b-greek-digest V1 #826
b-greek-digest Thursday, 17 August 1995 Volume 01 : Number 826
In this issue:
Re: John 1:1 & the Tetragrammatonm
Re: John 1:1 & the Tetragrammatonm
Re: John 1:1 & the Tetragrammatonm
re: Re: John 1:1 & the Tetragrammatonm
Re: BIBLE GREEK
Re: John 1:1c
Re: John 1:1c
Jhn. 10:10, PERISSON EXWSIN
From: "Gregory Jordan (ENG)" <email@example.com>
Date: Wed, 16 Aug 1995 02:23:40 -0400 (EDT)
Subject: Re: John 1:1 & the Tetragrammatonm
I didn't want to get into this, especially before I'm going away for a
few days, but just a few comments (and there really should be a FAQ for
B-Greekers on John 1:1!)...
On Tue, 15 Aug 1995, John Moe wrote:
> On Aug 14, Roland Milanese wrote in objection to the following claim by
> John Albu regarding the translation "the word was a god."
> <The Sacred Scriptures confirm the correctness of this rendering.>
> >objection: No scriptural evidence is offered to support this claim. In fact,
> the evidence is to the contrary: To say that the Word was "a god"
> violates the
> immediate context, which presents the Word as the creator of all things. Nor
> does it do justice to the gospel as a whole, which claims the same honor for
> the Son as is given to the Father (5:23; 20:28). Nor does it honor the
> of scripture which teaches that there is one true god and that all other
> so-called "gods" are idols (Is 43:10,11; 1Cor 8:4-6; 1Jn 5:20,21).
Those who think that the creator in this period's thought is necessarily
God need to do a little background work. Here, as elsewhere in the NT
(cf. 1 Cor. 8:6), God creates all things through, by means of, Jesus -
that is, with God as architect and source, and Jesus as workman and
mediator. Claiming honor with God is not the same thing as claiming
identity with God - it is a typical Johannine trope in which things of
God are attributed to Jesus, and likewise things of Jesus are attributed
to his followers - those who accept Christians accept Christ, and those
who accept Christ accept God, etc. etc. (cf. John 17:22). John 20:28
cannot be detached from John 14:5 ff. (and remember, the orthodox
interpret these figuratively, since the Son cannot be identical to the
Father as persons in God). And the NT teachings on monotheism cannot be
detached from Jesus's amazing equivocation in John 10:34-36. Overall, I
think the translation "a god" is unlikely, but it isn't impossible, and
this must be admitted.
> I (John Moe) would like to add the objection that John Albu's
> claim overlooks the Scriptural ascription of the "Name which is above
> every name." to Jesus. The LXX tradition of rendering the tetragrammaton
> KURIOS is carried into the NT. Who would deny that ANGALOS KURIOU is an
> echo of the Heb. MALACK YEHWEH heard through LXX ears. Who better than
> JWs should recognize that the "Name that is above every name" is not
> Jesus but the tetragarmmaton. There is room for argument about the many
> uses of KURIOS in the NT but every tongue that confesses KRIOUS IHSOUS
> CRISTOS must, I believe, find "The Word was God" at John 1:1 a rendering
> the corectness of which is "confirmed by the Sacred Scriptures."
And so how would Jews who "heard through LXX ears" even know about the
tetragrammaton of the written Hebrew text? What evidence is there for
that? And if it is Philippians 2 you are referring to, how could the
"name that is above every name" be God's when it is GOD giving it (2:9 ho
theos ... ekharisato autOi to onoma to huper pan onoma)? Or how could
confessing Jesus as "Master" (kurios) be confessing him as God when it
was done to redound to the glory of father God (2:10 eis doksan theou
patros)? This is the same idea we find in Acts 4:12, "there is no other
name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved" - Jesus's name
is salvifically unique and central, but it is "under heaven" (hupo ton
ouranon), that is, the name is inferior to God's alone.
Let us set aside specious "literal" translations and correctnesses
"confirmed" by Sacred Scripture. There is only reasonable and
unreasonable interpretation, and the former in this case is as plural as
From: Alan M Feuerbacher <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Date: Wed, 16 Aug 1995 13:27:16 PDT
Subject: Re: John 1:1 & the Tetragrammatonm
Concerning John 1:1c, Gregory Jordan wrote:
>Let us set aside specious "literal" translations and correctnesses
>"confirmed" by Sacred Scripture. There is only reasonable and
>unreasonable interpretation, and the former in this case is as plural as
I'm no Greek scholar, but from my own reading I have to agree with Greg.
