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Sunday, September 27, 2009

DEF - Part 2

The "Definite" John 1:1 (part 2 of 4)    (View Entire File)

Grammatical "Rules" for a Definite John 1:1c
1  Many trinitarian defenses (or offenses) for their favored translation of John 1:1c pretend to refer to rules of Greek grammar. Many people, trinitarian and non-trinitarian alike, are afraid to begin a study of anything that sounds so difficult. But take heart! It really isn't nearly as difficult as it sounds to understand the so-called rules of Greek grammar that are involved and to prove them false to anyone who is willing to listen.

2  The first thing you need is any good interlinear Greek-English version of the New Testament Christian Greek Scriptures. You can obtain a trinitarian-biased interlinear from most Bible book stores. Or you can get a non-trinitarian-biased interlinear from any Jehovah's Witness (at a much more reasonable cost).

You may also need the use of several different Bible translations (public libraries usually have these for checkout) and a very brief refresher course in the meaning of a few words that may sound intimidating at first but that are really quite simple.

A "rule" preferred by some trinitarians for "proving" that Jesus is called "God" at John 1:1c is called "Colwell's Rule." This "rule" was first developed by E. C. Colwell and published by him in the Journal of Biblical Literature in 1933.

To understand Colwell's Rule we need to learn (or review) the meanings of 5 terms:

(1) The DEFINITE ARTICLE is simply the word "the" in English. In NT Greek the definite article is (or ho) when it used with a singular masculine predicate noun (such as "God").

(2) The INDEFINITE ARTICLE is simply the word "a" (or "an") in English. There is no indefinite article in Greek. However, it is usually provided by the English translator when there is no definite article present with a noun in the original Greek - see below.

(3) The BE VERBS are all the different ways we use "be" in English. For example, we say "I am tall" instead of "I be tall." Instead of "they be tall" we say "they are tall" or "they were tall." Here, then, are the most-used "be verbs": Am, is, are, was, were, be, been.

(4) The SUBJECT is the person or thing which is "doing" the verb in a sentence. For example: "He is a man." Who or what is "doing" the "be verb" in that sentence? "He" is; so the word "He" is "doing" the verb "is," and, therefore, "He" is the subject.

Therefore, "cow" in "the purple cow was his pet" is the subject. And "house" in "my old house is now a restaurant" is the subject.

(5) The PREDICATE NOUN (also called the predicate nominative) is the person or thing which is the same as the subject and usually follows a be verb in the English language. If the sentence has a be verb as the only verb (or as the main verb), then the predicate noun (if there is one in that sentence) can easily be found by following this formula:

(A) Say the subject.

(B) Say the be verb.

(C) Ask, "What?".

For example: "He is a man." "He" is the subject (it's "doing" the be verb "is"). So (A) say the subject ("He"), and (B) say the be verb ("is"), and (C) ask "what?": "He is what?"

The answer is "man," so "man" is the predicate noun. Remember that, like the subject, the predicate noun must be a person or thing (not a describing word like "tall," "green," "good," "seven," etc.).

Word Order

4  The predicate noun in English is nearly always found after the be verb. In the ancient Greek manuscripts of the Bible, however, the predicate noun frequently comes before (precedes) the be verb. For example, at John 18:37a John writes in NT Greek: "king are you." Notice that the subject "you" comes after the verb and the predicate noun "king" is before the be verb "are." This is correctly translated into English as "You are a king" - NIV. Since there is no definite article ("the") with "king," English-language translators properly supply an indefinite article ("a king"). - see any Bible, John 18:37a. This is also the case at John 1:1c where the predicate noun (theos) comes before (precedes) the be verb ("was"): "and god [theos] was the word." We see that here at John 1:1c the predicate noun precedes the verb and the subject follows the verb.

If you have gone over the 5 terms above until you are certain of their meanings, you will have no trouble understanding Colwell's Rule (and no trouble disproving it!).
Here, then, is how Bowser (What Every Jehovah's Witness Should Know) quotes Colwell's Rule:

"`The absence of the [definite] article does not make the predicate [noun] indefinite when it precedes the verb.'" - p. 57, material in brackets added for clarity.

