BeDuhn WTJ Review

Gryllus Maior

Well-known member
Professor Jason BeDuhn, chair of the religion department at the Northern Arizona University, has offered to the public his thoughts on biblical translation. He wishes to prove that the majority of English translations are not simply the result of sober biblical scholarship, but have been produced in such a way as to support the theological view of the translators. What is extraordinary about this monograph length work is the fact that BeDuhn concludes “While it is difficult to quantify this sort of analysis, it can be said the NW [=New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures, published by the Jehovah’s Witnesses] emerges as the most accurate of the translations compared” (p. 163). To support this thesis, BeDuhn includes chapters on the history of English translation, designed to show that English translations are largely the production of theologically biased individuals, and chapters on specific passages, such as John 1:1 and 8:58 which are supposed to illustrate how the major English translations have bowed to bias instead of a proper understanding of the original Greek.



Now, this claim is almost automatically offensive to the sense and sensibilities of nearly all biblical scholars, conservative and otherwise, who view the New World Translation itself as a decidedly unscholarly production tendentiously prepared to support the doctrines of the Jehovah’s Witnesses. BeDuhn includes some helpful analysis and information throughout the course of his treatment, but does he in fact prove his overall thesis? I hope to demonstrate in this review that he does not, and that his treatment of the evidence itself, despite his claim to be a “neutral investigator” (Preface, p. ix, cf. his comments on p. 167-68) is itself heavily biased. In so contradicting nearly the entire scholarly consensus, BeDuhn has a heavy burden of proof, and he has failed to meet that burden.



BeDuhn begins his work in the introduction by summarizing the linguistic and textual history of the NT documents, sufficient to demonstrate why the modern reader needs a translation in the first place. In chapter 1, he makes the claim that “Bible translation is usually undertaken by people with theological training who also happen to be reasonablycompetent in biblical languages” (p. 8, emphasis mine) and “Although biblical scholars have been the key players in identifying the more accurate Greek text of the New Testament, most have never been involved in a Bible translation project” (p. 9). Now, I hasten to point out that BeDuhn provides absolutely no evidence to support these rather naked ad hominem claims. Most modern major Bible publishers provide a list of the translators. It would have been a simple matter for BeDuhn to go down the lists and check qualifications. Had he done so, he would have found that the majority of the primary translators had advanced degrees qualifying them for their work.



His comments on the NWT reveal something of the bias of the author himself. Amazingly, he discusses far less of the history and controversy surrounding the translation than he does his other sample translations. Edmund C. Gruss, in his We Left the Jehovah’s Witnesses, presented eyewitness and documentary evidence that the alleged translation committee of the NWT had very little in the way of the qualifications for translation work which Dr. BeDuhn has helpfully outlined earlier in his work.[1] While these claims could conceivably be disputed, they should not be ignored. He dismisses claims of bias concerning the NWT with the observation that all Bible translations are biased (quite a non sequitur) but then implies that the NWT is less biased because “[it] is free of the shadow of the King James” (this in the context of explaining that although the translation philosophy is similar to the NRSV, it reads quite differently from the KJV-dependent NRSV). In other words, the purported theological independence of the NWT makes it a better translation.



In all fairness to Professor BeDuhn, he does attempt to present a good amount of evidence to support his claims, using the Greek as his reference point, but the evidence that he presents is often inadequate or poorly handled. Allow me to present an analysis of two major discussions in his work, his chapter 11 on John 1:1 and his comments on the nature of the Spirit in chapter 12.



Since John 1:1c is translated “and the Word was God” in nearly all major translations, BeDuhn has a great deal of work cut out for him to defend the rendering “a god” found in the NWT. Unfortunately, BeDuhn does not provide nearly enough support properly to engage the subject. I was extremely surprised that he did not interact significantly with the extensive secondary literature on the subject. Admittedly, a popular work is not going to have the same level of interaction that we would expect from a truly scholarly monograph, but BeDuhn certainly could have demonstrated more familiarity with the major works on the subject, and would also have avoided making certain mistakes in his evidence and argumentation.



