Dismantling the Muhammadan perception of John 1:1 Pt. 1

In this rebuttal I am going to address the desperate attempt made by Muhammadan-turned apostate-turned Muhammadan again-turned apostate again-turned Muhammad one more time Ibn Anwar to refute John 1:1’s explicit affirmation of Jesus’ prehuman existence as the uncreated Logos or Word http://unveiling-christianity.net/2016/02/23/dismantling-trinitarian-perception-john-11/.

I am going to break down the verse into three lines in order to assist the readers in understanding what the objection is:

a. In the beginning was the Word.

b. And the Word was with God (ton theon).

c. And the Word was God (theos).

The readers can see that in line c, the Greek word for God (theos) doesn’t have the Greek definite article for “the” (ho). This has led many anti-Trinitarians to assume that John was identifying Jesus as A god, e.g., as an inferior divinity to the Father, which is precisely what this Muslim greenhorn attempts to prove.

The Sahidic Coptic Version to the Rescue!

Ibn Anwar appeals to the Sahidic Coptic translation of John 1:1, which places an indefinite article before the Coptic word God in respect to the Word, in order to prove that John was identifying the prehuman Christ as A god, i.e., as a secondary deity to the Father:

Firstly, we point out that it is a documented fact, that the Sahidic Coptic MSS renders John 1:1c as “the word was a god” with “a god” in the “indefinite form.” If the Sahidic community had wanted to convey the Supreme Deity in the definite form, they most certainly had the grammatical tools to do so, but they chose to specifically write John 1:1c as “the word was a god” despite being Trinitarians themselves. This indicates that they saw the word as distinct from the father and that it did not share the same quality of Supreme Deity. If the Sahidic Coptic Christians had believed that the Word shared in equal divinity with the Father, they would certainly have designated the word with the phrase “the god” (with the definite article) and not as “a god.” The original Sahidic Coptic script is as follows:

ϨΝ ΤЄϨΟΥЄΙΤЄ ΝЄϤϢΟΟΠ ΝϬΙΠϢΑϪЄ, ΑΥѠ ΠϢΑϪЄ ΝЄϤϢΟΟΠ ΝΝΑϨΡΜ ΠΝΟΥΤЄ. ΑΥѠ ΝЄΥΝΟΥΤЄ ΠЄ ΠϢΑϪЄ

The key section that is understood as “and the word was a god” in the Sahidic Coptic variant above is “ΑΥѠ ΝЄΥΝΟΥΤЄ ΠЄ ΠϢΑϪЄ.” [5]

[5] See Jenott, Lance. “The Coptic Gospel of John.” N.p., 2003. Web. 23 Feb. 2016.

* The author Patrick Navas gives an excellent review of the Sahidic variant of John 1:1c:

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 to many? The Sahidic text renders John 1:1c as auw neunoute pe pshaje, clearly meaning literally “and a god was the Word.” Unlike Koine Greek, Sahidic Coptic has both the definite article, p, and the indefinite article, ou, which may contract to u following the joined verbal prefix ne (i.e., ne ou noute becomes neunoute.) 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 indefiniteness of the word theos in its second mention (John 1:1c) of “god,” by omitting the definite article before it, because Koine Greek had no indefinite article. But Coptic does have an indefinite article. and [sic] 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 Sahidic word “god,” noute, the Sahidic Coptic translation of John 1:1c is more precise than the translation in the Latin Vulgate, since Latin has neither a definite nor an indefinite article. The 6th century Coptic Bohairic version also employs the indefinite article before the Coptic word for “god,”: ne ounouti in the full form ou, because the verbal particle ne is not joined to it, reading: ne ounouti pe picaji, “a god was the Word.”” (Navas, P. (2007). Divine Truth or Human Tradition?: A Reconsideration of the Roman Catholic-Protestant Doctrine of the Trinity in Light of the Hebrew and Christian Scriptures. Indiana: Author House. p. 309)

The Sahidic Coptic version was most likely produced in the third century, and therefore serves as an early witness as to how certain Christians understood John 1:1c. However, this doesn’t mean that the scribe(s) who was/were responsible for this translation thought that Christ was an inferior divinity to God the Father, since the Muslim neophyte and his sources conveniently forgot to inform the readers that this same version renders John 1:18 as pnoute pShre nouwt’. This literally reads, “THE God the Son only,” e.g., both nouns “God” and “Son” are preceded by the definite article, and therefore describe the Lord Jesus as the Son who exists as THE God, and not some lesser divinity to the one true God!

