Anarthrous Phrase: “and the Word was God” (kai theos en ho logos)

We have visited the text of John 1:1 before (see John 1:1 "With God" and "pros"). A lot of controversy surrounding John 1:1 exists around the fact that the theos (Grk. God) of the last phrase in John 1:1 kai theos en ho logos is anarthrous, i.e. it has no article. There are three schools of thought here, the first—Jehovah’s Witnesses—says the correct translation, consequently, is ‘the Word was a god,’ basing the argument on the lack of the definite article ho before theos.

The second school of thought is the that of the trinitarians, who often assert that the text of John 1:1 speaks of two distinct persons—the Father and the Son. This is, of course, a presupposition assumed into the text starting with the interpretation. James White says, “By the simple omission of the article (‘the,’ or in Greek, ho) before the word for God in the last phrase, John avoids teaching Sabellianism. . . . ”[1] Of this same passage White also says, “Without a trinitarian understanding of God, this passage ends up self-contradictory and illogical.” [2] Therefore, his argument is somewhat circular and confounding, unless one views it through a trinitarian lens. Most scholars would call this pretext. The trinitarian view versus that of Oneness will be discussed in this paper.

In essence, trinitarians like A.T. Robertson, Marvin Vincent, Phillip B. Harner and Kenneth Wuest, who are used as building blocks for this proposition concerning the anarthrous phrase, assert that the anarthrous phrase implies that Jesus was divine or possessed what God was in nature. The argument is that John was not saying Jesus is identical with God but that He is like God—qualitative rather than definite—meaning, the last clause in John 1:1 was not an attempt to identify Jesus but to express His quality of being. Trinitarians assert that Jesus was identical to God in terms of nature, not in terms of Person.

Beasley-Murray says, “without the article signifies less than ὁ θεός [theos]; but it cannot be understood as ‘a god,’ as though the Logos were a lesser god alongside the supreme God; nor as simply ‘divine,’ . . . rather it denotes God in his nature. ”[3] Bruce says, “What is meant is that the Word shared the nature and being of God, or (to use a piece of modern jargon) was an extension of the personality of God.”[4]

Daniel B. Wallace also asserts that theos is qualitative rather than definite.[5] Wallace emphasizes “the nature of the Word, rather than his identity.”[6] One of the translations he cites as affirming his suggestion is the New English Bible: “What God was, the Word was” (John 1:1). It should be noted that in the rendering of the NEB “the translators were very experimental, producing renderings never before printed in an English version and adopting certain readings from various Hebrew and Greek manuscripts never before adopted. As a result, The New English Bible was both highly praised for its ingenuity and severely criticized for its liberty.”[7]

Trinitarians ignore the emphatic of John’s last phrase ‘the Word was God,’ and assume that a Hebrew thinker as John could see a plurality in the being of God. However, if John is implying a tri-personal deity, then it is with the utmost subtlety and thus counterproductive, if the trinity is to be known and believed upon. Paul places strong soteriological influence upon a proper understanding of the Godhead in Romans 1:20 by saying that it is ‘without excuse.’ John must have known this as well; if so, then why aren’t great efforts made to exalt this tri-personal deity? In fact, the Prologue, as it reaches back to call to remembrance the Creation story, is the ideal place to elucidate such a concept. Nevertheless, trinitarians are left to impose upon the texts post-Nicean and philosophical concepts.

William Arnold has this response to the anarthrous phrase, “ . . . My first response would be: Why does the presence of the article demand that this is God the Father? Why not God the Holy Spirit? For some reason, when a Trinitarian reads ‘God’ they first assume it is a reference to God the Father unless they have reason to believe otherwise. Somehow the Father is more ‘God’ than the other two persons. Second, I would simply point out that almost every time the phrase ‘God the Father’ or ‘God our Father’ appears in Scripture, the article is lacking. This includes every one of Paul’s benedictions as well as several other verses (Rom. 1:7; 1 Cor. 1:3; 2 Cor 1:2; Gal. 1:1,3; Eph. 1:2; Eph. 6:23; Phil. 1:2; 2:11; Col. 1:2; 1 Thess. 1:1; 2 Thess. 1:1,2; 1 Tim. 1:2; 2 Tim. 1:2; Titus 1:4; Phm. 1:3; 1 Peter 1:2; 2 Peter 1:17; 2 John 1:3; Jude 1:1). So there is no justification to claim that the second theos in John 1:1 does not refer to God the Father simply because there is no article. Finally, John was a devout Jew who had no concept of persons in the Godhead. The only God he knew of was God the Father. Therefore, to identify the Word as God was to identify him as the Father.”[8]

