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The New World Translation and John 1:1

What the Scholars Really Said


The Watchtower and Jehovah's Witness apologists have often cited scholars in support of the New World Translation in general, and particularly its rendering of John 1:1c ("and the Word was a god").  Scholarly citation is a form of an "argument from authority."  Such an argument cannot establish the truth or falsity of a given assertion; it can merely lend credence or cast doubt.  Sound arguments from authority will consist of an accurate quotation from the scholar in question, which entails insuring that the context of the authority's statements are consistent with the argument being presented, and that contrary statements in the same passage are not removed with creative use of ellipses ("...").  Further, the scholar must be a recognized authority in a field that pertains directly to the assertion being made.

When Jehovah's Witnesses produce scholars that support the NWT, we must first establish that the scholar is, indeed, a recognized expert in the field of Biblical Languages, and that he or she has been quoted accurately.  When given careful consideration, many of the scholars used by Jehovah's Witnesses do not actually constitute a sound argument from authority.  I'm not suggesting that no scholars may be found in support of the NWT or its translation of John 1:1, but these are in the minority and often are not as qualified in their field as the scores of scholars who advocate the traditional translation.

In the chart, below, we will examine how some scholars have been used in defense of the NWT and whether they actually support the Watchtower translation as claimed.  It is not my intent to be exhaustive; however I've tried to cover the scholars most often cited; I think you'll find that any omissions will be obscure scholars that are not generally recognized as authoritative in the scholarly community.  If you know of a prominent scholar that I've missed, please let me know so that I may include him/her in a future revision of this article.

Index of Scholars


Scholar Quotation Used in Support of NWT What the Scholar Really Said
William Barclay "theos [in John 1:1c] becomes a description, and more of an adjective than a noun...[John] does not say that Jesus was God" (Barclay, Many Witnesses, One Lord, p. 23 - 24).

- The Watchtower, May 15, 1977, p. 320

When Barclay says that John didn't write that "Jesus was God," he merely means that Jesus was not God the Father.  That Barclay sees an ontological unity between ho theos and ho logos is apparent in the following passage omitted from the Watchtower article:

"The only modern translator who fairly and squarely faced this problem is Kenneth Wuest, who said: 'The Word was as to his essence, essential deity.'  But it is here that the NEB has brilliantly solved the problem with the absolutely correct rendering: 'What God was the Word was'" (Barclay, p. 23).

Barclay also makes his position clear in a response to the Watchtower's citation:

"The Watchtower article has, by judicious cutting, made me say the opposite of what I meant to say.  What I was meaning to say, as you well know, is that Jesus is not the same as God, to put it more crudely, that is of the same stuff as God, that is of the same being as God, but the way the Watchtower has printed my stuff has simply left the conclusion that Jesus is not God in a way that suits themselves.  If they missed from their answer the translation of Kenneth Wuest and the N.E.B., they missed the whole point" (A letter to Donald P. Shoemaker, 8/26/1977.  A photocopy of this letter can be found in Watters, Thus saith ... the Governing Body of Jehovah's Witnesses, p. 74).

Jason BeDuhn "The bottom line is that "The Word was a god" is exactly what the Greek says. "The Word was divine" is a possible meaning of this Greek phrasing. "The Word was God" is almost certainly ruled out by the phrasing John uses, and it is not equivalent to "The Word was divine" because without any justification in the original Greek it narrows the meaning from a quality or category (god/divine) to an individual (God)."

- from a prominent Jehovah's Witness website

Unlike most of the scholars used by Jehovah's Witnesses, DeBuhn has not been quoted out of context.  He does, indeed, believe the NWT and KIT to be generally accurate, and uses the latter when teaching Greek at Northern Arizona University.

BeDuhn received his Master of Arts in Theological Studies from Harvard Divinity School.  This degree requires an intermediate level of competence in Greek.  BeDuhn's PhD from the University of Indiana is in Comparative Religious Studies, not in Biblical languages.  He is not recognized in the scholarly community as an expert in Biblical Greek.  

This is not to say that BeDuhn is to be dismissed lightly.  He is certainly knowledgeable in Greek, and says that he is doing work on untranslated Greek texts.  He says that he is "not a theologian," by which he means, I suppose, that he is not biased in favor of one theological viewpoint, but rather approaches the text purely from a grammatical standpoint.  However, it is questionable whether one approaching the text from a secular standpoint is any less free from bias than one with a theological commitment; nor that a theological commitment necessarily precludes an objective analysis.  Further, Dr. BeDuhn as a "non-theologian" may limit his familiarity with much relevant scholarship (see, for example, Dr. BeDuhn's statement that he is unaware of who Murray J. Harris is, below).

BeDuhn argues that the traditional translation is extremely "unlikely" from a grammatical standpoint.  To my knowledge, however, Dr. DeBuhn has not interacted publicly with the majority of scholarship on this topic (a summary of which you may find here) which his views contradict.  Further, his statement that the traditional rendering "narrows the meaning from a quality or category (god/divine) to an individual (God)" seems a strawman argument: Those who argue that theos has a qualitative force in John 1:1c do not argue that Jesus is the individual, God, but rather that he possesses all the qualities or attributes of God.  Trinitarians could even accept Dr. BeDuhn's substitution of "categorical" for Harner's "qualitative," so long was we understand that for John, the category that includes the true God is a category containing only one Being (see Harris, Jesus as God, p. 298, n93).

BeDuhn attempted to defend the NWT to Catholic apologist John Pacheco.  You'll find their discussion of John 1:1 here.  You will notice that a necessary presupposition of BeDuhn's argument is that John's beliefs about God were not consistent with those professed in Deuteronomy.  John is not "concerned" with the radical monotheistic commitment of Deuteronomy, BeDuhn suggests.  He tells us that Paul does not "control" what John meant and vice versa.  However, those who hold to the harmony of Scripture - as do Jehovah's Witnesses - do not accept this necessary presupposition.  Therefore both Trinitarians and Witnesses should reject his conclusions, for they are based on presuppositions with which we cannot agree.

Finally, BeDuhn prefers the translation "and the Word was divine."  Mr. BeDuhn has stated in a private email that this rendering "leaves open" a Trinitarian solution (BeDuhn to Steven S. 12/26/2001).  In this same email, he states that he does not know who Murray J. Harris is.  It would seem that any cogent defense of Mr. BeDuhn's views would require interaction with Harris' thorough survey and analysis in his book, Jesus as God (see particularly Harris' comments regarding "the Word was divine," p. 63ff).

BeDuhn sees "divine" as merely meaning a non-physical being, which may be the true God or lesser spirit beings, such as angels.  We may ask, however, if John's intended meaning was "divine" simply in the sense of a non-physical being, why he did not use the Greek word theios ("divine"), which would have expressed this sense in unambiguous terms?

Lant Carpenter “a God” - Lant Carpenter, LL.D (in Unitarianism in the Gospels [London: C. Stower, 1809], 156).

- from Greg Stafford's second reply to me on the Julius Mantey letter to the WTB&TS.  I had asked Mr. Stafford for a list of scholars who unequivocally support the NWT rendering of John 1:1.

