“In the beginning was the word, and the word was with God, and the word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made.” (John 1:1-3)
Misunderstanding of this verse has caused one of the biggest problems in Christendom. We need to take time to carefully deconstruct and analyse this verse before we can reconstruct it, and then everything makes sense.
Firstly, we have to consider what ‘the beginning’ is referring to in John 1:1. Is it, for example, God’s beginning, or the beginning of something else? Well we know that God has always been there, not ever having had a beginning (hard for finite humans to understand). So God Himself has come from ‘everlasting’ which many Bible references point out, e.g. Psalm 90:2 among many more. So the ‘beginning’ in John 1 has to be something else. Our answer can be found in Genesis 1:1, “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” This is the very same ‘beginning’ – the beginning of the current creation. Who knows how many creations have happened before the present one – maybe countless creations through eternity from which the angels came? We are not told. Nevertheless God, after all, is defined as a ‘Creator’. And so we need look no further than the first verse of the first book of the Bible to find out what beginning John is referring to. It is worth noting that in the beginning referred to in Genesis 1, God was not creating alone. The Hebrew word for God is ’אֱלֹהִים‘ – transliterated intoelohiym, which is in fact a plural word meaning the Mighty Ones – the angelic beings. We can ascertain this by doing a separate study on the use of this word elsewhere in the Old Testament, but it is outside of the scope of this short study. However it is worth noting here because people often mistake the plurality of ‘elohiym’ as defining a three-part godhead as having been involved with the creation, including Jesus himself, who they claim to have eternally and co-equally existed prior to his birth.
Secondly, there would be no point in having something as magnificent as the creation we exist within, without there being a plan. Such a beautiful and complex creation would not be produced with so much effort and minute attention to detail without there being an equally detailed plan. Such a plan must not only determine the destiny of the planet Earth and the universe in which it functions, but would also determine the purpose and fate of the sentient (human) beings created to exist in it. Furthermore, if the Creator has any interest in interacting with His created human beings, which of course we know He does, then He would undoubtedly use an appropriate method of declaring His plan to humankind. This is where we come across the word simply translated into English as ‘the word’: “In the beginning was the word…” (John 1.)
Yahweh’s ‘word’ (Greek ‘λόγος’ transliterated as ‘logos’) is this declaration of God’s plan (or His ‘manifesto’ if you prefer). It is a breathed-out expression of God Himself as this word is a direct revelation of His mind to humanity, which includes a presentation of His unfolding plan and purpose as fulfilled in and through Christ. What God says as revealed in this ‘word’ is who He is and what He does. Just as our thoughts lead to physical actions (but in our case are within finite human limitations), the same applies to God, but in contrast to our feeble thoughts and actions, He is not constrained by space, time or dimension. Therefore the active fulfilment of His thoughts is unlimited, with infinite reach and all powerful. We read in Psalm 33:6, “By the word of Yahweh were the heavens made; and all the host of them by the breath of his mouth.” Therefore everything that exists, including the universe in which the planet we call ‘home’ has been situated, along with the lives we are currently blessed with, have all been created through the power of God’s thoughts which when uttered are simply called His ‘word’. It is a useful exercise to have a look at Genesis 1 and to count how many times ‘and God said’ becomes fulfilled as a creative act, with God’s spoken word, which was uttered as an expression of His plan, becoming a physical reality. The immeasurably powerful word of Yahweh the Almighty Creator issues commands which ensures that His will is always done, whether directly by Himself through the power of the Holy Spirit, or by those who do His bidding, such as the angelic Mighty Ones, or even by human beings. So when we read God’s word in written form in the Scriptures, we are given a glimpse of the mind and power of the Creator. This includes His nature, how He relates to humanity and with His Creation in general. It includes His declaration to humankind of how He planned from the very beginning to have a Son to ultimately bring salvation to members of the human race who seek Him through Jesus, when glory to His Name will be expressed by everybody on the Earth, just as it is by the angels in Heaven. So the Scriptures present a word like no other, as Almighty God has declared His powerful, secure and definite plan to anybody truly seeking answers and desiring something beyond the temporary here-and-now – something entirely possible for us to reach to take us away from our wretched state of corruption and mortality to incorruption and life without end.
