From: Edgar Foster (
Date: Wed Apr 22 1998 - 09:35:56 EDT

---"Carl W. Conrad" <> wrote:

> At 10:00 PM -0500 4/21/98, Edgar Foster wrote:
> >Recently, I had the privilege of discussing the subject of QEOS
with a
> >friend. We disagreed vehemently over the issue. He says, following
> >Kitto and John Burnet, that QEOS (QEOI) at one time meant "powers." I
> >have looked and looked for evidence that QEOS (QEOI) ever MEANT
> >"power" or "powers." I've yet to find such evidence. My observation
> >that QEOS never MEANT power, but could be applied to "powers."
> I'm not sure that an answer to this is readily ascertainable. If the
> oldest, or just about the oldest, literary Greek says MHNIN AEIDE,
QEA, ... there can hardly be any doubt that the poet is thinking about
the Muse--but
> that doesn't mean that the word originally only referred to a deity. I
> don't have the text of it hand, but my recollection is that Werner
Jaeger started out his Gifford Lectures book entitled _Theology of
>the Early Greek Philosophers_ by discussing the meaning and
implications of a fragment of
> Thales, PANTA PLHRH QEWN, which on the surface of it sounds rather
animistic, but in which I think we'd have to see a reference to
supernatural "powers"--certainly not to namable deities of the Olympian
> pantheon.

The phrase of Thales is admittedly ambiguous and I have read differing
interpretations of this fragment. John Burnet notes that Thales "may
very possibly have called water a "god"; but that would not imply any
definite religious belief" (Burnet 50).

He continues: "Nor must we make too much of the saying that "all
things are full of gods" (Ibid.).

So Burnet leaves matters inconclusive, but does mention Aristotle's
cautious exegesis of the phrase which he interpreted as possibly
referring to the world soul (De. An. 5. 411 a 7).

So I would agree, Thales is evidently not referring to a personal
deity, but evidently a force of some kind. This still doesn't prove
that QEOS ever "meant" (in a marked or unmarked sense) "power." The
closest I have come to finding any evidence for this is the employment
of QEO by Plato to describe the world soul. Etymologically, QEO
evidently means "I run" (i.e., power). But I find no usages Greek
literature which indicate that QEOS ever MEANT power, over against

Usage is my main point here.

While Burnet says that QEOS means "god" in a religious sense, he also
says that is not its only signification. Later, he adds, however:
"This non-religious use of the word "god" is characteristic of the
whole period we are dealing with" (Burnet 14).

So here is the crux of the issue for me. I can agree that QEOS was
employed to DESCRIBE powers, but I see no evidence that it ever meant
"power." How does this apply to Biblical Greek? My friend suggests
that if QEOS means "power," it could affect our understanding of QEOS
in John 1:1.

E. Foster

L-R College

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