Bowser then adds:

"Even a casual look at the Greek text in John 1 shows that the predicate [noun] `God' precedes the verb `was' and consequently the testimony of John is that `the Word was God.'"(Cf. p. 99, So Many Versions, Kubo & Specht, Zondervan Publ., 1983.)

5  Remember that we have already seen in all the Gospels and all the writings of John that when "the only true God" is intended (in non-"preposition-modified" nominative form) a definite article is used with it: "the God."[5] And, when "a god" is meant, there is no definite article with the word. So Bowser, by adding his own interpretation, has made it appear that Colwell's Rule insists that, if the predicate noun comes before the verb, it must be translated as though it had a definite article! In the case of John 1:1c that would mean that even though "god" (theos) does not have an article with it in the Greek (which would normally mean that "a god" was intended), it must be translated as though it did and therefore must be translated "The Word was the god." And since the definite article coming before "god" (theos) means the only true God is being spoken of, then John 1:1c must mean "The Word was God."

It's obvious, then, that it all boils down to whether a definite article ("the") must be understood to be with theos or not at John 1:1c.

6  But notice what Colwell himself really said. Colwell published his rule in a 1933 JBL article entitled, "A Definite Rule for the Use of the Article in the Greek New Testament." In that article he wrote: "A predicate nominative [or predicate noun] which precedes the verb cannot be translated as an indefinite or a `qualitative' noun solely because of the absence of the 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.

Nowhere did Colwell ever say that all (nor even most) predicate nouns that precede the verb in NT Greek are definite nouns. Not any inviolable rule of NT Greek grammar, but context alone, says Colwell, must guide the translator in such cases. And, as we have already seen (and according to some of the best trinitarian scholars themselves - see the QUAL study), the context of John 1:1 makes it clear that if the Word were with the God of the Bible he could not himself be that God. Even context alone makes it certain that John meant "the Word was a god."

7  But let's return to the trinitarian misinterpretation of Colwell's Rule: "a predicate noun that has no definite article must be considered definite anyway when it comes before the verb in NT Greek."

One of the first things a beginning student of New Testament Greek learns is that word order has very little, if any, significance as far as the meaning is concerned. (This is especially true when one is examining nominative case nouns - see the THEON study.) For example, respected NT Greek authorities, Dr. Alfred Marshall and Prof. J. Gresham Machen tell us in their NT Greek primers that, unlike English, NT Greek does not use word order to convey meanings but instead uses the individual endings on each word (inflections).

"The English translation must be determined by observing the [Greek word] endings, not by observing the [word] order." - New Testament Greek for Beginners, Machen, p. 27. (cf. New Testament Greek Primer, Marshall, pp. 7, 22 and p. 417, A. T. Robertson.)

And in a later example illustrating predicate nouns Prof. Machen gave this example: “ho apostolos anthropos estin [word-for-word translation: ‘the apostle man is’],” and he translated that sentence (which has an anarthrous predicate noun preceding the verb as in John 1:1c) as “the apostle is a man.” - p. 50, New Testament Greek For Beginners, The Macmillan Company, 1951.

And In Exercise 8 (p.44) of the Rev. Dr. Alfred Marshall’s New Testament Greek Primer, the noted trinitarian scholar asks us to translate phoneus esti into English. (Notice that the predicate noun [phoneus, ‘murderer’] precedes the verb [esti, ‘he is’].) The answer is given on p. 153 where Dr. Marshall translates it as “He is a murderer.” – Zondervan Publishing House, 1962.

And Prof. N. Clayton Croy on p. 35 of his A Primer of Biblical Greek translates prophetes estin ho anthropos (literally, “prophet is the man”) as “The man is a prophet.” - Eerdmans Publ. Co. (Emphasis, as usual, is mine.)

In Learn New Testament Greek by John H. Dobson we find on p. 64 two interesting Greek clauses and their translations by Dobson: the clauses are: (1) prophetes estin and (2) prophetes en. In both of these the predicate noun (prophetes) comes before the verb (‘he is’ and ‘he was’).

Here is how Dobson has translated these two clauses: “He is a prophet.” And “He was a prophet.” – Baker Book House, 1989.

