Theos in the NT, esp John 1

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Douglas Nast
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Theos in the NT, esp John 1

Post by Douglas Nast » July 29th, 2017, 6:42 pm

For John 1:1 Daniel B Wallace says that the predicate nominative "logos" should be qualitative rather than definite. Thus grammatically he would prefer "and the Word was divine", though he does not argue for a change from the definite approach for what sounds like pedagogical or pastoral reasons.

One of his arguments is that theos in 1b and 1c refers to the same entity. In 1b its clearly the father who the Word was with. Since theos is also the father in 1c then 1c says that the Word was the father, which is clearly wrong (i.e. Sabellianism).

But I would have thought that theos in every part of 1:1 referred to the triune God of three persons. In this way the Logos can: 1) be with (or toward) God and 2) be God, without seeming difficulty.

Why would Wallace insist that theos in 1b is the father? Are their historo-grammatical reasons that this must be the case?

This raises a much larger question: Just what DOES theos generally mean in the NT? Does it mean exactly what the theologian in question chooses it to mean, or are there some generally agreed-upon principles?

Douglas Nast
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Re: Theos in the NT, esp John 1

Post by Douglas Nast » July 29th, 2017, 7:21 pm

I mis-wrote, of course, what I meant was that Wallace maintains that the predicate nominative "theos" should be a quality of the logos, rather than treated as a definite predicate as in "The word was (the) God".

Jonathan Robie
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Re: Theos in the NT, esp John 1

Post by Jonathan Robie » July 29th, 2017, 7:57 pm

Wallace argues that pre-verbal anarthrous predicate nouns are usually qualitative.

So if a noun comes before the verb and does not have an article, he says it's usually qualitative. An example:

ὁ λόγος σὰρξ ἐγένετο

σὰρξ does not have an article, it occurs before the verb, and it is a predicate. "The Word became flesh".

ὁ θεὸς ἀγάπη ἐστίν

"God is love", not "God is a love" or "God is the love".

Titles can also be seen as qualitative, with the stress on the "quality or character". So Wallace is saying this is not "The Word was a God" or "The Word was (the) God", but "The Word was God", like "Herod was King".

Here's a good definition of qualitative:
Moulton wrote:Qualitative Force in Anarthrous Nouns
The lists of words which specially affect the dropped article will, of course, need careful examination for the individual cases. Thus, when Winer includes πατήρ in his list, and quotes Jn 1:14 and Heb 12:7, we must feel that in both passages the qualitative force is very apparent-“what son is there whom his father, as a father, does not chasten?" (On the former passage see RV margin, and the note in WM 151.) For exegesis, there are few of the finer points of Greek which need more constant attention than this omission of the article when the writer would lay stress on the quality or character of the object. Even the RV misses this badly sometimes, as in Jn 6:68.
The examples given here are not preverbal anarthrous predicates, though. Here's Hebrews 12:7:

Heb 12:7 τίς γὰρ υἱὸς ὃν οὐ παιδεύει πατήρ;
ἐξίσταντο δὲ πάντες καὶ διηποροῦντο, ἄλλος πρὸς ἄλλον λέγοντες, τί θέλει τοῦτο εἶναι;
http://jonathanrobie.biblicalhumanities.org/

Douglas Nast
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Re: Theos in the NT, esp John 1

Post by Douglas Nast » July 29th, 2017, 11:21 pm

Thanks. Concerning John 1:1c, from this I hear that Wallace advocates for a grammatical rule (the pre-verbal anarthrous nominative predicate is by first assumption qualitative) that in his view gives the same theological satisfaction as does those who would apply Colwell's rule to make it definite.

Wallace - The Word is God (The Word has every attribute of God)

Colwell lover - The Word is God (The Word is the being God in the sense that each member of the trinity is 100% God)

By theological satisfaction I mean that both of these fully support the doctrine of the trinity and the deity of Christ as a person in the triune Godhead.

I have to chew on this and let it settle. Thanks for your thoughtful answer.

Jonathan Robie
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Re: Theos in the NT, esp John 1

Post by Jonathan Robie » July 30th, 2017, 7:06 am

Douglas Nast wrote:
July 29th, 2017, 11:21 pm
Thanks. Concerning John 1:1c, from this I hear that Wallace advocates for a grammatical rule (the pre-verbal anarthrous nominative predicate is by first assumption qualitative) that in his view gives the same theological satisfaction as does those who would apply Colwell's rule to make it definite.
Personally, I think it's usually best to simply read in context and get a feeling for which of these senses actually make sense. I'm not sure that I would advocate for this rule.
Douglas Nast wrote:
July 29th, 2017, 11:21 pm
Wallace - The Word is God (The Word has every attribute of God)
So he is agreeing with Wallace that this is qualitative. One test for this: does it make sense to add a word like "fully" - "The Word is fully God". That's a hint that the noun is being used qualitatively. Of course, you should also try out other senses.

