Thoughts, observations, scripture and other articles relating to Christianity and the Christian life.

Video on John 1:1

If you have been reading the comments, you will see that TJ and I have been having a discussion about John 1:1 (Thank you TJ for your comments and encouraging me to investigate this matter further).  As I was searching, I found a video from Dr. James White.  I will be the first to admit that I am no Greek scholar (Dr. White however IS) and the nuances of the Greek langue , you’ll have to pardon the pun, “Is all Greek to me”.  (Oh I crack myself up).  However, I found this video to be helpful.  I hope you enjoy it.

On a side note, prayers for my wife, Jenn, would be appreciated as she is having some health issues right now (nothing serious, but the duration of her illness is becoming very frustrating for her).

God bless.



2 responses

  1. TJ

    Hi Neil,

    I just noticed this post. Now I have no knowledge of the various videos leading up to this one, but there’s a few things to point out here.

    White argues that the Greek article is not used with theos (‘god’) in John 1:1c because John did not want establish an ‘identity’ between “the Word” and “God”, so in effect he is arguing that “God” is qualitative in meaning, i.e. it’s not referring to the person God, but the qualities and nature of God; essentially like saying ‘Adam was human’. Now if you didn’t know anything about the history of the argument in favor of “the Word was God” you’d just accept this, maybe understand the term “God” here in a new light, and move on.

    But there’s something fishy going on here when you know the history. For decades, rather than this argument, scholars used a supposed ‘rule’ of Greek grammar, called Colwell’s Rule, with the intent of proving that theos (‘god’) in John 1:1c was expressly definite in meaning. Not qualitative, not referring to the nature of God, definite. God himself.

    For example, the respected Bible scholar Bruce Metzger used this reasoning when critiquing the newly-released NWT’s rendering of John 1:1 with “a god”:

    “As a matter of solid fact . . . such a rendering is a frightful mistranslation. It overlooks entirely an established rule of Greek grammar which necessitates, ‘…and the Word was God.’ Some years ago Ernest Cadman Colwell of the University of Chicago pointed out in a study of the Greek definite article that, ‘A definite predicate nominative has the article when it follows the verb…The opening verse of John’s Gospel contains one of the many passages where this rule suggests the translation of a predicate as a definite noun. The absence of the article [before theos] does not make the predicate indefinite or qualitative when it precedes the verb; it is indefinite in this position only when the context demands it…'” (“Theology Today”, April 1953, p. 75)

    Metzger argued not for a qualitative meaning, but that the grammar “necessitated” the definite meaning. Over and over again, most scholars sang the very same tune. It had, had, had to be definite. It meant God the person. The only problem was they were misusing what Colwell’s Rule actually stated (they were assuming the inverse of the ‘rule’) and really Colwell’s conclusions altogether were based upon subjective assumptions on his part. In other words, it can’t really be used to prove anything.

    So for years all these respected translations had been reading “and the Word was God” and it was meant to be definite–establishing the identity between “the Word” and “God”–that they were the very same person. But as this ‘rule’ began to crumble, these same scholars ‘switched ponies midstream’, as they say. This is when the qualitative meaning of “God” started to become popular.

    So they really didn’t alter the preferred translation so much as the meaning of it. It was no longer God the person being referenced, but the nature of God. In effect, they are now saying that “the Word was God” means the same as “Adam was human”. There are still problems with this. The previous clause still contains the definite “God” (in “and the Word was with God”), which only serves to confuse matters further.

    Since the capitalized “God” is viewed by most English speakers as the name of a person, leaving it as “the Word was God” still establishes an identity in their minds. Isn’t that how you originally understood it? A simple fix would be to make it lowercase–“the Word was god”–or use another word that expresses nature–“the Word was godly”, “the Word was divine”, etc. But why is it that we still usually get “the Word was God“?

    Notice too, when you take the parallel example, “Adam was human”, isn’t it just as acceptable, equal in meaning, to say “Adam was a human”? The indefinite article actually expresses that very nature Mr. White is talking about! There is evidently some other underlying reasons here why scholars and translators find it so difficult to let go of the capitalized “God” in John 1:1c and why they are so opposed to the indefinite article, only they are theological reasons, not grammatical ones.


    December 12, 2010 at 12:28 PM

  2. I appreciate the info.

    December 22, 2010 at 11:46 AM

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