Also see p. 148, A Manual Grammar of the Greek New Testament, where trinitarians Dana and Mantey translate an example they admit is parallel to John 1:1c as “And the place was a market,” The Macmillan Company [6]

8  But even if you haven't even begun studying NT Greek, you can prove the trinitarian misinterpretation of Colwell's Rule to be completely false simply by actually going through the Gospel of John in a Greek-English Interlinear New Testament and finding all the places where a predicate noun precedes the be verb. (Skim through and find all the `be' verbs, then see if there is a predicate noun that has no definite article coming before that verb. Then check all Bible translations to see if that predicate noun is translated with a definite article or not.) - For a detailed examination of all proper examples (those most equivalent to Jn 1:1c) see the Appendix of this paper.

9  Personal names such as "Jesus," "Abraham," "Mary," etc. should not be included as they may take a definite article in NT Greek or not according to the whim of the writer and yet in English are always translated without the definite article.[7]

We also need to be aware that a definite plural noun when translated into English uses the definite article ("the men"), but the indefinite plural noun does not take an indefinite English article ("men").

And more confusing yet are nouns which are not "countable" (that is, they are things that are found in indeterminate amounts: "soup," "flesh," "blood," "wine," "honey," etc. rather than things we can count: "three cows," "two peas," "ten prophets," etc.) but may also be treated as plurals. Since the use of plural examples can be so confusing concerning the definite and indefinite articles in English translations (and since plurals were not used at Jn 1:1c anyway), I try to avoid using them as proper examples. And I avoid even more strongly the ambiguous, confusing "amount" nouns as proper examples. [[More recently, I have discovered that others have called these "amount" nouns "non-count" nouns. Examples of non-count nouns include "flesh," "blood," "wine," "wheat," "soup," "water," "gold," "silver," etc. Most confusing are words which have more than one meaning: one as a count noun and one as a non-count noun. For example, "stone" may be considerd as a mass: "the house was made of stone." In that example "stone" would be a non-count noun. But when used in a different sense ("he picked up a stone"), it is a count noun! We find these examples in English: "spirit," "hair," "marble," "light," etc. ]]

10  We must also remember the problem with "possessive" (or prepositional) constructions.[8] They, like personal names, should not be included in our listing of all the proper examples of John's use of predicate nouns coming before the verb. Colwell used such improper "prepositional" examples almost exclusively to "prove" his rule.

      We should also know that some scholars, like trinitarian P. B. Harner, exclude predicate nouns that are with numerals (“three angels”) as also having irregular article usage - see p. 76 f.n., JBL, vol. 92, 1973 [or HARNJBL].  Included among numerals we find that words translated as negative adjectives ('no' - John 7:46, NKJV; HCSB; ISV; NLV; RSV; WEB;  Luke 4:24, most bibles; etc.) are, like numerals, considered indefinite or irregular. (Some writers apparently even found irregular article usage with nouns modified by other adjectives - A. T. Robertson, 795; D. B. Wallace, 253; 734 [pronominal].)  I have also noticed that trinitarian scholars Wallace (1981), Harner, and even Colwell himself (and perhaps all Bible language scholars) do not include the 5 “TIME/SEASON” predicate nouns (John 5:10; 10:22 [10:23 in some Bibles]; 19:31; and 1 John 2:18 [2 occurrences]).[9]  Appositives, too, exhibit article irregularity.[10]  Therefore, I have excluded these from my lists of article-dependent constructions.

(Some writers apparently even noted irregular article usage with nouns modified by certain adjectives - A. T. Robertson, 795; D. B. Wallace, 253; 734.)

11  You will find that when John uses an unmodified predicate noun (without a definite article) before the verb (as in Jn 1:1c), most Bible translators (trinitarian and non-trinitarian alike) translate it as an indefinite noun (often even in spite of ambiguous contexts) just as the New World Translation has done at John 1:1c. For example: John 4:19 " are a prophet" (compare all Bible translations). Also see John 6:70; John 8:44 (a); John 9:24; John 10:1; etc.

Let's look in more detail at John's use (or lack thereof) of the definite article with other titles applied to Jesus which are used as in Colwell's Rule.

