John 17:3 ο θεος verses τον μονον αληθινον θεον

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John Brainard
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John 17:3 ο θεος verses τον μονον αληθινον θεον

Post by John Brainard » November 19th, 2011, 11:26 am

Murray Harris maintains that "ο θεος" speaks of the Father alone in The LXX as well as the New Testament. Then In John 17:3 we read "τον μονον αληθινον θεον". Does the article in the second phrase place "τον μονον αληθινον θεον" in the same category as "ο θεος" since they both are articular?

In other words does "τον μονον αληθινον θεον" speak of the Father alone just as ο θεος does?

Thanks in advance for your help

John
Last edited by Stephen Carlson on November 23rd, 2011, 4:13 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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George F Somsel
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Re: ο θεος verses τον μονον αληθινον θεον

Post by George F Somsel » November 19th, 2011, 12:09 pm

αὕτη δέ ἐστιν ἡ αἰώνιος ζωὴ ἵνα γινώσκωσιν σὲ τὸν μόνον ἀληθινὸν θεὸν καὶ ὃν ἀπέστειλας Ἰησοῦν Χριστόν.

John Brainard wrote
Murray Harris maintains that "ο θεος" speaks of the Father alone in The LXX as well as the New Testament.


If we are to read the text of the OT according to its author's intention, I think he is correct concerning the LXX use though I know it was (and in some circles still is) fashionable to retroject a Christian understanding on the OT. I have some problems regarding this assertion with regard to the NT. I happen to be one of those old-fashioned trinitarians regarding how the NT presents Jesus Christ, but we are not here to discuss theology. Our task is simply to understand what the text states. Whether ὃ ἀπεστειλας Ἰησοῦν Χριστόν is considered to be ὁ θεος as Murray Harris understands the term or not is really not the question in this passage. Τὸν μόνον ἁληθινὸν θεὸν is clearly considered as in some sense to be differentiated from Ἰησοῦν Χριστόν since he is the agent in the sending. Beyond that I wouldn't feel warranted in going simply on the basis of this passage.
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David Lim
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Re: ο θεος verses τον μονον αληθινον θεον

Post by David Lim » November 21st, 2011, 7:03 am

John Brainard wrote:Murray Harris maintains that "ο θεος" speaks of the Father alone in The LXX as well as the New Testament. Then In John 17:3 we read "τον μονον αληθινον θεον". Does the article in the second phrase place "τον μονον αληθινον θεον" in the same category as "ο θεος" since they both are articular?

In other words does "τον μονον αληθινον θεον" speak of the Father alone just as ο θεος does?
I suggest you do not categorise the actual meaning of phrases based on their grammatical function, as it is simply not true (in essentially all cases). The article serves mainly to point to a definite entity rather than an indefinite one, but the identity of that entity remains unspecified apart from the context. I would say that "τον μονον αληθινον θεον" is certainly more precise than "τον θεον" because "τον θεον" refers to "the god", which may be the god in the context (such as in Phlp 3:19) or *the* god (implied if the context does not specify which god), but "τον μονον αληθινον θεον" means "the only true god" which implies that the author believes that only one god is the true one, and moreover this particular phrase is in apposition with "σε", which is very clearly specified by the context.
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Barry Hofstetter
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Re: ο θεος verses τον μονον αληθινον θεον

Post by Barry Hofstetter » November 22nd, 2011, 9:17 am

I think both George and David have posted good replies here. I'm not sure Harris is right, btw, but that is based on contextual and theological considerations beyond the scope of b-Greek. In extra-biblical non-Christian Greek, of course, hO QEOS refers to whatever god in context, unspecified most often Zeus, but at Delphi, Apollo. Context is King!
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stevekatsaras
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Re: John 17:3 ο θεος verses τον μονον αληθινον θεον

Post by stevekatsaras » December 15th, 2011, 12:51 am

Hi folks,
Context is important. It's clear in his prayer, Jesus directs this statement to the Father.
It's true that the Father is the only true God (τον μονον αληθινον θεον) or transliterated, "that only true God".
But I don't think saying that the term "ο θεος" (the God) is exclusive to the Father in the Scriptures - otherwise what do you do with 2 Cor 4:4 that says,

"in whose case the god of this world has blinded"
"ἐν οἷς ὁ θεὸς τοῦ αἰῶνος τούτου ἐτύφλωσεν"

Certainly we do not think that Satan is the deity?
Context is extremely important nevertheless and the study of words must be undertaken within the realm of context.
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Martin Harris
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Re: John 17:3 ο θεος verses τον μονον αληθινον θεον

Post by Martin Harris » December 15th, 2011, 10:09 pm

Murray Harris maintains that "ο θεος" speaks of the Father alone in The LXX as well as the New Testament. Then In John 17:3 we read "τον μονον αληθινον θεον". Does the article in the second phrase place "τον μονον αληθινον θεον" in the same category as "ο θεος" since they both are articular?

