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

From: Paul S. Dixon (
Date: Mon Sep 01 1997 - 15:44:49 EDT

Rolf, Greg, et al:

I will take this occasion to respond to both of you and hopefully to
cover all bases.

On Fri, 29 Aug 1997 18:15:48 +0200 (MET DST) Rolf Furuli
<> writes:
>Paul Dixon wrote,
><In order to argue for definiteness one would have to consider at
>least a random sampling of anarthrous predicate nouns, then ascertain
>many of them were definite (or qualitative). This is what I did. Well,
><actually considered all the occurrences of the anarthrous predicate
><nominatives in John. My thesis argues that normally the anarthous
><predicate nominative in John is qualitative, especially when it
>precedes the verb (94% of occurrences).
>Dear Paul,
>Your thesis represents a great leap forward, because Colewell=B4s rule
>greatly has been misused. We should not, however, discard Colewell
>completely, although his rule cannot be applied to John 1:1c.

We should discard his rule completely for purposes of ascertaining
definiteness, since his rule assumes definiteness (by admission, he
considered only definite predicate nouns). The only legitmate
application of his rule would be in the consideration of the likelihood
of articularity of the definite noun, but then that can readily be
determined by simply looking at the text. Of course, it might have some
bearing in textual criticism, but even that seems rather suspect. Bottom
line: his rule says only that definite predicate nouns can and often do
appear without the article. But, even if this is so, this does not mean,
nor imply, that anarthrous predicate nouns are usually definite. It
doesn't even increase the probability of such.
>In a
>comment to your post Carl wrote: "I would think that one ought to
>first what the Greek text CAN mean, and only then go on to make a
>about whether that accords with this or that theological position."
>are sound words,and taking them as a point of departure, I would like to

>ask about the relation between what is qualitative, indefinite and
>definite. The last two are mutually exclusive, but what about the first?

In my thesis I defined qualitative, indefinite and definite nouns. My
thesis is not at the house (where I am now; its at the office), so I will
go by memory from 22 years back. I defined qualitative nouns something
like this: a noun where a quality, characteristic or essence was being
stressed. A definite noun was defined as a noun where a particular
identity was stressed, and indefinite nouns were nouns where membership
in a class (of two or more) was stressed.

The point is that according to my definitions, which I believe are in
accord with the standard thinking here, a noun is considered either
definite, indefinite or qualitative, but not any two or three of these
simultaneously. Therefore, a definite noun is not indefinite, nor
qualitative. A qualitative noun is not definite, nor indefinite.

I already responded to Carl's remarks. Nevertheless, theology is driven
by exegesis, to be sure. The development of a systematic theology is
dependent upon this. Nevertheless, there is a place for theology in
exegesis. It is this: if our exegesis contradicts our theology, then
either one has to change. It could be our theology is wrong. It could
be our exegesis is wrong. Concerning the latter, we do this all the time
in the interpretation of scripture. It is referred to as, "comparing
scripture with scripture." We would be hopelessly lost at times, if we
could not interpret one portion of scripture in light of our
interpretation of another. Of course, there is a fine line here.

The real cruncher, of course, is whether or not we are open to changing
our theology when our exegesis of an individual passage seems
overwhelmingly set in opposition. The exegesis of QEOS in Jn 1:1c seems
overwhelmingly in favor of taking it qualitatively, and not indefinitely,
nor definitely. One does not have to read his theology into it. Here is
the argument for taking it qualitatively:

1. It is set in contrast to the anarthrous and qualitative SARX in 1:14,
 the Word was QEOS ... and the Word became SARX.
2. It is set in parallel with two qualities in Jn 1:1a, and 1:1b, the
pre-existence and personality of the Logos. Should we not expect a third
quality in 1:1c?
3. The normal significance of similar constructions in John's Gospel is
qualitativeness, the point of my thesis.

>When you conclude that 94% of the predicate nominatives in John which
>precedes the verb are qualitative, do you by this exclude that they
>also can be qualitative and definite or qualitative and indefinite? Or
>applied to John 1:1. We agree that QEOS is not definite, and your
>that it is qualitative are logical. However, can we exclude the
>that QEOS is BOTH qualitive and indefinite?

Yep, I answered this one above. In short, the nuance of a noun is one
and only one of the three.

>Recently there were some discussion on the Bible list concerning your
>thesis, and the final conclusion were not drawn, so I use the
>opportunity to ask for a clarification of your view.

I hope this helps.

>Using only the grammar and syntax I see four possible English
>(1) "and the Word was God"
>(2) "and god was the Word"
>(3) "and the Word was divine"
>(4) "and the Word was a god"

>Do the conclusions of your thesis nullify any of these renderings, or
>are all four compatible with your thesis?

Only 1 and 3 are possible. Number 2 is ruled out simply because it is
bad Greek. The rule here is: given an anarthrous noun and an articular
noun in a sentence or clause, the subject is always denoted by the
articular noun.
Number 4 is ruled out simply because it stresses membership in a class of
2 or more, but the stress is qualitativeness.

I did not respond earlier, because I thought we had gone over it on
another list already and because I thought it might not be in line with
the parameters of the b-greek list. But, since you specifically
requested a response a second time, I thought it best to give a careful
and final response. I surely hope this does it.


Paul S. Dixon

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