All the uses of the word "prophet" in which John used the predicate noun ("prophet") before the verb are (1) John 1:21, (2) John 4:19, and (3) John 9:17. According to Colwell's Rule, then, it would be senseless for John to have used the article with "prophet" since it is automatically "understood" to be there! In other words, Colwell's Rule (as "interpreted" by some trinitarians, at least) would have "prophet" written without a definite article and translated as "the Prophet" (not "a prophet")! So, let's examine every usage of "prophet" when used this way by John.

(1) John 1:21 reads literally in the original NT Greek: "The prophet are you?". Why would John have used the article ("the") here when Colwell's Rule virtually precludes it? He used the definite article because John did not know of Colwell's "rule" or anything even remotely similar.

He used it because the article was needed even though the predicate noun came before the verb. At the very least John wanted us to be absolutely certain of what he meant and, therefore, had to use the definite article. By not using it, there would surely have been doubt (unless Colwell's Rule had really existed) as to whether he intended "a prophet" or "the Prophet." So John used the article to make sure we understood that John the Baptist was being asked if he were the Prophet. (Not only do all trinitarian Bibles make "the Prophet" definite at John 1:21, but many - including NIV, TEV, GNB, REB, NKJV, JB, NJB, NASB, AT, NAB [1970 & 1991 editions], LB, KJIIV, Moffatt, and Phillips - actually CAPITALIZE "Prophet" and, thereby, show the truly one-of-a-kind nature intended by this term: truly comparable to "God" vs. "a god.") Compare the articular post-verb "the Prophet" at Jn 7:40.

"The Prophet," of course, referred to the Messiah (see p. 894, An Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words, W. E. Vine, 1983 printing; p. 130, Today's Dictionary of the Bible, 1982, Bethany House Publ.; and pp. 765, 770, 984, New Bible Dictionary, 2nd ed., 1982, Tyndale House Publ.). So this is a title which properly applies to Jesus (even though John the Baptist was the one being questioned at this point) and was understood in the highest, one-of-a-kind sense: "The Prophet of prophets."

Dr. William Barclay, highly-respected trinitarian NT scholar tells us about `the Prophet' of Jn 1:21 -

"[The Jews] waited and longed for the emergence of the prophet who would be the greatest of all prophets, the Prophet par excellence. But once again John denied that this honor was his." - The Gospel of John, vol. 1, revised ed., The Daily Study Bible Series, 1975.

This verse (Jn 1:21 - "The Prophet") probably, then, provides the best comparison with the "God"/"a god" understanding of the Bible writers. "The Prophet" of John 1:21 is a title for a prophet who is "The Prophet of prophets" in the highest, one-of-a-kind sense just as The God is "The God of gods" in the highest, one-of-a-kind sense. - Be sure to analyze Mark 11:32 also.[11]

(2) John 4:19 reads literally in the original Greek: "I am beholding that prophet are you." This time John did not use the article with "prophet." So, Colwell's Rule shows that "prophet" should be translated into English with an understood "the" because the predicate noun "prophet" came before the verb, right?....... WRONG! Look at any translation.

In the Bible translations I have examined (including KJV, RSV, NRSV, TEV, GNB, NEB, REB, NIV, NASB, JB, and NJB) it is always translated: "I see you are a prophet." (None of those translations have capitalized "prophet" at this scripture.) This is identical to the construction in John 1:1c. (Not only does the predicate noun come before the verb, but the subject comes after the verb exactly as in John 1:1c.)

Now let's examine the only other instance where John uses "prophet" as a predicate noun coming before the verb.

(3) John 9:17 reads literally in the Greek: "The [man] but said that `prophet he is.'" Again Colwell's Rule insists (according to some trinitarian interpretations) that the predicate noun "prophet" be translated with an "understood" definite article. So all trinitarian translations of this verse must say: "The man said, `He is the Prophet.'" Right?.... Wrong again! Look at any Bible translation of John 9:17.

In the 16 different translations I have examined it is always translated: "The man said, `He is a prophet.'" Notice that even the context is not decisive in this case!