Jehovah's Witnesses often assert that John 1:1c should be translated
"the Word was a god," and trinitarians "the Word was God," based on
grammatical considerations alone.
However, John 1:18, Romans 9:5 and similar scriptures show that no
hard and fast rule can be stated concerning the use of the article
or lack thereof in translating "theos" to "god" or "God." 2 Cor. 4:4
is a case where the article is used (ho theos), yet "god" is clearly
the intended meaning. Philippians 3:19 is another.
It is evident from my reading that grammar alone is no basis for
accepting or rejecting "a god," "God," "divine" or whatever, in
John 1:1c, but that the overall context of the Bible should guide.
Below, I quote from two references that support my conclusion.
J. W. Wenham, writing in _The Elements of New Testament Greek_,
listed some general rules about handling the Greek article and said:
In ancient manuscripts which did not differentiate between capital
and small letters, there would be no way of distinguishing between
Theos (God) and theos (god). Therefore as far as grammar alone is
concerned, such a sentence could be printed: theos estin ho Logos,
which would mean either, "The Word is a god", or, "The Word is the
god". The interpretation of John 1.1 will depend upon whether or
not the writer is held to believe in only one God or in more than
one god. It will be noticed that the above rules for the special
uses of the definite article are none of them rigid and without
exceptions. It is wiser not to use them as a basis for theological
argument until the student has reached an advanced stage in the
knowledge of the language. [p. 35]
In _Jesus as God_ Murray Harris examines with a fine tooth comb the
issue of translating John 1:1. He concludes that, because of the poor
correspondence between the wide connotations of "theos" and the narrower
ones of "god," that *none* of the common renderings give the precisely
correct meaning of the original. He does say that he prefers "the Word
was God" for John 1:1c, but qualifies it (pp. 69-70):
From this sample of paraphrases it is clear that in the translation
"the Word was God" the term _God_ is being used to denote his nature
or essence and not his person. But in normal English usage "God" is
a proper noun, referring to the person of the Father or corporately
to the three persons of the Godhead. Moreover, "the Word was God"
suggests that "the Word" and "God" are convertible terms, that the
proposition is reciprocating. But the Word is neither the Father
nor the Trinity. Therefore few will doubt that this time-honored
translation needs careful exegesis, since it places a distinctive
sense upon a common English word. The rendering cannot stand without
explanation.... From this brief survey of proposed renderings of
John 1:1c, I conclude that the most common translation ("the Word was
God") remains the most adequate, although it requires that "God" be
carefully defined or qualified. Harner's paraphrastic translation
"the Word had the same nature as God" (87), or the paraphrase "the
Word was identical with God the Father in nature," most accurately
represents the evangelist's intended meaning.
Most Christians automatically assume, as Harris said they should not,
that "God" in John 1:1c means the Father, and that "the Word" and "God"
are convertible terms. Most Christians are unfamiliar with the careful
exegesis needed to understand just what John said. Therefore, something
better should be done to give the true meaning.
Harris definitely rejects the translation "the Word was a god"
(pp. 67-68). However, his reasons are not based on grammar but on
the argument that acknowledging the existence of "many gods" is
polytheism. From page 60:
In appendix I S A.5 some of the reasons why a given noun may be
anarthrous are listed. Since the basic function of the article is
_deictic_, to add precision to thought by emphasizing individuality
or identity, the non-occurrence of the article with a noun may point
to the nonparticularity, the indefiniteness, of the concept.
Accordingly, from the point of view of grammar alone, theos en ho
logos could be rendered "the Word was a god," just as, for example,
if only grammatical considerations were taken into account, ...
(John 8:44) could mean "you belong to the father of the devil."
But the theological context, viz., John's monotheism, makes this
rendering of 1:1c impossible, for if a monotheist were speaking of
the Deity he himself reverenced, the singular theos could be applied
only to the Supreme Being, not to an inferior divine being or
emanation as if theos were simply generic. That is, in reference to
his _own_ beliefs, a monotheist could not speak of theoi nor could
he use theos in the singular (when giving any type of personal
description) of any being other than the one true God whom he
worshiped. On the other hand, when the polytheistic inhabitants of
Malta affirmed that Paul was theos, they were suggesting that he had
or deserved a place among their _own_ pantheon of gods. "They said
that he was a god" is therefore a proper translation of elegon auton
einai theon (Acts 28:6).
Note that Harris, like Wenham, acknowledges that the grammar allows for
"the Word was a god." This ought to put to rest the many claims that
grammar alone is a basis for rejecting this rendering. The grammar is
ambiguous and various renderings are allowed.
