Iglesia Ni Cristo interpretation of John 1:1


#1

This is quite lengthy so please bear with the article.

PART 1

DOES JOHN 1:1 TEACH THAT JESUS CHRIST IS A TRUE GOD?

Although the Iglesia Ni Cristo does not recognize Jesus Christ as God, we highly recognize him based on what the Bible teaches about him. The Bible teaches that God made Him as our Lord and appointed him to be our Savior (Acts 2:36; 5:31). He is our Mediator (1st Timothy 2:5) and the Head of the Church (Colossians 1:18). We serve and worship him since it is God who commanded him to be worshipped (Philippians 2:9-11). However, even though he possesses special attributes which were given to him by God, these special qualities do not qualify or make him as God.

WHO IS THE TRUE GOD THAT THE BIBLE TEACHES?

When we speak about the true God, we are not referring to Jesus Christ but to the Father who is in heaven whom Jesus Christ introduced during his mediatory prayer as “the only true God” (John 17:1, 3 NLT), a Supreme Being who is Eternal and Immortal (1st Timothy 1:17), All-knowing (1st John 3:20) and All-powerful (Genesis 17:1). The Father is also the Father of Jesus’ disciples and the God of Jesus is also the God of his disciples (John 20:17). Jesus is not a Trinitarian nor the early disciples because the same teaching was echoed by Apostle Paul in his first epistle to the Corinthians (8:6) wherein he says, “But we know that there is only one God, the Father, who created everything, and we live for him” (NLT).

Since the Father is the only true God, and Jesus Christ is not the Father, therefore, Jesus Christ is not the true God.

Whenever our Trinitarian friends would be pressed hard to explain how do they understand the phrase “the only true God” in John 17:3, what they normally do is to dodge the issue by saying that the verse does not say that Jesus Christ is not God. Although it is true that John 17:3 does not say that Jesus Christ is not God, however, it rules out the possibility that he is God because of his qualifying statement that the Father is the “only” true God. If the Father is the “only” true God, how could Christ be in the picture? Jesus Christ is not the “true” God because he was pointing to somebody else as the “only” true God.

To avoid the issue, our Trinitarian friends would cite John 1:1 as their proof text in justifying their belief in the so-called divinity of Christ. Therefore, it behooves us to examine John 1:1 since this is the biblical text which they usually use to prove their point. In our discussion, I will try my best to simplify the Greek terms so the readers who have not studied biblical Greek or who are not familiar with the language shall be able to understand my presentation.

In most English versions, John 1:1 was translated this way:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God.

How was John 1:1 rendered in the Greek New Testament? Let us take a look at how this was written in most Greek manuscripts:

Transliteration (in Erasmian pronunciation):
En archeé eén ho Lógos kaí ho Lógos eén prós tón Theón kaí theós eén ho Lógos

The argument of our Trinitarian friends would run like this: The Logos or Word mentioned in this verse is Jesus Christ. Since the third clause says “the Word was God” then substituting the term Word with Jesus Christ, they would read the verse to mean that Jesus Christ was God in the beginning.

It should be noted that there is mention of the term Jesus Christ in this verse. It is simply an assumption of our Trinitarian friends that the Word is Jesus Christ. Granting but not conceding that the Word is Jesus, the second clause mentions that the Logos was with God. If the Word is Jesus and was with God, it appears that Jesus is different from God because the verse says that the Logos was “with” God. How could Christ be that same God when it says that the Logos is “with” God? Who is this God who was “with” the Logos in the second clause? Obviously it is not Jesus Christ since they believe he is the Word. They could not be the same person because a person could not be “with” another person if he is the same person!

THE IDENTITY OF THE GOD IN THE SECOND CLAUSE OF JOHN 1:1

Let’s continue to find out the identity of the God mentioned in the second clause by going to the Greek text for clarification.

