Pastor John, I am told that members of the Jehovah’s Witnesses (JW’s) are trained for upwards of five hours every week just to reach Christians. That is a whole lot of time, I am sure you would agree.
Dr. James White once told me of an encounter he had where a JW recited a 2-3 minute speech about John 1:1 that he had memorized concerning Greek words and constructions. At the end of the speech Dr White, a noted New Testament Greek scholar, pulled out his Greek New Testament from the shelf and handed it to the man and asked him to show him what he (the JW) was saying from the text.
“What’s that?” the JW asked.
“Dr. White said, “it’s the Greek of John chapter one that you are so busy telling me about.”
The man then admitted that he did not know how to read Greek. He had memorized a very lengthy speech (no doubt, provided by the Watchtower group) but could not read a single Greek word.
In witnessing to Jehovah’s Witnesses and seeking to prove the Deity of Christ from the New Testament, I generally would not go to John 1:1 straight away, for although what I would say would be correct, they would no doubt have heard so much propaganda about the verse (hours and hours of teaching) that they can recite the Watchtower’s interpretation from memory and discussion on this verse does not even cause them to engage their brains in any thinking process. I want them to think about the Scripture, and so usually would go to other verses to prove Christ’s Deity, Colossians 2:9 being a good one to start with.
But as to your question, the final phrase of John 1:1 is correctly translated in the Bible you have. I know of no scholarly translation that would affirm the translation of the New World Translation (NWT). Even translations put together by people with a bias against Christianity, but who know Greek, translate John 1:1 the way your Bible does. They know that the text teaches Christ’s full deity, even if they do not believe it to be a true statement.
The Greek of John 1:1 reads, “?? ???? ?? ? ?????, ??? ? ????? ?? ???? ??? ????, ??? ???? ?? ? ?????.” Transliterated into English it reads, “En arche en ho logos, kai ho logos en pros ton theon, kai theos en ho logos.’
The final phrase “??? ???? ?? ? ?????” is the one in question, “kai theos en ho logos.”
kai – and
theos – God
en – was
ho – the
logos – word
A very literal translation of these words would therefore be “and God was the word.”
Let me quote my friend at this point, Dr. James White (critical consultant for the New American Standard Bible):
“…the passage teaches that the Word, as to His essential nature, is God. John does not here call the Word “a divine one,” as some polytheistic Greek might say. He did not use the adjective, theios, which would describe a divine nature, or a god-like one. Instead, he used theos, the very word John will use consistently for the Father, the “only true God” (17:3). He uses the term three times of Jesus in the Gospel, here, in 1:18, and in 20:28. It cannot be doubted that John would never call a creature theos. His upbringing and Jewish heritage forbad that.”
Benjamin B. Warfield wrote:
“And the Word was with God.” The language is pregnant. It is not merely coexistence with God that is asserted, as of two beings standing side by side, united in local relation, or even in a common conception. What is suggested is an active relation of intercourse. The distinct personality of the Word is therefore not obscurely intimated. From all eternity the Word has been with God as a fellow: He who in the very beginning already “was,” “was” also in communion with God. Though He was thus in some sense a second along with God, He was nevertheless not a separate being from God: “And the Word was” –still the eternal “was” –“God.” In some sense distinguishable from God, He was in an equally true sense identical with God. There is but one eternal God; this eternal God, the Word is; in whatever sense we may distinguish Him from the God whom He is “with,” He is yet not another than this God, but Himself is this God. The predicate “God” occupies the position of emphasis in this great declaration, and is so placed in the sentence as to be thrown up in sharp contrast with the phrase “with God,” as if to prevent inadequate inferences as to the nature of the Word being drawn even momentarily from that phrase. John would have us realize that what the Word was in eternity was not merely God’s coeternal fellow, but the eternal God’s self.” – Benjamin Breckenridge Warfield, The Person and Work of Christ, (Philadelphia: The Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Company, 1950), p. 53
Dr White continues,
“The Beloved Apostle walks a tight line here. By the simple omission of the article (“the”, or in Greek, ho) before the word for God in the last phrase, John avoids teaching Sabellianism, while by placing the word where it is in the clause, he defeats another heresy, Arianism, which denies the true Deity of the Lord Jesus. A person who accepts the inspiration of the Scriptures cannot help but be thrilled at this passage.
John goes on in verse two to reiterate the eternal fellowship of the Father and Son, making sure that all understand that “this one,” the Word, was (there it is again) in the beginning pros ton theon, with God. Their fellowship and relationship precedes all else, and it is timeless.
As icing on the cake, John then precludes anyone from misunderstanding his claim that Jesus is eternally God by writing verse 3. “All things came into being by Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being.” One can hardly be more inclusive than that. There is simply nothing that is existent anywhere that was not created by the Word. He created everything. Obviously, therefore, if one can be described as creating everything, one must be the Creator, and certainly not a creation. The Word is the Creator. All people reading John’s words would understand that the Creator is God, not some lower being created by God to do the work for Him. By not qualifying his statement, John assured that we could correctly understand his intention and his teaching concerning Christ, the Word. He is eternally God, the Creator.”
For a more detailed analysis of the verse, I would point you to two articles found here.