(From the RDB Files)
The ‘Qualitative’ John 1:1c
Daniel B. Wallace in his “Greek Grammar and Syntax,” pp. 92-99 of Selected Notes on the Syntax of New Testament Greek, 1981 ed., has modified Colwell’s Rule in what may be the best possible attempt at making a NT grammatical rule to justify the trinitarian translation of “and the Word was God” at John 1:1c. Certainly, though, “credit” must be given to Philip B. Harner’s promotion of this concept in the 1973 Journal of Biblical Literature (JBL), Vol. 92, pp. 75-87. (See the HARNER study.)
Although Wallace disagrees with Colwell’s interpretation (see the DEF study) and claims that Colwell died in ignorance of the real significance of his own “Rule,” he still insists that there is proof of Jesus’ “Deity” at John 1:1c when the “Rule” is “properly” understood.
In short, Colwell claimed that his rule showed that the anarthrous predicate nominative, when it came before the verb, should in many cases be interpreted to be a definite noun if the context so required. Therefore, he said, it is more likely that John 1:1c should be translated “'And the Word was God ["the god" understood]’ than ‘And the Word was divine [as translated by some trinitarian scholars]’ when viewed with reference to this rule” - p. 21, JBL, 1933, Vol. 52. (See the DEF study.)
Wallace, however, says (p. 94) that, when the anarthrous predicate noun precedes the verb, it will be either definite (but only very rarely) or (nearly always) “qualitative” [footnotes may be found in Appendix B]. He rules out the possibility of an indefinite interpretation (“a god” at John 1:1c, for example) in this particular construction. If the anarthrous predicate nominative comes after the verb, however, he allows it to be either indefinite or “qualitative” but, except for rare instances, rules out a definite interpretation. He thereby has allowed himself to use the “qualitative” interpretation anytime he chooses!
He also, properly, rules out the possibility that John 1:1c could be properly interpreted with a definite theos (“the god”) in spite of Colwell’s firm insistence to the contrary:
“Since there are 3 persons in the Trinity, it is not proper to conceive of ‘God’ as being summed up by ‘the Word!’”
In other words, if the definite article had been with theos, it would have been considered a “convertible proposition” (see p. 22, Marshall’s Greek Primer), and “the Word” would have been the entire 3-person “God.”
“Therefore,” Wallace concludes, “we are shut up to the last possibility, qualitativeness.” - p. 96. [Harner also rejects the possibility of a definite theos at John 1:1c - p. 87, Harner, JBL.]
So, in an attempt to retain the “full Deity” idea for the Word at John 1:1c, trinitarian Wallace is forced into insisting that the “qualitative” interpretation shows that, although the Father (who Wallace admits is “the god” in the first part of John 1:1!) and Jesus are two different persons, “their essence is identical.” He then admits that means that “the Word was Divine” as found in translations by Smith-Goodspeed, Moffatt, and Schonfield, among others, is a proper rendering (p. 96, Wallace). Colwell, however, aware of some trinitarians’ ‘qualitative’ approach even in 1933, specifically disagreed and insisted that ‘divine’ was an incorrect interpretation there. - p. 21, Colwell.
Wallace, however, also insists that “Divine” is acceptable “only if it is a term which can be applied only to true Deity.” He then implies that in earlier times “divine” was applied only to true Deity, whereas today it has changed to include other connotations (including angels).
The truth is, of course, that the words “divine” and “god” were both applicable to many different persons in the writings of the scriptures and of the ancient Christians and included angels and certain godly men even then! (See the DEF study.) We also know that modern translators carefully choose modern words in order to convey the intention of the ancient Bible writers. Hence, trinitarian Moffatt in his Bible translation calls the Word “divine” at John 1:1c and also uses “divine” at Ps. 8:6 to describe angels (who are actually called “gods” [elohim] here in the original Hebrew). - Compare Heb. 2:6, 7.
In an attempt to make a “qualitative” noun still allow the Word to be equally God with the Father (and the Holy Spirit) Wallace speculates:
“The idea of a qualitative theos here is that the Word had ALL the attributes and qualities that ‘the god’ (of John 1:1b) had. In other words, He shared the essence of the Father, though they differed in Person. The construction John chose to express this idea was the most precise way he could have stated that the word was God and yet was distinct from the Father.” - p. 96, Wallace.
Then, although saying theos in John 1:1c is “qualitative,” Wallace concludes that the “most straightforward translation is, ‘and the Word was God.’”[?]
Although even the non-trinitarian Watchtower Society allows for a qualitative interpretation of the anarthrous predicate noun theos at John 1:1c (see the 1984 large-print Reference edition of the NWT, p. 1579, and Reasoning From the Scriptures, 1985, p. 212), they show that a “qualitative” interpretation certainly cannot indicate an equality with anyone else who may share that quality!
We will see not only the impropriety of using “qualitative” nouns as Wallace (and Harner) attempts to do but also the near certainty that John 1:1c should be properly understood as having an indefinite noun (“a god”).
Before we investigate further, however, we need to define some terms and examine some grammatical distinctions. As Wallace explains, “anarthrous” simply means a noun is “without the definite article” ('the' in English) in the NT Greek. The “predicate nominative” (or “predicate noun”) is a noun in the nominative case (or its subject form) “which is the same as the subject.” “Copula,” as used by Wallace and Colwell, is simply the verb which shows the equality (usually a form of the “Be” verb such as “is,” “are,” “was,” etc.). And “pre-copulative,” therefore, means something which comes before the copula or “Be” verb.
We must also be able to distinguish between abstract and concrete nouns since concrete nouns are either definite or indefinite whereas abstract nouns usually are not.
“expressing a quality apart from any object (honesty, whiteness)” - Webster’s New Collegiate Dictionary, 1961.
Wallace himself notes, for example, that the Greek word “love” (agape) at 1 John 4:8 “is an abstract noun” and therefore “cannot be translated indefinitely” [nor definitely]!
“Naming a thing, or class of things as opposed to naming a quality or attribute; thus ‘man’ [whether ‘a man’ or ‘the man’] is a concrete term but ‘human’ is abstract.” - Webster’s New Collegiate Dictionary.
Hence, “God” or “god” is a concrete term, but “divine” is abstract and therefore already “qualitative” regardless of sentence position, article use or non-use, etc.
Some nouns have only an abstract meaning: “honesty,” “love,” etc. Some nouns have only a concrete meaning: “king,” “prophet,” “god,” etc. And some nouns have more than one meaning, including both an abstract and a concrete meaning: “light,” “spirit,” etc. For example, “God is spirit” (abstract) or “God is a spirit” (concrete); “God is light” (abstract) and “I see a light” (concrete).
Those who are advocating a “qualitative” rule for John 1:1c are saying, in effect, “when a normally concrete anarthrous predicate noun comes before its verb, it becomes an abstract term. Thus, if an anarthrous predicate noun “man” (normally concrete) should come before its verb, it should be “understood,” they would say, as the abstract qualitative “human.” And the normally concrete “a god” becomes, under these conditions, the abstract “divine.”
And, sure enough, a few trinitarian translators so translate at John 1:1c - “and the Word was divine.” But nowhere else among the many other pre-copulative constructions in the NT do they follow this “qualitative” rule!
Notice, for example, how the normally concrete “a man” comes before the verb at John 10:33 (compare Acts 10:36) and yet, in all of the 16 different trinitarian translations I have checked, it is still translated as the concrete “a man” and not the qualitative “human”!
Certainly, if John had actually intended the abstract qualitative “divine” at John 1:1c, he could have simply used the NT Greek word (theios) that means exactly that. But, of course, he didn’t!
It would be absurd to take an example of an abstract noun (which normally is not translated as an indefinite noun whether it comes before or after the verb) and use it as “evidence” for a “qualitative” rule that is supposed to cause a concrete noun to be interpreted as an abstract (qualitative) one. Nevertheless, Wallace does this by using 1 John 4:8 “God is love” (abstract) as “an excellent illustration of the fact that usually the anarthrous pre-copulative predicate nominative will be qualitative” - p. 97.
Abstract nouns should not be used as examples for a rule which depends on the presence or absence of the definite article. Robertson, pp. 758, 794, A Grammar of the Greek New Testament in the Light of Historical Research; Moulton, pp. 176-177, A Grammar of New Testament Greek, Vol. III; and Moule, p. 112, An Idiom-Book of New Testament Greek, 2nd ed., 1960, show that abstract nouns take the definite article with great irregularity.
We also must not mistake predicate adjectives (which, of course, also must, by their very nature, be qualitative) for predicate nouns. “Pretty” in “she is pretty,” for example, is a predicate adjective and cannot be translated “she is a pretty” or "they are pretties." This study must be confined to actual predicate NOUNS as actually found in the scripture in question (John 1:1c).
We should also know that, although singular concrete nouns in English take both the definite article (“the”) and the indefinite article (“a/an”), plural concrete nouns take only the definite article and do not take the indefinite article even when they are still considered indefinite!
For example, “a man” (singular) is indefinite and “the man” (singular) is definite. But “the men” (plural) is definite and “men” (plural) is indefinite: “The men [definite] are coming” and “men [indefinite] are coming.” Therefore, when a Bible translator translates a plural concrete noun into English, it will not have the indefinite article if it’s indefinite, whereas it will have the definite article (“the”) if it’s definite. We must remember this when we are examining all the examples of “pre-copulative predicate nominatives” in John’s writings.
There is apparently good reason to exclude from this “rule” what I call “time/season” nouns also. These are nouns which deal with, of course, certain times or seasons such as “winter,” “Friday,” “Sabbath” (sometimes), etc. For example, a writer might say “it was winter” or “it was Friday.” Are these to be understood as definite or indefinite? If we say “it was a winter” or “it is a Sabbath,” then we clearly have an indefinite noun, but what do you call “it was winter” and “it was Sabbath”? (Examine all uses of “hour” in John’s writings for example.)
