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Shadows of Divine Things

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This site is devoted to theological and philosophical investigations of the spiritual meanings of life, current events, music, spiritual growth, nature, and learning to be attuned to listening to the 'language of God.' The name of this blog comes from one of Jonathan Edwards's journals which he called 'Shadows of Divine Things,' and later renamed 'Images of Divine Things.' As a Christian I am continously on a spiritual journey to grow more into the image of Christ, to understand what it means to be crucified with Christ. To seek the truths of the Christian Faith is of upmost importance, and to know that any truths that are found outside of Christianity are present there because they ultimately point to God. I have an M.A. in theology and apologetics and I completed one year of graduate studies in Philosophy at Marquette University.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Interesting Discussions at Work

At my job there is a co-worker who is a Jehovah’s Witness (JW). Needless to say this has made for some very interesting discussions. I have studied the JW’s system off and on for about ten years, so there was not too much he could tell me about his beliefs that I have not already encountered. However, it still amazes me that this group of people holds to a very staunch Arian view of Jesus, a heresy that was anathematized at the council of Nicaea.

In the midst of our conversation, in good old JW fashion, he brings up the issue of the Trinity. This is a discussion that I always try to avoid when discussing theological issues with JW’s for several reasons. First, it is the most difficult doctrine to delineate without falling into some form of modalism. Second, it always ends up being a fruitless discussion because the JW’s have such a twisted translation of the Biblical texts (i.e. the New World Translation). Nonetheless, the discussion ensued and of course the deity of Jesus was brought in.

Now the JW’s have a deliberate distortion of certain passages which clearly delineate the deity of Jesus in their translation of the Bible (NWT). The primary text being John 1:1-2. When I was in seminary I presented an exposition of this passage in the context of the book of John in relation to the New World Translation’s intentional distortion of the text. I have posted portions on this blog; if you are interested you can read it here. So I was fairly prepared to put forth my argument for the deity of Christ. The problem with this discussion was the JW was so ignorant of Biblical exegesis and hermeneutics it was as if I was talking through him. His eyes glazed over and he would give me blank stares whenever I mentioned the Greek text..

I really felt for this guy because he was so sincere in what he believed. Naturally frustration ensued, which has occurred at certain times when I have discussed issues with JW’s in the past. Nonetheless, this has really caused me to think once again about issues that I have not considered in some time. I am hoping that he and I can have more discussions in the future and that he will not lose interest in discussing the issues with me.

34 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi, I'm one of Jehovah's Witnesses just surfing through. Your blanket criticism of the NWT is of course a popular one, but I have found that the issues are not as clear as some would have us believe.

For instance, years ago a popular 'proof' used against "a god" in John 1:1 was Colwell's Rule. Even the renowned Bible scholar Bruce Metzger called upon this evidence to judge the NWT's rendering a "frightful mistranslation." But today most scholars, Trinitarians included, acknowledge that Colwell's Rule proves nothing in relation to John 1:1.

Indeed, every supposed "twisting" in the NWT has solid reasoning behind it that can be provided to back it up. I'd be happy to go through a few of the verses you object to if you'd like.

TJ

11:27 PM, November 28, 2006  
Blogger T.B. Vick said...

Hey TJ,

Welcome to my blog. I am assuming here by your comment regarding the "blanket criticism" you did not read the post I linked to regarding John 1:1-2. Hardly "blanket," I am familiar with Colwell's Rule - I am curious, what is your "back up support" for rendering the text of John 1:1-2 with "a god"?

7:15 AM, November 29, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi TB,

I said "blanket criticism" because you said in your post above that "the JW’s have such a twisted translation of the Biblical texts (i.e. the New World Translation)." I own many translations of the Bible which I feel give poor readings at certain passages, yet they all have good points as well. The NWT is no different; it has strengths and weaknesses.

I did read your post on John 1:1 in the NWT and it seems to me that there is much evidence that you may be unaware of. Should I respond to that here or in the comment section of that post?

Thanks,
TJ

3:09 PM, November 29, 2006  
Blogger T.B. Vick said...

TJ,

ok, I see what you were saying now - "blanket statement", and yes, I would be interested to see your input or additonal evidence on that passage. You may post it here in the comments.

3:39 PM, November 29, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey TB,

In the NWT appendix, there is a chart that compares how several major translations handle cases where the same grammatical construction appears as in John 1:1c, which is a singular anarthrous (no article) predicate noun preceding the verb. This construct appears in the following verses: Mark 6:49; 11:32; John 4:19; 6:70; 8:44 (twice); 9:17; 10:1; 10:13; 10:33; 12:6. All of the translations listed render these nouns with an indefinite article, just as the NWT does at John 1:1.

So when a translation renders theos in John 1:1 as the definite "God," it is really being inconsistent with how it renders nouns with the exact same grammatical construct elsewhere. Much more could be said, but this is a good starting point.


TJ

4:39 PM, November 29, 2006  
Blogger T.B. Vick said...

TJ,

Give me some time to review the passages you have mentioned above. Also, you might want to go a re-read Colwell's rule which states, A definite predicate nominative has the article when it follows the verb; it does not have the article when it precedes the verb. Just want to make sure you understand that this is Colwell's rule.

9:04 PM, November 29, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi TB,

I'm aware of what Colwell's Rule states, but as I said before, it really has no bearing on John 1:1, though it appears that it does based on what you quote above. This is the mistake Metzger and countless others have made. The footnote at John 1:1 in the NET Bible says regarding this, "Colwell’s Rule is often invoked to support the translation of θεός (qeos) as definite ('God') rather than indefinite ('a god') here. However, Colwell’s Rule merely permits, but does not demand, that a predicate nominative ahead of an equative verb be translated as definite rather than indefinite." Context should be the guiding factor more than anything.

Jason BeDuhn, a greek scholar, writes in his book Truth in Translation: "Colwell formulated his rule as follows: 'A definite predicate nominative has the article when it follows the verb; it does not have the article when it precedes the verb' (Colwell, page 13). There are two problems with using 'Colwell's Rule' to argue for the traditional translation of John 1:1. The first problem is that the rule does nothing to establish the definiteness of a noun. The second problem is that the rule is wrong."

So at the very best, as the NET Bible points out above, Colwell's Rule may allow for an anarthrous noun preceding the verb to be definite, but does not necessitate it. In other words, it does not say that all anarthrous preverbal nouns must be definite. Yet this is often how it is misconstrued.

As for Dr. BeDuhn's second criticism of Colwell's Rule, he explains, "You do not have to look very far to find examples of definite predicate nouns that do not drop their article when they are placed before the verb, that is, examples that do not obey 'Colwell's Rule.'" BeDuhn then walks the reader through several of these examples, such as the ones found in John 6:51; 15:1; 20:15; 21:7; and 21:12.

He then states, "So it is obvious, on the basis of the evidence of the Gospel according to John alone, that when Colwell says that, 'A definite predicate nominative . . . does not have the article when it precedes the verb,' he is wrong."


TJ

11:20 PM, November 29, 2006  
Blogger T.B. Vick said...

TJ,

I think there are some major errors occurring in the contextual translation of John 1:1-2 in the NWT, and at several other places in that translation as well. I certainly made these errors quite clear in my presentation, which I have a link to in this post (and you declared that you read).

There is in this passage a strong difference between the qualitative/quantitative distinction between the arthrous and anarthroustheos.

I am going to have to side with Metzger on this issue (his translation I am very familiar with). Moreover, there are only two transaltions that actually render the text as the NWT has, these are the the NWT and the Emphatic Diaglott. Both of these trnaslations, especially when dealing with this text, have been thoroughly corrected by New Testament exegetes and scholars. Even the most liberal New Testament scholars have rejected the NWT rendering. So I'll be hard pressed to think that the NWT has a correct rendering of this text.

7:33 AM, November 30, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi TB,

The errors you speak of in your other post can be answered. For example, you said, "it is still incorrect to conclude that the anarthrous theos could be translated as 'a god.' This is so for several reasons. 1. There is no indefinite article in the Greek Language."

True, there is no indefinite article in the Greek, but that has nothing to do with whether or not it is correct to use one in English. Show me one English translation that doesn't use an indefinite article. The Greek may not have had an indefinite article, but that doesn't mean that the Bible writers didn't have ways of expressing indefiniteness.

And I have provided you with many verses with singular predicate preverbal anarthrous nouns, just like theos in John 1:1c, in which virtually all translations do correctly use an indefinite article with the noun in English . . . even Metzger's translation!

You said, "Moreover, there are only two transaltions that actually render the text as the NWT has, these are the the NWT and the Emphatic Diaglott."

