Is Jesus God?
info This commentary was written by a volunteer for our Bible translation project. It’s not an official view of our project; we are not a religious denomination and we do not establish doctrine. These commentaries reflect a variety of views and some disagree with each other.
The simple answer is: Yes, Jesus is a god… that is, if you understand what the word god means in the Bible. Most people do not.
This wording may be a bit difficult to grasp for those of us who were raised in a monotheistic society where God refers to just One. However, remember that the Greeks (whose language we are translating) were a polytheistic society (they worshiped many gods). To them, the word theos (god) was used to describe many others in their pantheon (all gods), who were viewed as being simply more powerful than mere mortals.
So understand that to them, theos just meant a powerful one, not the Creator (which is what the Hebrew name Jehovah implies – The One that Causes to Be).
To prove that translating the word theos as powerful (as we have done at John 1:1) is correct; Notice how the Bible speaks of the unfaithful messengers of God as gods at Psalm 82:6, which is the scripture that Jesus quoted at John 10:34-36), where it says:
‘I said to them, You are gods…
Of the Most High, you are sons!’
Also notice that at Exodus 7:1, God told Moses:
‘Look! I’ve made you a god to Pharaoh and your brother Aaron is your Prophet.’
And notice again that just after God gave the IsraElites the ‘Ten Commandments,’ He said this (at Exodus 22:28): ‘You should never speak badly of your mighty ones (gr. Theous – gods plural) or say bad things about the rulers of your people.’
So the terms god and gods just refer to the powerful.
And even men can be gods…
That is, in the truest sense of the word’s meaning (powerful ones).
Thus, a word-for-word literal translation of John 1:1 can read:
‘In the beginning was the Word.
The Word was toward the Powerful One, and powerful was the Word.’
Then, why did we use the term God rather than Powerful One at John 1:1 to describe The God?
We’ve left the first term (God) in place, because that’s what people call the Divine One today.
So is Jesus (the Logos) The God or just a god (a powerful one)?
From the context of John 1:1, it appears as though he is theos – powerful – but not The God (gr. ton Theon). For notice that Jesus described himself as simply God’s son (gr. Uios tou Theou eimi – son of/the God I/am) at John 10:36.
Also notice that in the Greek text of John 1:1, the words Logos (λογος) and Theon (θεον) are both preceded by the word The (‘ο λογος and τον θεον), except in the case where the Logos is referred to simply as theos (θεος). So when you read this line in Greek, you can clearly see that John was differentiating Jesus from The God.
For John 1:1, 2, says in Greek:
‘Eν αρχη ην ο λογος, και ο λογος ην προς τον θεον, και θεος ην ο λογος.
Oυτος ην εν αρχη προς τον θεον.’
‘In ancient/time was the Word and the Word was with The God and god was the Word.
He/was in ancient/time with (or toward) The God.’
Through the years, we’ve heard many anti-Trinitarians argue that the reason why John 1:1 reads as it does, implying to some that there is a Trinity (though only two are described here), is because there are no indefinite articles in Greek (which is true). Therefore, they say that ‘the Word’ should be described as ‘a God’ in English to distinguish him from The God.
Yet, though there is no indefinite article (a), you can see that the definite article ‘the’ actually appears several times in the Greek writing of this sentence, though it’s not included in the English rendering by other Bible translators. It appears three times before Logos and twice before God, who is described there (and in most other places throughout the Greek texts of the Bible) as ‘The God.’ Yet the word ‘the’ is always omitted by other Bible translators when they translate the two words, ‘τον θεον,’ or, ‘The God.’
So notice that if John was actually telling us that the Word was the same as The God, he would have written,
‘And the Word was The God.’
Yet he didn’t, because:
Although the word ‘God’ is used as a noun twice in this sentence to describe The God;
Where the word ‘god’ was used in reference to ‘the Word,’ it was clearly used as an adjective to describe ‘the Word’ as being god-like in his power.
That the early Christians didn’t view Jesus as The God is supported by the fact that some of the Apostles (and many other Christians) still worshiped at the Temple of Jehovah in JeruSalem until it was destroyed in 70-CE.
(See Acts 3:1-3).
And the reason why they continued to do this, is because Christian Jews didn’t consider Christianity to be a new religion that had a new god (Jesus). But rather, they considered it to be the natural outgrowth of the old religion, where Jesus was the promised ‘Messiah’ or ‘Anointed One of God’ that was to assume ‘the throne of David his father.’
As you can see;
Though Jesus (who is referred to as ‘the Word’ at John 1:1, 2) was called ‘powerful’ (or godlike), the following verses clearly go on to explain that he wasn’t ‘The God.’
But rather (like Moses), he was a god or powerful one.
(For more information, see the document, ‘Who Was Jesus?’).
To see how Jesus was described at John 1:1 in the most ancient Coptic texts (where he is described as being ‘a God’), see the link, ‘Coptic John.’