RE: Jn 1:1, Colwell again

From: Clayton Bartholomew (
Date: Tue Sep 02 1997 - 10:15:34 EDT

Anticipating a certain amount of outrage over my post quoted below I
have decided to respond in advance.

*****My post begins*********

Paul S. Dixon wrote:

Rolf, Greg, et al: wrote:
>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.

The response to #2 shows a lack of understanding about the nature of
language in general. It falls into the same class as the comments that old
maid school teachers used to make about Ernest Hemmingway back in the
50's. *Bad Greek* is a non-starter as a linguistic category.

The response to #4 is a circular argument. The author of this comment is
asking us to assume the point he is trying to argue, i.e., that QEOS is

Murray Harris (Jesus as God, page 60) states that "from the point of view
of grammar alone, QHEOS HN hO LOGOS could be rendered *the Word was a
god*." Harris argues that this rendering is made impossible by the
theological context. He argues that John, being a Jewish monotheist, he
could not have intended this meaning. Not everyone is going to be happy
with Harris at this point.

*****My Post ends*****

I am sure that one or more of the folks on the b-greek list are going to
find my statement about response #2 rather strange. I seem to be
questioning a generally accepted rule of NT Greek grammar. But I am not
alone in this.

Murray Harris (Jesus as God, page 61) states :

"QEOS is anarthrous and apparently predicative. However, the relation
between these two facts is not necessarily causal. It is certainly possible
that in 1:18 the anarthrous QEOS stands as subject ... {snip} ... Given the
interchangeability of hO QEOS and QEOS in the Fourth Gospel, it would not
be impossible from the point of view of grammar alone, to translate 1:1c
as *God was the Word.*"

Harris goes on to state reasons why this rendering is unacceptable. His
main reason is contextual. An absolute identity between QEOS and LOGOS
would contradict the immediately preceding statement that hO LOGOS HN
PROS TON QEON. Thus, this translation fails because it renders a higher
level discourse unit incoherent not because of a hard and fast rule of
syntax relative to anarthrous nouns and predicates.

By the way, Harris concludes that QEOS is qualitative. His argument for
this is twenty pages long with numerous sub arguments, so it is a little
difficult to summarize it in one paragraph and do it justice. It would be
like trying to summarize Alvin Plantinga's free will theodicy in a
paragraph. Any takers?

Clay Bartholomew
Three Tree Point

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