Jehovah’s Witnesses and Greek Grammar

“Yahweh”/Jehovah calls down sulfurous from “Yahweh” in heaven or in the sky.

 

vaew” tyrIp.G” hr”mo[]-l[;w> ~dos.-l[; ryjim.hi hw”hyw: WTT Genesis 19:24

~yIm’V’h;-!mi hw”hy> taeme

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1. Yahweh distinguishes himself from Yahweh.

a. If there is only one person is said to be called Yahweh, how can Yahweh communicate (picture here as present on earth or closer to earth) and conspire with another agent called Yahweh who is in heaven.

b. Hamilton: “The phraseology can not be dismissed as doublet or gloss” (Hamilton, Genesis 18-50, WBC, 46).

 

The use of “qeo,j.”

 

1. NT Usage

a. False gods (i.e. something that falsely assumes the place of the true God)

 

i. 2 Cor 4:4: evn oi-j o` qeo.j tou/ aivw/noj tou,tou

ii. Phil 3:19: w-n o` qeo.j h` koili,a

iii. Pagan Gods

a) Acts 7:43: tou/ qeou/ u`mw/n ~Remfa.n

b) Acts 19:27: to. th/j mega,lhj qea/jVArte,midoj

c) Acts 7:40: eivpo,ntej tw/| VAarw,n Poi,hson h`mi/n qeou.j oi] proporeu,sontai h`mw/n

d) Acts 14:11: Oi` qeoi. o`moiwqe,ntej avnqrw,poij

e) Acts 19:26: o[ti ouvk eivsi.n qeoi. oi` dia. ceirw/n gino,menoi

f) 1 Cor 8:5: ga.r ei;per eivsi.n lego,menoi qeoi.

g) Gal 4:8: evdouleu,sate toi/j mh. fu,sei ou=sin qeoi/j

iv. Of men who assume (falsely the place of God)

a) John 10:33: Egw. ei=pa( Qeoi, evste

a. Psalm 82:6 (MT): ~T,a; ~yhil{a/ yTir>m;a’-ynIa]

b. Psalm 82:6 (LXX): evgw. ei=pa qeoi, evste

v. Used by Pagan to refer to objects worthy of worship

a) Acts 12:22: fwnh. Qeou/ kai. ouvk avnqrw,pou

b) Acts 17:23: Agnw,stw| qew|

b. Used of the one true God of Jewish and Christian Monotheism

 

i. NT Texts

a) 1 Cor 8:6

a. cf. Matt 11:25

b) John 17:3

a. Reasoning: “He cannot be “the only true God,” the one “who alone [is] God,” if there are two others who are God to the same degree as he is, can he?”(Reasoning, 411)

b. Cambridge Dictionary of Philosophy:Relative identity: a and b may be identical relative to one concept (or predicate) but not to another. Thus, the statue may be held to be the same lump of matter as the bronze but not the same object of art.” (“Identity,” in CDP)

c. Reasoning from the Scriptures clearly contradicts/ misunderstands rudimentary philosophical identity theory and therefore philosophical theology.

 

ii. Cf. Key OT Texts:

a) Deut 32:39: “See now that I am He and there is no God besides Me”

b) Isa 43:10: “Before Me there was no God formed, and there will be none after Me”

c) Isa 45:5: “I am the LORD, and there is no other; besides Me there is no God.”

 

c. Used of Jesus Christ

 

John 1:1c: kai. qeo.j h=n o` lo,gojÅ

 

i. The JWs often claim that since qeo.j (God) lacks the article, it should be translated ‘a’ god instead of ‘God.’ This misunderstands back rules of grammar revolving around the use of the Greek article and lack of the article for several reasons. What we have in John 1:1 is a predicate nominative construction which is anarthrous or, in other words, it lacks the article. Contray to what JWs think, there are good grammatical reasons why the predicative nominative is anarthrous here. They are as follows:

a) To indicate that qeo.j is the predicate nom.

a. “In Greek, when two nouns are joined by an equative verb, both nouns are in the nominative case…In sentences of this type, the “subject” is comparatively definite and special; the “predicate nominative” is less definite and less special.”—Goetchius The Language of the New Testament §57-59.

