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

From: Rolf Furuli (
Date: Wed Sep 10 1997 - 10:47:22 EDT

John Kendall wrote:

>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"

Dear John,

My thoughts here are in line with M.J.Harris "Jesus as God". Says he
(63,64) "QEOS HN hW LOGOS does not exactly mean "the Word was divine"
(QEIOS). Especially when there exists an adjective corresponding to a
substantive, the anarthrous noun should not be deemed adjectival."

>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
>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.
>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.


<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?

Your last point is important because a noun is not viewed as a count-noun
or non-count noun on the basis of reference but on the basis of use, as you
yourself say above (though I think your comments are strange). So there is
some misunderstanding on your part here.

In 1:1 there is a LINGUISTIC unit of three clauses making one sentence.
Reference is irrelevant for a linguistic analysis. In this verse we find
two count nouns LOGOS and QEOS, occurring three and two times respectively.
In 1:1c we find that ho LOGOS is subject and QEOS is PN. This is the
linguistic analysis, and to claim AT THIS STAGE that QEOS with the article
is not a count-noun but a proper name or a mass-noun (Greg Jourdan) is
clearly wrong!

Still discussing 1:1, we may proceed to the branch of linguistics called
semantics, and ask about the relationship between LOGOS and hO QEOS. At
this stage Greg«s proposal must be taken into account because the
preposition PROS may behave differently with mass-nouns than with
count-nouns, but I cannot see it is necessary to bring in the reference,
because PROS will behave similarly both if the two are count-nouns or if
one is a count-noun and the other a proper name.

Will QEOS cease to be a count-noun if we proceed beyond the linguistic unit
and find a place where it denoted the Father? Not necessarily. John was a
Hebrew, and «elohim is clearly a count-noun. In about a third of the
occurrences of «elohim denoting JHWH it has the definite article, and are
best translated as "the true God", the epithet indicating that God is a
count-noun. We may also remember that JHWH is called "the God of gods" or
"the most high God", both expressions indicating the same countability.
Interesting is also that even JHWH may be countable. One way to translate
the Jewish Schema of Deut 6:4 is: "JHWH our God is one JHWH", probably in
contrast to Ba«al berit and this and that Ba`al.

In view of the Hebrew usage, it is not unlikely that John`s use of article
before the two occurrences of QEOS in 1:1,2, in addition to indicating the
difference between the Word and the one with whom he was, it also may
signify "the true God". Corroborating this is the fact that John so often
uses QEOS without article, and that articles in Greek tend to precede
appellatives but more seldom proper names. So even if we agree that the
reference of hO QEOS is the Father, we cannot be sure that QEOS functions
as a proper name (See BDF ¤¤ 254,256). It is not theology that shall
determine which nouns are count-nouns and which are not, but language.

<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.

Your words are rather cryptic, and we cannot discuss this on b-greek.
However, on the strictly linguistic stage theologicy is practically absent,
when we come to the semantic stage it begins to work, and when attempt a
translation it is fully working.

I think we soon should terminate this thread not to tire out the list
members. However, I would be very happy to see someone commenting on Carl`s
reference to 1:18 in the ALLOS thread, and also to see other linguistic
points not yet brought up. And I will of course answer questions to my own


Rolf Furuli
University of Oslo

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