A Single Word Absence In John That Skews The Entire Meaning

Continued from Part 23

The trinitarian argument that the second theos in John 1:1 does not require the article to be considered definite can only be motivated by theological considerations, whereas to translate the word theos as “a god” is consistent not only with John’s use of the Philonic Logos, but with the New Testament’s general explanation of Jesus’ relationship to God.  

There is no reason to assume that the absence of a definite article is implied or understood.  The absence of the article is intentional and essential to express John’s belief.  Similarly, in Revelation 19:13, attributed to the author of the Gospel of John, Jesus is called “the Word of God” (literally “the Word of the God,” ho Logos tou Theou), not “God the Word.”  Under the influence of Philo’s teachings, John did not promulgate the idea that the Word was “the God,” but that he was, as the firstborn Son of God, a second god.  God and Logos are not interchangeable terms.  For this reason, in John 1:1, God is referred to as the God and the Logos as a god to show the difference between the two.  John deliberately omitted the definite article in the predicate in order to describe who or what the Word was in relation to God, i.e., a god, a supernatural power, but not the God.

It was not difficult for the Hellenistic Gentile mind to picture human salvation as being brought about by the incarnation of the Word in the form of Jesus.  The pagans of Asia Minor believed that the Son of God, Hermes, had come down in disguise to dwell among men.  The Book of Acts records how in Lystra, Paul and Barnabas were identified with Hermes and Zeus (Acts 14:12).  In John’s time (after 81 C.E.), the emperor Domitian insisted that he be regarded as God, son of the supreme God, and be addressed as “our Lord and our God.”  It was, therefore, quite understandable for John to have Thomas adore the allegedly risen Jesus as “my Lord and my God” (John 20:28).  This could have been employed as a Christian polemic against Domitian’s claim to divinity.

As to the claim that Thomas’ alleged exclamation:  “My Lord and my God” is proof of Jesus’ divinity, a grammatical analysis of the original Greek will disprove it.  It reads in Greek: Ho kyrios mou kai ho theos mou (“The Lord of me and the God of me”).  Moule states:

In John 20:28 Ho kyrios mou kai ho theos mou, it is to be noted that a substantive [e.g., God] in the Nominative case used in a vocative sense [indicating the person addressed, e.g. Jesus] and followed by a possessive [e.g., of me] could not be anarthrous [i.e., without the definite article] . . . ; the article before theos may, therefore, not be significant.37

Because of this grammatical rule, the definite article before theos is, in this instance, of no conclusive value for proving that Thomas referred to Jesus as the God.  A better understanding of John’s rendition of Thomas’ words may be seen by comparing them with Paul’s usage of the words God and Lord:  “But for us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things, and we exist for Him; and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things, and we [exist] through him” (1 Corinthians 8:6).  Paul speaks of two separate and distinct entities.  Indeed, Thomas’ words may be taken literally as an exclamation referring to both:  “The Lord of me [is Jesus] and the God of me [is Y-H-V-H].”  Alternately, Thomas’ words may very well mean that Jesus is referred to as a specific supernatural power, who exerts dominion over him (“my lord”) as his guardian angel (“my god”), and not to God Himself.  In the light of the evidence presented by the New Testament, it is clear that this alleged statement of Thomas’ in no way refers to Jesus as the Eternal God of Israel.

37 C.F. Moule, An Idiom Book of New Testament Greek, Cambridge:  University Press, 1977, p. 116.

© Gerald Sigal

Continued