Harner’s “Qualitative” Rule Refuted
(From the RDB Files)
Philip B. Harner, in his 1973 article in the Journal of Biblical Literature (JBL) [see the HARNJBL file], Vol. 92, pp. 75-87, claims that when an anarthrous (without the definite article [“the”]) predicate noun comes before its verb (pre-copulative) - like “god” (theos) at John 1:1c - it is intended to be “qualitative” or show the absolute “essence” or “nature” of the subject. In this way he (and other “qualitarians”) help justify the trinitarian translation at Jn 1:1c (“The Word was God”) because the Word has the “absolute essence” of God.
Harner was certainly not the first to try the “qualitative” approach to interpreting John 1:1 as somehow making Jesus equal to “true deity” - see Westcott’s note as quoted by Moule, p. 116, 1960 ed. - and he wasn’t the last (see the QUAL study which disproves Daniel B. Wallace’s 1981 attempt). However, since the Watchtower Society has made reference most often to Harner’s 1973 JBL article, let’s examine it carefully.
This type of “proof” was developed by some trinitarian scholars because they recognized that the traditional “proof” used for this scripture is entirely improper (see the DEF and QUAL studies). Some trinitarians take these two opposing “proofs” and use parts of them interchangeably, not caring that the one absolutely contradicts the other! Walter Martin and one of his successors, Robert M. Bowman, are in this latter category.
Most of Harner’s evidence depends on a ‘detailed’ examination of all 8 examples of an anarthrous predicate noun preceding its verb (“Colwell’s construction”) as found in the writings of Mark. (Obviously, if we really wanted to prove John 1:1 was “qualitative,” we should examine all the proper examples found in John’s writings.)
Harner excludes examples of proper names (great irregularity of article usage with proper names has been noted by most NT Greek scholars: “with proper names. Here the article is used or not at the will of the writer.” - A. T. Robertson, p. 791); predicate nouns modified by numerals (“The article is usually absent in expressions of time.... The ordinal [‘first, third,’ etc.] was often felt to be definite enough alone” - p. 793, Robertson); and “time/season” nouns (“Sabbath,” “winter,” etc. - see Robertson quote above and DEF study, note #9).
Harner also should have excluded abstract predicate nouns since they also have very irregular article usage (and are usually considered “qualitative” anyway no matter where they are found in the sentence).
“No vital difference was felt between articular [with “the”] and anarthrous [without “the”] abstract nouns.” - p. 794, Robertson. (Also see the QUAL study)
And I also believe it would be better to exclude any example which notably differs from the construction of Jn 1:1c. This would include clauses which use a participle (“saying,” “having,” “hating,” etc.) in place of a noun as a “subject;” and, probably, plural nouns (certainly those nouns which are usually used for amounts (also known as non-count nouns): “soup,” “blood,” “flesh,” “wine,” "honey," “gold,” etc. which do not use an indefinite article even in English).
However, there is one other improper type of example that Harner (and all other defenders of both the “qualitative” and the “definite” John 1:1 rules that I have examined) not only does not exclude but, instead, relies on most heavily to “prove” his rule.
This improper example as found in the NT Greek uses a predicate noun which is modified by a prepositional phrase or a genitive noun. E.g., "God OF me"; "son TO him"; "house OF Lord"; etc. (Even though I recognize it is not a technically accurate phrase, I will describe such uses as “prepositional predicate nouns.”) There is great irregularity of article usage for these examples also. Perhaps (like the ordinal numbers above) they were “often felt to be definite enough alone” in a certain secondary sense. At any rate, scholars have noted “the governing noun may be anarthrous if it depends on a preposition.” - Robertson, pp. 781, 790, 791; also Moulton, Vol. III, pp. 179-180; Moule, p. 117; and Dana and Mantey, p. 137; Jesus as God, p. 304, esp. (2) and (4), Murray J. Harris, Baker Book House, 1992; The Greek Testament, p. 420, Henry Alford.
Yes, an analysis of nouns modified by prepositions or genitives shows great irregularity of article usage. Frequently only context can decide if the appropriate rendering in English of such “prepositional” nouns should use the definite article or not. But most often, when the “prepositional” predicate noun precedes its verb, the proper rendering is with the definite article. But this does not apply to proper examples which should be used in examining John 1:1 and its grammatical parallels!
It is, therefore, just as improper to use such “prepositional” examples to “prove” a rule that is supposed to apply to anarthrous nouns as it is to use personal names.
Let’s see, then, how Harner analyzed the only 8 examples he found in Mark’s writings.
(1) Mark 2:28 - “lord is the son of the man of the sabbath.” Harner admits that “possibly [Mark] means that the Son of Man is ‘the lord’ of the Sabbath.” He prefers instead, of course, to consider it as somehow “Qualitative”:
“The question,” he says, “is not who the lord of the sabbath is, but what the nature or authority of the Son of Man is.” I strongly question that one’s authority means his “qualitative” nature!! This usage is merely a “prepositional” predicate noun (“lord of the sabbath”) preceding its verb and, therefore, very frequently, indicates that “the” may be understood: “the lord of the Sabbath.”
As Robertson tells us, in the Greek the predicate “very commonly comes first” simply because that is very often the most important thing in that particular sentence - p. 417, Robertson. So, it is emphasis, not “Qualitativeness” which determines word order here. That emphasis plus a certain degree of “definiteness” already contributed by the “prepositional” construction probably causes the predicate noun in such circumstances to require the definite article so often (but not exclusively) in English renderings. Therefore, Mk 2:28 probably should be rendered, “The Son of man is the Lord of the Sabbath.”
(2) Mark 3:35 - “This (one) brother of me and sister and mother is.” Harner correctly points out that Jesus has just finished using the definite article for these very same figurative brothers at Mark 3:34. Certainly, then, it is most likely, in light of our knowledge of “prepositional” predicate nouns preceding their verbs, that that is exactly what is intended again in this verse! Harner, of course, wants to assume that some “Qualitative” idea is now being introduced. This is unlikely and unreasonable.
(3) Mark 6:49 - “they thought that apparition it is.” Harner correctly states: “there is no basis in the context, at any rate, for regarding the noun as definite.” True, because this is a proper example (not abstract, and not “prepositional”) if you accept clauses with the subject understood as part of the verb. But, unlikely as it is, he still insists on finding some kind of “qualitative” force even here:
“The qualitative significance appears to be secondary [anyone can “find” qualitative significance to some degree in any indefinite noun - it all depends on how much you want it to be there - RDB] 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.”
Not only is there “no basis” for considering this verse definite, but there is equally no basis for considering it “qualitative” as Harner, in effect, admits. This is because it’s a proper example, more closely comparable to the grammatical construction of John 1:1, and, therefore should be rendered in an indefinite sense: “an apparition” (“a ghost” - KJV, RSV), etc. (And, of course, no Bible translation renders this “qualitatively: “they thought it was apparition-like” or “... it had all the essence of the one true Apparition.”!) Cf. the parallel Matt. 14:26 - the same construction here would be even stranger if understood “qualitatively”!
“the disciples were troubled, saying: ‘it is apparition-like!’ [or ‘it has the complete essence of apparitioness!’] And they cried out in their fear.” - Matt. 14:26.
(4) Mark 11:17 - “the house of me house of prayer will be called to all the nations.” Although this usage (“prepositional” predicate noun before the verb) very often (most often?) can be translated with the definite article (“the house of prayer”), it seems, in this case, equally likely that it should be “a house of prayer” - compare Luke 19:46. Again Harner, of course, wants a “qualitative” interpretation:
“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 [‘quality’] of being a house of prayer for all the nations.”
So, once again, Harner finds his best “evidence” in an improper “prepositional” example. But did Mark really describe it as “qualitative” (before the verb) and Luke, in his parallel account at Luke 19:46, as indefinite (after the verb)? Don’t these two parallel accounts, by themselves, show there is absolutely nothing to Harner’s “qualitative” rule?
(5) Mark 11:32 - “that prophet [he] was.” Harner tells us of this example that it “illustrates the difficulty of deciding whether a predicate noun is simply indefinite or is used primarily in a qualitative sense.” He admits that “prophet” here may be “regarded as indefinite in the sense that the people regarded John as a prophet.” And, although he admits there is absolutely no reason to consider “prophet” as definite here, he again has to introduce some speculative “qualitative” meaning for the word to make it fit his theory. He suggests that in addition to being indefinite it also has a “qualitative” sense “since context indicates that this view of John as ‘prophet’ made the Jewish leaders reluctant to speak disparagingly of the baptism that he administered.” Now I submit that such inane “reasoning” can make any indefinite noun (whether before, after, or on top of the verb) appear to have a “qualitative” sense!
The real point is that this is one of the few proper examples (if you accept, as most trinitarian scholars do, clauses which have the subject understood as part of the verb) and is, therefore, clearly indefinite! I have examined 17 respected trinitarian Bibles (KJV, ASV, RSV, NIV, NASB, JB, NEB, NAB, MLB, TEV, LB, Mo, AB, Douay, CBW, Philips, and Beck), and not one of them has indicated either a definite (“the Prophet”) or a qualitative understanding for this scripture. All have rendered it as purely indefinite (“a prophet”)!
The parallel account at Matt. 21:26 is extremely important, also. Here we find the very same event that Mark relates above described in Matthew’s words. Since Matthew doesn’t even use a predicate noun here but an accusative noun (which cannot be “qualitative”) we know that Matthew intends only an indefinite “a prophet” here! - see any trinitarian translation. Don’t these parallel accounts, by themselves, show there is absolutely nothing to Harner’s “qualitative” rule? Obviously both inspired writers intended an indefinite noun here.
