Qualitative and Indefinite

From: Apokrisis1@aol.com
Date: Wed Sep 03 1997 - 21:30:13 EDT

In The Martyrdom of Polycarp (10:1) we read Polycarp's reply to the
magistrate who attempts to persuade him to revile Christ: "If you vainly
suppose that I will swear by the genius of Caesar, as you say, and pretend
that you are ignorant of who I am [TIS EIMI], listen plainly: I am a
Christian [CHRISTIANOS EIMI]." The English translation is that of Kirsopp
Lake from The Apostolic Fathers, (LCL 2; Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University
Press, 1912), 324.

It seems fair to suggest that Polycarp's reply reveals not only the group to
which he belongs (indefinite), but also tells us (and, of course, the
proconsul) who he is (TIS EIMI), that is, what kind of person he is
(qualitative). He is a _Christian_, who cannot discard the character forged
through years of Christian servitude (compare 11:1).

I have some other examples where I believe a qualitative/indefinite or
qualitative/definite meaning is possible if not preferable, but I think the
main issue surrounding John 1:1c, as I stated in my previous post, is the
context, specifically verse 1:1b. One can certainly argue based on
statistical probability (which probability I believe is, in this case, open
to question) that John intended to emphasize the qualitative aspect of the
noun by placing it before the copula, but the immediate context must not be
ignored as the same noun (THEOS) is used of another, who existed with the
LOGOS. I know of no other context where such is the case with an anarthrous
precopulative nominative. That being said, it is certainly worthwhile to
investigate the possible significance of other, similar constructions, but
John 1:1 must ultimately be considered in light of its own extraordinary
features and peculiarities.

Combining the emphasis given to the predicate in 1:1c by placing it before
the copula, and also taking into account the distinction made between HO
THEOS and the LOGOS, perhaps the translation, "the Word was a divine being"
should be given greater consideration. I certainly would not dogmatically
assert that this or that translation is "impossible." But I think "the Word
was a divine being" captures the qualitative aspect of the noun indicated by
the syntax, and also preserves the distinction between HO LOGOS and HO THEOS.

Greg Stafford
University of Wisconsin

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