each other. The true God, then, is "The God."

John 1:1 in English versions

The traditional rendering in English is:
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

Translations by James Moffatt, Edgar J. Goodspeed and Hugh J. Schonfield render part of the verse as "...the Word was divine". Murray J. Harris writes,
is clear that in the translation "the Word was God", the term God is being used to denote his nature or essence, and not his person. But in normal English usage "God" is a proper noun, referring to the person of the Father or corporately to the three persons of the Godhead. Moreover, "the Word was God" suggests that "the Word" and "God" are convertible terms, that the proposition is reciprocating. But the Word is neither the Father nor the Trinity … The rendering cannot stand without explanation."

An Eastern/Greek Orthodox Bible commentary notes:
This second theos could also be translated 'divine' as the construction indicates "a qualitative sense for theos". The Word is not God in the sense that he is the same person as the theos mentioned in 1:1a; he is not God the Father or the Trinity. The point being made is that the Logos is of the same uncreated nature or essence as God the Father, with whom he eternally exists. This verse is echoed in the Nicene Creed: "God from God, Light from Light, True God from True God… homoousion with the Father."

Other variations of rendering, both in translation or paraphrase, John 1:1c also exist:
There are two issues affecting the translating of the verse, 1) theology and 2) proper application of grammatical rules. The commonly held theology that Jesus is God naturally leads one to believe that the proper way to render the verse is the one which is most popular. The opposing theology that Jesus is subordinate to God as his Chief agent leads to the conclusion that "... a god" or "... divine" is the proper rendering. Some scholars oppose the translation ...a god, while other scholars believe it is possible or even preferable.


The Greek article is often translated the, which is the English definite article, but it can have a range of meanings that can be quite different from those found in English, and require context to interpret. Ancient Greek does not have an indefinite article like the English word a, and nominatives without articles also have a range of meanings that require context to interpret. In interpreting this verse, Colwell's rule should be taken into consideration, which says that a definite predicate which is before the verb "to be" usually does not have the definite article. Ernest Cadman Colwell writes:
Daniel B. Wallace argues that the use of the anarthrous theos is due to its use as a qualitative noun, describing the nature or essence of the Word, sharing the essence of the Father, though they differed in person: he stresses: "The construction the evangelist chose to express this idea was the most precise way he could have stated that the Word was God and yet was distinct from the Father". He questions whether Colwell's rule helps in interpreting John 1:1. It has been said that Colwell's rule has been misapplied as its converse, as though it implied definiteness.
Murray J. Harris discusses "grammatical, theological, historical, literary and other issues that affect the interpretation of θεὸς" and conclude that, among other uses, "is a christological title that is primarily ontological in nature" and adds that "the application of θεὸς to Jesus Christ asserts that Jesus is... God-by-nature.
John L. McKenzie wrote that ho Theos is God the Father, and adds that John 1:1 should be translated "the word was with the God , and the word was a divine being."
James D. G. Dunn states:
B. F. Westcott is quoted by C. F. D. Moule :
Philip B. Harner says:
Jason David BeDuhn wrote that: "The form used in John 1:1b and 1:2 is the "accusative" thon theon, which is the form used when a noun is the object of a preposition such a pros."
The rendering as "a god" is justified by some non-Trinitarians by comparing it with Acts 28:6 which has a similar grammatical construction' "The people expected him to swell up or suddenly fall dead; but after waiting a long time and seeing nothing unusual happen to him, they changed their minds and said he was a god.". However, it was noted that the Hebrew words El, HaElohim and Yahweh were rendered as anarthrous theos in the Septuagint at,,, and among many other locations. Moreover, in the New Testament anarthrous theos was used to refer to God in locations including,,, and . Therefore, anarthrous or arthrous constructions by themselves, without context, cannot determine how to render it into a target language. In the septuagint text, "supported by all MSS... reads πρὸς τὸν θεόν for the Hebrew עִם־ יְהֹוָ֔ה", but the oldest Greek text in Papyrus Fouad 266 has written πρὸς יהוה τὸν θεόν.
In the October 2011 Journal of Theological Studies, Brian J. Wright and Tim Ricchuiti reason that the indefinite article in the Coptic translation, of John 1:1, has a qualitative meaning. Many such occurrences for qualitative nouns are identified in the Coptic New Testament, including and. Moreover, the indefinite article is used to refer to God in and.

Biblical parallels

"In the beginning was the Word " may be compared with:
"The reference to the opening words of the Old Testament is obvious, and is the more striking when we remember that a Jew would constantly speak of and quote from the book of Genesis as "Berēshîth". It is quite in harmony with the Hebrew tone of this Gospel to do so, and it can hardly be that St. John wrote his Berēshîth without having that of Moses present to his mind, and without being guided by its meaning.

"...was God " may be compared with :
From the Biblos Interlinear Bible:
From Scrivener's Textus Receptus 1894:


The Greek word λόγος or logos is a word with various meanings. It is often translated into English as "Word" but can also mean thought, speech, account, meaning, reason, proportion, principle, standard, or logic, among other things. It has varied use in the fields of philosophy, analytical psychology, rhetoric and religion.


Of the canonical gospels, John has the highest explicit Christology. Here Jesus is the only-begotten Son of God, the Way, the Truth, the Life, the True Vine, etc. In 1:1, John identifies Jesus as the Logos, that which made the existence of the created world possible.
In mainstream Christian understanding of John's Christology, the conception that Jesus Christ is the Logos has been important in establishing the doctrine of Jesus' divinity, as well as that of the Trinity, as set forth in the Chalcedonian Definition.
The debate about the nature of Christ from the first century through the Council of Chalcedon in 451 CE must be understood in light of the pervasive world view of Platonic dualism. Platonism is normally divided into four periods: Old Academy, New Academy, Middle Platonism, and Neoplatonism.
Some scholars of the Bible have suggested that John made creative use of double meaning in the word Logos to communicate to both Jews, who were familiar with the Wisdom tradition in Judaism, and Hellenic polytheism, especially followers of Philo, often called Hellenistic Judaism. Each of these two groups had its own history associated with the concept of the Logos, and each could understand John's use of the term from one or both of those contexts. Especially for the Hellenists, however, John turns the concept of the Logos on its head when he claimed "the Logos became flesh and dwelt among us".
Gordon Clark translated Logos as "Logic" in the opening verses of the Gospel: "In the beginning was the Logic, and the Logic was with God and the Logic was God." He meant to imply by this translation that the laws of logic were contained in the Bible itself and were therefore not a secular principle imposed on the Christian worldview.
Following Jesuit translations of the 18th century, most modern Bible translations into Chinese use the word "Tao" in John 1:1 to translate "Logos", following the use as "Idea" in Taoism.

Alternative views

In Unitarianism there are other interpretations of John 1:1. In the commentaries on John 1 by Lelio Sozzini and his nephew Fausto Sozzini the "word" being "made flesh" is taken as a reference to the virgin birth, and not to the personal pre-existence of Christ. The passages in the New Testament referring to the Logos were explained by Fausto Sozzini as relating to the foreknown work of Christ as the author of the new creation, not as relating to the "old" Genesis creation. Fausto Sozzini aimed to "completely de-Platonize" the reading of John 1:1-15.