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John 1:1 says:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

A very common rebuttal to the Trinitarian understanding of this verse goes something like this:

If the Word is God then how can the Word be with God? How does it make sense to say that God is with Himself?

What is the Trinitarian response to this objection?

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  • Upvoted this q. I wil note that had I or another non trinitarian asked this same q it would not have recd such a positive response
    – user23657
    Jan 23 at 13:13
  • @Kris Any non-trinitarian asking the exact same Q would get trinitarian answers. As duplicate Qs are not allowed, can you ask a similar one, let me know, and I shall up-vote and answer it, gladly.
    – Anne
    Jan 26 at 16:58

3 Answers 3

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That the "the Word [the Son] was with (apud, πρὸς) God [the Father]" means that the Father and Son are distinct Divine Persons yet inseparably united (since God is supremely simple/one). St. Thomas Aquinas writes (De veritate, q. 4 a. 2 s.c. 2):

In the Gospel according to St. John (1:1) we read: “The Word was with God.” Since with is a transitive preposition, it implies a distinction. Consequently, the Word is distinct from God [the Father].

And these two Divine Persons are co-eternal—as St. Basil, quoted by St. Thomas in Catena Aurea of John 1, writes:

Again he repeats this, was, because of men blasphemously saying that there was a time when He was not. Where then was the Word? Illimitable things are not contained in space. Where was He then? With God. For neither is the Father bounded by place, nor the Son by aught circumscribing.

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  • Upvoted Disagree with trinitarian POV but upvoted. It was easy and I recommend to all to do the same..
    – user23657
    Jan 22 at 18:51
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    And the Word (the Son) was with God (the Father) and the Word (the Son) was God (...). What would belong in the last parenthesis? It cannot be the Father. Jan 22 at 19:52
  • 2
    @MikeBorden That means the Son is consubstantial (has the same Divine Essence) with the Father. Sometimes God means God the Father (1st Person of the Trinity); sometimes it means the Divine Essence.
    – Geremia
    Jan 22 at 20:11
  • @MikeBorden Why does something have to be in your "parenthesis?" That's the end of the verse. (And this not a criticism). However, one can surmise that the Son is definitely God the Son. Also, verse 2 says "He/This one, meaning Jesus Christ was in the beginning with God and verse 3 explains what the Son was doing with His Father before the beginning of time and space. Just my two cents!
    – Mr. Bond
    Jan 23 at 0:38
  • @mrbind when did time and space begin?
    – user23657
    Jan 23 at 0:46
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Trinitarianism in John 1:1

You present the standard (and, in my opinion, a worthy) translation of John 1:1:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

This seems, as you point out, to present an contradiction between 'the Word was with God' and 'the Word was God'. John 1:1b fits well with Trinitarian doctrine: The [Person of the] Word (the Son) was with [the Person of ] God (the Father). It should be noted that 'with' (πρός (pros)) indicates a closer relationship than objects in physical proximity to each other. It is routinely used to indicate people in the presence of each other.

I suggest that this contradiction hangs on the phrase 'was God', and understanding it to identify the Word with the Person of God.

First, let us acknowledge that this verse, along with the rest of the Prologue, is not the easiest passage to translate into English. Some have suggested that it should read 'and the Word was a god', 'and the Word was God's' or 'and the Word was divine'. This last alternate helps illuminate the Trinitarian position. Now, 'the Word was divine' might certainly be interpreted in non-Trinitarian ways, for example, the Word was an angel. However, John 1:3 eliminates that idea from the Jewish mind by tying the Word to God as the agent of Creation. Further, there are arguments to be made that

If we thus render the passage as

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was divine.

However (again, in my opinion), 'divine' might be too soft here. Today, in English, we are happy to apply the word 'divine' to things that are clearly not God. I tend to follow the opinion expressed in the translation note on John 1:1c from NET:

The translation “what God was the Word was” is perhaps the most nuanced rendering, conveying that everything God was in essence, the Word was too. This points to unity of essence between the Father and the Son without equating the persons.

If we follow this translation, John 1:1 is rendered

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and what God was the Word was.

This fits well with the Trinitarian doctrine. John 1:1b distinguishes the Persons of the Father and Son while keeping them in a relationship. But John 1:1c does not identify the Person of the Word (Son) with the Person of God (the Father). Rather, it identifies the essence of the Word (Son) with the essence of God (the Father).