D.A. Carson does not totally agree with James White. Of the aforementioned trinitarian logic he says, “A long string of writers has argued that because theos, ‘God,’ here has no article, John is not referring to God as a specific being, but to mere qualities of ‘God-ness.’ The Word, they say, was not God, but divine. This will not do. There is a perfectly serviceable word in Greek for ‘divine’ (namely theios). More importantly, there are many places in the New Testament where the predicate noun has no article and yet is specific. Even in this chapter, ‘you are the King of Israel’ (1:49) has no article before ‘King’ in the original (cf. also Jn. 8:39; 17:17; Rom. 14:17; Gal. 4:25; Rev. 1:20). It has been shown that it is common for a definite predicate noun in this construction, placed before the verb, to be anarthrous (that is, to have no article; cf. Additional Note). Indeed, the effect of ordering the words this way is to emphasize ‘God,’ as if John were saying, ‘and the word was God!’ ”[9]

It is interesting to expound further on Carson’s mention of ‘theios’ (thay-os). Theios is used roughly three times in the NT: Acts 17:29; 2 Peter 1:3 and 4. In the KJV it is rendered ‘Godhead’ in Acts, and twice as ‘divine’ in 2 Peter. In most translations the rendering of theios as ‘divine’ in 2 Peter is preserved; however, the NKJV and the NASB render theios as ‘Divine Nature.’ It is the adjective typically used to describe qualities of an entity. As Carson posits, ‘theios’ would be more than apropos if John were just describing the quality of Jesus as God-likeness.

E.D. Radmacher aims at Jehovah’s Witnesses and utilizes Colwell’s Rule: “The last portion of 1:1 is the major point of contention. It reads in the Greek theos en ho logos, or literally, ‘the Word was God.’ God, or theos, occurs in this verse without the Greek article ho, so that some have contended that the lack of the article in the Greek text should cause the statement to be translated ‘the Word was a god.’ The best understanding for the translation, however, as recognized by Greek scholars, is that since theos is a predicate and precedes the noun logos and a verb, it is natural for it to occur here without the article. Greek scholars are agreed that the verse should be translated as it regularly is in modern and ancient translations, clearly affirming that Jesus is indeed God.”[10] Notice that Radmacher does not allude to Jesus possessing the nature of God-ness or etc.; he simply says, “Jesus is indeed God.”

“A Definite Rule for the use of the Article in the Greek New Testament” by E. C. Colwell in the 1933 Journal of Biblical Literature, has helped to solidify an alternative interpretation. It later became known simply as “Colwell’s Rule.” On page 21 Colwell begins comments on the Prologue with this statement, “The opening verse of John’s Gospel contains one of the many passages where this rule suggests the translation of a predicate as a definite noun. [και2532 CONJ θεος2316 N-NSM ην2258 V-IXI-3S ο3588 T-NSM λογος3056 N-NSM][11] looks much more like ‘And the Word was God’ than ‘And the Word was divine’ when viewed with reference to this rule. The absence of the article does not make the predicate indefinite or qualitative when it precedes the verb; it is indefinite in this position only when the context demands it. The context makes no such demand in the Gospel of John, for this statement cannot be regarded as strange in the prologue of the gospel which reaches its climax in the confession of Thomas.”

Thomas’ confession is “My Lord and my God” (John 20:28 KJV). Thomas here calls Jesus his Lord and his God. God or theos here is a noun in “the vocative case though the form of the nominative, a very common thing in the Koine,”[12] which means Thomas was most likely making an emphatic and direct address to Jesus.

