Re: (long) Jn.1:1b word order

From: Paul S. Dixon (
Date: Fri Feb 13 1998 - 13:20:46 EST

Rolf et al:

Sorry for the delay. No excuse, but have been busy and your reply
deserves more than just a cursory response. I interact with your
thoughts below.

Dr. Paul S. Dixon, Pastor
Wilsonville, Oregon

On Fri, 13 Feb 1998 17:44:42 +0100 Rolf Furuli <> writes:
>Dear Paul,
>We had the following exchange (> you) (>> I):
>>>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
>>>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)
>>John's Gospel, the significance was qualitativeness (94% of
>>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
>>>is that "the Word" and "God" are convertible terms, and this clashes
>>>with the preposition PROS. One individual who is PROS another
>>>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
>My present comments:
>As R. Bultmann and others correctly have argued, no person does
>research (or Bible translation for that matter) without presuppositions.
>all use our hermeneutical circles, interpreting texts in the light of
>what we know and believe, and, let us hope, readjust our thinking
>of the texts we read. All our arguments, however, do not have
>overtones. My claim above that John 1:1c can be translated "correctly"
>at least three ways, including "and the Word was a god" is purely
>philological - only an elementary knowledge of NT Greek is enough to
>understand this. But what about your arguments?

I have no objection with translating a Greek qualitative noun into
English with an "a" such as "one of you is a devil" (Jn 6:70), as long as
the qualitative nuance is understood. Unfortunately, the English
translation may give the impression it is indefinite. This is why I
object to the translation in 1:1c as "and the Word was a god." The
leading nuance there is not indefiniteness, but qualitativeness.

I do not deny that the leading nuance of an anarthrous noun can be
indefinite. But, that is not the case in Jn 1:1c with QEOS.

>As a comment to hOUTOS HN EN ARCHi PROS TON QEON you say that "we >have
two persons face to face when time began". The word "person" is a >modern
chameleon in the theological vocabulary, meaning anything from
>"individual" to "mode" or "characteristic"; i.e. "non-individual".
Leaving alone
>both theology and mysticism, everybody will admit that someone who is
>to be PROS another is not the same individual as the other one. Are you
>prepared, Paul, to substitute "person" with "individual" and say that
the PROS
>of John 1:1b shows that "we have two INDIVIDUALS face to face when time
>began"? If not, tell us the reason for your reluctance to equate
>and "individual". Does it build on a preconceived theology or on

Yes, that is exactly what I am saying. When time began the LOGOS who was
QEOS was also face to face with God the Father. Saying the LOGOS was
QEOS, however, is not saying he was God the Father. Big difference.
They were (and are) two distinct persons having the same divine essence.

>>>(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
>>>where he made a strong case for a qualitative interpretation of the
>>>QEOS. However, if I understand Paul correctly, we agree that even if
>>>John 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 force 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
>>indefinite. Only if one persists on imposing either definiteness or
>>indefiniteness upon QEOS here does a problem surface.
>My present comments:
>This seems to be a different view from a posting of yours some weeks ago
>where you admitted that Harner`s discussion of some substantives as both
>qualitative and definite was correct. The importance of this question,
>whether or not QEOS in John 1:1c is a substantive which is completely
>adjectivized, can be illustrated by help of MONEGENHS QEOS in John
>Lexically speaking MONEGENHS is an adjective and QEOS a substantive.


>The differences are great, and they build on different views of
>versus substantive. (For John 1:1c, viewing QEOS completely as an
>adjective at the expense of its substantival force will remove any
>personality from the Word, while a retaining of the substantival force
>will give either "a god" or "God" with stress on the quality of

What? The individual personality of the LOGOS is not derived in any way
from the anarthrous predicate nominative QEOS. It is derived from the
article hO on hO QEOS. You are mixing apples and oranges here.


>Discourse factors such as word order may indicate what is foreground
>and background information and which thoughts are stressed, but I am not

>aware of any claim that such factors can change a substantive into an
>adjective in a language such as Greek. I participate in a weekly seminar
>semantics. Last week I asked a professor, who is a leading figure in
>formal semantics in Norway, whether the adjectivizing of a substantive
>something which is often discussed, and he answered that he had never
>heard of it. I therefore ask you for two kinds of evidence:
>(1) Grammars or monographs commenting on, or giving rules for how
>substantives can be changed into adjectives by help of discourse
>factors such as word order.
>(2) Examples of substantives in the same class as QEOS (count nouns
>such as AGGELOS, ANHR and GUNH) which, because of word order or other
>discourse phenomena, are completely adjectivized to the point where they
>all their substantival force, neither being definite nor indefinite.
>is crucial regarding such examples is what is conditioned by lexicon and

>what is conditioned by grammar. Your example from John 1:14 KAI hO LOGOS

>SARX EGENTO simply will not do because SARX can LEXICALLY be used >both
as a count noun and as a mass noun. And your claim is >GRAMMATICALLY
conditioned, demanding that you give examples of a
>grammatical/syntactical force changing substantives into adjectives.
>By way of conclusion I bring a quote from M.J. Harris, 1992, "Jesus as
>"On John 1:1c R.H. Strachan comments: "Here the word *theos* has no
>article, thus giving it the significance of an adjective." Strachan is
>of course, suggesting that an author's choice not to use the article
>with a noun virtually converts the noun into an adjective. But it
>doubtful whether even an adjectivcal *significance* may attach to an
>substantive (cf Griffiths 315). EGW EIMI ANQRWPOS does not exactly
>mean "I am human" (ANQRWPINOS). Similarly, QEOS HN hO LOGOS does >not
exactly mean"the word was divine" (QEIOS). Especially when there exists
>an adjective corresponding to the substantive, the anarthrous noun
should not >be deemed adjectival. A careful distinction should be drawn
between the
>potentially *qualitative* sense of an anarthrous noun (se appendix
I=A7A5c) >and issues of translation that may be resolved by the use of an

Check out ATR, p. 794 (j) or BDF, paragraph 252, among others. There is
no question that an anarthrous noun can denote qualitativeness.

I don't recall ever agreeing with Harner that nouns can denote both
qualitativeness and indefiniteness. I believe I said I didn't disagree
with him. That was a nice way of saying the matter was not important
enough to me to even consider. What is important, in my judgment, is the
leading nuance, the nuance the author had in mind.

Paul Dixon

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