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Discussion in 'Bible Versions & Translations' started by Keith M, Mar 4, 2006.

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  1. Keith M

    Keith M New Member

    Dec 6, 2002
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    I know some of you know something about the original Greek of the New Testament, but it's all Greek to me! :confused:

    This question came up on another board, and I thought some of you may be able to shed some light on the subject.

    This one was a stumper for me. Anyone care to take it on?
  2. TCassidy

    TCassidy Administrator

    Mar 30, 2005
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    John 1:1 εν αρχη ην ο λογος και ο λογος ην προς τον θεον και θεος ην ο λογος

    In the beginning was the word, and the word was with the God and God was the word.

    The reasons the definite article is missing in the clause "and God was the word" is that "God" in this case, is nominative as opposed to accusative in the earlier clause. Note also that "God" is the first word, and not the last word, in the clause. This oddity of Greek grammar is known as the emphatic position and makes the word the emphasis of the clause thus not requiring the definite article, but also completely denying the addition of an indefinite article as the JWs supply in their false version.
  3. EdSutton

    EdSutton New Member

    Jan 9, 2006
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    I agree here, [​IMG] but I AM out of my league, bein'z I ain't no Greek scholar. [​IMG]

    In fact, I don't claim to be a scholar about anything [​IMG] , perhaps unlike some I could name [​IMG] , but won't, both on and not on the BB, and I'm not referring here to either of you by ANY stretch.
    In His grace,
  4. gb93433

    gb93433 Active Member
    Site Supporter

    Jun 26, 2003
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    From Robertson's Word Pictures of the NT

    In the beginning (en archêi). Archê is definite, though anarthrous like our at home, in town, and the similar Hebrew be reshith in Ge 1:1
    But Westcott notes that here John carries our thoughts beyond the beginning of creation in time to eternity. There is no argument here to prove the existence of God any more than in Genesis. It is simply assumed. Either God exists and is the Creator of the universe as scientists like Eddington and Jeans assume or matter is eternal or it has come out of nothing.
    Was (ên). Three times in this sentence John uses this imperfect of eimi to be which conveys no idea of origin for God or for the Logos, simply continuous existence. Quite a different verb (egeneto, became) appears in verse 14 for the beginning of the Incarnation of the Logos. See the distinction sharply drawn in 8:58 "before Abraham came (genesthai) I am" (eimi, timeless existence).

    The Word (ho logos). Logos is from legô, old word in Homer to lay by, to collect, to put words side by side, to speak, to express an opinion. Logos is common for reason as well as speech. Heraclitus used it for the principle which controls the universe. The Stoics employed it for the soul of the world (anima mundi) and Marcus Aurelius used spermatikos logos for the generative principle in nature. The Hebrew memra was used in the Targums for the manifestation of God like the Angel of Jehovah and the Wisdom of God in
    Pr 8:23. Dr. J. Rendel Harris thinks that there was a lost wisdom book that combined phrases in Proverbs and in the Wisdom of Solomon which John used for his Prologue (The Origin of the Prologue to St. John, p. 43) which he has undertaken to reproduce. At any rate John's standpoint is that of the Old Testament and not that of the Stoics nor even of Philo who uses the term Logos, but not John's conception of personal pre-existence. The term Logos is applied to Christ only in Joh 1:1,14; Re 19:13; 1Jo 1:1"concerning the Word of life" (an incidental argument for identity of authorship). There is a possible personification of "the Word of God" in
    Heb 4:12 But the personal pre-existence of Christ is taught by Paul 2Co 8:9; Php 2:6 f.; Col 1:17
    and in Heb 1:2 f. and in Joh 17:5.

    This term suits John's purpose better than sophia (wisdom) and is his answer to the Gnostics who either denied the actual humanity of Christ (Docetic Gnostics) or who separated the aeon Christ from the man Jesus (Cerinthian Gnostics). The pre-existent Logos "became flesh" (sarx egeneto, verse) 14 and by this phrase John answered both heresies at once.

    With God (pros ton theon). Though existing eternally with God the Logos was in perfect fellowship with God. Pros with the accusative presents a plane of equality and intimacy, face to face with each other. In 1Jo 2:1 we have a like use of pros: "We have a Paraclete with the Father" (paraklêton echomen pros ton patera). See prosôpon pros prosôpon (face to face, 1Co 13:12 a triple use of pros. There is a papyrus example of pros in this sense to gnôston tês pros allêlous sunêtheias, "the knowledge of our intimacy with one another" (M.&M., Vocabulary) which answers the claim of Rendel Harris, Origin of Prologue, p. 8) that the use of pros here and in Mr 6:3 is a mere Aramaism. It is not a classic idiom, but this is Koiné, not old Attic. In Joh 17:5 John has para soi the more common idiom.