It would seem that Robertson and others are at odds with Colwell’s Rule. James White says, “It should be noted that Robertson [and others] . . . had passed away before the work of Colwell, and their comments reflect this.”[13] James White tells us that Colwell’s view “is the same view taken by [Leon] Morris, [Bruce] Metzger, Griffith and others.” Prior to this concession White proclaims, “A slightly different tact is taken by another group of scholars.” Subsequently, in an effort to find trinitarian solidarity, White asserts that “both approaches [his and Colwell’s] lead to the same conclusion in that ‘the passage teaches the Deity of Jesus Christ.’ ”[14] This is not a conclusion that Oneness adherents deny, but affirm greater. White offers no real interaction with Colwell’s Rule; he only suggests that everyone is in agreement.

Kai theos en ho logos: the article ho before logos naturally indicates that the logos is the subject of the verb kai. Logos receives the verb’s action and theos, as Colwell mentions, can be the definite predicate noun. In a correspondence Eddie Dalcour, author of a new Oneness critique, states, “Some well meaning apologists in their quest to refute JWs have tagged theos (1:1c) with a definite force.”[15] Here Dalcour recognized earlier leanings towards the last phrase of John 1:1 to be definite but suggest that they done so because of a reaction to JW's.

White summarizes by saying, “The phrase kai theos en ho logos is most literally translated as ‘and the Word was God’ (Robertson, Bruce). The reason that theos is anarthrous is both that it is the predicate nominative (Robertson, Dana and Mantey) and that it is demanded by the fact that if it had the article, it would be then interchangeable with logos, which is contextually impossible (Robertson, Dana and Mantey, Bruce, Nicoll). Colwell's rule also comes into play at this point. We have seen that the majority of scholarship sees the theos as indicating the nature of the Word, that He is God as to His nature. The noun form is here used, not the adjectival theios, which would be required to simply classify the Word as ‘god-like.’ Hence, John 1:1 teaches that the Word is eternal (the imperfect form of eimi, en), that He has always been in communion with God (pros ton theon), and hence is an individual and recognizable as such, and that, as to His essential nature, He is God. Anything less departs from the teaching of John, and is not Biblical.”[16]

White raises the issue of convertible propositions, or whether or not logos and theos can be used interchangeably. In my opinion (and I do not contend for this) Oneness adherents do not need to have logos and theos as interchangeable to affirm Oneness theology. The logos is the plan and/or unexpressed thought ‘with God’ or, as in the UBS Handbook, ‘the Word was there where God was.’ As it relates to the Prologue, Theos is the proper name of God; it is God himself. In my opinion, the Word was not literally the complete sum of God but with God and part of God. In terms of post-Incarnational theology, the Word became flesh, or the unexpressed thought of God became expressed in man. The thought was that God himself, in time would become man (not just ‘robed’ as a man) and, therefore, would redeem fallen humanity.

Finally, trinitarians like Dalcour assert that Colwell “did not consider or evaluate the qualitative tags of nouns—his investigation was greatly limited.”[17] This is basically a smokescreen to marginalize Colwell’s Rule of definite predicate nouns. However, on page 17 Colwell notes: “There are bound to be mistakes in the list of definite predicate nouns without the article, but an attempt has been made to exclude all nouns as to whose definiteness there could be any doubt. This means, of course, that ‘qualitative’ nouns have been omitted, since all such nouns (and their total in the New Testament is small) are not definite.” What this means is that Colwell was very aware of qualitative nouns and therefore purposely excluded them from his work. When he says he excluded all nouns as to “whose definiteness there could be any doubt,” he means that he has searched for qualitative nouns and thereby removed them. Therefore, seeing John 1:1 included in Colwell’s work on page 21, it is obvious that since he did consider qualitative nouns, theos in John 1:1 did not fit his criteria for being qualitative.

Therefore, the anarthrous phrase in the last clause of the Prologue presents no problems for Oneness theology. Theos here can be demonstrated to be definite and not necessarily qualitative and does affirm that Jesus is God. The Apostle John under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit was compelled to identify the logos as the original plan with God to humanity, and also in time, to be shown as Jesus—God Himself manifest in flesh.


