Subject: Re: Jn 1:1, Colwell, Nelson Stdy Bible (Countability, Sense & Reference)

From: John Kendall (
Date: Wed Sep 10 1997 - 06:37:07 EDT

Rolf Furuli wrote:

>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".

Dear Rolf,

Thanks for your thoughts. I've appreciated this discussion and your help.

First of all, we seem to have established agreement that a concrete, count noun
*may* be used in a purely qualitative sense (at least, in English in certain
cases). As we'll see below in point four, I don't think that this is at all
relevant to John 1:1 - but I'm trying to think through the Greek
articular/non-articular system with a little more care especially in view of
noun type. As I said earlier, I have no linguistic training and no conceptual
tools for doing so other than what's surfaced in my posts. There are some ideas
and issues of terminology that I still am not clear about and I would
appreciate some help & correction from the list's linguistics experts - perhaps
some recommended reading?

Secondly, as you say, what we think a clause implies depends on our knowledge
of the world - and more particularly when it comes to God, our world-view. In
dealing with QEOS then, the issue of one's monotheism or henotheism/polytheism
is obviously significant. I won't elaborate now (and it would take us far
beyond the remit of this list) but I strongly suspect that some of the
arguments used by henotheistic interpreters of John 1:1, lack validity if God
is understood as spacially transcendent.

Thirdly, I don't understand how your earlier statement is valid:

>So I used two words which I
>believed illustrated my point without exceptions. Particularly is QEOS
>clear because we have the adjective QEIOS.

Surely, in the the English example "He became man" we have the adjective
"human". This doesn't preclude the qualitative use of "man".

Fourthly, you wrote:

>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.

I hesitated to point this out earlier, as I thought you'd just made an
inadvertant slip in your earlier posts, but QEOS in John 1:1 is *not* a count
noun - certainly not in 1:1b, nor in my view in 1:1c. As I'm sure you're aware,
a noun's countability depends on the sense in which it is being used. And it's
surely clear that QEOS, whether in the monotheistic or henotheistic sense of
"the one supreme supernatural being" (Louw & Nida) cannot be pluralised. Unlike
you, I am unpersuaded that there is a lexical semantic & countability shift
between QEOS in 1:1b and QEOS in 1:1c. Certainly I see no sufficient
syntactical/contextual reason why there should be.

Finally, as a more general observation, it seems to me that this issue of
countability has not been adequately considered in the wider discussion of this
verse - especially in terms of the the translation of this verse into English.
(eg I know it's an obvious point but no one has stated it explicitly as yet -
if QEOS in 1:1c is a non-count noun then the translation "a god" is impossible.
Perhaps those concerned might explicitly consider how the alternative views pan
out in the light of the articular/countability systems of Greek and English.)
Also, can I
ask if countability been explicitly (rather than intuitively) considered in the
methodology of those who researched copula clauses and predicate nominatives?
Any thoughts?

Just a final seed thought on QEOS in John 1:1. For exegetical clarity, may we
not need to consider the issue a little more precisely in terms of the basic
linguistic distinction between sense and reference?

John Kendall

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