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According to John (starting with John 1:1)

March 1, 2013

John 1:1In [the] beginning was the word, and the word was with the God, and God was the word.

The words “the” and “a” don’t always get along when translating from Greek to English. To start off with there is no “a” in Greek and so it is not always clear when it should go into English. Some translations say “the word was [a] God”, and this has sometimes been labeled a bad translation. It’s not a bad translation grammatically, but the translator’s choice to put in “a” or leave it out will depend on if they believe in the trinity or not. More information in needed to decide if it should go there or not.

Many times the word “the” is dropped out of English translation entirely because it’s not really considered important, but I left them in here so that you can see what’s going on. For the last part, “God was the word” you will often find the idea that the word “the” is only there to mark that as the subject and so should be translated as “the word was God”, which is true, but this is not the whole story. According to Hewitt’s New Testament Greek Grammar, to show that both parts of an equation like this are the same, both parts need to have the word “the” attached to them. Something like “The son is the lord” would mean that the son is Lord, and also that the Lord is the son — it works in both directions but “The oak is [a] tree” would mean that the oak is a tree, but not that a tree is always an oak. It’s also interesting to note that “the” occurs with God the first time, but not the second.

“In [the] beginning” could just as well be “In [a] beginning”, and I only put something there because English grammar requires it. If it should be “a” beginning then that gives rise to the idea that there are many beginnings and this cycle has happened many times. Again, more information is needed to decide what word to put here.

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