By JR on Monday, November 23, 2015
The Jehovah's witness version of John 1:1 is not mine
My translation is actually rather orthodox in scholarly circles. But I have found some new fun later on in John 1!
A reader has sent me a link to an exegesis which refutes the translation of John 1:1 preferred by Jehovah's witnesses. She evidently did not see any difference between that and my account.
I could cavil about the exegesis concerned -- its apparent reliance on the Septuagint, which is itself a translation, for instance, their apparent reliance on the textus receptus when much better recensions are now available, and their apparent failure to grasp that "ho theos" was the normal pagan Greek word for any local god -- which gave the NT writers something of a dilemma that they did not always resolve consistently, but I will leave such points aside as I think they get there in the end. I in fact agree with their final conclusion. I quote:
"Hence, the Word belongs to the category of theos (“God”) as to His essence or nature—not His personal identity".
Or as they put it more succinctly in their Conclusions: "θεος in John 1:1c is qualitative, not indefinite"
Anarthrous theos indicates a quality not a person. So it does NOT say that Jesus was God in the way that we would normally understand it. It does not identify Jesus as God, which is what the trinitarians want it to do.
I did point out that anarthrous theos could be translated as "a God" -- which is what the JWs do -- but I myself saw the meaning as referring to divine attributes in line with the "morphe theos" of Philippians.
My correspondent also sent me another exegesis which allegedly addressed the meaning of "morphe theou" in Philippians but it did not address my points. It was concerned with the particular usage of "theos" rather than "morphe". I could in fact have taken issue with the theos usage in that passage but I had already grumbled about the translation of three other words in that short passage so I called a halt at that point. I think I had already shown that the passage indicated that Christ was LIKE God but not God. It was a simple statement that had been overinterpreted by theologians.
But I am always learning so in reading the second exegesis I came across something that is great fun indeed: The usage of "monogenēs theos" in John 1:18. A begotten god! Is that not clear enough that Jesus was created, despite having divine attributes?
I could not believe I had missed that point before. I guess I still use the KJV too much, which has "begotten son". And the Griesbach recension has that usage too "monogenes huios", begotten son. So I was unaware that both Westcott & Hort and Nestle give "monogenēs theos". "theos" must be better attested than "huios" in the early MSS.
Huge fun however is the way most modern translations render "monogenēs theos". They either miss out "monogenes" entirely or say simply "only". And some stick with "son", despite that not being in the best renderings of the original Greek text. Though the NIV has the grace to put "son" in brackets! It is obviously a hugely embarrassing passage to them. Embarrassing enough for them to mistranslate it deliberately. They are just incapable of saying that Christ was both "genes", "born", "conceived" (perhaps "generated" in modern terms) but also a "theos", a god! "A born God". Let those words sink in.
I suppose trinitarians will waffle their way around that, as they usually do, but there is nothing unclear or mysterious in the original text. If the text had said a born son, it could have meant Christ's incarnation. But it does not. It was not a man that was born. It was a God.
Needless to say, the theologians and exegetes have gone wild trying to tell us that the text does not mean what it says. They say that μονογενὴς (monogenes) just refers to a particular person etc. And they then give a pile of excerpts from classical and Biblical Greek in support of that. They also quote Liddell & Scott's definitions in support of their claims. But all the examples they give are in fact of naturally born people and people identified by their particular birth. Putting it another way, Greeks would on occasions refer to people as "borns", for various reasons. But born still meant born.
But let's leave the μονο aside and just look at γενὴς. They won't like Liddell & Scott's first definition of "genea", which is "of the persons in a family". Not the mystical persons of the trinity but the individual persons of a normal family. And let us look at a word we all know: "Genesis". It's exactly the same word in Greek and English and it's a form of γενὴς. And we know what it refers to, don't we? A beginning. So Christ was a god who had a beginning, a birth. QED
I would have been burnt at the stake for saying that at times in the past