by A.E. Knoch

"The Word was God" we read in the Authorized Version and such other English translations as have come to our notice. The question persists, why have we "changed" this to read "God was the word?" The answer is that the Concordant Version has not changed anything in any version, for it is not based on them. The question should be, why has the English version reversed the order of the Greek? The answer is plain. They deemed it necessary in order to uphold orthodox error. In other languages, where the same heresy is held, it is not done. Luther follows the original, as does Menge, the latest and most "Scholarly" and modern version on the continent.

We were asked to refer the matter to any Greek professor. As the Concordant Version is not based on human prejudice, but on facts and evidence, we cannot well accede to such a request. We have just been told that another matter was submitted to a number of Greek scholars in a certain school, but they disagreed among themselves. In a question like this, where the orthodoxy and the income and the reputation of a professional man is at stake it is neither wise nor gracious to force them to take a stand. Even thorough and conscientious students are carried away with specious arguments on matters of this nature. If anyone is safe it is one who is not dependent on his scholarship for his livelihood and whose reputation does not affect his position.

The best real argument for altering the order of the Greek that has come my way is that in Dr. Bullinger's Companion Bible. (The notes, however, may have been prepared by another for this part of the work, for Dr. Bullinger had died before it was finished, and others were considered, including myself, for compiling the later portions, and may have included some of their own). There we find: "the Word was God." This is correct. The Art. designates "the Word" as the subject. The order of the words has to do only with the emphasis which is thus placed on the predicate, while "the Word" is the subject. "was God." Here God is without the Art., because it denotes the conception of God as Infinite, Eternal, Perfect, Almighty, etc.

The last words are not at all clear. Does not "the God" also involve His supposed attributes? Perhaps what is meant is that the name without the article becomes an adjective, the equivalent of our divine. But Greek has a special form for this, theion. Besides, that is just what orthodoxy does not want. They need this text to prove that the Word, by which they mean Christ, was absolute deity, not merely, an expression of His attributes. This thought can be expressed by the title God, but it is not a question of the absence of the article, or of grammar, but of figures of speech. This, indeed, is the proper explanation here, for the word be, in its various forms, is an essential part of one figure of likeness, the metaphor.

Few of our friends are fond of grammar or facile in it, so we will try to make it very simple. One of the mistakes of even learned men is to reason about the word be, in its various forms, as is, was, etc., as if it were a verb of action, and demands a subject, which acts, and an object, which is acted upon, as, "God sees the writer." But, even if we apply this remarkable rule, that the article (Art. stands for the word the) indicates the subject, then we must understand that this means that the writer sees God! The article has no such force in English or in the Greek grammar.

When we use the so-called "substantive," which does not predicate action, but mere existence, the result is very different. For instance, we can say, "In the beginning was the word," or "The word was in the beginning," without any change in sense. There is no "subject" or "object." The word "was" simply indicates existence or identity. Moreover, it is a poor rule that does not work at all times. If the article denotes the subject and this must precede the verb, then the first words of John's account should be "The word was in the beginning." In John 5:35 we would have to translate: the light was this.

Another example showing that the article does not indicate the "subject" is in the fourth verse: "the life was the light." In the Greek as in the English the article is before both. To show even the most uneducated reader how little real gain there is in this theological farce, we will reverse this also, and read, "the light was the life." The meaning is unchanged. So also with, "God was the Word." There is really no advantage in altering the Greek to "the Word was God." It is only by taking it out of its context and involving it in a pet heresy of orthodoxy that there seems to be an advantage.

Then, you say, why not leave it as in the authorized version to avoid strife? Because it is misused to uphold error, and because that would not be consistent with other renderings of the same forms, and it would misplace the emphasis. Even in other versions, in no other passage that I can remember do they reverse the words as they do here. Is it not remarkable that so much ado should be made when the meaning is not altered? It is only the mistaken notion that a change in the order of the words sustains orthodox heresy. It must be wrenched from its context in order to be used as a proof passage.

But all this is merely negative and of little profit. In Greek the subject and object of a sentence are clearly indicated as a rule, by the form of the word. Thus "God," as the subject, is Theos, as the object is Theon, and "word" is logos, object logon. In the sentence "God was the Word," both have the form of the subject, not the object. There is no "object," for they are grammatically the same. It does not read, Theon en [h]o logos. Indeed, it could not, although the argument against our rendering demand's it. "God" is not the "object" of the sentence, because the sentence cannot have an object.

The Lord's people are not taught to study the Scriptures, but to swallow creeds. Hence, when they see a new rendering, they are seldom concerned about its concordance with the original, with God's revelation, but rather its agreement with "the truth," that is, man's interpretation. Even when we put all the evidence before them they insist on having man's misinterpretation under the guise of human authority, which will, unconsciously, perhaps, seek to sustain established error, on which they depend for their fare and fame. May God be gracious to them in that day! And may He help every reader of these lines to lean heavily on Him and His Word, as it is written, and give him grace to guard it with his very life.

This sentence should not be accommodated to the current creeds, but to the context to which it is an introduction. It is God's oral revelation of Himself in the Hebrew Scriptures, where we read "thus says Jehovah," God was revealed in His expressions or words. Now, however, He is to be revealed in the life and actions of His Son. For the time He took the place of His written revelation, hence He is also called the Word of God. They were to hear Him.

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