Have a question for bible scholars and/or theologins.

Discussion in 'Free-For-All Archives' started by Rachel, Apr 29, 2005.

  1. Rachel

    Rachel
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    Wondering if any theologins or bible scholars have any thoughts about the following post. A jehovas witness sent me this after I explained the trinity to her and that Jesus is God not a 'god'....(it's pretty long)
    She writes........
    I got this from a book Called Resoning with the Scriptures. I hope this clears up John1:1-2 for you.
    I have read this again so I can make sure it will answer your question.

    Texts from which a person might draw more than one conclusion, depending on the Bible translation used

    If a passage can grammatically be translated in more than one way, what is the correct rendering? One that is in agreement with the rest of the Bible. If a person ignores other portions of the Bible and builds his belief around a favorite rendering of a particular verse, then what he believes really reflects, not the Word of God, but his own ideas and perhaps those of another imperfect human.

    John 1:1, 2:

    RS reads: "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God." (KJ, Dy, JB, NAB use similar wording.) However, NW reads: "In the beginning the Word was, and the Word was with God, and the Word was a god. This one was in the beginning with God."

    Which translation of John 1:1, 2 agrees with the context? John 1:18 says: "No one has ever seen God." Verse 14 clearly says that "the Word became flesh and dwelt among us . . . we have beheld his glory." Also, verses 1, 2 say that in the beginning he was "with God." Can one be with someone and at the same time be that person? At John 17:3, Jesus addresses the Father as "the only true God"; so, Jesus as "a god" merely reflects his Father’s divine qualities.—Heb. 1:3.

    Is the rendering "a god" consistent with the rules of Greek grammar? Some reference books argue strongly that the Greek text must be translated, "The Word was God." But not all agree. In his article "Qualitative Anarthrous Predicate Nouns: Mark 15:39 and John 1:1," Philip B. Harner said that such clauses as the one in John 1:1, "with an anarthrous predicate preceding the verb, are primarily qualitative in meaning. They indicate that the logos has the nature of theos." He suggests: "Perhaps the clause could be translated, ‘the Word had the same nature as God.’" (Journal of Biblical Literature, 1973, pp. 85, 87) Thus, in this text, the fact that the word the·os´ in its second occurrence is without the definite article (ho) and is placed before the verb in the sentence in Greek is significant. Interestingly, translators that insist on rendering John 1:1, "The Word was God," do not hesitate to use the indefinite article (a, an) in their rendering of other passages where a singular anarthrous predicate noun occurs before the verb. Thus at John 6:70, JB and KJ both refer to Judas Iscariot as "a devil," and at John 9:17 they describe Jesus as "a prophet."

    John J. McKenzie, S.J., in his Dictionary of the Bible, says: "Jn 1:1 should rigorously be translated ‘the word was with the God [= the Father], and the word was a divine being.’"—(Brackets are his. Published with nihil obstat and imprimatur.) (New York, 1965), p. 317.

    In harmony with the above, AT reads: "the Word was divine"; Mo, "the Logos was divine"; NTIV, "the word was a god." In his German translation Ludwig Thimme expresses it in this way: "God of a sort the Word was." Referring to the Word (who became Jesus Christ) as "a god" is consistent with the use of that term in the rest of the Scriptures. For example, at Psalm 82:1-6 human judges in Israel were referred to as "gods" (Hebrew, ’elo·him´; Greek, the·oi´, at John 10:34) because they were representatives of Jehovah and were to speak his law.

    See also NW appendix, 1984 Reference edition, p. 1579. (I have quoted this below)
    .
    *** Rbi8 p. 1579 6A Jesus—A Godlike One; Divine ***
    6A Jesus—A Godlike One; Divine
    Joh 1:1—"and the Word was a god (godlike; divine)"
    Gr., ?a? ?e?? ?? ? ????? (kai the·os´ en ho lo´gos)

    1808 "and the word was a god" The New Testament, in An Improved Version, Upon the Basis of Archbishop Newcome’s New Translation: With a
    Corrected Text, London.

    1864 "and a god was the Word" The Emphatic Diaglott (J21, interlinear reading), by
    Benjamin Wilson, New York and London.

    1935 "and the Word was divine" The Bible—An American Translation, by J. M. P.

    Smith and E. J. Goodspeed, Chicago.

    1950 "and the Word was a god" New World Translation of the Christian Greek Scriptures,
    Brooklyn.

    1975 "and a god (or, of a divine Das Evangelium nach kind) was the Word" Johannes, by Siegfried

    Schulz,Göttingen, Germany.

    1978 "and godlike sort was Das Evangelium nach
    the Logos" Johannes,by Johannes
    Schneider,Berlin.

    1979 "and a god was the Logos" Das Evangelium nach Johannes,by Jürgen Becker,
    Würzburg, Germany.