What is the Greek word for the term God in the nominative case – the subject of the sentence? It is O THEOS which is pronounced as HO THEOS in the Erasmian pronunciation. The Greek letter OMICRON (o) before the term THEOS is an article in Greek which corresponds to the article “THE” in English. Therefore, the Greek phrase HO THEOS is translated as THE GOD in English.

However, during the process of translation into English, the article THE is no longer included in the translation but is left out. A Greek grammarian will explain to us why:

Many times, Theos occurs with the def. art. ho, but it is not so rendered in translation because, in Eng., we never refer to God as the God, except if He is designated as belonging to someone specifically, such as the God of Abraham (Matt. 22:32). (Zodhiates, Spiros, The Complete Word Study Dictionary: New Testament, AMG Publishers, Chattanooga, TN (1992), p. 730)

Going back to the second clause, is there an article before the term God in the Greek text? Yes. The word for God is TON THEON. Why is it now TON THEON instead of HO THEOS? Because when the word God is in the accusative case – the direct object in the sentence, the HO THEOS becomes TON THEON. That’s the way the Greek language was structured. You could see this arrangement in the Greek text of the second clause of John 1:1 but you could not notice it in the English translation since the article “the” was not translated in John 1:1b but was left out during the process of translation.


#2

PART 2

THE SIGNIFICANCE OF THE GREEK ARTICLE

What is the significance of Greek article before the term God? Another Greek grammarian will explain to us the significance of the Greek article:

When Greek uses a noun it almost always uses the definite article with it. The Greek for God is theos and the definite article is ho. (Barclay, William, The Gospel of John, Vol. 1, The Westminster Press, Kentucky, 2001, p. 46)

Therefore, when it says O THEOS in Greek, it means THE GOD in English. When it says TON THEON, it also means THE GOD. THE O is an article in the nominative case (subject of the sentence) and TON is an article in the accusative case (direct object).


#3

PART 3

WHAT IS THE USAGE OF THE ARTICLE IN THE GREEK LANGUAGE?

(1) The article is used far more frequently than any other word in the Greek NT, almost 2,000 times, or one out of seven words. (Wallace, Daniel B., Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics, Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids, Michigan (1996), pp. 207, 223)

Since there is an article (TON) before the term God in the second clause of John 1:1 (TON THEON), it is an indication which tells us that the “true” God is identified in the second clause. Who is the “true” God introduced by the article TON in the second clause? A Greek grammarian will tell us about him:

In many instances when the def. art. ho occurs before Theos, God, particular reference is made to God the Father (Zodhiates, Spiros, The Complete Word Study Dictionary: New Testament, AMG Publishers, Chattanooga, TN (1992), p. 730).

Therefore, whenever we encounter in the Greek text that the word THEOS is introduced by the article HO, it is referring to the Father. Going back to the second clause of John 1:1, the TON THEON is referring to the Father. We are not surprise about this truth since it was Christ himself who taught us that the Father is the “only” true God in John 17:3.

Considering this fact, how should the second clause be translated into English? If we would utilize the interlinear translation (a word-for-word translation), the second clause would be translated this way: AND THE WORD WAS WITH THE GOD.

What else is the significance of the article especially when it is being placed before the noun God in the Greek text?

  1. The article is frequently used to identify monadic or one-of-a-kind nouns, such as “the devil,” “the sun,” “the Christ.” The monadic article points out a unique object, for example, “the sun” is monadic because there is only one sun.

Since the term God is a monadic noun (one-of-a-kind), it is always being introduced by the article in the Greek. The monadic article points out the identity of the unique or the only true God in the second clause of John 1:1. The only true God in John 1:1 is the Father. The same goes true with John 17:3 in which the article TON was used before the term THEON – TON MONON ALETHINON THEON – the only true God. The term is referring to the Father (John 17:1).

If the true God is always introduced by the article, what about the word THEOS in the third clause of John 1:1? Does it contain an article? No, it does not have an article before it. It just simply says THEOS, not HO THEOS.

