John 1:1c

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

On Tuesday, Nov.29, 1994, Gregory Jordan <jordan@chuma.cas.usf.edu>
concerning the word "God":

> 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
> from  God; addressed or devoted to God, sacred; partaking of the
nature of
> God,  characteristic of deity, godlike; more than human, superhuman,
> more  than ordinary excellence; connected to or dealing with divinity
> sacred  things [my paraphrase of the OED].  In other words, almost
> only thing  that *can't* be divine is God, any more than *humans* can
> *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
> name (that is  YHWH of course).
> Jesus, in John, jumps on this very evasiveness of the term in
> 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,
>  He clarifies his own self-estimate: _hon ho patEr hEgiasen kai
>  eis tou kosmou_ ... _huios tou theou_.  God's son, not God.  The
>  irritated the Jews because no one else called themselves God's son
> insistently, _making_ themselves _theos_ (10:33) by dint of
> but  here clearly _theos_ = divine, godlike, godly, or even a god,
> 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
>  the English sense of "God" in the OED.  Then the development in
> Orthodoxy of the doctrine of _apotheosis_, whereby Christians "become
> gods" - not in the literal sense at all, but in the sense of 
> accomodation, sharing in God's bounty.  The Greeks were also most 
> resolute in asserting that the divine was perfectly mixed with the
> in  Jesus, "God become man" in a sense that shattered both ordinarily
> exclusive categories, not only for Jesus but for all Christians.
> I hope what everyone here realizes is that we are not discussing
> true nature, like theologians do with the Trinity.  We are discussing
>  semantic minefield which is where Greek and English meet over the
> _theos_.
> Greg Jordan

Thanks Greg, I really enjoyed your comments/observations; glad to have
you here in on the discussion.  By the way, are you aware of a piece in
English by a Mr. William R. Loader entitled: The Christology of the
Fourth Gospel, Structure and Issues?  It is offered as vol. 23 of a
German set called: Beitrage zur biblischen Exegese und Theologie and
published by Verlag Peter Lang in Germany, New York and Paris. (ISSN
0170-8716; ISBN 3-631-41912-0).  If not, see if you can locate a copy
and examine pages 152-173.  

Interestingly, even Calvin put this use of "god" into proper
perspective by explaining:

"Scripture gives the names of gods to those on whom God had conferred
an honorable office.  He who God has separated, to be distinguished
above all others [the Son] is far more worthy of this honorable
title....The passage which Christ quotes [at John 10:34] is in Ps[alms]
lxxxii.6 [82:6], I have said, You are gods, and all of you are children
of the Most High; where God expostulates with the kings and judges of
the earth, who tyrannically abuse their authrotiy and power for their
own sinful passions, for oppressing the poor, and for every evil
action....Christ applies this to the case in hand, that they receive
the name of gods, because they are God's ministers for governing the
world.  For the same reason Scripture calls angels gods [at Psalm 8:5],
because by them the glory of God beams forth on the world."  
(Commentary on...John, Eerdmans, p.491)

I find it also interesting that many (if not most) Bible commentaries,
when discussing such Scriptures as Ps.8:5; 58:1; 82:1; Ex.21:6; 22:8, 9,
28, bring to light the bearing that the use of "Elohim" plays when
applied to others.  Sad to say, many people, when discussing this issue
as related to "the Word (Jesus)," have done little next to nothing in
study on this.  I believe that if they had, we wouldn't find them
argueing with the `poly-theistic' deductions which they so often enjoy
attaching to the reading, "a god."  Even the "Saint Joseph Edition of
the Holy Bible (Confraternity Version, p.108) explained this when
discussing Ps.81and its connection to John 10:34:

"The Judges who administered the Law were called gods, because they
represented God.  If they, merely men, and so often unfaithful to their
duties, as in Ps[alm] 81 (82), could enjoy this title, how much more
right to it has He [Jesus] who was made holy, i.e., especially set
aside for God's work!"

Although the Calvin and Confraternity comments deal more directly with
the use of the term "god" as applied to others in the Hebrew Scriptures,
the point of the Jews being mono-thiestic provide no justification for
the objection of the rendering of "a god" at John 1:1c; and again, I
find it either betraying ignorance (due to lack of study on this issue)
or bias (due to a Trinitarian theology).

Sad to say, I do believe that a third category also exists: These are
those who have studied on this and will yet not admit the place that
this information deserves to be given in the discussion on John 1:1c. 
They would rather confuse the issue (playing upon and/or into the
ignorance of the general populace) by also bringing up their objections
as connected with their anti-poly-theistic claims of the Jewish

Alan Craig,
Upper Marlboro, Maryland.