John 1 – The Prologue
Here I am going to respond to selections of Kel’s article. The selections I have chosen are the ones I regard as embodying Kel’s main arguments; I have left out what I regard as repetitious or off the point. If I have missed or misunderstood Kel’s arguments, anyone who reads this – including Kel – is welcome to bring that to my attention.
. . .
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” – John 1:1
“Trinitarians impose their doctrine upon the text by imagining the person Jesus is being styled with the title, “the Word” and identified as God. But it simply does not say Jesus was with God nor does it say Jesus was God. Moreover, John 1:14 does not say Jesus became flesh. It says the Word became flesh.”
True, it doesn’t say in John 1:1 that the Word that was with God was Jesus, but Jesus said he existed before the beginning of the world (John 17:5) and Scripture tells us that Jesus’ name is “the Word of God” (Revelation 19:13), so the logical conclusion would seem to be that the Word of God who was Jesus and who existed before the beginning is the same Word of God who was with God in the beginning.
To this I would add Hebrews 1:8-10, which says
“Of the Son He says, ‘Your throne, O God, is forever and ever, And the righteous scepter is the scepter of His kingdom. You have loved righteousness and hated lawlessness; Therefore God, Your God, has anointed You With the oil of gladness above Your companions.’ And, ‘You, Lord, in the beginning laid the foundation of the earth, And the heavens are the works of Your hands . . .’”
The text of John 1 says that the Light was in the Word and that John the Baptist was not the Light (vs 8). The fact that it had to say this means that some might have confused John with “the true Light,” which they would never have done unless the Light was, like John, a person. It further says in John 1:14-15 that the Word became flesh and “John bore witness to him, and cried, ‘This was he of whom I said, He who comes after me ranks before me, for he was before me.’” – RSV Verse 14 says that the Word became flesh and verse 15 shows that the flesh was named Jesus.
It is therefore logical to conclude that Jesus is the Word of God who was with God in the Genesis creation, and not merely the flesh in which the precepts of God now manifest themselves.
In points 2, 3, and 4, Kel argues from the Greek text; I plan to critique the Greek argument at a later date if it becomes necessary, but for now let me just say that after examining Kel’s Greek arguments on other passages, I don’t trust his Greek expertise.
Point 4 – “It is highly unlikely that John would join two instances of the word “God” with the conjunction “and” and expect readers to assume that each instance of the word “God” has different, and even opposite, meanings . . . . Is it reasonable to suppose John would expect his readers to suppose the first instance of theos means “the Father” but the second instance means “not the Father”? It is an extremely far-fetched proposition.”
It is not far-fetched at all. Let’s look at this sentence: “The river flowed toward the water, and the river was water.” This sentence tells us nothing we don’t already know, for we already know that rivers are made of water and flow into larger bodies of water such as freshwater lakes. But the sentence makes perfect sense. It is very reasonable to conclude from this sentence that A) the nature of the water in rivers is identical to the nature of the water into which it flows and B) the water in the river is NOT the same body of water as the water into which the river flows. Kel’s claim that this kind of language is “far-fetched” is itself far-fetched.
Since we do not already know about God unless God tells us, “the Word was with God and the Word was God” does tell us something about God we couldn’t have guessed.
In points 5 and 6, Kel proposes that the Word through which all things came into existence in vs 3 is an “it’ rather than a “he.”
The whole subject of the prologue of John, John 1:1-18, is the Word. This is the same Word throughout verses 1-18; grammatically speaking, there is no change of subject from one kind of Word to another. Since the Word is shown to be a conscious person in verse 18, and the Word himself declares that he was with the Father before the world began in John 17:5, it is clear that Word is a “he” rather than an “it” in John 1:3.
A seminary professor commented on that argument,
“Grammatically speaking, his claims cannot be supported. There are two instances of the third person singular personal pronoun in this verse, and they are both indisputably masculine in form (autou) and not neuter, hence through him all things were made . . . It’s very clear that the Word is God, and both Greek terms are masculine nouns, hence the masculine pronoun.”
Kel says in point 5,”In the New Testament Gospels, the ‘Word’ refers to the proclamation of the Gospel of the Kingdom of God through the ministry of Jesus Christ. This fact is entirely ignored by Trinitarian interpreters.” Later on in his “Analysis of the Evidence” section he says “The Biblical facts show that John’s introductory words (1:1-5) refer to the beginning of the Gospel of the Kingdom and the Word proclaimed through the ministry of God’s Anointed, Jesus of Nazareth. The Word of John 1:1 is the Word proclaimed through the ministry of Jesus.” Kel argues that John’s first epistle (in 1 John 1:1) “. . . tells us quite clearly what he means by his language in the first verse of his letter and his Gospel. The ‘beginning’ is the beginning of the proclaimed Good News and “the Word” refers to that proclaimed Word.”
