Θεός

Semantic Range, Lexicography, and other approaches to word meaning - in general, or for particular words.
Scott Lawson
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Θεός

Post by Scott Lawson » October 29th, 2013, 1:25 am

On page 26 of his book Jesus as God, Murray J. Harris says; "Since originally θεός was a predicative term, its use encompassed the whole range of Greek religious thought."

What does he mean by θεός being a predicative term?
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Scott Lawson

Scott Lawson
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Re: Θεός

Post by Scott Lawson » October 29th, 2013, 11:38 am

To clarify, I'm wondering if Harris is indicating that θεός was found first as a predicate noun and grew from there.
It just seems a strange thing to say that it was originally a predicate term when it would seem that it would have been equally used as a subject. I'm just wondering how a noun can enter a language with so specific a role...if that is what he means.
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Stephen Carlson
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Re: Θεός

Post by Stephen Carlson » October 29th, 2013, 11:45 am

I have no idea what Harris means. Perhaps more of the context would help, but the book is too old for Amazon's "look inside" so I can't really hazard a guess.
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Scott Lawson
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Re: Θεός

Post by Scott Lawson » October 29th, 2013, 11:52 am

The rest of his comments are as follows: "Sometimes the term (with or without the article) refers to deity in general; that is, the divine power and qualities that are the common possession of all gods. W. H. S. Jones observes (253) that the articular ο θεός (like ο άνθρωπος, "mankind") is "very often generic" in sense ("god-kind", "a god," "any god qua god"), as in the well known definition of Epicurus: "First of all reckoning a god (τόν θεόν) to be living, immortal and blessed."
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Barry Hofstetter
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Re: Θεός

Post by Barry Hofstetter » October 30th, 2013, 5:37 am

Scott Lawson wrote:The rest of his comments are as follows: "Sometimes the term (with or without the article) refers to deity in general; that is, the divine power and qualities that are the common possession of all gods. W. H. S. Jones observes (253) that the articular ο θεός (like ο άνθρωπος, "mankind") is "very often generic" in sense ("god-kind", "a god," "any god qua god"), as in the well known definition of Epicurus: "First of all reckoning a god (τόν θεόν) to be living, immortal and blessed."
This doesn't help, not really. All it seems to be saying is that in particular contexts θεός has a particular meaning. It doesn't explain how the noun started out as a predicate or predicative usage. Harris has a lot of good things to say in his book, but this is not one of them.
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N.E. Barry Hofstetter
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Scott Lawson
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Re: Θεός

Post by Scott Lawson » October 30th, 2013, 11:58 am

Thank you Barry. The statement perplexed me. I have been engaged in a conversation that has me looking deeper into the qualitativeness of preverbal anarthrous nouns. Some have made the statement that there is no such thing as a qualitative predicate nominative and this boggles my mind. Harris's statement seemed to indicate that he had some sort of evidence that countered this view when he said θεός was originally a predicative term and then went on to describe its use in qualitative terms. I think I'll rework my question so that it isn't just about θεός but the broader category anarthrous predicates and not limited to just those that are preverbal. I'm still reading through the archives and relevant posts.

Thanks again to you Barry and to Stephen!

P. S. Mike Aubrey I know you have little tolerance for the discussion that so often generates this kind of question and you made sounds like you were going to gather up some data on qualitative preverbal anarthrous predicates. I sure hope you will be able to offer some insights if I find it necessary to post on the subject.
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Re: Θεός

Post by MAubrey » October 30th, 2013, 3:12 pm

I'm trying to develop some tolerance for these sorts of things...
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Scott Lawson
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Re: Θεός

Post by Scott Lawson » November 4th, 2013, 9:24 pm

With a little help from my fiends (Sounds Beatle-ish in my ears.) I've learned that evidently Harris got the idea that θεός was originally a predicative term from TDNT

A. The Greek Concept of God.

1. θεός in the Usage of Secular Gk.

The question of the etym. of θεός has never been solved. It can thus tell us nothing about the nature of the Gk. concept of God.1 θεός2 is originally a predicative term;3 hence its use is as broad and varied as the religious interpretation of the world and of life by the Gks. Homer already uses both the plur. (οἱ) θεοί and the indefinite sing. θεός (τις).4 In this use he is sometimes thinking of divine being and work in general,5 sometimes of a particular god,6 and sometimes specifically of Zeus.7 There is similar variation between θεός and ὁ θεός with no obvious distinction of sense. We also have variations, often close together, between “the gods,” “the god,” “god,” and “the godhead,” as though they were all monistic terms referring to a single power.8

Yet (ὁ) θεός does not denote the unity of a specific personality in the monotheistic sense. It rather expresses what is felt to be the unity of the religious world in spite of its multiplicity. The Greek concept of God is essentially polytheistic, not in the sense of many individual gods, but in that of an ordered totality of gods, of a world of gods, which, e.g., in the divine state of Homer, forms an integrated nexus. This view naturally gave strong support to the term θεός. Indeed, it brought it into prominence, and it found its finest expression in the person of Zeus, the πατὴρ ἀνδρῶν τε θεῶν τε (Hom. Il., 15, 47), the monarchical θεῶν ὓπατος καὶ ἄριστος (Hom. Od., 19, 303), the exponent of divine rule in general.9

Zeus takes the first decision and has the final word. Hence piety often equates him quite simply with God (cf. Hom. Od., 4, 236; Demosth. Or., 18, 256; Aesch. Suppl., 524 ff.; 720 ff.; Ag., 160 ff.). Under the influence of rational theological speculation along causal lines there develops out of the original plurality of gods a divine genealogy and hierarchy (cf. Hesiod’s theogony). We read of higher and lower gods, of families of gods, and finally of a pantheon. In Greece and Rome there is not only a trinity etc., but also a group of twelve gods (οἱ δώδεκα θεοί),10 and this expression comes to be used for the unity and totality of the gods who rule the world (cf. Pind. Olymp., 5, 5; Plat. Phaedr., 247a).