The views of a 19th Century Unitarian are interesting from an historical perspective, but not convincing in demonstrating the proper translation of John 1:1c.  Carpenter did not have the benefit of the advances in the understanding of Koine Greek that emerged over the past 100 years; he did not have Colwell or Harner's studies available to him, nor the subsequent scholarship that bears on the subject.

Carpenter is not regarded as authoritative by modern Biblical scholars.  They do not cite the work quoted by Mr. Stafford, nor any other work by Carpenter.

William D. Chamberlain

The meaning of John 1:1

d. A qualitative force is often expressed by the absence of the article: en tois propsetais (Heb. 1:1), 'in the prophets,' calls attention to a particular group, while en uio (Heb. 1:2), 'in son,' calls attention to the rank of the Son as a 'spokesman' for God. The ARV in trying to bring out the force of this phrase translates it, 'in his Son,' italicizing 'his.'


The predicate of a sentence may be recognized by the absence of the article: theos en ho logos(Jn. 1:1), the Word was God; kai ho logos sarx egento (Jn. 1:14), 'And the Word became flesh'; esontai oi eschatoi protoi (Mt. 20 :16), 'the last shall be first.' The article with each of these predicate nouns would equate them and make them interchangeable, e. g., ho theos en ho logos would make God and the Word identical. The effect of this can be seen in ho theos agape estin (1 Jn. 4 :8), 'God is love.' As the sentence now stands 'love' describes a primary quality of God; the article he with agape would make God and love equivalents, e. g., God would possess no qualities not subsumed under love.



The primary function of the article is to make something definite. It may point out something new to the discussion, or something already mentioned.


"Theos en ho logos" is describing the quality of the Logos-Word in that he possessed divine or divinity as the only begotten son of God who was a spirit being like God but not identical to Jehovah God (An Exegetical Grammar Of The Greek New Testament, p. 57).

- from a post on a Jehovah's Witness discussion board


The following endorsements appear on the dust jacket of Chamberlain's Grammar:

BRUCE M. METZGER "as a comprehensive and helpful grammar written to enable the average minister to feel at home in the Greek New Testament."

NED B. STONEHOUSE "a convenient handbook for the student who is seeking to apply his knowledge of the fundamentals of Greek grammar in the exegetical study of the New Testament."

WILLIAM F. ARNDT  "To all pastors and theological students who would like to review the chief grammatical facts pertaining to the Greek of the New Testament and who are looking for a somewhat new approach, we cordially recommend this book."

William D. Chamberlain, professor of New Testament language and literature at the Louisville Presbyterian Seminary.


It would seem odd that a professor at a Presbyterian Seminary would understand John 1:1 in the same manner as the Watchtower, let alone have such a view endorsed by the likes of Metzger, Stonehouse, and Arndt.

In point of fact, Chamberlain is strictly orthodox in his theology, and so is his grammar.  Chamberlain is not using "divine" or "spirit being" in the same sense Jehovah's Witnesses do.  And, like Harris and others, he understands "Jehovah God" as equivalent to "God the Father" (see Harris, p. 47, n. 112).  Thus, he is saying that the Word possessed divinity (the nature of the True God), but was not identical to God the Father.

Witnesses, then, may use Chamberlain's words to support their view, if they choose to pour their own meanings into them.  However, Chamberlain's words as he intended them do not support the NWT, but rather uphold the traditional understanding of John 1:1.

C. H. Dodd Professor C. H. Dodd, director of the New English Bible project, comments on this approach: "A possible translation. . . would be, ‘The Word was a god’. As a word-for-word translation it cannot be faulted." However, The New English Bible does not render the verse that way. Rather, John 1:1 in that version reads: "When all things began, the Word already was. The Word dwelt with God, and what God was, the Word was." Why did the translation committee not choose the simpler rendering? Professor Dodd answers: "The reason why it is unacceptable is that it runs counter to the current of Johannine thought, and indeed of Christian thought as a whole."— Technical Papers for the Bible Translator, Volume 28, January 1977.

- from a Jehovah's Witness posting on an online discussion board.

"If the translation were a matter of substituting words, a possible translation would be, ‘The Word was a god.’ As a word-for-word translation it cannot be faulted, and to pagan Greeks who heard early Christian language, Theos en o Logos, might have seemed a perfectly sensible statement. The reason why it is unacceptable is that it runs counter to the current of Johannine thought, and indeed of Christian thought as a whole" (The Bible Translator, Vol. 28, No. 1, Jan. 1977).

Dodd doesn't say "a god" is an "acceptable" translation. He says it can't be faulted as a "literal" translation, but there's a big difference. Notice how Dodd qualifies the quote I provided: "If translation..." His point is that translation is not merely a wooden substitution of one English word for one Greek word. If it were, "a god" could not be "faulted." However, "only grammatical considerations" do not a proper translation make!

Dodd cites several examples where theos has the meaning of the "essence" of God (p. 104). He then concludes that the NEB translation "What God was the Word also was" is "an attempt" to get at the idea that John was expressing - namely, that in every sense that the Father is God, the Logos is also God (p. 104).

In this view, Dodd is in agreement with the overwhelming number of commentators and grammarians who've written on this subject

If the WT and Witness apologists use Dodd to defend the NWT translation in the face of accusations that it is ungrammatical, I cannot find fault with such a citation. However, that's not what this Jehovah's Witness was saying. He was advocating the NWT as a translation supported by scholars like Dodd. His selective quotation gives the impression that Dodd believes such a translation might be proper or acceptable, when this is not the case at all.

MacLean Gilmour "The New Testament translation was made by a committee whose membership has never been revealed - a committee that possessed an unusual competence in Greek" ("The Use and Abuse of the Book of Revelation," Andover Newton Quarterly, September 1966).

- Awake! (March 22, 1987)

"In 1950 the Jehovah's Witnesses published their New World Translation Of The New Testament, and the preparation of the New World Old Testament translation is now far advanced. The New Testament translation was made by a committee whose membership has never been revealed -a committee that possessed an unusual competence in Greek and that made the Westcott and Hort Greek text basic to their translation. It is clear that doctrinal considerations influenced many turns of phrase, but the work is no crack-pot or pseudo-historical fraud" ("The Use and Abuse of the Book of Revelation," Andover Newton Quarterly, September 1966).

Aside from the negative portrayal of "doctrinal considerations," Mr. Gilmour made several factual errors in his comments about the NWT, indicating that he may not have been particularly familiar with the work he was reviewing (for more information, see Ian Croft's "The New World Translation and its Critics").

Edgar J. Goodspeed "I am interested in the mission work of your people, and in its world wide scope, and much pleased with the free, frank, and vigorous translation. It exhibits a vast array of sound serious learning, as I can testify."