- A) – Kel is trying to shoehorn a context derived from 1 John 1:1 into the gospel of John, and what’s more, the context he thinks he sees in John’s letter may not be accurate in the first place. Let’s take a look at 1 John 1:1-2:
“1 That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched—this we proclaim concerning the Word of life. 2 The life appeared; we have seen it and testify to it, and we proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and has appeared to us.” – NASB
The “beginning” spoken of here could easily be the beginning of time, when the Word of Life which was with the Father created the heavens and the earth. Later in time, the Life appeared to the apostles so they could see it and touch it with with their hands. As Robertson states of the words “That which was from the beginning,”
“The reference goes beyond the Christian dispensation, beyond the Incarnation, to the eternal purpose of God in Christ (John 3:16), ‘coeval in some sense with creation’ (Wescott).” – A. T. Robertson, Word Pictures in the New Testament, 1 John 1:1
Of course, Kel’s interpretation of 1 John (that “the beginning” in vs 1 refers only to the beginning of the proclamation of the Gospel) is possible (though in my opinion, not likely). However that is Kel’s interpretation only, for my interpretation of the beginning of John’s letter fits at least as well as his if not better than his.
So Kel assumes that 1 John 1:1 is talking about the beginning of the Gospel, and then on the basis of his assumed context, he says the prologue of John’s gospel must be talking about the same beginning, despite the fact that the immediate context in John 1:3 explicitly speaks of the making of everything that was ever made, not just the making of every new thing.
As John 1:1-3 says,
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made.” -KJV
- B) – In other places the “Word” does not always refer to the proclamation of the Gospel. In Revelation 19:9, we learn that Jesus is in named “the Word of God,” whom Kel claims is not the same thing as God’s spoken word, but who may in fact BE God’s spoken word.
In point 7, Kel begins “Since the book of Genesis begins with the words ‘In the beginning,’ Trinitarians suppose that John is establishing a time frame when the Word was with God and when the Word was God.”
Actually, the fact that John 1 starts with “In the beginning” is not the only reason Trinitarians believe that “John is establishing a time frame when the Word was with God.” As I will argue at the end of this article, another reason is that since “all things were made through him” – including of course the world. The world that was made through him “knew him not,” (verse 10) but everything in the new world that came into being through Christ’s ministry knows him; which means that the world that did not know him when he came must be part of the old Genesis creation.
In point 8, Kel argues that the Greek words translated “he” and “him” in verses 2 and 3 can actually also mean “this” and “it.”
I do not dispute this, but as we have seen already, the context demands that when these words refer to the Word in John 1, a person is in view and so “he” and “him” are the correct translations.
Point 9. “God Created with Two different Words? We know that the Word by which God created all things in Genesis was His spoken Word. The Trinitarian interpretation of John 1:1-3 introduces an incomprehensible confusion whereby we are to suppose John is referring to the beginning of the Genesis creation and God created all things by means of two different Words: (1) His spoken Word, and (2) a person called the Word. The confusion of Trinitarians here is especially entertaining since they view verse 3 as referring to the Genesis act of creation. However, the Scriptures tell us that the Genesis creation was accomplished by means of God’s SPOKEN Word.”
Kel tries to assume a distinction between God’s spoken Word and a person called the Word, but he presents no reason why they can’t be the same thing. When we speak, it is just air and sound that we use to communicate our meaning. Such “words” are not self-conscious beings; they are just symbols that we use to communicate our thoughts. Are we supposed to think that the Word by which the world was created is nothing more than that? It is not the Trinitarians who propose that the Word God spoke in Genesis to create was merely a spoken word; it is Kel who says that. I don’t think it is the Trinitarians who are confused on this point.
“10. The Light – The immediate context says the Light shines in the darkness. If John is talking about reality at the creation of the world, then John is talking about Genesis 1:2-3 where darkness was upon the face of the deep and God said, “Let there be Light.” And the Trinitarian is stuck in his own folly since this Light was the first of God’s creations.”
As Kel well knows because he mentions it in the next paragraph, the Bible says, “God is Light, and in Him there is no darkness at all.” – 1 John 1:5. Since God was Light before the creation, isn’t it obvious that when God said “let there be light” the uncreated Light made the created light? And isn’t’ it obvious that the Word must be uncreated Light because it was by means of the Word that created light was produced? By what twisted thought process could one imagine a Trinitarian contradiction or folly here?
Kel also says “We are informed that this Light is the Father in John’s first letter (1 John 1:5).”
1 John 1:5 does not say that. What it says is that “God is light” and Kel inserts his own interpretation into the text by assuming this refers to the Father only. Rarely have I seen such a stunning example of circular reasoning, and Kel seems completely unaware that he is doing it.
The impression one gets when reading John’s gospel is that the Son himself is light. Did not Jesus say, “I am the light of the world; he who follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life?” -John 8:12, RSV
True, the Bible says that John the Baptist was “a burning and shining lamp” in John 5:35, but that was a lesser light, a mere reflection of “the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world” which was Jesus.
“We also see that the Light of the Father was expressed through His Messiah in the ministry of Jesus who was the expression of the Father through the words he said and the works he did. This suggests John does not have the beginning of the Genesis creation in mind but the beginning of the Good News of the Kingdom.”
Nothing in the context suggests that John was speaking of the beginning of the good news of the kingdom when he said, “all things were made through him and without him was not anything made that was made” (John 1:3). The explicit context here refers to anything that was made. Because nothing was made without the Word, the Word could not have been one of the things that was made.
