John 1:1 in Coptic Translation

by slimboyfat 78 Replies latest jw friends

  • jhine

    I mentioned this on another thread recently but I think that maybe it could be repeated here .

    It made sense, to me , at least to look into what mught be the Jewish interpretation of John 1:1 .John was Jewishafter all. My NIV Bible gives this comment on Word (Logos ),

    "Greeks used this term not only of the spoken word , but also of the unspoken word , the word still in the mind -the reason . When they applied it to the universe , they meant the rational principal that governs all things . Jews , on the other hand , used it as a way of refering to God . Thus John used a term that was meaningful to both Jews and Gentiles ."

    I found this comment about The Word but I must admit I cannot say where from , I have it written down in a notebook .The Hebrew for Word is Dabar which is the equivalent of the Greek Logos .

    " In the O.T ' the word of God ' (dabar ) is used 394 times of a divine communication which comes from God to men in the form of a commandment , prophecy , warning or encouragement . Yaweh's word is an EXTENSION OF THE DIVINE PERSONALITY , INVESTED WITH THE DIVINE AUTHORITY , and it is to be heeded by both men and angels . It stands forever (Is 40 ;8 ) and once uttered it cannot return unfulfilled (Is 55: 11 ) "

    So , by using Logos , or dabar to describe who it was who became flesh John surely did not mean Michael or some other independant created creature .

    This is a quote from a Rabbi Magonet

    "The mysterious opening of Genesis shows this one God merely speaking a word for that word (dabar ) to be transformed into reality ...... .. It requires no more than a simple expulsion of breath For the one God creation was that effortless "

    I think that this divine word which translates into reality when spoken is what John had in mind in that verse . An extension of the Divine personality . BTW what was left out from that quote does not alter the meaning , I was just being lazy !


  • nonjwspouse

    I borrowed this and will post the link, but coptic Christians believe in jesus and the Father as one nature. A rendering of john 1:1 with an "a" would not change the belief they hold

    Prior to the “Great” East/West Schism of A.D. 1054, the Coptics were separated from the rest by the Council of Chalcedon in A.D. 451. The council met to discuss the Incarnation of Christ and declared that Christ was "one hypostasis in two natures" (i.e., one person who shares two distinct natures). This became standard orthodoxy for Eastern Orthodox, Roman Catholic, and Protestant churches from then on. The Coptic understanding is that Christ is one nature from two natures: "the Logos Incarnate." In this understanding, Christ is from, not in, two natures: full humanity and full divinity. Some in the Coptic Orthodox Church believe that their position was misunderstood at the Council of Chalcedon and take great pains to ensure that they are not seen as Monophysitic (denying the two natures of Christ), but rather "Miaphysitic" (believing in one composite/conjoined nature from two). Some believe that perhaps the council understood the church correctly, but wanted to exile the church for its refusal to take part in politics or due to the rivalry between the bishops of Alexandria and Rome. To this day, 95 percent of Christians in Alexandria are members of the Coptic Orthodox Church.

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  • DeWandelaar

    If in the beginning there was A god called "the word" then the Jews were Polytheistic in the first place... since everyone learned that only one true God existed it is strange to name another one in the same verse (if it was the same one or a lesser one does not make a difference in that situation).

    Besides... I am no longer trying to make sense of the Gospels :P

  • Bart Belteshassur
    Bart Belteshassur

    Where is the definite article in the greek text,it's absents from the clause implies the indefinite, why is there such an issue with Jerome's mistranlation into latin?

  • Phizzy

    My understanding of John 1v1 is that the writer of the Gospel is not talking about the personality of the Word in this verse, but the "make-up" if you like, or as later Theologians would put it, the "substance".

    The writer is not saying that the "Word" is Almighty God (The Father). He is simply saying that the Word is of the same "substance", so far more than a mere man, or even a created son of god.

    The Gospel is very late, possibly a number of years into the 1st century, so these debates about the nature of Christ had already been raging for a while.

    Yes, a full-blown, developed doctrine of the Trinity is much later, but here we see an attempt to explain the understanding that thinking Christians had come to about the Christ.

    Either using, or not using, the indefinite article in translation makes no difference to the teaching of the Gospel if it is taken as a whole.

    Perhaps the rendering "and the Word was divine" is to be preferred ?

  • jhine



  • aqwsed12345

    Interpretation of the Sahidic Coptic Translation

    ΑΥШ ΝЄΥΝΟΥΤЄ ΠЄ ΠϢΑϪЄ [auō neounoute pe pšaʤe]

    The Sahidic Coptic translation, which dates back to the 3rd century, is particularly interesting because it includes both definite and indefinite articles. In John 1:1, the Sahidic Coptic text uses the term "ⲛⲟⲩⲧⲉ" (noute, "god"), which indeed contains an indefinite article. Meanwhile, in John 1:18, it uses the definite article for the Son, "ⲛⲟⲩⲧⲉ" (pnoute, "the God").

