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Monday, October 12, 2009

Harner's JBL Article on 'Qualitative' Predicate Nouns

[The Greek words quoted in this study are in the BSTGreek font. In other words, if you download the BSTGreek font from biblestudytools.com (or some other source from a Google search) to your computer font files and then copy the substitute letters in this study to a Wordpad or Word file, you can see them in the proper Greek characters. You will have to highlight the words from this study and then change the font setting to BSTGreek font.

http://www.biblestudytools.com/resources/bst-greek-hebrew-fonts.html  



For an honest examination of this error-filled article by trinitarian Harner see:
 http://examiningthetrinity.blogspot.com/2009/10/harners-qualitative-jbl-article_12.html ]

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Journal of Biblical Literature, Vol. 92, 1973, pp. 75-87




QUALITATIVE ANARTHROUS PREDICATE NOUNS



MARK 15:39 AND JOHN 1:1



Philip B. Harner


The purpose of this study is to examine the type of clause in which an anarthrous predicate noun precedes the copulative verb. Two examples of this word-order are especially important in NT interpretation. In Mark 15:39 the centurion standing before Jesus’ cross says [BSTGreek font needed], alhqw" outo" oJ anqrwpo" uiJo" qeou hn [alethos houtos ho anthropos huios theou en: ‘truly this the man son of god was.’]. And John writes in his prologue, qeo" hn oJ logo" [theos en ho logos: ‘god was the word’] (1:1). These of course are not the only examples of this word-order in Mark or John, or elsewhere, but we shall focus on them and try to interpret them in relation to the stylistic characteristics that Mark and John exhibit throughout their gospels. This study will suggest that anarthrous predicate nouns preceding the verb may function primarily to express the nature or character of the subject, and this qualitative significance may be more important than the question whether the predicate noun itself should be regarded as definite or indefinite.

We may begin by referring to the two general principles concerning predicate nouns that are usually accepted as axiomatic in NT study. The first is that a predicate noun in Greek is anarthrous when it indicates the category or class of which the subject is a particular example. Thus when Mark, for instance, writes, hJ de gunh hn eJllhni" [he de gune en Hellenis: ‘the but woman was Greek’] (7:26), he means that this particular woman was a Greek although other women would also belong to this category. The second principle is that a predicate noun is arthrous when it is interchangeable with the subject in a given context. It may be identical with the subject, the only one of its kind, or something well-known or prominent. In the parable of the vineyard, for instance, Mark represents the tenants as saying to one another, outo" estin oJ klhronomo" [Houtos estin ho kleronomos: ‘this is the heir’ ] (12:7). He means that in this context there is only one heir under consideration, and this man alone is that heir.[1]

These two principles seem to be valid criteria for interpreting a writer’s meaning when a sentence follows the usual word-order - i.e., when the copulative verb precedes the predicate noun. But they may need to be refined further in those instances when the predicate noun precedes the verb. In an article some years ago E. C. Colwell examined this type of word-order and reached the tentative conclusion that “definite predicate nouns which precede the verb usually lack the article.”[2] In accordance with this rule he regarded it as probable that the predicate nouns in both Mark 15:39 and John 1:1 should be interpreted as definite. [3] Colwell was almost entirely concerned with the question whether anarthrous predicate nouns were definite or indefinite, and he did not discuss at any length the problem of their qualitative significance. [4] This problem, however, needs to be examined as a distinct issue. We shall look at it as it appears first in Mark and then in John.

It is clear that Mark is familiar with the usual word-order in which the verb is followed by an anarthrous predicate noun, for he uses this sequence nineteen times.[5] According to the general rule we would expect these nouns to be indefinite, and in most instances we may judge that this is the case. These passages are of the type, “for they were fishermen” (1:16), or “whoever wishes to be first among you will be a slave of all” (10:44). In a few instances the nouns are not indefinite, but in these cases there is some reason why the nouns have a specific reference even though they are anarthrous.[6] The important point is that Mark uses quite frequently the word-order in which the verb precedes an anarthrous predicate noun.

In a similar way it is clear that Mark is familiar with the type of clause in which the verb is followed by an arthrous predicate noun or other substantive expression. He uses this sequence twenty times.[7] The general rule for predicate nouns would indicate that these predicates should be definite, and in every instance we may judge that this is the case. The force of the article is evident, and the predicate substantives all refer to some specific person or group, thing or idea. A number of times Mark uses this word-order in statements of a confessional type referring to Jesus, such as “you are the son of God” (3:11) and “you are the Christ” (8:29). The presence of the article with these predicate nouns indicates that Mark was thinking of only one son of God or only one Christ, so that the subject and the predicate were equivalent and interchangeable.

Our analysis so far suggests that Mark was a careful writer who always had some reason to leave out or insert the article in predicate expressions. When the verb preceded the predicate, he used an anarthrous predicate to indicate a general class and an arthrous predicate to state a convertible proposition. The fact that Mark uses these two types of construction so carefully makes it all the more important to ask why he occasionally uses the third type of clause, in which an anarthrous predicate precedes the verb.

Mark uses this type of clause eight times throughout his gospel.[8] Because of the importance of these passages we shall discuss each one briefly. In each case we shall ask not only whether the predicate noun is definite or indefinite, but also whether it has a qualitative force in indicating the nature or character of the subject.

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[[All of these examples by Harner have one thing in common: they are improper examples!!

First, they are not examples of parallel constructions to John 1:1c as used by JOHN!

Second, since each one of these examples has a predicate noun modified by a genitive (unlike John 1:1c), none of them are truly parallel to John 1:1c.

A genitive noun is normally translated into English as possessive or “of …” e.g., theou - “of God” or “God’s”.

Third, and even more important, they are improper examples for a well-known grammatical reason. The genitive noun governed by the predicate noun in each of these examples is known to make the use of the article ambiguous.