This is actually a false statement, which shows me that you have not actually read what the NWT appendix has to say in its own defense. I would recommend that you study both sides of the issue before making a decision. There are actually several translations that render it like the NWT.

Let me ask you this, do you think that there's any possibility that ancient Greek-speaking readers of John's Gospel would understand the first theos as definite and the second as indefinite? If they understood it in this manner, would that make a difference to you?

Thanks,
TJ

9:57 AM, November 30, 2006  
Blogger T.B. Vick said...

Tj,

You declare: "True, there is no indefinite article in the Greek, but that has nothing to do with whether or not it is correct to use one in English. Show me one English translation that doesn't use an indefinite article. The Greek may not have had an indefinite article, but that doesn't mean that the Bible writers didn't have ways of expressing indefiniteness."

This is a red herring, the discussion at hand is not about English texts or translations, it is about the Greek text.

You also declare, "And I have provided you with many verses with singular predicate preverbal anarthrous nouns, just like theos in John 1:1c, in which virtually all translations do correctly use an indefinite article with the noun in English . . . even Metzger's translation!"

That's find, but there is a context is which these verses are written and read. It is impossible to imply such a context to John 1:1-2 - this is the very reason why so many New Testament scholars reject the NWT's rendering of that text.

You declare, "This is actually a false statement, which shows me that you have not actually read what the NWT appendix has to say in its own defense. I would recommend that you study both sides of the issue before making a decision. There are actually several translations that render it like the NWT."

First, my NWT does not have that chart in the back that you have mentioned. Therefore, give me the names of those translations that render John 1:1-2 like the NWT does.

You ask, "Let me ask you this, do you think that there's any possibility that ancient Greek-speaking readers of John's Gospel would understand the first theos as definite and the second as indefinite? If they understood it in this manner, would that make a difference to you?"

No because the context of the chapter and the book is a clear indication to the reader that Jesus is in fact GOD (Yahweh) and not merely "a god." The whole entire text points to this fact.

Thanks,

T.B.

10:55 AM, November 30, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi TB,

"This is a red herring, the discussion at hand is not about English texts or translations, it is about the Greek text."

I'm sorry, but I don't understand what you're talking about here. I thought we were discussing whether or not "a god" was an acceptable English translation. You said in your other post that it is "incorrect" to use the indefinite article in English because there isn't one in Greek. But that is not how translation works. By making that claim, you have condemned every English translation that uses "a" or "an" as incorrect.

"That's find, but there is a context is which these verses are written and read. It is impossible to imply such a context to John 1:1-2 - this is the very reason why so many New Testament scholars reject the NWT's rendering of that text."

Then by all means explain to me how "a god" doesn't work in that context. We have the Word with God, and he was a god. I don't see the problem with that.

"First, my NWT does not have that chart in the back that you have mentioned. Therefore, give me the names of those translations that render John 1:1-2 like the NWT does."

The NWT Reference Bible and also the KIT have an extended appendix that deal with John 1:1 and some other verses. To name a few corresponding translations:
The New Testament in an Improved Version (1808), A Literal Translation of the New Testament (1863), Young's Concise Commentary on the Holy Bible (1885), The New Testament of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Anointed (1959), Revised Version—Improved and Corrected (2001).

There are more that use "a god," and many more that use "divine" or similar. These translations certainly weren't made by Jehovah's Witnesses.

"No because the context of the chapter and the book is a clear indication to the reader that Jesus is in fact GOD (Yahweh) and not merely 'a god.' The whole entire text points to this fact."

I would disagree because in the very same verse "the Word" is said to be "with God." So Jesus cannot be the individual he is said to be with. The only way you can reconcile this is by interpreting your doctrine into the text. When it says that Jesus is "with God," in your mind you are thinking 'he is with God the Father.' Then when it says "the Word was God," you change the identity of "God," so that you come up with 'he was God the Son.' But as I said, this requires your injecting your theology into the text.

But the Bible never makes these distinctions, i.e. 'God the Son,' 'God the Holy Spirit,' 'God the Trinity.' Rather we find Jesus actually calling his Father "the only true God," and then mentioning himself separately. (John 17:3)

One of the main issues that you seem to be hung up on with Jesus being "a god" or "divine," is that you feel that that would necessarily make him God Almighty. That is not the case, as others are said to be divine and even "gods" (yet are not false gods, they have real power). The term "god" basically meant 'a mighty one' to the ancients, and while Bible writers acknowledge the existence of mighty ones, they always emphasize that there is only one Almighty God, the Father.


TJ

11:37 AM, November 30, 2006  
Blogger T.B. Vick said...

TJ,

All these are the typical JW responses that I have heard for the last 15 years. Obviously there are too many to handle here in one comment post. So I'll stick with the original issue.

First off, regarding the "red herring" - you shifted from meanings in Greek to English - thereby placing the emphasis of the text on the English and not the Greek, and then focused the point on the English. Perhaps better described as a non sequitur. Nonetheless, I will focus only on the original intent of the post and that is the verse itself.

Second, you declare, "Then by all means explain to me how "a god" doesn't work in that context. We have the Word with God, and he was a god. I don't see the problem with that."

This verse is so simple it is impossible to get it wrong. An illustrated paraphrase of the text would be:

"In the beginning was EVE, and EVE was with MAN, and EVE was MAN. SHE was in the beginning with MAN."

Even adopting the Jehovah's Witnesses paraphrase, the New World Translation's unscholarly insertion of "a god" of the text makes no difference:

"In the beginning was EVE, and EVE was with MAN, and EVE was a MAN."

Both are indications that EVE and MAN are the same!! However,

Taking the NWT text, and the required attention upon arthrous and anarthrous in the context of the verse, if the NWT were correct then these problems arise:

1. Jehovah's Witnesses' New World Translation states "a god"

A. If that were true, it would negate the following

Scriptures :

1. Deut. 4:35

2. Deut. 32:39

3. 2 Sam. 7:22

4. 1 Chron. 17:20

5. Psalm 86:10

6. Isa. 43:10,11

7. Isa. 44:6

8. Isa. 44:8

9. Isa. 45:5

10. Isa. 45:6

11. Isa. 45:14

12. Isa. 45:18

13. Isa. 45:21

2. Greek Grammatical Rules do not allow for that translation as I detailed in my presentation.

12:16 PM, November 30, 2006  
Blogger Dave said...

Hey, guys. I'm afraid I'm a bit late for this discussion but I'd like to join in. I think I can bring some clarity to this discussion, as I have observed some mistakes in fact and reasoning, and have noticed that you guys are at an impasse.

I ask that you please forgive me for the formal tone my comments will have; it is the tone of writing that is most comfortable to me. Besides, as it is also a way to convey objectivity and logical analysis, I think it would benefit this discussion.

I'd like to start just by cautioning that we ought to leave the dogmatic issues of Trinitarianism and Christ’s deity at the door during this discussion. If we don’t, we may as well admit to each other that our positions on the exegesis of John 1:1 are based on our prior commitments and not on Greek grammar.

Now, I'd like to help steer you guys past your impasse by correcting some parts of your arguments. I'll start with T.B.

1. T.J.’s is not introducing a red herring by asking that you give an instance of an English translation that does not use the indefinite article. It's a valid challenge to the implication that you made with your statement that the Greek does not have an indefinite article. The implication is that theos must be definite because, after all, Greek has no indefinite article". But this is erroneous, and T.J. is correct: the Greek’s lack of an indefinite article does not mean that Greek has no way of conveying the indefiniteness of a noun.

2. The example you provide, in which you replace the words 'word' and 'god' with 'Eve' and 'man' is also erroneous. You claimed that both the articular and anarhrous readings indicate that Eve and man are the same. This simply cannot be true, for the conclusion masks an equivocation on the word 'man'. In the first sentence, 'man' must be abstract and qualitative, as in 'humanity' or 'mankind' (e.g., " Eve was man"). In the second, 'man' must be a particular instance in a class, as in 'an individual of the group "man" ' (e.g., "Eve was a man"). In the end, the point you attempt to make – that the translation of the NWT "makes no difference" – fails because both of these differences I demonstrated correspond to the different meanings of the actual wording of John 1:1 in both translations: qualitative 'divinity', and the class or rank 'god'. The translation does indeed make a difference.