Instead, as is typical of his methodology throughout, he begins by discussing the grammatical principle that he feels to be most pertinent, in this case the nature of the article. The gist of his description on p. 114-116 is that the presence of the article means that the noun is definite; the absence of the article means that it is indefinite, and normally should be translated with English indefinite article “a/an.” This is quite an oversimplification, and ignores the well known fact that the article and its lack does not always, in all contextual circumstances, equate to the definite article in English or the indefinite. On page 115-116 he states:



If John had wanted to say “the word was God,” as so many English translations have it, he could easily have done so by simply adding the definite article “the” (ho) to the word god (theos), making it “the god” and therefore “God.”



Many exegetes have argued, however, that the presence of the article before qeoj in 1:1c would actually identify the term with ton qeon in 1:1b, hence stating that the logoj is actually God the Father. This would mean that John was advancing a form of modalism, something which the context clearly contraindicates. As Harner (whom BeDuhn cites extensively, see below) argued in his essay on the subject (interacting with Colwell’s Rule), the lack of the article is irrelevant to the definite/indefinite nature of the qeoj in 1:1c, since it is intended to emphasize the qualitative nature of the noun, and is an assertion that the logoj shares in the same quality of godhood that is possessed by God the Father. This is accentuated, in my thinking, by the simple but effective chiasm that we see between 1:1b and c:



In a careful author such as John, such a construction can hardly be accidental, and emphasizes in a particular way the key nouns in the chiastic arrangement, strengthening the impression that it is the divine nature of the Logos that is being highlighted without identifying the Logos directly with God the Father. Now, this interpretation is itself subject to debate, but my point is that while these arguments are well known in the secondary literature, BeDuhn doesn’t even mention them. He seems unaware of how more complicated syntactical structure and contextual nuance might overturn his rather simplistic use of grammatical principles.



In order to prove that the Bible talks about “a god” in the sense that the NWT intends here (that Jesus is a mighty being but not God Almighty), BeDuhn supports his case by citing various verses where he thinks the anarthrous usage of qeojindicates an indefinite usage. However, the verses selected are highly problematic. BeDuhn has neglected the fact that qeoj, when referring to God, is practically a name or proper title. While it often happens that the article might be used in such contexts, the use of the article to mark a proper name or title is optional, and is often varied for stylistic or other reasons. In every case that he cites (Luke 20:38; Mark 12:27; 2 Cor 1:3; Rev 21:7; Phil 2:13; 2 Thess 2:4) the context clearly indicates that it is God who is in mind, and substituting “God” or even “the God” does not at all violate the sense.



BeDuhn does discuss Colwell’s rule, and correctly points out its limitations. When he comes to Harner, however, he selectively cites him in order to support his own spin, but seems to ignore Harner’s actual conclusions. On page 129:



I am in basic agreement with Harner that theos in John 1:1[c] is used qualitatively. I think the best translation would be: “And the Word was divine….” John is trying to stress that the word has a divine character, or belongs to the class of divine things, however that is to be worked out technically.



However, this is how Harner saw his rule of the anarthrous qualitative predicate being applied here:



Perhaps the clause could be translated, “the Word had the same nature as God.” This would be one way of representing John’s thought, which is, as I understand it, that ho logos no less than ho theos had the nature of theos.[2]
 

Attachments

  • 1616068880022.png
    1616068880022.png
    2.6 KB · Views: 5
  • 1616068879978.png
    1616068879978.png
    2.5 KB · Views: 5

Gryllus Maior

Well-known member
The rest of the review:

In chapter 12 BeDuhn continues this discussion and applies it to the Holy Spirit. He argues on p. 136-7 that the readers of the NT would draw their understanding of “spirit” (pneuma) from the larger cultural context, which had a much wider range of usage for the word. He contends that because “we” have a much narrower range of usage, “we tend to run together in our mind the distinct things called “spirit” in the New Testament.” Due to centuries of Christian theological reflection, “modern readers and translators…think of the Holy Spirit as a “who,” or even a “he,” rather than as an “it” that transcends human measures of personhood.”



