Thursday, September 13, 2007

Jesus is God - D.A. Carson defends John 1:1 "the Word was God"

Several months ago I was "evangelized" by a Jehovah's Witness over the telephone. The whole event was rather miserable - you can read about it here.
After this event I freshened up my understanding of John 1 and was greatly helped by D.A. Carson's brief comments from his Pillar Commentary. I thought the same might be of some help to you should you get a phone call one day. You could just let the guy talk while you run to the computer, log on to this blog, and search Carson, Jehovah's Witness, John 1, Jesus is God, or something like that. Now that those phrases are all part of this post, it should be pretty easy to find!

More, the Word was God. That is the translation demanded by the Greek structure, theos en ho logos. A long string of writers has argued that because theos, ‘God’, here has no article, John is not referring to God as a specific being, but to mere qualities of ‘God-ness’. The Word, they say, was not God, but divine. This will not do. There is a perfectly service­able word in Greek for ‘divine’ (namely theios). More importantly, there are many places in the New Testament where the predicate noun has no article, and yet is specific. Even in this chapter, ‘you are the King of Israel’ (1:49) has no article before ‘King’ in the original (cf. also Jn. 8:39; 17:17; Rom. 14:17; Gal. 4:25; Rev. 1:20). It has been shown that it is common for a definite predicate noun in this construction, placed before the verb, to be anarthrous (that is, to have no article; ...). Indeed, the effect of ordering the words this way is to emphasize ‘God’, as if John were saying, ‘and the word was God!’ In fact, if John had included the article, he would have been saying something quite untrue. He would have been so identifying the Word with God that no divine being could exist apart from the Word. In that case, it would be nonsense to say (in the words of the second clause of this verse) that the Word was with God. The ‘Word does not by Himself make up the entire Godhead; nevertheless the divinity that belongs to the rest of the God­head belongs also to Him’ (Tasker, p. 45). ‘The Word was with God, God’s eternal Fellow; the Word was God, God’s own Self.’ (Edmund P. Clowney, ‘A Biblical Theology of Prayer’, in D. A. Carson (ed.), Teach Us to Pray: Prayer in the Bible and the World (Paternoster/Baker, 1990).

Here then are some of the crucial constituents of a full-blown doctrine of the Trinity. ‘John intends that the whole of his gospel shall be read in the light of this verse. The deeds and words of Jesus are the deeds and words of God; if this be not true the book is blasphemous’ (Barrett, p. 156).

- Taken from, The Gospel According to John: Pillar New Testament Commentary (Eerdmans, 1991: page 117).

You can purchase this commentary from Westminster Books here - on sale for an amazing $25.30 as of this posting date!! (Regularly $46.00)