In other words does "τον μονον αληθινον θεον" speak of the Father alone just as ο θεος does?
I agree with what the other posters have said.
Just logic would indicate that the contention that the LXX means the father alone must be wrong. Because the trinity was not thought of at the time. All you can say is that it refers to the father but not to the father alone. The issue of alone or in company is simply not dealt with. Jesus' words seem mainly to refer back to the Shema.

There is an interpretive principle that I frequently encounter, namely that the Bible interprets itself. Possibly (I'm not sure) Murray Harris is using this principle when he argues that because ο θεος is used (as he asserts) in the LXX for the Father alone, then it must mean that in the NT. Personally I reject this principle because it overrides the all important issue of local context. The local context should be sufficient in most cases to establish meaning and in this case I think Jesus' words are clear enough and can't be used to support either a trinitarian or an anti-trinitarian position.
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David Lim
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Re: John 17:3 ο θεος verses τον μονον αληθινον θεον

Post by David Lim » December 16th, 2011, 9:45 am

stevekatsaras wrote:Hi folks,
Context is important. It's clear in his prayer, Jesus directs this statement to the Father.
It's true that the Father is the only true God (τον μονον αληθινον θεον) or transliterated, "that only true God".
But I don't think saying that the term "ο θεος" (the God) is exclusive to the Father in the Scriptures - otherwise what do you do with 2 Cor 4:4 that says,

"in whose case the god of this world has blinded"
"ἐν οἷς ὁ θεὸς τοῦ αἰῶνος τούτου ἐτύφλωσεν"

Certainly we do not think that Satan is the deity?
Context is extremely important nevertheless and the study of words must be undertaken within the realm of context.
Firstly not everyone agrees that "ο θεος του αιωνος τουτου" refers to the evil one. Assuming that it does, "ο θεος" is modified by "του αιωνος τουτου" and thus what "ο θεος" refers to is already specified. If we instead identify the referents of "ο θεος" when completely unspecified, the results will be more meaningful, as there is essentially nothing one can say otherwise.
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stevekatsaras
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Re: John 17:3 ο θεος verses τον μονον αληθινον θεον

Post by stevekatsaras » December 16th, 2011, 7:42 pm

David,
Are you able then to answer me who "the God" of 2 Cor 4:4 is? Who is this one that had blinded the mind of the lost from the gospel?
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timothy_p_mcmahon
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Re: John 17:3 ο θεος verses τον μονον αληθινον θεον

Post by timothy_p_mcmahon » December 17th, 2011, 1:41 am

stevekatsaras wrote:It's true that the Father is the only true God (τον μονον αληθινον θεον) or transliterated, "that only true God".
First, transliteration refers to writing the phonetic equivalent of one language in the alphabet of another. The transliteration of τον μονον αληθινον θεον would be ton monon alhqinon qeon or ton monon alethinon theon. What you've given is a translation, not a transliteration.
Second, why would you translate the Greek definite article with an English demonstrative? That was certainly the sense of ο/η/το in earlier times, but in the Greek NT I believe you'd need a pretty compelling reason to render it that way.
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David Lim
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Re: John 17:3 ο θεος verses τον μονον αληθινον θεον

Post by David Lim » December 18th, 2011, 1:22 am

stevekatsaras wrote:David,
Are you able then to answer me who "the God" of 2 Cor 4:4 is? Who is this one that had blinded the mind of the lost from the gospel?
As I said, some people, not necessarily including myself, are indeed of the opinion that it is referring to God after all, even as similar statements are found in other places like John 12:39-40, 2 Thes 2:11-12. Interpretation aside, grammatically, 2 Cor 4:4 is simply referring to "the god of this world", and the genitive clause here functions as an adjectival clause that specifies which "θεος". Thus we cannot draw any conclusions about the referent of "ο θεος" when it is unspecified, which depends much on what some call the "common world view" of both the writers and the intended audience. If Greek philosophers were writing, it would probably refer to "Zeus" as Barry has mentioned. If however we do a study of all unspecified instances of "ο θεος", then we can probably ascertain the new testament authors' world view even if we did not already know it.
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