As noted NT Grammarians Dana and Mantey tell us, “The use of prepositions, possessive ... pronouns, and the genitive case also tend to make a word definite. At such times, even if the article is not used, the object is already distinctly indicated.” - p. 137, D&M Grammar. Also, Blass & Debrunner, pp. 133,135, University of Chicago Press, 1961; J.H. Moulton, pp. 179-180, A Grammar of New Testament Greek, vol. III; and others.

Yes, predicate nouns which govern genitives (“man OF GOD”; “prophet OF ISRAEL”; “Lord OF SABBATH”; etc.) may or may not have the article and still have the same meaning. For this very reason, they cannot honestly be used as evidence for a rule or rules which depend on the use or non-use of the definite article such as Harner’s Qualitative Rule or Colwell’s Rule, etc. Honest examples, whether before or after the verb, do not include genitive modified predicate nouns. See

http://examiningthetrinity.blogspot.com/2009/10/harners-qualitative-jbl-article_12.html

- RDB.]]
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In a debate concerning sabbath observance Mark reports Jesus as saying, w&ste kurio" estin oJ uiJo" tou anqropou kai tou sabbatou [hoste kurios estin ho huios tou anthropou kai tou sabbatou: ‘hence lord is the son of the man and of the sabbath.’] (2:28). Mark certainly does not mean that the Son of Man is “a lord” of the sabbath, one lord among others. Possibly he means that the Son of Man is “the lord” of the sabbath. But this translation would shift the emphasis of the whole passage dealing with sabbath observance (2:23-28). The question is not who the lord of the sabbath is, but what the nature or authority of the Son of Man is. Thus it appears more appropriate to say that the Son of Man is simply “lord” of the sabbath. The predicate noun has a distinct qualitative force, which is more prominent in this context than its definiteness or indefiniteness.

The second example occurs in the passage in which Jesus’ mother and brothers are

looking for him (Mark 3:31-35). When Jesus learns of this, he comments, ti" estin hJ mhthr mou kai oi adelfoi [tis estin he meter mou kai hoi adelphoi: ‘who is the mother of me and the brothers?’] (3:33). The predicate nouns are definite here, but the question implies that Jesus is using them in a figurative sense. Then at the close of the passage he says that whoever does the will of God, outo" adelfo" mou kai adelfh kai mhthr estin [houtos adelphos mou kai adelphe kai meter estin: ‘this brother of me and sister and mother is.’] (3:35). Here it is especially clear that Jesus is using the words brother, sister, and mother in a figurative sense. Colwell’s rule would require that we interpret these nouns as definite, especially since they have just been used with the article in vs. 33. But the development of thought in this passage, from literal to figurative meanings, suggests that the emphasis at this point lies on the nature or character of the person who does the will of God. Such a person shows what it means to be “brother” of Jesus. Again the question of definiteness or indefiniteness appears to be less important than the qualitative significance of the noun.

The third example occurs in the account of Jesus’ walking on the water (Mark 6:45-52). When the disciples see Jesus, they think oJti fantasma estin [hoti phantasma estin: ‘that apparition it is.’ ] (6:49). Mark’s meaning here probably is that they think Jesus is “a ghost” or an apparition of some kind. There is no basis in the context, at any rate, for regarding the noun as definite. The qualitative significance appears to be secondary in this clause, since it is concerned with the identification of a figure who is dimly perceived by the disciples rather than some attribute or quality of Jesus himself.

The next example [4th] is more complicated because it is a quotation from the LXX [Septuagint]. After Jesus had expelled the money changers from the temple, Mark reports that he said, “Is it not written that oJ oiko" mou oiko" proseuch" klhqhsetai pasin toi" eqnesin [ho oikos mou oikos proseuches klethesetai pasin tois ethnesin: ‘the house of me house of prayer shall be called to all the nations?’] (11:17). These words are an accurate quotation from the LXX of Isa 56:7. [9] The LXX in turn translates the Hebrew text accurately and even follows its word-order [”for house-of-me house-of prayer he-will-be-called for-all-of the-nations” - The NIV Interlinear Hebrew-English Old Testament, Zondervan]. The predicate expression “house of prayer” is indeterminate in Hebrew. [10] The fact that it precedes the verb in Greek may be due only to slavish imitation of word-order on the part of the LXX translators. The only inference we can make with any degree of certainty is that the LXX translators did not feel they were making the predicate noun definite by placing it before the verb. Although we cannot be certain, it is likely that Mark understood the predicate in the same way. His meaning, that is, seems to be that the Jerusalem temple should have the function or nature of being a house of prayer for all the nations.

The next example [5th] illustrates the difficulty of deciding whether a predicate noun is simply indefinite or is used primarily in a qualitative sense. In the course of a discussion about Jesus’ authority Mark adds an explanatory note about the people’s attitude toward John the Baptist: aJpante" gar eicon ton iwannhn ontw" oJti profhth" hn [hapantes gar eichon ton Ioannen ontos hoti prophetes en: ‘all for were having the john indeed (truly) that prophet he was’] (11:32). The predicate here may be regarded as indefinite in the sense that the people regarded John as a prophet. But it also has a qualitative force, since the context indicates that this view of John as “prophet” made the Jewish leaders reluctant to speak disparagingly of the baptism that he administered. There is no basis for regarding the predicate as definite, for the passage does not deal with any particular figure who is to be identified as “the prophet.”