So a person must ask himself, why would the Apostle John use the article with an important title for Jesus ("The Prophet") at John 1:21 and not use it with an even more important (according to some trinitarian interpretations) title for Jesus (theos) at John 1:1c ? If "prophet" must have the article with it before it can be translated "the Prophet" (John 1:21) even though it is a predicate noun coming before the verb, and it is consistently translated "a prophet" (John 4:19 and John 9:17) in trinitarian translations when it does not have the article with it, then it should certainly be no surprise to any NT Greek scholar or translator when an honest translator renders the identical construction at John 1:1c as "and the Word was a god"! A study of all John's writings simply does not allow for the trinitarian interpretation: "and the Word was God (or `the God')"!

We can also find that all the uses of the word "king" in which John used the predicate noun ("king") before the verb are found at John 18:37. (Actually he used one more, but it is with a "possessive" construction - Jn 1:49.) The two uses at John 18:37 read literally in the Greek: "said therefore to him the Pilate... `king are you?'." And Jesus answered "You are saying that king I am."

Again we would expect (if Colwell's Rule had any real significance) this to be translated: "Pilate said to him, `Are you the King?'" and Jesus answered "you are saying I am the King." But see how it is actually translated even by trinitarian translators: "Are you a king, then?" and "You are saying I am a king." Yes, all 16 Bible translations I have checked rendered it "a king." Not one of them even capitalized it (not "the King" nor even just "King"). Again, notice that not even context would be decisive in determining the proper meaning in this case. And still not even one of the trinitarian Bible translators chose to use "Colwell's Rule"!

12  It may be worthwhile to look at all the instances where John calls Jesus "Lord" under the conditions for "Colwell's Rule."

(1) John 21:7 says literally in the Greek: "the disciple...said `The Lord it is'."

(2) Later in John 21:7 it says literally in the NT Greek: "Peter, having heard the Lord it is...."

(3) John 21:12 says literally in the original Greek: "having known that the Lord it is...."

Some scholars feel that since "Lord" is being used somewhat more like a personal name for Jesus than were the above titles ("prophet" and "king") it may be subject to the same article irregularity problem as are personal names: that is, sometimes an article is used with it and sometimes it is not. But that would still not explain John's usage here. There would be no reason to use the article with "Lord" in the first place if it were being used like a personal name here, and Colwell's Rule (if it or an equivalent had really existed) would have made its use here doubly redundant! If John felt it necessary to use the definite article here to call Jesus "the Lord," he certainly would have felt it even more necessary under identical grammatical conditions to use it in calling Jesus "God"!

We see that, in spite of Colwell's Rule, John doesn't hesitate to use the definite article with a predicate noun that comes before the verb if he truly intends that noun to be considered definite!! In fact, trinitarian NT Greek scholar Philip B. Harner states:

"the fact that John sometimes uses this type of clause [articular predicate noun coming before the verb] supports the view that he did not necessarily regard an anarthrous predicate as definite simply because it precedes the verb." - p. 83, Journal of Biblical Literature, vol. 92, 1973.

13  Respected trinitarian NT Greek scholar J. H. Moulton also states that predicate nouns are frequently without the 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. John 1:21 examined above ("the Prophet are you") is a clear example of this.

Highly-regarded trinitarian scholar A. T. Robertson adds:

"If he [Moulton] had added ... that the article also occurs WHEN IT IS THE ONLY ONE OF ITS KIND, 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. (Noted trinitarian scholars Blass & Debrunner also agree with Moulton and Robertson above - see p. 143 [#273], A Greek Grammar of the New Testament and other early Christian Literature, The University of Chicago Press, 1961.)

14  Now what could be more unique or notable (if John really intended a "trinitarian" interpretation at John 1:1c) than saying "the Word was God"? But John did not use the article here! And the prime example of "the only one of its kind" certainly must be the only true God, but, again, John does not use the article at Jn 1:1c to indicate such an understanding!

[[Other examples of "the only one of its kind" include "The Devil" and "The Christ." Even though both of these words are most often used in this "one of a kind" sense, they, like the word for God (theos), also may be used in a lesser sense for other persons. But when diabolos (devil) and christos (christ) are meant for the one of a kind individual (Satan or Jesus), we find that the definite article is always used with them (barring the same exceptions noted above in this study: appositives, used with personal name, connected to preposition, etc.). - See the CHRIST study. And here are the nominative uses of 'Devil': Matt. 4:5, 8, 11; 13:39; Lk 4:3, 6, 13; 8:12; 1 Pet. 5:8 (appositive); Rev. 2:10; 12:9 (appositive), 12:12; 20:2 (appositive); 20:10.]]