(6) Mark 12:35 - “that the christ son of david is.” For this one Harner tells us with great ‘decisiveness’: “the predicate noun [‘son of David’] could be interpreted as definite, indefinite, or qualitative.” And, “the first or the second possibility, of course, does not preclude the third.” This type of reasoning, again, allows one to interpret anything he wants as “qualitative” - it’s purely subjective interpretation and, as a result, purely improper as evidence for a “qualitative” rule! And, of course, Harner somehow “sees” a “qualitative” force being prominent here. The real grammatical evidence would lean toward “the” being supplied in an English translation since this is a “prepositional” [more precisely it is a genitive-modified] predicate noun preceding its verb: “that the Christ is the Son of David.” - Also compare the parallel Luke 20:41 where the 'predicate noun' is actually an accusative noun and is after the verb in the Nestle, Westcott-Hort, and UBS texts!
(7) Mark 14:70 - “for galilean you are.” Harner again admits (as he does for every proper, non-“prepositional” example) that this should not be regarded as a definite noun. But he again “interprets” this subjectively as having “some qualitative force in this context because it suggests that Peter, being from Galilee, must be one of Jesus’ disciples.” Does this really make sense? Isn’t it perfectly clear that this is merely an indefinite noun? Just as with other proper examples this is consistently translated by all Bible translators: “For you are a Galilean.”? (And of course no one ever renders it: “you are Galilean-like” or “...filled with all the essence of the Galilean.”)
Harner, p. 75, gives Mark 7:26 as an example of an indefinite noun (“a Greek” - RSV) since it comes after the verb. But there is no reason to consider it any more or less “qualitative” than Mark 14:70 (or the “qualitative” [?] “a Greek” at Gal. 2:3). Let’s examine some other uses of “Galilean” by the writer who is considered the best writer of NT Greek - Luke:
Luke 23:6 - “the man [Jesus] galilean is” is consistently translated: “the man was a Galilean” (indefinite, singular) - RSV.
Acts 2:7 - “these are...galileans” is consistently translated “are not all these...Galileans?” (indefinite, plural) - RSV.
Notice that all Pilate was asking in the first verse was if Jesus was one (of many) who came from Galilee (“a Galilean” - indefinite, singular). We know that this is all Pilate intended since context shows that he merely wanted to know where Jesus came from so he could send him to the ruler of that district (see Luke 23:5-7). There is absolutely no consideration of “nature” or “qualitativeness” here, and yet, this is the same construction as Harner’s “qualitative” Mark 14:70! Now notice that we could easily “interpret” Acts 2:7 as being just as “qualitative” as Mark 14:70 if we wanted to, but it has the predicate noun “Galileans” following the verb! The truth is, all of these verses use an indefinite predicate noun regardless of placement in the sentence!
(8) Mark 15:39 - “truthfully this the man son of god was.” Although Harner considers this the most important ‘qualitative’ example in the Gospel of Mark, his speculations concerning the ‘qualitative’ meaning of this verse are just as convoluted and specious as the others. The fact remains that there is no reason to bring in some “qualitative” interpretation here. This is simply another misused 'prepositional' predicate noun! Grammar (and other uses of the phrase by Mark) strongly indicates the probable meaning of this verse as “Certainly this man was the Son of God."[3, 6]
From the examples that Harner himself picked to “prove” his rule we can see that proper examples are always indefinite nouns, equally as indefinite as predicate nouns which are found after their verbs. We also see that the improper examples (including “prepositional” predicate nouns coming before their verbs) often indicate that “the” should be supplied in English translations.
More importantly (since John is the writer of the verse for which the “qualitative” rule - and the “definite” rule of Colwell - was invented by modern trinitarian scholars) we find the same things hold true in the writings of John. A valid study would then examine all of the proper examples found in the Gospel of John (or all of John’s writings).
Harner, however, lists 53 examples of anarthrous pre-copulative predicate nouns he found in the Gospel of John, but he examines only five. We can safely assume he chose the 5 that best illustrate his “qualitative” rule.
Let’s look at the 5 verses in John’s writing which Harner carefully chose to analyze:
(1) John 1:14 - “the word flesh became” is translated “the Word became flesh” - RSV. I believe “flesh” here is used as an indefinite plural (or, more likely, an indeterminate amount) noun. (We wouldn’t normally say “fleshes” or “bloods” or “a flesh,” etc.). Plural indefinite nouns cannot take an indefinite article in English, but they are still considered just as indefinite as singular indefinite nouns. This, then, would be the same as Rev. 16:4 “and [the waters] became blood.” Although clearly indefinite (and following its verb) “blood” could easily be “interpreted” as a “qualitative” statement about the waters. “The Word became flesh” may be understood the same way despite word order, and “flesh” is still an indefinite plural (amount) noun! [I have more recently seen such words described as ‘non-count nouns’ – RDB.]
(2) John 8:31 - “truly disciples of me you are” is translated “you are truly my disciples” - RSV. From our examination of “prepositional” predicate nouns it is clear that this may well mean “you are the disciples of me,” but the ambiguous “my disciples” takes care of that question anyway. Harner’s reasoning that this cannot be translated “the disciples of me” (definite) because “these Jews are not his only disciples” is incredibly poor! Compare John 6:60 and John 6:61. We can see that “the disciples of me” is in the same sense that many times someone in the scriptures is called “the brother of me” or “the son of me,” etc. when, in fact, that man was only one of many brothers, sons, etc. (Matt. 13:55; Lk 15:30; Jn 1:42; 2 Cor. 2:13, 8:22; Rev. 1:9). It is “definite” in a very restricted sense because of the “prepositional” usage only. But to show the falsity of Harner’s “qualitative” rule let’s compare some other uses of “disciple(s)” by John:
John 9:28 - “You are his disciple, but we are disciples of Moses.” - RSV. We can see no difference between the first half of this verse and the second half. Can we honestly find that one of these uses of “disciple(s)” is used in a “qualitative” way and, therefore, is speaking of the “essence” or very “nature” of these people whereas the other use of “disciple(s)” in this same verse is merely indefinite and not “qualitative”? Undoubtedly John intended no difference in meaning, for it is a direct comparison between “his disciple” and “Moses’ disciples”! And yet, if you examine the Greek text for this verse, you will find that one “disciple(s)” comes before its verb (“qualitative”?) and the other “disciple(s)” comes after its verb (indefinite)! - - - See if you can decide which is which (you have a 50-50 chance) before you look at an interlinear. If John had really been aware of some “qualitative” rule, he certainly would not have written this verse as he did. But since he did, we can be assured that word order does not determine “qualitativeness” in the writings of John! (Also compare the non-qualitative “disciples” at John 15:8 - is it really any less “qualitative” to an objective eye than John 8:31?) - (But all these are improper “prepositional” examples, anyway.)
(3) John 9:24 - “This the man sinner is” is translated “this man is a sinner” - RSV. Being a proper example this cannot be considered definite (“the sinner”) as context shows and Harner admits. But to suggest that it is “qualitative” is unwarranted also. The question that must always be asked in these examples is: “would it really have a different meaning if it came after the verb?” Isn’t it obvious that this particular indefinite noun would have equally “qualitative” connotations no matter where it came in the sentence?
Let’s compare some similar usages by John:
John 10:1 - “that (one) thief is and plunderer” is translated “a thief and a robber”
(indefinite concrete nouns).
John 10:8 - “all...thieves are and plunderers” is translated “all ... are thieves and
robbers” (indefinite concrete plurals).
Surely no one would say that “thief” and “robber” (or “plunderer”) are to be understood in two different senses here. Obviously, if Jesus meant “thief” in a qualitative sense, he also intended the very same qualitative meaning for “robber.” We certainly never find any Bible translation which translates John 10:1 as “that one has the very essence or nature of ‘thief’ and is also a robber”! And the context itself would make such a rendering ludicrous.
And yet, notice that “thief” comes before the verb and “robber” comes after the verb! And they are both equally indefinite concrete nouns!
So in spite of any stylistic word order John may choose to use, both “thief” and “robber” tell us that the person so described is merely one of many (indefinite) who belong to a certain category. Similarly, why should “a liar” at John 8:44 be considered “qualitative” (“liar he is”) but “a liar” at John 8:55 be indefinite (“I shall be like you liar”)? The answer is that they are BOTH merely indefinite nouns in spite of word order.
Also notice that Luke uses “sinner” without a verb. As many trinitarian Bibles interpret it: “woman who was in the city sinner” in the original text becomes “there was a woman in the city who was a sinner” - Luke 7:37 NASB. This appears to be as “qualitative” as any other use of “sinner” could be (including the “qualitative” example by Mark above), but, in this interpretation of this verse, Luke didn’t even bother to use a verb. Would he have done this if there were really some “qualitative” rule about verb placement? Wouldn’t he have been sure to show us this was either a “qualitative” sinner by placing a verb after it or an indefinite sinner by placing the verb before it? Yes, he would have if there were really such a thing as a “qualitative” rule such as Harner’s. Instead, we are free to mentally place the understood verb wherever we wish because it makes no real difference in meaning! - See the QUAL study paper, f.n. #11.
If, however, we decide that Luke actually used the verb “was” with “sinner” in this verse, then we have an equally “qualitative” “sinner” coming AFTER its verb. Again the “qualitative” rule fails to work.
(4) John 1:49 (b) - “you king are of the israel” is translated “you are the King of Israel” - RSV. And,
(5) John 9:5 - “light I am of the world” is translated “I am the light of the world” - RSV.
Harner examines these final two verses together because he wants to compare them to “a similar or parallel statement that has the verb preceding an articular (arthrous) predicate, which is clearly definite.” : John 1:49 (a) “you are the son of the god” and John 8:12 “I am the light of the world.”
These well illustrate why prepositional examples are improperly used for trinitarian “rules.”