In the next example [6th] the predicate noun could be interpreted as definite, indefinite, or qualitative, depending on the particular meaning or emphasis which we understand the passage to have. Jesus raises the question how the scribes can say oJti oJ cristo" uiJo" dauid estin [hoti ho christos huios Dauid estin: ‘that the christ son of david is?’] (12:35). The predicate would be definite if it signified “the son of David” as some well-known figure of Jewish expectation. It would be indefinite if it simply meant someone descended from David. It would be qualitative if it emphasized Davidic descent as an aspect or condition of messiahship. The first or the second possibility, of course, does not preclude the third. The primary emphasis of the passage as a whole (12:35-37) seems to lie in the question of Davidic descent. The passage gives no further clues, on the other hand, whether Mark was thinking of “the” son or “a” son of David. [11] Again the qualitative force of the predicate noun seems to be more prominent than its definiteness or indefiniteness.

Mark’s seventh example of an anarthrous predicate preceding the verb occurs in the account of Peter’s denial of Jesus. The bystanders outside the courtyard of the high priest say to Peter, “Certainly you are one of them; kai gar galilaio" ei [kai gar Galilaios ei: ‘and for galilean you are’] (14:70). It is uncertain here whether we should regard the predicate “Galilean” as a noun or an adjective. If it is the latter, it would fall outside the scope of the present study. The RSV regards it as a noun, giving the translation, “for you are a Galilean.” In any event the word has some qualitative force in this context because it suggests that Peter, being from Galilee, must be one of Jesus’ disciples. There is no basis, we should note, for regarding the predicate as a definite noun.

In the light of our discussion so far we turn again to Mark 15:39, in which the centurion standing before Jesus’ cross says alhqw" outo" oJ anqrwpo" uiJo" qeou hn [alethos houtos ho anthropos huios theou en: ‘truly this the man son of god was’]. Although the exact meaning of the passage still remains uncertain, we may raise some questions and make several observations about it on the basis of Mark’s syntactical usage throughout his gospel.

(1) We may ask whether Mark wanted to represent the centurion as saying, “Truly this man was a son of God.” If this was Mark’s meaning, then possibly he was influenced at this point by the hellenistic and Roman practice of deifying a great leader or wise man of the past.[12] The fact that these words appear as the statement of a Roman soldier could give some support to this interpretation. Mark, then, would be intentionally drawing upon hellenistic forms of thought at this point as an appropriate way of presenting Jesus to Gentile-Christian readers.

In terms of our present study the chief objection to this interpretation is that Mark could have expressed this idea differently. If he meant that Jesus was “a son of God,” he could have said so unambiguously by placing the verb before the anarthrous predicate noun. He could have used, that is, a word-order that he uses nineteen times elsewhere in his gospel. The word-order that he chooses to use in 15:39, with the anarthrous predicate before the verb, does not preclude the possibility that the noun is indefinite. But our examination of this type of word-order in Mark has shown that in most instances the question of definiteness or indefiniteness is secondary to the qualitative significance of the predicate. If Mark wanted to say that Jesus was a son of God, one divine being among others, it is puzzling that he did not simply put the verb before the predicate noun.

(2) The question then arises whether Mark wanted to represent the centurion as saying, “Truly this man was the son of God.” In this sense Mark would be making a statement of Christian faith about the unique relationship of Jesus to God the Father. Possibly he intended this statement to be parallel to the opening words of his gospel, which designated Jesus, according to some ancient manuscripts, as the son of God (1:1).[13] Possibly he intended it as an affirmation of what the high priest had regarded as blasphemous (14:61). [14] Possibly he was referring, as in 1:11 and 9:7, to the phrase “you are my son” in Ps 2:7 and applying it to Jesus as the eschatological king who inaugurates the era of salvation. In any event, in 15:39 Mark would be emphasizing especially that Jesus, as the son of God, brings salvation to Gentiles as well as Jews.

In terms of Mark’s syntactical usage, however, there are two problems with this interpretation of the verse. The first is that he could have used a different word-order to state unambiguously that Jesus was “the son of God.” He could have placed the verb before an arthrous predicate to make his meaning completely clear. As we have seen, he uses this type of wording twenty times elsewhere in his gospel. In particular, he uses it with, “my son” in 1:11 and 9:7 and with “the son of God” in 3:11. It would have been natural for Mark to use this word-order again in 15:39 if he had wanted to state a convertible proposition defining Jesus as the son of God. The fact that he did not use this word-order in 15:39 suggests that he had another intention at this point.

The second problem with the translation “the son of God” in 15:39 is that the word-order of this verse emphasizes the qualitative significance of the predicate rather than its definiteness or indefiniteness. This does not actually preclude the possibility that Mark regarded the predicate as definite at this point. In this sense we must keep this translation in mind as one of the possible aspects of the meaning of the verse. But the word-order suggests that Mark was primarily concerned to say something about the meaning of Jesus’ sonship rather than simply to designate or define him as the son of God at this point.

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For an honest answer to this erroneous article by trinitarian Harner see: http://examiningthetrinity.blogspot.com/2009/10/harners-qualitative-jbl-article_12.html 

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As we have seen, there are seven other verses in which Mark uses this word-order, with an anarthrous predicate preceding the verb. In most of these passages the predicate serves primarily to express the nature or character of the subject. In three of the passages there is no basis whatever for regarding the predicate as definite (6:49; 11:32; 14:70). In the remaining passages the predicate could be definite, but there is no specific reason for regarding it as definite (2:28; 3:35; 11:17; 12:35). Mark’s usage, that is, gives little if any support to the idea that an anarthrous predicate noun preceding the verb is necessarily definite.

We should notice that it is not a question at this point whether Mark actually regarded Jesus as “the son of God.” It is clear from other passages that he did (1:11; 9:7; 3:11). The problem is to understand what Mark means in 15:39. The translation “the son of God” is somewhat misleading in the sense that it emphasizes the definiteness of the predicate noun. The word-order that Mark uses in 15:39, in contrast, calls attention to the qualitative significance of the predicate rather than its definiteness or indefiniteness.

