"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,
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.