Harner claims these two verses (#4 and #5 above) “pose special problems in interpretation” because the obviously definite parallel examples cited would seem to indicate that these, too, should be definite (as the RSV translations indicate). And, as we have seen, “prepositional” (includes genitive) - modified predicate nouns which precede their verbs most often are in need of a definite article when rendered into English, and are not proper examples for a study of John 1:1c. Therefore there are no “special problems” here at all but merely a verification of what we have already learned. Harner, of course, does have a “special problem in interpretation” because he insists on seeing some “qualitative” influence here. However, he has similar “interpretation problems” with all examples. It seems clear that a proper interpretation here would be similar to the RSV’s renderings (“the King of Israel” - compare Jn 12:13 - and “the light of the world” [Also cf. Jn 3:19-21; 12:35, 36: Where Jesus is clearly, unmistakably, unqualitatively, “the light.”] ), and Harner’s parallel examples simply add more weight to that understanding.
If we really want to see if a “qualitative” rule might be applied at John 1:1, we must first appreciate the great significance of the article use with the nominative theos.
Then we must examine all of John’s usages of pre-copulative anarthrous predicate nouns (“Colwell’s constructions”). They must be proper examples (excluding proper names, abstract nouns, numerals, “time/season” nouns, and, above all, “prepositional” nouns) as used at John 1:1. Here, then, are all the examples I have found of anarthrous predicate nouns preceding their verbs in the writings of John. This is followed by a listing of all the proper examples used by John which should be used as evidence for or against “definite” and “qualitative” rules favored by some trinitarians for Jn 1:1c.
In the following list if the p.n. has no article, it has “an.” (anarthrous) written before it. “Art.” (articular) means the article (“the”) is with it. Improper examples have “prep.,” “abstract,” “numeral,” etc. written after them.
“Prep.” indicates that the p.n. has a phrase joined to it (prepositional), e.g., ’son of man’; ‘slave to me’; etc. “Abstract #”: the p.n. is abstract and/or an indeterminate amount (see “John 1:14” above). “No subject” means the subject is clearly understood only by the verb form used. “Participle" means the subject is not present but only imperfectly identified by a participle (“having,” “saying,” etc.).
All Verses by John Where the Predicate Noun Precedes Its Verb
an. Jn 1:1 (verse under study)
an. John 1:12 - prep.
an. Jn 1:14 - plural (amount)
art. Jn 1:21 ("the Prophet" - NASB)
an. Jn 1:49 (b) - prep.
an. Jn 2:9 - accusative, not p.n
an. Jn 3:6 (a) - plural (amount)
an. Jn 3:6 (b) - abstract #
an. Jn 3:29 - participle
-an. Jn 4:9 (a)
an. Jn 4:9 (b) (adj.?)
#an. Jn 4:19
an. Jn 4:24 - abstr. # - NO VERB
an. Jn 5:27 - prep.
art. Jn 6:51 (b) - prep.
an. Jn 6:63 - abstract
-an. Jn 6:70
an. Jn 8:31 - prep.
an. Jn 8:33 - prep.
an. Jn 8:34 - prep.
an. Jn 8:37 - prep.
an. Jn 8:39 - prep.
an. Jn 8:42 - prep.
an. Jn 8:44 (a) (?? no subj.??)
an. Jn 8:44 (b) - no subject
#an. Jn 8:48
an. Jn 8:54 (a) - abstract
an. Jn 8:54 (b) - prep.
an. Jn 9:5 - prep
an. Jn 9:8 (a) - no subject
an. Jn 9:17 - no subject
-an. Jn 9:24
an. Jn 9:25 - no subject
an. Jn 9:27 - prep.
an. Jn 9:28 (a) - prep.
-an. Jn 10:1
an. Jn 10:2 - prep.
an. Jn 10:8 - plural
an. Jn 10:13 - no subject
art. Jn 10:21 - prep.
-an. Jn 10:33
an. Jn 10:34 - plural
an. Jn 10:36 - prep.
an. Jn 11:49 - prep.
an. Jn 11:51 - prep.
an. Jn 12:6 - prep
an. Jn 12:36 - prep.
an. Jn 12:50 - abstract
an. Jn 13:35 - (poss. pronoun)
art. Jn 15:1 (b)
an. Jn 15:14 - prep.
an. Jn 17:17 - abstract
an. Jn 18:26 - prep.
-an. Jn 18:35
#an. Jn 18:37 (a)
#an. Jn 18:37 (b) - no subject (except in TR and 1991 Byzantine text)
an. Jn 19:21 - prep.an.
art. Jn 20:15
art. Jn 21:7 (a)
art. Jn 21:7 (b)
art. Jn 21:12
an. 1 Jn 1:5 (b) - abstract #
an. 1 Jn 2:2 - prep.
an. 1 Jn 2:4 - participle
an. 1 Jn 3:2 - prep.
an. 1 Jn 3:15 - participle
an. 1 Jn 4:8 - abstract
an. 1 Jn 4:16 - abstract
an. 1 Jn 4:20 - no subject
an. 1 Jn 5:17 - abstract
art. 2 Jn :6 (b)
an. Rev. 1:20 (a) - prep.
an. Rev. 1:20 (b) - numeral
an. Rev. 2:9 - accusative, not p.n.
an. Rev. 3:9 - accusative, not p.n.
an. Rev. 13:18 - prep.
an. Rev. 14:4 - no subject/plural
an. Rev. 17:9 - numeral
an. Rev. 17:10 - numeral
an. Rev. 17:11 - numeral
an. Rev. 17:12 - numeral
an. Rev. 17:14 - prep.
an. Rev. 17:15 - plural
an. Rev. 18:7 - no subject
art. Rev. 19:8 - prep.
art. Rev. 19:9 - prep.
an. Rev. 19:10 (a) - prep.
art. Rev. 20:14 - numeral
an. Rev. 21:3 - prep.
an. Rev. 21:22 - prep.
art. Rev. 21:23 - prep. - NO VERB
an. Rev. 22:9 - prep.
91 total (excluding John 1:1c)
The 3 (or 4 if we use the Received text or the Byzantine text) closest examples to Jn 1:1c have the anarthrous predicate noun before the verb and the subject after the verb. These 3 (or 4) proper examples are shown in red above with a numeral sign (#) before them. And they also exclude personal names, abstract nouns, numerals, prepositional constructions (prep.), “time/season” nouns, clauses in which the subject is missing [but understood by the verb], clauses in which the subject is “represented” by a participle [“having,” “saying,” “hating,” etc.], plurals [especially plural/amount [also called 'non-count nouns']: ‘blood,’ ‘wine,’ 'honey,' ‘flesh,’ ‘fat,’ etc.].
Here, then, are all the proper examples (truly comparable to Jn 1:1c) from the writings of John (Westcott and Hort text) for an honest examination of “Colwell’s Rule” (or any related rules, including Harner’s “qualitative” rule, concerning the simple, unmodified anarthrous predicate noun coming before the verb):
H,W 1. John 4:19 - (“a prophet”) - all Bible translations
H,W 2. John 8:48 - (“a Samaritan”) - all translations
H,W 3. John 18:37 (a) - (“a king”) - all
[H,W 4. John 18:37 (b) - (“a king”) - in the Received Text (TR) and 1991 Byzantine text]
H: Also found in Harner’s list of “Colwell Constructions”
W: Also found in Wallace’s list of “Colwell Constructions”
These are all indefinite nouns. All modern trinitarian Bible translations I have examined render them as indefinite!
If we wish to supply more examples, we must include some which are less perfect than these three (or four). The best we can do is to include all those constructions (Westcott and Hort text) which comply with the other qualifications above but which, unlike Jn 1:1c, have the subject before the verb also. Since trinitarian scholars themselves include such examples, they should not object if we also include all such examples.
When we add those constructions to our list, we have:
H 1. John 4:9 (a) - indefinite (“a Jew”) - all translations
H,W 2. John 4:19 - indefinite (“a prophet”) - all
H,W 3. John 6:70 - indefinite (“a devil”/“a slanderer”) - all
H,W 4. John 8:48 - indefinite (“a Samaritan”) - all
H,W 5. John 9:24 - indefinite (“a sinner”) - all
H,W 6. John 10:1 - indefinite (“a thief and a plunderer”) - all
H,W 7. John 10:33 - indefinite (“a man”) - all
H,W 8. John 18:35 - indefinite (“a Jew”) - all
H,W 9. John 18:37 (a) - indefinite (“a king”) - all
[H,W 10. John 18:37 (b) - indefinite (“a king”) - in Received Text and 1991 Byzantine text]
These are all indefinite nouns (not definite, not “qualitative”). All trinitarian Bible translations I have examined render them as indefinite! We should have enough examples to satisfy the most critical (but honest) scholar now. (And I wouldn’t strongly resist the use of the “no subject” examples above which clearly intend the subject as being a certain pronoun included with the verb, e.g., “[he] is,” which would then bring our total of proper examples to nearly 20.)
So when all the proper (those most closely equivalent to the actual usage found at John 1:1c) examples found in John’s writings are examined in various trinitarian Bibles (KJV, NASB, RSV, NIV, etc.), we find they are always translated with indefinite concrete nouns such as “you are a prophet” (Jn 4:19) which perfectly corresponds with a rendering of John 1:1c as “The Word was a god”!
The great consistency of renderings by all trinitarian Bibles of these proper examples as compared to the great inconsistency of renderings of “prepositional” (and other improper) examples helps show, not only the impropriety of using “prepositional” examples as evidence, but the complete absence of “qualitative” influence for John 1:1.
Note: Although Watchtower Society (WTS) research and scholarship is usually at least the equal of (and often superior to) that of other sources, I have tried to rely most heavily on other sources in Christendom itself (preferably trinitarian) or my own independent research to provide evidence disproving the trinitarian ‘proof’ being examined in this paper. The reason is, of course, that this paper is meant to provide evidence needed by non-Witnesses, and many of them will not accept anything written by the WTS. They truly believe it is false, even dishonest. Therefore some of the preceding information, all of which helps disprove specific trinitarian “proofs,” may be in disagreement with current WTS teachings in some specifics (especially when I have presented a number of alternates). Jehovah’s Witnesses should research the most recent WTS literature on the subject or scripture in question before using this information with others. – RDB.