Wallace himself (and Harner and Colwell) excluded all 5 instances of these “time/season” nouns from his list of examples of “pre-copulative predicate nominatives” in John’s writings (p. 98, Wallace) even though he (improperly) included abstract nouns. The “time/season” nouns I have found are: John 5:10; 10:22 (10:23 in some Bibles); 19:31; and 1 John 2:18 (twice). - Also see DEF study, note #9.
Harner also excludes anarthrous predicate nouns that have a numeral with them (e.g. “seven eyes”). I am convinced that he is correct in so doing. - p. 76, Harner, JBL. (Also see Moulton, Vol. III, p. 178; and Robertson, p. 793.)
As to personal names (“John,” “Peter,” “Mary,” etc.) Wallace, Harner, and Colwell all properly exclude them as examples for their rules. It is obvious that this is also a proper exception because proper names take the definite article with such irregularity that no rule (including Colwell’s and Sharp’s “Rules”) which is based on article usage (or non-usage) can properly use them.
In like manner any noun usage which clearly has a notable definite article irregularity (such as proper names above) must also be excluded from any list of evidence for this rule.
Such an irregular usage is found when the predicate noun in question is connected to a PREPOSITIONAL PHRASE or a possessive noun in English translations. Over 90% of the time these will be found to be “possessive” [“of”] phrases such as “king of Israel,” “disciples of me,” etc. - see Robertson, pp. 781, 790, 791; Moulton, Vol. III, pp. 179-180; Moule, p. 117; Dana & 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.
Wallace and Colwell not only improperly include such “prepositional” constructions but use them almost exclusively! (See the Appendix of the DEF study for proof of such article irregularity with “prepositional” constructions.)
But even if a person were to insist that examples of predicate nouns with “prepositional” constructions were somehow acceptable as evidence, he should still be willing to exclude them in any study of John 1:1c because (1) John 1:1c does not have such prepositional constructions, and (2) if the Wallace/Colwell rule really worked, then it should work equally well when only those constructions as actually found at John 1:1c are used exclusively (assuming there are enough such examples in the writings of John to be conclusive), and (3) there are at least 10 examples [19 examples if, like Colwell, Harner, and Wallace themselves, we aren’t overly strict] of proper non-“prepositional,” anarthrous, concrete, pre-copulative predicate nouns found in the writings of John. This is more than enough to be conclusive.
And, finally, before we actually analyze the Wallace/”Colwell” ‘Qualitative’ rule, we need to remember that, since our real concern is the intended meaning of John 1:1c, we are primarily interested in determining what John intended by a pre-copulative anarthrous non-“prepositional” concrete predicate noun in his writings! No matter what “rules” Peter, Paul, James, etc. may or may not have used, we are, in the final analysis, really only concerned with what “rules” John did or did not use here.
On p. 92 Wallace tells us that “In general, a predicate nominative is anarthrous and it follows the copula. It is usually qualitative or indefinite.” [As nearly everywhere else, emphasis has been added by me - RDB.]
In all John’s writing (using the Westcott - Hort text as Colwell did) I have found about 110 anarthrous predicate nouns and about 110 articular predicate nouns. It is certainly incorrect, therefore, to say “In general, a predicate nominative is anarthrous.” (At least in John’s writings.)
I also found about 90 predicate nouns coming before the copula and nearly 130 after the copula. So, although it is certainly not wrong to say “in general, a predicate nominative...follows the copula,” the difference is not a very large one in the writings of John: 41% before and 59% after. (We will also see that, when we consider only proper examples of John’s predicate noun usage, they actually come before the verb three times more often than they follow it! (Harner also found three times as many “anarthrous predicate nouns preceding the verb” in the Gospel of John as “anarthrous predicate nouns following the verb”. - p. 82, Harner, JBL.)
In fact, Robertson tells us
“the predicate very commonly comes first, simply because, as a rule, the predicate is the most important thing in the sentence.” - p. 417 (also see Moule, p. 166).
So emphasis (not word meanings) determines word order.
We are most concerned, however, with Wallace’s contentions that (1) most (94%) of the “Colwell - construction” nouns are “qualitative” and the rest (6%) are definite, and (2) a “qualitative” predicate noun, somehow, implies that the very “essence” of a person (or thing) is being stated, and, by his implication, any two or more persons who are described with such a “qualitative” noun are sharing the absolute “essence” of one another!
Wallace cites a study by Dixon as the basis for much of his evidence. Dixon claimed to have made a study of all anarthrous pre-copulative predicate nouns in John’s Gospel (p. 94, Wallace) and “concluded that 94% of these predicate nominatives were qualitative, while only 6% were definite.” (Dixon also concluded after his study that “obviously, this rule has very little exegetical value” - p. 95, Wallace.)
Wallace says of Dixon’s study “if his statistics are correct (and I THINK they are for the most part)...” (p. 95). This is hardly a precise statement based on one’s own proper personal study! Wallace goes on to say:
“According to Dixon’s study, if theos here [John 1:1c] were indefinite it would be the only anarthrous pre-copulative predicate nominative in John’s Gospel to be indefinite. Thus, grammatically, such a possibility is highly improbable” (p. 95).
In this study we will list all the proper “Colwell” constructions in the Gospel of John (and all the other writings of John) [Actually this will be found in the DEF and HARNER studies]. We will see that, contrary to Wallace’s speculation, Dixon’s statistics (and Wallace’s own inadequate research - p. 98) are not correct (nor even reasonably close). We will see that not only is John 1:1 (if it is indefinite) not the “only anarthrous pre-copulative predicate nominative in John’s Gospel to be indefinite” but that all of the proper examples of anarthrous pre-copulative predicate nominatives are indefinite!
First, however, we will examine some of Wallace’s other statements and examples. On p. 96 he tells us of the Greek (pagan philosophy) concept of “God” and Logos (“Word” or “Reason”): “The Greek concept of God was, for the most part, personal and finite. But their concept of the Logos was greater than their concept of God” so that, according to Wallace, “it is highly improbable that the Logos could be ‘a god’ according to John.”
So let’s examine the concept of Logos (“Word”) and what John based it on, even according to many trinitarian authorities:
“LOGOS...term used to designate Christ in the prologue to the Fourth Gospel. There has been much discussion among scholars as to the source from which the writer of the prologue drew the term. Sources which have been mentioned are the Word of God of the Old Testament [see Ps. 33:6]; the concept of Logos or reason, in [Greek] Stoic philosophy; and the term as used by Philo.” - p. 62, Encyclopedia International, Vol. 11, 1966.
But we can see that the pagan Stoic philosophy that Wallace and a few others ascribe John’s usage of Logos to, taught the Logos as something clearly and basically out of harmony with the Bible. It taught that “the universe is the product of this divine mind [logos], which yet is immanent [existing within] in it. In this materialistic pantheism, divinity pervades everything, but only in the outer heaven is it pure. On earth only man possesses it in the form of the Logos or reason, and hence, though his body is animal, he shares part of his nature with divinity.” We also find “the doctrine of logos, as a universal human attribute,...” - p. 289, Encyclopedia International, Vol. 14, 1966.
Today’s Dictionary of the Bible, 1982, Bethany House Publishers, also rejects a Greek pagan philosophy as the source of John’s Logos. This trinitarian reference work which claims to give “the main views held by reputable evangelical scholars” states: “Plato used Logos to represent the universal Man in the eternal world.” And “the Stoics called logos ‘the soul of the world’.” - p. 389.
The equally trinitarian New Bible Dictionary, Tyndale House Publishers, tells us:
“The Word possesses a like power to the God who speaks it (cf. Is. 55:11) and effects His will without hindrance. Hence, the term [Logos] may refer to the creative word of God. In the Wisdom literature the creative power of God is referred to as his Wisdom, and in a number of passages is spoken of as an hypostasis distinct from Him (see especially Pr. 8:22-30...)” - p. 703.
The personified “Wisdom” (see BWF study) of Prov. 8:22-30, which has been most frequently applied to Jesus since the time of the Apostle Paul, at least, shows “Wisdom” to have been CREATED by God before any of the rest of creation (and thereafter at his side as a Master Worker).
The New Bible Dictionary further states: “Right at the beginning of the Gospel [of John] he is affirmed to be the ‘Word’ (Logos) of God.... The use of ‘Word’ [Logos] is singularly happy, for by it John was able to speak to Jews who had already taken some steps toward regarding God’s creative Word (Ps. 33:6 [logos in the Septuagint]) as in some sense a separate being from God (cf. the figurative description of Wisdom in Pr. 8:22 ff.)” - p. 608.
We are also told in an article by Frederick C. Grant of the Union Theological Seminary, New York City,
“Another term found in koine [New Testament] Greek and adopted by the early Christians is Logos (Word), meaning ... the divine mediator between God and the world (John 1:1-18) or the divine thought or utterance, by which - or by whom - all things hold together (Colossians 1:17); that is, the One who is God’s agent in the creation and the continued existence of the universe (Hebrews 1:3). Such a term is not entirely philosophical: its real background...is not Stoicism or Stoical Platonism so much as it is the theosophical or ‘mysteriosophical’ theorizing of various religious cults and movements found here and there in the ancient Near East [the most influential and best-known of these being that of the Jewish theosophy of PHILO].” - Encyclopedia Americana, 1957, Vol. 3, p. 654.
Speaking of theosophy and Philo, we find that Philo Judaeus was a “Jewish philosopher: b. about 20 B.C.; d. not later than 54 A.D.”
“his philosophy was thus strictly a theosophy. It rested, as its direct foundation, on the Jewish scriptures as an inspired revelation....”
According to Philo, “Between God and the world there is an intermediate being, the Logos.” And “The Logos is the most universal of all beings except God.”