(3) The question remains what Mark sought to express in 15:39. The word-order of the verse suggests that he was primarily concerned to say something about the meaning of Jesus’ sonship rather than designate him as “a” son or “the” son of God at this point. In this sense it is significant that Mark represents the centurion as saying these words at the moment of Jesus’ death. Mark may wish to emphasize, that is, that Jesus’ sonship to God involves suffering and death. It underwent these experiences, expressed itself through them, and revealed itself to men in this way. Thus the centurion is the first human being whom Mark represents as perceiving and affirming Jesus’ sonship. It is only at this point, Mark is suggesting, that men can understand the nature and meaning of this kind of sonship [but see Matt. 14:33 and Jn 10:36].

If this understanding of the verse is correct, it has two implications concerning Mark’s purpose in writing and the audience that he was addressing. In a general sense it indicates that he was concerned to present an apologia crucis, an explanation why Jesus suffered and died on the cross. The nature of Jesus’ sonship, Mark suggests, was such that it involved suffering and death and can be perceived by men only in this context. More specifically, this understanding of the verse supports the view that Mark was writing to a church facing persecution, reminding his readers that suffering and even death were a part of Jesus’ own role as God’s son.

It is doubtful whether any English translation can adequately represent the qualitative emphasis that Mark expresses in 15:39 by placing an anarthrous predicate before the verb. Perhaps the verse could best be translated, “Truly this man was God’s son.” This has the advantage of calling attention to Jesus’ role or nature as son of God. It minimizes the question whether the word “son” should be understood as indefinite or definite. At the same time it leaves open the possibility that Mark was thinking of Jesus at this point as “a” son of God in the hellenistic sense, or “the” son of God in a specifically Christian sense, or possibly both.[15] In all of these ways the translation “God’s son” would reflect the various shades of meaning that may be present in Mark’s word-order.

We may turn now to the Fourth Gospel and look at John’s use of predicate nouns, with special attention to anarthrous predicates preceding the verb. John has nearly three times as many predicate expressions as Mark, although his gospel is only about one-fourth longer. In particular, he has 53 anarthrous predicates before the verb, in contrast to Mark’s eight. For this reason we must limit our discussion to representative examples of John’s usage.

It is clear that John, like Mark, is familiar with the type of clause in which the verb precedes an anarthrous predicate. He uses this construction eighteen times.[16] According to the general rule we would expect these predicates to be indefinite, and in most instances we may judge that this is the case.[17] In a similar way it is clear that John is familiar with the type of clause in which the verb precedes an arthrous predicate. He uses this construction 66 times.[18] As in Mark, the force of the article is evident, and we may regard all of these predicate expressions as definite. John’s usage, that is, is consistent with the two general principles for interpreting predicate nouns when they follow the verb.

John has 53 examples of an anarthrous predicate preceding the verb.[19] In analyzing these expressions we are most interested in asking whether the qualitative aspect is prominent and whether the predicates are definite. Some degree of subjectivity is unavoidable in dealing with these questions, and the interpretation of some examples is uncertain. But I would judge that in 40 of these cases the qualitative force of the predicate is more prominent than its definiteness or indefiniteness.[20] In 26 of the 53, the predicate is clearly not definite, and in 11 it could be definite but there is no clear indication that it is.[21] We may look at several examples from John that illustrate these data.

In 1:14, for example, John writes oJ logo" sarx egeneto [ho logos sarx egeneto: ‘the word flesh became’]. He means that the Word took on the nature of flesh, and he can hardly be thinking of any specific substance that we would translate as “the” flesh. The qualitative force of the predicate is most prominent, and in this instance it could not be translated as either definite or indefinite. In 8:31 John writes that Jesus said to the Jews who believed in him, “If you abide in my word, alhqw" maqhtai mou este [alethos mathetai mou este: ‘truly disciples of me you are’].” By doing this, that is, the Jews truly assume the character or function of being his disciples. But these Jews are not his only disciples, and thus the predicate cannot be definite. In 9:24 John writes that some Jews said of Jesus, “We know that outo" oJ anqrwpo" amartwlo" estin [houtos ho anthropos amartolos estin: ‘this the man sinner is’].” Again the qualitative aspect of the predicate is most prominent; they think that Jesus has the nature or character of one who is “sinner.” There is no basis for regarding the predicate as definite, although in this instance we would probably use the indefinite article in English translation.

These illustrations suggest that John uses this type of syntactical construction in essentially the same way as Mark. In interpreting them, that is, we have reason to look for some qualitative significance in the predicate noun, and we cannot assume that the predicate is necessarily definite. These principles will be important when we examine the meaning of John 1:1. First, however, we must look at two other verses in John that pose special problems in interpretation.

In 1:49 John writes that Nathanael said to Jesus, su basileu" ei tou israhl [su basileus ei tou Israel: ‘you king are of the israel’ ]. With this we may compare the statement that Nathanael has just made in the same verse: su ei oJ uio" tou qeou [su ei ho huios tou theou: ‘you are the son of the god’]. And in 9:5 John represents Jesus as saying, fw" eimi tou kosmou [phos eimi tou kosmou: ‘light I am of the world’]. With this we may compare his statement in 8:12: egw eimi to fw" tou kosmou [ego eimi to phos tou kosmou: ‘I am the light of the world’]. In 1:49 and 9:5, that is, we find an anarthrous predicate preceding the verb. But in each case we find a similar or parallel statement that has the verb preceding an arthrous predicate, which is clearly definite. Do these parallels mean that the anarthrous predicates in 1:49 and 9:5 must also be regarded as definite? [Yes! "Preposition"-modified. See http://examiningthetrinity.blogspot.com/2009/10/harners-qualitative-jbl-article_12.html  - RDB]

