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Today we should do a bit of Greek, and compare with other languages:

ἐν ἀρχῇ ἦν ὁ Λόγος (John 1:1)
In the beginning, the word was [in existence].
En el comienzo, la palabra existía [de por sí].
Verbum In principium erat.

Consider in all cases ‘word’ takes a nominative case, meaning it precedes the verb. In this sense, the translation ‘there was the word’ is incorrect. ‘The word existed/was’ is the correct translation here. Also, ‘in the beginning’ is a Greek Dative indicating ‘place in which.’ Meaning that, in the beginning, whenever that was, the Word (it) was in existence. In the Ancient Greek, ‘the word’ is definitely masculine; in the Spanish feminine, the English makes no distinction, and the Latin makes it neuter. What is the problem here?

‘To be’ is a transitive verb, so we want to write something afterwards. What I think John is getting at here is that ‘the word’ existed of its own accord prior to the universe; in other words, it did not need the existence of a universe to be, just like he makes the transitive verb not need the existence of a Direct Object to be in and of itself alive. We can definitely see why this bit of Greek has brought so many discussions on the nature of divinity.