What is the usage of the term THEOS in the third clause of John 1:1 in the absence of an article? A Greek grammarian will explain to us its function:

Now when Greek does not use the definite article with a noun, that noun becomes much more like an adjective (Barclay, William, The Gospel of John, Vol. 1, The Westminster Press, Kentucky (2001) p. 46).

The term THEOS (God) in the third clause of John 1:1, in the absence of the article, is functioning as an adjective. It is not functioning as a NOUN but as an ADJECTIVE. If it is a NOUN, then John 1:1 will come up with two Gods instead of just one since the second clause has already the TON THEON. Therefore, THEOS in the third clause is an ADJECTIVE.

Are there Greek grammarians who also advocate this position? Take a look at how other bible scholars put it:

The closing words of v. 1 should be translated, ‘the Logos was divine’. Here the word theos has no article, thus giving it the significance of an adjective (Strachan, Robert, The Fourth Gospel: Its Significance and Environment, page 99).

“Where THEOS without the article, is used as an attribute, simply expresses the notion of kind. It is an adjective . . .” (Scott, Frank, Preacher’s Complete Homiletic, p. 19).

Are there Bible translators who favor the rendition that the Greek word THEOS is an adjective (divine) instead of a noun? Take a look at two of the translations made by bible scholars:

The Logos existed in the very beginning, the Logos was with God, the Logos was divine. (A New Translation by James Moffatt)

In the beginning the Word existed. The Word was with God, and the Word was divine. (A New Translation by Edgar J. Goodspeed)

Therefore, if the term God in the third clause of John 1:1 functions as an adjective, our Trinitarian friends could no longer summon this verse as a proof-text that our Lord Jesus Christ is God. This type of understanding (that the verse does not support the alleged deity of Christ) does not compromise the biblical truth about the absolute oneness of God as taught by Christ in John 17:1, 3. Once the verse is understood as promoting the alleged deity of Christ, our Trinitarian friends are face with a big dilemma: how to reconcile the fact that the second clause teaches that the one true God is the Father and the third clause portrays a different God whom they believe is Jesus Christ. They will be guilty of polytheism and that would be the biggest thorn on their eyes which they could not remove by themselves if they would continue to insist that Jesus Christ is the THEOS in the third clause of John 1:1.

On the contrary, if our Trinitarian friends would only humble themselves and reject the Trinity doctrine then adopt the teaching of Christ concerning the absolute oneness of God the Father, they will not be facing an arduous task of trying to reconcile a troublesome position. Hopefully, they could see the error of supporting a wrong doctrine and would eventually accept the biblical truth presented by Christ and His apostles that the Father is the only true God (John 17:1, 3; 1st Corinthians 8:6 TEV). By doing so, they shall have the knowledge that will give them eternal life.


#4

PART 4

WHY DOES IT SAY THAT THE WORD WAS GOD OR THE LOGOS WAS DIVINE?

The English term WORD is LOGOS in Greek. What are the several meanings of this term?

a word, not in the grammatical sense of a mere name, but a word as embodying a conception or idea (Abbott, Ezra, A Manual of Greek Lexicon of the New Testament, (1937) pp. 270-71).

It should be noted that the Greek term LOGOS was translated as WORD in John 1:1 in most of the English translations. However, that is the preference of Bible translators since the term LOGOS has several meanings in the New Testament. This term appeared several times in the New Testament and has different meanings. Let me quote some of its meanings as indicated in The New Analytical Greek Lexicon by Wesley J. Perschbacher, pp. 259-260:

A word, a thing uttered, speech, language, talk, converse, mere talk, wordy show, language, mode of discourse, style of speaking, a saying, a speech, an expression, form of words, formula, a thing propounded in discourse, a message, announcement, an account, statement, a written narrative, a treatise, doctrine, subject-matter, reckoning, account, a plea, a motive, reason, the word of God, the divine WORD.