Now T.J.:

1. You list the following verses in John as having the anarthrous preverbal predicate nominative construction, and state that they are all indefinite: 4:19; 6:70; 8:44 (twice); 9:17; 10:1; 10:13; 10:33; 12:6. This is misleading for two reasons: first, because the indefiniteness of the constructions in these verses is not certain, and second because these verses are only some of the instances of the construction (both in the NT as a whole, and in the Gospel of John). As to the first reason, while some of these instances are indeed likely to be indefinite, it is plausible that some of them are qualitative (4:19 ['a prophet' or 'prophetic']; 9:17 [same as previous]; 10:33 ['a man' or 'human']). As to the second, there are other instances in John, which you failed to mention, where the same construction is used and can be, or is almost certainly, either definite (1:49; 3:29; 10:2; 11:51) or qualitative (1:14; 3:6; 5:10; 9:27, 28; 10:33; 12:36, 50; 13:35; 18:35). Now you claimed that any translation that renders John 1:1 as definite is being inconsistent with the way in which the same construction is rendered in (most/all?) other cases. By the verses that I've demonstrated above, this is clearly not true.

2. You are correct that Colwell's Rule does not apply to John 1:1. But you have some misconceptions about the Rule.

I cannot verify the veracity of BeDuhn's quotation of Colwell, because the citation does not specify which work is being quoted. However, when BeDuhn quotes Colwell as saying that the PN "does not have the article when it precedes the verb", it contradicts what Colwell himself says on p. 20 of his "A Definite Rule": "Definite predicate nouns which precede the verb usually lack the 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 article; if the context suggests that the predicate is definite, it should be translated as a definite noun…." Colwell is not talking about an absolute pattern, but a usual one.

Colwell's Rule has been wrongly understood as proof of the PN's definiteness (both by 'orthodox' interpreters, and their critics), but it never was. Colwell's data only included pre-verbal PNs, which he had already identified by context as definite. And he noticed that they usually don't have an article. He did not say that all pre-verbal anarthrous PNs are definite. Neither can this be inferred from his Rule. To do so would be like inferring that all birds are chickens, from the statement that all chickens are birds. So those who try to discredit Colwell misunderstand him (though admittedly, no more than those who cite him as proof). But it is of little point for the issue of John 1:1 anyway, since Colwell did not prove, but assumed from context, the definiteness of theos.

(I must note that I am indebted to Wallace, Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics for this observation.)

Now, let me just go beyond what has been said so far and bring us beyond Colwell. Based on research after Colwell's (again following Wallace) – specifically that of Philip B. Harner (1973), who, unlike Colwell, studied all instances of the anarthrous pre-verbal PN regardless of semantic force – the general rule regarding the construction in question is that it is normally qualitative, sometimes definite, and only rarely indefinite.

Since I do not want to merely appeal to authority (a fallacy that I've noticed in this thread), I must appeal to our own observations and logic. While we ourselves cannot reproduce the research of these scholars, the many instances of qualitative and definite PNs in John that I pointed out above at least demonstrates that indefiniteness is not the usual sense of the construction in question, as the Jehovah's Witnesses claim.

Indeed, Wallace cites R. H. Countess (The Jehovah's Witnesses' New Testament: A Critical Analysis of the New World Translation of the Christian Greek Scriptures): "In the NT there are 282 occurrences of the anarthrous θεός. At sixteen places NWT has either a god, god, gods, or godly. Sixteen out of 282 means that the translators were faithful to their translation principle only six percent of the time…."

There is more to be said about John 1:1 specifically, but I will leave it for another time. I think there is more than enough to respond to here already.

Cheers, gentlemen.

9:58 PM, November 30, 2006  
Blogger Dave said...

I know I'm already a candidate for the 'the most long-winded commenter' award, but I beg your indulgence for just another moment.

T.J., I just noticed that you said in a previous comment that the idea that the Word is God, and at the same time is with God, would require one to interpret their theology into the text. This isn't necessarily the case. On the contrary, to deny the possibility instead of facing the implication of the seeming paradox means that you've already made assumptions of your own.

If one takes theos in John 1:1 qualitatively, then there is no need to interpret full blown Trinitarianism into the text. All one needs to do is understand theos as a class or category (this falls far short of full blown Trinitarianism). As a class or category, 'God' or 'deity' has qualities, attributes, or characteristics. As such, to say 'the Word was God' is to say that the Word has the qualities of God. Saying 'the Word was with God' indicates a differentiation. This is a paradox indeed, and would certainly have been a radical statement to its first readers/hearers. But it was precisely the tension between these two ideas that lead the early Church to develop Trinitarian language, and ultimately to Chalcedon's physis and hypostasis.

Thus, one does not have to read Trinitarianism into John 1:1 to decide on the qualitative sense of theos; rather, based on the grammatical decision to take theos qualitatively (along with many other texts), one develops a type of Trinitarianism.

10:24 PM, November 30, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi TB,

Thanks for your patience and your response.

First off, regarding the "red herring" - you shifted from meanings in Greek to English - thereby placing the emphasis of the text on the English and not the Greek, and then focused the point on the English. Perhaps better described as a non sequitur. Nonetheless, I will focus only on the original intent of the post and that is the verse itself.

But you had made a definite statement as to the propriety of using an indefinte article in English when translating from Greek. I simply commented that your point was wrong. It is not incorrect to use an indefinite article in an English translation based solely on the fact that Greek has no indefinite article. There simply is no fallacy at work here. It is valid to use an indefinite article in an English rendering when the same indefinite force is at work in the Greek source text.

"In the beginning was EVE, and EVE was with MAN, and EVE was MAN. SHE was in the beginning with MAN."

This actually proves my point. The first occurrence of "MAN" is a definite one, it is speaking of a specific individual (in this case Adam). In the second occurrence, "MAN" is used qualitatively, not definitely. Eve is a member of the class of MANkind, or it could be said that she is a (wo)MAN. She is not the "MAN" she is said to be with in the first occurrence. The third occurrence switches back to using "MAN" definitely. She was with Adam in the beginning.

Both are indications that EVE and MAN are the same!!

No, they are not the same individual, unless you are claiming Eve is said to be with herself. She is with (the) MAN, and she is (a) MAN. If you mean both Eve and Adam have the same nature, then yes I'd agree, just as the Father and Jesus have a divine nature. But this is not exclusive of God alone, even anointed christians are set to become sharers in the divine nature. (2 Peter 1:4)

If that were true, it would negate the following Scriptures . . . "

I won't go through all 13 of the scriptures you listed, but the following should show you how "a god" does not negate these scriptures.

Isaiah 44:6 says, "This is what the Lord, Israel’s king, says . . . there is no God but me."

If you take a look at the context, Jehovah is comparing himself to the empty idols of the nations. They have no power, so they certainly are not gods. In the very same context, Jehovah says "there is no deliverer besides me." (Isaiah 43:11) But at Judges 3:9 we read that "When the Israelites cried out for help to the Lord, he raised up a deliverer for the Israelites who rescued them. His name was Othniel son of Kenaz, Caleb’s younger brother."

According the logic you used against "a god," this scripture either makes Othniel Jehovah or it negates Isaiah 43:11. Do you see the problem with that? So the simple answer is that Jehovah was comparing himself to the false gods of the nations, who cannot deliver anyone, when he said "there is no deliverer besides me." That doesn't mean that a representative of Jehovah can't be described as "a deliverer" when he is acting in Jehovah's behalf.

The same goes for the term "god." Servants of Jehovah can and are called gods in scripture because they have a relative amount of power delegated to them from Jehovah, who is "the only true God." (John 17:3) Jehovah says to certain human judges of Israel, "I said, ‘You are gods; all of you are sons of the Most High.’" (Psalm 82:6) Does this negate the scriptures you listed? Not at all. Similarly, angels are called gods at Psalm 8:5 (compare Hebrews 2:7). Does this negate those scriptures? No, their godships are relative to the Almighty God, Jehovah.

Greek Grammatical Rules do not allow for that translation as I detailed in my presentation.

I have not seen one 'Greek Grammatical Rule' that doesn't allow for "a god" at John 1:1. Which rule(s) are you talking about exactly?


Thanks,
TJ

2:56 AM, December 01, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Dave,

I appreciate your comments. There are a few things that I'd like to explain a bit further.

You list the following verses in John as having the anarthrous preverbal predicate nominative construction, and state that they are all indefinite . . . This is misleading for two reasons: first, because the indefiniteness of the constructions in these verses is not certain . . .

To clarify, I didn't state that those examples were absolutely indefinite (though I do believe that they are), I said that "all of the translations listed [in the NWT appendix] render these nouns with an indefinite article." That statement is absolutely true.

As to the second, there are other instances in John, which you failed to mention, where the same construction is used and can be, or is almost certainly, either definite (1:49; 3:29; 10:2; 11:51) or qualitative (1:14; 3:6; 5:10; 9:27, 28; 10:33; 12:36, 50; 13:35; 18:35). Now you claimed that any translation that renders John 1:1 as definite is being inconsistent with the way in which the same construction is rendered in (most/all?) other cases. By the verses that I've demonstrated above, this is clearly not true.