Next note that Harris' argument implies that Paul, Matthew and Luke must
have been polytheists, since 1 Cor. 4:4, Matt. 4:9 and Luke 4:7, taken
together, indicate that Satan is a god who could be worshiped, even
worshiped by Jesus if Jesus had chosen to yield to temptation. It was
certainly Paul's _own_ belief that the devil is "the god of the age",
since Luke 4:6 describes him as saying to Jesus about all the kingdoms
of the world, "I will give you all their authority and splendor, for it
has been given to me, and I can give it to anyone I want to. So if you
worship me, it will all be yours." Who gave the devil this authority?
God did, in line with his temporary position as God's great adversary.
So we see that Bible writers, Jesus, and even God himself indicate that
Satan is a god who can be worshiped. That is their *own* belief.
My point is that acknowledgment of the existence of other gods does not
imply worship of them. Only such worship is polytheism. Therefore, I
do not accept Harris' argument on this basis.
I'd like to get some feedback from the scholars on this forum on the
above arguments. Thanks for your time.
From: Bob Allisat <email@example.com>
Date: Wed, 16 Aug 1995 17:14:39 -0400 (EDT)
Subject: Re: John 1:1 & the Tetragrammatonm
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From: Eric Weiss <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: re: Re: John 1:1 & the Tetragrammatonm
Forwarded to: Internet[email@example.com]
Comments by: Eric Weiss@OSP@ACF.DAL
Alan Fuerbacher's and Gregory Jordan's comments on John 1:1c caused me to
raise some questions with Greg about the trinity and whether the Greek NT
really declares that Jesus is God, and if not, is there any harm in saying
that Jesus is not God? Does it affect salvation? Can Jesus be eternal and
worthy of worship, yet not God? Is our conception of the trinity more Nicene
than Pauline or Johannine?
Below is my last note to him, so you can see what I'm thinking and asking,
and so some others out there can maybe help me with these questions. Thanks!
-------------------------- [Original Message] -------------------------
I guess some of my thoughts come from what I guess you would call a couple of
logical syllogisms or equations, i.e.:
YHWH in the OT is translated as KURIOS in the Septuagint.
KURIOS in the NT is often/frequently/almost exclusively applied to Jesus, and
never (or maybe just once or twice) applied to "God" (which is rendered by
THEOS and PATER).
Hence, the attributes of YHWH are applied to Jesus.
Hence, Jesus = God.
Exodus 3:15 has God telling Moses that YHWH is the name by which he is to be
In the book of Acts things formerly ascribed to and done in the name of YHWH
are ascribed to and done in the name of Jesus.
Hence, the name of Jesus = the name of God (YHWH).
Hence, Jesus = God.
I don't know if this is sound logic or not. It really has nothing to do with
Nicene thought patterns (although since I read the text with the
presupposition, as I have been taught, that Jesus is God, which could be a
Nicene way of viewing things, I can't say that I'm not just seeing what I
expect to find).
It gets back to the questions I asked in my last message, and still find I am
asking myself: Does the NT really teach that Jesus is God, and if it does
not, does that really affect our salvation? If so, how? Does the Savior--
the means and person by which God reconciles us to Himself--also have to be
God Himself? Can Jesus be eternal and not God? Can He be worthy of honor
and worship (as the NT seems to deem Him), yet not be God?
Christianity has developed its whole theology based on the belief that Jesus
is God, and there are a few passages which some exegetes like A.T. Robertson
claim explicitly call Jesus God, though others say it's not crystal clear,
but if the New Testament can be honestly read as not to require ascribing
full equality and oneness of Jesus with God the Father, what is the harm or
benefit in reading it this way? I know if I were to say that Jesus was not
God, or that the NT doesn't teach that Jesus was God, I'd immediately be
looked upon as a JW or a member of The Way International or some such group,
and that would be false.
From: "DR. KEN PULLIAM" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Date: Wed, 16 Aug 1995 15:34:02 -0700 (MST)
Subject: John 1:1c
The comments by Alan Feuerbacher were excellent. I think there are
three legitimate grammatical possibilites for "THEOS EN HO LOGOS".
1) The Word was the God (THEOS is inherently definite).
2) The Word was a god (THEOS is indefinite).
3) The Word was God (THEOS is qualitative).
#1 would be Sabellianism as Westcott points out in his commentary.
#2 would be Arianism.
#3 is orthodox Christianity. It is orthodox because it harmonizes better
with the rest of Scripture.
I appreciate your quote from Murray Harris, but I wonder if you have
misunderstood him. I don't think he is saying that Paul, Jesus, etc.
were polytheists. The Maltans certainly were and thus the rendering in
Acts is appropriate (similar situation with Nebuchadnezzar in Dan. 3).