    These translations use such words as "a god," "divine" or "godlike" because the Greek word ?e?? (the·os´) is a singular predicate noun occurring before the verb and is not preceded by the definite article. This is an anarthrous the·os´. The God with whom the Word, or Logos, was originally is designated here by the Greek expression ? ?e??, that is, the·os´ preceded by the definite article ho. This is an articular the·os´. Careful translators recognize that the articular construction of the noun points to an identity, a personality, whereas a singular anarthrous predicate noun preceding the verb points to a quality about someone. Therefore, John’s statement that the Word or Logos was "a god" or "divine" or "godlike" does not mean that he was the God with whom he was. It merely expresses a certain quality about the Word, or Logos, but it does not identify him as one and the same as God himself.

    In the Greek text there are many cases of a singular anarthrous predicate noun preceding the verb, such as in Mr 6:49; 11:32; Joh 4:19; 6:70; 8:44; 9:17; 10:1, 13, 33; 12:6. In these places translators insert the indefinite article "a" before the predicate noun in order to bring out the quality or characteristic of the subject. Since the indefinite article is inserted before the predicate noun in such texts, with equal justification the indefinite article "a" is inserted before the anarthrous ?e?? in the predicate of John 1:1 to make it read "a god." The Sacred Scriptures confirm the correctness of this rendering.

    In his article "Qualitative Anarthrous Predicate Nouns: Mark 15:39 and John 1:1," published in Journal of Biblical Literature, Vol. 92, Philadelphia, 1973, p. 85, Philip B. Harner said that such clauses as the one in Joh 1:1, "with an anarthrous predicate preceding the verb, are primarily qualitative in meaning. They indicate that the logos has the nature of theos. There is no basis for regarding the predicate theos as definite." On p. 87 of his article, Harner concluded: "In John 1:1 I think that the qualitative force of the predicate is so prominent that the noun cannot be regarded as definite."

    Following is a list of instances in the gospels of Mark and John where various translators have rendered singular anarthrous predicate nouns occurring before the verb with an indefinite article to denote the indefinite and qualitative status of the subject nouns:

    Scripture Text

    New World Translation
    King James Version
    An American Translation
    New International Version
    Revised Standard Version
    Today’s English Version
     
  2. Matt Black

    Matt Black
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    και θηοσ ην 'ο λογοσ CAN be translated "and A god was the Word" but that would be a most unlikely and grammatically incorrect translation. First off, just because John misses off the definite article 'ο before θηοσ doesn't mean one should substitute an indefinite "a". John is grammatically careless in this way quite a bit; a few verses later he does it again, and if we were to adopt the JWs' thesis, this would have the Gospel saying "There was a man sent from God, his name was A John"...which is obviously a ludicrous translation. Secondly, the position of θηοσ in the phrase is vital: it appears first in the noun word order which means that the word is stressed, emphasised, ie: "And GOD was the Word"; this is the same God being talked about earlier and John is stressing that God Himself was the Word.

    So, nice try, Charles Taize Russell, but definitely no cigar :cool:

    Yours in Christ

    Matt
     
  3. NateT

    NateT
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    First, John 20.28 where Thomas says "My Lord and My God" has the definite article for God.

    Second, I'm not sure that John was being sloppy a) Definite articles (the) are typically left off of a proper noun (in Matt's case John would normally not have an article.)

    b) and more importantly, according to "Colwell's canon" when a noun is used as a predicate nominative, in a predicate statement, the presence or absence of an article with that noun may be determined by word order rather than by whether the noun is definitive or not.

    The phrase "and the Word was God" is a sentence w/ a copulative verb ("was") In this case, Colwell's canon states "Definite predicate nouns that precede the copulative verb tend to omit the article, even though they are specific in meaning."

    Which means that even though the word theos connotates a definite being (The God) it would not have an article most of the time because it comes before the copulative or "Linking" verb of "was".

    He then sights John 9.5 as an example, where Jesus says that he is the light of the world, but a "literal" translation would read "a light i am of the world."

    Hope that helps and isn't too technical. It basically boils down to, in this case, the word order helps determine the placement of an article.

    In fact, Colwell states that if you were to read the entire Greek NT, you would EXPECT constructs like the one found in 1 John 1.1

    Finally, if you tell this JW friend about the "My Lord and My God" they will respond back that Thomas was so excited that, in fact, he used God's name in vein. However, there is no indication that he was rebuked by Jesus for this action. Plus, it would not be a common thing for a jew of that day to so non-chalantly use God's name in vain like we do today.
     
  4. Charles Meadows

    Charles Meadows
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    That's a good way to state Colwell's rule Nate!

    In this case the "theos" is before the verb - in "Yoda-ese" you might say!

    As always CONTEXT is the most important thing!! In this case "Ho Theos", God (proper noun) has already been introduced in the last clause (the word was with "Ho Theos") so that the appearance of the noun "Theos" would be assumed to refer to THE God.

    Colwell's rule notes that in cases where a contextually definite noun being used as a predicate nominative comes before the linking verb, the noun is typically anarthous.

