Re: James 1:1a Translation Question

From: Dale M. Wheeler (
Date: Sat Sep 07 1996 - 13:35:05 EDT

Albert Collver, III wrote:

> I am reading James 1 right now. I have a translation question on the
>Iakwbos theos kai kuriou Ihsou Christou doulos
> The common translation is "James, a servant of God and the Lord Jesus Christ
> What is the possibility of this translation?
> "James, a servant of Jesus Christ who is God and Lord ..."
> Please comment and give support for either position taken. Grammatically,
>both seem to be acceptable. However, the first translation listed seems to be
>the most common.


A couple of observations: First, we're looking at an Apollonius' construction
here, with the head noun, DOULOS, and the genitive noun(s) being anarthrous;
we probably cannot determine the definiteness or indefiniteness of the nouns
on their lack of articles. Look at the greetings in some of the other NT
and you'll see the same thing; I suspect it has to do with conjunction of a
(most probably) indefinite DOULOS and the definite QEOS/KURIOS/IHSOUS; and
like their symmetry in these constructions. Also if you look at the other intros
you'll see that they frequently refer to Jesus as KURIOS and that when God/the
Father is mentioned, the two persons are kept separate. Almost certainly (it
"feels" to me), if James had wanted to equate QEOU and KURIOU he would have
put one article in, in front of QEOU, as we see in 2Pet 1:1 (which I take to be
a valid example of a Granville-Sharp construction).

Second, after running a series of GRAMCORD searches, I couldn't find anything
really parallel to this construction in the NT. But it is interesting to note
that the only other intro which puts DOULOS last is James' brother Jude. And
while Greek is not as interested as English in word order, its still important,
especially in genitive phrases; and I suspect that the other Greek profs will
tell you the same thing, namely that its not uncommon to have a longer genitive
phrase modify another noun, but that the whole phrase is to be read in the order
its written, rather than inside out, backwards (which is what you are
or any other way. Turning the genitive phrase around the way you suggest "feels"
very harsh; it would seem more likely that the phrase could be "a servant of
God, namely the Lord Jesus Christ", but again that would necessitate the
inclusion of an article before QEOU.

Thus, I'd say that the common translation is correct (without some very clear
examples to the contrary).

Dale M. Wheeler, Th.D.
Research Professor in Biblical Languages Multnomah Bible College
8435 NE Glisan Street Portland, OR 97220
Voice: 503-251-6416 FAX:503-254-1268 E-Mail:

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