As you could see from the list above, there are so many meanings of the Greek term LOGOS. If I were a Bible translator, I would render John 1:1 this way and nobody could question my translation since there is no law that would prohibit me from doing such thing. I think that my translation of John 1:1 is a rendition that would not compromise the doctrine of the absolute oneness of God. Here’s how I would translate it:

In the beginning was the idea [concept, plan] and the idea [concept, plan] was with God, and the idea [concept, plan] was divine.

WHAT DOES IT MEAN THAT THE WORD [O LOGOS] OR THE IDEA [PLAN, CONCEPT] WAS WITH GOD?

The concept or the idea about Christ was with God in the beginning. It is a divine plan or concept since it is God Himself who planned about it in the beginning. When is this beginning that the LOGOS was in the mind of God or an idea, plan or concept that intellectually emanated from Him? The answer is from Apostle Peter who wrote that:

For he [Christ] was foreknown before the foundation of the world, but has appeared in these last times for the sake of you (1st Peter 1:20 NASB).

God had the foreknowledge about Christ before the foundation of the world. This was echoed by Apostle Peter during his sermon on the day of Pentecost when he declared to the Jews:

This man was handed over to you by God’s set purpose and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross (Acts 2:23 NIV).

The Greek term used in 1st Peter 1:20 is proginōskō which means to determine on beforehand, to foreordain, to foreknow while Acts 2:23 uses the Greek term prognōsis which means previous determination, purpose. These two terms in Greek are cognates.

What does it mean that Christ was foreknown before the foundation of the world? To foreknow means to know something before it happens: to have knowledge or awareness that something is going to happen. So, Christ was in the mind of God, a divine idea or plan before the foundation of the world. Christ had no prior existence before he was born. When was God’s plan or idea of bringing His Son into the word materialized? When he was born of a woman (Galatians 4:4).

It is quite clear that the one true God of the Bible had in His mind the logos or the idea about Christ. Since there is only one true God, John 1:1 does not advance the concept that the logos is another God aside from the true God nor does it prove that the Lord Jesus Christ is God. In fact, this verse tells us that the only true God is the Father. Since Jesus Christ is not the Father but the Son, He is not the only true God.


#5

Oh goodness, such a long, twisted exercise of mental gymnastics to support a pretext.

John 1:1 is one of the most terse verses in the New Testament, and few Greek passages are as elegant.

The third clause (“kai theos en ho logos”) hardly requires this kind of roundabout thesis. The ho before logos simply makes “logos” the subject (word order in Greek is not as crucial) and “theos” is not an adjective, but a noun in the nominative case, and the absence of the article tells us that this is a predicative nominative. However, its word order serves to emphasize “theos”, i.e. the “godness” of the logos.

Martin Luther got it right: the word order of John 1:1 refutes Arianism, and the lack of the article refutes modalism.

The INC “refutation” also accuses us of simply assuming that the Word is Christ, while conveniently neglecting to mention John 1:14 and the fact that that verse, along with the whole context of the Johannine Prologue, makes clear that the Word is indeed Christ.

This is really a case of they “doth protesteth too much.”


#6

interesting… its nice to see this not coming from a Jehovah’s Witness because most people thinks we have altered our Bible to fit our beliefs


#7

Well, you did, but fortunately, this thread is not about the JW’s or the NWT.


#8

Copy and paste from facebook.

facebook.com/jventilacion/posts/10207104070376838


#9

Is the OP the author of the Facebook article?


#10

So true! Your entire post is elegant in its simplicity and truthfulness.


#11

It is simply an assumption of our Trinitarian friends that the Word is Jesus Christ.

A pretty small assumption, given John 1:14-18.

The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.

15(John testified concerning him. He cried out, saying, “This is the one I spoke about when I said, ‘He who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me.’ ”) 16Out of his fullness we have all received grace in place of grace already given. 17For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. 18No one has ever seen God, but the one and only Son, who is himself God and is in closest relationship with the Father, has made him known.

