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Re: [John_Lit] A Grammatico-theological Question

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  • Felix Just, S.J.
    ... Although I agree with others that the NEB rendering is a bit cumbersome here, there IS good GRAMMATICAL reason for preferring it! The root of the problem
    Message 1 of 76 , Sep 11, 2000
      Paul wrote:
      > > The predicate construction may easily be understood as an adjective,
      > > as it is most commonly understood in Greek. This would describe the
      > > Logos as divine or godly, rather than "a god", (which would actually
      > > be an unusual rendering.) ...

      Jeffery responded:
      > Thank you Paul, for that explanation. This is
      > interesting to me if somewhat disconcerting. I would
      > have preferred to hear that there is a legitimate
      > grammatical reason for preferring "what God was, the
      > word was".

      Although I agree with others that the NEB rendering is a bit cumbersome here,
      there IS good GRAMMATICAL reason for preferring it! The root of the problem
      lies in the fact that (as you all know) definite and indefinite articles are
      used very differently in English and in Greek, especially in the singular.

      Greek "HO qeos" is normally translated in English as "God" (rather than "the
      God" or "the god"), based on the unavoidable historical AND theological reason
      that the English language and Western culture have been dominated by Christian
      monotheism for centuries. Moreover, since Greek does not use INdefinite
      articles the way English does, translating the predicate "qeos" as "A god" is
      not really accurate either (and would be too easily MISunderstood as implying
      that John was a polytheist). The NEB's "what God was, the word also was" better
      respects the word order, the verb tense, and the meaning of the original text,
      even if it sounds a bit awkward in English.

      Personally I prefer a simpler translation: "...and the Word was divine." This
      seems to be what John 1:1c really means, even if the Greek text uses the noun
      "qeos" as a predicate, rather than the adjective "qeios." Why didn't he use
      "qeios" if he really meant "divine"? First, this is a rarer word (in NT only
      Acts 17:29 and 2Pet 1:3-4). More importantly ? Simply because that would have
      ruined the poetic parallelism of John 1:1 - arxe/logos, logos/qeon, qeos/logos).

      The grammatical problem is lessened in John 10:34, since English does not want
      to add an indefinite article in the plural. So "I said, You are gods" is an
      acceptable translation here, although it also seems equivalent to "I said, you
      are divine."

      Unfortunately, "...the word was divine" can also be misinterpreted today by
      people who use the word "divine" far too broadly (not only are favorite ice
      cream flavors called "divine", but angels or demons are sometimes also called
      "divine beings"), rather than restricting its use only to "God" or "godly"
      things. Nevertheless, since John never uses the adjective "qeios",

      Felix Just, S.J. -- Dept. of Theological Studies
      Loyola Marymount University -- 7900 Loyola Blvd.
      Los Angeles, CA 90045-8400 -- (310) 338-5933
      Website: http://bellarmine.lmu.edu/~fjust
    • Maluflen@aol.com
      In a message dated 9/18/2000 5:39:26 PM Eastern Daylight Time, antonio.jerez@privat.utfors.se writes: [Responding to Leonard, who wrote:] Antonio, no
      Message 76 of 76 , Sep 18, 2000
        In a message dated 9/18/2000 5:39:26 PM Eastern Daylight Time,
        antonio.jerez@... writes:

        [Responding to Leonard, who wrote:]
        << > Antonio, no matter how highly elevated a creature is, no matter how
        > to God a creature comes, he is still infinitely -- yes, infinitely
        > to God. If this were the case for Jesus it would have been incumbent on
        > NT authors to make this point perfectly clear. Now there are texts in
        > they do not do so, and in fact many of them confound Jesus quite
        > and quite thoroughly with God. If it is true that Jesus is not God, either
        > these writers were terribly misled, or they are terribly misleading.

        The only problem is that Luke and the other synoptic writers did not
        have to contend with a 20th century highly orthodox chap from America
        who is so infatuated with trinitarianism that he has to force it on the texts
        at all price. Leonard, why don't you take a close look at Peter's speech
        in Acts 2:22-36 again and see if you find any support at all for your
        This is as close to Luke's and the early Jerusalem church's Christology as
        we will ever get, and Jesus is never called or likened to God. He is a MAN
        (v.22) SENT by God (v.22) to fullfill God's plan for humanity (v.23). God
        resurrected him (v24) and MADE him into LORD and MESSIAH (v. 36).

        How do you explain that somebody who is God (as you claim Jesus is) has
        to be made Lord and Messiah by God? >>

        Antonio, it seems you didn't read my post carefully enough (which makes me
        wonder how carefully you read the biblical texts that challenge your
        understanding). What I said was that "there are texts" in the NT in which
        Jesus is thoroughly confounded with God. This is quite compatible, logically,
        with the existence of other texts in which he is not (and was carefully
        formulated precisely so as to accommodate these). The Acts text you cite is
        clearly one such, and, in Chalcedonian terms, it could be said that it is
        simply talking about Jesus as man, under which formality he is of course
        thoroughly subordinated to, distinct from and inferior to God. My only point
        is that there are other texts in which the NT authors, or most of them,
        express a kind of fuzzy identity between Jesus and God. So the God-Man
        construct of the later patristic writers and church councils seems to me to
        do justice the whole of the biblical evidence about Jesus while you seem able
        to handle only one side of the paradox. Keep trying though! It is wonderful
        that you invest so much mental effort in the search.

        Leonard Maluf
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