- Awake! (March 22, 1987).  This is reported to be a quote from a personal letter from Goodspeed to the WTB&TS

Bill Cetnar, who worked at Watchtower Headquarters in New York during the period when the New World Translation was being prepared, was sent to interview Dr. Goodspeed in March, 1954 to seek his comments on the first volume of the New World Translation Of The Hebrew Scriptures. Cetnar writes:

"During the two-hour long visit with him it was obvious that he knew the volume well, because he could cite the pages where the readings he objected to were found. One reading he pointed out as especially awkward and grammatically poor was in Judges 14:3 where Samson is made to say: `Her get for me....' As I left, Dr. Goodspeed was asked if he would recommend the translation for the general public He answered, `No, I'm afraid I could not do that. The grammar is regrettable. Be careful on the grammar. Be sure you have that right" (Cetnar, W.I. & J., Questions For Jehovah's Witnesses Who Love The Truth [Kunkletown, Pennsylvania: W.I. Cetnar, 1983], p. 64).

Dr. Goodspeed was, of course, not speaking here about the Greek (New Testament) Scriptures, but about the Hebrew (Old Testament) Scriptures, while his earlier, favorable comments related to the Greek Scriptures.  However, as Robert Bowman notes in his book, Understanding Jehovah's Witnesses (Baker Books, 1991), there is some doubt as to the authenticity of Goodspeed's letter.  The letter does not bear a written signature and appears to be a copy of the original, if such ever existed (to date, the Society has not produced a signed original).  Second, though the letter was dated 1950, it was not used by the Society as an endorsement of the NWT until 1982.  Third, the letter contains several very minor criticisms of the NWT, but none relating to the more controversial translations - which would seem odd, in that Goodspeed's own translation differed dramatically with the NWT in several key texts.  Finally, Dr. Walter Martin, whom Bowman knew, reported that Goodspeed forthrightly criticized the NWT rendering of John 1:1 in a personal conversation in 1958.  Thus, there is no sure evidence that Goodspeed actually endorsed the NWT; there is solid evidence that he refused to endorse the NWT Hebrews Scriptures, and suggestive circumstantial evidence that he did not approve of the NWT Christian Greek Scriptures, either.

S. G. Green "Then this Handbook adds some sentences to illustrate this general rule regarding an anarthrous predicate, such as, "thy word is truth," "the Word was God," "God is love": and next the Handbook says: "Had the article been employed with the predicate in the above case, the sentences would have read thus:..Thy Word is the Truth, and nothing else can be so described; the Word was the entire Godhead, and God and Love are identical, so that in fact Love is God." Such an explanation is, in itself, an unintended admission that "the Word" of John 1:1 is not the same god as the God with whom the Word is said to be. Hence, the omitting of the article in the predicate of the simple sentence is shown to be only a general rule, and not one that holds in every case. One such case where that general rule does not hold true is John 1:1. The definite article "the" was there omitted, but not according to that general rule; it was not omitted with the idea that it should be understood by the reader."

- New World Translation, 1971, p. 1362 (appendix on John 1:1, quoting Green's Handbook to the Grammar of the Greek Testament, p. 178).

It is true that in all likelihood, John did not omit the article solely or even primarily to indicate that theos in John 1:1c was the predicate nominative, as opposed to the subject (so Harris, p. 61).  Few scholars have ever argued that such was the case (click here for a grammatical analysis and summary of scholarship on John 1:1c).

The question, then, is what did John mean by the anarthrous theos?  The overwhelming majority of scholars who've addressed the subject understand John to be emphasizing the qualities or character of the Logos, particularly given that the noun is not only anarthrous, but preverbal as well.  The Watchtower, too, recognizes the qualitative aspects of theos in John 1:1c, though it differs from what most scholars mean by the term.

A larger issue, however, is the accusation that Green's analysis is "an unintended admission that 'the Word' is not the same god as the God."  Such a statement indicates that the Watchtower really doesn't understand Green's comments at all.  Green is demonstrating a rather elementary point of Greek grammar - that when two nouns are joined by a form of the verb 'to be,' if they both have the article, the clause may be termed a "convertible proposition."  In a convertible proposition, the two nouns are equivalent.  For example, "Jesus is the Son of God" is convertible - Jesus is the Son of God and the Son of God is Jesus.  The two terms are exactly equivalent.

Green's point is that John 1:1c is not convertible - if it were (that is, if theos were articular), John would have been asserting an exact equivalence between the God and the Word.  As Green puts it would mean that "the Word was the entire Godhead."  All of God would have been the Word, and the Word would have been the totality of God (to the exclusion of the Father and the Spirit).  To argue that this statement is a tacit admission that the Word is "not the same god as the God" is both a strawman (because it fails to address the Trinitarian view of the Word's relationship to the Godhead) and a circular argument.  For only by assuming that the "Godhead" is one Person can one conclude that the Word cannot be the God He is with.

The Watchtower's confusion about what constitutes a convertible proposition may be seen in this same appendix, where we find on the one hand, "We agree with Dr. A. T. Robertson when he says: 'God and love are not convertible terms any more than God and Logos" (NWT, 1971, p. 1362); and on the other, "The proposition 'And the Word was a god' is a convertible one" (IBID, p. 1363).  Theos ên ho logos either is or is not a convertible proposition; it cannot be both.

Murray J. Harris "From the point of view of grammar alone, qeoV hn`o logoV could be rendered 'the Word was a god'...But the theological context, viz., John's monotheism, makes this rendering of 1:1c impossible" (Harris, Jesus as God, p. 60).  Harris's objection to the NWT rendering is not based on grammar, but on his theology.

- from an email dialog with the webmaster of the now-defunct Trinity Exposed Website.

The "..." in the previous quote reads: "just as, for example, if only grammatical considerations were taken into account, umeiV ek tou patroV tou diabolou este (John 8:44) could mean 'you belong to the father of the devil'" (Harris, p. 60).  Thus, Harris demonstrates that grammatical possibilities do not yield accurate translations.  He goes on to say, "it would not be impossible, from the point of view of grammar alone, to translate 1:1c as 'God was the Word'" (Harris, p. 61).  Anyone reading Harris' chapter on John 1:1 will see that he favors the traditional translation ("The Word was God") not merely on theological grounds (John's monotheism, by the way; not Harris'), but on strong grammatical and contextual grounds as well.
Herman Heinfetter “a God” - Herman Heinfetter, author of Rules for Ascertaining the Sense Conveyed in Ancient Greek Manuscripts, Objections to Bishop Middleton’s Doctrine of the Greek Article, and An Enquiry Respecting the Punctuation of Ancient Greek (in A Literal Translation of the Gospel According to St. John on Definite Rules of Translation, and an English Version of the Same, 6th ed. [London: Evan Evans, 1864]).

- from Greg Stafford's second reply to me on the Julius Mantey letter to the WTB&TS.  I had asked Mr. Stafford for a list of scholars who unequivocally support the NWT rendering of John 1:1.

I have been unable to locate a copy of the cited work by Herman Heinfetter, nor any other work by this author.  I have searched the library catalogs of Harvard Divinity School, Yale, St. Andrews, Dallas Theological Seminary, Talbot School of Theology, The Masters Seminary, Fuller Theological Seminary, Graduate Theological Union (which contains large holdings of non-orthodox scholarship), and the Claremont School of Theology.  The only references I have been able to uncover on the Internet are from Jehovah's Witness websites (with one exception, which was merely a list of several hundred Bible translations).  Thus, it does not appear that Heinfetter is anything like a recognized scholar in the field of Biblical Languages.

