Returning again to the multipart article from One God Worship on the first section of the prologue of John’s Gospel. In the previous posts in this series, I’ve outlines the areas where the unnamed author (UA) demonstrates either complete bias, has an inability to hear the argumentation of Trinitarians and interact with it within its context, or simply doesn’t understand the grammar of the passage in the original language.
In this section, we will look at an argument related to pronoun usage, picking up from the conclusion of the previous section.
Given our culture’s apparent love of pronouns, and how they can be misapplied to someone, UA commits an incredibly grievous error, when trying to connect John 1:1-3 with 1 John 1:1-4, writing,
“In 1 John 1:1 the apostle writes “in the beginning,” echoing the theme of Genesis 1 and his gospel’s prologue. Pay careful attention to the fact that the “word (logos) of life” is called a “what” five times and not a “who.” John says, “what was from the beginning” not “Who was from the beginning.” For John, the “word” (logos) is a “what” and not a pre-existent divine being.
The issue here is the translation of the relative pronoun ὅς (hos), and what it refers to. More specifically the fact that, in Greek, pronouns are often inflected to reflect the grammatical gender and number of the noun that it is referring to. Also, in Greek, clauses formed by the relative pronoun can serve as adjectives that reinforce or describe their antecedent.
UA’s choice of the NASB in making his argument, which translates ὅς as “what”, is simply cherry picking and circular reasoning by trying to make his argument based upon how one translation renders the pronoun that is translated in the grammatically neuter form to signal its relations to its antecedent. The pronoun is not merely referring to the word λόγος but to “τοῦ λόγου τῆς ζωῆς” (tou logou tēs zoēs) “the word of life,” which the author here appears to use as a synonym for the name of Jesus Christ. The question, is how does the author intend for the pronoun to be understood?
Not to get too far into the weeds, but a reading of 1 John 1:1-4, especially given what is said in v1:
“That…which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands…(ESV)
This is grounded in an interaction with a person. But here, we see something else, the “word of life” becomes shortened into “the life”. This is seen in John 1:4, when it is said of the Word that,
“In him was life…”
This is a thread picked up in the epistle, wherein the author writes,
“…the life was made manifest…
Moreover, this “life” that he speaks, the “life” that was revealed was ἦν πρὸς τὸν πατέρα (en pros ton patera), echoing the verb and preposition from John 1:1b, only here exchanging θεός for πατήρ. This is a signal of a personal relationship.
This fact is driven by the prepositional phrase ΗΝ ΑΠ ΑΡΧΗΣ (ēn ap archēs) marks that relationship as existing before anything was, and echoes the opening of John’s Gospel, which itself echoes the opening line of the Septuagint, and in the epistle serves a functionally different purpose: that the Word was the bearer of the message as God’s personal agent, but was not the message itself.
If you aren’t or haven’t been confused yet by the jumping around, just wait.
1 John is about a message, but it is also about the messenger through whom and by whom that message was conveyed (1 John 1:5). Interestingly, there is a confession that accompanies that message, and its a message that the unitarians have to be able to explain coherently in the face of their denials of Christ’s deity, an explanation which Trinitarians—by their profession of Christ’s deity—if their was no belief in the deity of Christ by the apostles, and that the incarnation of one who was by nature God of very God as a fact of history—why does the epistle contain such a test of orthodoxy?
“By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God. (1 John 4:2-3a, ESV, emphasis added)
This confession assumes that there are those who denied Jesus’ humanity, which is not the same thing as denying that such a figure existed. The claim here is that Jesus fully embodied humanity, that this was just not a spiritual being who disguised himself as a human being, but was human as human. This means that Jesus was perceived as something not entirely human, or more than human, but not merely a visitor from the divine realm accommodating himself to his audience only to abandon the visage that was assumed; rather it was incorporated into a pre-existing identity distinct from God the Father, but nonetheless united to God the Father.
Twisting the “Word”
A key feature in UA’s argument is that there is an assumption that a word has a singular meaning wherever it appears in a text without any regard to how the original author is using it it context. This appears to be achieved by simply doing a word search for uses of and plucking the text out without any concern for the context. This is seen in an appeal to the use of λόγος as a common noun in Titus 1.
“Paul provides us another example of God’s word being manifested or made known in the person of Jesus:
Titus 1:1-4 (NASB) Paul, a bond-servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ, for the faith of those chosen of God and the knowledge of the truth which is according to godliness, 2 in the hope of eternal life, which God, who cannot lie, promised long ages ago, 3 but at the proper time manifested, even His word [logos], in the proclamation with which I was entrusted according to the commandment of God our Savior, 4 To Titus, my true child in a common faith: Grace and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Savior. (emphasis original)
“Notice that Paul differentiates between God, who is the Father, and Jesus, who is the Christ (the anointed one). What was it that God promised long ago? Eternal life or the hope of eternal life. According to the text, what was manifested? God’s word, that is the word of eternal life. Paul and others proclaimed this word of life. The promise was made, then the promise was manifested at the proper time in the person of Jesus Christ.
Actually I find nothing disagreeable here, because Trinitarians already make a distinction within the Being of God that the Person that has been identified as the Father is distinct and different from the Son, who is Jesus Christ.
There is some historical evidence that λόγος, as it is used in Titus 1:3 has some reference to John 1:1. But it seems more consistent to see it as a reference to the gospel that Paul was proclaiming.
What is interesting is that Paul describes the proclamation as that which he was, “entrusted by the command of God our Savior (Titus 1:3, ESV)”. The word translated as “savior” Paul applies to Christ at the end of v4. There are countless instances where Yahweh is called “savior” in the OT and Second Temple Sources, and here Jesus is referred to as Savior in contrast to the Father as the means by which such is made possible. This contrast of persons and assignment of the title makes the two interchangeable.
Moreover, as we proceed through the Epistle to Titus, Paul directly identifies Jesus as deity calling him, “our great God and Savior (2:13)” and essentially repeating the identification toward the end by juxtaposing “God our Savior (3:4)” with “Jesus Christ our Savior (3:6)”, reifying the interchangeability of the persons.
Also, when it comes to the substance of the addressee in v4, the fact that “grace and peace” extend from both “the Father and Christ Jesus” seems to imply that “God” is a substantive title that applies to both.
And we will continue examining and responding to these arguments in the next post in this series.
- William D. Mounce. Basics of Biblical Greek Grammar, Second Edition. Zondervan Publishing. 2003. p.116
- Ibid, p.118
- Andreas J. Köstenberger. A Theology of John’s Gospel and Letters. Zondervan Publishers. 2009. p.88
- Karen H. Jobes. Zondervan Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament: 1, 2, and 3 John. Zondervan Publishing. 2014. p. 45
- Ibid, p. 178
- Robert W. Yarbrough. Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament: 1-3 John. Baker Academic Publishing. 2008. p. 422/981 (Scribd)
- Ibid, p. 423/981 (Scribd)
- Ernest Walder. “The LOGOS of the Pastoral Epistles”. The Journal of Theological Studies, Vol. 24, No. 95. Oxford University Press. 1923. p.310-5
- I.H. Marshall & P.H. Towner. A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Pastoral Epistles. T & T Clark Publishing. 2004. p.128
- Ibid, p.135
- Aída Besançon Spencer. 2 Timothy and Titus: A New Covenant Commentary. Cascade Books. 2014. p. 8
- Paul M. Zehr. Believers Church Bible Commentary: 1 & 2 Timothy and Titus. Herald Press. 2010.p.243