 

i. Porter: “If one of the substantives has the article, it is the subject.” (Porter, Idioms of New Testament Greek, 109).

 

ii. A.T. Robertson: “The subject is made plain by the article (ho logos) and the predicate without it (theos) just as in John 4:24 pneuma ho theos can only mean “God is spirit” not “spirit is God.” (Word, 4-5).

b. Given John’s interchangeable use of qeo,j and o` qeo,j, if qeo,j had the article the subject would have been unclear. Therefore, the article is left to ensure that reader can determine the subject since both words occur in the nominative case (the case of the subject).

 

i. Possible Trans.: “God was the word”

 

ii. E.g. of John’s Use: In John 1:6, the father is being referenced by qeo.j and the article is not used while in 20:28 Jesus is being referenced by qeo.j and the article is used.So in 1:6 does this mean the father is ‘a god’ and in 20:28 that Jesus is ‘the God’? They JWs can not have it both ways.

 

b) The second reason that qeo,j does not have the article is in order to accord with rules of word order (Colwell’s Rule):

a. Colwell: “definite predicate nouns which precede the verb usually lack the article.” (“Rule,” JBL 52 (1933): 22.

b. Harner: produced evidence that an anarthrous pre-verbal PN is usually qualitative not definite nor indefinite: 80% to 20% in the NT (“Qualitative Anarthrous Predicate Nouns, ” JBL 92 (1973); cf. Wallace, Greek Grammar, 259).

c. Dixon: 94% of the pred. nom. in John’s Gospel are qualitative while 6% definite (The Significance of the Anarthrous Predicate Nominative in John” (Th.M. thesis, Dallas Theological Seminary, 1975).

d. Summary (Wallace): An anarthrous pre-verbal PN is normally qualitative, sometimes definite, and only rarely indefinite…The presumption, therefore, when one faces an anarthrous pre-verbal PN is that it will be qualitative unless there are contextual or other considerations suggesting that it is definite or, less likely, indefinite (Wallace, Greek Grammar, 262-63).

e. Is qeo.j indefinite in John 1:1c?

 

i. Robert Countess (The Jehovah’s Witnesses’ New Testament, 54-55):

In the New Testament there are 282 occurrences of the anarthrous θεός. At sixteen places NWT has either a god, god, gods, or godly. Sixteen out of 282 means that the translators were faithful to their translation principle only six percent of the time. …

The first section of John-1:1–18-furnishes a lucid example of NWT arbitrary dogmatism. Θεός occurs eight times-verses 1, 2, 6, 12, 13, 18-and has the article only twice-verses 1, 2. Yet NWT six times translated “God,” once “a god,” and once “the god.”

 

ii. Wallace: the “anarthrous=indefinite principle” is far too simplistic, leading to an untenable translation. “In a beginning.. (1:1,2)…a life (1:4)…from a god (1:6)…a John (1:6) and so on. (Wallace, Grammar, 267).

 

iii. Dixon: If qeo.j were indefinite in John 1:1, it would be the only anarthrous pre-verbal PN to be indefinite in Johanine usage.

 

iv. Wallace: “The indefinite notion is the most poorly attested for anarthrous pre-verbal predicate nominatives. Thus, grammatically such a meaning is improbable” (Wallace, Grammar, 267).

 

v. Fienberg: “I can assure you that the rendering which the Jehovah’s Witnesses give John 1:1 is not held by any reputable Greek scholar.”

 

f. Is qeo.j definite?

 

i. The evidence that commends this view is that (a) it accords with the rule and (b) the first occurrence of qeo.j is articular so it is likely that the second mention is also definite because the noun has already been introduced as such.

 

ii. Though grammatically possible, this view is not as likely as that the noun is qualitative

 

g. Is qeo.j qualitative?

 

i. Contemporary Grammars agree that this is the best option on grammatical and contextual grounds.

