John 1:14 is generally used to say that "God" became "flesh" based on the understanding that "the Word" addressed in John 1:1 refers to God. However, other texts of Scripture appear at variance with this interpretation. The texts which help clarify the basis of this question are shown below. I seek a non-Trinitarian explanations for how these texts might be shown to agree with each other and not be found in contradiction.

Text (KJV) Typical Assumption Opposed by?
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. (John 1:1) "the Word" = God And the Word was made flesh . . . and we beheld his glory . . . . (vs. 14) VERSUS No man hath seen God at any time . . . . (vs. 18)
And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth. (John 1:14) God became a man (Jesus) God is not a man, that he should lie; neither the son of man, that he should repent: . . . . (Numbers 23:19; cf. 1 Samuel 15:29) AND For I am the LORD, I change not;. . . . (Malachi 3:6)

How do various Christian faith traditions (Unitarians, Jehovahs Witnesses, etc.) that believe in Jesus, reverence sacred scriptures, but don't believe the in Trinity as understood by the various Ecumenical Councils refute the syllogism:

  • If the Word is God and the Word became Flesh (in Jesus), why is the Jesus not God?

using scripture?


2 Answers 2


Clarify sense in which "the Word was God."

  1. Word was 'a god' (grammatically defensible, view of early church logos theorists before Trinitarianism was a thing, view of JWs).

  2. Word was 'goddish' (qualitatively the same, but not identical - view of Anthony Buzzard), or Word was 'divine' (view of Moffatt, although he's a Trinitarian it's compatible with certain Unitarian views).

  3. Word was God figuratively (view of Bill Schlegel).

Note a simple identity claim for 1:1 is highly problematic for Trinitarians. The Son of God = God? Really? I thought God was 3 persons.

So, Trinitarians have to paraphrase 1:1 into 'Trinitarianese'. "The 2nd P of T was with [the 1st P of T? the Trinity like someone is with a team or company?], and the 2nd P of T was [the 2nd P of T? of a divine substance that is shared with the other Ps of the T?]" Something like one of these. Trying to get a consistent sense of the first use of 'God' and second is a bit tricky. Trinitarians tend to be reluctant to actually spell it out, preferring the keep an air of mystery about the whole verse, as is appropriate for what is essentially a mysterian approach.

So, that Unitarians et al. have to paraphrase a part of it isn't an argument against Unitarianism if coming from a Trinitarian perspective. Indeed, the paraphrase seems a lot more straightforward in the various main U options. It's more of a problem if arguing with modalists, say.

Alternately, can accept 1:1 as a strong identity claim but then deny 1:14 as meaning the incarnation. "The Word became flesh" in what sense (the underlying Greek verb is vague)? Incarnation is only obvious if you already have a theory of incarnation. The Word 'informed' the flesh? The Word was 'reflected' in the flesh? The flesh became an 'image' of God's Word?

My own view of the two is that 1:1 'the Word was God' is similar to how Moses was made God in Exodus - the prologue uses poetic language and this is figurative, like saying in a poem "in the beginning was the voice, and the voice was with God, and the voice was God," where the voice isn't literally God, just as Moses isn't literally made God in Exodus 7:1 although that's what God says in the text - God isn't speaking literally. 1:14, OTOH, is meant as 'the Word came in the flesh', as it is translated in Weymouth's, and of course we're dealing with a new beginning at 1:1a of the Christian era and bringing into existence of the Kingdom, not the Genesis beginning that none of the early Christians really cared about tbh, so we're not dealing with the Word coming from primordial space-time or something like that - rather, Jesus entering into society in his itinerant ministry.

  • +1 for responding. Saying "a god" does not remove the difficulty with vss. 14 and 18. Saying "goddish" ignores the plain Greek language. Calling it "figurative" is just as "diligent" of explanation as the "mysterium" of the Trinitarians. Those answers just don't fit. There must be a sensible explanation which does not require pages of philosophy to expound. The Greek word "ginomai" in vs. 14, translated as "was made" (KJV) or "became" (some other versions), has no true equivalent in English, and I think this is one of the troublespots. If only someone could help explain it for us.
    – Biblasia
    Commented Nov 9, 2022 at 0:36
  • @Biblasia None of them requires pages of philosophy to expound, unlike Trinitarianism. "Calling it "figurative" is just as "diligent" of explanation as the "mysterium" of the Trinitarians." Not sure what this means. The prologue uses compact, poetic language. Don't like figures of speech? OK, but that's not a theological problem. Commented Nov 9, 2022 at 0:52
  • @Biblasia Q Jesus says he's the gate, but he doesn't have hinges made of iron. How could this be? A It's a figure of speech. He's not literally a gate. <<< Do you have a problem with this explanation? Commented Nov 9, 2022 at 1:14
  • No, that is clearly a figure of speech. But let me ask you a question in response: Where in the Bible does it say no one has seen this door/gate, despite the fact that they have clearly seen the one typified by the figure? You see, you are comparing an apple with an orange. Because something can be figurative in one place does not make anything else that we might happen to find difficult of explanation to be a figure.
    – Biblasia
    Commented Nov 9, 2022 at 1:22
  • 1
    @Biblasia Not really understanding you here. 1:18 is talking about how the Father (= God) hasn't been seen - of course He hasn't, He's spirit. 1:1 is about how the Son ('the Word') is the image (agent, representative) of the Father. As Jesus says, if you see me you see the Father. Commented Nov 9, 2022 at 1:31