1. Bowman tells us in his Why You Should Believe in the Trinity (“An Answer to Jehovah’s Witnesses”):
“... the booklet [Should You Believe in the Trinity? by Jehovah’s Witnesses] continues the JW’s practice of quoting out of context from scholarly sources. Most notable is their use of an article in the Journal of Biblical Literature [JBL] on John 1:1. The booklet goes so far as to claim that the JBL says that the Greek construction of John 1:1 ‘indicates that the logos can be likened to a god’ (p. 27). This is absolutely false. What Philip Harner - who wrote the JBL article - actually said was that had John written ho logos en theos (translating word for word, ‘THE WORD WAS GOD’) this would have meant 'that the logos was “a god” or a divine being of some kind,’ but that John did not write this! Instead Harner points out, John wrote theos en ho logos (translating word for word, ‘GOD WAS THE WORD’), which he concludes means that the Word was God as much as the person called ‘God’ with whom he existed in the beginning.” - p. 95, Robert M. Bowman, Jr., 1989, Baker Book House. (Underlined emphasis and bolding added.)
In reality the Watchtower “Trinity” booklet says on p. 27,
“The [JBL] says that expressions ‘with an anarthrous [no article] predicate preceding the verb, are primarily qualitative in meaning.’ As the Journal notes, this indicates that the logos can be likened to a god. It also says of John 1:1: ‘the qualitative force of the predicate is so prominent that the noun [theos] cannot be regarded as definite.’”
Notice that the writer of the “trinity” booklet does not quote at all (let alone “quoting out of context”) from the JBL when he says that the JBL notes that logos CAN be likened to a god.
Of course it is possible that the writer WAS mistakenly referring to Harner’s statement concerning the exact same words as Jn 1:1c in a different word order (“the word was god” instead of the actual “god was the word”). But I believe he was actually referring to pp. 85-86 in Harner’s article. Here Harner approvingly quotes Bruce Vawter’s interpretation of John 1:1c: “The Word is divine, but he is not all of divinity, for he has already been distinguished from another divine Person.”
When we look up “divine” in the authoritative Webster’s Third New International Dictionary, unabridged, 1962, we find:
“1a: of or relating to God: proceeding from God ... b: of or relating to a god; having the nature of a god; like a god or like that of a god.”
So, yes, the “Trinity” booklet writer (when he says the JBL notes that logos [Word] CAN be likened to a god) has interpreted “The Word is divine” by Vawter as “The Word is like a god.” But as we have seen, this is not a false INTERPRETATION (but WOULD have been a false QUOTE) when we examine the actual meanings of “divine.”
The admission by Harner (and many of the trinitarian scholars he quotes) that only the word order prevents the very same words at John 1:1c from meaning ‘The Word was a god’ is very important! In most cases (including John 1:1) the word order makes no essential difference to the meaning.
As respected trinitarian scholar Dr. Alfred Marshall tells us in his A New Testament Greek Primer:
“An inflected language [like NT Greek] allows of a greater variety in the order of the words of a sentence than a non-inflected one [like modern English]; the case of a noun [not the word order], e.g., unmistakably shows its function. So in Greek - within limits - the order of the words is a matter of style and emphasis; the verb may come first or last, which are the two emphatic positions.” - p. 22, Zondervan, 1978 printing.
Prof. J. G. Machen stressed the same point
“Greek can vary the [word] order much more freely than English .... The English translation [of NT Greek] must be determined by observing the [word] endings, not by observing the [word] order.” - p. 27.
And in a later example illustrating predicate nouns he gave this example: “ho apostolos anthropos estin [word for word: ‘the apostle man is’],” and he translated that sentence (which has an anarthrous predicate noun preceding the verb as in John 1:1c) as “the apostle is a man.” - p. 50, New Testament Greek For Beginners, The Macmillan Company, 1951. Cf. p. 148, A Manual Grammar of the Greek New Testament, by trinitarians Dana and Mantey: “And the place was a market,” The Macmillan Company (see PRIMER 1-2 for similar examples).
Noted trinitarian NT scholar A. T. Robertson admits:
“In Greek prose ... the predicate very commonly comes first, simply because, as a rule, the predicate is the most important thing in the sentence .... But this is true so often, not because of any rule, but simply because the predicate is most frequently the main point in the clause.” - A Grammar of the Greek New Testament in the Light of Historical Research, p. 417.
So word order does not make a difference to John 1:1c. If the word order ‘the word was god’ actually means “The Word was a god” as admitted by the above trinitarian scholar (and others), then the same words in the reverse order (as illustrated by Prof. Machen above) have the same meaning! John 1:1c should be translated “the Word was a god”! Compare all the examples in the writings of John where an anarthrous predicate noun (with no prepositional qualifiers) comes before the verb.
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2. All 4 Gospel writers used the article (“the”) with theos when they were speaking of the only true God. And the only apparent exceptions to this rule occurred when they used theos with prepositional constructions.
We find that the Gospel writers used the nominative theos for the only true God 84 times. Only 6 of those 84 times did they omit the definite article, and each one of those 6 occurred when theos was used with a prepositional construction! It is noteworthy that these Bible writers used theos with prepositional constructions only 18 times altogether. So, they always (all 66 times) used theos with a definite article when speaking of the Almighty God if it was not with a prepositional construction, but they used theos for Jehovah God without the article 1/3 of the time (6 out of 18) when it was with a prepositional construction! (This is of extreme importance to any examination of “rules” meant to apply to John 1:1c.) This evidence is clear and strong enough to prove, by itself, that the NT Gospel writers’ intentions cannot be determined from article usage by nouns modified by prepositional constructions. The article usage (or non-usage) is irregular and ambiguous with such constructions.
We can also see the irregularity of article usage with such prepositional constructions by comparing how they are translated in various trinitarian Bibles:
John 1:23 (without article in the Greek): “the voice of...” - NRSV, RSV, NAB (‘91), ASV, TEV. But “a voice of...” - NASB, NEB, REB, NJB, JB, LB.
John 3:10 (with the definite article): “the teacher of...” - ASV, NASB, NAB (‘91), NJB, Young’s, Beck. But “a teacher of...” - NRSV, RSV, JB, TEV, Revised Berkeley, Moffatt.
John 9:28 (b) (without definite article): “we are disciples [indefinite plural]” - NASB, NIV, RSV. But “we are the disciples of… [definite plural]” - Amplified Bible, Douay-Rheims, Webster’s,
And there are more such examples in the rest of John’s Gospel! (Of course there are also other instances where most Bible writers are able to agree on the significance of article usage - or non-usage - with prepositional constructions, but that agreement is attained only from context and obviously not from the actual use - or non-use - of the article!)
We can also discover that of the 31 anarthrous (without the article) “prepositional” predicate nouns coming before the verb that are found in the writings of John (see pp. 7-8) the King James Version translates 14 as definite, none as indefinite, and 17 as ambiguous (capable of either definite or indefinite interpretation: “his son;” “my servant;” etc.).
But in those very same 31 “prepositional” verses in the RSV, for example, there are only 7 definite and 9 indefinite. And in the same verses in the TEV there are 10 definite and 5 indefinite! In many of these verses, in fact, the King James Version translates one way, and the RSV or TEV translates it in another.
We even see, at John 8:33, the KJV rendering the anarthrous “prepositional” predicate noun ambiguously, the RSV as an indefinite plural, and the TEV as a definite plural! (Also compare Jn 1:12.) And the more Bible translations we look at the more disparity we find among the various translations of prepositional constructions.
More important, when we look at John’s use of the article with prepositional constructions, we see the same problem. Of the 14 times John uses the article with a pre-copulative (coming before the verb) predicate noun we find that 9 are in non-prepositional constructions, and they are nearly always translated as definite by all trinitarian Bible translators. (I’m not certain if John 17:17 has the definite article with the predicate noun or not, however, it is an abstract noun anyway).
But, of the 5 articular (with the article) prepositional constructions, only 2 are consistently translated as definite (Jn 10:21 and Rev. 19:8). The other three are most often translated as indefinite nouns or in the ambiguous possessive form (“his,” “their,” “John’s,” etc.). So, John 6:51, for example, is always translated “my flesh” (ambiguous). Revelation 19:9 is translated “are true words of...” (indefinite plural) just as frequently as it is translated “are the true words of...” (definite plural) or “God’s true words” (ambiguous). And Revelation 21:23 is translated “a lighted torch for...” once and “the lamp of...” once, with all the other translations using the ambiguous “its lamp.” So, again, we find that pre-copulative predicate nouns in prepositional constructions frequently cannot be positively identified as either definite or indefinite whether they have the definite article or not!
In fact, when we examine all the 65 (disregarding the 11 abstract nouns) anarthrous pre-copulative predicate nouns in the list of John’s writings, we see that 31 of them are in prepositional constructions. And we find that in nearly every one of these prepositional constructions (30/31 or 97%) some of the 16 trinitarian Bible translations I have examined have translated it as indefinite and some as definite or with the ambiguous possessive form! Only in John 9:5 (where context makes it clear) do all these trinitarian translations agree that the anarthrous prepositional construction should be understood to be definite (3%).
This is in strong contrast to the translations of proper, non-prepositional construction examples. 96% (28/29) of all the non-prepositional pre-copulative examples were translated by all 16 trinitarian Bibles I have examined (with the single exception of The Jerusalem Bible’s translation of Rev. 17:15) as indefinite! (And a strong case could be made for the single verse that all translations rendered as definite - John 3:29 - also being translated as indefinite.
