Biblical Unitarian on The Word (John 1:1)

The Word

 1 In The beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being 4 in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.

…And the Word became flesh…

This passage is one of those really contested ones. I will start out with the most common Trinitarian interpretation and then give my rebuff. On average a person interprets it something like “Jesus is the Word, Jesus was in the beginning, Jesus was with God, and Jesus is God” “Then Jesus created all things”. Basically as Jesus=Word. Then we read the incarnation where Jesus takes on the human nature and becomes a man.

Let’s start with John 1:1 – So here is the first problem, everyone agrees that the “God” in the second clause is the Father, which I totally agree. All the arguing is about how “God” is used in the third clause. Now the standard Trinitarian argument is that it is qualitative. That part I agree with as well, I think it is qualitative. [I’m not going to go into explaining why right now] Meaning the qualities of the “word” = qualities of God. The departure I make here is that most people think of this as “divinity”. So a better way to say the standard argument is that Jesus is “divine”, as God is “divine”. This is where the famous “substance” in the Trinity comes from. My problem is that it turns the one God into a “substance” or “divine quality”. This is how the Trinity works though. Now each person can be fully God because they share this divine nature. I don’t think that John meant that, I think he just wanted to express that the Word is fully expressive of God, just as my words expresses myself. This is a much better interpretation since in order to view the Word as “divinity” it changes God into a quality, God fundamentally becomes one “it”.

As to the Word all things coming into being through “him”: Now this also reveals another disagreement that I have. I don’t believe the Word is a “Him”, but rather an “it”. This makes huge changes in our perception of Christ since if the standard interpretation holds, then Christ created all things. Most people then go back to Gen 1 to show that Christ was there in the beginning.

Then God said, “Let us make humankind [3] in our image, according to our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the wild animals of the earth, [4] and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth.”

 27 So God created humankind [5] in his image,

in the image of God he created them; [6]

male and female he created them.

Gen 1:26-27

Most people interpret this as Christ and the Holy Spirit as the “us” who created us male and female.

However I think we should stick with Christ’s explicit statement:

But from the beginning of creation, ‘God made them male and female.’

Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.”

Mark 10:6,9

Christ makes it clear that he did not create us male and female; he explicitly states that was God!

I know some will still insist that Christ was involved in the creation from Colossians 1

“for in [8] him all things in heaven and on earth were created, things visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or powers— all things have been created through him and for him. 17 He himself is before all things, and in [9] him all things hold together.”

Col 1:16-17

But I don’t think we should take “in” him and “through” him as “by” him. I know we usually do understand “through” as meaning “by”, but still an explicit statement should go before interpretation. Because once again Christ tells us who did the creating

“For in those days there will be suffering, such as has not been from the beginning of the creation that God created until now, no, and never will be.”

Mark 13:19

Once again Christ tells us that God created the creation!

Actually everyone is in agreement on this issue

The Father:

I am the Lord, who made all things,
who alone stretched out the heavens,
who by myself spread out the earth;”
Is 44:24

And again

“I made the earth,
and created humankind upon it;
it was my hands that stretched out the heavens,
and I commanded all their host.”
Is 45:12

Jesus Christ:

But from the beginning of creation, ‘God made them male and female.’–   Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.” Mark 10:6,9

And again

“For in those days there will be suffering, such as has not been from the beginning of the creation that God created until now, no, and never will be.” Mark 13:19

Paul:

“and to make everyone see[c]what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in[d] God who created all things;” Eph 3:9

And again

“The God who made the world and everything in it, he who is Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in shrines made by human hands, 25 nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mortals life and breath and all things” Acts 17:24-25

Prophets & teachers

“Have we not all one father? Has not one God created us?” Mal 2:10

“The Lord by wisdom founded the earth;
by understanding he established the heavens;”
Ps 33:6

Angels:

“You are worthy, our Lord and God,
to receive glory and honour and power,
for you created all things,
and by your will they existed and were created.”
Rev 4:11

First Christians:

“When they heard this, they raised their voices together in prayer to God. ‘Sovereign Lord,’ they said, ‘you made the heavens and the earth and the sea, and everything in them.” Acts 4:24

Everyone is in complete agreement. The Father is the one who created everything!

There are also the logical problems that trying to believe that Christ is the creator of the world brings. We know that God as the creator owns all of his creation. He is not shy about letting us know-

“For every wild animal of the forest is mine,

the cattle on a thousand hills.

11 I know all the birds of the air, [99]

and all that moves in the field is mine.

12 “If I were hungry, I would not tell you,

 for the world and all that is in it is mine.”

Ps. 50:10-12

However as for Christ he clearly does not own it inherently, actually he is the heir! He inherits from his God and Father just as we do.