This is an attempt to provide a simple answer without causing more questions.

The OP Q has a narrow focus which ignores important facts scripture provides.

1In the beginning was the word, and the word was with God, and the word was God… John 1:1

  • We note the word with. If everyone agrees God is supposed to be one, then anything or anyone with God is not God as God is God but something other.

  • We cannot then blithely ignore the with and say the logos was God anyway. Whatever, the word was God means it must make allowance for the with.

  • By being responsible, we can say, as some have appropriately done, what God was the logos was. Or, the logos was divine, which God is but this does not ignore the with.

  • “word,” “speech”, “principle”, “message” or “thought” are some other translations of logos found elsewhere in the NT. So we can say that whatever the logos is in John 1:1, it is not God as God is God, but fully represents God.

  • 1John 1 (the same author) further describes the logos as a which not an entity or person as God obviously is.

  • So we can now accept the logos became flesh v14 without contradiction. We can also accept the Gospels as written which do not include a complicated and mysterious incarnation - God became flesh.

  • We also have the entire NT which expresses Jesus as a man only, even from Jesus’ own lips, John 8:40. Do we also blithely ignore or twist these clear statements to maintain a constructed dogma with no authority from the word of God?

  • Finally, we have again, Jesus’ declaration that the Father is the only true God. The Apostles affirm this understanding consistently.

Thus Jesus cannot be God as God is God, but fully representative of Him (Heb 1:3) as declared with image and form etc. By allowing scripture to interpret scripture, we remove any confusion caused by taking one or two verse in isolation as the Q. suggests.

Of course Jesus - the logos become flesh, is now also with God - sitting at His right hand!

This is a Biblical Unitarian understanding of scripture. The supposed contradictions are only present with a dogmatic approach which accepts several presumptions by grasping at words in isolation of their fuller context.

  • 1
    +1 for your answer. I'm considering this, and researching whether the Greek supports what you have stated. I believe that the Bible, when properly understood, should not contradict itself, and you seem to be the first to offer a legitimate possibility for harmonizing these texts. As for the question having taken verses in isolation--things were muddled when the moderators first closed, then heavily edited the question, before allowing this to be reopened, virtually as a different question. I think the difficulty to my understanding was made more clear prior to those edits.
    – Biblasia
    Commented Nov 14, 2022 at 5:56
  • 1
    Ty, if we rely on pure interpretation of Greek with its tense and grammar but without retaining a broad scriptural context we will remain puzzled or perplexed, seeing unnecessary contradictions that were not intended by the authors. If Jesus is presented everywhere as a man, we cannot then grasp at a verse here or there to make it say otherwise through careless interpretation of an ambiguous word or unusual phrase. Yes trying to conform to mods expectations can be bewildering at times esp. when asking the more challenging questions.
    – steveowen
    Commented Nov 14, 2022 at 7:24
  • @steveowen the problem with your synthesis here Steve is that in the book of Revelation, Jesus is also described as "sitting in the midst (clearly middle/centre) of the throne". This is not possible if he isn't also Jehovah God! The reason why is simple, I refer you back to Isaiah 45..."Jehovah God does not delegate His authority to anyone"!
    – Adam
    Commented Nov 15, 2022 at 7:44
  • Sorry that is without credibility as he is separated, as distinct from God, everywhere else. Rev 3 he is still calling God his God. He is still sitting next to God. When you pick one verse as a proof-text, you are denying all the others. You have to interpret Isaiah in the fashion you want and again, it is one ambiguous verse. We should hang doctrines on the clear and consistent verses, not the unusual or odd ones. God does give authority to the man Jesus - like ALL the time so he can do miracles and forgive sin etc.
    – steveowen
    Commented Nov 15, 2022 at 8:09
  • You really should go back and read the Gospels again and just accept that there is no incarnation and Jesus is not called God anywhere, except by Thomas, but that's another odd verse you need to interpret your way to fit dogma.
    – steveowen
    Commented Nov 15, 2022 at 8:10

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .