A god?

Re: A god?

Postby David Robinson » September 15th, 2011, 3:41 am

Jonathan Robie wrote:
David Robinson wrote:Putting aside all doctrinal considerations, for or against, is it possible according to the grammar/syntax of the Greek to render the qualitative anarthrous predicate noun “theos” of John 1:1, “a god”?


Ignoring the other things John said about Jesus, you mean? Are you asking if "a god" is grammatically possible, or if it's a likely meaning in the Gospel of John?



Both points seem to be locked as one as the text is John's inspired view of God.
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Re: A god?

Postby cwconrad » September 15th, 2011, 7:04 am

David Robinson wrote:
Jonathan Robie wrote:
David Robinson wrote:Putting aside all doctrinal considerations, for or against, is it possible according to the grammar/syntax of the Greek to render the qualitative anarthrous predicate noun “theos” of John 1:1, “a god”?


Ignoring the other things John said about Jesus, you mean? Are you asking if "a god" is grammatically possible, or if it's a likely meaning in the Gospel of John?



Both points seem to be locked as one as the text is John's inspired view of God.


This last comment has "poisoned the wells" by introducing the very doctrinal notions that were originally excluded from the question. We don't talk about hermeneutics here but about grammatical matters; the inspired or non-inspired status of the text is a doctrinal -- hermeneutical -- issue.

The question raised here has been the subject of at least a dozen threads on the older B-Greek discussion list between 1995 and 2011, most of them becoming ending in theological squabbles between orthodox believers and Jehovah's Witnesses -- deadlocked over the NWT translation of John 1:1c as " ... was a god."

My own take on the original question here, FWIW, is that there is no reason in terms of the grammar alone, why ... θεὸς ἦν ὁ λόγος could or should not be understood to mean "a god." But the original question also laid down some qualifications that could also be questioned by defining θεὸς in John 1:1c as a "qualitative anarthrous" noun. Unquestionably it is anarthrous, but how do we know that it is qualitative? One of those lengthy deadlocked discussions in earlier years went back and forth over the question whether θεὸς here was a "count noun" or a "kind noun." I think that orthodox believers have come down on the side of that question claiming that it must be qualitative, but the text in and of itself offers no real indications that this should be the case.

I honestly believe that it's nigh impossible to approach this text "putting aside all doctrinal considerations." I'm pretty sure that I've never seen a discussion of it entered into by someone without any axe to grind or assumptions that qualify the questions asked about the text.
Carl W. Conrad
Department of Classics, Washington University (Retired)
… ἐπειδὴ καὶ τὸν οἶνον ἠξίους
πίνειν, συνεκποτέ’ ἐστί σοι καὶ τὴν τρύγα Aristophanes, Plutus 1085
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Re: A god?

Postby Mark Lightman » September 15th, 2011, 7:06 am

Mark Lightman wrote:

ἔγραψεν ὁ Δαυιδ:
Putting aside all doctrinal considerations, for or against, is it possible according to the grammar/syntax of the Greek to render the qualitative anarthrous predicate noun “theos” of John 1:1, “a god”?



Yes, David, it's not only possible but to me, all doctrinal considerations put aside, it seems the most natural way to read the text. I would paraphrase John 1:1 thus:

πάλαι μὲν οὖν ὑπάρχων σὺν τῷ θεῷ, ὁ λόγος θεῖος ἦν.




I am new here so would you please help me to understand the Greek sentance please?
Thanks


Hi, David,

Being in the beginning with God, the Word was divine, the Word was a God.

χάρις σοι!
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Re: A god?

Postby David Robinson » September 15th, 2011, 7:21 am

David Robinson wrote:
Jonathan Robie wrote:
David Robinson wrote:Putting aside all doctrinal considerations, for or against, is it possible according to the grammar/syntax of the Greek to render the qualitative anarthrous predicate noun “theos” of John 1:1, “a god”?


Ignoring the other things John said about Jesus, you mean? Are you asking if "a god" is grammatically possible, or if it's a likely meaning in the Gospel of John?



Both points seem to be locked as one as the text is John's inspired view of God.


This last comment has "poisoned the wells" by introducing the very doctrinal notions that were originally excluded from the question. We don't talk about hermeneutics here but about grammatical matters; the inspired or non-inspired status of the text is a doctrinal -- hermeneutical -- issue.

