Before I continue reviewing the paper of my good friend John Carroll, I want to summarize and restate one point from my previous post on this topic. (If you haven’t read Carroll’s paper or my previous post, please go back and read them before you look at this post. Things will make more sense starting from the beginning.) When we look at the phrase “and the Word was God” (θεός ἦν ὁ λόγος) in John 1:1, we really only have two options semantically speaking.
This phrase can be qualitative. In this case θεός ἦν ὁ λόγος = ὁ λόγος ἦν θεῖος (the Word was divine). With the qualitative option “the Word was God” really means “the Word was the same type of thing that God was”. To give an example that might make the qualitative option a little clearer, you are not me; but you are the same type of thing that I am, a human. But this phrase can also be definite. In this case θεός ἦν ὁ λόγος = ὁ λόγος ἦν ὁ θεός (the Word was the God). Under the definite option “the Word was God” actually means “the Word is Jehovah, God the Father himself”.
Wallace, as my friend John Carroll notes, argues for the qualitative option for various grammatical reasons that I discussed in my last post. But in my opinion the definite option is much more favorable, especially in the context of John 1. First of all, just because the article is absent before θεός does not automatically mean that it cannot be definite. In the prologue of John (1:1-18), John uses an anarthrous θεός to describe the Father at least three times (1:6, 12, 18). So, from the context, an anarthrous θεός can potentially be referring to the Father in John 1:1.
Secondly, Colwell Constructions that are qualitative normally have a predicate noun that are qualitative-ish anyway. Consider ὁ θεός φῶς ἐστιν “God is light” in 1 John 1:5. Light is a qualitative word; light is a quality that multiple things (including God) can share. So we could say that there are multiple lights. But we cannot say that there are multiple gods. There is only one God (Deut. 6:4); and, as Carroll puts it, “the one God is the one Father (Mal. 2:10; Jn. 17:3; 1 Cor. 8:6; Ephesians 4:6)” (¶7). If someone is not the one God the Father, that person is a false god; and John is definitely not calling the Word a false god in John 1:1.
As I said in my last post, in order to believe that θεός in John 1:1c is not the Father we must believe that John is using the word qualitatively; even though this is the only time in the entire New Testament where θεός is used that way, even though the context uses more than one anarthrous θεός to describe the Father, even though θεός is just used definitely in John 1:1b and the only thing between the definite θεός and the alleged qualitative θεός is one three letter word (ὁ λόγος ἦν πρός τόν θεόν και θεός ἦν ὁ λόγος). You’re telling me that in the space of three letters θεός changes from its typical definite use to a totally stand alone qualitative use, never to be used qualitatively again in the entire text of scripture? I’m not buying it, not on double coupon day. If the God of John 1:1b is the Father, then the Word is the Father; because the Word is God.
Realizing that the Word is God himself personally (not just qualitatively) is important for the next section of Bro. Carroll’s paper. Having concluded that the Word is God himself, Carroll goes on to argue “that a Jewish Word-view did not see the Word as a distinct person from [Jehovah] himself” (¶13). God’s Word, particularly his spoken word in Genesis and elsewhere, is simply his personal presence.
I particularly like Carroll’s argument from Genesis 3:8-9 when Adam and Eve “heard the voice of the LORD God walking in the garden” and they “hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God”:
In this text, the “voice of the LORD,” “the presence of the LORD,” and “the LORD God” are synonymous phrases. When Adam and Eve heard the voice (word) of the LORD they hid themselves from the presence of the LORD. Consequently, the voice of LORD, and the presence of the LORD are one and the same. Furthermore, when the voice of the LORD walked in the garden the LORD God called unto Adam. The voice of the LORD is the LORD God himself. (¶16).
In reference to God’s conversation with Abraham in Genesis 15, Carroll notes that “the word of the LORD self-identified as the LORD” (¶18). I think this is particularly noteworthy, especially in the context of prophecy. We know that Biblical prophets spoke what God told them to say. And yet they rarely say, “God came to me, saying…”; the most common formula is, “the word of the Lord came to me, saying…”. God personally speaking is synonymous with the Word speaking. Consider a few of these examples:
- the word of the LORD came unto Nathan, saying, Go and tell my servant David, Thus saith the LORD…(2 Samuel 7:4-5)
- And the LORD appeared again in Shiloh: for the LORD revealed himself to Samuel in Shiloh by the word of the LORD (1 Samuel 3:21)
- And the word of the LORD came unto him, saying, Arise, get thee to Zarephath,…behold, I have commanded a widow woman there to sustain thee (1 Kings 17:8-9)
- Then the word of the LORD came unto me, saying, Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee; and before thou camest forth out of the womb I sanctified thee, and I ordained thee a prophet unto the nations (Jeremiah 1:4-5)
Notice that the Word calls David “my servant David”. The Word says “I commanded a widow”. But I think the example of Jeremiah is the most interesting example. We would all say that God ordained Jeremiah; but scripture says that the Word ordained Jeremiah. These two statements can both be true only if God is the Word. The Word of the Lord is not a distinct person from the Lord; it is the Lord personally speaking. Most often the prophetic pattern is “the word of the Lord came saying…thus saith the Lord…I am the Lord”. The Word self-identifies as the person who is God. Returning to God’s conversation with Abraham, we can agree with Carroll when he says, “Genesis 15 makes no distinction between the LORD and his word. They were one and the same!” (¶18).
When John 1:1c says “the Word was God”, John is basing his theology in a Jewish view of God’s word; John is asserting that the Word is the personal presence of Jehovah himself. Carroll sums up this conclusion by saying, “When John said that the Word was God, he was saying that the Word was the personal presence of [Jehovah]. Therefore, the Word was not personally distinct from God—specifically, God the Father” (¶19).
Thus far Carroll has been arguing very convincingly that the Word is personally God. He has demonstrated John’s dependence on Jewish Word-view (a pun on world-view; Carroll is famous for puns!) and he has shown that the Jewish Old Testament consistently portrays the Word as the personal presence of Jehovah God the Father. In the next section he deals with the intercessory work of Jesus. Building on the foundation that the Jesus the Word is the Lord Jehovah himself, Carroll discusses how the Lord becomes his own intercessor through the incarnation. But we will have to save that for another post!