[1] White, James. John 1:1: Meaning and Translation - http://aomin.org/JOHN1_1.html
[2] White, James. The Trinity, the Definition of Chalcedon, and Oneness Theology - http://aomin.org/CHALC.html
[3]Beasley-Murray, G. R. (1998). Vol. 36: Word Biblical Commentary: John (electronic ed.). Logos Library System; Word Biblical Commentary. Dallas: Word, Incorporated.
[4] F. F. Bruce, The Gospel of John, (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1983), pg. 31.
[5] Wallace, Daniel B. Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics, (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1996), pg. 269
[6] Arnold, William III Colwell’s Rule and John 1:1. http://www.apostolic.net/biblicalstudies/colwell.htm
[7]Comfort, Philip W. The Complete Guide to Bible Versions. Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, 1991.
[8] Arnold, William III, In the Beginning was the Word - http://www.apostolic.net/biblicalstudies/logos.htm
[9] Carson, D.A. Pillar New Testament Commentary, The Gospel According to John. Eerdman Publishing, © 1991
[10] Radmacher, E. D., Allen, R. B., & House, H. W. (1999). Nelson's new illustrated Bible commentary (Jn 1:1). Nashville: T. Nelson Publishers.
[11] Brackets here indicate my emphasis, i.e. parts of speech/case listing and Strong’s numbering.
[12] Robertson's Word Pictures in the New Testament, Electronic Database. Copyright (c) 1997 by Biblesoft & Robertson's Word Pictures in the New Testament. Copyright (c) 1985 by Broadman Press
[13] White, James. John 1:1: Meaning and Translation - http://aomin.org/JOHN1_1.html
[14] White, James. John 1:1: Meaning and Translation - http://aomin.org/JOHN1_1.html
[15] Dalcour, Edward L. M. Apol. Private Email. Monday, February 14, 2005 12:21 PM
[16] White, James. John 1:1: Meaning and Translation - http://aomin.org/JOHN1_1.html
[17] Dalcour, Edward L. M. Apol. Private Email. Monday, February 14, 2005 12:21 PM


A Case for Inerrancy: Argument from Animation

Varying definitions of “inerrancy” exist today. However, an orthodox interpretation should include the idea that the Bible, when correctly interpreted, is completely truthful and accurate in all and every respect and that its original autographs are free from error. This paper is not exhaustive on the subject of “inerrancy” because there are so many paradigms to consider; however, one particular view that this paper considers is the “argument from animation.”

All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, 2 Timothy 3:16 NKJV

This paper presupposes that its readers understand and affirm the “divine inspiration” of Holy Scriptures. However, the phrase “given by inspiration of God” in 2 Timothy 3:16 is one Greek word, theopneustos. It literally means “God-breathed”.[1] If the book is God-breathed, then it is God's Book and not just man's book. In the Genesis 2 God formed man (Adam) from the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and man became a living soul. The body was present, created by God, but it was dead. It had no animation—no life. The difference here is between life and death.

We should not understand the Holy Scriptures as written merely by people but as breathed into by God (as in the case of the Adam). The words of the Bible came from God but were written by men. The apostle Peter affirmed this when he said that “prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit.” (2 Peter 1:21 NKJV). These men were literally “moved” (Grk. phero) to write or go into the destination that the Holy Spirit desired. It is as if the Holy Spirit picked them up in one place and carried them or bore them to another. They did not write by their own will, but were moved by the Spirit. These writings are living, not inanimate, and have the ability to encourage and convict the hearts of people.

It has been a common thing for non-believers to argue against the inerrancy of Scripture. In recent times, however, many Christian scholars have come to disallow in part or in whole the scriptural doctrine of inerrancy (Jack Rogers of Fuller Theological Seminary affirms limited inerrancy[2]). In view of this attack against the reliability, inspiration, and veracity of Scripture from those within and without the ranks of Christianity, it is important that Christians be able to defend and articulate the proper position on the inerrancy of Scripture against all attacks. Here is my personal statement on inerrancy; it is basically a modification of Article XII of the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy:

“When all facts are known, the Scriptures--the original autographs--properly interpreted will be shown to be wholly true in everything that they affirm whether that has to do with doctrine or morality or with the social, physical, or life sciences. We affirm that Scripture in its entirety is inerrant, being free from all falsehood, fraud, or deceit. This inerrancy is not limited to spiritual, religious, or redemptive themes, exclusive of assertions in the fields of history and science. Past, present, or future scientific hypotheses about earth history will not overturn the teaching of Scripture on creation and the flood.”

