Should John 1:1 be translated “the word was a god”?

“No, after all…
  • This would require a polytheistic interpretation

      Scholars have pointed out that the Jehovah's Witness interpretation would require one to “adopt a pagan interpretation of this verse.”1

      Murray Harris: “the theological context, viz., John's monotheism, makes this rendering of 1:1c impossible, for if a monotheist were speaking of the Deity he himself reverenced, the singular theos could be applied only to the Supreme Being, not to an inferior divine being or emanation as if theos were simply generic. That is, in reference to his own beliefs, a monotheist could not speak of theoi nor could he use theos in the singular (when giving any type of personal description) to any being other than the one true God whom he worshiped.” [Jesus as God: The New Testament Use of Theos in Reference to Jesus (Wipf & Stock Pub, 2008), 60.]

      1. Robert Bowman, The Jehovah's Witnesses, Jesus Christ, and the Gospel of John (Baker, 1989), 62.
  • “Yes, after all…
  • It is a singular anarthrous predicate noun preceding a verb

      This is relevant because, [allegedly] “Careful translators recognize that the articular construction of the noun points to an identity, a personality, whereas a singular anarthrous predicate noun preceding the verb points to a quality about someone.”1

      1. New World Translation, Reference Edition (Watch Tower Bible & Tract Society, 1981), 1579.
      2. Elsewhere, we read from The Watchtower that “The Journal of Biblical Literature says that expressions 'with an anarthrous [no article] predicate preceding the verb, are primarily qualitative in meaning.' As the Journal notes, this indicates that the logos can be likened to a god. It also says of John 1:1: 'The qualitative force of the predicate is so prominent that the noun [the·os'] cannot be regarded as definite.'…” [As cited in the Watchtower's booklet "Should you Believe in the Trinity?"]
        By way of response, however, Harner is in fact rejecting the possibility of translating John 1:1c as “a god” or “divine”. He discusses five available translations and concludes “Perhaps the clause could be translated, 'the Word had the same nature as God.' This would be one way of representing John's thought, which is, as I understand it, that ho logos, no less than ho theos, had the nature of theos. [Philip B. Harner, “Qualitative Anarthrous Predicate Nouns: Mark 15:39 and John 1:1.” in The Journal of Biblical Literature]