The question raised here has been the subject of at least a dozen threads on the older B-Greek discussion list between 1995 and 2011, most of them becoming ending in theological squabbles between orthodox believers and Jehovah's Witnesses -- deadlocked over the NWT translation of John 1:1c as " ... was a god."

My own take on the original question here, FWIW, is that there is no reason in terms of the grammar alone, why ... θεὸς ἦν ὁ λόγος could or should not be understood to mean "a god." But the original question also laid down some qualifications that could also be questioned by defining θεὸς in John 1:1c as a "qualitative anarthrous" noun. Unquestionably it is anarthrous, but how do we know that it is qualitative? One of those lengthy deadlocked discussions in earlier years went back and forth over the question whether θεὸς here was a "count noun" or a "kind noun." I think that orthodox believers have come down on the side of that question claiming that it must be qualitative, but the text in and of itself offers no real indications that this should be the case.

I honestly believe that it's nigh impossible to approach this text "putting aside all doctrinal considerations." I'm pretty sure that I've never seen a discussion of it entered into by someone without any axe to grind or assumptions that qualify the questions asked about the text.[/quote]

Point taken. We all have our own ideas.

But in the end what does the Greek read?

Some say It MUST read "God" whereas other say "a god" is a fine rendering so which is which?

It seem to me that there is no hard and fast rule on this, so it must have somthing to do with grammer and context.
DR
Thanks.
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Re: A god?

Postby David Robinson » September 15th, 2011, 7:22 am

David Robinson wrote:
Jonathan Robie wrote:
David Robinson wrote:Putting aside all doctrinal considerations, for or against, is it possible according to the grammar/syntax of the Greek to render the qualitative anarthrous predicate noun “theos” of John 1:1, “a god”?


Ignoring the other things John said about Jesus, you mean? Are you asking if "a god" is grammatically possible, or if it's a likely meaning in the Gospel of John?



Both points seem to be locked as one as the text is John's inspired view of God.


This last comment has "poisoned the wells" by introducing the very doctrinal notions that were originally excluded from the question. We don't talk about hermeneutics here but about grammatical matters; the inspired or non-inspired status of the text is a doctrinal -- hermeneutical -- issue.

The question raised here has been the subject of at least a dozen threads on the older B-Greek discussion list between 1995 and 2011, most of them becoming ending in theological squabbles between orthodox believers and Jehovah's Witnesses -- deadlocked over the NWT translation of John 1:1c as " ... was a god."

My own take on the original question here, FWIW, is that there is no reason in terms of the grammar alone, why ... θεὸς ἦν ὁ λόγος could or should not be understood to mean "a god." But the original question also laid down some qualifications that could also be questioned by defining θεὸς in John 1:1c as a "qualitative anarthrous" noun. Unquestionably it is anarthrous, but how do we know that it is qualitative? One of those lengthy deadlocked discussions in earlier years went back and forth over the question whether θεὸς here was a "count noun" or a "kind noun." I think that orthodox believers have come down on the side of that question claiming that it must be qualitative, but the text in and of itself offers no real indications that this should be the case.

I honestly believe that it's nigh impossible to approach this text "putting aside all doctrinal considerations." I'm pretty sure that I've never seen a discussion of it entered into by someone without any axe to grind or assumptions that qualify the questions asked about the text.[/quote]




Your Point taken. We all have our own ideas.

But in the end what does the Greek read?

Some say It MUST read "God" whereas other say "a god" is a fine rendering so which is which? As it cannot be both, right?

It seem to me that there is no hard and fast rule on this, so it must have somthing to do with grammar.
DR
Thanks.[/quote]
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Re: A god?

Postby Jonathan Robie » September 15th, 2011, 7:46 am

I just run the software here, I'm no Greek expert, but here's how I understand it.

First, the verse:

John 1:1 wrote:Ἐν ἀρχῇ ἦν ὁ λόγος, καὶ ὁ λόγος ἦν πρὸς τὸν θεόν, καὶ θεὸς ἦν ὁ λόγος.


There's no article before ἀρχῇ, there's no article before θεὸς in θεὸς ἦν ὁ λόγος.

