John 1:1 Anarthrous Theos: The Big Lie of the NWT

"and the Word was God"

(John 1:1 [TR]) εν αρχη ην ο λογος και ο λογος ην προς τον θεον και θεος ην ο λογος

(John 1:1 [NIV]) In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

The NWT renders it:

(John 1:1 [NWT]) In the beginning the Word was, and the Word was with God, and the Word was a god.

The argument given for using “a god” is: Since θεον (in John 1:1b) is preceded by the definite article τον, it is translated “God”, thus referring to the one true God.
And Since θεος (in John 1:1c) isn’t preceded by a definite article (anarthrous), it is translated “a god”, thus implying that “the Word” or “ο λογος” is not God, only a god.

So, what should it be? "God" or "a god"?

I) Brief introduction to cases in Greek
II) Let’s examine the argument that anarthrous θεος (without a definite article, θεος, θεον,…) refers to “a god”
III) Let’s examine the opposite: Can "ο θεος" (with definite article) refer to “a god” and not “God”?
IV) But why is θεος anarthrous in John 1:1c ?
V) Conclusions

I) Brief introduction to cases in Greek

In English the words do not change according to their function in the sentence. So the word “God” as a subject, object, or after a preposition is the same. This isn’t the case in Greek. A word used as a subject is in nominative case.
While a word used as direct object and after some prepositions is in accusative case (like θεον in John 1:1b). Sometimes nominative is used for objects (like θεος in John 1:1c). Even the definite article takes different forms according to its function in the sentence.
So θεος and θεον are the same word, but the difference is due to the function of each word in the sentence. One other common form is θεου, which is the genitive case.

II) Let’s examine the argument that anarthrous θεος (without a definite article, θεος, θεον,…) refers to “a god”:

1-Actually reading John 1 in Greek, we find many uses of
θεος without the definite article (like in John 1:6,12,13,18a). Let’s check:
(John 1:18a [NIV]) No one has ever seen God
(John 1:18a [TR]) θεον ουδεις εωρακεν πωποτε
(John 1:18a [NWT]) No man has seen God at any time

We see that θεον (the accusative form of θεος) isn’t preceded by a definite article (τον), and is translated God, even in NWT. Of course, rendering it “No one has ever seen a god” is meaningless. So this is an "Anarthrous theos" referring to God.

(Nahum 1:2a [NIV]) The LORD is a jealous and avenging God
(Nahum 1:2a [LXX]) θεος ζηλωτης και εκδικων κυριος
(Nahum 1:2a [HiSB])
אֵ֣ל קַנּ֤וֹא וְנֹקֵם֙ יְהוָ֔ה נֹקֵ֥ם יְהוָ֖ה
(Nahum 1:2a [NWT]) Jehovah is a God exacting exclusive devotion and taking vengeance

So here YHVH (יְהוָ֖ה) is θεος. Which is anarthrous!!!

(Isaiah 37:16 [NIV]) O LORD Almighty, God of Israel, enthroned between the cherubim, you alone are God over all the kingdoms of the earth. You have made heaven and earth.
(Isaiah 37:16 [LXX]) κυριε σαβαωθ ο θεος ισραηλ ο καθημενος επι των χερουβιν συ θεος μονος ει πασης βασιλειας της οικουμενης συ εποιησας τον ουρανον και την γην
(Isaiah 37:16 [HiSB])
יְהוָ֨ה צְבָא֜וֹת אֱלֹהֵ֤י יִשְׂרָאֵל֙ יֹשֵׁ֣ב הַכְּרֻבִ֔ים אַתָּה־ ה֤וּא הָֽאֱלֹהִים֙ לְבַדְּךָ֔ לְכֹ֖ל מַמְלְכ֣וֹת הָאָ֑רֶץ אַתָּ֣ה עָשִׂ֔יתָ אֶת־ הַשָּׁמַ֖יִם וְאֶת־ הָאָֽרֶץ׃
(Isaiah 37:16 [NWT]) "O Jehovah of armies, the God of Israel, sitting upon the cherubs, you alone are the true God of all the kingdoms of the earth. You yourself have made the heavens and the earth.

Here, YHVH (LORD Almighty, O Jehovah) is θεος. Again aranrthrous!!!
Note that συ means "you", it isn’t an article.

(Isaiah 41:4b [NIV])
I, the LORD--with the first of them and with the last--I am he."
(Isaiah 41:4b [LXX])
εγω θεος πρωτος και εις τα επερχομενα εγω ειμι
(Isaiah 41:4b [HiSB])
אֲנִ֤י יְהוָה֙ רִאשׁ֔וֹן וְאֶת־ אַחֲרֹנִ֖ים אֲנִי־ הֽוּא׃
(Isaiah 41:4b [NWT])
"I, Jehovah, the First One; and with the last ones I am the same."