    Jehovah's Witnesses often refer to this translation, which they claim renders the text as "and the Word was a god." The Sahidic Coptic translation, having both definite and indefinite articles, is in this respect closer to modern languages (such as English) than to Greek. The Watchtower Society asserts that the Sahidic Coptic translation supports their interpretation. Firstly, even if this were true, the Coptic translation is obviously interpretative at this point because "divine" or "godlike" in Greek would not be "theos ēn" but "theios ēn".

    Furthermore, the theological background of this translation is unclear, considering that Coptic Christians were never Arians, unlike, for example, the Visigoths or the Vandals. If the JWs were right, then the Coptic Christians should have been the base of the Arian movement, but there is no indication in the 4th century Arian debates that anyone, including the Alexandrians, referred to this translation. The Arians of the 4th century interpreted it as such, putting a full stop after «God was».

    Coptic translators regularly used the definite article when referring to the biblical "God," but also applied the indefinite article when the context required it. Based on the analysis of tenses and sentence structures, the Coptic text seems to use the word "god" in a qualitative sense, meaning "divine" or "having a divine nature." Thus, the use of indefinite articles in Coptic translations was complex and often determined by the context.

    Coptic language experts like Bentley Layton and Ariel Shisha-Halevy point out that the Coptic indefinite article is not identical to the English indefinite article. According to Layton, the Coptic structure can also be translated in a qualitative sense, such as "the Word was divine" or "of divine nature." Shisha-Halevy holds a similar view, noting that in the Coptic language, such structures tend to refer to the nature of the subject rather than to an indefinite entity. Wallace suggests that in Sahidic Coptic, the indefinite article can be used to denote class membership or properties, similar to what is called "qualitative usage" in Greek grammar.

    In Sahidic Coptic, the indefinite article is often used with abstract nouns and material nouns, which is not common in modern languages. Analyses show that Sahidic Coptic translators often used articles in places where the Greek text did not have them. This indicates that the Sahidic Coptic translation simply followed its grammatical rules and does not necessarily reflect the exact meaning of the Greek text. Examples of qualitative usage in Coptic:

    John 1:33: "This is the one who will baptize with [a] Holy Spirit and [a] fire" (Horner's translation).

    John 3:6: "That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is [a] spirit."

    In John 1:18b, the Greek "theos" without an article is translated into Coptic with a definite article: "the God, the only Son" (Horner's translation).

    This consistency suggests that the Coptic translator likely attributed divine qualities to the Word in John 1:1, rather than treating it as an indefinite noun ("a god"). Therefore, the translator emphasized the divine quality here, not a separate (lesser) god. This contradicts the idea that John 1:1 should be translated as "a god."

    In the October 2011 issue of the Journal of Theological Studies, Brian J. Wright and Tim Ricchuiti concluded that the indefinite article in the Coptic translation of John 1:1 has a qualitative meaning. They identified many such occurrences in the Coptic New Testament for qualitative nouns, including 1 John 1:5 and 1 John 4:8. Additionally, the indefinite article is used to refer to God in Numbers 4:31 and Malachi 2:10.

    This article establishes that Sahidic Coptic translators did not always consistently translate the Greek "theos" without an article. While they mostly used the definite article, in some cases, "theos" appears with an indefinite article, such as in John 1:1, 1 Corinthians 8:6, Ephesians 4:6, and 2 Thessalonians 2:4. The authors apply their findings to John 1:1c, concluding that in the translation "and the Word was God," the "theos" has a qualitative interpretation. According to this approach, the Word possesses the same attributes as the biblical God. With this approach, the authors argue that the Sahidic Coptic translators did not intend to present a pagan or usurping god, but to emphasize the divine attributes of the Word. In summary, the study suggests that in the Sahidic Coptic New Testament, the use of the indefinite article in translating the Greek "theos" without an article primarily served a qualitative, descriptive distinction aimed at highlighting the divine attributes of the Word in John 1:1c.

    Moreover, scholars like Jason BeDuhn and J. Warren Wells also agree that the Sahidic Coptic translation does not unequivocally support the "a god" interpretation. Even BeDuhn, who often defends the New World Translation, pointed out that it can be interpreted qualitatively, meaning that the Word was of divine nature, not a separate, lesser god, as the Watchtower Society's theology claims about the Son.

    In conclusion, the solution of the Sahidic Coptic translation does not support either the New World Translation's rendering or the Watchtower Society's Christology.

  • NotFormer

    "...Coptic Christians were never Arians, unlike, for example, the Visigoths or the Vandals."

    It used to amuse me that the JWs chose to identify themselves with groups remembered for their violent and warlike tendencies. Perhaps I've grown up a little? 🤔 Heck, no! It still amuses me! 😸

  • Riley

    The reference in John 1 as Jesus as the " word " of god, is the phrase in the old testament " the word of the lord appeared and the lord said. ". The physical manifestion of god.

    The whole " a god " or " was god " doesn't really matter , unless you believe Jehovah or LORD was " a god ".

  • aqwsed12345

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