Wednesday, September 23, 2020

John 1:1 Revisited (pros ton theon)

 πρὸς τὸν θεόν   

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, …” —John 1:1

According to this text, the Word was “with God:” Ἐν ἀρχῇ ἦν ὁ λόγος, καὶ ὁ λόγος ἦν πρὸς τὸν θεόν, καὶ θεὸς ἦν ὁ λόγος. (Greek: πρὸς τὸν θεόν, transliterates as: pros ton theon); that is, “with God.” Those not knowledgable of Greek idioms would see pros ton theon (with God) as meaning “face to face” with God (which meaning the Greek preposition “pros” does have: see 1 Corinthians 13:12), however, that would be a mistake. Here, “pros ton theon” should be understood as “pertaining to God.” A companion text is found in 1 John 1:2, (καὶ ἡ ζωὴ ἐφανερώθη, καὶ ἑωράκαμεν καὶ μαρτυροῦμεν καὶ ἀπαγγέλλομεν ὑμῖν τὴν ζωὴν τὴν αἰώνιον ἥτις ἦν πρὸς τὸν πατέρα καὶ ἐφανερώθη ἡμῖν. Here eternal life is said to πρὸς τὸν πατέρα); the clause: πρὸς τὸν πατέρα transliterates to pros ton patera, “with the Father;” it is understood, however, that “with the Father” means “pertains to the Father.” Eternal life “pertains to the Father.” No one understands eternal life to be a separate person that is “face to face” with the Father. So, then the Word of God pertains to God just as does eternal life. Moreover, according to our text the Word “was God.” Just as eternal life is an intrinsic part of God’s identity, so, too, is His Word. 

 The Pluralists, working from the misconception that the Word (logos) is the second person of the Godhead, feel that the phrase in John 1:1 “with God” proves that the Word (logos) was another god-person with God the Father in the beginning. As we demonstrated above 1 John 1:2 disproves that assumption. Moreover, what follows is more evidence that the Greek preposition "pros" of John 1:1 is highly unlikely to have the meaning of "face to face" or "along side of", or "in the presence of": or any like meaning.

"Pros" is a Greek preposition that is used 723 (my personal count -- allow two points plus or minus for margin of error) times in the Greek New Testament, as listed in "The Englishman's Greek Concordance of the New Testament" by Geroge W. Wigram. The primary meaning of "pros" is to, or unto. Other rare usages of the word are: among, at, about, nigh, and for. Not counting John 1:1, since that is the text under examination, only 24 times out of 723 does "pros" translate to "with" in the sense of one thing being along side of , or in the presence of another thing. While "pros" does seem to, on rare occasions, have the meaning of "alone side of" or "in the presence of" that is most certainly not its primary meaning or use. In fact, in other New Testament texts where the exact same phrase ("pros ton theon”) is used, the idea of "along side of" or "in the presence" is far from the meaning. Two of those texts are Hebrews 2:17 and Hebrews 5:1. In these places "pros ton theon" is not translated "with God", but is understood, and indeed translated, as "pertains to God".

Hebrews 2:17, “Wherefore in all things it behoved him to be made like unto his brethren, that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make reconciliation for the sins of the people.” πρὸς τὸν θεόν, “pros ton theon” pertaining to God

Hebrews 5:1, “For every high priest taken from among men is ordained for men in things pertaining to God, that he may offer both gifts and sacrifices for sins:” πρὸς τὸν θεόν, “pros ton theon” pertaining to God 

The translation of John 1:1 πρὸς τὸν θεόν, “pros ton theon” as “with God,” instead of “pertaining to God,” demonstrates the bias of the translators. 

Since the same phrase is used in Hebrews 2:17 and 5:1, as is used in John 1:1, and there (in both Hebrews’ texts) is translated “pertaining to God,” it cannot, therefore, be a conclusive forgone proof that “pros ton theon” means “with,” in the sense of one person being with another person. In point of fact, the evidence tends to lean heavily in favor of the Monarchians’ understanding of “πρὸς τὸν θεόν” (pros ton theon) meaning: “pertaining to God.” The Word, then, of John 1:1, pertained to God, as a man’s word pertains to himself. 

The question is asked, What harm would it do to biblical doctrinal continuity to translate “pros ton theon” (as it appears in John 1:1) as the phrase is translated elsewhere in Scripture? The answer is, It does no harm, but aids very much the clarity of holy Scripture. The Word pertaining to God would be in harmony with Psalm 33:6 “By the word of the LORD were the heavens made; and all the host of them by the breath of his mouth.” God’s Word, then, pertains to God, as does His breath (Ps 33:6), His hand (Ezek 2:9), His arm (Isa 51:9) or ETERNAL LIFE: 1 John 1:2 (as we have seen above) informs us that Eternal Life was πρὸς τὸν πατέρα (pros ton patera) “with the Father.” Now, all concerned agree that “pros ton patera” means “pertains to the Father;” so, it is evident that “pros ton theon” of John 1:1 should be understood as meaning “pertains to God” or “pertaining to God.” 