But in the case of Paul and Jesus, I think you have to understand their
words in the context of 1 Cor. 8. There are many gods and lords as far as
the pagan world is concerned. In a sense, anything that is worshipped is
a god but that does not mean that it is truly God. I will admit that
Harris' language is a little confusing.
Ken R. Pulliam, Ph.D.
From: Donny Cameron <email@example.com>
Date: Wed, 16 Aug 1995 16:15:42 -0800
Subject: Re: BIBLE GREEK
>>"I am wanting to learn the Greek language. To better understand the" King
>>James Version". And also I want to Know what you think of the other
Carlton Winbery wrote:
>Why not learn Greek to better understand the Greek New Testament and then
>make your own judgments about the other versions?
Good advice. Also, get some collateral understanding of textual criticism
so you won't be hoodwinked by the textus receptus hype.
- -Donny Cameron
Barefoot Boy (Donny Cameron) firstname.lastname@example.org | No tread on me! ooO Ooo
Barefoot Photography | Loyal friend | | | |
Any day you can barefoot is a good day!!! | of Peter Pan \_/ \_/
Date: Wed, 16 Aug 95 17:43:47 PDT
Subject: Re: John 1:1c
Ken Pulliam wrote:
>1) The Word was the God (THEOS is inherently definite).
>2) The Word was a god (THEOS is indefinite).
>3) The Word was God (THEOS is qualitative).
That is my understanding of the possibilities. According to the reading
I've done, 1) is neither grammatically nor contextually possible. Is
this not correct?
As for 2), we also have variation "deity," "divine," "nature of ..."
and so on. Correct?
As for 3), it does not give the full meaning of the Greek, either
the basic words or the cultural context in which John wrote. Correct?
>I appreciate your quote from Murray Harris, but I wonder if you have
>misunderstood him. I don't think he is saying that Paul, Jesus, etc.
Yes, I realize that. What I meant, and perhaps did not make clear, was
that if Harris' argument about polytheism were correct, we must conclude
that Paul, etc. were polytheists. Since this is not acceptable we must
reject Harris' argument.
>The Maltans certainly were and thus the rendering in
>Acts is appropriate (similar situation with Nebuchadnezzar in Dan. 3).
>But in the case of Paul and Jesus, I think you have to understand their
>words in the context of 1 Cor. 8. There are many gods and lords as far as
>the pagan world is concerned. In a sense, anything that is worshipped is
>a god but that does not mean that it is truly God. I will admit that
>Harris' language is a little confusing.
This is an interesting point, and I'd appreciate some insight from
people who have studied the cultural context. The Greeks and others
around them believed in a pantheon of gods. These gods were as real
to them as our God is to us. These gods were worshiped, even though
most of them were imaginary idols.
In certain cases, though, as I described in my previous post, worship
was rendered to a "god" that is a real, live entity -- Satan. By all
Greek cultural practices that I'm aware of, Satan was a god -- not
THE GOD, of course, but a god that really exists. Jesus believed that
Satan existed, and would have called him a god. Yet Jesus certainly
cannot be described as polytheistic, nor did he ever think that this
god was God.
I know this may be somewhat confusing, but I've seen many commentators
take advantage of such confusion to argue their position.
In certain cases the OT describes situations where "by the power of
the gods" miracles were performed, such as when the Egyptian magicians
were able to perform miracles that more-or-less duplicated those Moses
performed before Pharaoah. These miracles could only have been
performed by powerful, unseen spirit forces such as the Israelites
were warned against contacting through spells and so on. Greeks would
rightly call these spirit forces gods.
>From this I would conclude that the culture in which NT Greek was
spoken allowed that "gods" were real entities. The early Christians,
of course, did not worship those gods -- whether they were imaginary
idols or the powerful spirit forces behind devilish miracles is not
relevant -- even though Christians acknowledged their existence. I
think there is a good deal of confusion on the part of people who say
that mere acknowledgement that other "gods" exist is equivalent to
polytheism. The question is one of worship, not existence. Believing
that real, live gods exist does not imply belief that these are the
same as THE GOD. We need to take the Greek cultural context into
account when talking about this subject.
Any comments on these arguments would be appreciated.
From: Ken Penner <email@example.com>
Date: Wed, 16 Aug 1995 21:27:47 -0800
Subject: Re: John 1:1c
On 16 Aug 95 at 15:34, DR. KEN PULLIAM wrote, in part:
> 2) The Word was a god (THEOS is indefinite).
> #2 would be Arianism.
I don't think Arianism is the right label here.
