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

From: Rolf Furuli (
Date: Fri Sep 05 1997 - 08:19:44 EDT

>>>>Dear Rolf: I wouldn't want to say this on-list (I've worked hard at
rebuilding a positive relationship with Paul) but I think you've caught him
with his pants -- defenses -- i.e. his "negative inference rule" down.

I seriously doubt one can definitively disprove the possibility that KAI
QEOS HN hO LOGOS means "... and the Word was a god." While I don't believe
that is what the writer intended, I would argue it on the basis of the
consistent doctrine of the gospel of John as a whole, but in terms of this
verse only, I can see no reason why that translation is not syntactically
valid--or (to get rid of the double-negative) I think that translation must
be deemed syntactically valid. I think that it can only be shown improbable
in terms of other verses in John's gospel. Unfortunately, I don't think
that Paul Dixon is exegeting the verse in terms of grammatical
possibilities but rather is concerned on theological grounds to refute the
Jehovah's Witnesses view of the verse. And I just don't think that the JW
view can be refuted on grammatical grounds alone.

Another element strikes me as interesting here, although I don't know that
it is really relevant (perhaps Bearded Bill Thurman could tell us): it is
quite evident to us moderns that there is a significant functional
difference between nouns with their uniform declension in one gender
(except for occasional odd-balls) and adjectives which have usually three,
or at least two different sets of endings for the different genders. But I
think that the ancient grammarians used the term ONOMA for both nouns and
adjectives, although they may have called an adjective ONOMA EPIQETON.

I really am unclear about this distinction; I realize that NT grammar may
be more (in some instances) discriminating, and less discriminating (in
others); my own observation is simply that in classical Attic the NORMAL
word-order in an equational clause is
        QEOS HN hO LOGOS.

But if an article is supplied to any of these initial predicate words, the
meaning changes radically:

        hO QEOS HN hO LOGOS

My strong sense is that in this second set of sentences the first
substantive becomes the subject in every instance; the first sentence
appears at first sight problematic, but I think even there, the word-order
must make hO AGAQOS be the subject, and we would have to understand the
sentence to mean (and with a certain degree of emphasis): "It is the Good
one who is the Man" -- i.e. nobody is entitled to be deemed ANHR in a
generic sense unless he is first and foremost a good person.

I realize that all this is purely hypothetical and based on my gut feeling
from reading a lot of Attic Greek. If it is valid, it ought to be something
that could be tested by analysis of sufficient data. What do you think.

Sorry to bother you off-list like this, but I've gotten quite interested in
the discussion here but I don't want to get directly involved in it. Quite
frankly it looks like what could be a hermeneutical battle between
orthodoxy and JW's--and in this instance I don't think the JW's are so
easily refuted--and pulling the trump card of orthodoxy hardly seems

Dear Carl,

Thank you for a nice posting. I surely appreciate your contributions to the
list and your efforts to keep the list as a forum for a discussion of Greek
with mutual respect among the participatants. Both your example, and the
example of Wes, who also has a very friendly manner of writing is worth

I have very little background in Attic Greek, so I am not in the position
of giving a reasoned comments to the subject/article-question above. But to
the degree it can be compared with the Greek of the LXX and with Semitic
languages, it sounds very logical. The use of you and others of examples
from Classical Greek has given me much good input, so please continue with
that. I would like to mention one post of yours which was particularly
interesting, namely the one of 23.08.97 about John 17:3 and Augustine. Your
reference to both Attic and Latin and the very nice analysis of the Greek
of John was really impressing.

As to the discussion of John 1:1, I can understand the reactions of Paul. I
was carping at one of the beliefs which is most holy for him, and when it
also appeared that I was misrepresenting his thesis, it is understandable
that he gave way for his feelings. But I think we should view his
contributions as valuable and colorful; he did a good job by refuting
Colwell and is still doing a good job with his 175 Greek students.


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