(a) WHY does John 1:1 readsas "a god"?

(b) Why the syriac and Coptic scriptures show that they translated from Koine greek into Coptic as "a god" and were fluent Koine Greek speakers at the time of translation - this is strong proof by itself.

(c) When you look at John 1:1 you notice "ho theos" or "the god" - Jehovah, and the word as "god", but why would John have "the god" and the Word is just "god" . However whne we look deeper at Koine Greek grammar, we see that the Greeks quite often didnt use an indefinite article , but it was understood as "a god".

(d) the following article from Solomon Landers ( a witness I believe ) is very exhaustive in explaining things better ( heres a quick summary though ):

"accurately rendering the Greek original, en de ho barabbas lestes, wherein the word for "robber" lestes, is anarthrous: "a robber." No English version renders this, "Barabbas was Robber." Likewise, John 1:1c should not be rendered to say, "the Word was God," whether the text is Greek or Coptic, but "the Word was a god." In Horner's 1911 English translation from the Coptic, he gives this translation: "In the beginning was being the word, and the word was being with God, and a God was the word."

An Early Coptic Translation and John 1:1c
Next The JW Expert a god or ό θεός [God],"

Prepared by Solomon Landers
January, 2006


Sahidic Coptic John#

Hn tehoueite nefSoop n[ipsaje
auw psaje nefsoop nnahrm pnoute

auw neunoute pe psaje


1:1a Hn tehoueite nefshoop nci

1:1b Auw pshaje nefshoop
nnahrm pnoute

1:1c Auw neunoute pe pshaje

In harmony with Jesus' command to them, the early Christians eagerly spread the message of the good news of Jehovah's Kingdom far and wide. They made translations of the koine Greek Gospels into several languages. By about the year 200, the earliest of these were found in Syriac, Coptic, and Latin.1 Coptic was the language spoken by Christians in Egypt, in the Sahidic dialect, until replaced by the Fayyumic and the Bohairic dialects in Coptic church liturgy in the 11th century C.E.

Coptic itself was the last stage of the Egyptian language spoken since the time of the Pharaohs. Under the influence of the widespread use of koine Greek, the Coptic language came to be written, not in hieroglyphs or the cursive Egyptian script called Demotic, but in Greek letters supplemented by seven characters derived from hieroglyphs. Coptic is a Hamito-Semitic language, meaning that it shares elements of both Hamitic (north African) languages and Semitic languages like Hebrew, Aramaic, and Arabic.

Much was made of it in the scholarly world when an apocryphal gospel written in Coptic, titled the "Gospel of Thomas," was discovered in
Egypt near Nag Hammadi in December 1945. Yet, after an initial welcome, the scholarly world has been strangely silent about an earlier and more significant find, the Sahidic Coptic translation of the canonical Gospel of John, which may date from about the late 2nd century C.E.2 This manuscript was introduced to the English-speaking world in 1911 through the work of [Reverend] George William Horner. Today, it is difficult even to find copies of Horner's translation of the Coptic canonical Gospel of John. It has been largely relegated to dusty library shelves, whereas copies of the "Gospel of Thomas" (in English with Coptic text) line the lighted shelves of popular bookstores.

In the book, The Text of the New Testament (Eerdmans, 1987), Kurt and Barbara Aland, editors of critical Greek New Testament texts, state:

"The Coptic New Testament is among the primary resources for the history of the New Testament text. Important as the Latin and Syriac versions may be, it is of far greater importance to know precisely how the text developed in
Egypt." (Page 200, emphasis added)

The Sahidic Coptic text of the Gospel of John has been found to be in the Alexandrian text tradition of the well-regarded Codex Vaticanus (B) (Vatican 1209), one of the best of the early extant Greek New Testament manuscripts. Coptic John also shows affinities to the Greek Papyrus Bodmer XIV (p75) of the late 2nd/3rd century.3 Concerning the Alexandrian text tradition, Dr. Bruce Metzger states that it "is usually considered to be the best text and the most faithful in preserving the original."4

Therefore, it is all the more strange that insights of the Sahidic Coptic text of John 1:1 are largely ignored by popular Bible translators. Might that be because the Sahidic Coptic Gospel of John translates John 1:1c in a way that is unpopular in Christendom? The Sahidic text renders John 1:1c as auw neunoute pe pshaje, clearly meaning literally "and was a god the Word."**% Unlike koine Greek, Sahidic Coptic has both the definite article, p, and the indefinite article, u. The Coptic text of John 1:1b identifies the first mention of noute as pnoute, "the god," i.e., God. This corresponds to the koine Greek text, wherein theos, "god," has the definite article ho- at John 1:1b, i.e., "the Word was with [the] God."

