Re: John 1:1

On Tue, 29 Nov 1994, Travis Bauer wrote:

> We need to be sure to leave this verse in the Jewish context in which it 
> arose (even if this passage is not written specifically to early Jews).  
> We need to keep in mind Judaism's strict monotheism.  What would it mean, 
> in this context, to make a distinction between being divine and being God?
> I'll admit that some systems of belief may allow one to participate in 
> divinty without being fully God, but I can't see how that can be read 
> into the text here.

However it may mean in the Greek, the English must certainly make a 
distinction.  OED considers _God_, in the Christian monotheistic sense, as
"the one object of supreme adoration, the Creator and Ruler of the 
Universe" - specifically, "a proper name" (since the 9th century Old 
English). _ Divine_ is: of or pertaining to God; given by or proceeding from 
God; addressed or devoted to God, sacred; partaking of the nature of God, 
characteristic of deity, godlike; more than human, superhuman, of more 
than ordinary excellence; connected to or dealing with divinity or sacred 
things [my paraphrase of the OED].  In other words, almost the only thing 
that *can't* be divine is God, any more than *humans* can be *humanlike* 
or *human-related* etc.

Here's the rub.  While English "God" is almost always a proper noun, _theos_ 
is not necessarily one in Greek.  In classical usage, it was quite often 
used in the singular to refer to the commonality of the polytheistic 
pantheon.  The Hebrew Elohim is an epithet, not a proper name (that is 
YHWH of course).

Jesus, in John, jumps on this very evasiveness of the term in reference 
to himself.  He quotes Psalm 82 in John 10:35 to say that all human 
beings are gods, sons of the Highest, so why shouldn't he be a god, too?  
He clarifies his own self-estimate: _hon ho patEr hEgiasen kai apesteilen 
eis tou kosmou_ ... _huios tou theou_.  God's son, not God.  The metaphor 
irritated the Jews because no one else called themselves God's son so 
insistently, _making_ themselves _theos_ (10:33) by dint of association, but 
here clearly _theos_ = divine, godlike, godly, or even a god, but surely 
not God, since he claims to be God's son.

Perhaps it would be useful to compare the developments in 
later Greek-speaking Christendom: God as _ousia_ "essence" rather than 
_prosOpon_ "person" in Nicene Trinitarianism: notice how this contradicts 
the English sense of "God" in the OED.  Then the development in Greek 
Orthodoxy of the doctrine of _apotheosis_, whereby Christians "become 
gods" - not in the literal sense at all, but in the sense of 
spiritual accomodation, sharing in God's bounty.  The Greeks were also most 
resolute in asserting that the divine was perfectly mixed with the human in 
Jesus, "God become man" in a sense that shattered both ordinarily 
exclusive categories, not only for Jesus but for all Christians.

> I'm bringing up som often quoted passages on Christ's divinity here, but 
> take into consideration Colossians 1:15-22 and 2:9-15.  Also, 
> remember I John 5:20.  The trinity may not be explicity here, but the 
> trinitarian doctrine is certaintly not any more logically palatable than 
> what's given in the text.  

Just to remind one of the ambiguities here: Col. 1:15 has Jesus as the 
_eikOn_ of God, not God.  God created the world, but through Jesus and 
for him (v. 16).  The _pan to plErOma_ of God lives in him - Paul makes 
it clear a Christian can be full of God, but apparently only Jesus with 
_all_ of God.  But God is not filled with God, God _is_ God.  God does 
not live _in_ God, God lives as God.  Jesus is the head of all _arkhE_ 
and _eksousia_, but as the NT elsewhere makes clear, God has _given_ him 
all authority.  God raised Jesus from the dead and made him alive (2:12, 
13).  1 John 5:20 is certainly more Nicene-looking, but it is simply the 
nesting image we see elsewhere in the NT: the Christian is in Christ as 
Christ is in God, which no more makes Christ God than it makes a 
Christian Christ.  Except metaphorically.

I hope what everyone here realizes is that we are not discussing God's 
true nature, like theologians do with the Trinity.  We are discussing the 
semantic minefield which is where Greek and English meet over the word _theos_.

Greg Jordan

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