Why, then, if he really meant that Jesus is the One True God, didn't he use the definite article at John 1:1c ? Because, as he did with other terms sometimes used for Jesus ("prophet," "king"), he intended for them to be taken as indefinite nouns ("a prophet," "a king," and "a god") when the article was not used.

15  It should also be pointed out that 3 Kings 18:27 in the ancient Greek Septuagint translation of the Old Testament (1 Kings 18:27 in English Bibles) has a very similar construction to John 1:1c. It has theos as a predicate noun without a definite article and coming before the be verb: "for God [or `a god'] he is." But the Septuagint translation by Sir Lancelot Brenton (Zondervan Publishing) says "for he is a god."!! Compare other translations of 1 Kings 18:27: "a god" is obviously intended here! This is a clear (and very significant) "violation" of "Colwell's Rule"! - Cf. Judges 6:31 (and Ezek. 28:2 in many Bibles.)

Also notice the great parallel between John 1:1c and John 10:34. Even some of the staunchest trinitarians unwittingly make the comparison.

John 10:34 - "I said, `gods you are'" ("Colwell's construction").

Just as at John 1:1c, we find at John 10:34 an anarthrous predicate noun ("gods" - theoi) coming before the verb. Does this mean, then, that those so described at John 10:34 must be "the Gods" (in the highest sense) as "Colwell's Rule" would have it? Were these God-appointed judges of Israel, then, actually equal to God?

Footnotes for John 10:34 and 36 in the extremely trinitarian The NIV Study Bible, 1985, Zondervan Corp. say:

" `you are gods.' The words Jesus quotes from Ps 82:6 refer to the judges (or other leaders or rulers), whose tasks were divinely appointed (see Ex. 22:28 and NIV text note; Dt 1:17; 16:18; 2 Ch 19:6)." And, " can be spoken of as `gods' (as Ps 82:6 speaks of human rulers or judges), how much more may the term [`god'] be used of him whom the Father set apart and sent!" - (Cf. The Epistle to Diognetus, DEF- 7-8.)

16  How very true! just as God Himself called certain men "gods" (even with an anarthrous predicate noun coming before the verb as in John 1:1c) because their "tasks were divinely appointed" so, too, John calls Jesus "a god" at John 1:1c. Certainly Jesus' task was "divinely appointed"!

Or, as "world-renowned Scottish New Testament interpreter" and trinitarian minister Prof. William Barclay tells us: at John 10:34 Jesus

"quoted Psalm 82:6.... The judge is commissioned by God to be god to men. This idea comes out very clearly in certain of the regulations in Exodus. Exodus 21:1-6 tells us how the Hebrew servant may go free in the seventh year. As the Authorized Version [King James Version] has it, verse 6 says `Then his master shall bring him unto the judges.' But in the Hebrew, the word which is translated `judges' is actually elohim, which means `gods.' The same form of expression is used in Exodus 22:9, 28. Even scripture said of men who were specially commissioned to some task by God that they were gods." - p. 77, The Daily Study Bible Series: The Gospel of John (vol. 2), William Barclay, The Westminster Press, Philadelphia, 1975.

Trinitarian scholar Barclay continues:

"Jesus claimed two things for himself [at John 10:36]. (a) He was consecrated by God to a special task [as were those men God called `gods' earlier because they `were specially commissioned to some task by God'].... The very fact that Jesus used this word [`consecrated'] shows how conscious he was of his special task. (b) He said that God had despatched him into the world. The word used is the one which would be used for sending a messenger or an ambassador or an army. Jesus did not so much think of himself as coming into the world, as being sent into the world. His coming was an act of God; and he came to do the task which God. had given him to do.

"So Jesus was possible for scripture to speak of judges as gods, because they were commissioned by God to bring his truth and justice into the world. Now I have been set apart for a special task; I have been despatched into the world by God." - pp. 77, 78.

