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

From: John Kendall (
Date: Mon Sep 08 1997 - 19:32:37 EDT

Rolf Furuli wrote:

>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. <snip>

Dear Rolf,

I really did not mean to give the impression that I was questioning your
sincerity. I am sorry. My comment was meant to be a little piece of gentle
humour occasioned by my inability to grasp what followed in your post. No
offence was meant.

>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

I was aware that when I chose the example of ZWH you might raise this point,
but I'm really not sure that you're right (see below), though it partly depends
on what you mean by "their substantival nature must also be visible". Remember
that we were concerned with the categories "purely qualitative" and
"qualitative-definite" and ""qualitative-indefinite".

(Actually, I was less specifically interested in John 1:1c and more interested
in how as a linguist you understand the system realting to the use/non-use of
the article in Greek and how it relates to issues of countability, definiteness
etc. As I have no background in linguistics - I'm just a seed-picker - I'd
welcome some tools for thought here. Unfortunately, you haven't given me enough
to get to grips with the material in your earlier post. If you are willing to
spare the time to explain, I really would like a clear definition of your

Now I am aware of the danger of analysing Greek in terms of English categories,
but I can certainly think of examples in normal English where concrete count
nouns are used in a purely qualitative sense. Perhaps, out of my linguistic
ignorance, I've analysed these wrongly but this is how I'd apply my terminology
to the English nouns "cat" and "man" in the following sentences.

Definite: The cat(s) from next door is/are a nuisance.
Indefinite: A cat/Some cats crept into the house before he went on holiday.
Generic: The cat is an elegant creature.
                A cat is an elegant creature.
                Cats are elegant creatures.
Qualitative: He returned from holiday and as he entered the house he could
smell cat.

Definite: He became the man, Jesus. (re the incarnation)
Indefinite: He became a man. (re the incarnation)
Generic: A man who studies hard will reap his reward.
                Man is not the measure of all things.
                Men are foolish creatures.
Qualitative: He became man. (re the incarnation)

(Apologies to those involved in the inclusive language discussion and to those
looking for a little more theological precision. :-) )

In my terms, the qualitative uses of these nouns have neither
"qualitative-definite" nor "qualitative-indefinite" nuances; the uses are
"purely qualitative". My point here is of course not about the use/non-use of
the Greek article, nor to comment on John 1:1c at this moment, but (perhaps out
of my ignorance) to question a system of linguistic analysis that claims that a
purely qualitative emphasis cannot occur with concrete count nouns. Of course,
if this somewhat intuitive approach is way off base, I really would welcome
correction and clarification here.

Of course, we haven't touched the issue as to what kind of noun QEOS is for
each of its lexical senses. But I'll not pursue that now.

One throwaway remark in closing - a non-linguistic one - not specifically to
Rolf: isn't the literary/theological theme of Jesus as the true
tabenacle/temple (a theme which is taken up in John's prologue and developed
elsewhere in the gospel) a factor of relevance here?

Thanks to Rolf and to the list for its patience & tolerance. I am aware that my
questions and comments have been somewhat peripheral to the normal concerns of
the list. I'll try to do better once this thread has spun itself out.

John Kendall,

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