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Colwell's Rule

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  • Big_Mart_98 <big_mart_98@yahoo.com>
    Wow! Not only had the point I raised been raised many times before, a common newbie error, but it had been raised by, among others, the Jehovah s Witnesses.
    Message 1 of 1 , Feb 17, 2003
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      Wow!
      Not only had the point I raised been raised many times before, a
      common newbie error, but it had been raised by, among others, the
      Jehovah's Witnesses. No wonder there were some glutei maximi in
      tractione. Disclaimer: I am not a Jehovah's Witness. However, I got
      the following from William Arnold at apostolic.net. Of course their
      views may have been raised and dismissed many times as well, but here
      goes:

      A Greek scholar named E. C. Colwell discovered a rule which applied
      to certain uses of the Greek article (in English this is the
      word "the"). His rule stated that "definite predicate nouns which
      precede the verb usually lack the article."1 The word theos (God) in
      John 1:1c is a predicate noun and it is anarthrous (it lacks the
      article). The question I would like to address is: "How does this
      rule apply to John 1:1 and how does this relate to a Oneness
      perspective of this passage?"

      In the past, Trinitarians have argued that Colwell's rule proves that
      the anarthrous theos in John 1:1c (the Word was God) must be taken as
      definite. They have done so to combat Arianism and modern day
      Jehovah's Witnesses. The New World Translation, the official Bible of
      Jehovah's Witnesses, translates John 1:1c as "the Word was a god." So
      we can see why Trinitarian scholars would object to such a
      translation and instead argue for a definite theos, thus proving the
      deity of Christ in this passage. However, as Daniel Wallace has
      pointed out, simply appealing to Colwell's rule alone does not prove
      that theos must be taken as definite.2 His rule would only say that
      if theos is definite then it would probably lack the article (and it
      does). But the reverse is not necessarily true. Simply lacking the
      article in this construction does not make the noun definite.

      Wallace goes on to argue that theos should not be taken as definite
      but instead as qualitative, thus emphasizing "the nature of the Word,
      rather than his identity." The glosses which he suggests bring out
      this idea are, "What God was, the Word was" (NEB), or "the Word was
      divine" (a modified Moffatt translation).3 He also states that a
      definite theos in this passage would imply Sabellianism or Modalism
      (making Jesus to be God the Father, i.e., a Oneness perspective). In
      a footnote he quotes several other Greek scholars which concur, some
      even more emphatically (Westcott, A. T. Robertson, Lange, Chemnitz,
      Alford and even Martin Luther).4

      The work by Wallace referred to is "Greek Grammar beyond the
      Basics". Naturally I do not know how well thought of he is at
      Oxford, so maybe I have made another blooper.
      Martin Edwards.
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