Regardless of Heinfetter's view of John 1:1c, he did not have the benefit of Colwell or Harner's studies, nor the subsequent scholarship that bears on the proper translation of John 1:1c.  His opinion is interesting from an historical perspective, but is of little value in determining the proper translation of John 1:1c, beyond perhaps demonstrating that "a god" is not impossible grammatically.

A. N. Jannaris “a god” - A. N. Jannaris, Ph.D, author of An Historical Greek Grammar and Lecturer on Post-Classical and other Greek dialects at the University of St. Andrews, Scotland (in ZNW 2 [1901], 24-25).


- from Greg Stafford's second reply to me on the Julius Mantey letter to the WTB&TS.  I had asked Mr. Stafford for a list of scholars who unequivocally support the NWT rendering of John 1:1.

Jannaris does, indeed, suggest "a god" as the proper translation of theos in John 1:1c, but in doing so, he does not provide support for the NWT rendering.  Jannaris argued that ho logos did not refer to the pre-incarnate Son, but rather "that well known oracular utterance which God made unto (pros) Himself and which having been instrumental (di' autou) in the creation, is naturally represented as a creative power, a creator, that is a god, - god and creator being two synonymous terms" (Jannaris, "Logos," pp. 20-21).

Click here for the text of a letter to me on the subject of Jannaris and John 1:1 from Dr. Robert Keay of St. Andrews University, Scotland.

Benjamin Kedar

"In my linguistic research in connection with the Hebrew Bible and translation, I often refer to the English edition as what is known as the New World Translation. In doing so, I find my feeling repeatedly confirmed that this kind of work reflects an honest endeavor to achieve an understanding of the text that is as accurate as possible. Giving evidence of a broad command of the original language, it renders the original words into a second language understandably without deviating unnecessarily from the specific structure of the Hebrew....Every statement of language allows for a certain latitude in interpreting or translating. So the linguistic solution in any given case may be open to debate. But I have never discovered in the New World Translation any biased intent to read something into the text that it does not contain."

- The Watchtower, 3/1/1991, p. 30

Benjamin Kedar received his PhD from Yale in 1969, but not in Hebrew.  He is professor of Jewish History at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.  No doubt, Professor Kedar is knowledgeable about Hebrew, but he is not a recognized scholar in Biblical Languages.

In a form letter written to those asking for clarification of his apparent endorsement of the NWT, Professor Kedar writes:

"A translation is bound to be a compromise, and as such it's details are open to criticism; this applies to the NWT too. In the portion corresponding to the Hebrew Bible, however, I have never come upon an obviously erroneous rendition which would find it's explanation in a dogmatic bias."

It will be noted that Professor Kedar limits his comments to the Hebrew Bible.  Few Trinitarians have complained about the Watchtower inserting its dogma into the Hebrew Scriptures.  Indeed, since none of the core orthodox doctrines that the Watchtower denies - Christ's deity; the existence of the soul; and hellfire - are explicitly discussed in the OT, it is not surprising that the NWT Hebrew Scriptures are relatively bias-free.

Professor Kedar, of course, says nothing of the relative merits of the NWT Christian Greek Scriptures.

Professor Kedar's preference for the NWT Hebrew Scriptures is not shared by other scholars.  H. H. Rowley, an eminent Old Testament scholar from England, wrote regarding the first volume of the New World Translation Of The Hebrew Scriptures:

"The translation is marked by a wooden literalism which will only exasperate any intelligent reader - if such it finds - and instead of showing reverence for the Bible which the translators profess, it is an insult to the Word of God" (Rowley, H.H., "Jehovah's Witnesses' Translation of the Bible" The Expository Times 67:107, Jan. 1956).

See also the comments of Dr. Goodspeed as well.

William Loader “a god” - William Loader, Ph.D. and New Testament Lecturer for the Perth Theological Hall, Australia, teacher at Murdoch University as a member of the Perth College of Divinity, and author of several books and journal articles (in The Christology of the Fourth Gospel: Structure and Issues [Peter Lang 1992], 155). Loader refers to “a god” as the “most natural reading of the text.”

- from Greg Stafford's second reply to me on the Julius Mantey letter to the WTB&TS.  I had asked Mr. Stafford for a list of scholars who unequivocally support the NWT rendering of John 1:1.

Dr. Loader's book is hardly the unequivocal support for which I was asking Mr. Stafford.  Here is the text of a letter I received from Dr. Loader on this subject:

Dear Robert

Thank you for your email. I am enclosing in this email the wording of my book which shows what I  was saying in its context and makes it clear that I would not consider 'the Word was a god' as an appropriate translation.  Context must determine meaning not just choices among possible grammatical alternatives.


Bill Loader

Dr. Loader is quite liberal in his approach to John's Gospel.  He ultimately defines the relationship of Father and Son as "not in substantial but in functional terms" (Loader, p. 202).  However, he clearly does not support "a god" as an appropriate translation of John 1:1c.

Julius R. Mantey

Careful translators recognize that the articular construction of the noun points to an identity, a personality, whereas an anarthrous construction points to a quality about someone.  That is what A Manual Grammar of the Greek New Testament by Dana and Mantey remarks on page 140, paragraph vii.  Accordingly on page 148 paragraph (3) this same publication says about the subject of a copulative sentence:

"The article sometimes distinguishes the subject from the predicate in a copulative sentence.  In Xenophon's Anabasis 1:4:6, ...and the place was a market, we have a parallel case to what we have in John 1:1, ...and the word was deity.  The article points out the subject in these examples.  Neither was the place the only market, nor was the word all of God, as it would mean if the article were used with qeoV." 

Instead of translating John 1:1, and the word was deity, this Grammar could have translated it, and the word was a god, to run more parallel with Xenophon's statement, and the place was a market  

- The New World Translation (1971), p. 1362


Michael Van Buskirk of the Christian Apologetics: Research and Information Service (CARIS) wrote to Dr. Mantey (Dr. Dana had died), asking him if he had been quoted accurately by the Watchtower.  Dr. Mantey replied in a letter dated February 25, 1974.  It read:

In response to your request, I give you the following facts:  In Jehovah's Witnesses' Translation of the New Testament, where I am quoted in a footnote on John 1:1 (cf., D-M Gk. Gram. Pg. 148 (3)), I was writing on how the article "distinguishes the subject from the predicate in a copulative sentence," not on the significance of the absence of the article before THEOS.  My closing statement in the paragraph was: "As it stands, the other persons of the Trinity may be implied in THEOS."  My interpretation of John 1:1 in that same paragraph was "The Word was Deity," i.e., that Christ is of the same essence as the Father, of the same family.  So I was quoted out of context.  Is that honest scholarship?

Thus, one of the authors of the Grammar the Watchtower used in defense of its translation says that he was quoted out of context and was not even discussing what it quoted him as affirming.  Read in context, Dr. Mantey's comments about the "parallel" cases refer to two specific points about copulative sentences:

1.  If one noun has the article, it is the subject of the sentence or clause (the place and the word).

2.  If only one noun has the article, the sentence is not a "convertible proposition" (that is, the two nouns are not interchangeable, as they would be if both nouns have the article).  Thus, place is not interchangeable with market; word is not interchangeable with Deity.  