Thirdly, the Greek word ‘οὗτος’ transliterated as ‘houtos’ (Strongs ref. G3778) has flexibility of translation according to the context, e.g. ‘he’, ‘she’, ‘it’, ‘this’, etc. We see this in verse 2 of John 1 translated as ‘the same’ in the King James Version, “The same was in the beginning with God.” That actually works well, as it does not represent the ‘word’ (Logos) as a person, but retains its integrity of meaning exactly what it says. However, some translators have instead chosen to assume that ‘the word’ is part of a godhead in the person of the Lord Jesus, prompting them to unfortunately colour the translation by their theology which claims that Jesus pre-existed before his birth, so they have chosen to translate this as ‘he’ (for example the E.S.V., N.I.V., etc.).
By verse 3, most translations fall apart and let us down totally, as they force-through a teaching which the Scriptures never intended, “All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made.” The problem occurs with the insistence of using ‘him’ in this verse. This is where the Greek word ‘αὐτός’ (Strongs ref. G846 – transliterated as ‘autos’) is mistranslated. For example, in other contexts the very same word is translated as ‘herself’, ‘itself’, ‘she’, ‘it’, ‘the same’, etc., so while it can be a person in the right contexts, it can also be a thing. We therefore need to see the word in its appropriate setting. When we look at the context in the preceding verses, the subject under discussion is the ‘word’ of God and most certainly not a separate individual. Nevertheless, the translators, wishing to force their teaching agenda that Christ had pre-existed, have totally transformed the meaning of this verse and most people in Christendom have unfortunately fallen for their deceptive trick which has been passed down generations with very little question.
So how should this read?
The translation should simply have settled upon rendering the word ‘it’ in this context, as the verse is continuing to talk about the very same ‘word’ which verse one introduced us to. And so, substituting the word ‘it’ back where it belongs into the third verse to ensure that the context is not lost, it should read, “All things were made by it; and without it was not any thing made that was made.” Now this ties-in beautifully with the Psalm quoted earlier, “By the word of Yahweh were the heavens made; and all the host of them by the breath of his mouth.” So the God-breathed ‘word’ is what made everything, just as God had declared in the Old Testament many years before the Gospel of John was written. However this creation would not be complete without the word being made flesh which we will look at in a moment. Before we do this, let us revisit the first few verses of John’s Gospel, bearing in mind what the word ‘word’ truly means and therefore undo the damage the English translators have caused. I will insert square brackets reminding us of the meaning which the English translators have stripped-out: –
“In the beginning was the word, and the word was with God, and the word was God. This was in the beginning with God. All things were made by it [God’s word]; and without it was not any thing made that was made. In it [God’s word] was life; and the life was the light of men. And the light shines in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not.” (John 1:1.)
It is worth noting that English translations which predated the 1611 King James rendered these verses much more accurately, prior to the agenda-driven changes made in later translations, as you will see below: –
1534 Tyndale Translation:
“In the beginnynge was the worde and the worde was with God: and the worde was God. The same was in the beginnynge with God. All thinges were made by it and with out it was made nothinge that was made. In it was lyfe and the lyfe was ye lyght of men and the lyght shyneth in the darcknes but the darcknes comprehended it not.”
1599 Geneva Bible:
“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.”
So there we are – God’s declared plan to humanity, delivered to us as the word – the word which was an expression of God Himself and by which He created, along with the reason behind God creating everything. This word in the first few verses which is described as being ‘God’, is His own expression of Himself to humanity – carrying the power and authority to fulfil His plan, so it does not at this point in the text specifically refer to the person of the Lord Jesus Christ at all. This aspect is reserved for later in the chapter.
But what about the word made flesh?