Kel attempts to import a context all the way from 1 John 3:11 which says, “For this is the message which you have heard from the beginning” where “the beginning” is explicitly modified by the words “what you have heard.” He then argues that we must see the beginning in John 1 as the same beginning referred to in 1 John 3:11. But why? 1 John 3:11 refers to the beginning of the message we have heard, while John 1 refers to the beginning of anything and everything that was ever made. That must include the beginning of the creation in Genesis 1, because that is when things started to be made. Quite a different context, isn’t it?
In point 11, Kel says “Trinitarians are again guilty of reading their doctrine into the text concerning this verse. Verse 14 is usually interpreted to mean the Second Person of the Trinity became a human being when he descended into the womb of Mary. However, the text itself says nothing of the sort. God’s Word is something which is expected to be fulfilled. For example, Paul said the mystery of godliness was manifested in flesh which means that a human being of flesh named Jesus manifested godliness during his ministry. In the same way, “the Word became flesh” refers to the fact that the Word of the Father was manifested in all the things that flesh said and did. The Word came to be flesh when the Spirit descended upon Jesus and he began to walk according to that Word, that is, the Good News of the Kingdom which God Anointed him to proclaim.”
Contrary to Kel’s statement, “the Word became flesh” is very much the same sort of thing as “the Word became a human being” (we infer this means God’s Son becoming a human when he descended into the womb of Mary not from John 1, but from other passages). At the very least, “the Word became flesh” is consistent with the doctrine that the Word of God became a human being. If “and the Word became flesh” means “the mystery of godliness was manifested in flesh” as Kel says it does, why didn’t it just say “and the Word manifested itself in flesh?” To me the idea that one thing became another is so different from the idea that one thing manifested itself through another that I never thought anyone would confuse these two ideas until I read Kel’s words.
Later in this section, under the heading “Analysis of the Evidence,” Kel says “it is obviously apparent that John 1:3 is not referring to the Genesis act of creation but to all the things that came to be through the proclamation of the Word through the ministry of Jesus.” As we have seen he comes to this conclusion by importing an assumed context from a different part of the Bible rather than looking for context right there in verse 3.
It is very important that we get this right, for John is the gospel that is most focused on telling us who Jesus is. It already borders on the ridiculous to claim that when John wrote “All things were made through him, and without him was not anything made that was made” he did not mean to say that all things were made through him, but only all things in the new creation. But there is more evidence that John meant that the old creation are included in “all things.” John added,
“He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God— children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.” – John 1:10-13 NIV
The world that was made through him did not recognize him when he came. Those who receive him, on the other hand, is to get the right to become children of God, who are born of God; who hear Jesus’ voice and follow him (John 10:27). The world that did not recognize him when he came could not be the new creation in Christ, for those who belong to that creation recognize his voice and follow him.
“He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world knew him not.” (John 1:10). However, everyone in the New Creation will know him:
“Therefore, if any one is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has passed away, behold, the new has come” – 2 Corinthians 5:17
“1 Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. 2 And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband; 3 and I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling of God is with men. He will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself will be with them” – Revelation 21:1-3
In the New Covenant, which I take to be at the heart of the New Creation, people will no longer say to each other “know the Lord,” for all will know him, from the least to the greatest (Jeremiah 31:34).
In contrast, the world that knows him not is of the Old Creation, because those who know not God will be destroyed at his coming (2 Thess 1:8-9).
It is clear from this that the world that was created through Christ in John 1 is not just “all the things that came to be through the proclamation of the Word through the ministry of Jesus” but also the world that was created in Genesis 1, which is the only world that includes those who do not know God or accept Jesus.
What do we see when we look at the Scriptural evidence concerning the questions of whether Jesus is God, and whether all things were made through Jesus, including things that were made in the old creation of Genesis 1? We see that Jesus is named as God elsewhere (John 20:28) and has an existence above time which only God has (John 8:58). We see that when man was created in the old creation of Genesis, God said “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness” (Genesis 1:26) which strongly hints that God the Father was not the only person who created man. We see that Jesus already existed with the Father before the world was made (John 17:5).
(1) All things were made through him,
(2) Without him nothing was made that was made,
(3) The Father did not create all things alone in Genesis,
(4) Jesus was with the Father at that time,
(5) Jesus is God as well as the Father,
Then the conclusion must be that “all things” surely includes the Genesis act of creation.
God performed the Genesis act of creation all alone, by himself (Isaiah 44:24, Job 9:8). “Alone” can refer to a single person who is alone or a group who are alone (cf. Isaiah 49:21). All of this evidence points to the conclusion that God the Father and God the Son were (along with the Spirit) the God who creates both the old and the new creation.
The burden of proof is with anyone who would deny this apparent meaning, and in my opinion Kel has not met that burden.
I am fully aware that Kel disputes my understanding of the passages I offered to support my position on John 1 (such as Genesis 1:26, Hebrews 1:10, John 8:58, 17:5, and 20:28), but the reader is invited to inspect my responses to Kel’s articles on those passages and decide for himself which interpretation is more likely.