    The best translation here identifies the "logos" is the same as "Ho Theos".

    "The word was A God" is grammatically less likely, and is essentially ruled out by the context.
     
  5. BobRyan

    BobRyan
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    John 1:18 "No one has seen -A- god at any time"???

    I think not! The JW's "need" the article inserted in 1:1 -- so they do it.
     
  6. Rachel

    Rachel
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    Thank you everyone, I'm trying to understand all this...it's all greek to me! LOL(and I don't know greek) [​IMG]
    I want to reply to her in simple terms.

    Rachel
     
  7. john6:63

    john6:63
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    I have noticed that anytime a Jehovah’s witness knocks on my door it has always been a group of women. Where are all the men?
     
  8. natters

    natters
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  9. Marcia

    Marcia
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    Rachel, if you want a good resource, get Ron Rhodes' book, Reasoning from the Scriptures with Jehovah's Witnessess ($5.80 on the new and used section at Amazon). He gives ways to respond to the JW arguments, which are flawed.

    He also has books like this on talking to Mormons, Muslims, and Masons.
     
  10. Rachel

    Rachel
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    Hey Marcia! [​IMG]

    Thanks everyone for all the help!

    Rachel [​IMG] [​IMG]
     
  11. NateT

    NateT
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    Just a note:

    Most JW's don't know Greek. Probably couldn't tell you the alphabet if they were pressed (it's okay, Charles Russell didn't either)

    This is part of their training, and one of the arguments that they are prepared with. So don't feel like they're overwhelming you with their vast knowledge, in reality, if you pressed them on something in the Greek they would have know idea what it was.

    I don't think you need Biblical languages to respond to them, as Mr. Meadows says above, "Context is Key" it even trumps the Greek syntax.
     
  12. Doubting Thomas

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    I have noticed that anytime a Jehovah’s witness knocks on my door it has always been a group of women. Where are all the men? </font>[/QUOTE]They're busy knocking on other people's doors disguised as Mormons. :D
     
  13. NateT

    NateT
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    I have noticed that anytime a Jehovah’s witness knocks on my door it has always been a group of women. Where are all the men? </font>[/QUOTE]They're busy knocking on other people's doors disguised as Mormons. :D </font>[/QUOTE]You know the difference, right? JWs think that Jesus was not God. The Mormons adamantly think that Jesus was God...and you can be too!
     
  14. Doubting Thomas

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    Yep...that about sums it up. (With the LDS understanding, of course, that God the Father and Jesus are two different "gods")
     
  15. icthus

    icthus
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    Hi Rachel

    Your OP is quite long and seems to me the information is confusing. The works/people that you have referred to, come to conclusions that are in the main based on a doctrinal bias, rather than what both Scripture and the language in question allows.

    Much has already been said on the Greek grammar of John 1:1. I would like to add, if I may, in the hope that it clarifies the issue.

    The false assumption bt the JW's and others who follow their folly, is , had John wished to designate "Jesus as God", then he would have used the definite article in the Greek, "ho", with "theos" in the final sentence. This would therefore read "kai ho theos en ho logos", literally, "and the God was the Word". What would this have done to the text, if John had written it like this? Firstly, in the verse in question, it is important to state, that the "subject" is "ho logos". And, in the sentence we are dealing with, "theos" is the predicate. In the "general" rule of Greek grammar, "A predicate noun or adjective seldom has the article". When we have a case, where the article is found with the predicate, an essential identity with the subject is asserted. Like in verse 4 of the same chapter, John writes: "he zoe en to phos ton anthropon" (the light was the light of men). This makes "the Life", the "only light" of men. The repeating of the article with subject and predicate would make both "identical". John had already said in the previous sentence: "kai ho logos en pros ton theon" (and the Word was with God). The use of the article with each noun (logos, theos), together with the preposition, "pros", literally, "by the side of", would have established that "the Word" and "God" were "separate Persons". This would have forbidden John to have used the article with "theos" in the final sentence. As I have shown, the article would have made the "Word" and "God" the "same Person". This would be Unitarianism. Further, to have used the article in 1c, John would have made "the logos", "the ONLY God", whereby the Father and Holy Spirit would have been "identical" in Person to the "Word". The whole grammatical structure forbids John to have written it any other way, as would his understanding of the nature of God from the Old Testament.

    A very good example can be found in John 8:54,
    "It is the Father Who glorifies Me, Whom you say He is your God" Here, like 1:1, "ho pater_mou" (My Father), the article is used in the Greek. In the clause: "hoti theos humon estin" (lit, "that God your He is), the definite article is not employed. But, no JW would render it "that He is your god". Here like John 1:1, "theos" is the predicate in the sentence..

    A word on the use of "Divine" in John 1:1, as found in James Moffatt, etc. The Greek word "theos" is a "noun", whereas the word "Divine" is an "adjective". There is a word in Greek just for this, which is "theios"

    I am sorry my response is this long, but the subject matter is not simple.
     

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