by R. G. Wallace

Beginnings: THE GODHEAD

John 1:1,
"In the beginning was The Word
and The Word was with The God and The Word was God.

"In the beginning," which is not to say that God had a beginning, but from the perspective of man who is finite and exists in a temporal mind frame, there was a point in time when "things" began.
God of course, who exists "from everlasting to everlasting (Psalm 90:2)," has no beginning. Yet, the physical creation which includes and probably begins with angels, certainly had a beginning. And in reference to that physical creation, God who declares "the end from the beginning (Isaiah 46:10)," would certainly have the entire span of "time" established in His "mind," and as per Gen. 1:1, there is a specific "beginning" when these things "became (John 1:3)," into existence. There is however a "reality" that predates this act of creation and it is within that reality that we find the "conditions" of
John 1:1.

Here we find a "personality" designated as The Word, who is described as being "with" THE God. The preposition "with," is "pros." Not "para," which would indicate near to God as in "close proximity to." But "with," as in intimate association and fellowship with THE God.
"THE" God designates the one and only God as understood in the context of the Jewish Old Testament revelation about God.

Furthermore, The Word is then designated as, "was God." This is nothing less than a statement of "equal existence." The first time God is mentioned, He is designated with the definite article (the), to specify THE God, understood from the Old Testament. The second time, the definite article is not included because "THE" God has already been identified and in the Jewish frame of reference, there is only one God.

And yet, how can this "personality" be both "with" THE God and "be God" at the same time without being a "different" God.
This has indeed caused much debate over the ages, but it is clearly resolved when we come to terms with the Old Testament teaching that THE God is ONE God who expresses Himself to His creation in three distinct and yet co-equal personalities.
Thus, before we can understand the significance of John 1:1, we must understand the Old Testament revelation which the recipients of the book of John would have as their frame of reference.


The Godhead can be defined as a unity of divine personalities, co-equal in essence and yet unique and distinct in the expression of that essence. Chafer writes:

"The persons are not separate, but distinct. The Trinity
is composed of three united Persons without separate
existence--so completely united as to form One God."
(Systematic Theology, Vol. 1, page 276)

The "plurality" idea is revealed by the form and usage of the word "elohim." Although there is not universal agreement, most authorities recognize elohim to be the plural form of "el" and "eloah" which have the basic meaning of power and might. The word group becomes quite adequate to communicate man's idea of God, in that his first "awareness" of God is certainly in the area of divine "creative" power (Rom. 1:20; Psalm 19:1).

Elohim is first found at Gen. 1:1 where it occurs with a singular verb. When we first read this plural noun with a singular verb there appears to be an anomaly. But this inspired account is given with an assumed cultural frame of reference on the part of the recipients who will see no anomaly. We who approach this passage without that cultural frame of reference must seek to find it within the immediate or distant context of scripture. We find evidence in both areas that gives us the perspective that elohim in the plural is used to designate the plurality factor within the Godhead while the "oneness" factor is still preserved by using singular verbs and pronouns.

Some have explained the plural elohim as a plural of intensity or majesty and suggest that it carries no reference to "number" at all. Both Trinitarians and non Trinitarians hold to this view and yet there is no reason for Trinitarians to shy away from the "number" connotation in fear of supporting a "plurality of Gods" idea. For the plural use of elohim lends itself quite clearly to the standard definition of the Trinity and we need not violate its obvious plural significance in many passages by explaining it away as a "plural of intensity."
Chafer writes:

". . . and Elohim, a plural name that is used constantly as
if a singular grammatical form. It seems evident that the
doctrine of the Trinity is foreshadowed in this plural name."
(Systematic Theology, vol. 7, page 174)

In fact, the only way the Hebrew language could express the very real plurality factor within the Godhead is to use a plural noun, and then contrast it with the human counterfeit of polytheism. We see just such a contrast at Joshua 24:23.

"Now therefore, put away the foreign gods (elohim)
which are in your midst, and incline your hearts to
Yahweh, the Gods (elohim) of Israel."

We also have evidence in the immediate context of Genesis that there is indeed a plurality of divine personalities. Our first point of evidence is found at Gen. 1:26-27.

Then God (elohim) said, Let US make man
in OUR image, according to OUR likeness;

Notice we see that the plural noun is amplified by the plural pronoun found "naturally" within the verbal form. In other words, whereas at Gen. 1:1, there is a singular verb with the plural noun, elohim, here we find a plural verb and plural pronouns. Why the difference? It is because of the particular emphasis that God wants to communicate to His people.