Once again, his support fails to satisfy the burden of proof. He notes that there are 87 usages of the term “holy spirit,” about half of which are anarthrous. He correctly reports that the lack of the article in all contexts does not mean that the term is indefinite, particularly in prepositional phrases. He fails to note that “Holy Spirit” is tantamount to a technical term, name or title, and hence the usage of the article is going to be optional even when not employed in a prepositional phrase. As it is, he uncovers 7 verses where he thinks it is fine to render “a holy spirit” (Acts 8:15, 17-19; Acts 10:38; Acts 19:2; Luke 2:25; Luke 11:13; John 20:22). However what does “a holy spirit” mean? It must mean some other holy spirit than the Holy Spirit (and this is precisely what he is arguing). However, in each case here, it is clear from context that not just any holy spirit is intended, but the Holy Spirit. For example, Acts 8 cannot be read apart from the giving of the Spirit in Acts 2, and apparently the giving of the Spirit resulted in similar effects (this is implied by Simon Magus’ reaction). An examination of each of the remaining citations will yield similar results.



We now move on to BeDuhn’s discussion about the appropriate pronouns to use in reference to the Spirit, and what it is that might motivate translators to use the personal (masculine) pronouns in English, when pneuma is clearly a neuter word.



BeDuhn correctly notes that Greek words have grammatical gender, masculine, feminine, and neuter. He further observes that English nouns do not really have the same quality, but are either personal or impersonal. Personal nouns in English tend to take pronouns which are gender qualified, since persons are either male or female. Impersonal objects in English take the pronoun “it” which emphasizes the non-personal nature of the object. BeDuhn further clarifies that in Greek many nouns which are masculine or feminine in grammatical gender are still impersonal. It is the meaning of the noun which determines what pronoun it takes in English translation, not the grammatical gender.



However, BeDuhn asserts “But “neuter” nouns are used only for impersonal things…” (p. 140). This claim is simply erroneous. Even in the NT the words teknon and paidion are personal neuter nouns. In such cases, it is optional whether the neuter pronoun or the masculine/feminine is used to refer to the noun, although at least in the NT the preponderance seems to be for the grammatically neuter. Is it correct, then, to refer to a child with the pronoun “it” in English? Normally not, since we tend to think of even small children as persons, and therefore gender qualified. Throughout the NT, we see numerous references which indicate the personhood of the Holy Spirit. If we translate ad sensum rather than according to literal grammatical gender, then we must use a personal pronoun in English.



[1] Edmond C. Gruss, We Left the Jehovah’s Witnesses, (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1976), p. 73-76.
[2] Philip B. Harner, “Qualitative Anarthrous Predicate Nouns: Mark 15:39 and John 1:1,” Journal of Biblical Literature 92, 1 (March 1973), p. 87.
 

The Real John Milton

Well-known member
I see lots of ad hominem attacks against BeDuhn , and quibbling about theological differences in your OP. But as far as BeDuhn’s understanding of biblical Greek is concerned, it is fairly unassailable. And you can’t seem to pretend to argue otherwise.

Can you point to examples of apparently bad Greek grammar by BeDuhn next post? List your example(s) in quick point form next post for inspection.
 
Last edited:

Steven Avery

Well-known member
Thank you Gryllus Manor for a helpful review.

Here was an excellent catch!

BeDuhn asserts “But “neuter” nouns are used only for impersonal things…” (p. 140). This claim is simply erroneous.

The fuller quote from BeDuhn is even worse.
(And the quote from BeDuhn is used many times on the Internet, including the book by Patrick Navas.)

Jason BeDuhn - p. 140
Now it turns out that both ‘masculine’ and ‘feminine’ Greek nouns can be used for impersonal things as well as persons. But ‘neuter’ nouns are used only for impersonal things, such as objects, animals, forces, abstract principles, and so on. The same holds true for ‘masculine,’ ‘feminine,’ and ‘neuter’ pronouns.

Here Jason BeDuhn is even putting animals as impersonal!

Beyond that, animals are frequently masculine or feminine nouns even when there is only one word for the animal.

Gender on Animal Nouns in Greek
Giorgos Spathas and Yasutada Sudo
https://www.ucl.ac.uk/~ucjtudo/pdf/animalgender.pdf

And , returning to your correction, we have the common usage of neuter nouns for personal usages like groups of people, (nations, multitude, Gentiles, crowd) that then can be used in masculine grammar by constructio ad sensum.