The koine Greek text indicates the indefiniteness of the word theos in its second mention (John 1:1c), "god," by omitting the definite article before it, because koine Greek had no indefinite article. But Coptic does have an indefinite article, and the text employs the indefinite article at John 1:1c. This makes it clear that in reading the original Greek text, the ancient Coptic translators understood it to say specifically that "the Word was a god."

The early Coptic Christians had a good understanding of both Greek and their own language, and their translation of John's koine Greek here is very precise and accurate. Because they actually employed the indefinite article before the word "god," noute, the Sahidic Coptic translation of John 1:1c is more precise than the translation found in the Latin Vulgate, since Latin has neither a definite nor an indefinite article. Ancient Coptic translations made after the Sahidic, in the Bohairic dialect, also employ the indefinite article before the Coptic word for "god."

The Coptic word neunoute (ne-u-noute) is made up of three parts: ne, a verbal prefix denoting imperfect (past) tense, i.e., "was [being],"; u, the Coptic indefinite article, denoting "a,"; and noute, the Coptic word for "god." Grammarians state that the word noute, "god," takes the definite article when it refers to the One God, whereas without the definite article it refers to other gods. But in Coptic John 1:1c the word noute is not simply anarthrous, lacking any article at all. Here the indefinite article is specifically employed. Thus, whereas some scholars impute ambiguity to the Greek of John 1:1c, this early Coptic translation can be rendered accurately as "the Word was a god." This is the careful way those 2nd century Coptic translators understood it. The Coptic expression for "was a god," ne-u-noute pe, is the same Coptic construction as found at John 18:40, where it says of Barabbas that he ne-u-soone pe, "was a robber," accurately rendering the Greek original, en de ho barabbas lestes, wherein the word for "robber" lestes, is anarthrous: "a robber." No English version renders this, "Barabbas was Robber." Likewise, John 1:1c should not be rendered to say, "the Word was God," whether the text is Greek or Coptic, but "the Word was a god." In Horner's 1911 English translation from the Coptic, he gives this translation: "In the beginning was being the word, and the word was being with God, and a God was the word."

It may be noted that the earliest Coptic translation was likely made before Trinitarianism gained a foothold in the churches of the 4th century. That may be one reason why the Coptic translators saw no need to violate the sense of John's Greek by translating it "the Word was God." In a way, then, the ancient Sahidic Coptic translation of John 1:1c was the New World Translation of that day, faithfully and accurately rendering the Greek text.

That very point may give some indication as to why the Sahidic Coptic translation of John 1:1c is largely kept under wraps in academic religious circles today. Most new English translations continue to translate this verse to say "the Word was God." But the Coptic text provides clear evidence — from very ancient times — that the New World Translation is correct in rendering John 1:1c as "the Word was a god."

1. Aland, p. 68
2. George William Horner, The Coptic version of the New Testament in the southern dialect, otherwise called Sahidic and Thebaic, 1911, pp. 398, 399
3. Aland, p. 91
Bruce M. Metzger, A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament, 2nd edition, United Bible Societies, 1994, page 5

Other References:
Egyptian Grammar, 3rd edition, by Sir Alan Gardiner (Griffith Institute, 1957)
The Gospel of Thomas: The Hidden Sayings of Jesus, (with Coptic text) by Marvin Meyer (Harper Collins, 1992)


#You will likely need to download the 'CS Coptic Font' package to your machine to properly view the Coptic text appearing on this page. This can be downloaded for free at

**The translation of the Sahidic Coptic version of John 1:1c into English can be diagrammed as:
auw neunoute pe psaje
auw ne-u-noute pe pshaje

auw = "and"
ne = verbal prefix denoting past tense, i.e., "was (being)"
u = Coptic indefinite article, "a"
noute = "god"
pe = Coptic particle meaning "is" or "this one is"
p = Coptic definite article, "the"
shaje = "word"

Literally the Coptic says, "and - was being- a god - is- the -Word." Or more smoothly in literal English, "and the Word was a god."

