Re: Jn.1:1b word order

From: Paul S. Dixon (
Date: Mon Feb 09 1998 - 20:59:16 EST

On Tue, 10 Feb 1998 12:24:28 +0100 Rolf Furuli <> writes:
>Nichael Lynn Cramer wrote:
><In this context we might recall Luther's dictum that in this verse "the
><lack of an article is against Sabellianism; the word order is against
>Dear Nichael and others,
>I have a particularly busy teaching schedule this semester and will not
>contribute much to b-greek, but the quote above tempted me to make some
>comments. We must remember that the trinitarian controversies were
>nonexistent in the days of John. He chose his words and their order to
>convey his message inside the setting of Jewish monotheism and
>first-century christianity. John`s choice of the predicate nominative
>before the verb and his anarthrous QEOS certainly signals his meaning,
>because of the distance in time between us and John and our different
>presupposition pool, this signal is in our days no longer unambiguous.
>So the words or grammar of John 1:1 neither exclude the view that Jesus
>is eternal God nor that he is the first creature of God!

>A schematic review of earlier discussions:
>(1)The words KAI QEOS HN hO LOGOS can be translated "correctly" at
>least in three ways: (A) "and the Word was God", (B) "and the Word was
>divine", and (C) "and the word was a god". None of these violate any
>grammatical or syntactical rule.

The upshot of my thesis was to demonstrate that in the vast majority of
similar constructions (precopulative anarthrous predicate nominative) in
John's Gospel, the significance was qualitativeness (94% of occurrences).
 If statistics mean anything, then we probably should not expect the
force to be that of (C) above.
>(2) The words hOUTOS HN EN ARCHi PROS TON QEON makes (A) very
>problematic because the most natural interpretation of the English words
is >that "the Word" and "God" are convertible terms, and this clashes
with the
>preposition PROS. One individual who is PROS another individual can
>hardly be identical with this individual.

Only if you assume: 1) a non-trinitarian position, and 2) that the
translation "God" cannot denote qualitativeness, does a problem exist.

The point remains, that when time began (EN ARCHi) the LOGOS, who was
QEOS, was already existing (HN) with TON QEON. So, we have two persons
face to face when time began, the LOGOS who was QEOS and One who is
identified anaphorically as the well-known God of the Old Testament (TON

>(3) What about (B)? Paul Dixon did a very good job with his thesis
>where he showed that Colwell`s rule cannot be applied to John 1:1 and
>he made a strong case for a qualitative interpretation of the anarthrous

>QEOS. However, if I understand Paul correctly, we agree that even if
>wanted to stress the quality (divinity) of the LOGOS, still LOGOS is a
>substantive and as such he is also either "a god" or "God". (I am not
aware of >any example where a count noun signifying a person, or other
count nouns
>for that matter, turns into an adjective and looses its substantival
>because of word order.)

No, to say, QEOS HN hO LOGOS, and to see QEOS as being qualitative, does
not imply, or even suggest, that QEOS in 1:1b is either definite or
indefinite. Only if one persists on imposing either definiteness or
indefiniteness upon QEOS here does a problem surface.
>This means that the ultimate criterion for the understanding and
>translation of John 1:1 is neither lexicon, nor grammar nor syntax,
>but something which is extralingusitic, namely the context. The
>of Jesus in the gospel of John and elswhere in the NT is what is
>important. So word order and the article or the lack of it should be
scrutinized >and discussed, but what really is decisive for the
translation of this
>verse is theology rather than language.

In the same book John says of Jesus (certainly the LOGOS of 1:1) that he
was QEOS in the beginning, and that after His incarnation He was
addressed as hO QEOS MOU by Thomas (20:28).

Paul Dixon

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