At Gen. 1:1, the emphasis is on the "unity" of the Godhead in the original act of creating the universe. All three personalities of the Godhead participated in this act of creation and the unity of that action is indicated by the translation, "God(s) He created."
At Gen. 1.26, we find the emphasis to be on the plurality and in fact, relates that plurality specifically to the "image" in which man was created. And yet, at the same time, the "unity" of the Godhead is preserved by the singular form of the verb, "said." The translation then reads,

"And God(s) He said, Let US make man in OUR image . . ."

When we get to the next verse (Gen. 1:27) we see that the emphasis returns to the "unity" factor within the Godhead as the focus is on the "singular." Thus,

"And God(s) He created man in HIS own image."

This is the image of the "unity" factor within the Godhead. Verse 26 emphasizes the image of the "plurality" factor within the Godhead.
The relation of this "plurality reality" that exists within the Godhead to man's "created image," is not directly pertinent to this article, but will be discussed at a later time.

The next item of contextual evidence is found at Gen. 2:7,

"Then Yahweh God (elohim) formed man of dust from the
ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life;
and man became a living being."

Here we see the same focus that was provided at Gen. 1:27. The emphasis on the "unity" factor is preserved even though we find the "personal name" of God, Yahweh, directly associated with the plural noun, elohim. This indicates that the "name" of the Godhead is Yahweh and yet we can still observe the "plurality factor" in the translation, "Then Yahweh God(s), He formed . ."
In fact, I would suggest that a better rendering would be,

"Then Yahweh, The Godhead, He formed . . "

When we return to John 1:1 we find one of these divine "personalities" designated as The Word and described in such a way so as to indicate an equal share in essence. This "equality" between The Word and The God is indicated by language elsewhere.
We notice from John 1:14, that this "The Word" became flesh and dwelt among us. Thus, The God is the one who became flesh and dwelt among us which indeed is what the name "Immanuel" means from Is. 7:14, "God with us."

Accordingly at John 17:5, Jesus prays to the Father from the perspective of His "humanity" just before His crucifixion:

"And now, glorify me together with Yourself, Father, with the glory which I had beside you (here 'para' is used) before the world was." (the "beginning" of John 1:1)

At Philippians 2:6, Paul relates that prior to the incarnation, Jesus
occupied a status of "being equal with God."

"Who while existing in the essential form (morphe) of God, decided that being equal (isos) with God (John 1:1),
was not a thing to be selfishly retained. . ."

Verse 7,
"But He emptied Himself by taking the essence of a bond-servant, by becoming in the likeness of men (Jn. 1:14)."

Thus, we have perfect agreement as to the reality that one of the divine personalities of the Godhead "set aside" (emptied) Himself of the "independent" use of those deity characteristics and that He became a man in order to carry out the plan of redemption for the human race.

Prior to this act of "incarnation," we see that this same divine personality of the Godhead was instrumental in the creation of the universe which we observed at Gen. 1:1. We learn this from John 1:3, where it says of The Word,

"All things came into being (became) by Him and apart
from Him nothing became that has become."

It is awesome then when we find this same divine personality who is the creator identified at Isaiah 42:5 as "God Yahweh."

"Thus says God (el) Yahweh,
Who created the heavens and stretched them out,
Who spread out the earth and its offspring,
Who gives breath to the people on it,
And spirit to those who walk in it."

And find Him speaking at Isaiah 48:12-16,

"Listen to Me, O Jacob, even Israel whom I called;
I am He, I am the first, I am also the last.
The same one who is so designated at Rev. 22:13 as,
"I am the Alpha and the Omega
The First and the Last
the beginning and the end."

And is identified as Jesus at Rev. 22:16.
Isaiah 48:13,

"Surely My hand founded the earth, And My right hand spread out the heavens; When I call to them, they stand together."

This is definitely the same divine personality as identified as

THE WORD at John 1:1-3.
Isaiah 48:16,

"Come near to Me (THE WORD), listen to this: From the first I (THE WORD) have not spoken in secret, From the time it took place, I (THE WORD) was there.
And now the Lord Yahweh (The Father) has sent Me (THE WORD), and His Spirit (Holy Spirit)."

Three distinct divine personalities are very clearly in view from this passage and simply confirm what we learn throughout the rest of the bible - that GOD is a Godhead; a plurality of divine personalities united equally in essence and expressing themselves individually and uniquely to meet the needs of HIS creation. Deut. 6:4 says,

"Hear O Israel, Yahweh our Gods (elohim);
Yahweh, a Unity."


Comments and questions are always welcome!



İRon Wallace, Anyone is free to reproduce this material and distribute it,
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