From: Edgar Foster (
Date: Wed Apr 22 1998 - 10:22:39 EDT

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

> 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
> >is
> >> >that QEOS never MEANT power, but could be applied to "powers."
> >
> >> I'm not sure that an answer to this is readily ascertainable. If
> >> oldest, or just about the oldest, literary Greek says MHNIN AEIDE,
> >QEA, ... there can hardly be any doubt that the poet is thinking
> >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
> >> pantheon.
> >
> >The phrase of Thales is admittedly ambiguous and I have read
> >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
> >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
> >Deity.
> >
> >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
> that QEOS may have meant "power" at some point and to some
> 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.

Maybe I'm splitting hairs here, Carl. But if I use a word to signify
something else, does the word then take on the meaning of the thing
signified? For example, if an entire society of persons applied the
word to a tree, does QEOS then mean "tree"? I think it would be more
accurate to say that QEOS was used to describe a tree, or that a tree
was called QEOS--but QEOS does not mean "tree." I.e., "tree" would not
qualify as a lexical entry for QEOS. Maybe as a semantic domain.

I feel that the same applies to QEOS and "power." If you have examples
from the Classical literature where QEOS clearly MEANS "power," I am
open to it. But, I differentiate between a semantic domain and a

As BAGD points out, QEOS is applied to idols, humans (parents are
called QEOI by their children), to God the Father, and even the LOGOS
is called QEOS in the Bible--but QEOS doesn't mean any of these things.

As regards John 1:1, I agree. It is a big jump.


E. Foster

L-R College

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