Dr. Mantey's comments have nothing to do with the semantic force of the predicate (whether indefinite, as in Xenophon, or qualitative, as in John 1:1).

Dr. Mantey spoke out forcefully against the Watchtower's misuse of his Grammar on several occasions, including a famous letter to the Watchtower Bible & Tract Society itself.  For more information on Dr. Mantey and the Watchtower, click here.

Robert M. McCoy "The translation of the New Testament is evidence of the presence in the movement of scholars qualified to deal intelligently with the many problems of Biblical translation."

- Andover Newton Quarterly (January, 1963)

"The translation of the New Testament is evidence of the presence in the movement of scholars qualified to deal intelligently with the many problems of Biblical translation. This translation, as J. Carter Swain observes, has its peculiarities and its excellences. All in all, it would seem that a reconsideration of the challenge of this movement to the historical churches is in order (Andover Newton Quarterly, January, 1963).

McCoy, though generally well-disposed towards the NWT, is not above offering some criticism, which is not generally included when Jehovah's Witnesses cite McCoy as an endorsement.  

For example, he chides the NWT for rendering Matthew 5:9 as "Happy are the peaceable" rather than "the peacemakers:"  "One could question why the translators have not stayed closer to the original meaning, as do most translators" (IBID).

McCoy continues with a more general assessment of the presence of theological bias in the NWT: "In not a few instances the New World Translation contains passages which must be considered as `theological translations.' This fact is particularly evident in those passages which express or imply the deity of Jesus Christ." (IBID).

Mr. McCoy was a graduate of Andover Newton Seminary.  He held degrees of Bachelor of Divinity (1955) from the Boston University School of Theology, and Master of Sacred Theology from Andover Newton. Though well-educated, he does not have the academic or professional credentials of a Biblical scholar, nor is he recognized as one by those who are.  His opinion, of course, is worth hearing, particularly when all of it is heard.

John L. McKenzie John 1:1c  "...should rigorously be translated 'a divine being'" (John McKenzie, A Dictionary Of The Bible).  "A divine being" = "a god."

- from an online debate with one of Jehovah's Witnesses

First, McKenzie states on the first page of his article on "God" that the God of Israel is "a divine being."  He uses the term "divine being" in reference to Jewish monotheism as referring to the True God.  Thus, MacKenzie is not stating that the Logos is "a god" or a secondary divinity; he is not using "a divine being" in the same sense as Witnesses do.

Second, McKenzie seems to have fallen prey to source critical thought, in that he apparently believes that the Pentateuch was authored by at least 3 redactors, that there were two Isaiahs (the latter writing hundreds of years after the first), that Judaism arose out of pagan polytheism, that el "may" have been the supreme god of some pre-Jewish Semitic pantheon, that Shaddai was a supreme "god of the mountain" worshipped prior to Abraham, and the list goes on.  Now, simply because he's liberal in his approach to the Bible does not mean that McKenzie is wrong, or should not be considered authoritative with regard to the proper translation of John 1:1.  However, McKenzie certainly has some presuppositions that influence his beliefs about ancient Judaism (most of which are contradicted by current scholarship, which has pretty well laid to rest not only the source critical model, but also the idea that polytheism antedates monotheism, and the use of El/Elaya/Elohim.  If he believes that the OT is a mélange of several theological belief systems, some rigidly monotheistic and some henotheistic or even polytheistic, he will no doubt read ambiguous passages to suit his beliefs.

Regardless of McKenzie's interpretative biases (if any), he believes that by "second Isaiah," Israel had embraced a rigid monotheism, and it is clear that he views Jesus in this context.  Thus, his reference to the Word as "a divine being" cannot be construed in the fashion Witnesses would like - he means the phrase exactly as he does of Jehovah in the opening sentence of his article, and his subsequent comments make clear that he views Jesus as the embodiment of God on earth, and he cites John 20:28, Col 2:9 and other verses in which Jesus is called ho theos or is called fully God in other terms

C.F.D Moule See entry under Westcott, below. See comments under Westcott, below.
Archbishop Newcome Newcome, 1808, "and the word was a god"

- from a prominent Jehovah's Witness website.  The Watchtower has provided a somewhat fuller citation: 

"and the word was a god." The New Testament in an Improved Version, Upon the Basis of Archbishop Newcome's New Translation: With a Corrected Text (SYBT, p. 27 ).


This citation is actually not from Newcome's translation. Instead, it appears in a version that was "corrected" by Thomas Belsham and an unnamed Unitarian Committee using unknown translation principles.  Newcome's New Testament was published in 1796 (click here to see the title page and Newcome's original translation of John 1:1); the "corrected" version appeared in 1808.

It is misleading, to say the least, to imply that Newcome himself (a bona fide Greek scholar) is responsible for the rendering of a Unitarian Committee whose credentials we are not able to verify. 

Andrews Norton “a god” - Andrews Norton, D.D. (in A Statement of Reasons For Not Believing the Doctrines of Trinitarians [Cambridge: Brown, Shattuck, and Company, 1833], 74).

- from Greg Stafford's second reply to me on the Julius Mantey letter to the WTB&TS.  I had asked Mr. Stafford for a list of scholars who unequivocally support the NWT rendering of John 1:1.

I have been unable to locate the 1833 edition of Norton's work, but I have a revised edition with the same title published in 1880 (Boston: American Unitarian Association).  There is no mention of "a god" in relation to John 1:1 on page 74 of this edition; however we find the following discussion regarding the meaning of John 1:1c a bit later:

"The earlier Fathers understood the term 'god,' as here used by St. John, in an inferior sense, regarding it as denoting what we might express in English by saying, that the Logos was a "divine being.'  But this, unquestionably, is not its true sense.  St. John, having just used the word qeoV, 'God,' to denote the Supreme Being, would not in the next clause thus vary its signification; and corresponding likewise to what I have before observed, his general use of this term, like that of the other Apostles and Evangelists, was the same with our own use of the name 'God'" (Norton, pp. 319-320, emphasis added).

Andrews was a Unitarian who denied the orthodox interpretation of John 1:1.  He argues that the Logos is a "personification" of the "Power" of God.  He offers the following paraphrase of John 1:1:  "In the beginning was the Power of God, and the Power of God was with God, and the Power of God was God" (IBID, p. 324).  We need not go into all the reasons why such a view is inadequate; the key point is that Andrews (at least in the revised edition of his work) does not argue for "a god" as the proper translation of theos in John 1:1c, and thus does not support the NWT rendering.

Joseph Priestley “a God” - Joseph Priestley, LL.D., F.R.S. (in A Familiar Illustration of Certain Passages of Scripture Relating to The Power of Man to do the Will of God, Original Sin, Election and Reprobation, The Divinity of Christ; And, Atonement for Sin by the Death of Christ [Philadelphia: Thomas Dobson, 1794], 37).

- from Greg Stafford's second reply to me on the Julius Mantey letter to the WTB&TS.  I had asked Mr. Stafford for a list of scholars who unequivocally support the NWT rendering of John 1:1c.