In his study of this type of construction Colwell argued that the anarthrous predicates in these two verses should be regarded as definite.[22] The parallels are indeed persuasive, and it is quite possible that Colwell is right at this point. An anarthrous predicate preceding the verb, that is, may be definite if there is some specific reason for regarding it as definite. But the present study would indicate that the nouns in these two verses are exceptional cases. The majority of such predicates in the Fourth Gospel are like 1:14; 8:31; and 9:24, which were discussed above. There is no basis for regarding such predicates as definite, and it would be incorrect to translate them as definite.[23]

In light of this examination of John’s usage we may turn to the verse in which we are especially interested, 1:1. Our study so far suggests that the anarthrous predicate in this verse has primarily a qualitative significance and that it would be definite only if there is some specific indication of definiteness in the meaning or context. As an aid in understanding the verse it will be helpful to ask what John might have written as well as what he did write. In terms of the types of word-order and vocabulary available to him, it would appear that John could have written any of the following:

A. oJ logo" hn oJ qeo" ? [ho logos en ho theos]



B. qeo" hn oJ logo" ?[theos en ho logos]



C. oJ logo" qeo" hn ? [ho logos theos en]

D. oJ logo" hn qeo" ? [ho logos en theos]



E. oJ logo" hn qeio" ? [ho logos en theios] [24]



Clause A, with an arthrous predicate, would mean that logos and theos are equivalent and interchangeable. There would be no ho theos which is not also ho logos. But this equation of the two would contradict the preceding clause of 1:1, in which John writes that oJ logo" hn pro" ton qeon [ho logos en pros ton theon: ‘the word was with the god’]. This clause suggests relationship, and thus some form of “personal” differentiation, between the two. Clause D, with the verb preceding an anarthrous predicate, would probably mean that the logos was “a god” or a divine being of some kind, belonging to the general category of theos but as a distinct being from ho theos. Clause E would be an attenuated form of D. It would mean that the logos was “divine,” without specifying further in what way or to what extent it was divine. It could also imply that the logos, being only theios, was subordinate to theos.

John evidently wished to say something about the logos that was other than A and more than D and E. Clauses B and C, with an anarthrous predicate preceding the verb, are primarily qualitative in meaning. They indicate that the logos has the nature of theos. There is no basis for regarding the predicate theos as definite. This would make B and C equivalent to A, and like A they would then contradict the preceding clause of 1:1.

As John has just spoken in terms of relationship and differentiation between ho logos and ho theos, he would imply in B or C that they share the same nature as belonging to the reality theos. Clauses B and C are identical in meaning but differ slightly in emphasis. C would mean that the logos (rather than something else) had the nature of theos. B means that the logos has the nature of theos (rather than something else). In this clause, the form that John actually uses, the word theos is placed at the beginning for emphasis.

Commentators on the Fourth Gospel, as far as I know, have not specifically approached the meaning of this clause from the standpoint of the qualitative force of theos as an anarthrous predicate preceding the verb. In many cases their interpretations agree with the explanation that is given above. But consideration of the qualitative meaning of theos would lend further clarification and support to their understanding of the clause. J. H. Bernard, for example, points out that Codex L [9th century A. D.] reads ho theos instead of theos. “But this,” he continues, “would identify the Logos with the totality of divine existence, and would contradict the preceding clause.”[25] In a similar way W. F. Howard writes that theos and ho logos are not interchangeable. Otherwise, he continues, “the writer could not say ‘the Word was with God.’”[26] Both writers, in effect, are arguing that the predicate theos cannot be regarded as definite in this clause. In terms of our analysis above this would mean that clause B should not be assimilated to clause A.

Bruce Vawter explains the meaning of the clause succinctly and lucidly: “The Word is divine, but he is not all of divinity, for he has already been distinguished from another divine Person.”[27] But in terms of our analysis it is important that we understand the phrase “the Word is divine” as an attempt to represent the meaning of clause B rather than D or E. Undoubtedly [?] Vawter means that the Word is “divine” in the same sense that ho theos is divine. But the English language is not as versatile at this point as Greek, and we can avoid misunderstanding the English phrase only if we are aware of the particular force of the Greek expression that it represents.

In his discussion of this clause R. E. Brown regards the translation “the Word was God” as correct “for a modern Christian reader whose trinitarian background has accustomed him to thinking of ‘God’ as a larger concept than ‘God the Father.’” [28] Yet he also finds it significant that theos is anarthrous. Later he adds, “In [John 1:1c] the Johannine hymn is bordering on the usage of ‘God’ for the Son, but by omitting the article it avoids any suggestion of personal identification of the Word with the Father. And for Gentile readers the line also avoids any suggestion that the Word was a second God in any Hellenistic sense.”[29] In terms of our analysis above, Brown is arguing in effect that clause B should be differentiated from A, on the one hand, and D and E on the other. [30]

Rudolf Bultmann’s explanation of the clause also reflects an appreciation of the qualitative force of theos without specifically recognizing it as such. The clause means first, he suggests, that the Logos is equated (gleichgesetzt) with God; “er war Gott.”[31] Bultmann means by this that we must not think in terms of two divine beings, in a polytheistic or gnostic sense.[32] Thus he guards against assimilating clause B to D or E. But he explains further that this equation between the two is not a simple identification (einfache Identifikation), because the Logos was pros ton theon ['with the god'].[33] In this way he guards against assimilating B to clause A. Bultmann’s interpretive instinct at this point is unquestionably sound. In terms of the analysis that we have proposed, a recognition of the qualitative significance of theos would remove some ambiguity in his interpretation by differentiating between theos, as the nature that the Logos shared with God, and ho theos as the “person” to whom the Logos stood in relation. Only when this distinction is clear can we say of the Logos that “he was God.”

