by Bobby Killmon
How do I show someone that the Word/Logos in John 1 is not a separate person of a trinity?
This is often a text used by our trinitarian friends to “prooftext” their position. Oneness believers who are in the anti-trinitarian position can answer this rather easily. The question is one of hermeneutics. Should we use 2nd-4th century creeds and philosophical developments are how they understood the “Word” in Jn. 1? In order to do this we must dismiss the entire OT usage of the term word and all material outside of Scripture used by Jews of the time. Even a growing number of non-apostolics are admitting this is not the best approach.
Numbers 22:38 says, “…the word that God putteth in my mouth, that shall I speak.” Jer. 23:9 says, “…because of the LORD, and because of the words of his holiness.” These references are clearly about the utterances of the prophet spoken by divine inspiration. Even though this “word” of the Lord is spoken of as independent of God, no one can seriously claim these show a second person. This is being readily admitted today by many non-Oneness scholars, such as noted Cambridge scholar James Dunn. Regarding passages that seem to show the Word being independent of God, Dunn states, “…that is more an accident of idiom than anything else.” He further argues, “But for the prophet the word he spoke under inspiration was no independent entity divorced from Yahweh.” Even Rudolf Bultmann says, “God’s word is God…” Dunn affirms this too stating, “God’s word is God’s act … the manifestation of his power, the real manifestation of God.”
Scripture speaks clearly in Psalms and the Prophets of the Word being God Himself acting in creation, in judgment, and in salvation. This is simply OT language used in its right and typical function. Even G. F. Moore says, “It is an error to see in such personifications an approach to personalization. Nowhere either in the Bible or in extra-canonical literature of the Jews is the word of God a personal agent or on the way to come such.” Catch that. This isn’t about PERSONS! Further, NOWHERE in any Jewish literature of the time does saying it’s persons exit. Dunn further admits that, “…a considerable consensus has been achieved by the majority of contemporary scholars would agree that the principal background against which the Logos prologue (Jn. 1) must be set is the OT itself…” The OT, not later doctrinal development. We are against this interpretation. We are anti-trinitarian in this sense.
As one man poignantly said, “Right readers must read rightly.” Necessarily then, we must first approach the Bible correctly as the inerrant Word of God. Then, we must read rightly or interpret it correctly by not presupposing our own ideas and reading them into the Scripture. The “Word of the Lord” must be defined by the OT usage, not a post-New Testament invention. The only way one can see a trinity in the reference to the “Word” in John 1 is to presuppose it, ignore the OT usage, interpret it a new way, and disregard the first century usage as well. This is telling “eis-egesis” (reading your meaning into the Bible) not true exegesis (drawing the meaning out of the text’s intention). Which approach is Christian? Which treats Scripture as the inerrant Word of God? The way we use Scripture tells on us. I want to not only say I love and revere His Word, but in my practice demonstrate this is true.