Philo also (unlike the pagan Greek Stoic philosophers) “gives the Logos the titles of Son of God [John 1:34], paraclete [”Comforter,” “Advocate,” “Helper” - 1 John 2:1], and mediator between God and man [1 Tim. 2:5].” - Americana, 1957, v. 21, pp. 766, 767. Philo also “differentiates the Logos from God as his work or image [2 Cor. 4:4].” Philo’s Logos is also “first-born son [Ro. 8:29]....divine [a god - Jn 1:1] but not God, is with God [Jn 1:1], is light [Jn 1:4],...manna [Jn 6:31-51],...and shepherd [Jn 10:11].” - Encyclopedia Britannica, p. 251, Vol. 14, 1968.
We also see that
“Philo....made use of [Logos] on the basis of such passages as Ps. 33:6 to express the means whereby the transcendent God may be the Creator of the universe and the Revealer of himself to Moses and the Patriarchs. .... On the side of biblical exegesis the Logos is identified with the Angel of the Lord...and is described...as high priest [Heb. 6:20], Captain and Steersman, Advocate (Paraclete) and THE SON OF GOD.” - p. 703, New Bible Dictionary.
In fact, Philo even said that “the Logos is the eldest son [first-born or created] of God.” [Ro. 8:29] - The New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology, p. 639, Vol. 3 (also Vol.1, p.178), 1986, Zondervan.
Trinitarian Dr. H. R. Boer also tells us:
“Philo...put a mediator between God and the world. This mediator he found in the Logos. He is the greater of the powers with which God is surrounded [these ‘powers,’ the angels of God, are sometimes called ‘gods’ in the Bible itself]. In him Philo saw a divine power that is less than God [John 1:1 Moffatt], standing between God and the world. Through him God has created all things [John 1:3]. Later, this thought played a large role in the attempt of Christian thinkers to explain the relationship of Christ to God.” - A Short History of the Early Church, 1976, p. 12.
The Encyclopedia Britannica also tells us about Philo’s “Logos”:
“Thus there is close similarity of symbolism between Philo and the fourth evangelist [John], and they move in the same world of thought ....” - p. 251, Vol. 14, 1968.
“In the question of the origin of the Logos-concept [by John], pre-eminent significance is therefore to be attributed to Hellenistic Judaism [Philo].” - p. 1117, Vol. 3, The New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology, 1986, Zondervan.
John simply could not have used a pagan Greek philosophy concept as a basis for his ‘Logos.’ As popular trinitarian New Testament scholar Dr. William Barclay tells us,
“John thinks in Jewish categories because he could do no other.” - p. 80, The Letters of John and Jude, 1976 ed.
Even the famed Hasting’s Encyclopedia of Religion and Ethics tells us that John must be referring to Philo’s conception of the Logos:
“It is clear from the tone of the Prologue [of John] that Philo’s conception of the Logos, or something akin to it, was already familiar to those for whom the Evangelist [John] wrote. No explanation of the word Logos is given [by John]; and almost every verse in this Prologue might be paralleled from Philo.” - p. 136, Vol. 8.
I don’t intend to accuse the Apostle John of adopting part of Philo’s theosophy (and certainly not the pagan philosophy of the Greeks), but if he were making a comparison between Christ and a popularly understood concept of the word Logos at that time, he would have used the popular Logos concept of the Jewish theosophist who at least based his theosophy “as its direct foundation, on the Jewish scriptures as an inspired revelation”. And that concept is that the Logos (although the second highest power in the universe, the Son of God, the Mediator between God and Man, the one through whom God created all things) is an intermediate being who is not 'the god' (God)!
The Encyclopedia Britannica sums it up pretty well:
“The Logos which having been in the beginning, and with God, and divine [‘a god’], had entered human life and history as the Word ‘made flesh!’ .... But the identification of Jesus with the Logos was not tantamount to recognizing him as ‘God.’ Neither the ‘Word of God’ in Hebrew nomenclature nor the Logos in Greek speculation was ‘God’ though it was definitely ‘divine’ [‘a god’].” - Encyclopedia Britannica, 14th ed., Vol. 13, p. 25.
So, it is untrue that the Greek “concept of the Logos was greater than their concept of God” as Wallace states, but it really matters very little anyway because it is extremely unlikely that John took his Logos concept from such a pagan source. And, contrary to Wallace’s statement, it is not “highly improbable that the Logos could be ‘a god’ according to John” based on either the OT “Word of God/Wisdom” concept or on Philo’s Logos. Remember, angels are called “gods” in Scripture (and Philo’s Logos is also the Angel of the Lord), and Jesus himself points out in the Gospel of John that even certain men were called “gods” by God Himself (John 10:34, 35).
As the trinitarian scholar Dr. Robert Young pointed out:
“65. GOD -- is used of any one (professedly) MIGHTY, whether truly so or not, and is applied not only to the true God, but to false gods, magistrates, judges, angels, prophets, etc., e.g. Ex. 7:1; ...John 1:1; 10:33, 34, 35; 20:28...” - Young’s Analytical Concordance, preface.
It is, therefore, a probability that John’s Logos concept makes Jesus “a god,” an intermediary between God and Man, “a divine power that is less than God.”
In fact, Philo, when speaking of God, always used ho theos (with the definite article), and when speaking of the Word, Logos, (whom, as we have seen, he did not consider equal to God) he would use theos without the article [a god]! - p. 72, The New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology, Vol. 2, 1986, Zondervan. So, if John is using a comparison with Philo’s Logos concept to describe Jesus’ relationship with God (as indicated by some of the best trinitarian scholars), then his use of theos without the article at John 1:1 clearly shows the Word is not equal to God but is called “a god”!
We might also examine John 1:18 as written in the oldest and best Greek manuscripts: “No one has seen God at any time; but an only-begotten god who is beside the Father has explained him.” - Westcott and Hort text (also see the equally trinitarian United Bible Societies’ text and Nestle’s text).
This reminds us of the quote by Moule:
“in John i.18 (reading monogenes theos) the omission of the article is striking, and reminds one of Philo’s (anarthrous) deuteros theos ['a second god'], as applied to the logos.” - p. 116.
In other words, John’s Logos is a god (at John 1:1 AND John 1:18) in similar fashion to Philo’s Logos who was a god in a subordinate fashion (as are angels) to the one true God. The Interpreter’s Dictionary of the Bible, Vol. 4, p. 870, by the trinitarian Abingdon Press, 1962, also tells us:
“[Philo’s Logos] can, indeed be described as [theos] (without the article, to distinguish him from God, [ho theos]).”
It is extremely important that we look beyond the modern-day concept in English of using the description or title “God/god” in a very narrow sense. It was a very common custom in ancient times and among both the Jews and the early Christians to call various “mighty persons” by that word/title. Some Bible writers, on occasion, followed this custom and some, apparently, did not. There did not, at that time, need to be any supernatural significance or sense of a rival of the true God attached to every usage of the word. - See the DEF study).
It is significant that John is the only NT writer to point out that God called men “gods” since John is the only NT writer who also clearly calls Jesus theos (John 1:1c, 1:18, also the context of John 10:33-36 demands that the Jews referred “a god,” as rendered in the NEB, to Jesus - see the THEON study).
Early Christian writers have commented on John’s use of the term “Logos.” The Encyclopedia of Religion, Macmillan Publishing Co., 1987, Vol. 9, p. 15, discusses very early Christian writings concerning John’s use of Logos:
“another sentence from [Justin Martyr’s Dialogue with Trypho]...’There is, as has been said, another [heteros] god and lord below the Creator of the universe...the Creator of the universe has no other [allos] god above him’ (56.4). .... Origen himself will downgrade the Logos in calling it ‘second [deuteros] god’ (Against Celsus 5.39, 6.61, etc.) or again in writing ‘god’ (theos) without the article, whereas he calls the Father ho theos, ‘the God’ (Commentary of Saint John 2.2.13-18).” And, “Thus Philo had used the presence or absence of the article to distinguish the ‘true God’ from the Logos god (On Dreams 1.39.229-230), and had marked out the Logos as being ‘the second god’ (Questions and Answers on Genesis 2.62). Before [Christian writers] Justin and Hippolytus [and Origen and the writer of the Epistle to Diognetus - DEF-7-8 (and f.n. #1)], Philo sees in the Logos ‘another god’ (ibid.). .... It is hard to avoid the conclusion that the Christian theologians of the [first,] second and third centuries, even theologians of the caliber of Origen...came to see the Logos as a god of second rank.”
Wallace’s contention that “the construction John chose to express this idea was the most precise way he could have stated that the Word was God and yet was distinct from the Father” is certainly a strange one!
As we will see, John’s construction at John 1:1c intended no such meaning. Even if there were times a “qualitative” meaning could be apprehended from similar constructions in John’s writings, they would be rare indeed, and in that case, the meaning of John 1:1c would be ambiguous (at most)! But in the same sentence in which he tells us that that construction is the “most precise” way Jesus’ relationship to the Father could be stated, he himself states such a relationship with much more precision and clarity:
“the Word was God and yet was distinct from the Father.”
Surely we don’t think it was beyond the capabilities of the inspired Bible writers (or the God who inspired them) to say something like: “There is only one God, but he is composed of three persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.”? But there is no such precise statement in the entire Bible! (Nor anything even remotely comparable.) We can’t even find such a simple, but essential, statement as God is three!! (See the IMAGE study, f.n. #7) After all, this is supposed to be the Most essential truth of Christendom: “The cornerstone of Christianity,” “the centrality of the Christian faith,” “the essential Christian doctrine,” “vital to its existence,” etc. (See the KNOW study.)
Next Wallace provided some examples to show how “Colwell’s construction” makes such a predicate noun “qualitative.” We must assume that he has selected only the very best and clearest examples to prove his point.