Whereas the article has a clear meaning, the lack of an article has no clear meaning. For instance, in John 1:1, ἀρχῇ clearly refers to "the beginning", not to "a beginning":

Grammatically, there are three possible ways to interpret καὶ θεὸς ἦν ὁ λόγος:

  • definite
    "And the word was God" - the translation found in most traditional Bibles.
  • indefinite
    "And the word was a god"
  • qualitative
    "And the word was divine"

Since Greek grammar permits each of these meanings, you have to look at the context and the belief system of the writer in order to understand which meaning is most likely. For instance, I think it's very relevant that John also says this, using the article for ὁ κύριός and ὁ θεός.

ἀπεκρίθη Θωμᾶς καὶ εἶπεν αὐτῷ· ὁ κύριός μου καὶ ὁ θεός μου.


But there's another issue: with titles like κύριος or θεὸς or βασιλεως, the title itself often implies a definite meaning. So βαλλα βασιλεως σοδομων means "Birsha, King of Sodom" (qualitative, emphasizing the nature of exercising kingship) or "Birsha, the King of Sodom (definite, 'the King')", and there's no real distance between the two meanings.

Similarly, the common phrase κύριος ὁ θεὸς means "The Lord God", clearly not "God, a Lord (one of many)".
ἐξίσταντο δὲ πάντες καὶ διηποροῦντο, ἄλλος πρὸς ἄλλον λέγοντες, τί θέλει τοῦτο εἶναι;
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Re: A god?

Postby Jonathan Robie » September 15th, 2011, 7:48 am

David Robinson wrote:I am new here so would you please help me to understand the Greek sentance please?


How well do you read Greek?
ἐξίσταντο δὲ πάντες καὶ διηποροῦντο, ἄλλος πρὸς ἄλλον λέγοντες, τί θέλει τοῦτο εἶναι;
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Re: A god?

Postby Stephen Carlson » September 15th, 2011, 8:57 am

I'd say it is about as "possible" as the view that President Kennedy proclaimed himself a jelly doughnut when he said Ich bin ein Berliner.
Stephen C. Carlson, Ph.D. (Duke)
Post-Doctoral Fellow, Faculty of Theology, Uppsala
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Re: A god?

Postby Jonathan Robie » September 15th, 2011, 9:09 am

Also worth pointing out: the passage starts out by saying three things about ὁ λόγος.

Ἐν ἀρχῇ ἦν ὁ λόγος, καὶ ὁ λόγος ἦν πρὸς τὸν θεόν, καὶ θεὸς ἦν ὁ λόγος.


The next thing it says about ὁ λόγος, using that phrase, is this:

καὶ ὁ λόγος σὰρξ ἐγένετο καὶ ἐσκήνωσεν ἐν ἡμῖν,
καὶ ἐθεασάμεθα τὴν δόξαν αὐτοῦ, δόξαν ὡς μονογενοῦς παρὰ πατρός,
πλήρης χάριτος καὶ ἀληθείας.


καὶ ὁ λόγος σὰρξ ἐγένετο. And the word became flesh. Nobody argues this should be interpreted "and the word became a flesh".

I think the phrase ὁ λόγος is important to the structure of this opening:

Ἐν ἀρχῇ ἦν ὁ λόγος, καὶ ὁ λόγος ἦν πρὸς τὸν θεόν, καὶ θεὸς ἦν ὁ λόγος ... καὶ ὁ λόγος σὰρξ ἐγένετο.
ἐξίσταντο δὲ πάντες καὶ διηποροῦντο, ἄλλος πρὸς ἄλλον λέγοντες, τί θέλει τοῦτο εἶναι;
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Re: A god?

Postby Jonathan Robie » September 15th, 2011, 9:21 am

David Robinson wrote:The following are various comments from theologians and scholars on the Greek grammar pertaining to the above verse from the Gospel of John.


I notice that the same set of quotes has been posted elsewhere on the Internet, including the same misspellings, in various theological debates. Please don't do that.

To the substance of the quotes: what distinction do you see between the use of θεὸς without the article in καὶ θεὸς ἦν ὁ λόγος and the use of θεὸς with the article in ὁ κύριός μου καὶ ὁ θεός μου? I assume you would agree that it is clearly definite in the second usage.
ἐξίσταντο δὲ πάντες καὶ διηποροῦντο, ἄλλος πρὸς ἄλλον λέγοντες, τί θέλει τοῦτο εἶναι;
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