The text says:
"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God."- KJV
Ἐν ἀρχῇ ἦν ὁ λόγος, καὶ ὁ λόγος ἦν πρὸς τὸν Θεόν, καὶ Θεὸς ἦν ὁ λόγος.
The traditional interpretation of this verse states that the logos is God the Son- the second person of the triune god, who was both with God, and is God.
Unitarians do not believe that the λόγος (logos) was a preexisting person called "the Word". Logos is a Greek philosophical term which John's audience would have been well aware of. With regards to that aspect, logos means:
- reason, the mental faculty of thinking, meditating, reasoning, calculating, etc.: once so in the phrase ὁ λόγος τοῦ Θεοῦ, of the divine mind, pervading and noting all things by its proper force, Hebrews 4:12
Unitarians believe that this reason was with God in the beginning. It is His very reason for preparing all things.
The idea that a preexisting entity called "the logos" was the son of God first came from Philo of Alexandria. Philo mixed Platonism and Stoic philosophy with the Hebrews Scriptures, and Justin Martyr expanded on his idea of a preexisting logos- believing Jesus to be this entity.
For this reason, in the verses after John 1:1, Unitarians would translate the masculine pronoun οὗτος as "it":
οὗτος ἦν ἐν ἀρχῇ πρὸς τὸν Θεόν
it was in beginning with the God
According to the KJV, "the Word was God". What is interesting here is that prior to this, John says the logos was "with ton theon", or "the God". However, when John says "the logos was theos", there is no definite article. Various Arian groups interpret this to mean "a god", or "a mighty one" because of its association with the word אֱלֹהִים (elohim). This would mean that a god or preexisting angel (usually believed to be Michael) was "incarnated" into flesh to become a man.
Laymen trinitarians believe that the missing article is irrelevant, and that John is explicitly saying "the logos was God".
Neither of these interpretations make sense to Unitarians. First, nothing in the Scriptures indicate that a preexisting "god" helped YHVH prepare the universe. God says:
Thus saith YHVH, thy redeemer, and he that formed thee from the womb, I am YHVH that maketh all things; that stretcheth forth the heavens alone; that spreadeth abroad the earth by myself" Isaiah 44:24
Unitarians have the same problem with the trinitarian interpretation, but also because the text says "the logos was theos". Why would it be said that the logos "was" God, if he supposedly is God?
Trinitarian scholars admit that the missing article is significant. They say that had the article been there, this would be Sabellianism. According to trinitarian scholar James Moffatt:
"'The Word was God...And the Word became flesh,' simply means "the word was divine...And the Word became human.' The Nicene faith, in the Chalcedon definition, was intended to conserve both of these truths against theories that failed to present Jesus as truly God and truly man..." (Jesus Christ the Same, Abingdon-Cokesbury, 1945, p.61).
Trinitarian scholar B.F. Westcott agrees, saying:
"The predicate [theos) stands emphatically first, as in v.24. It is necessarily without the article (theos not ho theos) inasmuch as it describes the nature of the Word and does not identify His Person... No idea of inferiority of nature is suggested by the form of expression, which simply affirms the true deity of the Word." (The Gospel According to St. John, Eerdmans, 1958 reprint, p. 3.)
William Barclay also wrote about this, stating that John was not describing "who" the logos was, but "what" the logos was:
Finally John says that "The Word was God". There is no doubt that this is a difficult saying for us to understand, and it is difficult because Greek, in which John wrote, had a different way of saying things from the way in which English speaks. When the Greek uses a noun it almost always uses the definite article with it. The Greek for God is 'theos', and the definite article is 'ho'. When Greek speaks about God it does not simply say 'theos'; it says 'ho theos'. Now, when Greek does not use the definite article with a noun that noun becomes much more like an adjective; it describes the character, the quality of the person. John did not say that the Word was 'ho theos'; that would have been to say that the Word was identical with God; he says that the Word was 'theos'- without the definite article- which means that the Word was, as we might say, of the very same charactor and quality and essence and being as God. When John said 'The Word was God' he was not saying that Jesus is identical with God, he was saying that Jesus is so perfectly the same as God in mind, in heart, in being that in Jesus we perfectly see what God is like." (The Gospel of John, vol.1, The Dailey Study Bible Series, Saint Andrew Press, p. 39)
This means that as far as John 1:1 is concerned, the logos is not the one true God. The logos is the reason of God, and the reason was of a divine nature, because it was God's reason. Just as John says God is Love, God is Light, God is True...God is Reason.
καὶ ὁ λόγος σὰρξ ἐγένετο καὶ ἐσκήνωσεν ἐν ἡμῖν, καὶ ἐθεασάμεθα τὴν δόξαν αὐτοῦ, δόξαν ὡς μονογενοῦς παρὰ πατρός, πλήρης χάριτος καὶ ἀληθείας.
"And the reason flesh became, and dwelt among us. And we beheld the glory of it- a glory like of an only-begotten of a father- full of grace and of truth" John 1:14
God's reason became a man, because mankind is God's reason for preparing all things. After God prepared all things, He gave it to Adam, who was made in His image. God's reason was to make Adam/mankind perfect, and this was accomplished through Yeshua...the perfect man.