A god?

Re: A god?

Postby timothy_p_mcmahon » September 24th, 2011, 4:26 am

Wouldn't Acts 28:6 be relevant here?

ελεγον θεον αυτον ειναι

[The natives] said that [Paul] was a god.
Posts: 126
Joined: June 3rd, 2011, 10:47 pm

Re: A god?

Postby Devenios Doulenios » October 1st, 2011, 12:04 am

Χαίρετε, οἱ φίλοι μου!

Sorry it turned out to be several days before I could get back to you.
I’m glad that I’m finally able to address Mark Ligntman’s comments and questions about my translation of καὶ θεὸς ἦν ὁ λόγος in Jn. 1:1. The various comments and questions by all of you who wrote have been instructive. I hope that my response will help in answering questions that have been raised. It is not easy discussing such a text without getting too much into theology, but I’ll do my best. I realize that we don’t primarily deal with translation here, but since the questions have been raised, I’d like to respond to them. Just as a reminder, here's Mark's post I'm responding to:

I notice that the DDV has

And the Message was Deity.

Now, Dewayne specifically says in his preface that this verse should NOT be translated as "the word was a god," but my argument is that there is really no difference, IN GREEK, between saying Ἰησοῦς θεῖος (Jesus is divine) and Ἰησοῦς θεός (Jesus is a God.) Well, there is a difference, but it is only an iota of a difference. "Jesus is a god" sounds funny TO US, IN ENGLISH because it seems to imply that there is more than one God, an assumption of course that is hard-wired into the Greek language. For John there were at least two gods, God is a God and Jesus is a God. Whether they are distinct ἐν προσώπῳ and the same ἐν οὐσίᾳ is too theological, not so much for this list, but FOR THE AUTHOR OF JOHN HIMSELF. I think that he would have no problem, if he knew English, in saying that Jesus is a God, and he would point out that to say this is NOT necessarily to subordinate Jesus to the Father. On the other hand, I do NOT think that John in 1:1 meant to equate Jesus with the Father, and neither does the most recent translator/traitor, our esteemed φίλος Δεβένιος. Dewayne, give me a ναί or οὐκ answer, do you think that John in 1:1 meant to say something like

λέγω δὴ τὸν ἐν ἀρχῇ λόγον καὶ τῷ θεῷ παρεῖναι τε τὸν Θεὸν εἶναι.

If you say no, then you are saying that the New Word Translation is 100% half right.

For those who haven’t seen my translation (available on the Blog at http://www.greekingout.com, administered by our fellow B-Greeker Refe Tuma), I will give this some context by quoting verse 1 from it and then the note on it Mark referenced (which is a note to ch. 1; it is not from the Preface).

Verse 1:

In the beginning the Message already existed, and the Message was face to face with God. In fact, the Message was Deity.


Grk., θεὸς ἦν ὁ λόγος (theos ēn o logos). Τrad., “The Word was God”. This rendering could lead one to think that the Message was the same person as God the Father. Rather, John is saying that the Message has the same character and nature, the same essence, as the Father; that is, he is deity. (See further discussion on this in the note on “divine nature” in v. 14.) Some have suggested that since the word for “deity”, θεός (theos), lacks the def. art.* here, this means that the Logos was a lesser being, not equal with the Father. However, Grk. normally expresses the character of a person this way; thus, when John writes θεὸς ἦν ὁ λόγος (theos ēn o logos) here, logos is the subject because it has the art.* (o); theos is a subjective complement, which describes the character of the subject (See DM, 140). Morris, citing E.C. Colwell, notes that in the NT def. nouns which precede the vb. regularly lack the article*; the absence of the art.* does not make such nouns indefinite unless the context demands it (Morris, 77). Thus it is wrong to translate theos here as “a god”. The same construction also appears in vv. 6, 12, 13, and 18, where it applies to God the Father (Tenney, EBC, 30, n.2).

Some remarks to clarify the references used: (an Abbreviation List will also be posted later; I am in the process of formatting it for the web now.)

“Trad.” Is “traditional translation”.

“Note on ‘divine nature’ in v. 14”: this note discusses the OT background and translation of the term δόξα and the related verb δοξάζω, which I normally render “divine nature” and “reveal the divine nature”, respectively when the reference is to Jesus or to the Father. If desired, we can look at the note itself in a separate post.

“DM” is Dana and Mantey, A Manual Grammar of the Greek New Testment. An older but still useful intermediate grammar. Greek and Bible scholar Dave Black recommends it.

“Morris” is Leon Morris’ The Gospel According to John, New International Commentary.

“Tenney, EBC” is Merrill C. Tenney, "The Gospel of John", in The Expositor's Bible Commentary, vol. 9.

Now let me consider Mark’s comments and questions.