    And the Word was God (kai theos ên ho logos). By exact and careful language John denied Sabellianism by not saying ho theos ên ho logos. That would mean that all of God was expressed in ho logos and the terms would be interchangeable, each having the article. The subject is made plain by the article([i ho logos [/i]) and the predicate without it ( theos ) just as in Joh 4:24 pneuma ho theos can only mean "God is spirit," not "spirit is God." So in 1Jo 4:16 ho theos agapê estin can only mean "God is love," not "love is God" as a so-called Christian scientist would confusedly say. For the article with the predicate see Robertson, Grammar_, pp. 767f. So in Joh 1:14 ho Logos sarx egeneto, "the Word became flesh," not "the flesh became Word." Luther argues that here John disposes of Arianism also because the Logos was eternally God, fellowship of Father and Son, what Origen called the Eternal Generation of the Son (each necessary to the other). Thus in the Trinity we see personal fellowship on an equality.
  5. DesiderioDomini

    DesiderioDomini New Member

    Aug 27, 2005
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    great info GB!
  6. Keith M

    Keith M New Member

    Dec 6, 2002
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    Thanks for the info, everyone! This should help!
  7. Faith alone

    Faith alone New Member

    Oct 7, 2005
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    Well I'm certainly no Greek scholar!

    That AT Robertson Word Pictures post is very good. There is also a note from the NET Bible which is good. I have researched this fairly extensively and posted in another board on this, so I'll just regurgitate it here. But I would point out that what is significant about John 1:1c (the 3rd clause) is that it is a predicate nominative. As such, John could not have placed an article before THEOS due to the reciprocal rule of predicate nominatives. Incidently, in the Bible translation egroup, Rolf Furuli responded to a question I asked him about this rule. (Rolf is perhaps the foremost Greek man with decent Greek background who upholds John 1:1 as being best translated as "the Word was a god." ... I'm not sure if he's a JW or not.)

    Here's that conversation:
    Anyway, here's some comments on John 1:1c...

    John 1:1 - The case of the missing article...

    I wish to apologize beforehand for those who hate seeing Greek arguments and lexical stuff. But in this instance, I don't see any any around it. Some (the NWT for e.g.) have claimed that John 1:1c says something that it simply does not.

    BTW, the NET translation (found at www.bible.org), they have a translation note on John 1:1c which is excellent and part of my argument here.

    Here's that NET note (with a few comments) on John 1:1. But 1st of all let me add that the NWT's handling of that text violates a basic understanding about the use of the article ("the") in Greek as well as an understanding about the predicate nominative structure. Here's the note. Sorry... it gets kinda technical->

    NET footnote #3:
    OK, those who oppose the translation here of "and the Word was God" argue that since THEOS ("God" or "god") in John 1:1c does not have the article it is referring to "a god" rather than "God."

    What is the purpose of the article in Greek ("the")? In koine Greek it's different than in modern English. It had not long evolved from the demonstrative pronoun ("this"/"that") at that time. The purpose of the article was to "identify." ANY Greek grammar will tell you this. The focus is on identity when the article is used. But it is crucial that we realize that just because no article is used it does NOT mean that identity is not the focus. And we will see later that there is a very good reason why John could NOT use an article here grammatically. So he may well have intended identity without an article, as nearly every Bible translates this phrase. That is quite common in koine Greek.

    In English, for example, we could say,
    1 - "Don is the man."
    2 - "Don is man."
    3 - "Don is a man."

    In # 1 above to say that would be to identify Don. "Which man were you referring to? Oh, the one with blue suade shoes? Well, Don is the man."

    How about an elderly lady who didn't see too well. Don has fairly long hair. To her we might answer her question about his gender by, "Oh, Don is a man." That's # 3 above.

    OK, say someone was being critical of how well Don was doing something. In defense we might answer that he was only human. We might say, "After all, Don is man." That would be #2 above.

    Also, we have a problem in Greek. You see first of all, koine Greek does not have an indefinite article. An indefinite what you say? That is referring to "a"/"an." In addition, the definite article ("the") had just recently evolved from the demonstrative promoun ("this"/"that") in koine Greek, hence it is simply not used the same as in English.

    Sometimes we need to just ignore the article. For example, it is often used before proper names. We wouldn't say, "The Dave is here." [​IMG] Other times one needs to be supplied in order for it to read right in English and not sound awkward.

    But often the article is not used - purposely... to focus on quality. That's why Dr. Wallace above translates it as "what God was the Word was." IOW, is God holy? The Word is holy. Is God omnipotent? The Word is omnipotent...

    Now I don't know how else to say it, but simply to say that the argument that a missing article in John before THEOS indicates that THEOS there does not refer to God but must bereferring to "a god" or even "a God" is simply... wrong. That's a basic Greek misunderstanding. Don't know where such a crazy idea came from.

