Re: Jn 1:1, Colwell, Nelson Stdy Bible

From: Carl W. Conrad (
Date: Fri Aug 29 1997 - 07:11:02 EDT

At 2:11 AM -0500 8/29/97, Paul S. Dixon wrote:
>Zounds! Colwell's error revisited. This statement clearly reflects the
>erroneous thinking whereby the converse of Colwell's rule is affirmed.
>Only if one assumes that QEOS is definite here can one appeal to
>Colwell's rule. But, then that would be begging the question. The
>question is, what is the significance of the anarthrous predicate
>construction here? It is qualitative, both because of the immediate
>context where QEOS is set in contrast to the qualitative SARZ in a
>similar construction in v. 14, and because of the normal significance of
>the construction in John. Furthermore, if QEOS in 1:1c were definite,
>then this definiteness would point to the preceding TON QEON identifying
>the LOGOS with God the Father. Would this not be Sabellianism and a
>denial of the trinity?

I agree wholeheartedly with the substance of Paul's thesis here and his
complaint about the Nelson Study Bible: that the absence of an article
before QEOS in John 1:1c need not be an indicator that QEOS is definite; I
agree too that I think we should understand QEOS as qualitative, and in
fact, I've always like best the version (was it J. B. Phillips?): "... and
what God was, the Word was."

Methodologically, however, the last sentence bothers me: it seems to imply
that we should judge the meaning and intent of the Greek text in terms of
what later becomes a recognized heresy and in terms of what is later
declared to be right theology. I would think that one ought to determine
first what the Greek text CAN mean, and only then go on to make a judgment
about whether that accords with this or that theological position. That is
to say, I would think that right theology derives from a right reading of
the text, not a right reading of the text from right theology.

But this is an area--the theology of hermeneutics?--or is it the
hermeneutics of theology?--that is not very properly one of B-Greek focus.
It's quite enough, I think, to focus upon what the Greek text can or must
mean on its own terms, and to leave to the theologians to read out the
implications of that meaning.

Carl W. Conrad
Department of Classics/Washington University
One Brookings Drive/St. Louis, MO, USA 63130/(314) 935-4018
Home: 7222 Colgate Ave./St. Louis, MO 63130/(314) 726-5649 OR

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