So we can see that, among other things, there is an extreme inconsistency among translations of nouns found in prepositional “Colwell constructions” versus a highly consistent rendering among translations of non-prepositional “Colwell constructions”! Therefore, trinitarian translators themselves show that prepositional constructions cannot be used to determine whether the Gospel writer intended a definite or indefinite meaning for the noun in question. Obviously, then, such prepositional constructions cannot be used as evidence for a rule that depends on article usage (including Colwell’s Rule, the General Rule, the “Qualitative” Rule, Sharp’s Rule, etc.)!!
Trinitarians themselves should have great difficulty with Colwell’s Rule if they insist on using prepositional constructions: 1 John 3:2 (compare John 1:12), for example, tells us “children of God we are” (also Romans 8:14 - “Sons of God they are” and Gal. 3:26 - “Sons of God you are”). “We” here, then, (according to the misapplied Colwell’s Rule) must be absolutely equal (in the highest sense) to others who are the Children of God (or the Sons of God). Therefore these men and women “must be” absolutely equal not only to the heavenly angels who are also called “the sons of God” but even to “the Son of God”! And, carrying it one step further, since, they say, the Son of God is God, then these human “children of God” “must be” absolutely equal to God! The same reasoning may be applied to the “nature” or “essence” interpretation used by certain “qualitarians.”
In all honesty, however, even if Colwell’s Rule or Harner’s “qualitative” rule really worked, it couldn’t properly be applied here because 1 John 3:2 (and Ro. 8:14 and Gal. 3:26) uses a prepositional construction!
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3. A good example, since it plays a major part in Harner’s “qualitative” JBL article, is “son of God.” It appears likely that Jesus is always referred to as “the Son of God” in the Christian Greek Scriptures. So why is it sometimes written in NT Greek without the definite article? Because of the article irregularity with “prepositonal” constructions, it was unnecessary to use the article which could be understood anyway - particularly for predicate nouns placed before their verbs which placed additional emphasis upon them. Let’s examine all the nominative case “son of God” occurrences in the Christian Greek Scriptures (those which are labeled “subject,” “COLWELL’S P. N.,” “regular p. n.,” or “(?)” below:
an. Matt. 4:3 - “if son you are of the god” - “COLWELL’S” PREDICATE NOUN
an. Matt. 4:6 - “if son you are of the god” (2) - COLWELL’S P.N.
Matt. 8:29 - Noun of Address (Vocative case)
an. Matt. 14:33 - “truthfully of god son you are” - COLWELL’S P.N.
ART. Matt. 16:16 - “you are the christ, the son of the god” - “regular” p.n.
ART. Matt. 26:63 - “if you are the christ, the son of the god” - regular p.n.
an. Matt. 27:40 - “if son you are of the god” - COLWELL’S P.N.
an. Matt. 27:43 - “he said for that of god I am son” - regular p.n. (?)
an. Matt. 27:54 - “truly of god son was this” - COLWELL’S P.N.
ART. Mark 3:11 - “you are the son of the god” - regular p.n.
Mark 5:7 - Noun of Address (Vocative case)
ART. Mark 14:61 - “you are the christ the son of the blessed one?” - reg. p.n.
an. Mark 15:39 - “this the man son of god was” - COLWELL’S P.N.
an. Luke 1:35 - “The (one) being born holy will be called son of god - (?)
an. Luke 4:3 - “if son you are of the god” - COLWELL’S P.N.
an. Luke 4:9 - “if son you are of the god” - COLWELL’S P.N.
ART. Luke 4:41 - “you are the son of the god” - regular p.n.
Luke 8:28 - Noun of Address (Vocative case)
ART. Luke 22:70 - “you therefore are the son of the god?” - regular p.n.
ART. John 1:34 - “this is the son of the god” - regular p.n.
ART. John 1:49 - “you are the son of the god” - regular p.n.
an. John 10:36 - “I said son of the god I am?” - COLWELL’S P.N.
John 11:4 - “might be glorified the son of the god” - subject
ART. John 11:27 - “you are the christ the son of the god” - regular p.n.
ART. John 20:31 - “jesus is the christ the son of the god” - regular p.n.
ART. Acts 9:20 - “this is the son of the god” - regular p.n.
2 Cor 1:19 - “the of the god for son, christ jesus” - subject
1 John 3:8 - “into this was manifested the son of the god” - subject
ART. 1 John 4:15 - “jesus christ is the son of the god” - regular p.n.
ART. 1 John 5:5 - “jesus is the son of the god” - regular p.n.
1 John 5:20 - “we have known but that the son of the god is come” - subject
Rev. 2:18 - “is saying the son of the god” - subject
We can see from the above examples that, when “son of God” (as a subject or “normal” predicate noun) was used, “the” was nearly always used with it (at least 18 out of 20 times) when it referred to Jesus: “the Son of God.” We can understand this as the probable intended meaning for the term whenever it was used for Jesus. (Even the two possible exceptions - Matt. 27:43 and Luke 1:35 - are rendered as “the Son of God” in the 4 Bible translations that are usually considered to be the most accurate: RSV, ASV, NIV, NASB.)
We see that, with only those two possible exceptions, the only time “the” did not accompany “son of God” was when that term was used as a predicate noun before its verb! And in that construction the article (“the”) was never used even though “the” is clearly intended in those cases as a comparison of the context and usage of these “Colwell” examples with their articular non-“Colwell” examples shows.
Yes, in all 9 of the examples where the predicate noun precedes the verb it is without the definite article, but “the Son of God” should be understood nevertheless. There is no honest, objective reason to “find” a “qualitative” meaning for these and not for the others. “The” is often understood when a “prepositional” predicate noun precedes its verb, and it seems that it is always so understood in the case of “son of God”!
The only apparent exceptions are found at Matt. 27:43 and Luke 1:35. “Son” is found after the verb at Matt. 27:43 and since it is modified by the “prepositional” “of God,” which makes such nouns inconsistently use the article, it is possible to translate it properly as “the Son of God” anyway. In fact, that is the most probable meaning, not only because of all the other uses of this phrase when applied to Jesus, and the actual translations by the most respected modern Bibles, but because of what Jesus actually called himself. Notice that Jesus admitted to previously calling himself “son of God” at John 10:36. We know he means “the Son of God” because the “prepositional” predicate noun comes before its verb AND because, when we examine the scripture he is referring to (John 5:25), we see that at that time the wording he actually used was “the Son of God.” Therefore, we can see that the Jews speaking at Matt. 27:43 are also referring to the incidents quoted at John 10:36 and John 5:25 (and possibly John 11:4) which must be understood as “the Son of God.”
However, it may be that there is another consideration with this verse. Notice that an anarthrous “of God” precedes the verb. Normally, when “of God” precedes the verb, the anarthrous “son” is with it (also preceding the verb), but, when it follows the verb, it has the article with it (“of the God”), and an articular “son” accompanies it, or an anarthrous “son” precedes the verb. It is, therefore, possible that this exception to that normal order indicates either (1) a copyist’s error or (2) some influence of the modifying anarthrous genitive preceding the verb. Colwell also considered “son of God” in this verse to be definite: “it may be significant that Qeou [‘of God’] precedes the verb.” - JBL, Vol. 52, p. 14.
As for the apparent exception of Luke 1:35 we again could consider it as merely the result of the normal uncertainty known to influence most “prepositional” constructions (see footnote #1). Or we might consider it as the result of a poorly understood choice of NT wording. Respected trinitarian scholar Moule, for example, admits to at least two very different understandings for this verse (p. 107, Moule). Another honest rendering of this verse could be: “The [child] which is to be born shall be called holy. [He is] the Son of God.” If the verb estin really is to be understood here (as often happens in the NT), then it would most likely have been understood to follow the anarthrous predicate noun (“son of god”) and as in all other such cases it would then be properly understood as “the Son of God”!
At any rate, it is easy to see the very strong tendency of pre-copulative anarthrous “prepositional” predicate nouns to require an understood definite article. But this does not apply to proper examples (non-prepositional count noun predicate nouns such as found in John 1:1c)!
If you also examine all the nominative case “Son of Man” examples in the NT, you will find that all but one of the nearly 50 examples have the definite article with it. That one exception - John 5:27 - is also the only instance of a pre-copulative [Colwell’s P.N.] “Son of Man,” and, again, many Bible translations, including RSV, NASB, and NIV, render it “the Son of Man.”
Also compare all the nominative case “light of the world”; and “king of the Jews/Israel” examples as applied to Jesus in the writings of John: All have the article except those predicate nouns which precede the verb: (John 1:9; 3:19; 8:12; 9:5 and John 1:49; 18:33; 19:3; 19:19; 19:21a; 19:21b.) We find the same results with all the nominative examples of “father of ...” in John’s writings: John 5:17; 8:39; 8:42; 8:44; 8:54; 8:56; 14:23.
It is, therefore, not surprising that Colwell, and others, found a “definite” rule for anarthrous pre-copulative predicate nouns (to help them find a trinitarian interpretation for John 1:1) when they examined “prepositional” predicate nouns. However, this strong influence does not carry over to non-“prepositional” proper examples as typified by the all-important John 1:1c. And it certainly shows no “Qualitative” influence! (Although it is easier to subjectively “find” such an influence when you examine “prepositional” predicate nouns.)
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4. Harner tells us that here (Mark 3:35)
“it is especially clear that Jesus is using the words brother, sister, and mother in a figurative sense. Colwell’s rule,” he continues, “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.” - p. 78.
In figurative use the figurative noun does not reflect the literal qualities of that object or person. It takes a single quality (and often even adapts that to fit) and concentrates on that alone. Thus God is definitely not a rock in any literal sense! When this predicate noun is applied figuratively to him (e.g., 2 Sam. 22:32; Ps. 18:31; 73:26; 92:15), it does not mean that he actually has the nature of a rock. He is not literally composed of dead mineral matter. He certainly is not incapable of movement or unable to see, hear, feel, and think! (These compose the real nature of a rock.) It means only that he is steadfast (a figurative, not actual, comparison with the physical solidness and hardness of a rock) - one aspect of his personality. The followers of Jesus who do the Father’s will are his “mother” only in the aspect of his affection toward them. They certainly did not have sexual relations with a human father and physically give birth to and literally nurse and nurture someone as the actual nature of the figurative noun “mother” would require.