You have a valid point here. After I had already sent the post (and was thus unable to edit it) I noticed that my conclusion about the inconsistency was overreaching, which is why in the very next post I said in regards to whether this grammatical construct should be taken as definite, indefinite, or qualitative, "context should be the guiding factor more than anything." It is with the context that I feel these other translations are being inconsistent since, as the Translator's New Testament brings out, "in the first instance [of theos] the article is used and this makes the reference specific. In the second instance there is no article and it is difficult to believe that the omission is not significant. In effect it gives an adjectival quality to the second use of Theos (God) so that the phrase means 'The Word was divine'."

As for not listing the verses where this construct may be taken qualitatively or definite, it was my intent to list only those verses occurring in the chart in the appendix, to show that such a construct can be taken as indefinite. But I see what you're saying, and I'll be more careful in the future to not make it sound as though that construct must be taken indefinitely.

However, when BeDuhn quotes Colwell as saying that the PN "does not have the article when it precedes the verb", it contradicts what Colwell himself says on p. 20 of his "A Definite Rule": "Definite predicate nouns which precede the verb usually lack the article" . . . Colwell's data only included pre-verbal PNs, which he had already identified by context as definite.

Indeed BeDuhn does have much more to say on this, and he does mention that "Colwell himself found fifteen exceptions to his 'definite rule' in the New Testament . . . In the words of Nigel Turner, though Colwell's Rule 'may reflect a general tendency it is not absolute by any means.'" No doubt Colwell's calling it "A Definite Rule" had much to do with the confusion that followed, wherein even reputable scholars condemned the rendering "a god" based on it.

Still, I agree with BeDuhn when he says, "Colwell's mistake, as so often is the case in research, is rooted in a misguided method. He began by collecting all of the predicate nouns in the New Testament that he considered to be definite in meaning, and then, when some of them turned out to look indefinite in Greek, he refused to reconsider his view that they were definite, but instead made up a rule to explain why his subjective understanding of them remained true, even though the known rules of Greek grammar suggested otherwise."

So those who try to discredit Colwell misunderstand him (though admittedly, no more than those who cite him as proof). But it is of little point for the issue of John 1:1 anyway, since Colwell did not prove, but assumed from context, the definiteness of theos.

It wasn't the case that I misunderstood Colwell, I well knew that his "Definite Rule" was really a tendency he observed based on what he decided were definite preverbal nouns. My main objection, of course, is against those that use this as proof. It is not uncommon for critics of the NWT to quote Metzger misusing Colwell's Rule in this way. As for your comment about Colwell's Rule having little to do with John 1:1, I couldn't agree more! But even the NET Bible translators felt that it needed mentioning due to all of the misinformation out there concerning it.

I pointed out above at least demonstrates that indefiniteness is not the usual sense of the construction in question, as the Jehovah's Witnesses claim.

This is not true actually; Jehovah's Witnesses do not make that claim (though I went a bit too far above, as I admitted). The NWT appendix actually quotes from Harner's work and agrees that a qualitative rendering is acceptable at John 1:1. The point in showing verses in which other translations have rendered the same construct indefinitely is to show that it is an accepted way of handling such a construct, since many critics, including TB above, claim that it is not possible according to Greek grammar.

Indeed, Wallace cites R. H. Countess (The Jehovah's Witnesses' New Testament: A Critical Analysis of the New World Translation of the Christian Greek Scriptures): "In the NT there are 282 occurrences of the anarthrous θεός. At sixteen places NWT has either a god, god, gods, or godly. Sixteen out of 282 means that the translators were faithful to their translation principle only six percent of the time…."

The problem with Countess' argument is that it is a strawman. He claims that the NWT uses "a god" because theos has no article. He even calls it "their translation principle!" This oversimplifies what the NWT itself has to say and ignores much of its evidence. It's a shame that Wallace quotes from such a dubious source, but its not uncommon.

I just noticed that you said in a previous comment that the idea that the Word is God, and at the same time is with God, would require one to interpret their theology into the text. This isn't necessarily the case. On the contrary, to deny the possibility instead of facing the implication of the seeming paradox means that you've already made assumptions of your own.

I think you are not understanding me. I am speaking of when a definite noun is used, as in "the Word was God." This means that "God" was with himself, which makes little sense, unless you are eager to inject 'God the Father, the first person of the Trinity' and 'God the Son, the second person of the Trinity' into the text to 'clarify' what John 'wanted' to say. I have no problem with taking the noun qualitatively, but using "God" as a term for a category is a very poor choice. To an English speaker, this is a definite noun, a specific individual (which is how it is used in the same verse), not a class. However if it is your belief that "God" can be used as a qualitative noun, I would agree, BUT I would question why it is that you insist upon using that particular word when it will be so easily misunderstood as a definite noun. I actually don't mind "and the Word was god" (no capital "G") all that much, as the distinction in Greek would be discerned in English.

Thus, one does not have to read Trinitarianism into John 1:1 to decide on the qualitative sense of theos; rather, based on the grammatical decision to take theos qualitatively (along with many other texts), one develops a type of Trinitarianism.

Do you think that one has to read Trinitarianism into John 1:1 to decide on the definite sense of theos?

What we both seem to get from the verse is that Jesus, "the Word," is divine or a member of the class of theos (after all, that is what "a god" means anyways). Jehovah's Witnesses have always believed that, we just don't agree with the conclusions most make based on this evidence.

I really enjoyed hearing from you Dave. By the way, are you familiar with the ancient Coptic translation of the Greek New Testament?


Thanks,
TJ

4:43 AM, December 01, 2006  
Blogger T.B. Vick said...

TJ,

Have you ever read Raymond Franz (former member of the Governing Body of Jehovah's Witnesses) book titled Crisi of Conscience?

In this work, Franz details how the NWT was assembled. He gives details about his father, Fred Franz, and the work that his father did (which Raymond claims the NWT was put together pretty much by one man - Fred Franz), and it was this and other factors which caused Raymond Franz to leave the JW's organization.

Are you familiar with this book?

9:14 AM, December 01, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi TB,

I am familiar with that book, but it has nothing to do with our current discussion.


TJ

10:29 AM, December 01, 2006  
Blogger T.B. Vick said...

TJ,

With all due respect, there is no need to get defensive. I merely asked a question.

11:20 AM, December 01, 2006  
Blogger T.B. Vick said...

Dave and TJ,

Dave states, "1. T.J.’s is not introducing a red herring by asking that you give an instance of an English translation that does not use the indefinite article. It's a valid challenge to the implication that you made with your statement that the Greek does not have an indefinite article. The implication is that theos must be definite because, after all, Greek has no indefinite article". But this is erroneous, and T.J. is correct: the Greek’s lack of an indefinite article does not mean that Greek has no way of conveying the indefiniteness of a noun."

The above is my error, I own up to my mistake here. It has been 7 years since I have touched on this issue, therefore, to say the least, over the years I have become a bit detached. However, based on my previous research and presentation, and now digging up current research, I am still convinced that the NWT has an erroneous interpretation of John 1:1-2.

I appreciate the exchange TJ, and the challenges you have brought to the table. You have brought up some very challenging points. And I certainly appreciate your input Dave, knowing that you have studied Greek a greater deal than I.

TJ, I was only asking you about Franz's book Crisis of Conscience because he ultimately rejected the NWT and gave reasons for doing so in this work. Moreover, he was a member of the Governing Body, which I found very interesting when I read the book. I was asking you merely to get your thoughts on his turn about regarding the NWT and the JW organization.

Also, TJ, have you read Gregg Stafford's work Jehovah's Witnesses Defended. The reason I ask about this work is that Stafford brings up some of the exact same points you did in response to my post and comments stream.

Thanks to you both, I have much to think about regarding this issue.

2:15 PM, December 01, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi TB,

With all due respect, there is no need to get defensive. I merely asked a question.

If my writing came across as defensive, I didn't mean for it to. I just didn't want to get off topic, since there is already a lot that we are dealing with in relation to John 1:1.

I am still convinced that the NWT has an erroneous interpretation of John 1:1-2.

You are of course free to decide what translation you feel is best, I just hope that you will consider that maybe "a god" is not so absolutely wrong. Professor C. H. Dodd, the director of the New English Bible, said, "A possible translation . . . would be, 'The Word was a god'. As a word-for-word translation it cannot be faulted." He goes on to ultimately disagree with it based on theological grounds, his interpretation of the Bible, but at least he had the intellectual honesty to admit that it is possible, grammatically. Similarly Robert Young, LL. D., who made Young's Literal Translation, wrote in his Concise Critical Comments of the New Testament, "AND THE WORD WAS GOD,] more lit. 'and a God (i.e. a Divine Being) was the Word.'"