First, at John 6:70 (“one of you _devil is” in the actual NT text) Wallace claims that every one of the 16 trinitarian translations I have checked is in error by rendering “a devil.” He tells us that the “Colwell-construction” makes the anarthrous “devil” qualitative, and, therefore, it should be translated: “’What the Devil is, one of you is’ [compare Jn 1:1c in the NEB and TEV], that is, ‘one of you has the qualities of the Devil.’” (p. 96, Wallace).
His cursory dismissal of the concrete indefinite noun, “a devil” (diabolos in NT Greek at John 6:70) is completely unwarranted as all 16 trinitarian translations I have examined testify. Not one translates John 6:70 as an abstract or “qualitative” noun. We don’t even find such reasonable qualitative descriptions as “one of you is devilish” (or “devil-like,” “diabolical,” “satanic,” etc.)! Why? Because just as other people (who are certainly not equal to Jehovah God) may be called “a god” or “gods” in scripture, so may many persons who are not equal to Satan the Devil also be called “a devil” (diabolos) or “devils.”
But to play the “Devil’s Advocate,” let’s pretend that somehow a “Colwell’s construction” really does make John 6:70 “qualitative.” Then, as theorized for John 1:1c by “Qualitarians,” we would have a quality of one certain individual or class being applied to another. Therefore, Wallace must be insisting that (since the “qualitative” theos of John 1:1c means that “although the Person of Christ is not the Person of the Father, their essence is identical”), although Judas (Jn 6:70) is not the same person as Satan, their essence is identical!
Surely we don’t believe that Judas had a heavenly pre-existence as one of God’s spirit creatures (angels) and then became one of Satan’s demons! Surely we don’t believe Judas is part of a SATANIC “TRINITY” in which he is absolutely equal to Satan in all respects except that of person! Surely we don’t believe Judas has the authority, power, pre-existence, substance (“spirit”), etc. of Satan! The quality of Satan illustrated here in Jesus’ statement at Jn 6:70 is, then, simply that of betrayal or disobedience! Judas is “a devil” in this sense ONLY!
So, if John 6:70 should be understood “qualitatively” (and it appears it should not), then, as an example of how John 1:1c should be understood, we still do not see the Word equal to God the Father. Since John 6:70 does not make Judas equal to Satan in any respect as concerns power, authority, pre-existence, essence, etc., but only shows that he shares a quality (rebellion) to some degree, then John 1:1c, even if it were really “qualitative,” does NOT make the Word equal to God in any real sense. (Although we know he is a spirit person, as are the Father and his angels in heaven, and he shares God’s qualities, as do even men and angels to lesser degrees.)
The real parallel between the “Colwell’s constructions” of John 6:70 and John 1:1c is that, just as John 6:70 is correctly translated with the concrete indefinite noun “a devil” in all of the 16 trinitarian Bible translations I have consulted, so John 1:1c should be translated with the concrete indefinite noun “a god”!
Wallace’s unlikely alternate view of John 6:70 that it might be translated “one of you is the Devil” in a figurative sense (p. 97) is no better than his “qualitative-means-equality” theory. Even if we understand Jesus to be calling Judas “The Devil” in a figurative sense, it is still obvious that he does not mean to imply any real equality between Satan and Judas other than a certain similarity in personalities (rebellious, traitorous). Again, this would not give any evidence for an equality of the Word with God at John 1:1 ! IF we were to call the Word “the God” in a figurative sense (as in this unlikely interpretation by Wallace for John 6:70), we would merely be saying there was a similarity in personalities (loyalty? forgiveness? love? etc.?) but NO EQUALITY!
As Wallace himself points out, Jesus apparently called Peter ‘Satan’ at Matthew 16:23. This, Wallace says, would be similar to the “the Devil” interpretation at John 6:70. Jesus called Peter ‘Satan,’ Wallace continues, “in a figurative sense, indicating in a powerful way that at that point, Peter acted just as Satan had when he tempted our Lord.” - p. 97, Wallace. Now wait a moment, please, and USE THIS VERY SAME REASONING FOR JOHN 1:1C ! 
Even when an indefinite noun is truly intended in a figurative sense (“he is a rock”), it is still to be USED as an indefinite noun! The comparison of the subject with its figurative predicate noun is intended to take place in the reader’s mind where he selects one of the many qualities of that indefinite noun (“a rock”) and applies it (in a very limited sense: e.g., “stability,” “steadfastness,” etc.) to the subject. The writer intends for an indefinite concrete noun to be understood in such a case. He wants the impact of such usage and has deliberately selected an indefinite concrete noun for such an impact. He would be very upset with anyone who rewrote his words as, for example: “he is steadfast.”
Notice how the figurative use of the predicate noun “a child” (or “children”) may be found either coming before or after its verb and still remain figurative: Hebrews 5:13 (pre-copulative); Eph. 4:14 (post-copulative). Word order does not affect the meaning at all! - Notice the figurative post-copulative “letter” at 2 Cor. 3:3.
Likewise, the literal meaning of the predicate noun “a child” is not affected by word order: 1 Cor. 13:11 (post-copulative) and Gal. 4:1 (pre-copulative). Whether it comes before or after the verb it is still a concrete indefinite predicate noun!
As we will see, there are many examples in John’s writings of “Colwell constructions” that are clearly (by all trinitarian translators) interpreted as indefinite concrete nouns.
For example, “prophet” is not a noun that is normally used with an abstract qualitative meaning. It is concrete (either definite or indefinite) and takes the corresponding articles in English translations.
Therefore, if the qualitative hypothesis of Wallace (and Harner, et. al.) really works, we should expect to find “prophet,” when used in a “colwell construction,” showing “complete, absolute essence of a Most High Prophetness.”
But look at all the instances where John uses the Greek noun “prophet” as a predicate noun coming before the verb:
John 1:21 (literal Greek text) - “the prophet are you” - is translated in all 16 English
translations I have examined: “Are you the Prophet [or ‘the prophet’]?”
John 4:19 (literal Greek) - “_prophet are you” - is translated in all 16 Bibles: “You are a
John 9:17 (literal Greek) - “_prophet he is” - is translated in all 16 Bibles: “He is a
Notice that John 4:19 has the exact construction of John 1:1c (not only does the anarthrous concrete predicate noun come before the verb, but the subject comes after the verb), but it certainly does not imply any “qualitative” abstract “essential Most High Prophetness” to the bearer but still retains the normal concrete indefinite meaning for “a prophet”!
Also notice that John 1:21 is considered definite only because John actually used the definite article before the predicate noun! - (which would be senselessly redundant if Colwell’s, or Wallace’s alternate hypothesis, definite “rule” were actually used by John. Compare other uses of the definite article. Does the figurative use of “vine” and “farmer” [or “husbandman”] at John 15:1 make these concrete nouns qualitative? - No! The definite article shows they are both definite concrete nouns which are to be interpreted figuratively in the reader’s mind, but they are not “qualitative.” Notice that “vine” is in a non-Colwell construction and “husbandman” is in a Colwell construction. But both are definite concrete nouns despite word placement within the sentence!)
We also see David, at Acts 2:30, although described as “a prophet” in a “Colwell construction,” certainly should not be considered as “equal to Jesus in essence”! (And yet they both share the “qualitative” determinator of a Colwell’s construction for “prophet”!) David is simply being called “a prophet” (concrete indefinite) not “one who has the highest ‘essence’ of prophetness” (and therefore, somehow, is equal to Jesus who also had this “highest ‘essence’ of prophetness”).
I hope no one would allow himself to be persuaded that the inspired Bible writers intended a “trinity” of “prophetness” (“prophinity”?) in which Jesus, Moses (remember, Jesus was a prophet like Moses - Acts 3:21, 22), and David were three persons who were all equally “The Prophet”!
And yet this is precisely what Wallace (and some others) wants to do with the Colwell’s construction of John 1:1c. That is, he attempts to do it for two persons (the Father and Jesus) - he is unable to apply it to a third person. However, to complete the job for him, we can find a 3rd person called theos in a Colwell’s construction at 3 Kings (this is 1 Kings in the Hebrew Scriptures) 18:27 in the ancient Greek Septuagint translation (which is frequently quoted by Jesus in the NT).
So, the “Colwell construction” at 3 Kings 18:27 (1 Kings 18:27 in most Bible translations) completes our “Trinity” at last! But, unfortunately for “orthodox” trinitarians, the third person “discovered” by using this “Rule” is not the holy spirit! (Compare Judges 6:31 - KJV, RSV, NASB, NIV - where this same person is shown, again, to be the third person of the Trinity according to this trinitarian “Rule” - see SEPTGOD study.) Plainly, “Colwell constructions” cannot be used this way (even if they really caused some predicate nouns to be “qualitative” at times).
Obviously, just as “a prophet” (whether in a “Colwell construction” or not) is clearly separate from “the Prophet” and “a devil” (as at John 6:70) is clearly separate from “the Devil, so “a god” (at John 1:1c, in the same “Colwell construction”) is clearly separate from “the God”!
Since “a god” (including angels, judges, prophets, etc.) is not equal to “the God,” there can be many “gods.” This term (“god”) merely describes them as “mighty persons” in some sense, and, therefore, their “essence” or “nature” may vary. Angels, of course, are spirit persons who are much more powerful than human judges. They certainly do not share the same “essence” with men! And yet both were called “gods” by the Bible writers - (see the DEF study). The Devil also is a single spirit person with great power, but there can be many “devils.” “A devil” and “the Devil” surely do not have to share the same “essence” regardless of any Colwell’s construction!
