Does the Greek text show that Jesus was NOT God? - Ankerberg Theological Research Institute, John Ankerberg Show

Does the Greek text show that Jesus was NOT God?

A John Ankerberg Show viewer asks: “I am corresponding with a JW, and of course the topic of Christ’s deity is a central discussion point. One of the arguments used to support their view is the form of the the Greek word for God used. The contention is that Christ is always referred to as “theon”, while Jehovah is referred to as “theos”. A cursory reading of the Greek text would seem to support this, yet I am sure there is some error in the grammar in this argument. The research material I have consulted does not seem to differentiate between the two forms, but I have not seen an explanation of why the forms are different. This argument is used to dodge the logic of who Christ and the Word are in John chapter 1.”

It is not uncommon for Jehovah’s Witnesses to attempt to try to defend their view by arguing the Koine Greek text. The problem is that in most cases neither the Jehovah’s Witness nor the Christian reads the original language. I will start this a little simply. This argument can be easily disproven simply by reading John 1:18 which states , “No man has seen God (theon) at any time…” Do Jehovah’s Witnesses really believe that no man has ever seen Christ? That’s what John 1:18 would have to mean if “Christ is always referred to as ‘theon.'”

I will state the obvious here, language construction in Koine Greek is different than is it in English. Word endings do not change the meaning of the base word but modifiers and other elements. I consulted with the Senior Researcher for MCOI who responded to this issue a little more technically :

On the purely logical level, if JWs have ever officially used an argument against the Deity of Christ based on word endings, this one would have it backwards, because theos and theon occur in John 1:1 as follows: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God (theon), and the Word was God (theos).” So if the contention were true (that theon means “Christ” and theos means “God”), then John would have been saying, “…and the Word was with Christ, and the Word was God.” This makes it sound as though the Word was someone other than Christ, which even the Watchtower does not teach.

Secondly, on the purely grammatical level, this person clearly does not understand how the case endings of Greek nouns function. They are speaking as though case endings are a function of the word’s definition or reference. They are not. They are purely a function of how the word is being used grammatically in a sentence. This is difficult to convey to someone who is only familiar with English, because the only time we use a case ending to express a different kind of grammatical noun usage is in the case of a possessive, or genitive: as in the expression “God’s love,” where we add the ” ‘s” ending. But then, we can also express it with a preposition: “The love of God,” although that form is somewhat more ambiguous (does it refer to the love we have for God, or the love He has for us?).

In this case, theos represents the nominative singular case (which is also the case under which nouns are listed in Greek lexicons), which usually indicates that the word is the subject of a sentence (as it would be in “God was the Word”), but can also indicate that the word is functioning as a predicate nominative, (as it is in “the Word was God”). On the other hand, theon is in the accusative singular case, which indicates that the word is acting as a direct object (i.e., receiving the action of a verb), or is accompanying a particular preposition that as a rule requires the accusative case. In this case (“the Word was with God”) “was” is not an action verb, and so there is no action to receive. So why, then, is theos in the accusative case (theon)? Because whenever the Greek preposition pros occurs, the noun that it modifies takes the accusative case. Since that is the only reason why the ending of theos changes in John 1:1, it becomes quickly apparent that different grammatical case endings cannot provide a reason why theon and theos cannot designate the same referent: God. And, in fact, the most straightforward reading of the Greek text takes both words that way.

L.L. (Don) Veinot Jr. , President
Midwest Christian Outreach, Inc.