A figurative use makes use of a noun which is extremely different from the actual subject and lets the reader’s mind find the single attribute which is similar to one outstanding attribute of the subject. The subject does not have the same nature as the figurative comparison. The purpose of Harner’s paper is, of course, to put a trinitarian interpretation on John 1:1. So let’s take his figurative example and apply it to John 1:1. If we take “god is the word” as a figurative statement (as Mark 3:35), we have to conclude that there is only one aspect of “a god” (or even “God,” if you insist) that may be compared to one attribute of the Word. And, furthermore, the subject, the Word, cannot be the figurative “God” (or even “a god”) literally.
Also figurative usage does not make use of “clues” to show how it is to be understood. The writer uses the very same words and constructions to describe the figurative objects as he does when he describes them literally. That is the very nature of figurative language: the description seems literal, but the reader uses his mind to solve the apparent puzzle and fully appreciate the writer’s meaning. Jesus uses the very same words in his description of his literal mother, brothers, sisters as he does in his figurative description. His first, literal, description uses the definite article. His figurative description must be understood to also use the definite article as well. It was not removed to provide any qualitative/figurative “clues”, but only because it was not required since the prepositional predicate noun preceded the verb and the article was understood to be there anyway.
It is not only because the prepositional predicate noun comes before its verb that we can be assured that the figurative “brothers, mother” should be understood to have the definite article with them. We can see that Matthew (and Mark in his parallel account) has Jesus applying the figurative sense “mother and brothers of me” to his disciples and using the article with it in the verse before this one - Matt. 12:49 (cf. Mk 3:34). Since he has already used the article with these very same terms for a figurative “Qualitative” meaning, we must expect him to do the same thing in the very next verse. The definite articles must be understood here. His disciples were “the mother” of him in 12:49 and they cannot now be “a mother” of him in 12:50. And word order cannot make the terms any more “qualitative” or figurative than they are already in 12:49 with the article! (We can also see Jesus’ figurative, Qualitative use of “the mother of you” needs the definite article at Jn 19:27. Cf. Paul’s figurative use at Ro. 16:13 - Rufus’ literal mother is Paul’s figurative mother: “the mother of...”.)
We also have Luke’s parallel account of this. He tells us at Luke 8:21 after Jesus was told that “the mother of you and the brothers of you” wanted to see him: “Mother of me and brothers of me these are the ones the word of God hearing and doing.” Here we can be assured that the article was dropped merely because it was already understood from the previous verse and the nouns are in a prepositional construction. We don’t have any obfuscation from a predicate noun preceding the verb here. The nouns in question are the subject of the sentence, and so we don’t have any of the (nonexistent) “qualitative influence” (or “definite” influence of a Colwell’s rule) of a predicate noun preceding its verb. These, then, are simply “prepositional” nouns that are to be understood to be definite which are used in a figurative manner.
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5. Since this paper was originally written, I have obtained new translations by trinitarian translators (long after Harner published his well-publicized article in the JBL. (Don’t forget that this was already a well known trinitarian-devised theory long before Harner, but Harner gave it a new push in popularity among trinitarians.)
Mark 11:32: “a prophet” (NKJV – 1982); “a prophet” (NRSV – 1989); “a prophet” (REB – 1989); “a prophet” (NAB – 1991); “a real prophet” (NJB – 1985); “a prophet indeed” (MKJV – 1993); “a prophet indeed” (Revised Webster Bible – 1995); “a prophet” (NLT - 1996, 2007); “a prophet” (ESV - 2001, 2007); “a prophet indeed” (KJ21 - 1994); “a prophet” (CEV - 1995); “a prophet” (CEB - 2011); “a prophet” (ERV - 2006); “a true prophet” (GW - 1995); “a genuine prophet” (HCSB - 1999, 2003); “a prophet” (MSG - 1993, 2002); “a prophet” - (NCV); “a prophet” - (NIV1984 - 1984); and more.
I have found no Bible (trinitarian or otherwise) which renders this in a ‘qualitative’ manner. Nothing even remotely similar to, “he has the complete essence of the great Prophet.” or “He is one with the Most High Prophinity.” Or even, “He is prophetlike.” There is nothing but the interpretation that John was one member of a certain class: he was a prophet.
Isaiah was a prophet. Jonah was a prophet. John the Baptist was a prophet Jesus was a prophet. They are all members of a class: prophets. Some are better than others. Some members of this class are even false prophets. But each one can be said to be a prophet. - See DEF 15-16 and QUAL 10-11 (f.n. #9).
Also consider: how a ‘Qualitarian’ (whether he is one who uses the Colwell Construction approach or one who merely says any predicate noun without the article is ‘qualitative’) would define “carpenter.” He would, to be consistent with the John 1:1c approach, say it is someone who has all the qualities of “carpenterness” in the highest degree.
And yet this same person, who, let’s say, really is the best carpenter ever, could give up his profession and become a poet. He might be the world’s worst poet, but he enjoys it and does nothing else. Now if the Qualitarian were correct, he would still be “Carpenter” and, yet, he is not.
He is no more now than ‘a poet,’ even though he still has all the “qualities” of the best carpenter ever, he is no longer one. He is now a very poor poet.
The only proper way to describe it is (no matter how much you want to make it “qualitative”): “He is a carpenter (indefinite).” And then, later, “Now he is a poet (indefinite).”
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6. Harner sums up his “qualitative” interpretation of this scripture:
“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.”
So, if they had really bought into this interpretation, we would expect, since 1974 at least, all respected trinitarian translators to render Mark 15:39 as “God’s son.” (Actually we should expect something more than this ambivalent waffling if we wanted to make Jn 1:1c fit the ‘qualitative’ reasoning of some trinitarians. Perhaps, ‘This man had the very nature of the Son of God.’ Or, ‘This man had the full essence of the Son of God.’)
But notice how these respected trinitarian translations render it: “This man must have been a son of God.” – REB (1989 revision of the New English Bible); “Truly this man was the Son of God!” – NAB (1991 revision of the 1970 New American Bible); “Surely this man was the Son of God!” – NIVSB (f.n. for Mk 15:39 in this popular 1985 study Bible does not refute this rendering but re-affirms it by referring to the notes at Matt. 27:54 and Luke 23:47 which support ‘the Son of God’ and not ‘God’s Son.’) Surely, if they had put the slightest credence in Harner’s ‘qualitative’ interpretation, they would have rendered it, at the very least, as he suggested. Of course some Bibles do render it as ‘God’s Son.’ But this does not truly show a ‘qualitative’ meaning any more than ‘This is Joseph’s son’ or ‘This is Tom’s waffle iron” shows some mysterious ‘qualitative’ meaning.
It is silly to imply that the use of the possessive form of a noun in English (e.g., ‘God’s’) has some further ‘qualitative’ meaning. Does that really mean that the translators of the NRSV (1989 revision of the 1952 Revised Standard Version); the NKJV (1982); and REB (as well as NASB; NIV; RSV; MLB; ASV; KJV; etc.) intended some qualitative thing about Jesus’ knees at Luke 5:8: “He fell down at Jesus’ knees”? And did the translators of NJB, the 1985 revision of the Jerusalem Bible (as well as NASB; NIV; NRSV; RSV; REB; LB; NAB; ASV; KJV; etc.), really have some ‘qualitative’ meaning of ‘daughter’ when they rendered Acts 7:21 ‘Pharaoh’s daughter’?
No, if a translator really intends a ‘qualitative’ meaning he will use words which honestly express a ‘qualitative meaning! The very common use of a possessive form noun is not such a usage!
But, look as I may, I have discovered no trinitarian translators who have rendered Harner’s examples [I do not intend a qualitative ‘examples’ here] in Mark in a clear ‘qualitative’ way! I would not be too surprised to find some trinitarian translator somewhere has done such a thing to back up the manufactured ‘qualitative’ rule - - but I haven’t found one yet!
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7. Respected trinitarian scholar and NT translator, Dr. William Barclay, translates “flesh” at this verse as “a person [‘a human being’ - LB, GNB, and Phillips; ‘a man’ - ETRV ] ” - a singular indefinite noun. - The Gospel of John, Vol. 1, The Daily Study Bible Series, Revised Edition, Westminster Press, 1975.
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8. Harner sums up this ‘qualitative’ verse:
‘In 9:24 John writes that some Jews said of Jesus, “We know that οὗτος ὁ ἄνθρωπος ἁμαρτωλός ἐστιν [houtos ho anthropos hamartolos 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.’
And, again, if any trinitarian Bible translators had really put any faith in Harner’s ‘rule,’ they would certainly have rendered this verse to show the ‘most prominent’ ‘qualitative aspect’ of this predicate! We certainly wouldn’t show such a strong ‘qualitative aspect’ by merely using the indefinite article in the English translation [‘a sinner’] which definitely does not indicate any ‘qualitative aspect’ whatsoever!
Instead we would have ‘This man is the very essence of sin,’ or ‘this man has the complete essence of sin,’ or, at the very least, ‘this man is completely sinful in nature’!
Do we ever see anything remotely like this in respected trinitarian translations? No! The best trinitarian scholars have rejected such a concept in their very own translations!
“This man is a sinner.” – NKJV (1982); NRSV (1989); NJB (1985); NAB (1991); REB (1989); MKJV (1993); Revised Webster’s Bible (1995).
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9. To illustrate the importance of the article for the meaning of theos in the great majority of instances in the 4 “Gospels,” let’s look at all the uses of theos (in its nominative form) in the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke as found in the Westcott and Hort (W and H) text.—If the definite article (“the”) is used with theos, “art.” has been written after the verse number. If the definite article is not there, “an.” (for “anarthrous”) has been written before the verse number:
Matthew 1:23 -- art.