The next example Wallace gives of the “qualitative” effect of a Colwell construction is 1 John 4:8. He writes:
“It should be translated, ‘God is love.’ Here is an excellent illustration of a qualitative anarthrous pre-copulative predicate nominative. This cannot be translated indefinitely, ‘God is a love’ for ‘love’ (agape) is an abstract noun.... to see agape here as qualitative means that God has the attribute of love or is characterized by love. This, then, becomes an excellent illustration of the fact that usually the anarthrous pre-copulative predicate nominative will be qualitative.” - p. 97, Wallace.
Far from being “an excellent illustration”, the selection of 1 John 4:8 as an example of the “qualitative” influence of a “Colwell construction” is so inappropriate as to make one have serious thoughts about either Wallace’s scholarship or his integrity.
First, it should be obvious that others besides God have the attribute or quality of love. This would not make that quality equal to God’s. Nor would it make any person who shares that quality of love EQUAL to God!
Second, to deliberately select an abstract noun (which is already qualitative by definition, no matter in what position it may be found in a sentence) and then suggest that its position in the sentence has made it qualitative is incredible! !
After all, the whole purpose of this “Qualitative Rule” is to show that, somehow, word position makes a concrete indefinite noun (such as “a god,” “a prophet,” “a devil,” etc.) into a “qualitative” noun! To select an already qualitative abstract noun and pretend that its word position has anything to do with its being qualitative is completely unacceptable!
As we noted at the beginning of this paper, a noun that is usually abstract cannot be used to prove or disprove this “rule.” It is even questionable to use nouns that commonly may have either abstract or concrete meanings (such as “spirit”) unless context shows the concrete meaning was definitely intended (whether literally or figuratively).
For example, John 4:24 may be translated either “God is spirit [abstract, qualitative (or, possibly, plural/amount)]” or “God is a spirit [concrete, indefinite]” and is commonly found translated either way in trinitarian Bibles.
It is interesting to find, however, that at least 9 trinitarian Bibles (KJV, ASV, Douay, MLB, Young’s, CBW, Beck, Byington’s The Bible in Living English, and KJIIV) have ignored a “qualitative” interpretation and chosen a concrete indefinite interpretation for John 4:24. The remaining 7 trinitarian Bibles I examined which chose the alternate abstract meaning certainly didn’t need any special sentence position to persuade them since “spirit” is one of those words which frequently has such a meaning regardless of word position!
If “spirit” is being used in its concrete form (“a spirit”), it refers to a person (indefinite concrete) whose very substance (or “body”) is different from a person with a body of flesh. So those 9 trinitarian translations are saying “God is a spirit person.”
However, those translations which chose the equally common abstract alternate meaning for “spirit” are speaking (like 1 John 4:8) of a certain quality of God.
Either meaning for “spirit” could also be applied to the faithful heavenly spirit persons (angels). For example, we could honestly say either “Michael [the Archangel] is a spirit” (concrete indefinite) or “Michael is spirit” (abstract, qualitative) and neither interpretation would mean Michael is equal with God! (Even though God’s own word shows us it would not be improper to say, “Michael is a god”).
Even if we insisted that the abstract qualitative meaning of “spirit” was intended here (and at least 9 trinitarian Bibles disagree), what would it mean? Wallace insists that “spirit” here “is most certainly qualitative - stressing the nature or essence of God.” - p. 99, Wallace.
But to use “spirit” in its abstract qualitative sense does not mean anyone sharing such a quality (or “essence” or “nature”) is equal! Today’s Dictionary of the Bible, 1982, Bethany House Publ., written by mainstream trinitarian scholars, tells us
“the name [‘angel’] does not denote their nature [just as the title ‘god’ or ‘God’ does not necessarily denote one’s nature], but their office as messengers” - p. 38.
“As to their nature, they are spirits....” - p.39. They are “uncorrupted spirit in original essence.” - New Bible Dictionary (2nd ed.), Tyndale House, 1982, p. 36.
This same trinitarian publication (Today’s Dictionary) also tells us that this nature (“spirit”) of angels is “the divine nature”: “In...2 Cor. 3:17; 1 Tim. 3:16; 1 Pet. 3:18, it [‘spirit’] designates the divine nature.” - p. 593.
The New Bible Dictionary (2nd ed.) also admits: “In his nature God is pure spirit.” - p. 427. Even extreme trinitarian and anti-“cult” expert Dr. Walter Martin says:
“God’s Nature has always been declared to be that of pure spirit. Our Lord declared that ‘God is spirit...’ (John 4:24 - Greek).” - p. 202, KOTC.
Even Origen, the most knowledgeable of the earliest Christian scholars (ca. 200 A.D.), states:
“Here [John 4:24] it is said that pneuma [spirit] is, as it were, His ousia [nature, substance].” - quoted in The Interpretation of the Fourth Gospel, p. 225, C. H. Dodd, Cambridge University Press, 1995 reprint.
So, even if John 1:1c really did, somehow, say that “the Word” and “the God” both have the same “nature” or “essence,” it would be no more revealing than merely saying they are both spirit persons (as are angels and any humans who have been resurrected to heaven). It would certainly not mean that God and the Word are equal in any sense! Man and frog are certainly not equal because they both share the same nature, or “essence” of flesh!
At any rate, 1 John 4:8 uses an abstract noun that can only be used qualitatively and, therefore, is improperly used by Wallace as an example for this “rule.” Imagine a scientist trying to prove that gold can be changed to lead when it’s put into salt water. Imagine him diving off the Florida coast until he finally finds a bar of lead and then saying: “Look at this ‘excellent illustration’ of the fact that gold changes into lead in salt water!” It was already lead when he first discovered it! We cannot see that salt water had any influence whatsoever on its being lead or that it has ever been anything else but lead from such an “excellent illustration”! As far as John 1:1c is concerned, we are interested in the effect, if any, that word position has on concrete indefinite nouns! There can be no measurable effect of word position if the noun is already abstract and qualitative regardless of word position!
Unfortunately, we who speak English are used to a language in which word position is very important to the meaning of the sentence. Certain “scientists” can take unfair advantage of our unfamiliarity with inflected languages, such as NT Greek, in which the word order has little or no significance.
“Greek is an inflected or synthetic language, and is, in fact, the most perfect specimen of that class of language. English, on the other hand, as compared with Anglo-Saxon, has now become almost entirely analytic, having lost nearly all the inflexions it once possessed. The difference between the two classes of language is this: an analytic language builds up a phrase by the juxtaposition of separate words [word order]; whereas a synthetic [inflected] language, starting with a stem containing a basic idea, modifies that stem until the desired thought is expressed.” - New Testament Greek Primer, Marshall, Zondervan, p. 7.
“Thus the sentence, an apostle says a word, is in Greek normally [apostolos legei logon ‘apostle says word’]. But [legei apostolos logon ‘says apostle word’] and [logon legei apostolos ‘word says apostle’] are both perfectly possible. The English translation must be determined by observing the [word] endings NOT BY OBSERVING THE [WORD] ORDER.” - New Testament Greek for Beginners, Machen, The Macmillan Company, p. 27. (Compare p. 22, Marshall and p. 417, Robertson.)
As we can see in the above example, word position has no significance to the intended meaning in NT Greek. The indefinite concrete noun “word” remains “a word” whether it comes before subject and verb or is after subject and verb. There is no reason to assume word order makes it qualitative or definite or anything else. So there is also no good reason to expect the indefinite concrete predicate noun theos (“a god”) to be influenced by word order in John 1:1c. (See Moule, p. 166; Robertson, pp. 417-419.)
By actually examining all the “Colwell constructions” used by John we will see that the vast majority (if not all) remain indefinite concrete nouns. If there is an influence by word order on the meaning of predicate nouns (whether causing a definite meaning or a “qualitative” meaning), it must be extremely slight (perhaps affecting only certain predicate nouns with prepositional constructions, for example - see HARNER study), and no translator ever takes much notice of it (with the notable exception of its improper use at John 1:1c by certain trinitarian translators).
Wallace’s “List of Passages in the New Testament Which Have Colwell’s Construction” (p. 98) is very incomplete. And even though he claims the advantage of a study by Dixon which supposedly covers all such constructions in the Gospel of John, Wallace still overlooks at least 11 of them in the Gospel of John alone! And he misses nearly half of the “Colwell constructions” in 1 John. And he doesn’t list any of the 16 such constructions found in Revelation. In addition, a couple are incorrectly listed in Wallace’s list (these may be typographical errors, however), and some are clearly abstract nouns.
The following list is a much better listing of the “Colwell constructions” in all the writings of John as found in the Westcott and Hort text.
[See listing in the HARNER study or DEF study (Appendix)]
91 total (excluding John 1:1c)
The 3 (or 4) closest examples to Jn 1:1c have the anarthrous predicate noun before the verb and the subject after the verb.
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”) - as found 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 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”!
Such a rendering is not only a grammatical probability (more likely a certainty) as we have seen above, but it is not such a surprising concept as many modern members of Christendom might think. Other righteous persons and faithful angels have been called “gods” or “a god” by the inspired Bible writers - see the DEF study.
A careful examination of all proper examples of John’s use of “Colwell Constructions” will show a complete lack of validity for the “Qualitative Rule” and vindication for the most proper rendering of John 1:1c with the indefinite concrete predicate noun: “And the Word was a god.” - New World Translation.
On the following pages this additional information may be found:
APPENDIX A - examples which disprove the “qualitative” rule.
APPENDIX B - An alternate “Quality” interpretation by noted trinitarian William Barclay
APPENDIX C - Notes for bracketed numbers found in main text.
This part of the Appendix is intended to give some simple clearcut examples that can be used as reasonably quick illustrations of how very poor (in fact, non-existent) is the reliability of the “Qualitative” Rule. Much of it was written after examining Philip B. Harner’s “Qualitative” article in the Journal of Biblical Literature, Vol. 92, pp. 75-87, 1973. - see HARNER study.