TJ, I was only asking you about Franz's book Crisis of Conscience because he ultimately rejected the NWT and gave reasons for doing so in this work. Moreover, he was a member of the Governing Body, which I found very interesting when I read the book. I was asking you merely to get your thoughts on his turn about regarding the NWT and the JW organization.

I'm not aware of any reasons he gave for rejecting the NWT, but I'm sure they can be answered. Too often I find that people just assume that the NWT doesn't have any good reasons for translating certain verses the way it does, but this is not the case. Even on scholarly discussion boards such as B-Greek, these controversial verses have been discussed ad nauseum, but the NWT's renderings have always stood their ground. So just because some of its renderings aren't popular does not mean that they must necessarily be wrong. And of course many Witnesses are not interested in learning the details of translating from Greek, but this doesn't mean that we all just blindly accept whatever is given to us. In fact quite the opposite; we are always encouraged to "make sure of all things." (1 Thessalonians 5:21)

As for how my thoughts on R. Franz, I think you should probably look for a more objective source for an evaluation of the NWT. He no doubt does not like us, and that could very well affect his objections to the NWT (though I haven't heard any). If you want a good book from an outside, more objective source, that gives a different perspective on some of these issues than you would normally encounter, I would recommend you read Jason BeDuhn's Truth in Translation. He brings up points that are usually ignored elsewhere.

Also, TJ, have you read Gregg Stafford's work Jehovah's Witnesses Defended. The reason I ask about this work is that Stafford brings up some of the exact same points you did in response to my post and comments stream.

I've read much of his book a long time ago and he has some good points, but honestly, many or most of his points have been used by Witnesses since the NWT was first printed. Over the years, various issues of the Watchtower has answered questions about the readings found in the NWT, and much of my knowledge on this comes from that. I did not look up any information in Stafford's book during this discussion.

Thanks to you both, I have much to think about regarding this issue.

And my thanks to you. I have one more major point I'd like to bring out, but I'll hold off on that until Dave responds.

Thanks again,
TJ

3:22 PM, December 01, 2006  
Blogger T.B. Vick said...

TJ,

One quick final question. . . Have you studied Greek and if so, where?

3:49 PM, December 01, 2006  
Blogger David Wilkerson said...

Here's your off topic foray. I should say, I don't know this JW stuff that well.

The grammar argument is interesting, but it's the thought world of the NT writers that's more interesting to me which I think a JW needs to account for. It is certainly complex with similarity and difference asserted between Jesus and God. This 'a god' business is strange. If the writers of the NT typically spoke of us all as 'gods' all the time then we might think Jesus was just 'a god' in that sense, like a king would be or even we could be. No radical assertion in that case. The JW's apparent suggestion that the usage is really quite normal plays down how unique Jesus is seen as this 'god' and how it led to worship of him. The early church surely recognized the distinction and subordinate status of Jesus, but their own worship of Jesus (and that in the NT) led to articulating a theology to accomodate this distinct yet similar 'god' of the NT.

He is repeatedly referred to as a uniquely-sent Son (Paul and John)whereas we are son's only by adoption. So we are not 'gods' like he is 'a god', right? While distinct from the Father, he is still unique from all humans and angels it would seem.

Jesus has so many titles and attributes of Yahweh or God that he demands worship. In John 20:28 Thomas states 'My Lord and my G(g)od!' Clearly Thomas is not worshipping 'a god' like himself or worshipping some 'lesser' divine figure under the titles Jews gave to Yahweh. Or again Matthew 14:33 they worshipped Jesus as "God's Son". Distinct yet similar in worship, this is surely nascent "binitarianism". For the confusion of attributes Phil 2:10 quotes Isaiah 45:23 every knee bowing and tongue confessing that "Yahweh is Lord", a glory he will share with no one. Yet Paul grants them all to Jesus.

Does this all not "clearly" reveal their "muddled" thinking? They were not comfortably speaking in convenient technical terms (god) of a subordinate divine being (as the JW have it) but they were rather awkwardly articulating the relationship of this Son to the Father and confusing their identities along the way somewhat. They were stuck reconciling "distinction with similarity" combined with "worship that belongs only to God".

I'm not clear how JW's deal with the worship of this 'divine designate' in the NT. He is clearly not God, so is he a creature those in the NT are worshipping? I suppose they might say they were simply "honoring" him?

4:27 PM, December 01, 2006  
Blogger Dave said...

Hi T.J.

I appreciate your response. I concede a couple of your points, but want to try to clarify something else which still seems to be hanging us up.

First, I concede your correction regarding your original comment on the verses translated with the indefinite article. I didn’t read your statement clearly. Also, your point about Colwell is well taken. His conclusions have been corrected by later scholars, so I don’t really care about his Rule.

Further, if Countess misrepresented the JW arguments and methods, then I would agree that it is a shame that Wallace cites him. I do not know that to be true though, so I’ll have to take your word on it.

However, at another point, you said: "I think you are not understanding me. I am speaking of when a definite noun is used, as in "the Word was God." This means that "God" was with himself, which makes little sense, unless you are eager to inject 'God the Father, the first person of the Trinity' and 'God the Son, the second person of the Trinity' into the text to 'clarify' what John 'wanted' to say."

I'm not sure why you think I misunderstood you, because what you say here is exactly what I understood you to mean the first time, and exactly what my comment was intended to contradict. Let me take another stab at it.

You are right that the definite theos in Jn 1.1 would be a contradiction. Indeed, a test for whether a PN is definite is to reverse the subject and the PN. So the definite reading would be, "the Word was the God", which would necessarily also mean "the God was the Word". If they cannot be switched, then the PN is not definite. And neither JWs or Trinitarians would accept this.

But, to the contrary of your implication, the traditional translation does not take a definite sense here ("the God"), but a qualitative one ("God") – which is what I originally stated (and to which you subsequently agreed, though clearly we interpret the qualitative theos differently).

So I disagree on several counts when you say, "To an English speaker, this is a definite noun, a specific individual (which is how it is used in the same verse), not a class." First, for the reason I just mentioned, I don't agree that it is obvious "to English speakers" that the traditional translation is definite. Secondly, and returning to my original comment, if you take God as "a specific individual" to whom it would be contradictory for the Word to be identified, then you have already made an assumption about God. Let me demonstrate how.

My claim is that one does not need to 'inject' Trinitarianism in order to reconcile the supposed contradiction. This was precisely my original point: all one has to do is to take theos qualitatively. Now, once it has been understood thusly, it still must be interpreted, and apparently there are at least two options: (1) that (since God must be an individual completely distinct from all other individuals,) the Word was 'a god' in a different sense than was God himself, or else (2) that somehow the nature of God is such that the Word can both be God and yet with God. Notice that one does not need to assume Trinitarianism before taking the second interpretation, only an open-mindedness to the possibility of the redefinition of the nature of God in light of the person, ministry, and resurrection of Jesus, and the church's worship of him. So then, Trinitarianism is a plausible subsequent development from this understanding, not something that has to be 'injected' into it to save one from a contradictory reading. On the other hand, the first reading requires an initial assumption that the nature of God is exclusively individual. So who's injecting their theology into the verse?

In any case, whether one agrees with the doctrine of the Trinity or not, historically it is fairly certain that the early church developed it precisely to account for, as Dave Wilkerson eloquently stated, both the distinction and similarity between God and Jesus, the Word. But at this point, we move out of exegesis and into dogmatics, something that is beyond the scope of T.B.'s original post. And since we agree that the sense of theos in Jn 1.1 is qualitative, I consider this part of the discussion over.

One last thing. To answer your final question: no, I am not familiar with the ancient Coptic translation of the Greek New Testament.

10:13 PM, December 01, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi TB,

One quick final question. . . Have you studied Greek and if so, where?

I have only studied Greek informally with books.


TJ

8:44 AM, December 02, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Dave,

Thanks for your response.

But, to the contrary of your implication, the traditional translation does not take a definite sense here ("the God"), but a qualitative one ("God") – which is what I originally stated (and to which you subsequently agreed, though clearly we interpret the qualitative theos differently).

Here I could not disagree with you more. You seem to be saying that for "God" to be definite in English, it must have the definite article "the" in front of it. But even the definite use of "God" in the clause immediately before it does not have "the," i.e. "and the Word was with God."

In English, ho theos is usually translated just like a name, i.e. the definite article is dropped if there is one and it is capitalized. Thus in John 1:26, ho iōannās is translated as "John" and not "the John." So a definite use of "God" usually does not take the definite article in English.