Mt 3:9 -- art.
Mt 6:8 -- art. (W and H)
Mt 6:30 -- art.
Mt 15:4 -- art.
Mt 19:6 -- art.
Mt 22:32 -- art. (4 occurrences) “the God of....” (W and H)
Mark 2:7 -- art.
Mk 10:9 -- art.
Mk 10:18 -- art.
Mk 12:26 -- art. (2 occurrences)
an. Mk 12:26 -- (2 occurrences) God of....”
an. Mk 12:27 -- “a God of...”
Mk 12:29 -- art. “the God of...”
Mk 13:19 -- art.
Mk 15:34 -- art. “the God of me” (2 occurrences)
Luke 1:32 -- art.
Lk 1:68 -- art. “the God of...”
Lk 3:8 -- art.
Lk 5:21 -- art.
Lk 7:16 -- art.
Lk 8:39 -- art.
Lk 12:20 -- art.
Lk 12:24 -- art.
Lk 12:28 -- art.
Lk 16:15 -- art.
Lk 18:7 -- art.
Lk 18:11 -- art.
Lk 18:13 -- art.
Lk 18:19 -- art. (W and H, UBS - anarth. in Nestle) - appositive
an. Lk 20:38 -- “a God of...”
We can see that of 37 usages of “theos” (in nominative form as found at John 1:1c) for the only true God by these 3 Bible writers 33 of them have the definite article! That’s 90% of the time! But let’s examine the 4 “exceptions.”
Nouns used as subjects or predicate nouns (i.e. the nominative case) if they are modified by a “prepositional” phrase (e.g. “God to me,” “the God of Israel,” etc.) may or may not take the article. The use of the article under those conditions appears to be purely arbitrary and is used at random with little or no significance. A good example of this is found at 2 Cor. 4:4 - “the god of this age [or system]....”
Of all the 37 uses of theos (nominative case) by Matthew, Mark, and Luke, can you guess which ones are modified by “prepositional” usages? That’s right! The 4 “exceptions” are all modified by “prepositions”!
Mark 12:26 says literally: “the God said, ‘I [am] the God of Abraham and God of Isaac and God of Jacob.’” But the parallel account at Matthew 22:32 says literally: “I am the God of Abraham and the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob.” Even though Mark didn’t use the definite article with theos in the last half of this verse, it made no difference to the meaning because of the uncertainty of meaning inherent in such “prepositional” usages. Matthew did use the article in the parallel account, but its use under those circumstances was unnecessary. (It was Matthew’s custom to always use the article with theos when referring to the true God regardless of grammatical options, but, obviously, Mark and Luke sometimes took advantage of the “prepositional” article uncertainty to ignore the usually required article for “God.”)
This is further shown at the continuation of these parallel accounts.
Matt. 22:32 says literally: “not he is the God of dead.” But the parallel account
at Mark 12:27 says literally: “not he is God of dead.” And the parallel account
at Luke 20:38 says literally: “God not he is of dead.”
Notice that Both Mark and Luke do not use the definite article, but most trinitarian Bible translators consider them just as definite as the parallel verse in Matthew which does use the definite article - NIV, TEV, ASV, NAB, NASB, C.B. Williams, Beck, The Amplified Bible. (But due to the article inconsistency with “prepositional” constructions we can also find indefinite translations of these verses: “a God” - KJV, Mo, NWT; and “He is not God of the dead” - NEB, JB, ASV, Phillips.)
You can also see that “God” in Mark 12:27 is a predicate noun which comes after its verb, whereas “God” in Luke 20:38 is a predicate noun which comes before its verb. But, since both are frequently translated “the God,” we can easily see that it is not because of word position, but because of the “prepositional” constructions, which these verses have in common, that they are so translated. And, obviously, we shouldn’t understand Matthew’s verse as definite but Mark’s as indefinite and Luke’s as “Qualitative.” They should probably all be rendered “the God of the dead”!
So we see that, if we exclude all the nouns used with “prepositional” phrases (in which there is little or no significance for the definite article), we then find that Matthew, Mark, and Luke always (in all 25 instances) use the definite article with the nominative form for theos when they mean the only true God!
And if we include all the writings of Gospel writer Luke (Acts was also written by Luke), we find the definite article is still always used with the non-“prepositional” nominative theos (in all 77 instances) when the only true God is the subject! Yes, Acts always uses the article with its 61 uses of the nominative theos for God - even in the 9 “possessive” instances!
But it doesn’t matter what language rules may be used by others. What really matters is: What rules are being used by this writer? For example, one of the many rules of standard English tells that one must use the subject form pronoun as a predicate noun. I.e., one should say, “It is I;” “It is he;” etc. And yet many Americans say (and write), “It’s me;” “It’s him;” etc. So we must always carefully examine the rules that the writer in question uses in order to understand what meaning he really intended!
Therefore, to find the importance of the article for the precise meaning of theos in the writings of John, let’s look at all the places in his writings where he used the nominative case theos.
There are 50 such uses of theos by John (17 in the Gospel of John). Here is the list of every theos (nominative case) used by John. If it has the definite article, “art.” has been written after the verse number. If it does not have the definite article, “an.” (for “anarthrous”) has been written before the verse number. If it appears to be applied to Jesus, “Jesus” has been written after the verse number.
an. John 1:1c - - - Jesus
an. Jn 1:18* - - - - Jesus (an. theos in W and H; Nestle; UBS - [art. ‘son’ in Received text and Byzantine text])
Jn 3:2 art.
Jn 3:16 art.
Jn 3:17 art.
Jn 3:33 art.
Jn 3:34 art.
Jn 4:24 art.
Jn 6:27 art.
Jn 8:42 art.
an. Jn 8:54 - - -“God of you”
Jn 9:29 art.
Jn 9:31 art.
Jn 11:22 art.
Jn 13:31 art.
Jn 13:32 art.
Jn 20:28 art. Jesus (?) “God of me” (See the MYGOD study)
1 John 1:5 art.
1 Jn 3:20 art.
1 Jn 4:8 art.
1 Jn 4:9 art.
1 Jn 4:11 art.
1 Jn 4:12 art.
1 Jn 4:15 art.
1 Jn 4:16 art. (3 occurrences)
1 Jn 5:10 art.
1 Jn 5:11 art.
1 Jn 5:20 art.
Rev. 1:1 art.
Rev. 1:8 art.
Rev. 4:8 art.
Rev. 4:11 art. “the God of us”
Rev. 7:17 art.
Rev. 11:17 art.
Rev. 15:3 art.
Rev. 16:7 art.
Rev. 17:17 art.
Rev. 18:5 art.
Rev. 18:8 art.
Rev. 18:20 art.
Rev. 19:6 art. “the God of us”
Rev. 21:3 art.
an. Rev. 21:7 ---- “God to him”
Rev. 21:22 art.
Rev. 22:5 art.
Rev. 22:6 art. “the God of the spirits”
Rev. 22:18 art.
Rev. 22:19 art.
We can see that out of at least 47 uses of theos for the only true God (all those apparently not applied to Jesus), 45 of them have the definite article.
We can also see that of the 3 uses of theos that appear to be applied to Jesus (obviously Jn 1:1c and Jn 1:18 are applied to him; Jn 20:28 is not so certain - see John 20:28 study paper - “MY GOD”), two of them (Jn 1:1c and 1:18) do not have the article. If the article before theos indicates that the only true God is being spoken of, and if the absence of the article before theos usually indicates “god” or “a god” is being spoken of, how do we explain John 8:54 (absence of article even though applied to God), John 20:28 (article present even though, possibly, applied to Jesus), and Rev. 21:7 (article absent even though applied to God)?
Again we need to examine these “exceptions” as we did those of Matthew, Mark, and Luke. Remember that nouns in the nominative case, if they are used in a “prepositional” construction (such as “God of me,” “God of Israel,” etc.), may or may not use the article with little or no effect on the actual meaning.
Of all the 50 uses of theos by John can you guess which ones are with “prepositional” phrases? That’s right! John 8:54 says literally: “you are saying that God of you is.” John 20:28 says literally: “the Lord of me and the God [or “god”] of me.” Revelation 21:7 says literally: “I shall be to him God and he will be to me son.”
That the last scripture (Rev. 21:7) should be considered in the same way as “of him” (i.e., the use of the article is basically without meaning in this case) is shown not only by its “prepositional” meaning (“God to him” and “son to me”) but by the actual usage in this very scripture.
We can see that God (the God) is speaking here at Rev. 21:7. “The” should normally be here to indicate “God” and not “god” but is not. If anyone should say that the grammar used indicates that it should be understood to be there, you should point out that the very same grammar is used in the following words of the same verse—“he will be to me son.” If the article must be understood to be with “God” in this verse, it must also be understood to be with “son.” This would mean that “anyone” who overcomes is “the Son of God.” But we know “the Son of God” is exclusively Jesus. Therefore, the intended meaning of article usage (or non-usage) in this verse must be determined only by context as in other prepositional usages.
There are only 3 other places in John’s writings where a nominative case theos is modified by a “prepositional” phrase: Rev. 4:11, Rev. 19:6, and Rev. 22:6. These, however, do have the definite article. So sometimes John uses the article with a “prepositional” noun and sometimes he doesn’t. Which is exactly what we would expect when the use of the article is purely arbitrary in such circumstances!
So we find that if we exclude all the “prepositional” constructions (only 6 for theos in all of John’s writings) as we should, then all of the remaining 44 instances of theos follow the rule (theos with article = “God,” and theos without article = “god”).
Yes, 42 of these 44 proper examples of article usage with the nominative theos by John refer to the only true God, and all 42 of them use the article! Can you guess which of the 44 are the only 2 which do not use the article (and, therefore, should properly be translated “god”)? That’s right, the only 2 which obviously refer to Jesus: John 1:1 and John 1:18*!