Harner (p. 75) gives us Mark 7:26 as an example of an indefinite predicate noun (“a Greek”) “properly” following the verb: “the woman was a Greek” - most translations. He tells us that such an indefinite noun shows that the woman is one of many in a certain category.
And yet, somehow, he wants us to believe that Mark and John intended a different meaning when they put similar predicate nouns before the verb. E.g., that “_Galilean you are” at Mk 14:70 does not mean simply “you are a Galilean” (as in most translations), and “you _Jew being” at John 4:9a does not mean simply “you are a Jew” (most Bibles), and “_Samaritan being” at John 4:9b does not mean “being a Samaritan” (most Bibles) but, instead, some great “quality” concerning the person’s very “essence” or “nature” is implied simply because the predicate noun comes before the verb! (Wallace also includes Mark 14:70 in his list of “qualitative” predicate noun constructions - p. 98, Wallace.)
There is certainly no concern about translating the same predicate noun coming after the verb as an indefinite concrete noun (“a Jew” Acts 21:39; “a Samaritan” Luke 17:16;).
Isn’t it obvious that the actual meanings are identical? Whether before or after the verb, they are indefinite concrete nouns: a person who is “one of many in a certain category”!
Just as Mark 7:26 merely tells us that the woman was one of many people from a certain area, so, too, “a Galilean” at Mark 14:70 is simply one of many who come from a certain area in spite of Harner’s, Wallace’s, et. al. desires to the contrary. Do we really think that being from Galilee is some “qualitative” description of the person’s very “essence” whereas being “a Greek” is not? Compare Luke 23:6, 7 where Pilate obviously is only concerned about where Jesus is from - especially note context in the Living Bible - and not any “essence” or “nature.” And yet the predicate noun comes before the verb! (Wallace also includes Luke 23:6 in his list of “qualitative” predicate noun constructions - p. 98, Wallace.) - also see Matt. 2:23 (Harner uses “will be called” as a copulative verb for predicate nouns - pp. 77, 78, Harner).
So the impropriety of the “qualitative” rule becomes apparent when we realize that John was no more describing some “qualitative essence” at John 4:9 (predicate noun before verb) than was Mark at Mark 7:26 (predicate noun after verb).
It is also very clear that Colwell’s “definite” rule is refuted by these scriptures: Bible translations never render Mark 14:70; Luke 23:6, Jn 4:9a; Jn 4:9b as “the Galilean;” “the Jew;” or “the Samaritan”!
Both Harner (p. 82) and Wallace (p. 98) list John 10:1 and 10:8 as being in the “qualitative” category.
John 10:1 - “that (one) _thief is and _plunderer” is translated: “a thief and a robber” - KJV, RSV, etc.
John 10:8 - “all..._thieves are and _plunderers” is translated: “thieves and robbers” (indefinite concrete plural) - KJV, RSV, etc.
Surely no one would say that “thief” and “robber” (or “plunderer”) are to be understood in two different senses. 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 is the very essence of a thief and is a robber”! And the context would make such a suggestion ludicrous!
And yet, notice that “thief” comes before the verb and “robber” comes after the verb!! --- We can also see a clear refutation of Colwell’s “definite” rule here. The anarthrous “thief” coming before the verb is not considered definite (“the thief”) any more than the anarthrous “plunderer” coming after the verb is considered definite (“the plunderer”). They are both equally indefinite concrete nouns!
So, in spite of any stylistic word order, 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”)?
John 9:28 - “You are his disciples, but we are disciples of Moses.” - RSV.
We find “disciple(s)” at John 9:27 and 9:28a coming before the verb (“disciples to become” and “you disciple are”) and both scriptures are listed by both Harner (p. 82) and Wallace (p. 98) in their “qualitative” lists. But is this really a description of the “essence” of these people? And if it is, why should we find at John 9:28 (cf. John 15:8; John 19:38) the Jews continuing the direct comparison by using an indefinite “disciples” (“we are _disciples”)?
If John had intended a “qualitative” “disciple” at John 9:28a because of word order, he would certainly have repeated that “qualitative” word order in the second half of that direct comparison (John 9:28b).
Since he did not, we can be assured that word order does not determine “qualitativeness” or “essence”!
John 11:49 - “Caiaphas - _chief priest being of year”.
John 18:13 - “Caiaphas who was _chief priest of the year.”
Again we see John, obviously intending the same meaning in both cases, using a predicate noun (“_chief priest”) before the verb (John 11:49) in the very same sense as he uses it after the verb (John 18:13). It would be clearly wrong to “interpret” the first usage as “qualitative” and the second as indefinite. Obviously both are used in an indefinite sense. Even if we should decide that they should be interpreted as definite (“the high priest of the year”), then both instances must be definite, and it still shows that word order does not determine “definiteness” or “qualitativeness”! (In fact, it’s the “prepositional” use of the P.N. which causes article confusion.)
If there really was a grammatical rule in first century NT Greek in which the predicate noun was made qualitative simply because of word order, we should find it most clearly and consistently used by the New Testament writer who had the best knowledge of that language.
The Encyclopedia Americana, explaining why Luke was so adept in the Greek language tells us that it is “sufficiently certain that he was of Hellenic [Greek] descent.” - Vol. 17, p. 689, 1957.
The Encyclopedia Britannica tells us that “Luke belonged to cultivated Hellenistic circles, where he learned to write with ease good, idiomatic Greek.” And, “his Greek style and vocabulary were as educated as that of such Greek writers as Xenophon.” - Vol. 14, pp. 409, 411, 1968.
According to the Encyclopedia International, 1966, Grolier: Luke “was capable of writing better Greek than the other evangelists.” - Vol. 11, p.130.
So, if any Bible writer uses such a “grammatical rule” properly and consistently, it should be Luke.
Let us, then, examine Luke’s use of this “rule.” Probably the most-used predicate noun found in Luke’s writings is “witness(es).” We find it used before the verb 3 times:
Luke 11:48 - “So you are witnesses” - RSV.
Acts 1:22 - “One of these men must become with us a witness” - RSV.
Acts 3:15 - “To this we are witnesses” - RSV.
But notice that exactly the same meaning is conveyed by Luke in these verses where the predicate noun comes after the verb in the original NT Greek:
Acts 1:8 - “you shall be my witnesses” - RSV.
Acts 2:32 - “we all are witnesses” - RSV.
Acts 5:32 - “we are witnesses to these things” - RSV.
Acts 22:15 - “you will be a witness” - RSV.
Obviously Luke sees no distinction between the predicate noun (“witness”) coming before the verb and its coming after the verb!
Let’s also examine Luke’s use of the predicate noun “Galilean”: Luke 22:59 and Luke 23:6 have the predicate noun “Galilean” before the verb and are, therefore, listed by Wallace (p. 98) as having “Colwell’s construction.”
Luke 22:59 - “_Galilean he [Peter] is” is translated: “he is a Galilean” - RSV.
Luke 23:6 - “the man [Jesus] _Galilean is” is translated: “the man was a Galilean” - RSV.
Acts 2:7 - “these are... _Galileans” is translated “are not all these...Galileans?” - RSV.
We would never understand Luke as saying that Peter and Jesus are equal! Or that they both have the same nature or essence! Yet notice that they both are described with a “qualitative” “Galilean” coming before the verb! Obviously all Luke was trying to say was that Peter (like Jesus) was simply one of many persons who came from Galilee (in other words, an indefinite noun). We know that this is all that was meant by Pilate at Luke 23:6 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 was absolutely no consideration of “essence” or “nature”!
Luke’s use of “Galileans” at Acts 2:7 shows that he doesn’t intend “qualitative” meanings by his use of word order. “Galileans” used there is obviously used in a “qualitative” sense just as much as “Galilean” at Luke 22:59 (and certainly more so than at Luke 23:6). And yet the predicate noun “Galileans” follows the verb!
Harner (p. 78) tells us that in Mark 11:17 (which has the predicate noun “house of prayer” coming before the verb) Mark’s meaning “seems to be that the Jerusalem temple should have the function or nature of being a house of prayer for all the nations.”
And yet, the very same incident is worded by Luke with the predicate noun, “house of prayer,” coming after the verb (Luke 19:46).
Should we really think that Mark tells us that Jesus spoke of the temple in a “qualitative” sense whereas Luke tells us Jesus, instead, spoke of it only in an indefinite sense?
Isn’t it much more likely that they both meant exactly the same thing, and that, therefore, word order does not determine “qualitativeness”?
Finally, but equally conclusive, is Luke’s description of a man at Luke 5:8 - “I am a sinful man” (NIV) as compared with his description of another man at Acts 11:24 - “He was a good man” (NIV). If one of these descriptions is really “qualitative,” then the other one must be also. And yet, in only one of them does Luke put the predicate noun before the verb! Without looking at the actual Greek text there is no way to determine which one has the predicate noun before the verb and which one has it after! If the “qualitative” rule truly worked there would be no such difficulty.
Even if you take the “qualitative” approach to its highest extreme, you cannot honestly force John 1:1c into a statement that Jesus truly is the Most High God of the Bible. More objective trinitarian scholars who attempt to use a “qualitative” approach to John 1:1c actually end up unwittingly admitting the impossibility of a true trinity doctrine!
Certainly one of the most respected of trinitarian scholars who attempt to use a “qualitative” explanation of John 1:1c is Professor William Barclay.
“world-renowned Scottish New Testament interpreter, was noted as a profound scholar and a writer of extraordinary gifts.... He was the minister of Trinity Church, Renfrew, Scotland, and later, Professor of Divinity and Biblical Criticism at the University of Glasgow.”
This world-renowned scholar and trinitarian minister has written for a highly popular study guide on the New Testament (available at most “Christian” book stores) called The Daily Study Bible Series.