The task of Bible teachers is to interpret the Word of God in such a way that every part is in harmony. The Psalmist writes: “The sum of Your word is truth ...” (Ps 119:160 NASB). Therefore, John 1:1 must be interpreted in a way that will harmonize with Deuteronomy 32:39. The Pluralists will interpret John 1:1 to mean that the Word (Logos) was another person from God, and that this other person, that was with God, was also God. The fact is, Trinitarianism places another god-person with the Father in the beginning. Now, the problem that this presents is found in Deuteronomy 32:39, where the Father states, “See now that I, even I, am he, and there is no god with me... .” This statement, of Father God, that there was no other god-person with Him, makes null and void the Trinitarian’s insistence that the Word was another god- person with God the Father in the beginning. Since there are no opposing truths in the Bible, John 1:1 and Deuteronomy 32:39 cannot stand in tension, the one to the other, but must be harmonized by rightly dividing the Word of God (II Timothy 2:15). When God’s word is rightly divided, it becomes clear that the word “with,” as found in John 1:1, does not indicate another person from God. We know this, because 1 John 1:2 states that Eternal Life is “with” God. So, then, it is doctrinally dishonest to insist that in John 1:1 the same writer meant to say that the Logos was along side of, or face to face with, God; by his words of “pros ton theon.” We do not understand Eternal Life to be another person from God because Eternal Life is said to be with God. No, we understand Eternal Life to be an attribute of God, that pertains to God. In the book of Job 12:16, Strength and Wisdom are said to be with God, “With him is strength and wisdom ... .” We do not understand Strength and Wisdom to be other god-persons from God the Father, because Strength and Wisdom are said to be with God. No, we understand Strength and Wisdom to be attributes of God, that pertain to God. The Word is no more a person because it is said to be with God than are Strength, Wisdom or Eternal Life! 

What would mean “Face to Face”?

At the very beginning of this essay we introduced 1 Corinthians 13:12 as a place (the only place) where "pros" is associated with the phrase "face to face". 

βλέπομεν γὰρ ἄρτι δι' ἐσόπτρου ἐν αἰνίγματι, τότε δὲ πρόσωπον πρὸς πρόσωπον: ἄρτι γινώσκω ἐκ μέρους, τότε δὲ ἐπιγνώσομαι καθὼς καὶ ἐπεγνώσθην.

But even there "pros" is not connecting one rational person with another rational person, as the Pluralists attempt to make "pros" do, in John 1:1. In the Corinthians text Paul's analogy is a mirror as a means to know and understand oneself. In the Apostle's time mirrors were notoriously unclear. (Darkly: "Literally, in an enigma. Old word from ainissomai, to express obscurely. This is true of all ancient mirrors. Here only in N.T., but often in LXX:"  A. T. Robertson). He employs the analogy of a mirror to illustrate that in this life we cannot know ourselves, but when "that which is perfect is come" (the perfect age) we will understand (know) ourselves a clearly as we are understood (known) by God Himself (e.g., "we will know even as we are known"; this references the clarity with which God knows His children.). The Greek phrase Paul uses to say this is "πρόσωπον πρὸς πρόσωπον:” -"prosōpon pros prosōpon", literally, "face to face". But, since his analogy is a mirror, it is not another's face that is in view here but one's own face.

For the Pluralists to have an argument from John 1:1-3, the Greek should read para ton theon, but it does not. Para’ primary meaning is "face to face", or "alongside of". It appears in the Greek New Testament about 210 times with the primary meaning of "alongside of", or "in the presence of", or "face to face" when persons are referenced. Clear examples of "para" are found in the following passages:

  • Matthew 22:25 “Now there were with (para) us seven brethren... .” “ἦσαν δὲ παρ’ ἡμῖν ἑπτὰ ἀδελφοί: ...” 
  • John 14:17 “... for he dwelleth with (para) you, and shall be in 
    you.” “... ὅτι παρ’ ὑμῖν μένει καὶ ἐν ὑμῖν ἔσται.” 
  • John 14:25 “These things have I spoken unto you, being yet present with (para) you.” “Ταῦτα λελάληκα ὑμῖν παρ’ ὑμῖν μένων:” 


It is a challenge to interpret Scripture without bringing any bias to the table: a challenge that most men, no matter how well intentioned, cannot overcome. The inconsistency of Trinitarianism is demonstrated when  John 1:1 is juxtaposed with 1 John 1:2,  Hebrews 2:17 and 5:1. It was Shakespeare who said, “O Consistency, thou art a virtue.” Another maxim that is true is: “Inconsistency is the pitfall of all false doctrine.”

Apostolically Speaking

☩☩ Jerry Hayes

Read other essays from the Bishop on the subject of the Godhead:

"The Dual Nature Of Jesus Of Nazareth"

"The Worlds, Made By The Son"

"Hebrews 13:8 vs 1 Corinthians 15:28"

"Glory With The Father"

"Philippians 2:6-8, Answering Trinitarian Objections"

"How Is God One?"

"Hebrew Monotheism"

"Answering Trinitarian Objections To The Oneness Faith"

"The Apostolic Creed"

"Jesus Is Father God"

"Homoousia And The Creed Of Nicaea"

"The Triquetra And Modalism"

"Modalism, Simultaneous Or Sequential?"

"Micah 5:2-4, An Exegesis"

"Elohim, the Plural form For God"

"Can the Deity of Jesus Be called The Son Of God?"

"Mathematical Equation For The Godhead"

"Hebrew Monotheism, Second Edition"

"Jesus, On God's Right Hand"

"The Name of the Deity" (The Tetragrammaton)

"Christology of the Apostolic Church Fathers"

"Christian Modalism challenged by the Greeks"

"The Apologists and the Logos Christology"

"Logos Christology"

"The Seven Spirits of God"

"Historical Numerical Superiority of the Monarchians"

"How Is God One?" Second Edition

"Creed of Nicæa (Creed of the 318) Affirmed"

"Another Comforter (Answering Objections to Modalism)"

"Echad vs Yachid (Answering Objections to Modalism)"

"The Godhead Teaching of Ignatius of Antioch"

"Hebrews 1:8, (Answering Objections to Modalism)"

"Godhead Theology of the Tabernacle of Moses"

"Proper Biblical Understanding of the Word 'Person'"

"Defense of Isaiah 9:6, Answering Objections to Modalism"

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