    Now, how can I make this point clear? Well, how about if I find some examples in John in which find clearly "God" is intended, and where no article is used (called "anarthrous"). How far do we have to look? Not very far! It occurs a few more times in chapter 1 alone. Here's the really obvious ones:

    So we can obviously conclude that the lack of an article does not mean that we should read a noun as "indefinite." Actually, if THEOS does not have an article, it can and often does still mean "God," not "a god." Such a conclusion cannot be denied by just looking in the immediate context alone.

    Now to be fair, I should mention that John 1:1c has a special format - it's a "predicate nominative." That's where the NET note above explains the proper way to handle such so well.

    But just think about that for a second. A predicate nominative has an equating verb joining two "nominative" case nouns (They're both the "subject."). Here's an example: "Bill is the doctor."

    Now, in Greek, if you put the article before both "Bill" and "doctor," then the statement would have to be fully reversible. You see, word order is not significant in Greek as in English (except for emphasis).

    So in our example we'd have to be able to say not only, "Bill is the doctor," but "the doctor is Bill." IOW, all doctors must be named Bill! Ludicrous. How do you make it clear that you only intend to go one way? You guessed it - by NOT putting an article (if this was in Greek) with "doctor."

    Similarly, if there had been an article before "God" in John 1:1c then we'd have to also be able to say, "The Word was God," but also, "God was the Word." Or, as my 15 y.o. daughter said when she was 3 y.o., "Jesus is God and God is Jesus."

    But you see, that's not true. That's essentially modalism. (And no, I didn't correct my daughter, I was very impressed that she could express it the way she did.)

    BTW, in the Greek THEOS ("God") appears first in the clause... you guessed it - for emphasis. So if John wanted to emphasize that the Word was God, what would he do? Ah, he could put THEOS first in the clause, right? Guess what? That's what he did.

    So then, one more grammatical point: since koine Greek does not have the indefinite article as there is in English ("a" - "an"), context tells you when it should be supplied. And since the context for John 1 is that this Word created the world and contains life in Himself... the context is clear that THEOS in John 1:1c without the article was referring to deity. There are actually 3 possibilities here then:

    The Word was God - definite
    The Word was a god - indefinite
    The Word was God. ("divine") - quality

    FYI, the NET Bible is an excellent resource, found at www.bible.org. Also, Dr. Wallace, the editor of the NET Bible is one of the foremost recognized Greek scholars in the world. He'd be on any short list of such. His Greek grammar textbook, Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics is the #1 Greek grammar used for intermediate and advanced Greek studies in seminaries in the US. The point is - he's no slouch.

    Oh, BTW, modalism is when we say that there is but one God who appears in different forms or modes. In this instance, an article with THEOS would have forced the statement that God is Jesus as well as Jesus is God. But that is not sound trinitarian biblical truth. Hence, one thing we know, John could NOT have placed an article before THEOS. It would have forced him to make an inaccurate statement about the Godhead.

    A Greek writer can express the definite force unambiguously by placing the noun after the verb and dropping the article - as was done here. By doing that he is saying something like "the Word was divine," meaning that Jesus has the quality of God - He has the characteristics of God. In English that does not always get read as saying that Jesus was God in essence or quality, so it wouldn't be a good translation. It is similar to what Colossians 2:9 says, "And in Him the full nature of God's dwells bodily."

    The fact that he can also place the anarthrous ("no article") noun prior to the verb, and when doing so, the result - more often than not - lays stress on the quality of the noun - is a rather clear GRAMMATICAL distinction. Such nouns can also - in some cases - convey a definite semantic nuance (that is, be semanticaly equivalent to having the article - hence this could simply mean "the Word was God."). Thus, we cannot assume that simply because the noun is anarthrous that it must be indefinite ("a god"). In fact, context will be the key.

    So what is the context here?

    The Word was with God from the very beginning. The first words of John’s Gospel, “In the beginning … ,” bring to mind the account of creation in Genesis 1, and they were intended to do just that. This is not coincidence. The phrase “in the beginning,” in Greek as in English is the same as in Genesis 1:1 (OT -Greek septuagint compared) and John 1:1. "In the beginning God …" John is doing virtually the same thing in the first two verses of this Gospel. Our Lord has always existed as God, and He has always existed in oneness and fellowship with God the Father and God the Holy Spirit, but He did not become God incarnate (Jesus - in the flesh) until He was "born" as described in Matthew and Luke. IOW the Son was always God, but He BECAME man at a point in time in history.

    In fact, here in John we see that John doesn't even mention Jesus by name for several vss., but instead refers to Him as "the Word" because Jesus Christ was God's expression of Himself to the world. Jesus was born at a point in time. He became a man at a point in time in history. But He was ALWAYS God... has always existed... is the self-existant One. That is clearly a point that the Holy Spirit is making here through John.

    The context is clearly of one who is God. How could John have made that more clear? What I like to ask those who ay that this should betranslated as "the Word was a god" is ask them how John could re-phrased John 1 so as to make the deity of Christ more clear... haven't gotten that question answered yet.

    Hope this helps.


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