Professor Barclay, like a number of other respected trinitarian scholars and translators, has attempted to solve the impossibilities of the “orthodox” trinitarian interpretation of John 1:1c by taking the “qualitative” approach to the only possible final conclusion (for those who insist that Jesus is God).
In his Daily Study Bible Series: The Gospel of John (volumes 1 and 2), The Westminster Press, Philadelphia, 1975, Barclay tells us:
“When John said ‘The Word was God’ he was not saying that Jesus was identical with God; he was saying...that in him we perfectly see what God is like [God’s qualities].” - p. 39, Vol. 1.
He further clarifies this understanding on pp. 143-144 and 161-162 of volume 2:
“An ambassador does not go out as a private individual armed with only his own personal qualities and qualifications. He goes out with all the honour and glory of his country upon him. To listen to him is to listen to his country; to honour him is to honour the country he represents; to welcome him is to welcome the ruler who sent him out.” - pp. 143-144, Vol. 2.
“Jesus goes on to say something else. One thing no Jew would ever lose was the grip of sheer loneliness of God. The Jews were unswerving monotheists [God is one person alone, the Father only: Jehovah]. The danger of the Christian faith is that we may set up Jesus as a kind of secondary God. But Jesus himself insists that the things he said and the things he did did not come from his own initiative or his own power or his own knowledge but from God. His words were God’s voice speaking to men; His deeds were God’s power flowing through him to men. He was the channel by which God came to men [John 1:18].
“Let us take two simple and imperfect analogies, from the relationship between student and teacher. Dr. Lewis Muirhead said of that great Christian and expositor, A. B. Bruce, that men ‘came to see in the man [Bruce] the glory of God.’ Every teacher has the responsibility of transmitting something of the glory of his subject to those who listen to him; and he who teaches about Jesus Christ can, if he is Saint enough, transmit the vision and the presence of God to his students. That is what A. B. Bruce did, and in an infinitely greater way that is what Jesus did. He transmitted the glory and the love of God to men.” - pp. 161-162, Vol. 2.
“...Sometimes if a divinity student has been trained by a great preacher whom he loves, we will see in the student something of the teacher and hear something of his voice. Jesus did something like that only immeasurably more so. He brought God’s accent, God’s message, God’s heart [God’s qualities?] to men.
“We must every now and then remember, that all is of God. It was not a self-chosen expedition to the world which Jesus made. He did not do it to soften a hard heart in God. He came because God sent him because God so loved the world.” - p. 162, Vol. 2.
This “qualitative” defense of a “trinity doctrine” by Barclay (and some others) clearly does not make Jesus out to be God at all! In fact, Barclay says in Many Witnesses, One Lord, 1973 ed., pp. 23, 24:
“Theos [at John 1:1c] has not got the definite article in front of it. When a Greek noun has not got the article in front of it, it becomes rather a description than an identification and has the character of an adjective rather than of a noun....John is not here identifying the Word with God. To put it very simply, HE DOES NOT SAY THAT JESUS WAS GOD.”
The godly qualities Jesus is showing merely reflect the qualities of God! Such a “qualitative” interpretation may explain such popular Bible translations of John 1:1c as: “What God was, the Word was” - NEB; and “he [the Word] was the same as God.” - TEV, GNB.
But remember, no matter how perfectly anyone (man, angel, Jesus) reflects God’s qualities, he is still not God himself (see MINOR-12,13). And if we want everlasting life, we must know God (John 17:3; 2 Thess. 1:8) and never confuse him with his ambassador (no matter how perfectly that representative reflects God’s qualities)!
As this highly-respected trinitarian, Barclay, puts it:
“Jesus’s glory lay in the fact that from his life, man recognized his special relationship with God. They saw that no one could live as he did unless he was uniquely near to God [John 1:1c; 1:18]. As with Christ, it is our glory when men see in us the reflection of God.” - p. 220, Vol. 2.
Or, as he more succinctly puts it: “in Jesus we see the PICTURE of God.” - p. 153, Vol. 2.
We must never forget that we must never give the worship due God himself to a picture of God no matter how perfectly that “picture” reflects his qualities!
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 information in this paper, 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. Colwell was well aware of the “qualitative” theory for certain anarthrous nouns as proposed by certain Bible scholars. Colwell wrote in that same article: “A predicate nominative which precedes the verb cannot be translated as an indefinite or a ‘qualitative’ noun solely because of the absence of the [definite] article; if the context suggests that the predicate is definite it should be translated as a definite noun in spite of the absence of the article.” - p. 20, JBL, 1933, Vol. 52.
2. “Qualitarian” Wallace says: “since there are 3 persons in the Trinity, it is not proper to conceive of ‘God’ as being summed up by ‘the Word’.” (p. 96)
This is similar to saying that since there are 100 persons in the U.S. Senate, it is not proper to think of “the Senate” as being summed up by “Senator Kennedy.”
In other words, the body known as “the Senate” is made up of 100 persons and it exists only when a majority of them work together as one. If the majority of them passed a bill, we can say “The Senate” passed that bill. Even if the senators cannot agree, we could say “the Senate” [majority of senators] is deadlocked.
If Senator Kennedy alone, however, decided that all U.S. citizens 53.2 years of age should have free dental care, it would not be proper to say “the Senate” decided this! We must identify the isolated individual in such a case as “Senator Kennedy”!
Again, if Senator Kennedy were sent by the Senate to inform the vacationing Senator Smith that the Senate had selected him to head the Filbert Shell Inspection Committee, we might say that the Senate had informed Senator Smith of his selection. Or, we might say the Senate, through Senator Kennedy, had informed Senator Smith. The meaning is very clear, and no one would ever say that Senator Kennedy is the Senate, or ‘the Senate sent the Senate to inform the Senate’!
Likewise, then, if the trinity is the true knowledge of God (John 17:3; John 4:24), we must not identify the Father alone as “the God.” We must not identify the Son alone as “the God.” And we must not identify the Holy Spirit alone as “the God.” It is only when we are speaking of the THREE as ONE that we may call them “the God.” We must not say, for example, that “the God was sent to earth as a man” since it was the person of the Son alone who was sent to earth.
Therefore, if the trinity idea is really true (or truly real), we might see “God the Father” but not “the God” when the person of the Father alone is being discussed. And we should see “God the Son” but not “the God” when the person of the Son alone is being considered. But what do we really find in the Bible? We never find anyone being identified as “God the Son” or “God the Holy Spirit”! But we do see the Father frequently identified as “God the Father” and he is also frequently called “the God”! (Jesus and Holy Spirit are never called “the God”!). Some examples where “the God” is clearly the Father alone: John 3:16, 17; 6:27; Acts 2:32 (cf. Gal. 1:1); 3:26; 5:30, 31; 1 Cor. 11:3.
There is, perhaps, even more significant evidence for those trinitarians (‘Qualitarians’ mostly) who insist that ‘the god’ (ho theos) could not possibly be used as a predicate noun to identify the Son alone because the article (ho) in such cases must mean that he, alone, is God in entirety (or the only person who can be identified by the term theos - Bowman).
We can see in many places in the NT individuals identified with predicate nouns which have the definite article and these persons are not considered to be the only person who can be so identified (e.g., Jn 1:21; 5:35; 20:15).
Jn 1:21 asks if a single person is “the prophet.” This certainly did not mean that they thought he was the only person who could be identified by the term “prophet” or that he might be the entire “prophethood”! It did mean, of course, that they wondered if he was the only person who was that unique, ultimate “Prophet” that had been foretold by Moses.
Jn 5:35 tells us that John is the shining lamp. This does not mean that John is the only “lamp,” nor the only “unique, ultimate” lamp, nor that he was the entire “Lamphood”!
Jn 20:15 tells us that Mary assumed the person she saw was “the gardener.” She did not assume that this “stranger” was really the only gardener in existence, nor that he was the only “unique, ultimate” Gardener, nor that he was the entire “Gardenerhood”!
It is true, however, that when we really do intend the unique, ultimate one in a category (the god, the prophet, the devil, etc.), we are saying that he alone (Jehovah alone; Jesus alone; Satan alone; etc.) is the god (God), the prophet, the devil, etc. That is why, as we have seen above, the FATHER (alone) is “the god” (and Jesus, Holy Spirit, etc. are not)!
Yes, we see that the Father (alone) is identified as “the true God” at John 17:3. The Father (alone) is even so identified with a predicate noun (with the article) at 1 John 5:20: “this (one) is the true god” - see any interlinear. Trinitarians admit (see any commentary - e.g. NIVSB footnote) that this could refer to either the Son or the Father. Some respected trinitarians (see MINOR study) even admit (as context and Jn 17:3 make clear) that it refers to the Father alone! But in either case, we have one person only being called “the god”!! Therefore, the argument of some trinitarians that ‘the god’ could not have been grammatically used for the Son alone at Jn 1:1c (because it would mean he is the entire “3-person” God by himself) is totally false. Otherwise these scriptures could not have used “the god” for the Father alone: John 3:16, 17; 6:27; Acts 2:32; 3:26; 5:31; 13:30, 33; Ro. 1:9; 1 Cor. 1:9; 11:3; etc.
Nevertheless, those trinitarians are right that it could not properly have been used for the Son. And they are right that when used in the way it is at Jn 1:1c it means the entire ‘Godhead.’ The Father is the unique, ultimate ‘the god,’ the entire ‘godhead,’ God alone, by himself as all such Bible evidence shows!
3. Notice the self-contradiction: The Word, according to Wallace, must have the “qualitative” anarthrous theos because he would have to be considered the entire ‘Godhead’ by himself if he were “the God” (ho theos or ton theon) in John 1:1c. And yet, Wallace admits, “the God” described in the first part of John 1:1 is the Father alone!