%The text of the Coptic Bohairic version also has the indefinite article before the word for "god," at John 1:1c, i.e., "a god":

Sahidic: neunoute
Bohairic: ne ounout

I see the stumbling block you have with the translation of John1:1c as "the Word was god," is that of the "context within the Christian community and it's roots in Judaism, that he would mean that there is more than one God." What you mean in essence is that it does not seem to 'marry' with the idea or belief in Monotheism.

However, note what a writer on this passage of scripture has said and see if there is any real conflict with a rendering that says the "Word was a god," and 'monotheism:

"[In]John 1:1, however, [we are told]of something that was inexistence already in time primeval; astonishingly,it is not "God." ...The thereby elevated to such heights that it almost becomes offensive. The expression is made tolerable only by virtue of the continuation in "and the Logos was in the presence of God," viz', in intimate,personal union with God.

"In order to avoid misunderstanding here, it may be inserted here that [theos] and [ho theos]("god,divine" and "the God)were not the same thing in this period. Philo has therefore written: the [logos] means only[theos("divine")and not [ho theos]("God")since the logos is not God in the strict sense. Philo was not thinking of giving up Jewish monotheism. In similar fashion, Origen, too, interprets: the Evangelist does not say that the logos is "God," but only that the logos is "divine." In fact, for the author of the hymn, as for the Evangelist, only the Father was "God"(ho theos; cf 17:3); "the Son" was subordinate to him(cf.14:28). But that is only hinted at in this passage because here the emphais is on the proximity of the one to the other: the Logos was in "the presence of God," that is, in intimate, personal fellowship with him....

"The Logos therefore was not a substitue for God in the beginning, but lives in and out of this fellowship(
1:18;4:34). But precisely for this reason, viz., that he alone had this primeval union with "God," does he take on added significance. Verse 1c expresses this meaning more strongly: "and divine(belonging to the category divinity)was the Logos."...Bultman objects to this interpretation: one cannot speak of God(in the Christian sense)in the plural. On the contrary, in the period in which the hymn took it's rise, it was quite possible in Jewish and Christian monotheism to speak of divine beings that existed alongside and under God but were not identical with him. Phil 2:6-10 proves that. In that passage Paul depicts just such a divine being, who later became man in Jesus Christ, and before whom every knee will one day bow. But it should be noted that the Son will eventually return all authority to the Father(1Cor.15:28), so that his glory may be complete. Thus, both in Philippians and John 1:1 it is not a matter of a dialectical relationship between two-in-one, but a personal union of two entities, and to that personal union corresponds the church's rejection of patripassianism".- E.Haenchen, A Commentary on the Gospel of John, Chapter 1-6, pp.109-110.(emphasis ours)

Regarding Haenchen's comment above "...In fact, for the author of the hymn, as for the Evangelist, only the Father was "God"(ho theos; cf 17:3);.." Hans Kung comments on John 17.3 " this late, fourth Gospel, we still have the statements like: 'And this is eternal life, that they may know the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent'.... Here is a clear distinction between God and Jesus Christ."- Judaism, p.382,
SCM Press, 1995 English edition.

It is to be noted from the above that someone other than "the God," could bear the title or rather the term "god,"[Greek theos or QEOS] and not contradict or conflict with the notion of monotheism at that time. We have to realise that such terms as 'monotheism,' 'polytheism' and 'henotheism' are relatively modern descriptive terms. Polytheism is the belief and religious worship of more than one god. Each god has a 'sphere' of their own. Jehovah's Witnesses are not polytheists. Henotheism is the belief in and worship of one god without denying the existence of others who also can recieve religious worship. Jehovah's Witnesses are not henotheists. Monotheism has been defined as the belief in and religious worship of one God only. Jehovah's Witnesses are then monotheists as they hold to this. According to the Bible's monotheism the rendering "and the Word was a god" would not teach polytheism nor henotheism as the Bible does not say that the "Word," Jesus Christ should recieve religious worship, that is, worship as the one true god. Can this be proved from the scriptures? As well as the remarks by Haenchen re Philippians 2:6ff- Yes.

