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

From: Paul S. Dixon (
Date: Tue Sep 02 1997 - 16:57:21 EDT

On Tue, 2 Sep 1997 13:17:21 -0600 "Williams, Wes"
<> writes:


>> I am glad to have the honor of stepping forward to be the first to
>> state the obvious; that "a god" is a perfectly acceptable translation
>> on grammatical and linguistic grounds without introducing theology;
>> repeat, without introducing theology.

No, it is not an acceptable translation, because the nuance is
qualitative and there is a clearer and less ambiguous way of rendering
the qualitative noun. The "a god" translation does or easily could
suggest indefiniteness.

And, frankly, one does not have to read his theology into a qualitative
Qeos in Jn 1:1c in order to get "deity," or "divine."

>> If we dislike "a" as a
>> grammatical marker for qualitativeness since it may imply
>> indefiniteness, then what do we do with John's "a sinner" "a king"
>>"a prophet" "a disciple", etc., etc. If these are qualitative ONLY and
>> not qualitative _and_ indefinite, then would we not be better off
>> with "sinful" "kingly" "prophetic" "disciplish" (I invented a word

If need be, yes. If the nuances are qualitative, and if rendering such
qualitative nouns with an "a" suggests indefiniteness, then by all means,
let's translate them to better reflect qualitativeness. By the way, the
reason we are not so concerned about the "a" translations elsewhere, as
erroneous as they may be, is because by in large they pose no obvious
problems. So what if we translate "a sinner" instead of "sinful?". Even
though the qualitative nuance does not imply this, the "a" translation
might suggest that there are other sinners. This is true, of course, so
it doesn't bother us. It doesn't come from the Greek, but it still
corresponds to reality.

But, when we come to Jn 1:1c, this is a different story. The translation
"a god," suggesting a god among other true gods, runs contrary to what
orthodox Christianity has always believed. Therefore, let's translate it
as clearly and unambiguously as possible to reflect the qualitative
nuance. "A god" won't do.
>> By the way, rejecting the possibility of indefiniteness with the
>> John 1:1c QEOS (as in the above second clause) is a theological
>> and not a grammatical one.

I disagree. Rejecting the possibility of indefiniteness at 1:1c can be
done solely on exegetical grounds. I have already argued the case for
qualitativeness. That coupled with a rejection of your dual nuancing of
QEOS, so that it can be only qualitative or indefinite, but not both,
argues sufficiently for qualitativeness only.

Only if qualitativeness and indefiniteness were equal possibilities, as
some of my opponents seem to be arguing, is the issue settled
snip, snip

It must be time for this thread to die down. I'm weary of it. If
anybody wants to continue it and we don't hear any squawking to the
contrary, then let's do so off-line. But, I don't think there is
anything new to be added at this point.

Paul Dixon

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