These examples illustrate the difficulty of translating the clause accurately into English. The RSV and The Jerusalem Bible translate, “the Word was God.” The New English Bible has, “what God was, the Word was.” Good News for Modern Man [GNB] has, “he was the same as God.” The problem with all of these translations is that they could represent clause A, in our analysis above, as well as B. This does not mean, of course, that the translators were not aware of the issues involved, nor does it necessarily mean that they regarded the anarthrous theos as definite because it precedes the verb. But in all of these cases the English reader might not understand exactly what John was trying to express. Perhaps the clause could be translated, “the Word had the same nature as God.” This would be one way of representing John’s thought, which is, as I understand it, that ho logos, no less than ho theos, had the nature of theos.

At a number of points in this study we have seen that anarthrous predicate nouns preceding the verb may be primarily qualitative in force yet may also have some connotation of definiteness. The categories of qualitativeness and definiteness, that is, are not mutually exclusive, and frequently it is a delicate exegetical issue for the interpreter to decide which emphasis a Greek writer had in mind. As Colwell called attention to the possibility that such nouns may be definite, the present study has focused on their qualitative force. In Mark 15:39 I would regard the qualitative emphasis as primary, although there may also be some connotation of definiteness. In John 1:1 I think that the qualitative force of the predicate is so prominent that the noun cannot be regarded as definite.

In interpreting clauses of this type it is important to recall that Greek writers also had other types of word-order available. If a writer simply wished to represent the subject as one of a class, he could use an anarthrous predicate noun after the verb. If he wished to emphasize that the predicate noun was definite, he could supply the article. The availability of these other types of word-order strengthens the view that in many instances we may look primarily for a qualitative emphasis in anarthrous predicate nouns that precede the verb.
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For an honest examination of this error-filled article by trinitarian Harner see:

 http://examiningthetrinity.blogspot.com/2009/10/harners-qualitative-jbl-article_12.html


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NOTES


1. For these two principles cf. F. W. Blass and A. Debrunner, A Greek Grammar of the New Testament and other Early Christian Literature (tr. and ed. R. W. Funk; Chicago, University of Chicago, 1961) 252, 273. A. T. Robertson, A Grammar of the Greek New Testament in the Light of Historical Research (4th ed. New York, Hodder & Stoughton, 1923), 767-68. C. F. D. Moule, An Idiom Book of New Testament Greek (Cambridge, Cambridge University, 1953) 115-16, J. H. Moulton, A Grammar of New Testament Greek, Vol. III, Syntax (by Nigel Turner, Edinburgh Clark, 1963, 182-84. For a general summary of the use of the article with substantives, see Robert W. Funk, The Syntax of the Greek Article: Its Importance for Critical Pauline Problems (Nashville, Vanderbilt University Diss., 1953) 31-37, esp. pp. 43-44, 61-63. The two principles discussed above are also descriptive of classical Greek usage; see H. W. Smyth, Greek Grammar (rev. G. M. Messing; Cambridge: Harvard University, 1959) 1150, 1152.



2. E. C. Colwell, “A Definite Rule for the Use of the Article in the Greek New Testament,”
JBL 52 (1933) 12-21, the quotation is from p. 20.



3. Colwell, “A Definite Rule,” 21.



4. Colwell, “A Definite Rule,” 17, and esp. n. 12. [also see p. 20.]


5. Mark 1:16, 17; 3:17; 6:34, 44; 7:11, 26; 9:35; 10:8, 43, 44; 12:25, 27, 37, 42; 13:19; 15:16, 22, 42. In some of these passages the subject precedes the verb, in some it follows the verb, and in some it is not expressed. These variations do not seem to affect the meaning of the predicate noun.

For this list and others throughout the study I have counted only clauses in which the verb is expressed and the predicate is a noun or an arthrous participle. I have excluded clauses in which the predicate is an adjective, anarthrous participle, adverb, prepositional phrase, proper noun, or relative clause. The text is E. Nestle, Novum Testamentum graece (rev. E. Nestle and K. Aland, 25th ed. London: United Bible Societies, 1969).



6. Thus in 6:44 and 10:8 the predicate noun is modified by a numeral. In 12:27 the predicate is theos, which, like kyrios, often comes close to being a personal name and as such may omit the article; [It omits the article simply because theos is in a PREPOSITIONAL construction. - RDB] cf. Blass-Debrunner-Funk, A Greek Grammar, 254, 260; Moulton-Turner, Syntax, pp. 165-66, 174. Note also the v. 1, ho before theos in !CL al. In 15:16, 22 the predicate noun occurs in a relative clause explaining the meaning of an arthrous noun, and Mark evidently thought it unnecessary to repeat the article.



7. Mark 1:11; 3:11, 33; 4:15, 16, 18 (bis),20; 5:14; 6:3; 7:15; 8:29; 9:7, 10; 12:7; 13:11; 14:22, 24, 61; 15:2.



8. Mark 2:28; 3:35; 6:49; 11:17, 32; 12:35; 14:70; 15:39. These clauses do not appear to have any common characteristics apart from the fact that an anarthrous predicate precedes the verb. Four of them are substantive clauses introduced by hoti; but so are 3:11 and 12:7, which have the verb preceding an arthrous predicate. The hoti clause, that is, does not require that the predicate precede the verb.

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[[All of these examples by Harner do have one thing in common: they are improper examples!!

First, they are not examples of parallel constructions to John 1:1c as used by JOHN!

Second, since each one of these examples has a predicate noun modified by a genitive (unlike John 1:1c), none of them are truly parallel to John 1:1c.

A genitive noun is normally translated into English as possessive or “of …” e.g., theou - “of God” or “God’s”.

Third, and even more important, they are improper examples for a well-known grammatical reason. The genitive noun governed by the predicate noun in each of these examples is known to make the use of the article ambiguous.

