What to say to Jehovah's Witnesses
There are a total of four (4) occurrences in the New Testament where the singular predicate, theos, precedes the verb and does not have the article. Let’s look at each of these verses to see how the New World Translation has translated them.
1. Luke 20:38. "He is a God, not of the dead, but of the living" (NWT)
theos de ouk estin nekron
a God – not he is of the dead
He is not a God of the dead
In this verse, we have theos appearing as a singular predicate before the verb, "is," and is not preceded by the article. "He" is implied and is the subject. "A God" is the predicate because it describes the subject. "He [subject] is [verb] a God [predicate] ...". Although indefinite [ie. without the Greek article], the NWT rightly translates theos as "a God" with a big "G," meaning Jehovah.
2. John 8:54. "It is my Father that glorifies me, he who you say is your God" (NWT)
theos hemon estin
God of you he is
He is your God.
Theos again is a singular predicate occurring before the verb "is", and is not preceded by the article. "He [subject] is [verb] your [pronoun] God [predicate]." Yet, the NWT again correctly translates "God" with a big "G".
3. Philippians 2:13. "For God is the one that, for the sake of [his] good pleasure, is acting within you" (NWT)
theos gar estin ho energon en hymin
God for is the one working in you
For God is the one working in you
Theos is a singular predicate occurring before the verb "is", and is not preceded by the article. "The one working" has the article (ho) and is considered to be the subject. The predicate, "God", further describes who the subject is, "The one working [subject] in you [prepositional phrase] is [verb] God [predicate]".
"God" appears first in the sentence for emphasis. Again, the NWT correctly renders "God" with a big "G".
4. John 1:1. "the Word was a god" (NWT)
theos en ho logos
God was the Word
Theos is a singular predicate occurring before the verb "was", and is not preceded by the article. "The Word [subject] was [verb] God [predicate]". The inconsistency of the New World Translation here is clear. Of the four occurrences in the New Testament where the Greek theos is a predicate occurring before the verb and is not preceded by the article, this is the only time the NWT has not translated it "God" with a capital "G". John uses the term "God" to describe the Word. Deity is the certain character or quality described of the subject!
In conclusion, when we conduct a study of the reason provided by the Watchtower Translation Committee of the New World Translation why John 1:1 should be translated, "the Word was a god", we find a gross inconsistency. We saw that there is a total of four instances in the New Testament where the predicate theos precedes the verb and does not have the article. In three of the four instances, the NWT has translated it "God" in conflict with their own rule.
 There are actually 2 others but these are not readily apparent: Romans 8:33 reads theos ho dikaion ("God is the one who justifies") and John 10:34 that reads theoi este ("gods you are" or "You are gods". In Greek the subject is often contained in the verb as in this phrase).
 The Greek Grammarians Dana and Mantey say that this statement "emphasizes Christ’s participation in the essence of the divine nature" (A Manual Grammar of the Greek New Testament, p.140). "... and the word was deity. The article points out the subject in these examples ... nor was the word all of God, as it would mean if the article were also used with theos. As it stands, the other persons of the Trinity may be implied in theos" (Ibid., pp.148-149).
© 1998 Mike Licona
This article is reproduced from Mike Licona's book Behold, I Stand at the Door and Knock: What to say to Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses when they knock on your door. It is reproduced here by the kind permission of the author.