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

From: Rolf Furuli (
Date: Tue Sep 09 1997 - 04:12:50 EDT

Dear John,

First a sweeping statement about sweeping statements:They should not be
made! Language is like a living organism, and exceptions pop up everywhere,
so sweeping statements are dangerous. Therefore I wrote that "the context
cannot give substantives such as QEOS and hHLIOS an "exclusively
qualitative meaning". This is not a very scientific expression because
"such as" is not defined. But such expressions serve as a defense to be
spared from a detailed linguistic analysis. So I used two words which I
believed illustrated my point without exceptions. Particularly is QEOS
clear because we have the adjective QEIOS.

The entry in BAGD of hHLIOS is also illuminating. We find "heat of the sun"
with reference to Is 49:10 and Jon 4:8 and "sunlight" with reference to
Acts 13:11 and Ps 58:8, but in all instances the sun itself is more or less
focussed upon. (See also BDF 253).

<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
<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,
<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
<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

I have never done a thorough study of the use of the article in Greek, so I
am just as dependent upon the grammars as you are. While I strongly
disagree with the grammars regarding aspect, it seems to me that their
discussions of the use of the article are basically sound. I don`t think we
should speak of (grammatical) categories such as "qualitative-definite" and
"qualitative-indefinite". These are rather descriptive terms, and Harner`s
cautious remarks that we by a careful exegesis may find the delicate
balance between the qualitative force and definiteness (and indefiniteness)
of a noun are surely pertinent.

<Now I am aware of the danger of analysing Greek in terms of English
<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
<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
<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)

I think that, as far as the use of the article is concerned, Greek is not
very different from English, and you will find similar examples in Greek as
the English examples above. Your last example may however, illustrate
Harner`s "delicate balance". "He bacame man" has a clear qualitative force,
but the clause will, at least because of our knowledge of the world, also
imply "he bacame a man". Any theological view to the contrary is
metaphysical and outside of the language (see 1 Tim 2:5, John 8:40).

I therefore think that concrete count-nouns genrally will not be
exclusivlely qualitative (any definite or indefinite character completely
blotted out), and this is particularly the case with count-nouns such as
QEOS in John 1:1.


Rolf Furuli
University of Oslo

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