The proper translation of John 1:1 has been the center of debate between Trinitarians and non-Trinitarians for centuries. As is well known, the traditional translation of the last clause in John 1:1c is: "And the word was God," which would seem to be a clear declaration of Christ's Deity. With the publication of the New World Translation of the Christian Greek Scriptures (NWT) in 1950, the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society (WTBTS) put its stake in the ground by rendering the last clause of John 1:1 as: "and the Word was a god." Since then, the WTBTS has officially offered a variety of arguments and scholarly quotations in support of its translation, some of which are summarized and responded to here.
The dispute centers on the lack of the definite article (Greek: ho) prior to the word "God" (Greek: theos). John includes the article prior to "God" in the preceding clause (literally, "and the Word was with the God"), but omits it in the final clause. The WTBTS sees this omission as grounds for an indefinite translation ("a god"). Trinitarians have responded that the lack of the article does not always make a noun indefinite, but often is used to attribute the nature, character, or qualities of the noun to the subject. "God," in this view, is a "qualitative noun," attributing the nature, character, or qualities of "God" to the Word. See here for a more detailed analysis.
Recently, some Jehovah's Witness apologists have developed a sophisticated defense of the NWT translation and attack on the traditional rendering on the basis of "God" being a "count noun." Count nouns, they say, cannot be purely qualitative in meaning, but must always be either definite or indefinite. The argument is often phrased like this:
Theos is a count noun. Count nouns must be either definite or indefinite. Since the Logos is said to be "with" the God, He cannot himself be "the God" (definite) and so much be "a god" (indefinite).1
In this article, I will examine this argument in detail, as presented by leading Jehovah's Witness apologists Greg Stafford, Al Kidd, and Rolf Furuli, and will provide reasons why I believe it is not logically or linguistically sound. I will also offer a brief defense of the purely qualitative semantic force. Read More.