First, for the reason I just mentioned, I don't agree that it is obvious "to English speakers" that the traditional translation is definite.

How exactly are they supposed to tell the difference between a definite and qualitative "God?" This is the problem with your suggestion, there is a clear distinction in the Greek that cannot be discerned in English if both the definite and qualitative are the same.

I've only heard your argument, namely that the English translation "God" here is qualitative, used once or twice before. Most advocates of "the Word was God" that I have spoken with admit that they mean for "God" to be definite, and it is my opinion that most English readers understand it that way. "God" is a specific person to them, not a category similar to 'mankind.' Thus we find certain translations correcting this misconception in their footnotes.

The New American Bible, which has "and the Word was God," writes, "Was God: lack of definite article with 'God' in Greek signifies predication rather than identification." The Great Book; The New Testament in Plain English, which also uses, "and the Word was God," says in its notes, "or Deity, Divine (which is actually a better translation, because the Greek definite article is not present before this Greek word)."

Indeed, I agree that a word such as "Divine" would be a much better translation than a qualitative "God" which people would naturally confuse with a definite "God."

Secondly, and returning to my original comment, if you take God as "a specific individual" to whom it would be contradictory for the Word to be identified, then you have already made an assumption about God. Let me demonstrate how.

You go on to say, "all one has to do is to take theos qualitatively. Now, once it has been understood thusly . . ."

Honestly, I am a bit puzzled here with your answer. This is why I think you misunderstood me last time. I was saying that Trinitarian theology is injected into the text "when a definite noun is used," a qualitative noun is fine with me. We seem to both agree on this, since you said above, "You are right that the definite theos in Jn 1.1 would be a contradiction." If a translator pruposely chooses a contradictory reading in their translation when more natural alternatives are available, there is a bias at work. As I said above, if you are arguing that "God" is qualitative, then that is fine with me, as long as everyone understands that it is qualitative, but I don't think that is really possible. Even TB argued against a qualitative use of theos in his blog post, but who can blame him, that is what the traditional translation implies.

(2) that somehow the nature of God is such that the Word can both be God and yet with God

When you say, "the Word can both be God," "God" here is being used qualitatively, right? In "and yet with God," "God" here is being used in a definite sense? Or are you using them both in a definite sense?

These are the problems in understanding that inevitably arise when you use "God" for both, unless you use footnotes.

On the other hand, the first reading requires an initial assumption that the nature of God is exclusively individual.

Is "God" here being used qualitatively or definitely? Are you talking about the God or Godkind (like mankind)? This will affect how I respond.

In any case, whether one agrees with the doctrine of the Trinity or not, historically it is fairly certain that the early church developed it precisely to account for, as Dave Wilkerson eloquently stated, both the distinction and similarity between God and Jesus, the Word.

I will respond to his post shortly. I should note here that not even the churches agree on what the Trinity supposedly is. The Orthodox and Catholic (and subsequently, Protestant) Churches disagree over the so-called "Filioque clause" in the Nicene Creed and the Oriental Orthodox Churches disagree that Jesus was of two natures, which was decided upon at the Council of Chalcedon. I'm not going to get into this, as you said, its outside the scope of this discussion, but most seem to think that there was little development in regards to the Trinity doctrine from the first century until now. As if the apostles had the same idea about who God is that everyone who believes in the 'one' Trinity doctrine do today.

Just as one of many such examples, The New Catholic Encyclopedia states, "The formulation 'one God in three Persons' was not solidly established, certainly not fully assimilated into Christian life and its profession of faith, prior to the end of the 4th century. But it is precisely this formulation that has first claim to the title the Trinitarian dogma. Among the Apostolic Fathers, there had been nothing even remotely approaching such a mentality or perspective." (1967, Vol. XIV, p. 299; emphasis added)

One last thing. To answer your final question: no, I am not familiar with the ancient Coptic translation of the Greek New Testament.

Well it is certainly worth noting, and this is the point I told TB to look for, that while Koine Greek (the type of Greek the New Testament was written in) was still a living language, it was translated into three languages: Syriac, Latin, and Coptic (Egyptian). Many Jews lived in Egypt at this time and spoke Greek (the international language), but obviously the Egyptian language was used there as well. When the New Testament was translated into the Egyptian language, the translators adopted the Greek alphabet to write it, also using many Greek loanwords. Thus was born what is called Coptic, it is basically the Egyptian language with a mix of Greek words written with Greek letters (with a few added ones).

Now Coptic was unique in one sense, while Syriac and Latin had neither definite nor indefinite articles and Greek had only the definite, Coptic had both the definite and indefinite articles available. In this way, it was more like English than the others languages. How did these Coptic translators, who would have actually spoken Koine Greek, translate John 1:1? They used the definite article with the first occurrence of "G/god" (noute) and the indefinite article with the second. A literal translation of the Coptic would be, "and the Word was with (the) God, and the Word was a god."

So while many or most of the English translators today, who have both articles at their disposal, choose to not use either and consequently make both occurrences of theos look exactly the same, the ancient Coptic translators, who would have had a better working knowledge of the Greek, thought it was important to make a distinction here using both articles. Just something to think about.


TJ

10:26 AM, December 02, 2006  
Blogger T.B. Vick said...

TJ,

Can you please list all your sources which you are using in these comment streams? I am interested in looking at them more thoroughly. Thanks.

11:10 AM, December 02, 2006  
Blogger T.B. Vick said...

TJ,

Reading above, you mentioned the Coptic Version/s. Fortunately I studied under one of the few scholars in the world who actually knows the Coptic Language. So I am somewhat familiar with the versions and the languages based upon his lectures about it.

I'm curious, you speak as if thereis only one version of Coptic New Testament, when in fact there were several. Which version/s did you have in mind? The Shidic, Achmimic, Sub-Acmimic, Egyption version (which you mentioned), Fayyumic, or the Bohairic? Also, the dating on these versions actually follow the Greek texts, and in many cases, most NT scholars concede, they used the Original Greek Texts in some sort or another.

Moreover, these Coptic texts were written mainly by Gnostic groups which were actually condemned by the early Church Fathers. In fact this is were the early apologists came forth to respond to many of these Coptic manuscripts, and Gnostic doctrines. In NT scholarship over the years these Coptic manusripts have not been taken seriously has viable translations due in part to the communities which assembled them.

There has been recent renewed interst in the Coptic due to the Da Vinci Code movie and duein part to certain members of the Jesus Seminar (i.e. Funk and Crossan), otherwise.

So with that being said, I am curious which manuscripts are you talking about?

11:27 AM, December 02, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi David W.,

Thanks for your response. The points you bring up are certainly things you should be concerned about. Before we can understand things such as who could be called elohim or theos (G/god) in ancient times, we have to be willing to let go of our modern constraints on the term. Most people today think very black and white on this issue, there is only true and false. But to the ancients the category of G/god contained some gray. Of course the Jews and Christians believed in one Almighty God of everything, which set them apart from virtually everyone else, but we should remember that G/god basically meant 'mighty one' to them.

The idols of the nations were completely powerless, so these were definitely false gods, but certain men and angels, were either given power by the Almighty or allowed to have power by him. Their power was real, so they could be called gods, albeit in a relative sense.

Thus when Jehovah appointed Moses to speak for him, we find, "Jehovah said to Moses: 'See, I have made you God to Pharaoh.'" (Exodus 7:1) Elohim is used in the Hebrew, theos in the Greek LXX. Moses had real power given to him by Jehovah. Speaking of mankind, the psalmist David wrote, "You [Jehovah] also proceeded to make him a little less than godlike ones." (Psalm 8:5) Again elohim is used in the Hebrew. But who are these "godlike ones?" The apostle Paul answers when he quotes from the LXX version of this verse, "You made him a little lower than angels." So angels, who are 'sons of God,' can be called gods. (Job 1:6)

Again we find Jehovah saying, "I myself have said, 'You are gods, and all of you are sons of the Most High.'" (Psalm 82:6) These were human judges in Israel (vs. 2), who were corrupted but held real power from Jehovah. Jesus acknowledges their status, and actually uses their example in his defense in John 10:34,35. Keep in mind that the Jews accusing Jesus were looking to kill him, and were bringing many false claims against him, in this case, blasphemy. It says there:

"The Jews answered him: "We are stoning you, not for a fine work, but for blasphemy, even because you, although being a man, make yourself a god.' Jesus answered them: 'Is it not written in your Law, "I said: 'You are gods'"? If he called "gods" those against whom the word of God came, and yet the Scripture cannot be nullified, do you say to me whom the Father sanctified and dispatched into the world, "You blaspheme," because I said, I am God’s Son?'"

