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

From: Rolf Furuli (
Date: Tue Sep 02 1997 - 18:25:20 EDT

Dear Paul,

I regret that I expressed myself in a way which easily could be
misunderstood. Let me try to clear this up.
You wrote:

>>Colewell was the first to show that the place of the anarthrous
>>predicate nominative in the clause could have semantic importance, but
>>his opposition was definiteness/indefiniteness and he did not take
>>qualitativness into account. You have made an excellent study of the
>>>>qualitativness of the mentioned constructions in John with the

>I'm not sure what you mean by your phraseology, "opposition
>qualitative/definite, indefinite." But, later on you say about my work,
>"you have only considered qualitativeness and not

>You are wrong. While Colwell considered only definite predicate nouns in
>his study (and so could only make conclusions about such), I considered
>all the anarthrous predicate nominative constructions in John's Gospel,
>then determined which and how many of these were qualitative, definite,
>or indefinite, respectively. Big, huge difference.

When you assessed 94% of the predicate nominatives preceding the verb to be
qualitative, this was of course in opposition to the 6% which either were
definite or indefinite. So it was not my intention to say that you did not
use all three characteristics in your work. My point was that you viewed
the three as mutually exclusive, and did not investigate whether any
passage could be both indefinite and qualitative or definite and
qualitative.You yourself wrote:

>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 appreciate your thesis and view it as a very fine work. My critique
relates to your application of it to rule out the rendition "a god" in John
1:1c. The only way to get a sound scientific basis to rule out "a god" is
to show it is impossible that the anarthrous QEOS can be BOTH qualitative
and indefinite. Your own words above show that you have not demonstrated
this, just assumed it. Therefore your thesis cannot be used to rule out
this rendition.

>Your refusal to accept the clearer and unambiguous rendering of the
>mutually agreed upon qualitative QEOS, your steadfast adherence to the "a
>god" translation in spite of the evidence, and now your appeal to a
>double meaning (qualitative and indefinite) are sufficient argument
>against your case.

I have NOT argued in favour of a TRANSLATION of 1:1c as "a god" but I have
on LINGUISTIC grounds argued against your exclusion of this possibility.
Let me bring two quotes to show that your thesis did not discuss all
relevant factors necessary to be a basis on which to exclude one particular
rendition of 1:1c:

(Harner p 87): "At a number of points in this study we have seen that
anarthrous predicate nouns preceding the verb may be primarily qualitative
in force yet may also have some connotation of definiteness. The categories
of qualitativeness and definiteness, that is, are not mutually exclusive,
and frequently it is a delicate exegetical issue for the interpreter to
decide which emphasis a Greek writer had in mind."
(Regarding Mark 6:49 Harner p 78 writes:) "Markęs meaning here is that they
think Jesus is "a ghost" or apparition of some kind. There is no basis in
the context, at any rate, for regarding the noun as definite. The
qualitative significance appears to be secondary in this clause..."

When you choose to view definiteness, indefiniteness and qualitativeness as
mutually exclusive, you chose a particular scientific position. However, a
thesis based on this is restricted in its application and cannot be used to
rule out a particular rendition of a phrase which CAN be both indefinite
and qualitative.


Rolf Furuli
University of Oslo

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