Barry Hofstetter gave these four verses, Matthew 25:32 Luke 19:37 Acts 5:16 Romans 2:14, when he was looking for neuter nouns taking masculine grammar. And these are the real, legit, well-known cases of constructio ad sensum. (Barry thought this was an aha! response to Eugenius Voulgaris in the heavenly witnesses discussion.) These are the types of examples that you will find in the 1800s grammars, e.g. Romans 2:14 is given in Winer-Stuart here:
https://archive.org/stream/grammarofnewtest00wine#page/152/mode/2up
https://books.google.com/books?id=SyASAAAAIAAJ&pg=PA153
"
Stuart-Winer grammar - p. 153
This is called constructio ad sensum, the meaning, and not the grammatical gender of the word, being mainly considered. It is particularly when some animate object is denoted by a Neuter or an abstract Feminine noun. The pronoun is then made to grammatically with the object in question ...

1. The pronouns personal, demonstr. and relative often differ in gender from the noun to which they relate, as the idea expressed by them, and
not their grammatical gender, is taken into view. This takes place uniformly when a neuter noun denotes things which have life; in which
case, the pronouns take the grammatical gender, of these objects, as masc. or fem...

Winer 1840 translate by Agnew and Ebbeke
https://books.google.com/books?id=c7JNAAAAMAAJ&pg=PA122

Today there is a tendency to wildly expand constructio ad sensum into allegorical and metaphorical realms. :) Granted, scholars using the critical text, having to deal with the Westcott-Hort recension, created new difficulties that did not exist in the Greek New Testament editions before 1881.

Going back to BeDuhn, watch the continuation:

Jason BeDuhn p. 140
Now it turns out that both "masculine" and "feminine" Greek nouns can be used for impersonal things as well as persons. But "neuter" nouns are used only for impersonal things, such as objects, animals, forces, abstract principles, and so on. The same holds true for "masculine," "feminine," and "neuter" pronouns. Greek tends to use personal pronouns more than English does. Some things that would be handled with "which" in English, because they are not persons, are referred to with the equivalent of "who/whom" in Greek because the nouns that name them are either "masculine" or "feminine." But even though the "personal" category is larger in Greek than in English, the "Holy Spirit" is referred to by a "neuter" noun in Greek. Consequently, it is never spoken of with personal pronouns in Greek. It is a "which," not a "who." It is an "it," not a "he."

You can see that DeBuhn is still fishing around, mixing up grammatical gender and natural gender in the Greek text. When you have an inanimate object in Greek that is masculine or feminine grammatical gender, it is not:

referred to with the equivalent of "who/whom" in Greek

BeDuhn is superimposing the English construction over the Greek. And BeDuhn is simply ignoring what he had just written (the accurate part.)

Steven Avery
Dutchess County, NY
 

Steven Avery

Well-known member
I see lots of ad hominem attacks against BeDuhn , and quibbling about theological differences in your OP

First, on the doctrinal differences, BeDuhn is the one who opened up that realm of inquiry. So it clearly can be looked at from both sides. The same goes with qualifications. Watch this claim about the Authorized Version.

Theological and other intellectual differences could be found among the members of the committee, and debates about translation often hinged on the implications for Christian doctrine and practice as much as they did on the linguistic meaning of a Greek word. p. 8

Jason BeDuhn gives no examples, no sources, he just made this up out of thin air.

Ironically, the learned men of the AV frequently used "it" with the Holy Spirit, unlike most modern versions. Let's hear BeDuhn point this out, with praise!

As for "ad hominem", that is frequently misused. If you point out that a person is in over his head in what he writes, that is not ad hominem. Plus, ad hominem is often truth, and germane and not a fallacy. (Here I am talking about ad hominem in its most common modern sense, against the man. Not the traditional usage of to the man's arguments.)
 

Roger Thornhill

Well-known member
Professor Jason BeDuhn, chair of the religion department at the Northern Arizona University, has offered to the public his thoughts on biblical translation. He wishes to prove that the majority of English translations are not simply the result of sober biblical scholarship, but have been produced in such a way as to support the theological view of the translators. What is extraordinary about this monograph length work is the fact that BeDuhn concludes “While it is difficult to quantify this sort of analysis, it can be said the NW [=New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures, published by the Jehovah’s Witnesses] emerges as the most accurate of the translations compared” (p. 163). To support this thesis, BeDuhn includes chapters on the history of English translation, designed to show that English translations are largely the production of theologically biased individuals, and chapters on specific passages, such as John 1:1 and 8:58 which are supposed to illustrate how the major English translations have bowed to bias instead of a proper understanding of the original Greek.