“and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ— if, in fact, we suffer with him so that we may also be glorified with him.”

Romans 8:17

He even was tempted by the devil to take authority over the earth and the nations.

8 Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor; 9 and he said to him, “All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.” 10 Jesus said to him, “Away with you, Satan! for it is written,            

‘ Worship the Lord your God,

and serve only him.’ ”

Mat 4:8-10

It’s apparent that the temptation is simply to give in and serve Satan so as to receive the kingdoms now without having to go through the suffering. But the plan is first suffering then glory; Jesus had to obtain the right to rule through his obedience.

 “To the one who conquers I will give a place with me on my throne, just as I myself conquered and sat down with my Father on his throne.” 

Rev. 3:21

Jesus obeyed in order to obtain the authority (being the one “Lord”) alongside the Father that was foreordained for Him. (By the way being designated this “Lord” is to be the “Son of God in power” as is reported in Romans 1. “Son of God” = “Lord” of all creation) Christ tells us that if we also obey God we will obtain the right to rule alongside him. Our Lord sets the example for us in that He resists the devil and says that He will only obey God!

As to the point that Jesus is the “firstborn of every creature” from Col 1, this is what I’m saying when I mean Son of God. He is the first of rank of all of God’s creation. He is the heir of all things. But to be the first of rank you have to be a part of the creation to be considered the first. God is never considered a first-born son, because He isn’t a Son. (Could you imagine your Father ever calling himself a firstborn of your brothers?) Israel was considered God’s firstborn among the nations. But of course that already precludes the fact that they would have to be a nation. Jesus is now the greatest of all God’s creation, but He is still a part of it. He attains fully to the status that was foreordained for Him at the resurrection, which is what they labor to show us in Acts 13, Romans 1 & Hebrews 1. But He did begin in the womb of His mother Mary. That’s why there is no mention of anything about a pre-existent person entering the womb in either Matthew or Luke’s Gospel.  Mary really did have a baby! Jesus is the Son of God because:

  1. He was begotten (created) in the womb of His mother Mary by the power of God (Luke 1:35)
  2. He is the first-born (greatest) and heir of all of God’s creatures, given to be head (by God) of all of Yahweh’s creation, mirroring the power & authority of God. (Col 1:15-18) He attained to the promised position on His resurrection (Romans 1:4, Mat 28:18)
  3. He fully and perfectly bears and reflects the image of God. He was imbued with all of God’s character (Heb 1:3, Col 1:19)

So this is where I will put my two cents about what I believe the Word is. The Word is not a “He” until “it” becomes “He”, the Christ. I am first going to prove this by comparative analogy using John’s 1st letter which begins much the same way. And here I will assert that the Word is an “it”.

(By the way I’m using the Geneva Bible for the John 1, so that’s why it says “it”)

In the beginning was that Word, and that Word was with God, and that Word was God.This same was in the beginning with God.All things were made by it, and without it was made nothing that was made.In it was life, and that life was the light of men.

And that light shineth in the wilderness, and the darkness comprehendeth it not.

John 1:1-5

 

And the Word became flesh

John 1:14

1 WE DECLARE to you what was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have looked at and touched with our hands, concerning the word of life— 2 this life was revealed, and we have seen it and testify to it, and declare to you the eternal life that was with the Father and was revealed to us— 3 we declare to you what we have seen and heard so that you also may have fellowship with us; and truly our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ.John 1:1-3

The reason why I think the Word is an “it” is because look at this direct comparison:

([John 1] In the Word was life = [1st John 1] Word of Life

And the Word was with God [The Father] = the eternal life that was with the Father [God]

And the Word became flesh = the eternal life that was with the Father was revealed to us

When the Word became flesh, Christ was revealed, Christ was born, and the light came into the world.

So why should we choose “It” instead of “He”, I think because in 1 John 1 the Word is clearly a “What” which is unambiguously an “it”. As he says multiple times, “what” we have looked at, “what” we have touched, “what”, “what” is the Word! The Word is a “what” an “it”! He is referring to seeing the “what” when seeing Christ.

