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

From: Rolf Furuli (
Date: Mon Sep 08 1997 - 11:17:41 EDT

John Kendall wrote:

>Dear Rolf, you wrote:

>>I accept your criticism regarding therminology, and am eager to repent from
>>writing what is unclear and ambiguous.

>I truly am grateful for your efforts, and please forgive my obtuseness, but
>after reading your latest post I began to wonder if these introductory words
>were intended with some mischievous postmodern irony! :-)

Dear John,

My remarks were sincere. I am stressing exactly the same things as Dale did
in my own teaching: we must define our concepts. So when I slip I need
correction. In communication we take for granted a certain knowledge by the
other part. The problem with b-greek is that we need to use few words and
we must respond quickly. This invites to misunderstanding ( I write this,
not as an excuse but as an explanation.).

<Indeed, I did mean exclusively qualitative - in the sense that a writer
may use
<a non-articular noun to refer exclusively to, or focus exclusively on its
<qualitative character. In that I didn't really understand your post, I'm
not at
<all clear as to why you deny the validity of this category. It seems to be
<common category in intermediate Greek grammars.

<To take a quick and simple example using my terminology, what about: EN AUTWi
<ZWH HN (John 1:4)? I take it that ZWH here is:

<(a) not definite - not referring to a particular known instance of life - not
<"In him was the life (which in context we've been speaking about)" -
compare hH
<ZWH in the following clause where the article is used anaphorically;
<(b) not indefinite - not referring to an individual, but otherwise
<instance of life - not "In him was a life";
<(c) qualitative - not qualitative-indefinite, not qualitative-definite, but
<exclusively qualitative - "In him was _life_".

There is no "lack of linguistic sophistication" on your part causing your
confusion (to the contrary, you state your case very clearly), but rather
too little explanation on my part. I should have elucidated my words "as
shown above". What I intended to say was that the context cannot give
substantives such as QEOS and hHLIOS an "exclusively qualitative meaning".
In addition to any stress of quality their substantival nature must also be
visible. Substantives such as ZWH can of course be, or are mostly purely
qualitative. This relates to a point from your first post that I forgot to
comment upon:

<Using the terminology more familiar to me, Rolf seems to be saying that in
<Greg's example from Polycarp, CRISTIANOS is a qualitative-indefinite noun.
<Maybe. But in this case, isn't the plausibility of this qualitative-indefinite
<category tied closely to the nature of the word? Can you think of any example
<where in English translation an indefinite use of the noun 'Christian' would
<not convey qualitative nuances ? I suspect that this is due, at least in part,
<to the existence of the adjective with the identical form. May this not be the
<case also in Greek, given the existence of the adjectival form CRISTIANOS -H
<-ON (see BAGD)? This latter fact seems to weaken the relevance of Greg and
<Rolf's point with respect to QEOS in John 1:1c.

"Yesterday a Christian killed a Muslim in Beyrouth" may be an example where
Christian is just a label. You are right that the best examples are those
which are completely clearcut.

<My other curiosity at the moment stems from a vague intuitive sense when
<reading some other posts that at points your argumentation involves deeper
<assumptions that would a priori rule out the possibility of a God who is
<transcendent over the created order of space and time - but I haven't
quite <teased out what's going on. However, that fascination is of course
quite <properly beyond the bounds of B-Greek discussion! Do please forgive
this <comment if it's inappropriate or way off base - it's just the
combination of <puzzlement and curiosity ...and perhaps the lateness of the

I believe in a God /linguistic comment: example of a specific noun where
qualities are stressed/. who is transcendent over the created order of the
universe. I deny, however, the thought in Plato«s Timaeus that time started
with the universe. I view time as an abstraction used to convey the thought
that everything is moving forward, so time had no beginning.


Rolf Furuli
University of Oslo

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