Joseph Priestley was a noted scientist and Unitarian theologian.  He helped establish the Unitarian church in America.  He was Socinian in his theology, meaning that while he held the Scriptures to be God's inerrant revelation to Man, nevertheless, Scripture was always to be read in light of Man's reason.  He thus rejected the Trinity and other orthodox doctrines because he believed them to be counter to reason.  His philosophic commitment to "monism" precluded any thought of a tri-personal God.

With such presuppositions, it is not surprising to find that he translates John 1:1 the way he does - it is not grammatically impossible and is more conducive to his philosophic a priori.  

As a Socinian, Priestley also denied the pre-existence of the Son.  He viewed the Father alone as the Creator, and passages that speak of the Son as involved in Creation must be interpreted figuratively:  

"These verses, I will venture of say, are the texts that most strongly favor the notion of Christ's pre-existence; and no person can doubt but that, if they must be interpreted to assert that Christ pre-existed at all, they, with the same clearness, assert that he was the maker of the world.  But if these texts admit to a figurative interpretation, all the other texts, which are supposed to refer to the pre-existence only, will more easily admit of a similar construction.  These two opinions, therefore, viz. that Christ pre-existed, and that he was the maker of the world, ought, by all means, to stand or fall together; and if any person think the latter to be improbable, and contrary to the plain tenor of the Scriptures, (which uniformly represent the supreme being himself, without the aid of any inferior agent or instrument, as the make of the universe,) he should abandon the doctrine of simple pre-existence also (Priestley, A General View of the Arguments for the Unity of God; and Against the Divinity and Pre-Existence of Christ; from Reason, from the Scriptures, and from History [London: Johnson & Co, 1812, emphasis added).

Thus, while his translation supports the idea that "a god" is not impossible grammatically, Priestley does not mean "a God" in the same sense as the Watchtower - that is, of an "inferior agent or instrument" of creation.  Further, a necessary presupposition of Priestley's translation is that the Word of John 1:1-3 is not the Son - for if it were the Son, Priestley would admit - based on the passage quoted above - that He was therefore the Creator, who is the "supreme being himself."  Thus, since Witnesses do not agree with Priestley's necessary presupposition, they cannot use him to support their translation - apart from, perhaps, demonstrating the grammatical possibility of "a God."

In any event, Priestley is not recognized as authoritative by any modern Greek scholar, no doubt because he wrote so long ago and did not have the benefit of any of the advances in the understanding of Koine Greek over the past 100 years.  His views are interesting historically, but carry little weight in the debate about the proper translation of John 1:1.

Siegfried Schultz "ein Gott (oder: Gott von Art) war das Wort." 

- from an online debate with one of Jehovah's Witnesses

The term "von Art" (literally "from Kind") is a bit difficult to translate (at least with my limited German), but could be translated in English as "a kind of God" (which would support the NWT to some degree), or "in the nature of God" (which would support the Trinitarian view).  To see what Schulz really meant by this phrase, let's see what he wrote in his commentary on John 1:1:

"The third phrase sets forth the basic premise concerning the pre-existent "Word": "and God was the Word" (German: und Gott war das Wort).  In verse 1c "God" stands in contrast to the clearly articulated divine concept in verse 1b emphasized at the beginning by lack of the article...In so much as the last word of verse 1b was dealt with, the whole imparts a divine being to the "Word".  The obvious "and God" is the predicate and in no way identifies the Word with the latter "with the God."  Thereby "the Word" is identified as "God" just as the other one is, with which this "Word" stands in close association. The Deity-Being [German: Gott-Sein] denotes the essence of the "Word" as it does God himself.  The word "God" in the predicate of verse 1c is not the subject - as in Luther's translation "God was the Word," on the contrary it is the predicate.  The "Word" is not "the God" (verse 1b) or God the Father.  Likewise, Logos is "Gott von Art," divine essence, essentially equal to God, so that one has to translate them interrelatedly: "and the Word was Gott von Art." The religious traditions of monotheism in the Old Testament and the late Jewish period are supported and honored by this pre-Johannine, Hellenistic eulogy. In no way, however, as we have already stressed, is a simple interidentification to be had."

Thus, Schulz says that The Word is "identified as 'God' just as the other one is" (i.e., just as ho theos is), and "essentially equal to God."  Schulz is not saying that the Word is "a god," in the sense one might think by just looking at the literal English translation of "ein Gott," but rather is very clearly distinguishing the Logos from the Father, yet emphasizing that His "divine essence" is that of ho theos, and thus is equal in nature to God - which, of course, supports the Trinitarian view of what qualitative theos means in John 1:1c.

Vincent Taylor "Here, in the Prologue, the Word is said to be God, but as often observed, in contrast with the clause, 'the Word was with God', the definite article is not used (in the final clause). For this reason it is generally translated 'and the Word was divine'(Moffatt) or is not regarded as God in the absolute sense of the name. The New English Bible neatly paraphrases the phrase in the words 'and what God was,the Word was',....In neither passage is Jesus unequivocally called God...." ("Does the New Testament Call Jesus God?", Expository Times, 73, No.4 [Jan.1962], p.118).

- from a post on a Jehovah's Witness discussion board

"We reach a more difficult issue in the Gospel of John. Here, in the Prologue, the Word is said to be God, but, as often observed, in contrast with the clause, 'the Word was with God', the definite article is not used (in the final clause). For this reason it is generally translated 'and the Word was divine' (Moffatt) or is not regarded as God in the absolute sense of the name. The New English Bible neatly paraphrases the phrase in the words 'and what God was, the Word was'. In a second passage in the Prologue the textual evidence attests 'only-begotten God' more strongly than 'only-begotten Son', but the latter is preferred by many commentators as being more in harmony with johannine usage and with the succeeding clause, 'who is in the bosom of the Father'. In neither passage is Jesus unequivocally called God, while again and again in the Gospel He is named 'the Son' or 'the Son of God'. In a third passage, however, there is no doubt that the name 'God' is assigned to Him. When Thomas is bidden to see the hands and side of Jesus, he cries in adoring love, 'My Lord and my God'. This cry is spontaneous and devotional and illustrates an aspect, and not the whole, of the Evangelist's Christology. Like the author of Hebrews he thinks and speaks of Christ in the category of Sonship" (Taylor, "Does the New Testament Call Jesus God?", Expository Times, 73, No.4 [Jan.1962], p.118, emphasis added).

Witnesses often assume that the rendering "The Word was divine" supports their view; however, most scholars who consider theos to be adjectival in this verse, understand "divine" to signify the nature of the one True God.  It is clear that Taylor understands "divine" in this way when he lauds the NEB paraphrase, for what God was (divine nature of the True God) the Word also was.

John Thompson "and the Logos was a god."  John S. Thompson, The Monotessaron; or, the Gospel History, According to the Four Evangelists, 1829.

- Kingdom Interlinear Translation (1985), p. 1139.

Mr. Thompson claimed to be directed by "some being" who entered his room at night and directed him to: "in all your writings, be careful to represent Jesus as only the instrument of God in all he does" (American Quarterly Review, 1830, Vol. 8, pages 227-245). For more information, see Witnesses of Jehovah by Leonard and Marjorie Chretien, p. 169-171..
Alexander Thomson "The translation is evidently the work of skilled and clever scholars, who have sought to bring out as much of the true sense of the Greek text as the English language is capable of expressing" (Alexander Thomson in The Differentiator (April 1952, pp. 52-57).