Jesus affirms that the corrupted men "against whom the word of God came" were rightly called gods, for "the Scripture cannot be nullified." Jesus has also been given power by God, who "sanctified and dispatched [him] into the world" so that he can rightly be called "God's Son."

Keep in mind that Jesus was "dispatched into the world" by God. The Jews had a concept known as agency, wherein person A, who has authority and power, would send person B as a representative in their place. Person B would then be person A's agent, and he would then have the authority and power that person A gave him. This can be found everywhere in the Bible, but here are a couple good examples:

1. "When he [Jesus] entered into Capernaum, an army officer came to him, entreating him and saying: 'Sir, my manservant is laid up in the house with paralysis, being terribly tormented.' He said to him: 'When I get there I will cure him.' In reply the army officer said: 'Sir, I am not a fit man for you to enter under my roof, but just say the word and my manservant will be healed' . . . Hearing that, Jesus became amazed and said to those following him: 'I tell YOU the truth, With no one in Israel have I found so great a faith' . . . Then Jesus said to the army officer: 'Go. Just as it has been your faith, so let it come to pass for you.' And the manservant was healed in that hour." (Matthew 8:5-13)

Pretty straightforward, right? Jesus and the army officer had a discussion, and Jesus performed a miracle for him. But now let's see this account from another perspective:

"When he [Jesus] had completed all his sayings in the hearing of the people, he entered into Capernaum. Now a certain army officer’s slave, who was dear to him, was ailing and was about to pass away. When he heard about Jesus, he sent forth older men of the Jews to him to ask him to come and bring his slave safely through. Then those that came up to Jesus began to entreat him earnestly, saying: 'He is worthy of your conferring this upon him, for he loves our nation and he himself built the synagogue for us.' So Jesus started off with them. But when he was not far from the house, the army officer had already sent friends to say to him: 'Sir, do not bother, for I am not fit to have you come in under my roof. For that reason I did not consider myself worthy to come to you. But say the word, and let my servant be healed' . . . Well, when Jesus heard these things he marveled at him, and he turned to the crowd following him and said: 'I tell YOU, Not even in Israel have I found so great a faith.' And those that had been sent, on getting back to the house, found the slave in good health." (Luke 7:1-10)

Now we see that the army officer never even spoke to Jesus personally, for he 'did not consider himself worthy to come to Jesus.' Rather, he sent representatives, agents, not once but twice to speak to Jesus for him.

2. In the account of Moses approaching the burning bush, we read:

"When Jehovah saw that he turned aside to inspect, God at once called to him out of the midst of the thornbush and said: 'Moses! Moses!' to which he said: 'Here I am.' Then he said: 'Do not come near here. Draw your sandals from off your feet, because the place where you are standing is holy ground.' And he went on to say: 'I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob.'" (Exodus 3:4-6)

But who really was this in the thornbush? Verse 2 tells us, "Then Jehovah’s angel appeared to him in a flame of fire in the midst of a thornbush."

So it was really an angel speaking on behalf of Jehovah God that was saying these things. He was acting as an agent.

Now remember that Jesus was "dispatched into the world" by God. Was he acting as his agent? Yes.

"Therefore Jesus cried out as he was teaching in the temple and said . . . "I have not come of my own initiative, but he that sent me is real . . . I am a representative from him, and that One sent me forth" (John 7:28,29)

"Most truly I say to you, A slave is not greater than his master, nor is one that is sent forth greater than the one that sent him." (John 13:16)

"Therefore, in answer, Jesus went on to say to them: 'Most truly I say to you, The Son cannot do a single thing of his own initiative, but only what he beholds the Father doing. For whatever things that One does, these things the Son also does in like manner." (John 5:19)

"Therefore Jesus said . . . 'I do nothing of my own initiative; but just as the Father taught me I speak these things.'" (John 8:28)

So certainly there is no doubt about Jesus being a representative of God. Any power that he has was given to him by who he called "the only true God," the Father, Jehovah. (Matthew 28:18; John 17:1,3)

He is repeatedly referred to as a uniquely-sent Son (Paul and John)whereas we are son's only by adoption. So we are not 'gods' like he is 'a god', right? While distinct from the Father, he is still unique from all humans and angels it would seem.

Paul and John speak of him as an "only begotten Son" and the "firstborn of creation." (John 3:16; Colossians 1:15) This is how he is unique, he is the first of God's creations and the only direct one. All of God's other sons were created indirectly, through the "only begotten." (John 1:3; Colossians 1:16)

Now I know that you'll instantly disagree with this and say, but all things were created by means of him. To put it simply, it is speaking of all things apart from the Father and (only-begotten) Son. So I have no problem with this. The fact that Jesus is the only direct creation and everything else is indirect harmonizes with what is said at 1 Corinthians 8:6, "there is actually to us one God the Father, out of whom all things are, and we for him; and there is one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom all things are, and we through him." The Father is the source of all things, and Jesus is the means, the agent, by which he created.

Jesus has so many titles and attributes of Yahweh or God that he demands worship. In John 20:28 Thomas states 'My Lord and my G(g)od!'

Well, I'm not sure what titles you are speaking of, but even the angel in the thornbush above was called "Jehovah" and their are other places where this happens. A representative that is doing the will of his master can surely be called by many of the same titles.

As for John 20:28, notice what John, the writer, says himself just three verses later, "But these have been written down that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ the Son of God." (John 20:31) We are to get from this "that Jesus is the Christ the Son of God," not "the only true God." (John 17:3)

Or again Matthew 14:33 they worshipped Jesus as "God's Son".

The Greek word for 'worship' is proskuneō, and this action is performed for others of authority that are not God, such as King Saul and King David. (1 Samuel 24:8; 1 Kings 1:23)

For the confusion of attributes Phil 2:10 quotes Isaiah 45:23 every knee bowing and tongue confessing that "Yahweh is Lord", a glory he will share with no one.

I don't see the problem here. As I pointed out to TB above, the context of that verse in Isaiah is Jehovah comparing himself to the God's of the nations, false gods. His followers won't bend their knees to them, but they will to the Son who Jehovah exalted "to a superior position." It says that "every tongue should openly acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father." And this is proper, since Jehovah made Jesus "Lord." (Acts 2:36)

Does this all not "clearly" reveal their "muddled" thinking?

Not at all. You are thinking too much in modern terms, not taking into account the fact that Jesus was appointed by God.

If you research the early history of the church, you'll find that many of the 'Church Fathers' make very clear distinctions between Jesus and God. Gregory of Nyssa even wrote what the common perception in some places was: "If in this city you ask a shopkeeper for change, he will argue with you about whether the Son is begotten or unbegotten. If you inquire about the quality of bread, the baker will answer, 'The Father is greater, the Son is less.' And if you ask the bath attendant to draw your bath, he will tell you that the Son was created out of nothing."

I would recommend you take a look at When Jesus Became God, by Richard E. Rubenstein. Certainly their was no commonly accepted Trinity-like beliefs before the Council of Nicea. The primitive theologies that would lead to the Trinity doctrine were not even necessarily in the majority.

TJ

12:37 PM, December 02, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey TB,

I'm curious, you speak as if thereis only one version of Coptic New Testament, when in fact there were several. Which version/s did you have in mind? The Shidic, Achmimic, Sub-Acmimic, Egyption version (which you mentioned), Fayyumic, or the Bohairic? Also, the dating on these versions actually follow the Greek texts, and in many cases, most NT scholars concede, they used the Original Greek Texts in some sort or another.

I am speaking mainly of the Sahidic, which is by far the oldest version and was collated in the early twentieth century by George William Horner in several volumes. Still, even the Bohairic, dated centuries later, retained the indefinite article in John 1:1. The known Fayyumic manuscripts are missing John 1:1 and I'm not sure about the other dialects, but they are not as common. The two big ones are the Sahidic and Bohairic as far as New Testament studies go.

Moreover, these Coptic texts were written mainly by Gnostic groups which were actually condemned by the early Church Fathers. In fact this is were the early apologists came forth to respond to many of these Coptic manuscripts, and Gnostic doctrines. In NT scholarship over the years these Coptic manusripts have not been taken seriously has viable translations due in part to the communities which assembled them.

This is a common misconception you are propagating here. The Coptic New Testament and the Coptic gnostic texts are completely different. It's like saying everything written in English should be discounted because you know of books written in English that are wrong.

The Coptic New Testament is a very literal and direct translation from the Greek manuscripts, the best of which were found in Egypt. NT scholarship actually considers the Coptic texts extremely valuable and useful, and of more worth than the Syriac and Latin.