Mark, I haven’t made a detailed study of θεῖος, but in light of its usage by Peter to mean “divine” in reference to the nature of God (τῆς θείας δυνάμεως, 2 Pet. 1:3; γένησθε θείας κοινωνοὶ φύσεως, 1:4), and Paul’s usage of that term in Acts 17:29 (γένος οὖν ὑπάρχοντες τοῦ θεοῦ οὐκ ὀφείλομεν νομίζειν χρυσῷ ἢ ἀργύρῳ ἢ λίθῳ… τὸ θεῖον εἶναι ὅμοιον, where he uses θεῖος as a noun in reference to the true God vs. pagan gods), I will (provisionally) concede that John might have used θεῖος to describe the nature of ὁ λόγος. And in some NT contexts, I agree θεός can be used to mean “a god”, as in Acts 17:22 where a crowd praises King Herod Agrippa by saying Θεοῦ φωνὴ καὶ οὐκ ἀνθρώπου, and Acts 28:6, where a native of an island ἔλεγον αὐτὸν εἶναι θεόν concerning Paul after he was bitten by a poisonous snake and did not die. (Thanks to B-Greek member Timothy McMahon for the reference to Acts 28:6.) Note, however, that in the passages in Acts, the speakers were not Jews, they were not “God-fearers” or proselytes who had come to believe in the God of Israel, and they were not Christians. These speakers were pagans. Therefore it is natural and expected that they would use θεός to mean “a god”.

John, however, was an observant Jew before becoming a follower of Jesus. That fact is going to affect how he uses terms and how he understands terms. As such a person, he would have regularly heard Dt. 32:39 and Isa. 43:10. Here is what they say concerning God (note Yahweh is the speaker in both cases):

Dt. 32:39 εγω ειμι και ουκ εστιν θεος πλην εμου

Isa. 43:10 εγω ειμι εμπροσθεν μου ουκ εγενετο αλλος θεος και μετ εμε ουκ εσται

In the Dt. 32 passage, πλην is apparently used in the sense of “except”; this same sense is used in Mk. 12:32, where in a discussion with Jesus about the greatest commandment in the Law of Moses, a Jewish teacher of the law says concerning God εἷς ἐστιν καὶ οὐκ ἔστιν ἄλλος πλὴν αὐτοῦ.

Given this background, I would say there is zero chance John means “a god” by use of θεος in 1:1. Consider also, as Tenney noted, that “The same construction also appears in vv. 6, 12, 13, and 18, where it applies to God the Father”. I don’t know of any reputable scholar or any translation that understands θεος in those verses to mean “a god”. As this is the usage of the same writer in the same section of his book, it must be taken into account as we seek to understand his meaning.

Mark, I agree with the conclusion that John did not mean to say Jesus was subordinate to the Father by using θεος instead of ὁ θεός. I also agree that he did not mean to equate them, which is why he could write ὁ λόγος ἦν πρὸς τὸν θεόν just before he wrote καὶ θεὸς ἦν ὁ λόγος. That is, he is not dealing with the identity of the Logos but the character of the Logos. Thus the translation “the Message was Deity“. This is not a novel take on the passage by any means. Referring back to my note and Morris‘ citing of Colwell, there is no reason to take θεος as indefinite in the context, which understanding θεὸς in 1:1 as “a god“ would demand.

To respond to your last question, Mark, I do not agree with the New World Translation. And when you say, “Dewayne, give me a ναί or οὐκ answer, do you think that John in 1:1 meant to say something like λέγω δὴ τὸν ἐν ἀρχῇ λόγον καὶ τῷ θεῷ παρεῖναι τε τὸν Θεὸν εἶναι” , I take it that you are using καὶ τῷ θεῷ παρεῖναι as equivalent to [ὁ λόγος] ἦν πρὸς τὸν θεόν? If so, I agree. As for τὸν Θεὸν εἶναι, if you are using it as equivalent to θεὸς ἦν ὁ λόγος, then I would agree with you.

Well, I hope this helps clarify things, and that I didn’t stray too far from the guidelines. (If I did, I’m sure the moderators will let me know.) :?:

Δεβένιος Δουλένιος
"τὴν ζωὴν καὶ τὸν θάνατον δέδωκα πρὸ προσώπου ὑμῶν τὴν εὐλογίαν καὶ τὴν κατάραν ἔκλεξαι τὴν ζωήν ἵνα ζῇς σὺ καὶ τὸ σπέρμα σου"-Dt. 30:19

"Ὁδοὶ δύο εἰσί, μία τῆς ζωῆς καὶ μία τοῦ θανάτου."--Διδαχή Α, α'
Devenios Doulenios
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Location: Carlisle, Arkansas, USA

Re: A god?

Postby Jonathan Robie » October 1st, 2011, 8:22 pm

I'm locking this topic, while the moderators discuss.
ἐξίσταντο δὲ πάντες καὶ διηποροῦντο, ἄλλος πρὸς ἄλλον λέγοντες, τί θέλει τοῦτο εἶναι;
Jonathan Robie
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Joined: May 5th, 2011, 5:34 pm


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