Now, this claim is almost automatically offensive to the sense and sensibilities of nearly all biblical scholars, conservative and otherwise, who view the New World Translation itself as a decidedly unscholarly production tendentiously prepared to support the doctrines of the Jehovah’s Witnesses. BeDuhn includes some helpful analysis and information throughout the course of his treatment, but does he in fact prove his overall thesis? I hope to demonstrate in this review that he does not, and that his treatment of the evidence itself, despite his claim to be a “neutral investigator” (Preface, p. ix, cf. his comments on p. 167-68) is itself heavily biased. In so contradicting nearly the entire scholarly consensus, BeDuhn has a heavy burden of proof, and he has failed to meet that burden.



BeDuhn begins his work in the introduction by summarizing the linguistic and textual history of the NT documents, sufficient to demonstrate why the modern reader needs a translation in the first place. In chapter 1, he makes the claim that “Bible translation is usually undertaken by people with theological training who also happen to be reasonablycompetent in biblical languages” (p. 8, emphasis mine) and “Although biblical scholars have been the key players in identifying the more accurate Greek text of the New Testament, most have never been involved in a Bible translation project” (p. 9). Now, I hasten to point out that BeDuhn provides absolutely no evidence to support these rather naked ad hominem claims. Most modern major Bible publishers provide a list of the translators. It would have been a simple matter for BeDuhn to go down the lists and check qualifications. Had he done so, he would have found that the majority of the primary translators had advanced degrees qualifying them for their work.



His comments on the NWT reveal something of the bias of the author himself. Amazingly, he discusses far less of the history and controversy surrounding the translation than he does his other sample translations. Edmund C. Gruss, in his We Left the Jehovah’s Witnesses, presented eyewitness and documentary evidence that the alleged translation committee of the NWT had very little in the way of the qualifications for translation work which Dr. BeDuhn has helpfully outlined earlier in his work.[1] While these claims could conceivably be disputed, they should not be ignored. He dismisses claims of bias concerning the NWT with the observation that all Bible translations are biased (quite a non sequitur) but then implies that the NWT is less biased because “[it] is free of the shadow of the King James” (this in the context of explaining that although the translation philosophy is similar to the NRSV, it reads quite differently from the KJV-dependent NRSV). In other words, the purported theological independence of the NWT makes it a better translation.



In all fairness to Professor BeDuhn, he does attempt to present a good amount of evidence to support his claims, using the Greek as his reference point, but the evidence that he presents is often inadequate or poorly handled. Allow me to present an analysis of two major discussions in his work, his chapter 11 on John 1:1 and his comments on the nature of the Spirit in chapter 12.



Since John 1:1c is translated “and the Word was God” in nearly all major translations, BeDuhn has a great deal of work cut out for him to defend the rendering “a god” found in the NWT. Unfortunately, BeDuhn does not provide nearly enough support properly to engage the subject. I was extremely surprised that he did not interact significantly with the extensive secondary literature on the subject. Admittedly, a popular work is not going to have the same level of interaction that we would expect from a truly scholarly monograph, but BeDuhn certainly could have demonstrated more familiarity with the major works on the subject, and would also have avoided making certain mistakes in his evidence and argumentation.



Instead, as is typical of his methodology throughout, he begins by discussing the grammatical principle that he feels to be most pertinent, in this case the nature of the article. The gist of his description on p. 114-116 is that the presence of the article means that the noun is definite; the absence of the article means that it is indefinite, and normally should be translated with English indefinite article “a/an.” This is quite an oversimplification, and ignores the well known fact that the article and its lack does not always, in all contextual circumstances, equate to the definite article in English or the indefinite. On page 115-116 he states:



If John had wanted to say “the word was God,” as so many English translations have it, he could easily have done so by simply adding the definite article “the” (ho) to the word god (theos), making it “the god” and therefore “God.”