Colwell lover - The Word is God (The Word is the being God in the sense that each member of the trinity is 100% God)
Douglas Nast wrote:
July 29th, 2017, 11:21 pm
By theological satisfaction I mean that both of these fully support the doctrine of the trinity and the deity of Christ as a person in the triune Godhead.
While I agree with your theology, I think there's a danger in letting theology drive the way we read texts. I think it's important to let the texts drive our theology, not the other way around. And I don't think there's a grammatical reason that this could not be translated "a God". On the other hand, if you read the entire Gospel of John, I think it's pretty clear that John believed Jesus is God. Concepts like "doctrine of the trinity" and "triune Godhead" don't show up in the New Testament, they developed later in history as a way of explaining New Testament teaching.

That's the reason for this policy:
Those who participate in the conference represent a wide range of theological and denominational perspectives, perhaps even including some whose interests are purely academic. Deep religious convictions surely characterize many, perhaps most, of the list-participants, and some of these convictions bear directly upon how the Biblical text is to be understood. At the core of our discussion, however, is not what our convictions are but what the Greek text may legitimately be understood to mean.
ἐξίσταντο δὲ πάντες καὶ διηποροῦντο, ἄλλος πρὸς ἄλλον λέγοντες, τί θέλει τοῦτο εἶναι;
http://jonathanrobie.biblicalhumanities.org/

Barry Hofstetter
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Re: Theos in the NT, esp John 1

Post by Barry Hofstetter » July 30th, 2017, 8:02 am

Douglas Nast wrote:
July 29th, 2017, 6:42 pm
For John 1:1 Daniel B Wallace says that the predicate nominative "logos" should be qualitative rather than definite. Thus grammatically he would prefer "and the Word was divine", though he does not argue for a change from the definite approach for what sounds like pedagogical or pastoral reasons.

One of his arguments is that theos in 1b and 1c refers to the same entity. In 1b its clearly the father who the Word was with. Since theos is also the father in 1c then 1c says that the Word was the father, which is clearly wrong (i.e. Sabellianism).

But I would have thought that theos in every part of 1:1 referred to the triune God of three persons. In this way the Logos can: 1) be with (or toward) God and 2) be God, without seeming difficulty.

Why would Wallace insist that theos in 1b is the father? Are their historo-grammatical reasons that this must be the case?

This raises a much larger question: Just what DOES theos generally mean in the NT? Does it mean exactly what the theologian in question chooses it to mean, or are there some generally agreed-upon principles?
Some good response from Jonathan. I am very much in agreement with you, and I think the whole "qualitative" line of argument is mistaken. I have long argued that θεός of John 1:1b refers to God in an undifferentiated sense. John is claiming that the word is both with God and is God. This fits right in with John's style of both making and reporting outrageous sorts of claims that are designed to make the reader/hearer of his gospel really engage in the topic, which further development in the narrative tends to clarify. This has implications for the anarthrous predicate θεός of 1:1c. It's anarthous not because John is making a qualitative statement, but because it is normal Greek syntax for predicate nominatives to be anarthrous to distinguish them from the subject, which normally is articular. As for the historical question, Wallace and others using this line of argument are assuming, I think, a full blown Nicene Trinitarian understanding which is not John's purpose in writing. His purpose is to get us think about who Jesus really is and what he came to do. Now, that happens to be one of the major elements in formulating a doctrine of the Trinity, but it's not there yet.
N.E. Barry Hofstetter
Instructor of Latin
Jack M. Barrack Hebrew Academy
ἐγὼ δὲ διδάσκω τε καὶ γράφω ἵνα τὰ ἀξιώτερα μανθάνω

Douglas Nast
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Re: Theos in the NT, esp John 1

Post by Douglas Nast » July 30th, 2017, 5:17 pm

Thanks Jonathon. I agree with and appreciate the reminder regarding the relationship between grammar and theology, and I am not being facetious. We all understand the limitations of written communication :-)

