Re: [John_Lit] A Grammatico-theological Question
- [Oops - my last message accidentally got sent before it was complete! Here's the
full thing, so you can ignore the last one.]
> > The predicate construction may easily be understood as an adjective,Jeffery responded:
> > 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.) ...
> Thank you Paul, for that explanation. This isAlthough I agree with others that the NEB rendering is a bit cumbersome here,
> 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".
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,because "qeios" 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
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", I'd suggest
that the predicate use of "qeos" could best be translated as "divine" not only
in 1:1c, but maybe also in 10:33, 34, and 35.
Felix Just, S.J. -- Dept. of Theological Studies
Loyola Marymount University -- 7900 Loyola Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90045-8400 -- (310) 338-5933
- In a message dated 9/18/2000 5:39:26 PM Eastern Daylight Time,
[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, infinitelyinferior
> to God. If this were the case for Jesus it would have been incumbent onthe
> NT authors to make this point perfectly clear. Now there are texts inwhich
> they do not do so, and in fact many of them confound Jesus quitedeliberately
> and quite thoroughly with God. If it is true that Jesus is not God, eitherThe only problem is that Luke and the other synoptic writers did not
> these writers were terribly misled, or they are terribly misleading.
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.