Many exegetes have argued, however, that the presence of the article before qeoj in 1:1c would actually identify the term with ton qeon in 1:1b, hence stating that the logoj is actually God the Father. This would mean that John was advancing a form of modalism, something which the context clearly contraindicates. As Harner (whom BeDuhn cites extensively, see below) argued in his essay on the subject (interacting with Colwell’s Rule), the lack of the article is irrelevant to the definite/indefinite nature of the qeoj in 1:1c, since it is intended to emphasize the qualitative nature of the noun, and is an assertion that the logoj shares in the same quality of godhood that is possessed by God the Father. This is accentuated, in my thinking, by the simple but effective chiasm that we see between 1:1b and c:



In a careful author such as John, such a construction can hardly be accidental, and emphasizes in a particular way the key nouns in the chiastic arrangement, strengthening the impression that it is the divine nature of the Logos that is being highlighted without identifying the Logos directly with God the Father. Now, this interpretation is itself subject to debate, but my point is that while these arguments are well known in the secondary literature, BeDuhn doesn’t even mention them. He seems unaware of how more complicated syntactical structure and contextual nuance might overturn his rather simplistic use of grammatical principles.



In order to prove that the Bible talks about “a god” in the sense that the NWT intends here (that Jesus is a mighty being but not God Almighty), BeDuhn supports his case by citing various verses where he thinks the anarthrous usage of qeojindicates an indefinite usage. However, the verses selected are highly problematic. BeDuhn has neglected the fact that qeoj, when referring to God, is practically a name or proper title. While it often happens that the article might be used in such contexts, the use of the article to mark a proper name or title is optional, and is often varied for stylistic or other reasons. In every case that he cites (Luke 20:38; Mark 12:27; 2 Cor 1:3; Rev 21:7; Phil 2:13; 2 Thess 2:4) the context clearly indicates that it is God who is in mind, and substituting “God” or even “the God” does not at all violate the sense.



BeDuhn does discuss Colwell’s rule, and correctly points out its limitations. When he comes to Harner, however, he selectively cites him in order to support his own spin, but seems to ignore Harner’s actual conclusions. On page 129:



I am in basic agreement with Harner that theos in John 1:1[c] is used qualitatively. I think the best translation would be: “And the Word was divine….” John is trying to stress that the word has a divine character, or belongs to the class of divine things, however that is to be worked out technically.



However, this is how Harner saw his rule of the anarthrous qualitative predicate being applied here:



Perhaps the clause could be translated, “the Word had the same nature as God.” This would be one way of representing John’s thought, which is, as I understand it, that ho logos no less than ho theos had the nature of theos.[2]

Did you notice that this reviewer repeats the argument that a definite θεός is modalism?

Are you endorsing the reviewer as giving an unbiased review? Or is his apologetics-Greek just as biased as the ones you criticize?
 

Roger Thornhill

Well-known member
Seriously? Read the review.

Reviewer:
On page 115-116 he [BeDuhn] states:

If John had wanted to say “the word was God,” as so many English translations have it, he could easily have done so by simply adding the definite article “the” (ho) to the word god (theos), making it “the god” and therefore “God.”

Many exegetes have argued, however, that the presence of the article before qeoj in 1:1c would actually identify the term with ton qeon in 1:1b, hence stating that the logoj is actually God the Father. This would mean that John was advancing a form of modalism, something which the context clearly contraindicates.
 

Steven Avery

Well-known member
Did you notice that this reviewer repeats the argument that a definite θεός is modalism?

Gryllus was stating the hypothetical, a likely interpretation if there was a definite article before “θεός”.

Thus an argument based on the lack of the definite article is of little substance.
Any claim that proper translation is impelled to put in an indefinite article in English is false.
 
Last edited:

Roger Thornhill

Well-known member
Gryllus was stating the hypothetical, a likely interpretation if there was a definite article before “θεός”. Thus an argument on lack of the definite article is of little substance.

Yes, I understand. It's been a topic here before. @Gryllus Maior advocates a definite θεός at J 1:1c himself.

He attributes the argument as theologically motivated to support a particular Trinitarian argument.

That is why I was surprised to see him promoting a review that repeated it in a positive way.
 
Last edited:

Gryllus Maior

Well-known member
Yes, I understand. It's been a topic here before. @Gryllus Maior advocates a definite θεός at J 1:1c himself.

He attributes the argument as theologically motivated to support a particular Trinitarian argument.

That is why I was surprised to see him promoting a review that repeated it in a positive way.
That review was written shortly after BeDuhn's VBB came out. I hadn't though through myself all the implications, and have since done so.
 