In fact, there is a total of 117 places in ALL of the writings of the 4 Gospel writers where the nominative case theos in non-“prepositional” form is applied to the only true God. Every one of them has the definite article! The only 2 places in all of these inspired scriptures where theos in non-“prepositional” uses is clearly not applied to the only true God, the Father, (John 1:1c and John 1:18) also just “happen” to be the only 2 places that do not have the definite article! So, in all 119 of the non-“prepositional” uses of the nominative theos by the Gospel writers the presence of the definite article always determines the only true God!
* Note: John 1:18 is a disputed scripture. Trinitarian scholars and translators themselves are strongly divided as to whether the original writing here was an anarthrous or articular “only-begotten son (huios)” or an anarthrous or articular “only-begotten theos.”
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10. Since a proper understanding of John 1:1c is our real objective, only the writings of John can provide the answer. However, other (trinitarian) scholars have also examined some of the writings of the other gospel writers in an attempt to justify a trinitarian rule for Jn 1:1c. Therefore let’s also examine all the proper examples found in the synoptic gospels.
In the Gospel of Matthew here are all the predicate nouns I found which precede their verbs: Matt. 2:23; 4:3, 6; 5:9, 34, 35 (bis); 6:23; 8:9; 12:8, 27, 50; 13:39 (b), 13:39 (c); 14:26, 33; 16:23; 21:13; 22:32 (b); 23:8 (b), 31; 25:35, 43; 26:48; 27:6,40, 42, 54.
According to Harner (as we have already examined) here are all the predicate nouns that precede their verbs in the Gospel of Mark: Mark 2:28; 3:35; 6:49; 11:17; 11:32; 12:35; 14:70; 15:39.
In the Gospel of Luke we find the following predicate nouns that precede their verbs: 1:32, 76; 4:3, 9, 22; 5:8; 6:5; 7:8, 39; 9:38; 11:19, 29, 35, 48; 13:16; 17:10; 19:9, 21, 22; 20:6 [accusative], 38; 21:22; 22:59; 23:6, 50.
The underlined verses above are all the non-prepositional anarthrous predicate nouns which precede their verbs in the synoptic gospels. Here is a closer examination of them and how they have been translated in the KJV and the four most-respected (for scholarship and accuracy - see, for example, the evaluation of these Bibles in Zondervan’s So Many Versions?) trinitarian Bibles (RSV, NASB, NIV, ASV):
1. Mt 2:23 - indefinite (“a Nazarene”) - all (KJV, RSV, NASB, NIV, ASV) n.s.
2. Mt 4:3 - - indefinite amount (“bread”) - all except RSV - pl.
- indefinite plural (“loaves [of bread]”) - RSV. (ASV f.n. “Gr. loaves”)
3. Mt 6:23 - indefinite plural/amount (“darkness”) - all - pl.
4. Mt 8:9 - - indefinite - may be prepositional - (“a man”) - all
5. Mt 13:39 (c) - indefinite plural (“angels”) - all except KJV- pl. (“the angels”) - KJV only
6. Mt 14:26 - indefinite (“a ghost”) - all - n.s.
7. Mt 23:8 (b) - indefinite plural (“brothers/brethren”) - all - pl.
8. Mt 25:35 - indefinite (“a stranger”) - all - n.s.
9. Mt 25:43 - indefinite (“a stranger”) - all - n.s.
10. Mt 26:48 - pronoun - (“he”) - cannot use articles with pronoun - n.s.
11. Mk 6:49 - indefinite (“a ghost”) - all - n.s.
12. Mk 11:32 - indefinite (“a prophet”) - all - n.s. ?
13. Mk 14:70 - indefinite (“a Galilean”) - all - n.s.
14. Lk 4:3 - - indefinite amount (“bread”) - all. (ASV f.n. “or a loaf”)
15. Lk 5:8 - - indefinite (“a sinful man”) - all - n.s.
16. Lk 7:39 - - indefinite (“a sinner”) - all - n.s.
17. Lk 11:35 - - indefinite plural/amount (“darkness”) - all - pl.
18. Lk 17:10 - - indefinite plural (“slaves/servants”) - all - pl.
19. Lk 19:21 - - indefinite (“a harsh man”) - all - n.s.
20. Lk 19:22 - - indefinite (“a harsh man”) - all
(Lk 20:6 - - accusative case)
21. Lk 22:59 - - indefinite (“a Galilean”) - all - n.s.
22. Lk 23:6 - - indefinite (“a Galilean”) - all
23. Lk 23:50 - - indefinite (“a counsellor”) - KJV, ASV - see interlinears
(“a member”) - NASB, RSV, NIV
n.s. = no subject; pl. = plural
Notice that for the 4 most respected, most accurate Bible translations available today all of the proper non-prepositional examples in the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke are understood to have indefinite predicate nouns. Not definite - - not “qualitative” - - BUT 100% INDEFINITE!
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11. All examples of a participial phrase used by John as a subject in an otherwise proper example of a construction parallel to Jn 1:1c:
Jn 3:29 - “The having [participle] the bride bridegroom is” [literal NT Greek]. Here the complete subject is “the having the bride” which must be understood as “the man (or ‘person,’ ‘one,’ etc.) having the bride.” So the subject here is not a single, unmodified noun (as in Jn 1:1c), but a modifying participial phrase with the actual simple subject [‘man,’ ‘person,’ etc.] actually missing and uncertain!
[“Bridegroom” in this example is most often translated “the bridegroom.” However, the eminent trinitarian scholar Dr. Alfred Marshall has, instead, translated it literally as “a bridegroom” in his The Zondervan Parallel New Testament in Greek and English, Zondervan Bible Publishers, 1980 (also see the interlinear portion of The Emphatic Diaglott). This is significant because Dr. Marshall does not use the indefinite article (“a”) with anarthrous nouns unless he considers them indefinite. For example, he inserts “[the]” before “beginning” at Jn 1:1, 2 and before “will” at Jn 1:13 even though they are anarthrous. So when he inserts “a” before “bridegroom” at Jn 3:29, he is saying it should be rendered as an indefinite noun! ]
1 Jn 2:4 - “The saying [participle] that I have known him and not observing [participle] the commandments of him liar is.” The participial phrases, then, take the place of a noun (or nouns) as the subject: “The saying that I have known him and not observing his commandments” and has to be understood as “The man [or ‘person,’ ‘one,’ etc.] who says, ‘I know him,’ but does not observe his commandments is a liar.” The subject is actually missing and is even somewhat uncertain.
1 Jn 3:15a - “Every the (ho) [‘man,’ ‘brother,’ etc. must be understood] hating [participle] the brother of him murderer is.” The participial phrase, then, including an understood noun serves as a subject: “Every the hating his brother”! This is always rendered, “Every man hating his brother is a murderer” (never the qualitative “murderous” nor the definite “the murderer.”
I believe John 3:29 may be mistranslated in most Bibles. It seems probable to me that the anarthrous ‘bridegroom’ here is to be understood as ‘a bridegroom.’ (However, the effect of an “abbreviated” or “shorthand” subject could also allow for an “abbreviated” predicate noun. That is, since the subject had the noun left out, the predicate noun could have the article left out also - see Paul’s use of such “abbreviated” statements in the MARTIN study paper. In that case “the bridegroom would be correct, but certainly not because of word order.)
The facts that the only other comparable examples in John’s writings are properly translated with indefinite predicate nouns (“a liar;” “a murderer”) in all Bibles and that the eminent trinitarian NT Greek scholar Dr. Marshall renders “a bridegroom” at Jn 3:29 (as does The Emphatic Diaglott, interlinear section) make this understanding a distinct probability. But, in any case, it is not truly comparable to Jn 1:1c and should be excluded as a proper example on that ground alone.
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12. John 6:70 - “out of you one devil is” - NT Greek text. - “... one of you is a devil” - RSV.
“One who sins belongs to the devil, like Cain (1 Jn 3:8, 12); or he is a devil himself, like Judas, the betrayer (Jn 6:70). .... Jesus’ enemies are called children [and sons] of the devil, i.e. those who share his nature and behaviour (Jn 8:44) [Acts 13:10; 1 Jn 3:10].” - p. 472, Vol. 3, The New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology, 1986, Zondervan.
So a man who is from [literally “out of,” ek] the Devil (1 Jn 3:8), and is a ‘son of the Devil’ (Acts 13:10), and who is “with the Devil (whether physically or figuratively) may also be called “a devil” (Jn 6:70)! So Judas, for example, could be described in NT terms: “Judas was with ho diabolos [the Devil], and diabolos was Judas.” And no matter how anyone wants to interpret it, it would be incredibly wrong to insist (as many trinitarians do about Jn 1:1c) that this meant Judas was literally, equally the Devil himself! Whether you translate it literally (“Judas was with the Devil, and Judas was a devil”) or ‘qualitatively’ (“Judas was with the Devil, and Judas had the “nature” of the Devil”), it would mean essentially the same thing: Judas simply shared to some degree some (or one) of the qualities of the Devil, but he is not equally the Devil with Satan himself!
Although trinitarian-translated Bibles at John 6:70 disagree, trinitarian scholar Daniel B. Wallace tries to solve this difficulty by saying that Jesus is actually calling Judas “THE Devil” here, but not in a literal sense. Think about that. Even with this unusual interpretation, we find that calling Judas “the Devil” in a figurative sense still means that Jesus is comparing Judas to Satan in some non-literal sense. He is not really calling Judas the actual Devil, but is referring to some quality of Satan that Judas exhibits to some degree. If that were really the case (although not supported by most trinitarian scholars), then the parallel John 1:1c would also merely show the Word exhibiting some quality of God to some degree.
No reasonable person would accept any of this as evidence for some mysterious ‘Satanity’ where Judas is equally The Devil with Satan!
So why do so many trinitarians accept the very same unreasonable ‘evidence’ as proof that the Word was equally God at John 1:1c?
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