It is very clear that Jesus explained at John 10:34-36 that he deserves the title "god" (see the New English Bible for a proper rendering of John 10:33) even more than all the others who had been "specially commissioned to some task by God" earlier and could be properly called "gods"!

And how significant it is that this admission should come only in the Gospel of John, and that it should be expressed in the same "Colwell's Construction" as found at John 1:1c!

17  So, just as trinitarian translators all follow the grammatical rules and the customary meanings of NT times for "god/gods" to translate John 10:34 as "you are gods," they obviously should follow the same grammatical rules and understanding of John's meaning for "god/gods" at John 1:1c to translate "the Word was a god"! (See The New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology, vol. 3, pp. 187, 188. This same trinitarian work, in discussing Ro. 9:5, also admits: Even if Jesus were being called theos here, "Christ would not be equated absolutely with God, but only described as a being of divine nature [a god], for the word theos has NO ARTICLE." - vol. 2, p. 80.)

[The above example (Jn 10:34) has a plural predicate noun, and even though I try to avoid such examples, I couldn't resist this one which is the only "Colwell's example" in the NT which clearly concerns the distinction between "God" and "god" which is so important to the proper understanding of Jn 1:1c. (Even Harner and Wallace include them in their lists of "Colwell constructions." Wallace notes that it is a quote by Jesus from the Septuagint, however.) Also, I don't believe plural examples are improper if one takes into consideration (1) the fact that they are considered indefinite in English without an indefinite article ("a," or "an") and (2) the difficulties with "plural/amount" nouns. That is, "gods" as used in Jn 10:34 is truly an indefinite plural predicate noun ("the gods" would be a definite plural) rather than the confusing "plural/"amount" noun [also called a 'non-count noun'] (e.g., "soup," "wine," "honey," etc.]

The Diaglott "Defense"

18  Trinitarian apologist Bowser (What Every Jehovah's Witness Should Know) concludes his misinterpretation of Colwell's Rule with this further misinformation:

"Incidentally, the LITERAL translation that accompanies the Greek text [of John 1:1c] in the Emphatic Diaglott also bears witness to the fact that `the Logos (Word) was God.'" - pp. 57-58.

This is completely dishonest and Bowser must know that. He also knows that an uninformed person glancing at John 1:1 in the Diaglott would probably agree with his dishonest statement.

As you may know (and Bowser certainly knows), The Emphatic Diaglott is an interlinear translation of the Christian Greek Scriptures. It has the literal, word-for-word translation along with the Greek text on the left-hand page and there it has "and a god was the Word" at John 1:1c. On the right-hand page it has an emphatic translation which is "based upon that in the left-hand column."

"In this [right-hand] column the EMPHATIC SIGNS are introduced, by which the Greek words of Emphasis are designated ....
".... [This peculiar system of emphasis] of the Greek language cannot be properly expressed in English except by the use of typographical signs, such as, Initial Capital Letters, italics, SMALL CAPITALS, and CAPITALS." - p. 8, Diaglott introduction.

19  So, you see, the literal left-hand column for John 1:1 in the Diaglott uses capitalization according to standard English usage: "In a beginning...the Word was with the God, and a god was the Word."

But, in the right-hand column the translator uses capitalization to show what degree of emphasis was being put upon the various words in the original NT Greek!

Therefore, in the right-hand column it reads: "In the Beginning...the LOGOS was with GOD, and the LOGOS was God."

Notice that "LOGOS" is all capitals and the first "GOD" is also all capitals. This merely shows a certain degree of emphasis found in the original Greek! Now notice the second "God" has only an initial capital letter. This, too, merely denotes another type of emphasis found in the original NT Greek!

Also, Bowser has dishonestly "quoted" the Diaglott: "the Logos (Word) was God." He didn't capitalize "LOGOS" as it actually was in the Diaglott (all capitals) but did capitalize "God" as it appeared—the second time (with an initial capital letter)...the first usage which actually denoted the only true God was in all capitals: "GOD."