That’s not at all. The Sahidic version translates Jesus’ use of ego eimi (“I Am”) in John 8:58 as empate abraHam Swpe anok TSOOP. Sahidic Coptic scholar George Horner renders this as, “Before Abraham became, I, I AM BEING.”

Compare this with the Sahidic version of Exodus 3:14:

anok pe peTSOOP’… Je peTSOOP’ pe ntaFtnno oyt’ Sarwtn.

“I am He who is…This is He who is who has sent me to you.”

Note that the term TSOOP appears in both verses.

We, thus, have a clear parallel between the words of Jesus and Jehovah, indicating that the scribe(s) that produced this early version understood Christ to be identifying himself as the very God that appeared to Moses in the burning bush!

The Sahidic Coptic isn’t the only early witness to connect Jesus’ emphatic declaration to his eternal prehuman existence in John 8:58, with Jehovah’s own unique name that was revealed to Moses:

But wherefore said He not, Before Abraham was, I was, instead of I Am? As the Father uses this expression, I Am, so also does Christ; for it signifies continuous Being, irrespective of all time. On which account the expression seemed to them to be blasphemous. Now if they could not bear the comparison with Abraham, although this was but a trifling one, had He continually made Himself equal to the Father, would they ever have ceased casting stones at Him? (John Chrysostom, Homilies on John, Homily 55 http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/240155.htm; bold and underline emphasis ours)

What’s more, the Sahidic rendering provides ancient support that the following interpretations of John 8:58 are absolutely correct:

‘Amen chtl. 1:51. Prin + acc. and infin., “before.” Genesthai (aor. mid. infin. Of ginomai) stands in sharp contrast with einai: “Before Abraham came into existence/was born, I AM.” A similar construction is found in Ps 89:2, pro hore geneetheenai su ei, “before the mountains came into existence, you exist.” Heb. ‘ani hu’, “I (am) he” (= ‘Ego eimi in the LXX) was Yahweh’s self-designation (Isa 43:10; 46:4; 48:12). The timeless eimi points to the absolute, independent, and ETERNAL existence of Jesus; it places Jesus “in God’s existence BEYOND TIME, in his ETERNAL PRESENT” (Schnackenberg 2:223; he believes Exodus 3:14 [LXX], ‘Ego eimi ho on forms the basis of Jesus’ claim [2:224, 494 n. 144]). Barrett spells out the implications of eimi this way: “I ETERNALLY WAS, as now I am, and ever continue to be” (352). (Murray J. Harris, John: Exegetical Guide to the Greek New Testament [B & H Publishing Group, Nashville, TN 2015], p. 183; capital and underline emphasis ours)

‘Ego eimi may be rendered in four basic ways:

1. “I AM” (Brown 346). Jesus is claiming to bear the divine name (Isa 43:10-11; Exod 3:14) as the unique and ultimate revealer of God (cf. Brown 536-37). He is not claiming to be Yahweh himself, whether Yahweh be considered the Father or the totality of the Godhead, but he is claiming an identity of nature as the eternal Savior and a parity of status.

2. “I am he” (Schnackenberg 2:196; NIV, RSV, NRSV; Beasley-Murray 124, “I am [he]”) which is the OT revelation formula (Heb. ‘ani hu’, “I [am] he”) depicting the nature and presence of God as Savior. “[I]n Jesus God says his ‘It is I’” (Schnackenberg 2:200). Cf. ‘ego eimi, “It is I” in 6:20.

3. “I am (for ever) the same,” which is the meaning of the Heb. ‘ani hu’ (‘ego eimi in the LXX) in Isa 41:4; 43:10, 13l 46:4; 48:12 (cf. Barrett 342).