Without understanding or perhaps realizing their position many preachers or lay persons have made statements like this, “Well, the bible does not claim to be a science book so it may have some errors about biology or creation.” Such a statement is on par with “limited inerrancy” and should be avoided. If the bible is God’s book, and God is omniscient, it is only counterproductive to use such reasoning. Usually the faux pas is the fault of the exegete. Typically the texts are not interpreted properly or the translations make an error—not the original texts. In any case, all supposed biblical errors in English translations have a plausible explanation.

Another common argument against the true inerrancy of the Scripture is that man wrote the bible, man is errant, thus there must be mistakes in the bible. This is a circular argument. None of us would question the fact that George Washington was the first American president. Yet, we can only know this fact by reading the historical writings of men. Another attempt to undermine inerrancy is the change in certain terminology. Some scholars prefer the term "inerrancy" over "infallibility." “Infallibility” is the “idea that Scripture is not able to lead us astray...”[3] This switch of terms, most likely, has to do with the insistence of some that one could have an infallible message while also having an errant biblical text.[4] Here, we should wonder if the critics really understand or affirm divine inspiration.

As Christ made no room in His claims to simply be a “good man” or a “good prophet”, so the Holy Scriptures affirm that all of Scripture is profitable for us (2 Timothy 3:16) and that all of it is "God-breathed." Thus it is completely pure (Psalms 12:6), perfect (Psalms 119:96), and true (Proverbs 30:5). The Bible itself does not make any exclusions or special restrictions on the class of subjects to which it speaks truthfully or un-truthfully. As Jesus told us that He is “the way”, so the scriptures tell us that they are breathed by God Himself—they have life and animation by Him.

A denial of inerrancy presents us with the snowball effect. It begins like this, since the scriptures are indeed inspired of God, yet is not inerrant then it is possible that God has inspired lies. If God is a liar, and we are being made into God’s image should we expect to lie? This would lead us to wonder if we can really believe anything God says. Thus, by discounting certain passages as errant we are making the claim that we have a higher level of understanding and truth than God’s Word. Essentially we end up in a humanistic paradigm, where human reasoning has exalted itself above God. Therefore, we end up with Pandora’s Box and all of biblical doctrine subject to error and easily dismissed.

The Bible lets us know about its human authorship, but it also makes us aware of its divine authorship as well—dual authorship (2 Timothy 3:16, 2 Peter 1:21). The argument for Spirit animation, in my opinion, is a very strong argument—albeit significant others do exist. Dr. Elmer Towns, of Liberty University, says, “Since the process of inspiration is “in-breathing” God did more than breathe accurate content into the Bible, He breathed His Spirit into it.”[5] God is not a stranger to the supernatural. The Incarnation is accompanied by a virgin birth—a supernatural infusion of divinity and humanity. The Word of God should be seen as no less supernatural—an infusion of a divine author and human authors. Thus, we have a supernatural book. This supernatural book has the ability to transform lives. It is a supernatural book that has the power to convict, convince, and convert.


[1]Friberg, T., Friberg, B., & Miller, N. F. (2000). Vol. 4: Analytical lexicon of the Greek New Testament. Baker's Greek New Testament library (Page 196). Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Books.
[2] Belief that the Bible is free of error only in its theological content, and not in its historical or scientific statements
[3] Systematic Theology, Copyright © 1994 by Wayne Grudem. All rights reserved.
[4] Horton, Stanley M. Systematic Theology © 1994, 1995 by Gospel Publishing House. All rights reserved
[5] Theology for Today, Elmer Towns. Copyright © 2002 by Wadsworth Group. Pg. 72

Adversus Trinitas

"...unless you believe that I am he you will die in your sins." (John 8:24 ESV)