THEON - 'RDB's Rule' (Jn 1:18; 10:33)
(From the RDB Files)
There are 56 non-"prepositional" and non-appositive uses of the accusative theon used as a direct object in all the inspired writings of the Gospel writers. And out of those 56 we find that 54 are clearly applied to the only true God (the Father only). And 51 of those 54 have the definite article. That's 95% of the time that the only true God is distinguished by the use of the definite in the accusative case.
Now notice the 3 exceptions (the only 3 examples of theon clearly applied to God which do NOT have the article with them: Jn 1:18; 1 Jn 4:12; 2 Jn :9 - see Appendix). Each one has the accusative theon coming before the verb. There are only 8 instances of a non-"prepositional" theon coming before the verb by the Gospel writers, and 3 of them don't use the definite article even though they apply to the only true God! However 5 of them (over half) do still use the article in spite of this modified "Colwell's Rule."
An accusative non-"prepositional" and non-appositive theon without the article may still mean the only true God (in John's writings) only when it comes before the verb.
We also see this "sometimes" rule in John's writings with the use of the non-"prepositional" accusatives "the Father" and "the Son": the article is always used for these terms when they are intended in an exclusive one-of-a-kind sense (similar to "God") except in two instances when they come before the verb. The only time we see a different meaning for these accusatives is when John truly refers to an indefinite "a son" (comparable to "a god" at John 10:33) at Rev. 12:5. - See Appendix.
Discussing John 10:33 a noted Trinitarian commentary says: “In the clause ‘but you are trying to make yourself God’ the Greek does not have the definite article ’the’ before the noun ‘God’ [theon]. Normally in the New Testament when God the Father is referred to, the definite article ‘the’ is used before the noun ‘God.’ Purely on the basis of the Greek text, therefore, it is possible to translate ’a god,’ as NEB does, rather than to translate ’God,’ as TEV and several other translations do. One might argue, on the basis of both the Greek and the context, that the Jews were accusing Jesus of claiming to be ‘a god’ rather than ’God.’ ” - A Translator’s Handbook on the Gospel of John, Newman and Nida, p. 344, UBS, 1980.
Being strong Trinitarians, however, the authors go on to ‘explain’ how other considerations make it preferable to render John 10:33 with “God” rather than ‘a god.’ (Emphasis, as nearly always, is added by me.)