Roger Thornhill

Well-known member
That review was written shortly after BeDuhn's VBB came out. I hadn't though through myself all the implications, and have since done so.

Here is something else to think about. Labeling a noun as "definite" is subjective and meaningless. It's the article that is definite. Θεός in Ο Θεός does not identify anything, Ο does. Or you could say the phrase Ο Θεός does, but not just θεός.

The one exception would be for a name. I cannot think of any other exception.
 

Steven Avery

Well-known member
Just to be clear, if you want to interpret the text of John 1:1 as supporting trinitarian or oneness or unitarian or something else like gnosticism is another issue.

The point that Gryllus properly made was that the logic of Jason BeDuhn failed.

If the Greek wanted to say "one of the Gods/gods" you could come up with such a construction. There is no implication of an indefinite article, a God, in the Bible text.

John 1:1 (AV)
In the beginning was the Word,
and the Word was with God,
and the Word was God.
 

Roger Thornhill

Well-known member
Just to be clear, if you want to interpret the text of John 1:1 as supporting trinitarian or oneness or unitarian or something else like gnosticism is another issue.

The point that Gryllus properly made was that the logic of Jason BeDuhn failed.

If the Greek wanted to say "one of the Gods/gods" you could come up with such a construction. There is no implication of an indefinite article, a God, in the Bible text.

John 1:1 (AV)
In the beginning was the Word,
and the Word was with God,
and the Word was God.

I don't see where that point was proven. Can you show me how?
 
Last edited:

John Milton

Well-known member
Here is something else to think about. Labeling a noun as "definite" is subjective and meaningless. It's the article that is definite. Θεός in Ο Θεός does not identify anything, Ο does. Or you could say the phrase Ο Θεός does, but not just θεός.

The one exception would be for a name. I cannot think of any other exception.
You are on the right track, but the concept of definiteness is defined grammatically and contextually. That's why even names often require more information. David (which David?) versus King David. Any description can carry some measure of identification and therefore definiteness.
Example:
"Please, pull my car around."
"Which car is it?"
"It's a red Hugo."
In other words, the context contributes to the meaning of an utterance.
 

Roger Thornhill

Well-known member
You are on the right track, but the concept of definiteness is defined grammatically and contextually. That's why even names often require more information. David (which David?) versus King David. Any description can carry some measure of identification and therefore definiteness.
Example:
"Please, pull my car around."
"Which car is it?"
"It's a red Hugo."
In other words, the context contributes to the meaning of an utterance.

Agreed.

But I do think the word "context" is subjective and abused.

In my mind anaphora is a requirement for definiteness.
 

Roger Thornhill

Well-known member
Agreed.

I'll bite. How so?

I am using the definition for "definite" from the Cambridge Classical Greek Lexicon:

Meaning of the Definite Article
Basic Meaning

28.1 Greek has a definite article (ὁ, ἡ, τό the), but no indefinite article (Engl. singular a or an). The Greek equivalent of an indefinite article is the lack of an article: (1) πρῶτον μὲν ἠρεμεῖν δεῖ διδάσκειν τὸν ἵππον. (Xen. Eq. 7.8) First it is necessary to teach the horse to stay still. (2) οὐ γὰρ πώποτε ἐκτήσω ἵππον πλείονος ἄξιον ἢ τριῶν μνῶν. (Isae. 5.43) For you have never had a horse worth more than three minae. The article is ‘definite’ because it refers to someone/something that is identifiable: the article expresses that it is clear who/what is meant, and that it can be distinguished from other people/things.
 
Last edited:

The Real John Milton

Well-known member
Just to be clear, if you want to interpret the text of John 1:1 as supporting trinitarian or oneness or unitarian or something else like gnosticism is another issue.

The point that Gryllus properly made was that the logic of Jason BeDuhn failed.

If the Greek wanted to say "one of the Gods/gods" you could come up with such a construction. There is no implication of an indefinite article, a God, in the Bible text.

John 1:1 (AV)
In the beginning was the Word,
and the Word was with God,
and the Word was God.

But there is; John 10:34, Exodus 7:1, etc...Though BeDuhn actually says that a more "polished variant" of "and the Word was a god" is "and the Word was divine."
 
Top