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

From: Rolf Furuli (
Date: Thu Sep 04 1997 - 16:37:08 EDT

Dear Greeks,

The word QEOS occurs 83 times in John, 63 occurrences are articular and 20
anarthrous. Of these are 80 specific because they refer to the Father and
only three (1:1; 1:18 and 20:28) may be either generic or specific.

To throw light upon 1:1c I would like start with 1:18. There are three
textual possibilities. (1) hO MONOGENHS hUIOS, (2) hO MONOGENHS QEOS and
(3) MONOGENHS QEOS. The UBS comittee chose (3) which I accept. The
adjective MONOGENHS is most important. Given that this word signalled a
concept in the minds of John and his audience, we need not for the sake of
argument discuss whether it should be translated "onlybegotten" or
"unique". The important question is whether this adjective is
substantivized (giving "the onlybegotten who is God" or similar) or whether
it functions as an adjective. Any adjective can be substantivized,but to
the best of my knowledge there is no example of this when it immediately
precedes a substantive with the same gender, number and case.

If the last conclusion is correct, MONOGENHS must modify QEOS (giving "an
onlybegotten (or: unique) god" or similar). But here is a logical problem.
How can a "a unique/onlybegotten God" exist in the bosom of ANOTHER God?
The only solution I can see is that there is a difference in meaning
between the first and second QEOS. The first occurrence of QEOS is
coreferential with "the Father" and must be specific, referring to TON
MONON ALHQINON QEON of 17:3. And the last occurrence must therefore be
generic. However, the qualitative element of the generic QEOS is not
readily seen because it itself is qualified by an adjective. So regradless
of how much it flies into our face, it is very difficult to escape the
conclusion that Jesus is a member of the group labelled QEOI.

Comparing verses 18 and 1 we find a parallel, in 18 we find MONOGENHS QEOS
in the bosom of "the Father" (QEOS), and in v 1 we find QEOS with hO QEOS.
With all respect for Paulęs belief and scientific work, I find his appeal
to the qualitative SARX in 1:14 as an argument for a sole qualitative sense
of QEOS in 1:1c little convincing because SARX primarily is a mass-noun,
and the quality therefore is not a function of its place in the clause but
rather is inherrent. In addition,I have never seen an example of a
count-noun, and particularly not one denoting a person, where the qualities
are stressed so much that any sense of the person being either a part of a
group or one of its kind is blotted out. Qualities of a person must be
anchored in that person.

There is a simple test to find out whether our approach to 1:1c basically
is linguistic or theological. All agree that a person who is WITH another
person is not identical with that person, and accordingly is not QEOS the
same person as hO QEOS. So to the test: Are we prepared to substitute
"person" with "individual"? Can we say "An individual who is said to be
WITH another individual cannot be identical with that individual, thus QEOS
must be another individual than hO QEOS"? A linguistic approach allows, or
rather demands this conclusion, but I am not sure a theological approach
will allow it (Are you prepared to draw this conclusion, Paul?)

If "the Word" is another individual than hO QEOS, then the anarthrous QEOS
must be generic as also was the case in 1:18. But in 1:1c I think that the
qualitative element is prominent, while it seems to be almost absent in
1:18. The result of this investigation is that John portrays on who is God
in the absolute, specific sense of the word and another who is god with
qualification, namely a unique/onlybegotten god, Gods moutpiece. The
interesting thing is that neither from a lingusitic, theological or
historical point of view need this be the same as polytheism.


Rolf Furuli
University of Oslo

This archive was generated by hypermail 2.1.4 : Sat Apr 20 2002 - 15:38:27 EDT