In other words, the Father is the entire “Godhead,” but Jesus is not! The Father is clearly identified as “the God” many times. Jesus and the Holy Spirit are not! - John 17:1, 3; Jn 5:18; 8:41, 42; Matt. 6:8; (Acts 2:24; 13:33 and Acts 5:30, 31; Eph. 1:17, 20). Even the trinitarian The New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology, speaking of the word theos used at Ro. 9:5, tells us that it could be applied to either the Father or to Jesus. But, it continues, even if it should be applied to Jesus, “Christ would not be equated absolutely with God, but only described as a being of divine nature, for the word theos has no article.”! - Vol. 2, p. 80.
4. It is exceedingly strange that no Bible writer has ever made a clear statement of this “central doctrine” of Christendom! How difficult would it be to say “Jesus is the God” just as clearly as they wrote “Jesus is the Christ”? If Jehovah could be called “the God” thousands of times in the OT, and the Father repeatedly called “the God” in the NT, why isn’t Jesus (and Holy Spirit) also called “the God”? How difficult would it be for God’s inspired writers to say “The Father, the Son, and Holy Spirit are (‘compose,’ ‘equal,’ ‘make up,’ etc.) the only true God”? (see John 17:3) Even I can clearly state it. We don’t even find such clear, simple statements as “God is three” or “The one God is three persons” or even “God the Son” and “God the Holy Spirit”!
5. If we very carefully analyze the Colwell construction at Jn 10:33, we find that the “qualitative” approach isn’t even followed by trinitarian translators for the “obvious” rendering of a concrete indefinite noun (“a man”) as its “qualitative” equivalent (“human”)! Nearly all trinitarian Bibles render this Colwell construction (“you man being”) not as “you being human” but as “you being a man” (concrete indefinite!).
6. Since a predicate adjective’s position (word order) in a sentence is not significant to the meaning (“The judge just” and “just the judge” both mean “the judge is just” - see p. 25, Marshall’s New Testament Greek Primer, Zondervan), why should anyone expect to find significance in the position of a predicate noun? We find the same lack of significance with anarthrous nouns used as subjects whether found before or after the verb. And the predicate noun, after all, is supposed to be equal to the subject! Why should we expect significance in the predicate noun’s position but not in the subject’s position?
7. The New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology, 1986, Zondervan, tells us: “It can be said that Satan entered Judas, when he was prepared to betray Jesus....But it is not only in relation to individuals, but also in relation to the Church that anyone can be called Diabolos [‘a devil’ as used in the NT Greek text at John 6:70] who tries to impede God’s word of salvation.” - p. 470, Vol. 3. - see 2 Tim. 3:3.
“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.
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 do trinitarians for 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 or essence 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 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 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?
8. Notice how John 8:44 - “You are from your father the Devil” - makes those Jews “sons of the Devil.” Compare the use of “devil/Devil” and “Son of the Devil” as used for humans with “god/God” and “Son of God” as used for Jesus!
9. We must examine this verse carefully in relation to John 1:1. In all Bibles at John 1:21 “prophet” is translated as definite (only one of its kind) just as many trinitarian Bibles try to do with Jn 1:1c (the God - only one of its kind). In fact, most trinitarian Bibles (including NIV,KJV, NASB, REB, AT, LB, TEV, GNB, JB, NJB, Moffatt, NAB [1970 and 1991 ed.], Phillips, and KJIIV) capitalize “Prophet” to show the exclusiveness of the word (compare “god/God”). why did John use the definite article at John 1:21 when it was in a so-called ‘Colwell construction’ already? Because it was necessary to show the exclusiveness, uniqueness of “the Prophet”, and a pre-copulative anarthrous predicate noun simply could not do that!
Noted trinitarian NT Greek scholar J. H. Moulton states that predicate nouns are frequently found without the definite article in the Scriptures. He adds, however, that the inspired Bible writers did use the article with a predicate noun “if the predicate noun is supposed to be a unique or notable instance”! - p. 183, Vol. 3, A Grammar of New Testament Greek, 1963.
Highly regarded trinitarian scholar A. T. Robertson adds: “If [Moulton] had added ... that the article also occurs when [the predicate noun] is the only one of its kind [e.g., the only true God], he would have said all that is to be said on the subject.” - A Grammar of the Greek New Testament in the Light of Historical Research, p. 768. (Respected trinitarian scholars Blass & Debrunner also agree with Moulton and Robertson above - see p. 148 (#273), A Greek Grammar of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature, The University of Chicago Press.)
It is only because of the Greek definite article that John 1:21 is translated “the Prophet” (a predicate noun which is “unique” and “the only one of its kind”), and John 4:19, although in a Colwell Construction, is always “a prophet”!
How could it be any more obvious that, if John had intended “the only true God” (“unique,” “only one of its kind”) at John 1:1c, he would have used the definite article (“the God”) and, instead, by using a construction identical to Jn 4:19, intended “a god”?
10. Also examine the “qualitative” “a liar” for Satan at John 8:44 and the indefinite “a liar” at John 8:55. Obviously (from context) they both have the same meaning. Also, the “qualitative” “a liar” at 1 John 2:4 and 4:20 does not make them equally the Devil with Satan who has the same “qualitative” noun, “a liar” at John 8:44. In other words, we see no reason to establish a Satanic “trinity” (a “Satinity”?) because of such constructions (including John 6:70 and Matt. 16:23). So why should we insist on such an interpretation at John 1:1c?
It would also be profitable to examine John 9:24, 25, and 28 (and compare Luke 7:37, 39). John 9:24 in the Greek says: “This the man sinner is,” and all 16 trinitarian translations I have examined say, “This man is a sinner.” Here the concrete noun “sinner” is used as a predicate noun in a “Colwell construction.” Wallace only gives us two choices: either “sinner” is definite or qualitative. Obviously context doesn’t allow it to be definite, so Wallace would insist that it be interpreted as “qualitative”! No translations do so, however.
But look at the very next verse (:25). Now we even see “sinner” in a “Colwell construction” with the predicate noun coming before the subject also (as happens at John 1:1c). Again it is translated in all trinitarian translations as “a sinner” (concrete indefinite). Obviously Satan and his demons are also “sinners”! Are we to believe, again, that a “qualitative” “Colwell construction” makes all persons so described THE SAME AS SATAN? Are all such persons powerful spirit persons who are equally members of a many-in-one “Satinity”? Is such a construction “the most precise way he could have stated that [Judas, “men,” etc.] was [the Devil] and yet was distinct from [Satan]”?
11. John 4:24 (“God [is] spirit” or “God [is] a spirit”) alone shows us there is no validity to a “Qualitative (or “definite”) rule based on word placement in the writings of John! As we have seen, there is a crucial difference between the abstract, qualitative understanding of “God [is] spirit” and the indefinite, concrete “God [is] a spirit.” If there had been a “qualitative” (or “definite”) rule, John certainly would have shown his readers (by his use or non-use of that rule) which meaning he intended here.
But John chose to write this scripture without a verb! Obviously, if the positional relationship of predicate noun to verb were at all important to understanding John’s meaning in this important scripture (as the “Qualitative Rule” insists), he would have shown us by verb placement! He did not. As it is, then, the understood verb (“is”) may be understood to be either before or after the predicate noun in the original Greek: “[is] spirit the God” [cf. Jn 1:8,9] or “spirit [is] the God.” Obviously John is not aware of any “qualitative” (or “definite”) rule based on word placement! It is therefore not proper to say that he uses such a rule at John 1:1c.
12. “Grammar alone cannot prove how the predicate in this verse [John 1:1c] should be translated, whether ‘God’ or ‘a god’.” - The Catholic Biblical Quarterly, Vol. XIII, No. 4, Oct. 1951.
13. 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 the 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 (HARN and HARNJBL) 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, 38; 21:22; 22:59; 23:6, 50.
The underlined verses above are all the non-prepositional 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 theses Bibles in Zondervan’s So Many Versions?) trinitarian Bibles (RSV, NASB, NIV, ASV):
1. Mt 2:23 - indefinite (“a Nazarene”) - all (KJV, NRSV, RSV, NASB, NIV, ASV) n.s.
2. Mt 6:23 - indefinite plural/amount (“darkness”) - all - pl.
3. Mt 8:9 - indefinite - may be prepositional - (“a man”) - all
4. Mt 13:39 (c) - indefinite plural (“angels”) - all except KJV - pl. (“the angels”) - KJV only
5. Mt 14:26 - indefinite (“a ghost”) - all - n.s.
6. Mt 23:8 (b) - indefinite plural (“brothers/brethren”) - all - pl.
7. Mt 25:35 - indefinite (“a stranger”) - all - n.s.
8. Mt 25:43 - indefinite (“a stranger”) - all - n.s.
9. Mt 26:48 - pronoun - (“he”) - cannot use articles with pronoun - n.s.
10. Mk 6:49 - indefinite (“a ghost”) - all - n.s.
11. Mk 11:32 - indefinite (“a prophet”) - all - n.s. ?
12. Mk 14:70 - indefinite (“a Galilean”) - all - n.s.
13. Lk 5:8 - indefinite (“a sinful man”) - all - n.s.
14. Lk 7:39 - indefinite (“a sinner”) - all - n.s.
15. Lk 11:35 - indefinite plural/amount (“darkness”) - all - pl.
16. Lk 17:10 - indefinite plural (“slaves/servants”) - all - pl.
17. Lk 19:21 - indefinite (“a harsh man”) - all - n.s.
18. Lk 19:22 - indefinite (“a harsh man”) - all
(Lk 20:6 - accusative case)
20. Lk 22:59 - indefinite (“a Galilean”) - all - n.s.
21. Lk 23:6 - indefinite (“a Galilean”) - all
22. Lk 23:50 - indefinite (“a counsellor”) - KJV, ASV - see interlinears
(“a member”) - NASB, NRSV, RSV, NIV
n.s. = no subject...... pl. = plural
Notice that for the 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.