John 1:1c

-- [ From: Alan R. Craig * EMC.Ver #2.10P ] --

Subject: John 1:1c

Mr. Conrad and Mr. Huizenga:
> From: Carl W Conrad <cwconrad@artsci.wustl.edu>
> Date: Mon, 21 Nov 1994 11:32:37 -0600 (CST)
> Subject: Re: your mail
> On Mon, 21 Nov 1994, Leroy Huizenga 1996 wrote:
> > As long as we are talking about John 1:1, I'd like to ask a
> > PLease forgive me if this sounds simple, but I am a first year grk 
> > student.  At the end of the verse, it says KAI THEOS HN HO LOGOS. 
> most 
> > translations I've seen (NIV, NRSV, etc.)  it reads "...and the Word
> > God."  My question: Why does THEOS not have an article? Could not
> be 
> > translated "a God?" Why not?
> It COULD, but it WOULDN'T. It could because the grammar of the Greek 
> would permit the text to be understood that way. It wouldn't, because
>  context makes it clear that the writer is not thinking in
> terms, so that an English translation in the form, "The Word was a
> would be misleading and misrepresenting the intention of the
> Neither grammar nor context can be ignored in interpreting such a
> Carl W. Conrad
> Department of Classics, Washington University
> One Brookings Drive, St. Louis, MO 63130, USA
> (314) 935-4018
> cwconrad@artsci.wustl.edu  OR cwc@oui.com
> ------------------------------

I think that when one considers the many times that scholars and
translators have opted for the rendering and/or meaning of theos at
Jn.1:1c as "divine" (Moffatt, Goodspeed, Abbott, Plummer, Schaff,
Thayer, Strachan, Summers, Schonfield, Berkeley, McKenzie, McHardy &
Moulton, Metzger, Zerwick, Cupitt, O'Grady, Goguel, Stage, Bohmer,
Wiese, Menge, Bock, Pfafflin, Schneider, Haenchen, Heitmuller, Lindars,
etc.), perhaps the difficulty of accepting the rendering of it as "a
god" can be put into proper perspective.

By their having rendered it as such, they show that the use and meaning
of this term (theos) is there to be understood to function more as an
adjective.  Because of this, to flatly reject "a god" could only be
because of our having taken that rendering as based on a short-sighted
view of its English reading. In other words, it would surely not be in
keeping with the flavor of its representation as "divine" to then read
and therefore reject "a god" simply because we had erred by placing the
emphasis of our reading on the term "a" instead of "god."  To read this
as such ignores the other side of things, that given to an honest
consideration of another approach.  When one uses the argument that to
render it as such would promote `polytheism,' this then also begs the
question for a fairness to be thorough. 

Before going on though, it must be remembered that, as you and most
Greek grammar's point out, "the grammar of the Greek would permit the
text to be understood that way."  (see also, Dodd, C. H.  "Technical
Papers for the Bible Translator," v.28, Jan. 1977, p.55)  And so, for
any one to have rendered this as "a god," they are justified in doing
so; and this, for two reasons: 1). Greek grammar permits it.  2). This
is the literal reading/rendering.

When the reader is encouraged by being educated to understand that the
emphasis is to be placed upon the term "god" and not "a," it is then,
and only then, that they can be further helped to appreciate that the
use of this term ("god") is first - literal Greek, and second - meant
to be understood to carry the meaning of "divine."  Therefore, the Word
was not `the God'; not `God'; not `*a* god,' that is, `one of the gods';
the Word was `a *god*,' meaning, `god-like.'  

Conversly, the reader should not be encouraged by faulty (biased)
translation [i.e., "the Word was God."] to conclude that John is here
expressing himself in such a way so as to be identifying "who" the Word
was; no, but "what (how)" the Word was; that is, he is telling
something of His nature or character - not identity.

Interestingly, we do have a number of cases where such sentence
structures are duplicated, following the pattern which appears in John
1:1.  Some of these are:  Mark 6:49; 11:32; John 4:19; 8:44 (twice); 9:
17; 10:1, 13, 33; 12:6.  

One of my favorites is found at John 6:70.  According to the NIV (and
many others), Judas is called by Jesus "a devil."  Accordingly, Judas
was not `the Devil'; not `Devil'; not `*a* devil,' that is, `one of the
devils'; Judas was `a *devil*,' meaning `devil-like.'

And again, `the reader should not be encouraged by faulty (biased)
translation [i.e., Judas was {the} Devil] to conclude that Jesus is
here expressing himself in such as way so as to be identifying "who"
Judas was; no, but "what (how)" Judas was, that is, we are being told
something of His nature or character - not identity.'

Alan Craig
Upper Marlboro, Maryland.