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.
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,
the subsequent text [PANTA DI' AUTOU EGENETO, KAI XWRIS AUTOU EGENETO OUDE
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, firstname.lastname@example.org
______________________________ Reply Separator _________________________________
Subject: John 1
Author: email@example.com_at_internet at X400PO
Date: 7/13/94 2:16 PM
Content-Type: TEXT/PLAIN; charset=US-ASCII
<I think David Coomler's original question was about how to translate
<...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.