"In the beginning," which is not to say that God had a beginning,
but from the perspective of man who is finite and exists in a temporal
mind frame, there was a point in time when "things" began.
God of course, who exists "from everlasting to everlasting (Psalm
90:2)," has no beginning. Yet, the physical creation which includes
and probably begins with angels, certainly had a beginning. And in reference
to that physical creation, God who declares "the end from the beginning
(Isaiah 46:10)," would certainly have the entire span of "time"
established in His "mind," and as per Gen. 1:1, there is a specific
"beginning" when these things "became (John 1:3),"
into existence. There is however a "reality" that predates this
act of creation and it is within that reality that we find the "conditions"
Here we find a "personality" designated as The Word, who is described
as being "with" THE God. The preposition "with," is
"pros." Not "para," which would indicate near to God
as in "close proximity to." But "with," as in intimate
association and fellowship with THE God.
"THE" God designates the one and only God as understood in the
context of the Jewish Old Testament revelation about God.
Furthermore, The Word is then designated as, "was God." This
is nothing less than a statement of "equal existence." The first
time God is mentioned, He is designated with the definite article (the),
to specify THE God, understood from the Old Testament. The second time,
the definite article is not included because "THE" God has already
been identified and in the Jewish frame of reference, there is only one
And yet, how can this "personality" be both "with"
THE God and "be God" at the same time without being a "different"
This has indeed caused much debate over the ages, but it is clearly resolved
when we come to terms with the Old Testament teaching that THE God is ONE
God who expresses Himself to His creation in three distinct and yet co-equal
Thus, before we can understand the significance of John 1:1, we must understand
the Old Testament revelation which the recipients of the book of John would
have as their frame of reference.
THE GODHEAD IN THE OLD TESTAMENT
The Godhead can be defined as a unity of divine personalities, co-equal
in essence and yet unique and distinct in the expression of that essence.
"The persons are not separate, but distinct. The Trinity
is composed of three united Persons without separate
existence--so completely united as to form One God."
(Systematic Theology, Vol. 1, page 276)
The "plurality" idea is revealed by the form and usage of the
word "elohim." Although there is not universal agreement, most
authorities recognize elohim to be the plural form of "el" and
"eloah" which have the basic meaning of power and might. The
word group becomes quite adequate to communicate man's idea of God, in
that his first "awareness" of God is certainly in the area of
divine "creative" power (Rom. 1:20; Psalm 19:1).
Elohim is first found at Gen. 1:1 where it occurs with a singular verb.
When we first read this plural noun with a singular verb there appears
to be an anomaly. But this inspired account is given with an assumed cultural
frame of reference on the part of the recipients who will see no anomaly.
We who approach this passage without that cultural frame of reference must
seek to find it within the immediate or distant context of scripture. We
find evidence in both areas that gives us the perspective that elohim in
the plural is used to designate the plurality factor within the Godhead
while the "oneness" factor is still preserved by using singular
verbs and pronouns.
Some have explained the plural elohim as a plural of intensity or majesty
and suggest that it carries no reference to "number" at all.
Both Trinitarians and non Trinitarians hold to this view and yet there
is no reason for Trinitarians to shy away from the "number" connotation
in fear of supporting a "plurality of Gods" idea. For the plural
use of elohim lends itself quite clearly to the standard definition of
the Trinity and we need not violate its obvious plural significance in
many passages by explaining it away as a "plural of intensity."
". . . and Elohim, a plural name that is used constantly as
if a singular grammatical form. It seems evident that the
doctrine of the Trinity is foreshadowed in this plural name."
(Systematic Theology, vol. 7, page 174)
In fact, the only way the Hebrew language could express the very real
plurality factor within the Godhead is to use a plural noun, and then contrast
it with the human counterfeit of polytheism. We see just such a contrast
at Joshua 24:23.
"Now therefore, put away the foreign gods
which are in your midst, and incline your hearts to
Yahweh, the Gods (elohim) of Israel."
We also have evidence in the immediate context of Genesis that there is
indeed a plurality of divine personalities. Our first point of evidence
is found at Gen. 1:26-27.
Then God (elohim) said, Let US make man
in OUR image, according to OUR likeness;
Notice we see that the plural noun is amplified by the plural pronoun found
"naturally" within the verbal form. In other words, whereas at
Gen. 1:1, there is a singular verb with the plural noun, elohim, here we
find a plural verb and plural pronouns. Why the difference? It is because
of the particular emphasis that God wants to communicate to His people.
