The Word that was With God:
How it Was, not Who it Was
by Don Sena
The assumed personification of the Word of God has long bolstered the notion of a supposed “godhead” consisting of a multiplicity of “god-beings,” extending anywhere from two on up. Most common is the Trinitarian notion of three-headed God, with the Father of Christ (or God the “Word”) as one, Christ himself as the second and the Holy Spirit as a distinct third person. Somewhat less common is the polytarianism of various small entities with “Church of God” in their titles, who see God as an open “family of persons, ready to accept all true believers into an ever-expanded “God Family.” They all share in common the notion of a plural godhead, in which one God being (the Father) anciently sent another such being (God, the Word, or Christ) from a state of immortal existence into a subsequent state of ephemeral and transient existence which could only end in physical death.
An eternal spirit-being somehow loses its "eternity" when (and if) it becomes temporary flesh and eventually dies -- becoming, then, a mere corpse; if it is no longer eternal, then it never actually was. The common understanding of "the Word [that] became flesh" entails contradiction and is apparently based on the meaning assigned to it (and to the Greek "lo'gos") by both traditionalists and “Church of God” offshoots of the old Worldwide Church.
The operative expression here is contained in the first verse of John’s Gospel account. The verse consists of three short sentence clauses, of which the third is key: “In the beginning was the Word, the Word was with God kai theos ehn ho logos.” Literally word-for-word, this last segment reads: “and God was the Word,” in which the subject (Word) is as the end of the sentence to emphasize the adverbial relationship of the noun theos (God) to the verb ehn (was) to effect a characterization of the subject logos (Word).
When referring to the person of God, theos is almost always accompanied by the article “the”: ho theos (literally, “the God.”) The second clause of John 1: 1 contains ho theos: “ … the Word was with [the] God … ,” so that the person of God is indeed intended in this clause.
The third clause “kai theos ehn ho logos,” however, contains only theos minus a preceding article “the.” The verb “to be” (ehn, or “was”), as it occurs in this third clause, does not equate God to the Word, or the Word to God. theos is simply adverbially related to say how the Word was, not what or who it was. Accordingly, a literal translation of that last clause of John1:1 would be:
“… and Godly was the Word.” For the purpose of a better sentence order for English usage, it may also be written as “ … and Godly the Word was.” If we may substitute the demonstrative “that” for the article “the,” we have “…and Godly that Word was.”
The significance of how “Godly that Word was” can be seen in 2 Pt 3: 5 "... there were heavens and an earth drawn out of the waters and standing between the waters, all brought into being by the word of God." This concept is remarkably parallel to the Hebrew noun "dabahr'" : "word, edict, command," as seen in Is 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." It is also prominent in Psm 33: 6, 9 "By the word of YAHWEH the heavens were made; by the breath of his mouth, all their host -- for he spoke, and it was made; he commanded, and it stood forth." Attempts to coerce the meaning of "word" into denoting a distinct God-being in its own right will only belie any honest effort to know God as he actually is. (The plural of "dabahr'" -- "d-bahrihm'" : "words" -- is the title in Hebrew of the book of Deuteronomy.
The masculine noun "logos" which occurs in this third segment also occurs with a range of mutually interrelated meanings, as do the lexical units of any human language. Within this range of meaning are: "word spoken," "utterance," "speech," "eloquence," "doctrine," "reason" and "faculty of reason." Morphologically, "logos" bears an affinity with "legein" : "to say," "to tell"; and the present participle of "legein" -- "legontes" : "saying" -- is found in Mt 24: 5: "Many will come in my name, saying that I am the Messiah, and will deceive many !"
"Logos" is not an agentive form, which would denote "one who does"; "logos" does not, consequently, mean "spokesman" or "speaker," as erroneously taught in the old WCG. Yet, in Acts 14: 12, the phrase "ho' hehgou'menos tou' lo'gou" : "the leader of the word" is found (in which "logou" is the genitive singular of "logos"). Typically, this phrase is rendered idiomatically (and correctly) as "spokesman" or "chief speaker." The noun "logos," however, does not on its own have any such meaning.
(As an aside, it may be noted that Heb 13: 17 contains the segment "... hohs' lo'gon apodoh'sontes": "... as [men] who must render an account." Here, "logon" -- the accusative case of "logos" -- overlaps the range of meaning of English "account.")
Because "logos" is of the masculine gender, pronominal references to it (in the Greek) are, accordingly, masculine. Of the many places in the Greek Testament in which "logos" appears, only in Jn 1 is there any tendency of translators to render a pronoun referring to "logos" as "he" or "him"; elsewhere, they employ "it": In the following segment from the parable of the sower, the Greek does employ a pronoun:
"... hoi', ho'tan akous'sohsi ton' lo'gon," : "... who, when they happen to hear the word,"
"euthe'ohs meta' karahs' lamba'nousin auton' " : "immediately receive it with joy" (Mk 4: 16).
It is the same pronoun of the masculine gender, "autos," which occurs here that also occurs in Jn 1. (The form "auton" is simply the accusative case of "autos.") As a reference to "logos" ("word"), "autos" should always and everywhere be rendered in English as "it." Semantically, at least, "logos" is a neuter entity and is never meant to denote a personage of any sort, much less a divine spirit being.