Re: Jn.1:1b word order

Date: Tue Feb 10 1998 - 00:57:10 EST

Isn't it about time we rename this thread "Re: Jn. 1:1c word order"?

Anyway, a few thoughts on some of the recent replies.

Rolf said:
>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.
To which Paul replied:
<< 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.>>

As has been acknowledged here many times, your thesis is an excellent piece of
work, but it does not necessarily represent the facts concerning the primary
nuance of a precolpulative, predicate nominative. Several sections of my book
discuss this matter, and if the statistics revealed in Appendix D mean
anything, then choice C is quite possible. In fact, one might say probable.

>(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. >>

I believe Rolf is only assuming that which none of us can demonstrate, namely,
that John had an articulated awareness of a Godhead Beingness shared by more
than one person. Thus, it is quite an appropriate assumption, which is
validated, as Rolf pointed out, by John's use of PROS. "God" may in fact be
used to convey qualitativeness, just as "a god" can. But, as with "a god,"
"God" gives the impression of a different nuance, namely, definiteness ("a
god," of course, implies indefiniteness).

Either translation can be said to convey qualitativeness, but neither one
gives such an impression without further explanation. However, "a god" at
least eliminates any potential identification between THEOS in 1:1b and THEOS
in 1:1c. "God" does not; rather, it contributes to an identity between the
two. Perhaps, as I argue in my book, the translation, "the Word was a divine
being" is not far from representing John's thoughts about the LOGOS, based on
the grammar and context of the clause in question (1:1c, that is).
<< 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
 QEON). >>

John 1:1 says nothing about "time." The Bible frequently uses ARKH to refer to
the beginning of the physical universe. Now, if you mean time as counted from
that point forward, then there is merit to your position.

>(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. >>

Then what do we have? If we are talking about an individual who possesses
divinity, then are we not discussing either "a divine being" or "the divine

<< Only if one persists on imposing either definiteness or
 indefiniteness upon QEOS here does a problem surface.>>

No, one need not impose what is already there. If the LOGOS owns divinity,
then he is either the sole owner of such divinity (which we know is not the
case in view of 1:1b) or he is one of those who owns divinity. I am an owner
of humanity (trust me), but not the only one. I can be described qualitatively
as "human," but that simply means I am "a human being," doesn't it? Unless, of
course, I really am not a human, but some other life form who displays
qualities known to belong to humans. In which case someone might say about me
(figuratively), "Hey, that [whatever I am] is human!" But I doubt John used
THEOS as a figurative description for the LOGOS, simply because he/it somehow
"acts like" the God mentioned in 1:1b!

>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>>

The angels were with God in the beginning and they, too, are called
THEOI/'ELOHIM. (Job 38:7; Psalm 8:5) Thomas may very well have called Jesus hO
THEOS MOU, but we must not forget Jesus' use of similar language toward the
One he existed with in the beginning. (John 20:17) Someone is God to the
LOGOS? Therefore, the context of John 20:28, specifically verse 17, harmonizes
with the view that sees John 1:1 as a reference to the LOGOS as "a divine
being," who was with his God.


Greg Stafford
University of Wisconsin

(Yeah, I know, here we go again!)


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