I find it fascinating that there are so many points of view on "simple grammar" among experts, and that differences of opinion on the grammar of passages with profound theological significance can still result in theological agreement.
Barry Hofstetter wrote:
July 30th, 2017, 8:02 am
I have long argued that θεός of John 1:1b refers to God in an undifferentiated sense. John is claiming that the word is both with God and is God.
Nice to know that my assumption that 1b is not a "person" of the Godhead but simply "God" is entertained by actual scholars.
Barry Hofstetter wrote:
July 30th, 2017, 8:02 am
This has implications for the anarthrous predicate θεός of 1:1c. It's anarthous not because John is making a qualitative statement, but because it is normal Greek syntax for predicate nominatives to be anarthrous to distinguish them from the subject, which normally is articular. As for the historical question, Wallace and others using this line of argument are assuming, I think, a full blown Nicene Trinitarian understanding which is not John's purpose in writing. His purpose is to get us think about who Jesus really is and what he came to do. Now, that happens to be one of the major elements in formulating a doctrine of the Trinity, but it's not there yet.
I think in the intermediate grammar which I am reading Wallace argues that his preference for a qualitative approach to the anarthrous pre-verbal predicate nominative is entirely rooted in grammar and has nothing to do with theological preference. But since he is a man there was likely a certain amount of analyzing both forwards and backwards, even if only the direction "grammar to theology" was put into print.

One thing that no one has addressed is the question "on what grounds would Wallace assume that theos in 1b is the father?"

In some sense it seems that Hofstetter's implication (or my inference) that Wallace is putting theology before grammar seems justified. Wallace says on pg 268 of his intermediate grammar (quote) "The problem of this line of argument is that theos in 1:1b is the father. Thus to say that the theos in 1:1c is the same person is to say that 'the Word was the Father'". (endquote)

Does Wallace's insistence that theos in 1:1b refers to a person he calls "the Father" betray a Trinitarian assumption behind his grammatical critique of the "definite PN" approach? Or are there grammatic or other considerations that support this assumption?

I also was enlightened by Hoffstetter's comment that the pre-verbal PN typically does not carry the article to distinguish it from the subject. This certainly accords with seeming common sense.

Tony Pope
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Re: Theos in the NT, esp John 1

Post by Tony Pope » July 31st, 2017, 6:00 am

If you have the time and energy, I recommend this article:

Jan Van der Watt & Chrys Caragounis, «A Grammatical Analysis of John 1,1», Filología Neotestamentaria 21 (2008) 91-138

The discussion of this verse starts on p. 110.

Can be read online (but not downloaded) at:

https://www.bsw.org/filologia-neotestam ... e-p91.html

Barry Hofstetter
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Re: Theos in the NT, esp John 1

Post by Barry Hofstetter » July 31st, 2017, 10:05 am

Tony Pope wrote:
July 31st, 2017, 6:00 am
If you have the time and energy, I recommend this article:

Jan Van der Watt & Chrys Caragounis, «A Grammatical Analysis of John 1,1», Filología Neotestamentaria 21 (2008) 91-138

The discussion of this verse starts on p. 110.
This line alone makes the time worthwhile:

"More often than not, grammatical issues are simply ignored and the unsuspecting and trusting reader will not even realize that there is a dangerous dungeon of grammatical problems lurking beneath the surface of the text."
N.E. Barry Hofstetter
Instructor of Latin
Jack M. Barrack Hebrew Academy
ἐγὼ δὲ διδάσκω τε καὶ γράφω ἵνα τὰ ἀξιώτερα μανθάνω

Stirling Bartholomew
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Re: Theos in the NT, esp John 1

Post by Stirling Bartholomew » July 31st, 2017, 5:14 pm

Some aspects of this question I don’t find addressed in Caragounis & Van der Walt.

John 1:1 Ἐν ἀρχῇ ἦν ὁ λόγος,
καὶ ὁ λόγος ἦν πρὸς τὸν θεόν,
καὶ θεὸς ἦν ὁ λόγος.
o. Salience marking co-occurring with fronting to mark discourse theme
Anarthrous salience marking frequently co-occurs with fronting, e.g. “and the Word
was God (anarthrous and fronted)” in John 1:1. Here, in the book’s opening lines, it
marks “the divine Word” as the TEXT theme. Similarly, faith occurs 24 times in Hebrews
11, frequently fronted. Of these 23/24 are anarthrous, suggesting thematic salience at
EPISODE level.

R. A. Hoyle:2008[1] §6.4 p158
In addition to that anarthrous θεὸς in καὶ θεὸς ἦν ὁ λόγος underlines switched reference from τὸν θεόν.

[1]Richard A. Hoyle, Scenarios, discourse and translation. SIL 2008,

http://www.sil.org/silepubs/Pubs/50670/ ... lation.pdf
C. Stirling Bartholomew

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