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

From: Rolf Furuli (
Date: Sun Sep 07 1997 - 03:44:47 EDT

Dale M. Wheeler wrote (and John Kendall raised similar points):

"Count" and "Mass" nouns ??? I understand the terms, but will others who
are trying to track with (learn from) the discussion (since there are *both*
Profs and students interacting on the list. When you use "in vogue"
linguistic terms, I know I'd appreciate it if you'd define them the first
time you use them (sometimes, especially linguists use terms that we
aging Greek Profs have used for years in one way, in a totally different

Rolf (and other linguists who post to bgreek) this is a problem for
understanding in your posts; I'm frequently not sure if you are talking
about how Greek functions or speaking in general linguistic terms, and
the two things are not necessarily the same. For example, your statement:

>Any substantive must either be definite (=3D arthrous) or indefinite (=3D

is for Greek demonstrably false; Apollonius' Canon is one example of that
(students look it up, it'll take to long to type out; eg., AGGELOS KURIOU is
THE angel of THE Lord, not AN angel of A Lord), or one could point to the
many places Greek speakers drop the article from definite nouns after a
preposition, etc. *OR*, if you were speaking linguistically, its
demonstrably false in English.

There are two separate things going on in Greek with respect to the
definite article; substantives can either be articular/arthrous (have the
article) or anarthrous (lack the article), which may or may not have
anything *directly* to do with whether they are definite, indefinite, or
qualitative (as pointed out above). In other languages substantives are
"defined" differently; eg., in English we have 3 ways of defining nouns
("the", "a/an", anarthrous), whereas Greek has two (as does Hebrew).

Dear Dale,

I accept your criticism regarding therminology, and am eager to repent from
writing what is unclear and ambiguous. Because of different contexts I have
used the central concepts with slightly different meanings, and I realize
this has caused confusion. In my first posts in the tread I used the
therminology of Colewell and Dixon. Later I went somewhat deeper and
suggested a new definition based on the opposition "semantics/grammar"
(meaning versus morphosyntax). But I realize it is still necessary to go
deeper, and a will propose a model based on the same principle as Mari`s
aspect model, namely CANCELABILITY,i.e. can the particular characteristic
be changed or blotted out, or will it be the same in all contexts. (for a
definition see Mary Broman Olsen 05.08.97 "semantics vs pragmatics"). I
will in this post concentrate on therminology, and will return to your
other questions in another post.

 What is the central question, as also is seem from your post, is whether
QEOS in John 1:1c is a part of the class QEOI or is the only one of its
kind. To illuminate this I have asked whether the anarthrous QEOS is
generic or specific. There is, however, one problem with the question, and
this is the central problem causing confusion: Cancelability can only be
applied to A PART of what is generic/specific. This is clear because
specific objects can either be identified as such because of our knowledge
of the world (semantics), and this is uncalcelable, or they can be
identified by morfosyntactic means (the interplay of morphology and syntax)
and this is cancelable (pragmatics). "The sun" and "Martin Luther" are for
instance "the only of its kind" while "god" may in one context be part of a
group and in another refer to the Eternal Father.

The concepts indefiniteness/definiteness are exclusively pragmatic in
nature and can be found by morphosyntactic means alone. This means that
indefiniteness and genericity are not convertible terms and neither are
definiteness and specificity. However, they are often used as perfect
synonyms, and this certainly has caused much confusion. To be schematic, we
may say that indefiniteness and definiteness are only pragmatic, thus being
cancelable, genericity and specificity have one pragmatic side which is
cancelable and one which is uncanselable, and to answer our question about
QEOS IN JOHN 1:1c we must stress the uncalcelable side of genericity. I
will use two examples to illustrate the problem, one real and the other

First I use John 20:28 (for the sake of argument I assume the hO QEOS here
is an exclamation directed toward Jesus):


Both KURIOS and QEOS are articular and together with the possessives
immediately following they make the phrases definite. Are they also
specific? Concentrating on QEOS alone we may say that it from a
GRAMMATICAL/CONTEXTUAL point of view is specific, because Thomas is not
speaking about some unknown god, but to the one who was his Lord, Jesus
Christ. But if this is true it is difficult to avoid the conclusion that
Jesus is identical with hO QEOS in John 1:1, because the same words are
then applied to Jesus. However, the specificy is cancelable!
The reason why I say that QEOS is specific from a GRAMMATICAL/SYNTACTICAL
point of view (thus being cancellable) is that it is so because of the
grammatical context; the definite article for example is required because
of the possessive. However, this means that by choosing other words, Thomas
could have expressed the same by using an anarthrous QEOS. So the words do
not show whether QEOS is specific or generic from a SEMANTIC point of view,
but at most, only in this context. If QEOS in 1:1 and 1:18 is semantically
generic, the construction in 20:28 dooes therefore rule out that the same
can be the case in this verse.

Let us then use an imagined example with a worshipper of the moon who would


We know that the moon and the sun are specific in a semantic sense, thus
being uncalcelable. Suppose now that we read this text, and we know that
the author agrees that hHLIOS is specific, but we don`t know whether he
equates hH SELHNH with hO hHLIOS, thus making it specific, or how he views
his moon god. Assuming his meaning is that there is only one specific sun,
the proposition PROS should preclude any equation between the moon and the
sun, and in the light of this, the lack of article before hHLIOS in 1c,
most probably would give it a generic sense "and the moon was a sun". The
example is interesting because like QEOS also hHLIOS can have a specific
and a generic sense, and when the specific one is impossible the other
alternative is mandatory.

 Further may the relation between what is generic (in this case also
indefinite) and what is qualitativ be illuminated. We cannot treat hHLIOS
as a bare adjective and translate 1c as "and the moon was shining" or
similar. It is possible that our moon worshipper would stress the
qualitativness of hH SELHNH, viewing it as almost as glorious as hO hHLIOS,
but this cannot stand alone but must be anchored in the fact that the moon
is one of class "suns".

I therefore conclude with the following definition

(1.1)The part of the opposition specific/generic which is uncancelable.

(2.1) The part of the opposition specific/ generic which is cancelable.
(2:2) The opposition definite/indefinite
(2.3) The character qualitative

(BTW (Dale) In your quote from me above >Any substantive must either be
definite (=3D arthrous) or indefinite (=3D >anarthrous), "arthrous" is
used synonymous with "definite" and "anarthrous" with "indefinite", so they
donęt contradict Apollonius' Canon.)

Dear John,

Thank you for bringing up your questions. By this I am forced to be more
careful with my own definitions and I myself am learning a lot. Your post
was logical and I agree with all your definitions except the small comment
"In other words, a non-articular noun in category b may be (i) purely
qualitative. If "purely qualitative" means "exclusively qualitative" this
is not true, as shown above. To save time I did not treat your post
separately but I believe your questions are covered by the comments above.


Rolf Furuli
University of Oslo

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