- Awake! March 22, 1987, p. 14.

Thomson had no formal training in Greek or Hebrew.  He published several articles on the NWT in The Differentiator, apparently a privately published journal that appeared briefly in the 1950's.  The Differentiator is not considered a scholarly journal - indeed, I have been unable to locate a single copy in print or on microfilm - and there is no evidence that it was so considered during its publication.  

Thomson later wrote that while he generally endorsed the NWT, he found it to be "padded with many English words which had no equivalent in the Greek or Hebrew" (The Differentiator [June 1959], cited in Ian Croft, "The New World Translation and Its Critics").

Thus, Thomson does not appear to have been a recognized scholar in Biblical Languages, his review of the NWT was not published in a scholarly journal, and his endorsement is not quite as positive as the Watchtower might hope.

W. E. Vine "Literally, 'a god was the Word'

- from an email dialog with the webmaster of the now-defunct Trinity Exposed Website.

"'and the Word was God'; here a double stress is on theos, by the absence of the article and by the emphatic position.  To translate it literally, 'a god was the Word,' is entirely misleading" (Vine, Vine's Complete Expository Dictionary, "God", p. 272).  "Literally" merely signifies that "a god" is possible from the standpoint of grammar alone; a "literal" translation is not necessarily an accurate one, and other "literal" translations are possible, including the traditional rendering (see entry for Murray J. Harris, above).
J. W. Wenham "as far as grammar alone is concerned, John 1:1c could mean either, 'The Word is a god', or 'The Word is the god' (The Elements of NT Greek. See p. 35, note 1. Wenham is another who rejects the "a god" rendering because of theology ).

- posted by one of Jehovah's Witnesses on an Internet discussion board

"In ancient manuscripts which did not differentiate between capital and small letters, there would be no way of distinguishing between QeoV ('God') and qeoV ('god').  Therefore as far as grammar alone is concerned, such a sentence could be printed: qeoV estin `o LogoV, which would mean either, 'The Word is a god', or, 'The Word is the god'.  The interpretation of John 1.1 will depend upon whether or not the writer is held to believe in only one God or in more than one god" (Wenham, The Elements of New Testament Greek, p. 35, n. 1).

We may add Wenham to the list of scholars who acknowledge that "a god" is not a grammatical impossibility.  If Wenham is cited to counter such a claim, we cannot find fault with such a citation.

However, the claim that Wenham rejects "a god" simply on the basis of his theology is questionable.  Wenham says he rejects "a god" because of John's theology, not his own.  While Wenham's theology may color his perspective of John's, there are numerous other elements that shape our understanding of John's theology.  These elements include one's interpretation of the remainder of John's Gospel, his other writings, the NT as a whole, the history of Jewish religious beliefs and practices, the works of the early church fathers, particularly those with a connection to the Evangelist, and much more.

Further, Wenham also acknowledges that "the Word is God" is grammatically possible (since that is the way he translates theos estin ho Logos earlier on this page), and we may characterize those who reject this rendering as doing so on the basis of their theology.

Paul Wernle “a God” - Paul Wernle, Professor Extraordinary of Modern Church History at the University of Basil (in The Beginnings of Christianity, vol. 1, The Rise of Religion [1903], 16).

- from Greg Stafford's second reply to me on the Julius Mantey letter to the WTB&TS.  I had asked Mr. Stafford for a list of scholars who unequivocally support the NWT rendering of John 1:1c.

"It is important to realize clearly the distinctive feature in the Jewish faith in God.  It cannot be monotheism.  For a long time past that had become the common property of the enlightened Greek world, as far as it had any understanding for religion, and even in Israel itself it had been modified by a belief in angels which bears clear marks of its polytheistic origin.  One need read, for instance, the Epistle to the Colossians if one would form some idea of the weakness of Jewish monotheism, not to mention the Greek prologue to the Fourth Gospel, which places 'a' God, the Logos, by the side of 'the' God" (Wernle, p. 16).

Wernle may have been a professor of modern Church history, but that does not make him a recognized scholar of Biblical Languages.  I'm unaware of a single scholar who has cited Wernle as authoritative with regard to the proper translation of John 1:1, and no Witness apologist I have asked has produced one.  

Wernle did not have the benefit of Colwell or Harner's studies, nor the subsequent scholarship that bears on the proper translation of John 1:1c.  His opinion is interesting from an historical perspective, but is of little value in determining the proper translation of John 1:1c, beyond perhaps demonstrating that "a god" is not impossible grammatically.

Wernle's work is heavily influenced by the long-defunct "History of Religions" school, popularized in the 19th Century by Wrede and Bousset, which posited a polytheistic origin for Judaism and the influence of Greek philosophy on the NT writers.  Wernle argues that the Prologue of John's Gospel is "Greek," that is to say, Platonic or Philonic, rather than essentially Jewish, as is generally believed today.  With such presuppositions, it is not surprising that Wernle chooses to interpret John 1:1c in a polytheistic fashion.

B.F. Westcott Bishop Westcott, coproducer of the noted Westcott and Hort Greek text of the Christian Scriptures says:  "It is necessarily without the definite article inasmuch as it describes the nature of the Word and does not identify his person." (Quoted from page 116 of An Idiom Book Of New Testament Greek, by Professor C. F. D. Moule, 1953 ed.).

- from Aid to Bible Understanding, p. 919, in support of the NWT rendering of John 1:1

"On the other hand it needs to be recognized that the Fourth Evangelist need not have chosen this word-order, and that his choice of it, though creating some ambiguity, may in itself be an indication of his meaning;  and Westcott's note (in loc.), although it may require the addition of some reference to idiom, does still, perhaps, represent the writer's theological intention: 'It is necessarily without the article (theos not ho theos) inasmuch as it describes the nature of the Word and does not identify His Person.  It would be pure Sabellianism to say "the Word was ho theos".  No idea of inferiority of nature is suggested by the form of the expression, which simply affirms the true deity of the Word. Compare the converse statement of the true humanity of Christ v. 27 (hoti hious anthropou estin...).'" (Moule, p. 116, emphasis added).

Neither Moule nor Westcott support the NWT's rendering of John 1:1c.

Allen Wikgren (Allen Wikgren was on the New Revised Standard Version committee, as well as on the committee which  produced the UBS Greek text). 

"Independent readings of merit often occur in other modern speech versions, such as...the Jehovah's Witnesses edition of the New Testament (1950)." (The Interpreter's Bible, 1952 Vol. 1 page 99)

- from a prominent Jehovah's Witness Website

"Independent readings of merit often occur in other modern speech versions, such as Verkyl's New Testament (1945) and the Jehovah's Witnesses edition of the New Testament (1950)" (The Interpreter's Bible, 1952 Vol. 1 page 99).

Dr. Wikgren was quoted accurately and completely.  That is to say, he does not go on to define which "independent readings" of the NWT he finds to be "of merit."  We do not know what Dr. Wikgren thought about the NWT's more controversial renderings, such as John 1:1 or Colossians 1:16.  