 

ii. Moulton: “for exegesis there are few of the finer points of Greek which need more constant attention than this omission of the article when the writer would lay stress on the quality or character of the object.” (Moulton, Prolegomena, 83)

 

iii. Grammatical Grounds: The largest # of pre-verbal anarthrous PNs fall into this category which makes it the most likely grammatically (94% chance according to Dixon’s statistical analysis with 6% chance of being definite in John and virtually 0% chance of being indefinite.) Since 94% of John’s usage of this construction are qualitative, this indicates that when John uses of the construction with an anarthrous pre-verbal he means for it to be taken qualitatively.

 

iv. Contextual Grounds: Context points to either a definite or qualitative reading since it seems fallacious that John would contradict his monotheism just stated earlier in the verse by asserting that Jesus was a god (cf. also John 17:3).

 

v. Implications of a Qualitative Rendering: This would mean that qeo.j describes the nature of o` lo,goj rather than his person. Thus, o` lo,goj has the same nature has to.n qeo,n. John is not describing the relation of the logos to the Father (as in 1b) but of the logos to the divine essence. This refutes the heretical teaching of Modalism (that the Father and the Son are the same person) as well as Arianism (that the Father and the Son do not share the same nature). This would also show John’s intention to establish the ontological equality of Christ with the Father without confusing their persons. The statement, therefore, could not have been made by John in a more precise manner.

 

vi. Possible Translations:

 

1. NEB: “What God was, the Word was”

2. TEV: What God was, the Word was also

3. Barclay: the Nature of the Word was the same as the Nature of God

4. GNB: he was the same as God

5. Cassirer: the Word was the very same as God

6. Harner: the Word had the same nature as God

7. Virtually all Contemporary Versions: “The word was God”

 

c) To indicate a non-convertible proposition:

a. If both of the nominatives had the article then it would be a convertible predicate nominative proposition (cf. Wallace, Grammar, 41).

b. Thus, it would be true both that “God was the word” and “the word was God” cf. 1 John 4:8

c. The article is only used with the subject to make the proposition non-convertible.

 

d) Literary Analysis (On literary Analysis of the NT see Aune, The New Testament in its Literary Environment and on the Bible in General see Longman III Literary Approaches to the Bible).

a. The verse (1:1) is a triad: “each of the three clauses has the same subject (o` lo,goj) and an identical verb (h=n). So far from being tautological, verse 2 gathers together these three separate affirmations and declares them all to be true: evn avrch/| “This Logos who was qeo.j was in the beginning with qeo.j” (Harris, Jesus as God, 70).

b. Antithetical parallelism(vv.1 and 14):

 

i. The logos:

1. Existed in the beginning (1a)

a. Came on the scene in time (14a)

2. Eternally in communion with God (1b)

a. Temporally “sojourned among us” (14b)

 

ii. Had the same nature as God (1c)

1. Had the same nature as humans (sa.rx evge,neto) (14a)

e) Synthetic and Climactic Parallelism (vv. 1 and 18).

 

Titus 2:13: tou/ mega,lou qeou/ kai. swth/roj h`mw/n VIhsou/ Cristou/(

 

ii. tou/ mega,lou qeou/ kai. swth/roj h`mw/n refers to one person, VIhsou/ Cristou/

a) Grammatical Grounds:

b) Grandville Sharp’s Rule: When the copulative και connects two nouns of the same case, [viz. nouns (either substantive or adjective, or participles) of personal description, respecting office, dignity, affinity, or connexion, and attributes, properties, or qualities, good or ill], if the article , or any of its cases, precedes the first of the said nouns or participles, and is not repeated before the second noun or participle, the latter always relates to the same person that is expressed or described by the first noun or participle: i.e. it denotes a farther description of the first-named person… (Sharp, Remarks on the Definite Article, 3)

a. His monograph makes clear that his rule could only be applied to personal, singular, and non-proper nouns.

c) Summary: Sharp’s rule always and only applies when neither of the substantives are impersonal, plural, or a proper name (cf. 10:34) (Wallace examine every occurrence in his article, “The Semantic Range of the Article Noun-kai-Noun Plural Construction” Grace Theological Journal 4/1 (1983) cf. idem, Grammar, 271).