As noted NT Grammarians Dana and Mantey tell us, “The use of prepositions, possessive ... pronouns, and the genitive case also tend to make a word definite. At such times, even if the article is not used, the object is already distinctly indicated.” - p. 137, D&M Grammar. Also, Blass & Debrunner, pp. 133,135, University of Chicago Press, 1961; J.H. Moulton, pp. 179-180, A Grammar of New Testament Greek, vol. III; and others.

Yes, predicate nouns which govern genitives (“man OF GOD”; “prophet OF ISRAEL”; “Lord OF SABBATH”; etc.) may or may not have the article and still have the same meaning. For this very reason, they cannot honestly be used as evidence for a rule or rules which depend on the use or non-use of the definite article such as Harner’s Qualitative Rule or Colwell’s Rule, etc. Honest examples, whether before or after the verb, do not include genitive modified predicate nouns. See

http://examiningthetrinity.blogspot.com/2009/10/harners-qualitative-jbl-article_12.html

- RDB.]]
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9. Only gar is omitted, the second word in the clause in the LXX. [And pasin has been used in place of pasi.]



10. The word “house” necessarily lacks the article because it is in the CONSTRUCT STATE. But the whole expression is indeterminate because the word “prayer” also lacks the article.

[CONSTRUCT STATE: “a noun inflectional form typically designating what is possessed and accompanied by another noun designating the possessor (as Hebrew ben ‘son’ in ben Yishay ‘son of Jesse’).” - p. 489, Webster’s Third New International Dictionary, 1962. This would be included, then, in what I have called a noun in a “prepositional construction” or a “PREPOSITIONAL noun” when found in NT Greek. This is most often a noun followed by a genitive noun such as “Son of God” or “God of me.” - RDB]



11. Mark’s other references to “son of David” are equally ambiguous in this respect (10:47, 48). Matthew alone of the gospel writers speaks explicitly of “the” son of David (12:23; 21:9, 15).



12. For a recent discussion cf. H. C. Kee, Jesus in History: An Approach to the Study of the Gospels (New York: Harcourt, Brace, & World, Inc., 1970) 134. Kee recognizes some Gentile background at this point in Mark, although he believes that Mark’s primary purpose was to present Jesus as the bringer of eschatological salvation.



13. This is the reading of B and D, as well as the Koine recension.



14. So E. Lohmeyer, Das Evangelium des Markus (Bjyer 1/2, Gottingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1959) 347.



15. Some commentators resolve this ambiguity of the phrase by suggesting it meant a divine being of some kind on the lips of the centurion, but something more than this for Mark; see Lohmeyer, Markus, 347; V. Taylor, The Gospel according to St. Mark (IB 7; New York: Abingdon-Cokesbury, 1951) 908-9. For an argument in favor of the translation “the Son of God,” see R. G. Bratcher, “A Note on uiJo" qeou (Mark xv. 39),” ExpT 68 (1965-57) 27-28. Bratcher supports this translation partly by referring to Colwell’s principle, which he accepts without raising the question of the qualitative meaning of this type of clause. He also argues that this translation alone correctly represents Mark’s intention, especially in the passion narrative.

The objection has been raised that with the 1 sg. [first person singular] eimi [”am”] and the 2 sg. [second person singular] ei [“are”], a definite predicate noun precedes the verb and loses the article unless the subject pronoun is expressed; and that the same transformation is obligatory with the imperfect, with or without the subject expressed. But the Greek NT also has a number of examples of such clauses in which the anarthrous predicate is indefinite. The anarthrous predicate preceding eimi (without ego) is indefinite in Luke 5:8; Rom. 1:14; Rev. 18:7; 19:10; 22:9; perhaps also in John 18:37. The anarthrous predicate preceding ei (without sy) is indefinite in Matt. 16:23; Mark 14:70; Luke 19:21. Similarly, the anarthrous predicate preceding an imperfect form of eimi is indefinite in Matt 25:35, 43; Mark 11:32; John 8:44; 9:8; 12:6; Rom. 6:20; 1 Cor 12:2; Gal. 1:10; Jas 5:17. Thus a clause such as houtos huios tou theou en could be a transform of houtos en huios theou as well as houtos en ho huios tou theou. The question of definiteness and qualitative significance must be decided in each individual case when an anarthrous predicate precedes the verb.


16. John 1:41; 4:14, 18, 25; 6:55 (bis); 8:55; 9:28; 10:12; 11:38; 15:8; 18:13 (bis),15, 38, 40; 19:12, 38.



17. The only exceptions appear to be pentheros and archiereus in 18:13, which refer to specific individuals without necessarily taking the article.



18. John 1:4, 8, 19, 20, 25, 33, 34, 49; 3:10, 19, 28; 4:10, 29, 37, 42; 5:12, 15, 32, 35, 39, 45; 6:14, 29, 33, 35, 39, 40, 41, 48, 50, 51, 58, 63, 64 (bis), 69; 7:26, 36, 40, 41; 8:12, 18, 54; 9:8, 19, 20; 10:7, 9, 11, 14, 24; 11:2, 25, 27; 12:34; 14:6, 21; 15:1, 5, 12; 17:3; 18:14, 33; 20:31; 21:12, 24.



19. John 1:1, 12, 14, 49; 2:9; 3:4,6 (bis),29; 4:9, 19; 5:27; 6:63, 70; 7:12; 8:31, 33, 34, 37, 39, 42, 44 (bis), 48, 54; 9:5, 8, 17, 24, 25, 27, 28, 31; 10:1, 2, 8, 13, 33, 34, 36; 11:49, 51; 12:6, 36, 50; 13:35; 15:14; 17:17; 18:26, 35, 37 (bis); 19:21. One of these, 10:34, is a quotation from the LXX. John also has two examples of the type of clause in which an arthrous predicate precedes the verb: 6:51; 15:1 [What about 1:21; 8:39 (in ASV, JB, TEV, LB, Phillips, and CBW); 10:21; 20:15; 21:7 (bis), 12 ?]. The fact that John sometimes uses this type of clause supports the view that he did not necessarily regard an anarthrous predicate as definite simply because it precedes the verb.