Here, YHVH (the LORD, Jehovah) is translated
θεος. Again anarthrous!!!


(Jeremiah 23:23 [NIV]) Am I only a God nearby, declares the LORD, "and not a God far away?
(Jeremiah 23:23 [LXX]) θεος εγγιζων εγω ειμι λεγει κυριος και ουχι θεος πορρωθεν
(Jeremiah 23:23 [HiSB]) הַאֱלֹהֵ֧י מִקָּרֹ֛ב אָ֖נִי נְאֻם־ יְהוָ֑ה וְלֹ֥א אֱלֹהֵ֖י מֵרָחֹֽק׃
(Jeremiah 23:23 [NWT])
"Am I a God nearby," is the utterance of Jehovah, "and not a God far away? "

Again, YHVH (the LORD, Jehovah) is
θεος. Again anarthrous!!! No definite article!!!


(Ezekiel 45:9 [NIV])
'This is what the Sovereign LORD says: …
(Ezekiel 45:9 [LXX])
ταδε λεγει κυριος θεος
(Ezekiel 45:9 [HiSB])
כֹּֽה־ אָמַ֞ר אֲדֹנָ֣י יְהוִ֗ה...
(Ezekiel 45:9 [NWT])
"This is what the Sovereign Lord Jehovah has said, ...
κυριος θεος (the Sovereign LORD) is anarthrous!!!

Actually there are many other examples, but I think these examples are enough to show that Anarthrous theos (
θεος) can refer to "God" too, and is not necessarily translated "a god".

III) Let’s examine the opposite:
Can "ο θεος" (with definite article) refer to “a god” and not “God”? 

(2 Corinthians 4:4 [NIV])
The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.
(2 Corinthians 4:4 [TR])
εν οις ο θεος του αιωνος τουτου ετυφλωσεν τα νοηματα των απιστων εις το μη αυγασαι αυτοις τον φωτισμον του ευαγγελιου της δοξης του χριστου ος εστιν εικων του θεου
(2 Corinthians 4:4 [NWT])
among whom the god of this system of things has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, that the illumination of the glorious good news about the Christ, who is the image of God, might not shine through. 

Here, "the god",
is ο θεος, with definite article.


(Isaiah 36:19 [NIV]) Where are the gods of Hamath and Arpad? Where are the gods of Sepharvaim? Have they rescued Samaria from my hand?
(Isaiah 36:19 [LXX])
που εστιν ο θεος αιμαθ και αρφαθ και που ο θεος της πολεως σεπφαριμ μη εδυναντο ρυσασθαι σαμαρειαν εκ χειρος μου
(Isaiah 36:19 [NWT])
Where are the gods of Ha'math and Ar'pad? Where are the gods of Seph·ar·va'im? And have they delivered Sa·mar'i·a out of my hand?

Here again,
ο θεος with definite article refers to gods. 

From these examples, we can see that , ο θεος ,with definite article, can refer to “god” and not “God”.

I think so far we have destroyed the argument of the Anarthrous theos, or "a god"

IV) But why is θεος anarthrous in John 1:1c ?

From :

Simply put, if John had written: ho theos ēn ho logos (lit., “the God was the Word” making theos definite), he would have been teaching Oneness doctrine (or Modalism)! In other words, the passage would have indicated that “God” in 1:1b (the Father) and “God” in 1:1c (the Word) were the same Person! But semantically, theos is (qualitative), not definite (and surely not indefinite).

"Definite" nouns point to the specific identification of someone or something (thus, in 1:1b “the God” identifies the Father) while "qualitative" nouns point to the essence or nature of someone or something [1]. The anarthrous theos indicates exactly as to what John was communicating: As to the Word’s nature (quality), He was fully God, but as to His Person (or specific identity), He was not identified as the Father, but personally distinct from Him: “The Word was with [pros] God.” [2]

[Footnote 1] Nouns generally fall under three semantic categories: Definite (identity), Indefinite (one of a class of others), or Qualitative (essence or nature—not identity). The anarthrous theos in John 1:1c is qualitative. As with the noun “flesh” in John 1:14: “The Word became flesh,” not “the flesh” (definite), or “a flesh” (indefinite), but “flesh” (qualitative)—as to the Word’s new nature. Likewise, it would be most unnatural to translate "ho theos agapē estin" in [1 John 4:8, God is Love] as “God is a love” (tagging agapē [“love”] as indefinite) or “God is the love” (definite) “ο θεος αγαπη εστιν”. Here agapē is qualitative. Grammatically, in John 1:1c, theos is an anarthrous pre-verbal predicate nominative. A predicate nominative describes the class or category to which the subject (the “Word”) belongs. Hence, the Word belongs to the category of theos (“God”) as to His essence or nature—not His personal identity.