d) Consistency: Not counting the christologically significant passages, there are 80 constructions in the NT which fit the requirements for Sharp’s rule. But do they all fit the semantics of the rule-that is, do the substantives always refer to one and the same person? In a word, yes. Even Sharp’s opponents could not find any exceptions; all had to admit that the rule was valid in the NT.” (Wallace, Grammar, 272).

e) Bible Works Search: See the results for yourself.

f) Is Titus 2:13 an instance of Sharp’s rule: Yes

a. qeo.j is used in the TSKS construction over a dozen times (if we exclude reference to Christ) and it always refer to one person.

b. Examples Include:

 

i. Luke 20:37

ii. John 20:27

iii. Rom 15:6

iv. 2 Cor 1:3

v. Gal 1:4

vi. Jam 1:27

 

c. This is different from (say) proper names in which every example points to two people.

2 Peter 1:1: tou/ qeou/ h`mw/n kai. swth/roj VIhsou/ Cristou/

 

iii. Another clear instance of Sharp’s rule applies here

a) The nouns in the TSKS construction are neither, plural, personal, or proper name; thus, it is a text-book example of the rule.

b) Winer-Schmiedel (two enlightenment Arian grammarians): admit that “grammar demands that one person be meant” because it is the same construction found in 1:11, 2:20; 3:2; 18. (pg. 158; cf. Robertson, Grammar, 786).

c) On the pronoun see Wallace, Grammar, 276; Harris, 230-31.

 

John 20:28: ~O ku,rio,j mou kai. o` qeo,j mou

 

iv. Literary Analysis

a) The story of Thomas is the last of four resurrection periscopes indicating its climactic function

b) John does not record Jesus’ rebuke of Thomas and so the reader is left believing that Christ’s supreme deity is germane to Johanine theology.

 

Romans 9:5: w-n oi` pate,rej kai. evx w-n o` Cristo.j to. kata. sa,rka( o` wn evpi. pa,ntwn qeo.j euvloghto.j eivj tou.j aivw/naj( avmh,nÅ

 

v. Exegetical Summary by Harris (171-72)

a) It is easier and more natural to maintain an identity of subject from o` Cristo.j to o` wn, since there is grammatical concord between the noun and the participle than it is to assume a change of subject.

b) Although the phrase in itself does not necessitate a complementary antithesis, it naturally suggests a matching contrast, and when o` wn ktl actually fulfills that expectation by supplying an appropriate antithesis, the possibility that the phrases are antithetical and complementary is raised to the level of high probability. This implies that o` Cristo.j is the referent in o` wn ktl.

c) If verse 5b is a doxology to God the Father, it is difficult to account for:

a. The asyndeton, since Paul’s doxologies are always explicitly linked to the preceding subject.

b. The presence of wn, which is superfluous if o` wn evpi. pa,ntwn qeo.j means “God over all,” while word order militates against the rendering, “He who is God over all.”

c. The word order, since in the Greek Bible euvloghto.j invariably (LXX Ps 67:19 not withstanding) precedes the name of God in independent doxologies.

On the contrary, if verse 5b is a doxology descriptive of Christ:

d. The relatvial o` wn forms the connection with what precedes, so the doxology is not asyndetic.

e. VO wn is equivalent to o;j evstin, so wn is not superfluous

f. Euvloghto.j is descriptive of qeo.j and, with eivj tou.j aivw/naj added, naturally follows qeo.j, so euvloghto.j is not an irregular position.

d) Since the notion of Christ’s universal sovereignty is not foreign to Pauline though, there no difficulty with relating the phrase o` wn evpi. pa,ntwn to Christ, while reserving the actual title qeo,j pantokpa,twr for the Father.

e) If the controlling tone of 9:1-4 is Pual’s lu,ph and ovdu,nh at the predominant unbelief of his compatriots, it would be wholly appriote for the apostle to end the paragraph with a reference to the exalted status and nature of the rejected Messiah, but singularly inapposite to conclude with a joyful ascription of praise to God that is introduced without an adversisative.

f) Given the high Christology of the Pauline letters, according to which Jesus shares the divine name and nature, exercise divine functions, and the object of human faith and adoration, it should generate no surprise if on occasion Pual should refer to Jesus the generic title qeo.j.

 

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