From: Carl W. Conrad (
Date: Wed Apr 22 1998 - 10:07:07 EDT

At 8:35 AM -0500 4/22/98, Edgar Foster wrote:
>---"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.

Let's be clear here: there's all the difference in the world between saying
that QEOS may have meant "power" at some point and to some speakers/readers
of Greek and saying that QEOS must therefore be affected by that sense of
its meaning in John 1:1. I DO think that QEOS was probably used in a
non-religious sense in the pre-Socratic literature, but I really don't
think I'd try to bring that to bear upon understanding of John 1:1.

Carl W. Conrad
Department of Classics/Washington University
One Brookings Drive/St. Louis, MO, USA 63130/(314) 935-4018
Home: 7222 Colgate Ave./St. Louis, MO 63130/(314) 726-5649 OR

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