[b-greek] Smart, Sharp, Colwell and the Value of "Rules" in General

From: Wes Williams (Wes@hermesis.com)
Date: Mon Oct 30 2000 - 11:33:44 EST

Dan Parker originally wrote:

"In native KOINE Greek when the copulative KAI connects two titles of
personal description", etc., etc., etc.

I've followed this thread with passive interest, not so much in John 20:28
per se, but in wonderment at the level of interest in formulating rules with
respect to theologically sensitive verses. I submit that one needs to be
cautious with respect to any proposed "rule," especially when it is a
theologically sensitive verse, including Sharp's "rule" and Colwell's
"rule". For example, we've seen Colwell's "definite rule" rise to great
heights of popularity in its application to John 1:1 only to wane in recent
decades in favor of "qualitativeness," which is debatable itself.

One reviewer 190 years ago expressed his sentiment on the formulation of
limitations on limitations to form a "rule" to promote doctrine. Daniel
Veysie proposed an additional limitation on Sharp's "rule" in his work "On
the Greek Prepositive Article, its Nature and Uses," Oxford, 1810. This work
came under attack, in "The Monthly Review," Vol. 67, 1812, pp. 161-178,
273-290. The reviewer wrote on pp. 284, 285:

"Yet Mr. Veysie has added further limitations to those which were invented
by Mr. Sharp. . . . Verily, this adding of limitation to limitation
appeareth to us to be 'all vanity and vexation of spirit!' We would advise
the advocates for the rule to be contended with _one_ limitation, which we
are rather surprised that they have not long ago adopted; since it requires
no great comprehension of mind to see that it will furnish them with all
that they seek, will cut off every example that can possibly lift up his
head against the rule, and will render it really inviolable. We would
recommend it to the to say that, if one of the nouns be theos and the other
any personal description of Jesus, in that case they _must_ denote one and
the same individual."

The point is that proposed "rules" on theologically sensitive verses are
usually theologically motivated to start. The problem is that they are
*believed* by those of the particular theology that the "rule" supports! The
detractors point out the weaknesses of the newly proposed "rule," only to be
met with strong assertions of the "rule's" unfailingness. We've seen recent
proposals to add further limitations to Sharp, resulting in more email
volume back and forth. But Sharp's "rule" aside and Smart's "rule" aside,
the formulation of a "rule" leads the rule-believer to a sense of security
that their belief is in harmony with scripture, which in fact it may not be.
Reliance on "rules" can be deceptive irrespective of whatever theological
view one entertains.

I'm glad that the thread of Smart's rule surfaced so that we can examine the
preponderance and value of syntactic "rules" in theologically sensitive
verses. I submit that any such "rule" is interesting, but not be taken
seriously to bolster a theology from it and not to use it as "proof" that a

particular view is correct.

Wes Williams

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