To show that "God" in the right-hand column does not have to mean "the only true God," let's look at Acts 28:6 in the Diaglott. The literal left-hand column says: "they said, A god him to be." But the emphatic right-hand column says: "they said, `He is a God.'" I don't think any Bible translator has decided that these pagans were calling Paul "the only true God." (Check all translations.) It is clear (as shown in the left-hand column) that the Diaglott intends "he is a god," but, because of the method used to show Greek emphasis, "god" is written with an initial capital letter in the emphatic right-hand column!

The "General" Rule

20  In the appendices of the 1950 edition of the New World Translation, the 1971 large-print edition of the NWT, and the 1969 edition of The Kingdom Interlinear Translation of the Greek Scriptures is a discussion of John 1:1. It also discusses a "rule" used by some trinitarians as "proof" for the interpretation: "the Word was God." This "rule" is similar to Colwell's Rule but is not so specific. This "rule" was explained in Green's Handbook to the Grammar of the Greek Testament where it is called a "general rule." The same evidence used to explode the misinterpreted Colwell's Rule also does away with this "general rule."

However, since it is more specific, Colwell's Rule is not answered by all the evidence that disproves the "general rule" as found in the appendices noted above. Some of the evidence found there (all of which disprove the "general rule"), however, also disproves Colwell's Rule.

So, if Walter Martin (in his vague, unsupported attack on the New World Translation's rendering of the scripture that "taught the deity of Christ") really has questions based on the grammar of John 1:1c (as he implied in his cassette tape, Jehovah's Witnesses: Jesus Christ and the Trinity) that are not answered in the appendices noted above, then they are mysterious indeed! I have seen no other attempts at grammar justification for a "trinitarian" John 1:1 interpretation that wouldn't be answered there. (Including the "qualitative" interpretation: See the QUAL or HARNer study paper.)[12]

21  It's certainly strange that Dr. Martin was so vague and wouldn't even give us a hint as to what his "Greek-grammar based objections" actually are! He may be referring to Colwell's Rule (if anything), but, even though the NWT appendices were written to counter the "general rule," some of their evidence also disproves Colwell's Rule.

The "general rule" described in Green's Handbook is simply, "The subject takes the [definite] article, the predicate [noun] omits it."[13] In other words, according to this "rule," it doesn't even matter where you find the predicate noun (before or after the verb); it still may omit the definite article and be considered definite anyway. This is admittedly a general "rule" which means "sometimes it works (infrequently in this case), sometimes it doesn't"! I believe this "general rule" probably works only with improper examples (mostly "prepositional") as does Colwell's Rule.

22  The above-mentioned appendices of the NWT list many examples in the Gospel of John where the "general rule" does not work according to trinitarian wishes. Among these are many that also apply to Colwell's rule as we have already seen. These include John 4:19; 6:70;[16] 9:24, 28; 12:6; and 18:37.

Notice that there is never any hesitation by Bible writers to call the Father "the god." - John 6:27; John 8:42; John 17:1-3; Col. 1:3; 2 Thess. 2:16; James 1:27; and many more. But where is Jesus ever clearly called "the god," and where is the Holy Spirit ever clearly called "the god"?

It is highly significant, therefore, that John (as Dr. A. T. Robertson informs us) purposely omitted the definite article at Jn 1:1c and that that omission is "essential to the true idea"! - A Grammar of the Greek New Testament, p. 768. In fact, trinitarian scholars Philip B. Harner (Journal of Biblical Literature, vol. 92, p. 85, 1973); Daniel B. Wallace (Selected Notes on the Syntax of New Testament Greek, p. 96, 1981); and Dr. B. F. Westcott (see quote in the study paper NWT 16-17) specifically deny that John 1:1c could possibly be properly interpreted as having a definite theos: "the word was the god"! (See QUAL and HARNER studies.)

And let's not forget, as noted above, that one of the best and most-respected trinitarian works, The New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology candidly admits for another scripture where an anarthrous theos is applied to Jesus by some trinitarian interpreters: Even if it were proper to interpret it that way, still, "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, Zondervan Publishing, 1986.

We can see, then, that "the clearest statement of the trinity" in the scriptures is really no such thing. It's not even a clear statement that Jesus, alone, is equally God! So, if this "clearest" statement of a trinity doctrine is really so terribly poor, where does that leave the rest of the scriptural trinitarian "evidence"?

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