Arianism emphasizes Christ's nature as a (perfect) creature. Arian
Christology would deemphasize passages such as John 1:1 which
imply that Christ was the eternal Word or Wisdom of the Father.
Instead, Arianism advances those scriptures that mention Christ's
limitations and dependence on the Father. For Arians, Christ is not
a god; He is the first creature.
Regent College, Vancouver
Home page moving soon from http://netshop.net/~kpenner/
From: David Moore <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Date: Thu, 17 Aug 1995 00:55:27 -0400 (EDT)
Subject: Jhn. 10:10, PERISSON EXWSIN
The interpretation of John 10:10 has been puzzling me for some
time, and I'd like to present my thoughts relating to it on this forum,
hopefully to get some informed feedback.
Practically universally, KAI PERISSON EXWSIN has been translated
"and that they may have it more abundantly." This takes the adjective
PERISSON in an adverbial sense, which is possible. Nevertheless, there is
no pronoun to make clear that it should be taken so (e.g. if it were to
say KAI PERISSON EXWSIN AUTHN).
Taking into account the lack of a referent pronoun, and when one
considers the context, IMO, the absolute of PERISSON (i.e. "and that they
may have abundance") recommends itself more than the adverbial sense. In
this passage, Jesus is contrasting himself and his ministry with that of
Messianic pretenders (?) that have previously come on the scene. He
categorizes them as thieves and robbers. He goes on to say that the thief
does not come except to steal and kill and destroy to which he contrasts
Himself saying that He has come that the sheep may have life and that
they may have abundance - "life" contrasting with "kill," and "that they
may have abundance" being a concept that contrasts with "steal" and
This meaning for PERISSON is supported by Liddell & Scott who note
Xenophon's use of the word with substantival or absolute meaning. Moulton
and Milligan also note a similar meaning (s.v.) with the phrase PERITON
[_sic_] GEGRAPTAI meaning "more than enough has been written." Proverbs
14:23 in the LXX also appears to support the possiblility of an absolute
sense for PERISSON.
Since I have said that PERISSON in Jhn. 10:10 may mean abundance,
let me make clear that I don't hold either the idea that being poor is a
curse or the idea that anyone who is right with God must be rich. The
theology of the Scripture - and especially o f the New Testament - is
against such a view (Lu. 6:20; Rev. 2:9; etc.). Both history and our
current times also provide many examples which illustrate that where
Christians live under regimes unfriendly to the Gospel, the latter often
persecute them through the use of economic pressures. But according to
Christ, that's not a sign of curse, but of blessing (Mat. 5:10).
The meaning of Jhn. 10:10, as I see it, is the contrast between
those who have come to steal, to kill and to destroy and Christ who has
come to give His life. The abundance that Christ gives is through the
sacrifice of Himself. Such abundance does not come from the others,
because their actions are essentially selfish, seeking their own ends, and
being willing to steal and kill and destroy to achieve them. Christ
provides abundance by giving all that He has and all that He is, even to
(and supremely in) the giving of His own life.
References that agree with this interpretation of Jhn. 10:10 are
sparse. Hermann Hanse points out that "In [Mt. 13:12 and 25:29]
PERISSEUEIN has much the same sense as PERISSON EXEIN (Jn. 10:10)"
(_TDNT_, s.v. EXW, II:827, n. 62). But beyond this quote , I've been
unable to find commentaries that support my point of view.
There is, however, an undocumented v.l. that suggests an
interpretation similar to that presented above. The Aleph MS (uncial 01)
reads, in Jhn. 10:10 b EGW HLQON hINA ZWHN AIWNION EXWSIN KAI PERISSON
EXWSIN. The addition of AIWNION after ZWHN already shows the "life" to be
unending, so it seems unlikely that PERISSON would be further defining the
extent of "life." In that we find this v.l. in Aleph, (and because of
Aleph's supposed relationship to P75) it is especially interesting that
P75, supported by one other papyrus and several lesser MSS, contains a
different v.l. at this point which supports the "and have it more
abundantly" interpretation (i.e. PERISSOTERON in place of PERISSON).
Neither of these variants has sufficient MS support to be accepted
as the textual reading. Nevertheless, they may show that, at a very early
date, there were differing interpretations of this passage with textual
variants which supported them respectively. Since, however, the
interpretation that takes PERISSON in its absolute sense is the most
difficult theologically (at least at first impression), we should probably
give it more serious consideration, which is what I have tried to do in
David L. Moore Southeastern Spanish District
Miami, Florida of the Assemblies of God
email@example.com Department of Education
End of b-greek-digest V1 #826
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