Curiously, this concept of the word being made flesh does not directly enter into John’s Gospel until verse 14, “And the word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.” So here is the very first time in this Gospel that the Lord Jesus is directly mentioned in connection with being an actual embodiment of the word. This is not just any connection here – we have the word (God’s declaration) in human flesh. Until verse 14, the reference to Jesus is restricted to the proclamation made by John (the Baptist) who talked about the Light which was about to come (see verses 6-14). Jesus being the Light was later backed-up by the words of Jesus himself (i.e. John 8:12 which references back to the prophecy in Isaiah 9:2).
So if the word was a declaration of God and His plan, how could this be made flesh?
Now that everything else has been cleared-up, the answer is very simple. Firstly, Jesus was always part of God’s plan declared in His word. He was a vital aspect of God’s purpose. We can find this in Genesis 3:15, for example. Here the birth of Jesus and his role was foretold when the word declares ‘I will’: “and I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed; it shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.” So by God’s word it had already been foretold and foreordained that the primary fulfilment of God’s uttered word was for Jesus was to be created through the seed of the woman, born into Adam’s race, whereby the foundation of faith was established from the onset in Genesis 3. This provided a way for fallen humanity be atoned through the sacrifice of Jesus. Therefore the first aspect of Jesus being the word made flesh is the actual realisation of God’s declaration foretelling the birth of His Son through the seed of a woman. This most ancient prophecy was fulfilled with complete accuracy through Mary, who was a virgin at the time and a willing participant in God’s purpose, conceiving and giving birth a son, who was by nature both God’s Son and the son of Mary, in the lineage of David, traceable right back to Adam – the very first man.
The second aspect of God’s word being manifest in the flesh was down to the life followed by the sacrifice of Jesus. He, as a fully-obedient and sinless Son of God who preached God’s word accurately to humanity to bring them to the Light of God’s Truth, which John the Baptist had paved his way to do. As Jesus was a man who never once gave in to the lusts of human flesh common to all humanity and who was always totally obedient to his Father’s will, this demonstrated that he was indeed the ‘word made flesh’: a perfect manifestation of his Father’s character, will and purpose in everything he said and did. So his character and teaching was in perfect alignment with his Father at all times.
This leads to the third aspect of Jesus being the word made flesh. God’s declaration in His word included the provision of a perfect sacrifice which could only have been foreshadowed by the sacrifices under the Law. As Jesus was sinless, having overcome all temptations (which us lesser humans have fallen for), he was able to fully represent the humans he was foreordained to save, bearing the same condemned nature which was subject to temptation as they. Therefore, as he overcame the flesh, his sacrifice provided atonement for all who would seek God through him, paving the way for their salvation.
Fourthly, the resurrection of Jesus, the manifestation of the word in Jesus’ flesh would not have been complete as there was an essential eternal element to God’s plan (His word). Even this was achieved as a result of Jesus’ obedience and atoning sacrifice, paving the way for all who will be saved when Jesus returns to raise the dead and welcome the faithful into the Kingdom, which was also a fundamental aspect of God’s Declaration (word) to humanity.
Therefore, the word – God’s declaration to humanity – was fulfilled perfectly within the flesh of the Lord Jesus Christ without any detail being lost. This fulfilled the types before him, including those embedded within the Law of Moses and right back to the sacrifices of ancient times when Adam and Eve were driven from Eden. God’s word included the proclamation of the Light of the Truth (the Gospel) through Jesus. It included his atoning sacrifice and his resurrection, bringing sinful human beings into a position where they are able to repent, be baptised into his saving name – cleansed of their sin and freed from an otherwise certain eternal death. The fulfilment of the word in Christ Jesus has enabled people to enter into covenant relationship with the Almighty and ultimately have an opportunity to find salvation. That is the powerful word made flesh in the Lord Jesus Christ.
What a hope God offers us through His word, if only we individually make the best decision we could ever make: to take time out of our short, mundane lives during the temporary here-and-now, and reach for the eternal, seeking the Light of God’s Truth and ultimately be blessed the wonderful offer of the gift of salvation in Christ, with the joy of immortality ahead!