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    You say that pros means 'persons in the presence of one another' and then you go on to state that your opinion is that the text is 'identifying essence' not 'person' which appears to me to be a contradiction. Meta or para would, I suggest, be possible alternative prepositions were you correct in your interpretation : not (as you say) pros.
    – Nigel J
    Jan 23 at 8:29
  • There is no warrant whatsoever for 'the Word was fully God (sic)'. Neither the word 'fully' nor the concept are present on the page of scripture. John wrote : and God was the Word . And that is what he meant.
    – Nigel J
    Jan 23 at 11:47
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As a lifelong Trinitarian (baptised by the Church of Scotland in infancy, baptised into the Scottish Baptist Assembly in youth and received into independent fellowship in adulthood) I would say that this question is fundamental to the progressive revelation of Deity from the beginning of time.

I am brief for I am certain that others will express other aspects of this question and I need not strive, on my own, to do everything. For we are not solitary : we, Trinitarians, abide in plurality.


John’s words (the Word was with the Deity … and God was the Word, John 1:1, literal) are not uttered in a vacuum, but are part of a progressive revelation that begins with the word Elohim, Genesis 1:1, with the utterance of Deity ‘Let us make’, Genesis 1:26, and with the commandment ‘let light be’, Genesis 1:3, literal).

The use of the collective noun ‘elohim’ and the very fact that Deity speaks of ‘us’ - ‘let us make’ and ‘the man was as one of us’, Genesis 3:22 (see YLT for the correct Hebrew perfect tense) - that very fact poses the most basic of questions to anyone who seeks to know the ‘the true God and eternal life’.

That 'the Lord came to Abraham' and 'three men stood' and Abraham said 'My Lord' poses exactly the same questions, Genesis 18:1,2.

That when Moses sees a burning bush, he is viewed by Jehovah, and Elohim dwells in the bush and the Angel of the Lord makes utterance from the midst of that bush, enforces those same questions, Genesis 3:2 and 4.

That David evidently knows one whom he refers to as ‘the Lord’ and one whom he refers to as ‘my Lord’, Psalm 110:1, and that he desires not that ‘the Holy Spirit’ should be taken from him, Psalm 51:11, poses the questions all over again.

And that there should be a spectacle of three persons in a searing heat, a fiery blaze - a depiction of everlasting burnings - and that there should, also, be another figure, one of that group, yet, at the same time, an addition to that group, referred to as ‘son of Deity’ by the highest possible authority on earth at the time, Daniel 3:25, ensures that those questions lose neither their potency nor their intensity with the duration of the centuries . . . .

. . . . until John the chosen apostle utters the concept yet again and states that, at the instant of ‘beginning’ there is One who is both ‘with God’ and who is also ‘God’.


Theos’ (which can be very adequately translated as ‘Deity’ in the English language) denotes a matter of nature. It is the state of nature which is other than human and other than angelic. Yet it can, also, refer to that which is like itself. ‘Said I not ye are gods’, Psalm 82:6 and John 10:34, expresses that if men are godly, then can they be viewed as gods, but only if they ‘partake of the divine nature’.

‘The sons of God’, Genesis 6:4 and Job 1:6, are they who, made in spirit fashion, and viewed as such (until they relinquish that form and irreverently and erroneously leave their proper estate and take another form) are viewed as ‘gods’ in their creative nature : but only as long as they abide in it.

But he who - from the beginning, in an uncreated existence - was such, is revealed to be not alone. That divine nature is revealed to be something that is shared.

And if shared, then only possibly shared (in the very nature of what that divine essence is) in a perfection of love, in a perfection of unity and in a perfection of unanimity : a unanimity of purpose, of will, of desire, of intent, and of determination.

For the Deity desired not to dwell in isolation. Deity desired to bring many sons to glory, Hebrews 2:10.

And this - the Fatherhood, the Sonship and the Spirituality - of a union of divine love and purpose and perfection, is that that which inspires the worship of those who enter into that unity, through a new begetting (a birth from above, a birth anew, a birth again, a birth of water and of Spirit, and a birth of God) and through salvation. God dwells not alone : nor is it ‘meet’ for ‘the man to be alone’.

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