Comparing the Use of the Word "God" and the Definite Article in John Chapter 1

    In the first chapter of John, the word ‘God’ (‘theos’ in Greek) is used 12 times.  In almost half of these instances (five times) it does not have the definite article. One would be hard pressed to find a translation that suggests that these other instances without the definite article should be translated as ‘a god’.  That is, the lack of a definite article does not mean that the noun is indefinite.  Clearly the meaning of these instances is the Only True "God", even though no definite article is used.  But if one wanted to be consistent with how some have proposed to translate John 1:1 as ‘a god’, that same rule would have to be followed here.
    Take for example the word ‘God’ in John 1:6.  The definite article is lacking here, just as it is in verse one in the phrase ‘the Word was God’.  If the lack of a definite article means there should be an indefinite article, then this passage should be translated something as follows. ‘There was a man sent from a god’.  The meaning here is obscured if not altogether changed since it is clear that the writer means to convey the fact that this man was sent from the True Living God, not from a false god.
As another example, see John 1:18.  Being consistent with the other instance of the absence of the definite article, the verse would be translated as, ‘No one has ever seen a god; the only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has declared Him.’  Again the meaning is distorted by this translation since John is saying that no one has ever seen the Only True Living God. (cf. Exodus 33:20 and Deuteronomy 4:12).
    In fact, if the over-generalization of ‘lack of definite article makes an indefinite meaning’ is applied to other words in the first few verses of John 1, the following phrases would be found:
1:1,2 ‘a beginning’ rather than ‘the beginning’
1:4 ‘a life’ rather than ‘life’
1:6 ‘from a god’ as noted above
1:6 ‘a John’ rather than ‘John’
    Thus if an implied indefinite article (‘a’) is assumed to be present in every place where no definite article (‘the’) appears in Greek, it can often change the intended meaning of a passage.
These are clear instances that exemplify the fact that Greek cannot be translated according to some imposed English equivalent.  The use of the definite article in the two languages has separate meanings and uses altogether.

 Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 2.5 License.

Created by Corey Keating at: