Re: John 1

Let me address the "meaning" of QEOS here, since I don't have a GNT or NTGk 
grammar references handy here at the Department of Energy(!).

-  Too Simple.
The problems of texts like this are precisely why such an effort is 
expended in studying Greek and doing exegesis, because "thinking in Greek" 
or attempting an approximation thereof is hard work.  Yes, it is hard work. 
That is why any glib answers, like, 
     QEOS HN O LOGOS means "the word was divine",
(or any other similar rendition) confounds any real understanding of the 
sentence by virtue of their simplicity.  These answers are only oversimpli- 
fications.  Nothing in linguistic expression is as simple as it may seem, 
and the simplifiers are always to be distrusted.

-  A Modern Example.
To take a purportedly simple example, what is the difference between "Ich 
liebe dich/Je t'aime" and "Ich liebe euch/Je vous aime"?  In fact, no 
English translation at all will work these days (I have never met anyone 
outside of language afficionados who know that "thou" and "ye" mean two 
different things; a Chinese/Cambodian tutorial student of mine, after 15 
years as a businessman in this country, had no recollection of ever hearing 
"thou").  It requires explaining, not translating, to differentiate the two 
sentences.  It takes even more explaining and subtlety to demonstrate the 
first expression as most likely an expression of romance and the second an 
expression of parenting or friendship.  Rendering as "I love you" just 
doesn't cut it.

I hardly claim that expressions in Greek cannot be made clear in English.  
But I do claim that expressions in Greek cannot be made clear in similarly 
compact English.  No translation avoids losses from the source.  No 
tranlation avoids unintentional additions to the sense of the source.  
Panta rhei, my friends.  Yes, I agree thinking in Greek also means thinking 
in 1st-century terms, in Hellenistic Jewish terms, etc.  That is precisely 
why every translation is a revision, not what the populace believes a 
translation to be.  Only study actually works to elucidate; translations 

-  Two Meanings of QEOS?
Furthermore, linguistic clarity is almost always ruined by going to the 
l_a_s_t  entry in the dictionary entry!  Any author in any language risks 
grave misunderstanding among potential readers by using a rarer usage in 
the first sentence or two of a literary work.  And only a punning author 
risks losing an audience by switching "meanings" of a single word in such a 
short textual span with no additional cues for that meaning change.

-  Nope.
One should presume that if QEOS means "god" in John 1:1b, then the author 
would be lunatic not to use QEOS meaning "god" in John 1:1c.  There are no 
counterindications in this text; one must not switch to "divine".  In fact, 
EN] supports "God" all the more strongly in the Jewish monotheistic sense, 
just in case any of his polytheistic readers were uncertain about which 
"god" was intended.  The author always could have written QEIOS if this had 
been the intended meaning.  My recollection of Arianism is fading, but no 
version of Christianity has risen or fallen on just one clause.  Converse- 
ly, most variants of Christianity have exerted great effort to interpret 
every Biblical passage as supporting them.

Historically, of course, the real debate has been about the meaning of LOGOS in 
John 1:1, not about the meaning of QEOS.  That's the meat, folks.  1st-century 
Judaism in any form had no real debate about the meaning of QEOS (20th-century 
Americans, of course, offer quite a different study regarding "god").  But look 
into "LOGOS" or "MEMRA'" or their equivalents, and you'll find more than a 
lifetime of scholastic reading available.

--David N. Wigtil, david.wigtil@hq.doe.gov

______________________________ Reply Separator _________________________________
Subject: John 1
Author:  davidco@nethost.multnomah.lib.or.us_at_internet at X400PO
Date:    7/13/94 2:16 PM

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<I think David Coomler's original question was about how to translate 
"theos", right?...
<...can "theos" be construed as adjectival, "divine"?

    Right, Gregory.  I am very interested in all points of view on this
question, and particularly interested in parallel constructions elsewhere 
in NT period literature.  Discussions on the topic, both grammatical and 
exegetical, often provide much smoke but little illumination.

Regarding the recent comment that one must "think in Greek," a friend 
commented, "Not just in Greek, but in Greek of the time, place, and 
theological environment in which this was written."  Further, to imply 
that a concept clear in Greek cannot be made equally clear in English 
seems highly questionable (not to mention theologically disastrous), but 
perhaps I misunderstood the statement.