The Text of the New Testament (Eerdmans, 1987), by Kurt and Barbara Aland, editors of critical Greek New Testament texts, says on page 200, "The Coptic New Testament is among the primary resources for the history of the New Testament text. Important as the Latin and Syriac versions may be, it is of far greater importance to know precisely how the text developed in Egypt."

Bruce Metzger wrote in A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament, "The Alexandrian text, which Wescott and Hort called the Neutral text, is usually considered to be the best text and the most faithful in preserving the original . . . The Sahidic and Bohairic versions frequently contain typically Alexandrian readings." (p. 5)

Can you please list all your sources which you are using in these comment streams? I am interested in looking at them more thoroughly. Thanks.

I have used mainly articles appearing in issues of The Watchtower. If you want, I could send you select articles via email. I would recommend that you acquire a NWT with References, the study Bible that explains these issues in detail. You can write to 25 Columbia Heights, Brooklyn, NY 11201-2483 and ask for one. It would likely be local Jehovah's Witnesses that would drop it off to you. As far as outside sources (those not published by Jehovah's Witnesses), I have used Jason BeDuhn's Truth in Translation which is an excellent book. That's about it. Details on the Coptic text I initially learned from the "sahidica" website, which was just recently taken offline for some reason. But I have continued my research on that using other sources, such as the Introduction to Sahidic Coptic grammar book by Thomas O. Lambdin.

TJ

1:08 PM, December 02, 2006  
Blogger T.B. Vick said...

TJ,

You declare, "This is a common misconception you are propagating here. The Coptic New Testament and the Coptic gnostic texts are completely different. It's like saying everything written in English should be discounted because you know of books written in English that are wrong."

Actually, TJ, this is false. Research has demonstrated that the same communities have written the manuscripts of each. The Coptic language is such a very narrow language, in terms of who was using it in the ancient world. It is designated to specific communites and took scholars literally hundreds of years to decipher. My suggestion is that you provide greater proof for your claim than merely declaring a common misonception and leaving it at that.

Since you have already quoted from the Catholic Encyclopedia let me do so as well . . .

"Of this version [ The Sahidic Version] until recently we had almost nothing but fragments, representing several hundred manuscripts, chiefly from the monastery of Amba Shnudah (Shenoute) near Sohag province of Akhmim, generally known as the "White Monastery". The only complete books were those of the Wisdom of Solomon and the Wisdom of Jesus son of Sirach (Ecclesiasticus), and some of the minor Epistles. Of late, however, this number has been considerably increased, see above. COPTIC LITERATURE, Morgan collection, and British Museum, Recent acquisitions."

It gores on to declare, "(2) "The Coptic Version of the New Testament in the Southern Dialect otherwise called Sahidic and Thebaic, with Critical Apparatus, literal English translation, Register of fragments and estimate of the version", I-III (Oxford, 1911), with photographic specimens of the most important manuscripts. In this masterpiece of patient scholarship, the author (whose name does not appear on the title page), Rev. George Horner, has succeeded in reconstructing the whole of the Four Gospels (a few verses excepted) out of 744 fragments scattered throughout the public and private collections of the world. These fragments belonged once to some 150 different manuscripts, the identification of which by the author is perhaps not the least merit of his work. Unfortunately some valuable fragments, in particular those in the Rainer collection, now incorporated with the Imperial Library of Vienna, were not accessible to Horner in time to be used for his edition."

Fragments, fragments, fragments, where further research details that these are dated many centuries after the extant NT manuscripts. Moreover, thesre are documents which stem from the same communities as where the Nag Hammadi manscripts were found - Gnostic communities. James M. Robinson and Willis Barnstone have included Coptic NT Texts from these same Gnositc sources in their works.

So most of your sources are Watchtower Society sources, correct? And then as you declare, " As far as outside sources (those not published by Jehovah's Witnesses), I have used Jason BeDuhn's Truth in Translation which is an excellent book. That's about it. Details on the Coptic text I initially learned from the "sahidica" website, which was just recently taken offline for some reason. But I have continued my research on that using other sources, such as the Introduction to Sahidic Coptic grammar book by Thomas O. Lambdin."

1:36 PM, December 02, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi TB,

Actually, TJ, this is false. Research has demonstrated that the same communities have written the manuscripts of each. The Coptic language is such a very narrow language, in terms of who was using it in the ancient world. It is designated to specific communites and took scholars literally hundreds of years to decipher. My suggestion is that you provide greater proof for your claim than merely declaring a common misonception and leaving it at that.

You claim that I need to give greater proof, and yet your claim that these are gnostic-related rests firmly on . . . "reseach." You do know that there was a large christian community in Egypt that would be considered 'orthodox,' right? The tactics you employ in attempt to discredit the text itself should be more than just guilt-by-association; remember that the most important Greek manuscripts, which are used as the basis for the translations most people use, are from Egypt as well. Should we be suspicious of these?

I have worked with the Coptic text quite a bit over the last year, and I can affirm that it is a direct translation of the Greek New Testament and remains very loyal to it. The indefinite article appearing at John 1:1 is in no way forced, but consistent with where we find it elsewhere.

Fragments, fragments, fragments, where further research details that these are dated many centuries after the extant NT manuscripts.

Most ancient texts are found in fragments, I don't see how this would affect the Coptic text's integrity any more than it does the Greek text's. And Horner completed the whole of the New Testament, not just the Gospels. Back at that time, many of the Greek texts were bound with Coptic translations, forming a diglot.

As for the date, Horner dated the Coptic translation to the second century, shortly after the Greek cannon was completed.

So most of your sources are Watchtower Society sources, correct?

Yes.

TJ

2:09 PM, December 02, 2006  
Blogger T.B. Vick said...

TJ,

You claim, "You claim that I need to give greater proof, and yet your claim that these are gnostic-related rests firmly on . . . "reseach." You do know that there was a large christian community in Egypt that would be considered 'orthodox,' right?"

I understand this, however, you are not talking about manuscripts from Coptic sources in your above comment. You ARE simply mentioning a group of orthodox Christians who lived in the North Africa area. When I referred to the the source communities of the Coptic texts I can safely say these communities were in fact Gnostics. Some were located in northern Africa, some were located in and around the Dead Sea area, etc. But the communites that used the Coptic language were Gnostics, and this is not a "common misconception."

You state, "I have worked with the Coptic text quite a bit over the last year, and I can affirm that it is a direct translation of the Greek New Testament and remains very loyal to it."

So you are going to tell me you understand the Coptic language? You and about a handful different scholars in the World?

This discussion has certainly become fruitless, therefore, I will not be responding to any more of your comments. You may have the last word if you like.

TJ, the last thing I have to say to you is that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God. I believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ,
the only Son of God,
eternally begotten of the Father,
God from God, Light from Light,
true God from true God,
begotten, not made,
of one Being with the Father.


There is nothing you could say or try and prove that would turn me from this belief. Cheers!

2:46 PM, December 02, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi TB,

When I referred to the the source communities of the Coptic texts I can safely say these communities were in fact Gnostics. Some were located in northern Africa, some were located in and around the Dead Sea area, etc. But the communites that used the Coptic language were Gnostics, and this is not a "common misconception."

Say what you want, the Coptic New Testament is not gnostic for the simple reason that it is in Coptic and you don't like it how it uses the indefinite article in one place. Text-critical scholars acknowledge the Coptic text as an important and reliable source and I have not heard one of them even mention the word "gnostic" in relation to it. Why would they? It's the New Testament, not a gnostic work.

Besides, the Coptic New Testament predates the gnostic work. Lambdin writes, "It was only natural, then, that the Coptic translators of the Bible not only adopted the Greek alphabet but also generously supplemented the native lexicon with many more borrowings from Greek." It was the Coptic Bible translators that fused Egyptian with Greek to form Coptic in the first place.

It sounds as though after you read my post, you looked up the Coptic New Testament on the internet, determined to discredit it, but didn't find much. The only criticism you can come up with is 'everything written in Coptic is gnostic.' And that before you have even taken a look at the Coptic NT.

So you are going to tell me you understand the Coptic language? You and about a handful different scholars in the World?

Actually, I am able to work through the Coptic pretty well now. It's not very difficult, especially if you have studied Greek.

This discussion has certainly become fruitless, therefore, I will not be responding to any more of your comments. You may have the last word if you like.

I would just say that I certainly appreciate your allowing this exchange on your blog.

There is nothing you could say or try and prove that would turn me from this belief.

I noticed that during the course of our discussion. Just be sure that you are correct before you are close your mind. I note that the words you bolded are used, not in the Bible, but in the creeds of men. Tradition can and does invalidate the Word of God. (Matthew 15:6)


Take care,
TJ

5:20 PM, December 02, 2006  

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