At this point though we would like to interject an interesting comment from the book A Christian Theology of the Old Testament by George A.F.Knight(
SCM Press, London, 1959) where the author writes:

"Again, the Person of God must have been in some sense present in the human Moses. God explains to that hesitant and doubting creature: 'See, I have made thee 'elohim to Pharaoh'!(Ex.7.1, P). Moreover, we can define this last occurrence of the word 'elohim with more precision because in the parallel passage from the pen of J we find 'I will be with thy mouth'(Ex.4.12). In other words, Moses was meant to become the instrument of the living Word of God, perhaps even its vehicle.
A good example of the close relationship that obtains between God and his angels, on the other hand, is to be found in Ps.82.1-6. There we discover the following words: 'Elohim stand(s) in the congregation of 'el; in the midst of elohim he judges', and again 'I have said, ye are elohim, and all of you are sons of elyon'.

Following this he writes:

"Scholars today are being led to the conclusion that there is no means of explaining the phenonemon of Moses without conceding that he was a truly a monotheist as was Amos centuries later. But such a belief cannot be postulated of the majority of the leaders of
Israel in the period between these two prophetic figures. Men in that period were rather what we would call today, henotheists, and not monotheists."

We think that in this author is incorrect to think that some of the OT figures between Moses and Amos were "henotheists" for he, like some trinitarians today, with their incorrect charge that the theology of the Witnesses is henotheistic rather than monotheistic, is based on a mis-understanding of what is biblical monotheism, which is being explained on this page, in that biblical monotheism is where only one god is the true god and should be worshipped but that there are other beings under and dependent on this one who are rightly called and even "are gods"(Ps.82.6)but do not recieve worship. But also of interest is the parallel that this author shows with Moses being God's mouth-piece and also called a "god"(Ex.4.12; 7.1)and the pre-existent Jesus as God's "Word"(God's 'mouth-piece') and also called "theos"("god") in John 1.1. This agree with what one will read below when we quote Jack T. Sanders Schismatics, Sectarians, Dissisdents, Deviants: The First One Hundred Years of Jewish-Christian Relations. Please remember this point here when you come to our quoting this work. This shows the background of John's prologue and has a bearing on how we might understand the Word being theos like Moses.

That the Bible clearly states that there is only one God and that others could be called "gods" is borne out from the following scriptures:

One God, Jehovah(YHWH):Gen.5:22, 24; 6:2, 4, 11; 17:18; 20:6; Ex.2:23; 3:1, 6, 11, 12, 13; De.4:35, 39; 7:9; Jos.14:6; 22:34; 1Ki.8:60; 12:22; 13:4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 11, 12, 14, 21, 26, 29, 31; Job 1:6; 2:1,10; Eze.31:9; Da.1:2, 9, 17. etc.

Angels=gods: Psalm 8:5,"Yet Thou hast made him little less than heavenly beings[Heb: elohim]and Thou hast crowned him with glory and honor."-New Berkely Version.

Psalms 8:5 LXX, "Thou madest him a little less than angels, thou hast crowned him with glory and honour."-Brenton. The writer of Hebrews quotes Ps.8:5 at 2:7,9 and shows this to be the correct translation.

Psalms 138.1: "...In front of other gods I shall make melody to you."

C.C.Broyles remarks on this verse: "It is possible the expression, before the "gods," can refer to human "judges"...., but it is more likely we should understand this term in the same sense as it is used in Psalm 82...., namely as "heavenly beings" (i.e., angels.)"-New International Biblical Commentary, Psalms, Hendrickson, 1999. In The Jewish Study Bible Featuring The Jewish Publication Society Tanakh Translation we read: "I...sing a hymn to You before the divine beings." In a marginal note its remarks: "Before the divine beings, the divine council(82.1; 89.7-8; 95.3)." Hence, "angels" the LXX translates here with aggelos, also the Latin Vulgate similarly, are "gods, " that is, "heavenly beings, " divine beings." This is the sense that angels, spirits like Jehovah and within His heavenly "council" are "gods." They are not rival "gods" as the foreign "gods," or any "strange god"(Isaiah 43.12) of the nations surrounding Jehovah God were and they are not "gods" that were due worship(which the "gods" of the nations were)which only the one true "God"("god" in a unique sense, way, "god" absolutely, hence "God" in English) should be. Hence, there is no conflict with angels being "gods" and the concept of there being only "one God." 

a god or ό θεός [God],"