And The Word Was God 

"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God." (John 1:1)

How are we to think of the statement, "the Word was God"? The Trinitarian proposal is that this indicates that Christ is 'fully God', the Second Person of the Trinity. The Jehovah's Witness proposal is that the Greek should be translated, "the Word was a god", because the definite article is absent in the Greek. But this is not decisive. In Greek, a noun like theos (God) may be used without an article when used before the verb "to be". 1

Another proposal is that the statement means, 'the Word was Divine'. The problem with this proposal is that 'Divine' is descriptive, and a different (but related) Greek word, theios, is translated 'Divine'. This word is found in the New Testament in Acts 17:29 (Godhead) and 2 Peter 1:3. Would not John have used this word if he had meant to convey a point about the Divinity of Christ?

Christ has the role and function of God in respect of the new creation. All power and authority was given unto him, and this was shown in his earthly ministry. He was also a manifestation of the presence of God in that his body was a temple for God: "God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto Himself" (2 Cor. 5:19). Perhaps the correct way to view the statement that the Word was God is to translate the Greek as it is found in the A.V.: "and the Word was 'God'".

However, calling a person 'God' does not necessarily mean he has the Divine nature. It does not necessarily mean that he is of the same substance as God the Father. It all depends on how we view the ascription of the title 'God' to Christ. A person, like an angel of the Lord, could bear the Divine name of the LORD God ('Yahweh', Gen. 22:11-12; Jdg. 2:1-5; Jdg. 13:3,22; also compare Exo. 3:4 with Acts 7:35). In like manner, the judges in the Old Testament were described as "gods" ('elohim', Exo. 22:9) because they judged the children of Israel in God's stead, according to the commandments given by God through Moses.


"Born of a woman"

When the time had fully come, "God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law" (Gal. 4:4, RV; cf. Rom. 8:3). Does this mean that the Son was in heaven and sent from heaven? Does this imply that the Son became incarnate in a man born of woman? If these are not valid inferences, why does Paul want to say that Jesus was born of woman? We would not describe one of our children with the words, 'he/she was born of woman'. So does Paul use this language to describe an incarnation process? Is he using this language to emphasize the humanity of a heavenly being, as Trinitarians advocate?

The language of God sending forth is used of angels (for example, Gen. 24:40; Acts 12:11) and human messengers (for example, Moses, Ex. 3:12ff.; Ps. 105:26; Mic. 6:4). God has sent a myriad of prophets down the ages (for example, Judg. 6:8; 2 Chron. 36:15; Jer. 1:7; Ezek. 2:3; Hag. 1:12; Mal. 3:1; John 1:6; Acts 22:21). For God to send someone says nothing about the origin or point of departure of the one who is sent; rather it is the heavenly origin of the commission that matters. In the parable of the husbandmen the son is the last agent to be sent by the father (Mk. 12:6). In Galatians 4:4 Paul repeats the point that in the fullness of time God sent out His Son. If the Son was sent from heaven we ought equally to argue that the previous agents (the prophets) were also sent from heaven.

Why does Paul use the expression "born of a woman"? The Greek word is not the more specific word for giving birth, which we might have expected if Paul's point had been about an incarnation process. Rather it is the more general word for becoming (literally the Greek is 'being out of a woman being under law'). Once again, typology will supply us the reason for Paul's choice of language.

The Old Testament background to Paul's statement is the promise of the seed of the woman (Gen. 3:15; cf. Job 14:1; 15:14; 25:4). There had been a long line of women in the Old Testament who had given birth to men who were types of the Messiah. The original promise to Eve was that she would give birth to a seed who would bruise the head of the serpent, and this teaching that the redeemer would be born of a virgin is shown by those barren women in the Old Testament who gave birth in God-guided circumstances; women such as Sarah, Rachel and Hannah come immediately to mind. Paul's focus therefore is on redemption and not on an incarnation process. His background is that of the Old Testament pattern of the redeemer coming from a woman by Divine intervention.


1. For example, see John 19:21.


Andrew Perry