Besides the blatant polytheism that an indefinite rendering of theos in 1:1c produces, there are two additional problems. First, theos is placed in the “emphatic position.” Thus, John placed theos *first in the clause* to draw attention to it as if he wanted the reader to shout out the word of emphasis: “GOD! was the Word,” which makes an indefinite rendering (one of many gods) all the more improbable. And second, John 1:1a (“In the beginning was [ēn] the Word”) indicates that the Word was eternal.

The verb translated “was” (ēn) is an imperfect tense (from the verb eimi). An imperfect tense denotes an on-going past action. Thus, in the beginning the Word was already existing—no beginning. And in verses 3, 6, and 10, the aorist verb egeneto (from ginomai), which does denote a beginning, is used to refer to all things created:“all things came into being (egeneto) through Him” (v. 3) while the imperfect verb ēnegeneto is used of the Word to describe the Word’s new nature—which had a beginning: “The Word became [egeneto] flesh.” (“was”) is used of the eternal Word. It is not until verse 14 that
egeneto is used of the Word to describe the Word’s new nature—which had a beginning: “The Word became [egeneto] flesh.”

We find the same verb contrast (eternal vs. origin) in John 8:58: “Before Abraham was born [genesthai], I Am [eimi]. Both egeneto (“came into being”) in 1:3 and genesthai (“was born”) in 8:58 are from the same baseverb ginomai denoting a beginning. And ēn in 1:1 (“was”) is from eimi (“Am” as in 8:58) denoting eternality, that is, the Word’s preexistence in those contexts. Thus, in 1:1 and 8:58 the contrast is clear: the Word’s eternal existence (eimi) vs. all things created (ginomai; cf. also Ps. 90:2).

[Footnote 2] Of all the Greek prepositions that John could have used in 1:1b (such as en, para, sun, which all can mean “with”), he specifically chose the preposition pros (lit., “facing” or “toward”). Pros (when persons are in view) signifies more than being near or beside. Rather, pros denotes intimate personal fellowship between persons. Thus, in 1:1b, pros expresses the inseparable communion and loving intercourse that the Word shared with the Father—before time. In Rom. 5:1, the believer having been justified from faith haspeace pros ton theon (lit., “with the God,” same rendering as John 1:1b). Pros in 2 Cor. 5:8 (pros ton kurion, “with the Lord”) expresses the intimate and special relationship that Christians will experience “at home with [pros] the Lord.” And in 1 Cor. 13:12, the double use of pros describes the personal converse believers will have with the Lord “face to face” (prosōpon pros prosōpon).

Here’s another detailed explanation from Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics - Exegetical Syntax of the New Testament, Daniel B. Wallace.

John 1:1 states:
Ἐν ἀρχῇ ἦν ὁ λόγος, καὶ ὁ λόγος ἦν πρὸς τὸν θεόν, καὶ θεὸς ἦν ὁ λόγος. In the last part of the verse, the clause καὶ θεὸς ἦν ὁ λόγος (John 1:1c), θεός is the PN. It is anarthrous and comes before the verb. Therefore, it fits Colwell’s construction, though it might not fit the rule (for the rule states that definiteness is determined or indicated by the context, not by the grammar). Whether it is indefinite, qualitative, or definite is the issue at hand.

a. Is
Θεός in John 1:1c Indefinite?
θεός were indefinite, we would translate it “a god” (as is done in the New World Translation [NWT]). If so, the theological implication would be some form of polytheism, perhaps suggesting that the Word was merely a secondary god in a pantheon of deities.

(Isaiah 43:10 [NIV])
You are my witnesses, declares the LORD, "and my servant whom I have chosen, so that you may know and believe me and understand that I am he. Before me no god was formed, nor will there be one after me.

The grammatical argument that the PN here is indefinite is weak. Often, those who argue for such a view (in particular, the translators of the NWT) do so on the sole basis that the term is anarthrous. Yet they are inconsistent, as R. H. Countess pointed out:
In the New Testament there are 282 occurrences of the anarthrous
θεός. At sixteen places NWT has either a god, god, gods, or godly. Sixteen out of 282 means that the translators were faithful to their translation principle only six percent of the time. …The first section of John-1:1–18-furnishes a lucid example of NWT arbitrary dogmatism. Θεός occurs eight times-verses 1, 2, 6, 12, 13, 18-and has the article only twice-verses 1, 2. Yet NWT six times translated “God,” once “a god,” and once “the god.”
If we expand the discussion to other anarthrous terms in the Johannine Prologue, we notice other inconsistencies in the NWT: It is interesting that the New World Translation renders
θεός as “a god” on the simplistic grounds that it lacks the article. This is surely an insufficient basis. Following the “anarthrous = indefinite” principle would mean that ἀρχῇ should be “a beginning” (1:1, 2), ζωὴ should be “a life” (1:4), παρὰ θεοῦ should be “from a god” (1:6), Ἰωάννης should be “a John” (1:6), θεόν should be “a god” (1:18), etc. Yet none of these other anarthrous nouns is rendered with an indefinite article. One can only suspect strong theological bias in such a translation.