For the most part θεός is used for such well-known deities as Zeus, Apollos, Athena, Eros etc. But to call the cosmos God is also good Gk. (Plat. Tim., 92c: ὅδε ὁ κόσμος … θεός, Orig. Cels., V, 7); the φθόνος is a κάκιστος κἀδικώτατος θεός, Hippothoon Fr., 2 (TGF, p. 827), and in Eur. even meeting again is a god: Hel., 560: ὦ θεοί· θεὸς γὰρ καὶ τὸ γιγνώσκειν φίλους. In Aesch. Choeph., 60 εὐτυχεῖν is for men θεός τε καὶ θεοῦ πλέον. Similarly, original forces (→ δίκη II, 181), both inward and outward, may be furnished with the predicate θεός, and later abstract concepts, cosmic magnitudes and divine attributes such as → αἰών (→ I, 198), → λόγος, → νοῦς (Corp. Herm., II, 12), are personified in the cultus and philosophy and hypostatised as gods. εὐλάβεια is an ἔδικος θεός, Eur. Phoen., 560; 782,11 and λύπη is a δεινὴ θεός, Eur. Or., 399.

This brings us to a further vital point in the Greek concept of God. In face of the deepest reality, of great, sustaining being in all its glory, the Greek can only say that this, and not the Wholly Other, is God. Where we read in 1 Jn. 4:16 that θεὸς ἀγάπη ἐστίν, classical Greek would have to reverse this and say that ἀγάπη θεός ἐστιν. This shift of subject and predicate expresses a whole world of religious difference. The Greek gods are simply basic forms of reality, whether this be conceived in the forms of myth (Homer), in a final, unifying ἀρχή (Ionic physics),12 or in the ἰδέα of philosophers. Reality, however, is manifold, and it advances on man the most varied claims, which are free and unbound in the world of the gods, but which in many cases tragically intersect in the human breast. Hence the plural θεοί, or polytheism.

Theological dictionary of the New Testament. 1964 (G. Kittel, G. W. Bromiley, G. Friedrich, G. W. Bromiley & G. Friedrich, Ed.) (electronic ed.) (3:67-68).
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Scott Lawson

Barry Hofstetter
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Re: Θεός

Post by Barry Hofstetter » November 5th, 2013, 8:19 am

Scott Lawson wrote:With a little help from my fiends (Sounds Beatle-ish in my ears.) I've learned that evidently Harris got the idea that θεός was originally a predicative term from TDNT

A. The Greek Concept of God.

1. θεός in the Usage of Secular Gk.

The question of the etym. of θεός has never been solved. It can thus tell us nothing about the nature of the Gk. concept of God.1 θεός2 is originally a predicative term;3 hence its use is as broad and varied as the religious interpretation of the world and of life by the Gks. Homer already uses both the plur. (οἱ) θεοί and the indefinite sing. θεός (τις).4 In this use he is sometimes thinking of divine being and work in general,5 sometimes of a particular god,6 and sometimes specifically of Zeus.7 There is similar variation between θεός and ὁ θεός with no obvious distinction of sense. We also have variations, often close together, between “the gods,” “the god,” “god,” and “the godhead,” as though they were all monistic terms referring to a single power.8
Well, this is a very nice article and all that, but it doesn't tell us any more about what is meant by calling it predicative than Harris. The writer of the article states that it "is originally used as a predicative term" but provides no support for the assertion. A few citations from the literature would where it is clearly so used would be a big help.
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N.E. Barry Hofstetter
Instructor of Latin
Jack M. Barrack Hebrew Academy
καὶ σὺ τὸ σὸν ποιήσεις κἀγὼ τὸ ἐμόν. ἆρον τὸ σὸν καὶ ὕπαγε.

Scott Lawson
Posts: 363
Joined: June 9th, 2011, 6:36 pm

Re: Θεός

Post by Scott Lawson » November 5th, 2013, 1:07 pm

Barry,
Here is the footnote after the phrase "predicative term." I'm not sure it is any more helpful in answering the question. I posted the TDNT entry more as informational than explanatory and also to indicate Harris' source. Sorry for the confusion. And thank you so much for your participation in helping me find answers to my question.



Hes. Op., 764 of the φήμη: θεός νύ τίς ἐστι καὶ αὐτή. Aesch. Choeph., 59 f.: τόδʼ εὐτυχεῖν, τόδʼ ἐμ βροτοῖς θεός τε καὶ θεοῦ πλέον. Eur. Hel., 560; cf. U. v. Wilamowitz, Der Glaube der Hellenen, I (1931), 17 f.
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