I get a little technical but please don’t lose me here

The reason that most translations have “He” instead of “It” in John 1 is because the Greek word “autos”, which can either be translated as “He” or “it” depending on the situation. Like in Spanish where words have gender, the Greek word “logos” which we hear often in church is masculine in gender, not necessarily a man. Much like in Spanish, the word bike, “la bicicleta” is feminine, however bikes are not women. So if you called the bike a “she” that would certainly be an error. Every instance of the word “Word” in the bible up until now is always neutral gender because it is always understood that word is an expression. Logos, it is the source of the word reason in English. For instance if you have ever heard of someone “pathos”, “ethos”, “logos” they are using those Greek words. So I believe in this passage just like other uses of “Word”, it is God’s expression. Every Jew would have known that God certainly did create all things through his spoken word, through his wisdom (Pr 8:22-23 and yes there was a sense of Jewish literature that Wisdom was in the beginning with God. I was pleasantly surprised to find this in a book written by a sincere Jewish believer that he still referred to wisdom as being the source of creation, God’s expression.) And since John himself is Jewish, and that that he was writing to both Jews + non-Jews of the Word/expression/reason/mind of God through which he created the world, it would make sense. You can look up this on Biblegateway by looking at “The voice” translation and type in John 1. It gives a good description of the logos. Amazing enough, the word “logos” is so big that it requires so much to say a simple statement. If you want to look there are older bibles which still retain the “It”- go on Biblegateway and look up the Geneva Bible translation. However since most Christians believe that Christ is pre-existent it is just fine for them to translate the Word as a “He”, which then of course makes it definitely Christ in Genesis 1. If all this sounds creative, I’m not the only one who talks about this, theologians know about everything I just said.

Back to normal

Let’s look at some other passages which I think will help explain John’s point.

18 You know that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your ancestors, not with perishable things like silver or gold, 19 but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without defect or blemish. 20 He was destined before the foundation of the world, but was revealed at the end of the ages for your sake. 21 Through him you have come to trust in God, who raised him from the dead and gave him glory, so that your faith and hope are set on God.

1 Pe 1:18-21

This is another parallel passage I believe stating about Christ and the word. (Just without the poetic imagery). In this passage he was destined, (foreknown in the mind of God) but was revealed (made flesh) during this time.

In former generations this mystery [14] was not made known to humankind, as it has now been revealed to his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit: 6 that is, the Gentiles have become fellow heirs, members of the same body, and sharers in the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel.

Eph 3:5-6

Ephesians might be one of the best explanations that is simple to understand. Here Paul lays out for us Christians what the goal always was for us: to share in the eternal promise through the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. He even makes it clear that it is God who creates all things, and that this mystery was hidden in God (the Word was with God).

Although I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given to me to bring to the Gentiles the news of the boundless riches of Christ, 9 and to make everyone see [15] what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in [16] God who created all things; 10 so that through the church the wisdom of God in its rich variety might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places. 11 This was in accordance with the eternal purpose that he has carried out in Christ Jesus our Lord, 12 in whom we have access to God in boldness and confidence through faith in him.

Eph 3:8-12

Ultimately I believe that through Christ and the preaching of the Gospel, the intent of God which was with Him and permeated through all creation has become flesh, revealed, realized. The fundamental problem that has been tangling us in the confusion comes from the statements of Paul that the world was created “through” and “in” Christ. These statements should be taken in the way that Paul mentions them in Eph 1.

“With all wisdom and insight he has made known to us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure that he set forth in Christ, as a plan for the fullness of time, to gather up all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.” Eph 1:8-10

In Christ is the eternal life that was with God and Christ fully expresses God’s will for everything. Christ expresses all of God’s will and character, just as God’s word express Himself. Christ is the fullest expression of God!

Paul I think uses words that describe Jesus as the “image” to say this.

In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.

2 Cor 4:4

The writer of Hebrews uses the words reflection and imprint.

He is the reflection of God’s glory and the exact imprint of God’s very being, and he sustains [2] all things by his powerful word.

Heb 1:3

This is why we haven’t seen God, but we have seen Him in Christ, because Christ fully expresses God.  I think this was the intention of John’s book and letter. Therefore the prologue to John ends.

“No one has seen God at any time. The only begotten Son,[f]who is in the bosom of the Father, He has declared Him.” John 1:18

And once again John repeats himself at the end of his first letter-

“And we know that the Son of God has come and has given us an understanding, that we may know Him who is true; and we are in Him who is true, in His Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God and eternal life.” 1 John 5:20

Remember how Jesus himself finished his prayer in John 17

I made your name known to them, and I will make it known, so that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them.” John 17:26

So for a quick story analogy that I can think of off the top of my head:

Steve Jobs goes out and starts a computer company named Apple computers. He grabs investors, programmers, engineers, etc. They all begin setting up his company. After 3 years of preparation, planning and production, the first Apple computer comes off the production line. People are so amazed about how awesome this computer is that it makes Steve jobs rich and famous. When you speak well about Apple computers, you speak well of the man who created the computer, Steve Jobs. He did all of his work through the idea that ultimately one day he would bring apple computers into existence. The apple computer is the expression of his mind in which he began and started all of his work.

In the same way, at the end of all this, God receives all the glory-

“Now to him who by the power at work within us is able to accomplish abundantly far more than all we can ask or imagine, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.”

Eph 3:20-21

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