According to Dixon’s study, if
θεός were indefinite in John 1:1, it would be the only anarthrous pre-verbal PN in John’s Gospel to be so. Although we have argued that this is somewhat overstated, the general point is valid: The indefinite notion is the most poorly attested for anarthrous pre-verbal predicate nominatives. Thus, grammatically such a meaning is improbable. Also, the context suggests that such is not likely, for the Word already existed in the beginning. Thus, contextually and grammatically, it is highly improbable that the Logos could be “a god” according to John. Finally, the evangelist’s own theology militates against this view, for there is an exalted Christology in the Fourth Gospel, to the point that Jesus Christ is identified as God (cf. 5:23; 8:58; 10:30; 20:28, etc.).

b. Is
Θεός in John 1:1c Definite?
Grammarians and exegetes since Colwell have taken
θεός as definite in John 1:1c. However, their basis has usually been a misunderstanding of Colwell’s rule. They have understood the rule to say that an anarthrous pre-verbal PN will usually be definite (rather than the converse). But Colwell’s rule states that a PN which is probably definite as determined from the context which precedes a verb will usually be anarthrous. If we check the rule to see if it applies here, we would say that the previous mention of θεός (in 1:1b) is articular. Therefore, if the same person being referred to there is called θεός in 1:1c, then in both places it is definite. Although certainly possible grammatically (though not nearly as likely as qualitative), the evidence is not very compelling. The vast majority of definite anarthrous pre-verbal predicate nominatives are monadic, in genitive constructions, or are proper names, none of which is true here, diminishing the likelihood of a definite θεός in John 1:1c.

Further, calling
θεός in 1:1c definite is the same as saying that if it had followed the verb it would have had the article. Thus it would be a convertible proposition with λόγος (i.e., “the Word” = “God” and “God” = “the Word”). The problem of this argument is that the θεός in 1:1b is the Father. Thus to say that the θεός in 1:1c is the same person is to say that “the Word was the Father.” This, as the older grammarians and exegetes pointed out, is embryonic Sabellianism or modalism. The Fourth Gospel is about the least likely place to find modalism in the NT.

c. Is
Θεός in John 1:1c Qualitative?
The most likely candidate for
θεός is qualitative. This is true both grammatically (for the largest proportion of pre-verbal anarthrous predicate nominatives fall into this category) and theologically (both the theology of the Fourth Gospel and of the NT as a whole). There is a balance between the Word’s deity, which was already present in the beginning (ἐν ἀρχῇ θεὸς ἦν [1:1], and his humanity, which was added later (σὰρξ ἐγένετο [1:14]). The grammatical structure of these two statements mirrors each other; both emphasize the nature of the Word, rather than his identity. But θεός was his nature from eternity (hence, εἰμὶ is used), while σάρξ was added at the incarnation (hence, γίνομαι is used).

Such an option does not at all impugn the deity of Christ. Rather, it stresses that, although the person of Christ is not the person of the Father, their essence is identical. Possible translations are as follows: “What God was, the Word was” (NEB), or “the Word was divine” (a modified Moffatt). In this second translation, “divine” is acceptable only if it is a term that can be applied only to true deity. However, in modern English, we use it with reference to angels, theologians, even a meal! Thus “divine” could be misleading in an English translation. The idea of a qualitative
θεός here is that the Word had all the attributes and qualities that “the God” (of 1:1b) had. In other words, he shared the essence of the Father, though they differed in person. The construction the evangelist chose to express this idea was the most concise way he could have stated that the Word was God and yet was distinct from the Father.

V) Conclusions 

1. An anarthrous theos (θεος) can actually refer to God.

2. Articled theos (ο θεος) does not always refer to God.

3. θεος in John 1:1c is qualitative, not indefinite.

(John 1:1 [TR])
εν αρχη ην ο λογος και ο λογος ην προς τον θεον και θεος ην ο λογος

(John 1:1 [NIV]) In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

In the end, I’ll leave you with my favorite translation of this verse:

John 1 Aramaic Bible in Plain English
(John 1:1)

In the origin The Word had been existing, and That Word had been existing with God, and That Word was himself God.