A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away…
Or to be more precise, about 20 years ago in Beckenham…
It was while I was at the vicar factory also known as Spurgeon’s College and I was at home working on my New Testament Greek. We were studying John’s gospel. I had been reading John chapter 1, which is mindblowing in English never mind in ancient Greek, when there was a knock at the door.
I answered the door and was confronted by two smiling ladies who asked me what I thought about the state of the world. Recognising this introduction as the opening line often used by Jehovah’s Witnesses I thought for a moment about saying ‘no thank you’ and closing the door to get back to my Greek. But the attraction of a break from the Greek overcame my reluctance to engage in conversation so I responded and the conversation flowed.
After a while I said that I was a Christian and wondered what JWs made of Jesus. The ladies gave me what felt like a rehearsed answer about him being special but not being God. I asked them what they meant and they opened their Bibles at John 1 verse 1:
In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was a God.
I remembered a lecture on NT Greek where the lecturer had mentioned how the JW ‘translation’ of the Bible was inconsistent and erroneous here by inserting ‘a’. It’s the only time that they put ‘a’ into a translation of sentences that use that sort of construction. On all other occasions where there is a similar grammatical construction there is no indefinite article.
So I expressed surprise at that translation and asked if I could get my Bible so we could compare. The ladies were happy with that so off I went and came back with my Greek New Testament. I read to them:
Ἐν ἀρχῇ ἦν ὁ Λόγος, καὶ ὁ Λόγος ἦν πρὸς τὸν Θεόν, καὶ Θεός ἦν ὁ Λόγος.
The ladies were rather astonished and asked what I was reading. I told them that it was New Testament Greek: the language in which the New Testament was written and on which all our translations are based. And then I told them of their translation inconsistency and how almost all scholars accepted that there is no ‘a’ in an accurate translation of that sentence. At this point the ladies remembered that they were very busy and beat a hasty retreat – leaving a cartoon-esque cloud of dust in their wake.
I admit that I was a bit mean to them, and probably somewhat arrogant. But I was also hoping that they might see the truth about Jesus.
Last night I shared a Bible study with a friend where we looked at this passage together. We wondered if you should listen to the theme for 2001 A Space Odyssey before starting to read it. We explored how Logos, the word translated as ‘Word’ was a Greek concept that referred to the source of order in the Universe: the reason that animated and pervades the Universe. We wondered if it is a bit like the Force in Star Wars.
John explains to us how Jesus is that Logos: unpacking it for us in John 1 verse 3: “Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.”
Lots and lots could be said about this, but I was left with one over-riding thought. My concept of Jesus is too small. It always will be, but there’s always room for expansion!
Be blessed, be a blessing.
Duct tape is like the Force: it has a light side and a dark side and it holds the Universe together.