4. “I am what I am” (NEB, REB), “I Am Who I Am” (GNB; cf. Exod 3:14). (Ibid., p. 172; bold emphasis ours)

And:

They needed to believe that Jesus was “I am.” In context, this phrase has heavy theological connotations (cf. vv. 28, 58; 13:19). It appeared enigmatic at first, but later Jesus’ hearers realized that He was claiming to be God (cf. v. 59). The NIV’s “the one I claim to be” is an interpretation of Jesus’ meaning that is perhaps more misleading than helpful. Jesus was alluding to the title that God gave Himself in the Old Testament (Exod. 3:14; Deut. 32:39; Isa. 41:4; 43:10, 13, 25; 46:4; 48:12). Essentially “I am” means the eternally self-existent being.[509] Unless a person believes that Jesus is God, in contrast with less than God, he or she will die in his or her sins…

This was the third and last of Jesus’ solemn pronouncements in this discourse (cf. vv. 34, 51). If Jesus had only wanted to claim that He existed before Abraham, He could have said, “I was.” By saying, “I am,” He was not just claiming preexistence but deity (cf. vv. 24, 28; 5:18; Exod. 3:14; Isa. 41:4; 43:13).

It is eternity of being and not simply being that has lasted through several centuries that the expression indicates.”[534]

“The meaning here is: Before Abraham came into being, I eternally was, as now I am, and ever continue to be.”[535]

Jesus existed before Abraham came into being (Gr. genesthai).

[509]See Charles Gianotti, “The Meaning of the Divine Name YHWH,” Bibliotheca Sacra 142:565 (January-March 1985):38-51…

[534]Morris, p. 420.

[535]Barrett, p. 352. (Dr. Thomas L. Constable, Notes on John, 2016 Edition http://www.soniclight.com/constable/notes/htm/NT/John/John.htm; bold emphasis ours)

All of this shows that the Sahidic translator(s) clearly understood the Son to be fully divine, and therefore coequal with God the Father in essence.

As such, the employment of the indefinite article in John 1:1c cannot possibly mean that the producer(s) of this ancient version believed that Christ was a secondary, inferior divine being to the one true God. Rather, it seems reasonably certain that the indefinite article was used to differentiate the Word from the God he was with, i.e., the Father, while also emphasizing the qualities or nature of the Word, e.g., that the Word was God in nature, and therefore essentially one with the God with whom he has eternally existed.

This is precisely what the Greek of John 1:1 conveys:

“In the beginning” recalls the opening words of Genesis 1:1: “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” The expression does not refer to a particular moment of time but assumes A TIMELESS ETERNITY…  The preposition “with” in the phrase “the Word was with God” indicates both equality and distinction of identity along with association. The phrase can be rendered “face to face with.” It may, therefore, imply personality, coexistence with the Creator, and yet be an expression of his creative being. The position of the noun God in the Greek text marks it as a predicate, stressing description rather than individualization. The “Word” was deity, one with God, rather than “a god” or another being of the same class. This is THE REAL MEANING OF THE PHRASE. Unity of nature rather than similarity or likeness is implied. The eternal coexistence and unity of the Word with God is unmistakably asserted. (Merrill C. Tenney, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary with the New International Version (John and Acts), Frank E. Gaebelein (general editor) [Zondervan, Grand Rapids, MI 1981], Volume 9, p. 28; capital and underline emphasis ours)

The greenhorn himself provides implicit corroboration for my argument since he candidly admits that the Sahidic Coptic version was produced by Trinitarians:

“…but they chose to specifically write John 1:1c as “the word was a god” despite being Trinitarians themselves…” (Bold and italicized emphasis ours)

Now who in their right mind would think for a moment that these Trinitarians meant to depict Christ as a lesser, inferior deity to the one true God solely because they placed the indefinite article before the word God, seeing that they all believed that Jesus is the second Person of the Godhead, and therefore eternally coequal to the Father in essence?

I’m not through with this Muslim greenhorn just yet, since I have more to say in the next segment of my rebuttal https://answeringislamblog.wordpress.com/2018/12/29/dismantling-the-muhammadan-perception-of-john-11-pt-2/.

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