I really like the IVP Black Dictionaries. In an article from Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels, I encountered this observation. There are three uses of “was” in John 1:1. Each use has a different nuance.
Look up “is” in your dictionary sometime and you will be surprised how many listings there are. I found that in my Spanish New Testament (NVI) there are three verbs used to convey the ideas there.
- “In the beginning was the Word…” This is about the existence of the Word (the Son of God). I think that it is significance that it says the word “was” not “became” in the beginning. So the nuance here is eternal pre-existance.
- “…and the Word was with God…” This is about a relationship with God (the Father). It could be about location, but where exactly is God? And where was God before the creation of the heavens and the earth? So it is better to see this as a relationship – the Word was together with (in love) the Father.
- “…and the Word was God.” Here is the essential nature of the Word. The word is divine, he and the Father are equal.
Now we look at Verse 14, where “the Word” reappears.
- “The Word became…” Who is eternal “became” something. He did not come into existence but he entered creation (of which he is the c0-creator) – v. 2-5, Colossians 1:16). The eternal Word becomes the temporal Jesus.
- “The Word became flesh…” His essential nature is Divine – an omnipotent, eternal, omnipresent Spirit – yet he takes on human nature.
- “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us.” He who was with the Father was for 33 years with humanity.
So the nuances of the three “was” statements in verse 1 have a correlation in v. 14.