At Gen. 1:1, the emphasis is on the "unity" of the Godhead in
the original act of creating the universe. All three personalities of the
Godhead participated in this act of creation and the unity of that action
is indicated by the translation, "God(s) He created."
At Gen. 1.26, we find the emphasis to be on the plurality and in fact,
relates that plurality specifically to the "image" in which man
was created. And yet, at the same time, the "unity" of the Godhead
is preserved by the singular form of the verb, "said." The translation
"And God(s) He said, Let US make man in OUR image . . ."
When we get to the next verse (Gen. 1:27) we see that the emphasis
returns to the "unity" factor within the Godhead as the focus
is on the "singular." Thus,
"And God(s) He created man in HIS own image."
This is the image of the "unity" factor within the Godhead.
Verse 26 emphasizes the image of the "plurality" factor within
The relation of this "plurality reality" that exists within the
Godhead to man's "created image," is not directly pertinent to
this article, but will be discussed at a later time.
The next item of contextual evidence is found at Gen. 2:7,
"Then Yahweh God (elohim) formed man of dust from the
ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life;
and man became a living being."
Here we see the same focus that was provided at Gen. 1:27. The emphasis
on the "unity" factor is preserved even though we find the "personal
name" of God, Yahweh, directly associated with the plural noun, elohim.
This indicates that the "name" of the Godhead is Yahweh and yet
we can still observe the "plurality factor" in the translation,
"Then Yahweh God(s), He formed . ."
In fact, I would suggest that a better rendering would be,
"Then Yahweh, The Godhead, He formed . . "
When we return to John 1:1 we find one of these divine "personalities"
designated as The Word and described in such a way so as to indicate an
equal share in essence. This "equality" between The Word and
The God is indicated by language elsewhere.
We notice from John 1:14, that this "The Word" became flesh and
dwelt among us. Thus, The God is the one who became flesh and dwelt among
us which indeed is what the name "Immanuel" means from Is. 7:14,
"God with us."
Accordingly at John 17:5, Jesus prays to the Father from the perspective
of His "humanity" just before His crucifixion:
"And now, glorify me together with Yourself, Father, with the
glory which I had beside you (here 'para' is used) before the world was."
(the "beginning" of John 1:1)
At Philippians 2:6, Paul relates that prior to the incarnation, Jesus
occupied a status of "being equal with God."
"Who while existing in the essential form
(morphe) of God, decided
that being equal (isos) with God (John 1:1),
was not a thing to be selfishly retained. . ."
"But He emptied Himself by taking the essence of a bond-servant, by
becoming in the likeness of men (Jn. 1:14)."
Thus, we have perfect agreement as to the reality that one of the divine
personalities of the Godhead "set aside" (emptied) Himself of
the "independent" use of those deity characteristics and that
He became a man in order to carry out the plan of redemption for the human
Prior to this act of "incarnation," we see that this same divine
personality of the Godhead was instrumental in the creation of the universe
which we observed at Gen. 1:1. We learn this from John 1:3, where it says
of The Word,
"All things came into being (became) by Him and apart
from Him nothing became that has become."
It is awesome then when we find this same divine personality who is
the creator identified at Isaiah 42:5 as "God Yahweh."
"Thus says God (el) Yahweh,
Who created the heavens and stretched them out,
Who spread out the earth and its offspring,
Who gives breath to the people on it,
And spirit to those who walk in it."
And find Him speaking at Isaiah 48:12-16,
"Listen to Me, O Jacob, even Israel whom I called;
I am He, I am the first, I am also the last.
The same one who is so designated at Rev. 22:13 as,
"I am the Alpha and the Omega
The First and the Last
the beginning and the end."
And is identified as Jesus at Rev. 22:16.
"Surely My hand founded the earth, And My right hand spread out
the heavens; When I call to them, they stand together."
This is definitely the same divine personality as identified as
THE WORD at John 1:1-3.
"Come near to Me (THE WORD), listen to this: From the first I
(THE WORD) have not spoken in secret, From the time it took place, I (THE
WORD) was there.
And now the Lord Yahweh (The Father) has sent Me (THE WORD), and His Spirit
Three distinct divine personalities are very clearly in view from this
passage and simply confirm what we learn throughout the rest of the bible
- that GOD is a Godhead; a plurality of divine personalities united equally
in essence and expressing themselves individually and uniquely to meet
the needs of HIS creation. Deut. 6:4 says,
"Hear O Israel, Yahweh our Gods (elohim);
Yahweh, a Unity."