20. John 1:12, 14; 2:9; 3:4, 6 (bis), 29; 4:9; 6:63, 70; 7:12; 8:31, 33, 34, 37, 39, 42, 44 (bis), 48; 9:17, 24, 25, 27, 28, 31; 10:1, 2, 8, 13, 33, 34, 36; 12:6, 36, 50; 13:35; 15:14; 17:17; 18:35.


21. I would judge that the predicate could not be definite in John 1:14; 2:9; 3:4, 6 (bis); 4:9; 6:63; 7:12; 8:31, 44 (bis), 48; 9:8, 24, 25, 27, 28, 31; 10:1, 8, 33, 34; 12:6, 36; 18:26, 35. In other cases the predicate could be definite, but there is no clear indication of definiteness: John 1:12; 6:70; 8:33, 34, 37, 39; 9:17; 12:50; 13:35; 15:14; 17:17.


22. Colwell, “a Definite Rule,” 13-14.



23. Variant readings for predicate expressions in John represent four types of modification: (1) inversion of the anarthrous predicate-verb sequence, with addition of the article (1:49; 10:2); (2) addition of the article to an anarthrous predicate preceding the verb (8:54; 10:36; 17:17); (3) inversion of the anarthrous predicate-verb sequence, without addition of the article (13:35; (4) inversion of the verb-anarthrous predicate sequence (18:15). The first two types of modification make the predicate noun unambiguously definite. Colwell discussed only the first type, with reference to John 1:49; Matt 23:10; and Jas 2:19. These indicated, he believed, that “the scribes felt that a definite predicate noun did not need the article before the verb and did need it after the verb” (“A Definite Rule,” 16). But the first two types of modification listed above could also mean that the scribes believed that the definiteness of an anarthrous predicate was not sufficiently explicit before the verb, and so they modified the clause to make the noun unambiguously definite.



24. The word theios appears only a few times in NT: Acts 17:27 (v.1.), 29; Tit 1:9 (v. 1); 2 Pet 1:3, 4. It is not used in the Fourth Gospel. But presumably John could have used it, or some other word meaning “divine,” if he had wished to do so.



25. J. H. Bernard, A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Gospel according to St. John (New York: Scribner, 1929) 1, 2.


26. W. F. Howard, The Gospel according to St. John (IB 8, New York: Abingdon-Cokesbury, 1952) 464.



27. B. Vawter, The Gospel according to John (JBC; Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall, 1968) 422.



28. R. E. Brown, The Gospel according to John, I-XII (AB 29, Garden City: Doubleday, 1966) 5.


29. Brown, John, I-XII, 24.


30. Brown, (John, I-XII, 25) also mentions the view of De Ausejo that throughout the prologue the term “Word” means Jesus Christ, the Word-become-flesh. “If this is so,” he comments, “then perhaps there is justification for seeing in the use of the anarthrous theos something more humble than the use of ho theos for the Father.” But if theos is qualitative in force, it is not contrasted directly with ho theos. John evidently wished to say that the logos was no less than theos, just as ho theos (by implication) had the nature of theos.



31. R. Bultmann, Das Evangelium des Johannes (Meyer 2; Gottingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1968) 16.



32. Bultmann, Johannes, 16-17.



33. Bultmann, Johannes, 17.
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For our refutation to this article by trinitarian Harner see: http://examiningthetrinity.blogspot.com/2009/10/harners-qualitative-jbl-article_12.html

2 comments:

Charles Blackburn said...

Harner concludes his argument, in part, by stating "that ho logos, no less than ho theos, had the nature of theos" Harner seems to be implying that this makes The Word the same as The GOD, and an equal part of a trinitatian Godhead. If by saying ho logos no less than ho theos had the nature of theos Harner means to support the Trinity doctrine, then he does so only on the basis of a preconceived predudice against The Word being subordinate to and separate from Almighty God.
I agree with Harners conclusion that "ho logos, no less than ho theos, had the nature of theos"
Yet consider this; When Jesus became a man, he no longer had the nature of God, but the nature of flesh (John 1:14). We could say that as a man The Word no less that fleshly creatures had the nature of flesh, that did not make him part of a plurality of fleshly creatures that were in fact one being or entity. So likewise having the nature of God, as do all heavenly beings, did not make The Word equal to God and part of some Trinitarian Godhead any more than it does the angels in heaven who also have Gods nature. Since Almighty God has the nature of God and not the nature of flesh and since The Word and the heavenly angels also have the nature of God and not the nature of flesh then of course all these persons have the nature of God to the same degree, that is their nature. This fact does not make heavenly creatures equal to God any more than having the nature of flesh makes a dog equal to a man, a dog no less than a man has the nature of flesh, of course, both are flesh.
Consider this; God is a spirit, the Word is a spirit, the heavenly angels are spirits. Men are flesh, so are horses, cats, dogs, rats etc. Now consider the context of what the bible writer was saying at John 1:1. In the beginning the Word was with God in heaven but is now a man Jesus Christ on the earth. When Jesus was the Word in heaven he was a spirit, he was by nature a spirit like God, but now he no longer is a spirit in heaven, he no longer is by nature like God but he is now a man and has the nature of flesh and blood. Jesus had an existence in heaven as a spirit creature, but he has become flesh (vs 14) and is here teaching us about God. No man has ever seen God, but Gods very first creation, one who was begotten, or directly created by God, this one having been a spirit in heaven with God, came to the earth as a man to teach us Gods truth(vs 18).

tigger2 said...

Harner's Qualitative interpretation is false. Please see "HARNER: JBL 'Qualitative' Article Refuted" on the right-hand sideboard here.

Also see "John 1:1c Primer."