So who is correct, the JW's?:
Violating a Rule?
SOME claim, however, that such renderings violate a rule of Koine Greek grammar published by Greek scholar E. C. Colwell back in 1933. He asserted that in Greek a predicate noun "has the [definite] article when it follows the verb; it does not have the [definite] article when it precedes the verb." By this he meant that a predicate noun preceding the verb should be understood as though it did have the definite article ("the") in front of it. At John 1:1 the second noun (the·os'), the predicate, precedes the verb—"and [the·os'] was the Word." So, Colwell claimed, John 1:1 should read "and [the] God was the Word."
But consider just two examples found at John 8:44. There Jesus says of the Devil: "That one was a manslayer" and "he is a liar." Just as at John 1:1, the predicate nouns ("manslayer" and "liar") precede the verbs ("was" and "is") in the Greek. There is no indefinite article in front of either noun because there was no indefinite article in Koine Greek. But most translations insert the word "a" because Greek grammar and the context require it.—See also Mark 11:32; John 4:19; 6:70; 9:17; 10:1; 12:6.
"The Logos was divine, not the divine Being himself."—Joseph Henry Thayer, Bible scholar
Colwell had to acknowledge this regarding the predicate noun, for he said: "It is indefinite ["a" or "an"] in this position only when the context demands it." So even he admits that when the context requires it, translators may insert an indefinite article in front of the noun in this type of sentence structure.
Does the context require an indefinite article at John 1:1? Yes, for the testimony of the entire Bible is that Jesus is not Almighty God. Thus, not Colwell's questionable rule of grammar, but context should guide the translator in such cases. And it is apparent from the many translations that insert the indefinite article "a" at John 1:1 and in other places that many scholars disagree with such an artificial rule, and so does God's Word.
Or the scholars:
Dr. J. R. Mantey (who is quoted on pages 1158-1159) of the Witnesses own Kingdom interlinear Translation):
"A shocking mistranslation." "Obsolete and incorrect." "It is neither scholarly nor reasonable to translate John 1:1 'The Word was a god.'"
Dr. Bruce M. Metzger of Princeton (Professor of New Testament Language and Literature):
"A frightful mistranslation." "Erroneous" and "pernicious" "reprehensible" "If the Jehovah's Witnesses take this translation seriously, they are polytheists."
Dr. Samuel J. Mikolaski of Zurich, Switzerland:
"This anarthrous (used without the article) construction does not mean what the indefinite article 'a' means in English. It is monstrous to translate the phrase 'the Word was a god.'"
Dr. Paul L. Kaufman of Portland, Oregon:
"The Jehovah's Witnesses people evidence an abysmal ignorance of the basic tenets of Greek grammar in their mistranslation of John 1:1."
Dr. Charles L. Feinberg of La Mirada, California:
"I can assure you that the rendering which the Jehovah's Witnesses give John 1:1 is not held by any reputable Greek scholar."
Dr. James L. Boyer of Winona Lake, Indiana:
"I have never heard of, or read of any Greek Scholar who would have agreed to the interpretation of this verse insisted upon by the Jehovah's Witnesses...I have never encountered one of them who had any knowledge of the Greek language."
Dr. Walter R. Martin (who did not teach Greek but has studied the language):
"The translation...'a god' instead of 'God' is erroneous and unsupported by any good Greek scholarship, ancient or contemporary and is a translation rejected by all recognized scholars of the Greek language may of whom are not even Christians, and cannot fairly be said to be biased in favor of the orthodox contention."
Dr. William Barclay of the University of Glasgow, Scotland:
"The deliberate distortion of truth by this sect is seen in their New testament translations. John 1:1 is translated: '...the Word was a god,' a translation which is grammatically impossible...It is abundantly clear that a sect which can translate the New Testament like that is intellectually dishonest."
Dr. F. F. Bruce of the University of Manchester, England:
"Much is made by Arian amateur grammarians of the omission of the definite article with 'God' in the phrase 'And the Word was God.' Such an omission is common with nouns in a predicative construction...'a god' would be totally indefensible." [Barclay and Bruce are generally regarded as Great Britain's leading Greek scholars. Both have New Testament translations in print!]
Dr. Ernest C. Colwell of the University of Chicago:
"A definite predicate nominative has the article when it follows the verb; it does not have the article when it precedes the verb...this statement cannot be regarded as strange in the prologue of the gospel which reaches its climax in the confession of Thomas. 'My Lord and my God.' - John 20:28"
Dr. Phillip B. Harner of Heidelberg College:
"The verb preceding an anarthrous predicate, would probably mean that the LOGOS was 'a god' or a divine being of some kind, belonging to the general category of THEOS but as a distinct being from HO THEOS. In the form that John actually uses, the word "THEOS" is places at the beginning for emphasis."
Dr. J. Johnson of California State University, Long Beach:
"No justification whatsoever for translating THEOS EN HO LOGOS as 'the Word was a god.' There is no syntactical parallel to Acts 28:6 where there is a statement in indirect discourse; John 1:1 is direct....I am neither a Christian nor a trinitarian."
Dr. Eugene A. Nida, head of Translations Department, American Bible Society:
"With regard to John 1:1, there is of course a complication simply because the New World Translation was apparently done by persons who did not take seriously the syntax of the Greek." [Responsible for the Good News Bible - The committee worked under him.]
Dr. B. F. Wescott (whose Greek text - not the English part - is used in the Kingdom Interlinear Translation):
"The predicate (God) stands emphatically first, as in IV.24. It is necessarily without the article...No idea of inferiority of nature is suggested by the form of expression, which simply affirms the true deity of the Word...in the third clause 'the Word' is declared to be 'God' and so included in the unity of the Godhead."
Dr. J. J. Griesbach (whose Greek text - not the English part - is used in the Emphatic Diaglott):
"So numerous and clear are the arguments and testimonies of Scriptures in favour of the true Deity of Christ, that I can hardly imagine how, upon the admission of the Divine authority of Scripture, and with regard to fair rules of interpretation, this doctrine can by any man be called in doubt. Especially the passage, John 1:1-3, is so clear and so superior to all exception, that by no daring efforts of either commentators or critics can it be snatched out of the hands of the defenders of the truth."