It would be a very strained reading to come away from this without the idea that the Word=the Son=Jesus Christ=God. A schizophrenic reading, really.


#12

You know Kingsan, it’s good for us to keep our brain occupied with such intricate thinking.

Here’s what I think:

Jesus was God
Or Jesus was crazy

How could He have been a god? What does that even mean?
Of course logos means more than “word” - but it did have to be translated. But Jesus, the Word is all of those definitions you mention.

As far as from the beginning of time: God planned Jesus as savior. You say He knows everyhing beforehand - so why not the sacrifice?

Gof THOUGHT and the thought came out as a WORD and the WORD was Jesus.

I mean, are you trying to say that John didn’t think Jesus was God?

It all goes back to the Holy Trinity. Not an easy concept.

And how does the Greek translate “resurrection”?

I used to refer to the Greek when teaching certain concepts because, of course, it very much deepens many meanings - but I’ll be following along - I don’t really understand your point.

Fran


#13

In fairness to the OP, he is merely pasting the article. His profile says he is Catholic.


#14

I noticed he’s catholic and thus my confusion.

Sounds like you’ve read the entire 4 pages and the OP is not answering, so:

Is he saying the Iglesia Ni Cristo believes Jesus is just a nice divine person or great prophet?

I’d like to clarify because I know someone who belongs to this church. Next time I see them, I’ll ask this question - the most important question in christianity: Who Is Jesus?

Fran


#15

Jesus is God.

archive.org/details/thehistoryofhere00liguuoft (starting p. 95)


#16

Amen to that!

:thumbsup:


#17

Hey guys, Kingsan here!

First of all I want to stress that I AM CATHOLIC. I posted that article because I want to know how more educated and seasoned apologists would answer that Iglesia Ni Cristo interpretation of John 1:1. Its quite a lengthy article and yes its from Joe Ventilacion’s facebook page. He is a prominent minister in the INC. I believe he was the one who Karl Keating debated years ago. Its frustrating these guys continue to sow their false theologies and interpretation and people actually buy it. 100 years of heresy is no joke. They say Jesus is just a man; a prophet from God. But when confronted with verses that prove otherwise they come up with this. For them and the people they fool, its either this or that. Biblical hermeneutics is thrown out of the window. What happens to “everything in the bible is correct” tenet? Like Hebrews 1:8-9 where God the Father refers to the Son as God?

Anyway, thank you for the answers. God bless!


#18

Yes…that is what the INC believes. The founder, Felix Manalo, was influenced by either SDA or JW theology. And he thought he is the last messenger of God…sent to re-establish the Church of God…so you can see Mormon, JW and SDA claims of apostasy of the Church in the claims of the INC.


#19

Thanks for your reply Pablope.

I know this Felix Manalo because my friend gives me the ING magazine many times. I don’t read it because of time (which is why I couldn’t read that whole article by the O.P.) but it’s an impressive magazine - well laid out.

So, another “last” messsenger of God. I thought Jesus was the last messenger!
Doesn’t the bible warn against this – He was the last revelation - no more on the way.

My advice to the O.P. is to stick to what I originally said:

Either Jesus was God
Or Jesus was crazy.

Simple and easy and it’s pretty useless arguing with the JW or anybody else that believes as they do - although I do it with the hope of something sinking in to their thought process.

The disturbing part is that my friend’s church has about 300 attendees every Sunday. My parish has about 200 or so. Sometimes lies sound better than the truth…

Fran


#20

The INC are especially hard to reason with (you can read Karl Keating’s account of his INC debate), since they especially stick with the logical fallacies they’ve been brought up with:

Catholic: But the Greek says yadda yadda.
INC: That’s your opinion.
Catholic: No, it isn’t! That’s basic Greek and that’s exactly what it says.
INC: That’s your opinion.

If anything any defense/apologetics posted here is not for the INC, but for Catholics, so that they can be strengthened in their faith, not to convert the INC.


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