Dr. Wikgren, referring to all of the modern English versions he has been discussing says this: "A free, idiomatic rendering is not concerned about literal meanings" (IBID).  Thus, his endorsement may be less than Witnesses would like.

Verkyl's New Testament (also known as the New Berkley Version) reads "and the Word was God" for John 1:1c, and does not insert "other" into the text of Colossian 1:16.  None of the dozen or so other modern English versions Dr. Wikgren discusses render these verses as does the NWT.  It is therefore unlikely that Dr. Wikgren would include the NWT readings of these verses among those he considers meritorious.

Benjamin Wilson 1864: "and a god was the word." The Emphatic Diaglott, interlinear reading, by Benjamin Wilson.

- SYBT, p. 27.

We may first note that Mr. Wilson was not formally trained in Greek.  He appears to have been a follower of John Thomas, the founder of the Christadelphian movement.  

The views of a 19th Century Unitarian are interesting from an historical perspective, but not convincing in demonstrating the proper translation of John 1:1c.  Wilson did not have the benefit of the advances in the understanding of Koine Greek that emerged over the past 100 years; he did not have Colwell or Harner's studies available to him, nor the subsequent scholarship that bears on the subject.

Wilson is not regarded as authoritative by modern Biblical scholars.

Interestingly, the actual text of the Diaglott reads:

"In the beginning was the Logos, and the Logos was with God, and the Logos was God"

This obviously supports the traditional rendering.  However,
as the Watchtower notes, in the interlinear we find:

"In a beginning was the Word, and the Word was with the God, and a god was the Word."

Now by using the Diaglott as a support for 'a god,' Witnesses argue that the interlinear translation is to be preferred over the text.

However, Witnesses do not follow this same approach with the KIT.

The interlinear translation in the KIT reads:

"In beginning was the Word, and the Word was toward the God, and god was the Word." (The use of the small "g" is, of course, not based on the Greek, as the older manuscripts did not distinguish between capital and lower case letters).

Witnesses may choose to resolve this apparent inconsistency by arguing that the translation principles practiced by Wilson and the NWTTC are not the same; however, this claim would need to be substantiated - on the surface, it would appear that in general terms, both texts seek to provide a 'literal' translation in the interlinear and a clear, idiomatic translation in the text.

When one considers that Wilson denied that the Word was the pre-existent Son of God, it becomes clear how he could view the "literal" Greek as being "a god," (indicative of the noun being anarthrous), and "God" being the proper translation - for if the Word is the Foreknowledge, Wisdom, and Power of God (as opposed to the Person of the Son), Wilson - like other Unitarians (such as Andrews Norton) - could view these attributes as pertaining to the Supreme Being Himself.

In any event, using Wilson to support the NWT is problematic in the extreme, given that Wilson translated John 1:1c as "The Logos was God."

Thomas Winter (Thomas N. Winter taught Greek at the University of Nebraska). 

"I think it is a legitimate and highly useful aid toward the mastery of koine (and classical) Greek. After examining a copy, I equipped several interested second-year Greek students with it as an auxiliary text.  After learning the proper pronunciations, a motivated student could probably learn koine from this source alone. ...the translation by the anonymous committee is thoroughly up to date and consistently accurate. ...In sum, when a witness comes to the door, the classicist, Greek student, or Bible student alike would do well to place an order." (The Classical Journal, "The Kingdom Interlinear", April-May 1974,  pages 375, 376)

- from a prominent Jehovah's Witness Website

Mr. Winter's positive comments are almost all directed towards the literal translation in the KIT - very little is said of the NWT.  The literal translation in the KIT is generally very good and often may be used to demonstrate problems with the NWT translation.  Mr. Winter also liked the layout of the KIT, with the English word appearing below the Greek word, rather than in a side column - which is how the classical Greek interlinears to which Mr. Winter compares the KIT are laid out.  The fact that Mr. Winter seems unaware of identically laid out Interlinear Bibles, such as those published by Zondervan featuring the literal translation of Alfred Marshall, would seem to indicate that he was more familiar with classical Greek resources than those for Biblical Greek.

Indeed, Mr. Winter was trained in and taught classical Greek.  His familiarity with Biblical Greek is unknown, and he is not recognized as an authority on the subject by Biblical Greek scholars.

Mr. Winter later wrote, "I am not happy with the use now being made of the review," and he went on to note a few problems, such as Jesus' words in John 8:58 (which NWT translates as "I have been"). Winter commented, "No way to go here but 'I am'" (Thomas N. winter, in a letter to M. Kurt Goedelman of Personal Freedom Outreach, dated 3 October 1980).

Robert Young “a God” - Robert Young, LL.D. (in his Concise Commentary on the Holy Bible [Grand Rapids: Baker, n.d.], 54).

- from Greg Stafford's second reply to me on the Julius Mantey letter to the WTB&TS.  I had asked Mr. Stafford for a list of scholars who unequivocally support the NWT rendering of John 1:1c.

"John 1:1  And the Word was God, ] more lit. 'and a God (i.e., a Divine Being) was the Word,' that is, he was existing and recognized as such" (Young, Concise Critical Comments on the Holy Bible).

It is doubtful Dr. Young intended his words to support something akin to the NWT rendering, "The Word was a god."  Young was a member of the Free Presbyterian Church of Scotland at a time when some of the more liberal members of that church were questioning the adherence to the Westminster Confession as their defining rule of faith.  Young was staunchly in the conservative wing that upheld the Confession.  Some, like Fergus Ferguson, were bought under scrutiny by the leaders of the Free Church for (among other things) advocating anti-Trinitarian views.  That someone as prominent as Young could remain in the conservative wing of the orthodox Free Church and have advocated Christ as a secondary "god" is unlikely (1).

It is significant that Young capitalizes "God" and "Divine Being" in his commentary.  His definition of theos reads "God, a god."  In the list of verses which follow, "God" with a capital is the true God, while lower-case "god" is a pagan god or idol.  

Further, Young says that this "God" was "existing" in the timeframe of "the Beginning" which he defines as "the beginning of creation."  Thus, it seems clear that Young believed John 1:1c pointed to the Word as "a" God that was already existing when creation began.

Finally, Young's own "literal" translation of John 1:1 reads, "And the Word was God."

Thus, regardless of what Young may mean by the indefinite article, it seems probable that he understood theos in this context as signifying "God" in an underived and absolute sense.

The rendering "a God" is probably Young's attempt to indicate the absence of the article in the Greek ("more lit.").  It allows him to emphasize the distinction between Jesus as "a Divine Being" and the "great God" of John 1:1b, and also their unity as truly Divine, existing together before all creation.  While Young provides Witnesses with a reputable Greek scholar that proves that anarthrous theos in Greek may be "literally" rendered as an indefinite noun (just as it can be "literally" rendered a definite or qualitative noun), there is little evidence Young understood John 1:1c as anything like the NWT rendering, "a god," a secondary divine being who was created "in the Beginning."




1.  C.f., Cameron, ed., The Dictionary of Scottish Church History & Theology [Intervarsity Press, 1992], and Hamilton, Erosion of Calvinist Orthodoxy : Seceders and Subscription in Scottish Presbyterianism [Rutherford House, 1990].