how can a only-beggotten son be the same as the one who begotten him?
What if he were a clone?
how can a only-beggotten son be the same as the one who begotten him?
What if he were a clone?
Hey Leolaia it looks like your response made Solomon Landers one unhappy bunny!
Over on the still-operating JWD forum they are discussing the November 1, 2008 Watchtower. If anyone here still has access to the forum -- I don't -- please tell those folks that all their useless objections to the Coptic version being rendered in English as "the Word was a god" are outdated and already debunked at my web site:http://nwtandcoptic.blogspot.comOne poster over there fancies herself a "linguist," but she has just swallowed down whole the ignorance of Trinitarian apologists. She writes:
[quote] I am curious to see if the Society acknowledges that the Coptic rendering is ambiguous (i.e. it allows both qualitative and indefinite readings, not indefinite alone) and that Coptic usage of the indefinite article differs from English, or whether they take a simplistic view that interprets the Coptic rendering as exclusively supporting an indefinite "a god" interpretation of John 1:1. Do they also mention that the same version refers to the Word as "God" (p-noute, with the definite article) in John 1:18, or that v. 16 uses the indefinite article with "life" and "grace" (i.e. "[a] life and [a] grace" if the usage of the indefinite article is indicated, but "life and grace" in usual English)?[/quote]
This is the logical confusion of people who want to appear knowledgeble of Coptic, but who are not.
First, the Coptic is not ambiguous, since "the Word was a god" and "the Word was divine" mean essentially the same thing, as Dr. Jason BeDuhn points out. But the opposers choose to overlook the fact that neither an indefinite reading nor a "qualitative" reading supports the KJV and others who render it "the Word was God."
Second, no one has said that the Coptic "excusively" supports an indefinite reading. In my blogs I have pointed out several times that "the Word was divine" is possible, but not preferred at John 1:1. Even the Society accepts "divine" for the anarthrous theos of John 1:1 in the New World Translation Reference Bible, appendix 6A. These opposers are way behind the times.
John 1:18 has 3 variants in the Greek and the Coptic conflates them. But the definite article here is anaphoric, referring back to the god already mentioned in John 1:1, the god who, by the anarthrous grammatical construction in Greek and the indefinite grammatical construction in the Coptic, is contrasted with The God he is with, not identified as the same God.
Further, use of the definite article before the Coptic word for god does not always mean God. A prime example is found at Acts 7:43 where the Coptic uses the definite article with the word for god, but it is not referring to God, but to the pagan god Rephan.
And finally, they are confusing the Coptic use of the indefinite article with abstract Coptic nouns like "life" and "grace" with its usage before common nouns like god. Throughout his English translation of 1911, Coptic scholar William Horner translates with an "a" those indefinite articles that are bound to common nouns. For exactly that reason it is proper to omit the indefinite article when translating the Coptic word for "grace" in English, but proper to include it when translating the Coptic word for "god" in English.
In quoting Bentley Layton's book, Coptic in 20 Lessons, they fail to grasp that he shows that when the Coptic word noute (god) refers to an entity, the translation "a god" is proper. And that is precisely what we have at John 1:1, since throughout his Gospel, John identifies the Word as an entity, not as a substance or an abstract idea.
It's really a shame that people want to dance all around the Coptic evidence instead of accepting what it says. Even more devilish of them to attempt to twist and muddle what the Coptic clearly says. But after all, that's the same game they try to play with the original Greek.
They simply can't get "the Word was God" out of the Coptic sentence at John 1:1, whether they see it as indefinite or "qualitative." But Coptic John 1:1 certainly can be translated to read, in English, "the Word was a god." They need to get their heads around that, like it or not.
I must say the bitter tone of Watchtower apologists on that site is something to behold. They were not like that a few years ago. They were a much more amiable bunch, say before Greg Stafford and Heinz Schmidt abandoned them, in my opinion. Even old Solomon used to be quite a nice chap. I think defending the Watchtower does tend to warp people.
Wow that site is a hotbed of up-to-date info on the activities of WT apologists.
One thread claims Firpo Carr was reinstated this year!
If the WT rendering of '....word was a god' is accepted, does that not make two Gods that are being followed, not one....I know my wife will tell me that Jesus is the mighty god and Jehovah is Almighty God, but still two gods.........
Thanks, slimboyfat for bringing that to my attention. I suppose some modicum of response is in order.
First, Solomon quotes only the initial question I made as to the content of the WT article, not to any evaluation of the article on my part. I suppose it is easier to complain that "no one has said that the Coptic 'exclusively' supports an indefinite reading", when in fact I never claimed that anyone said this -- I was only asking if the Society had claimed this. Also Solomon attacks a number of straw men. For instance, in response to me, he says that "the opposers choose to overlook the fact that neither an indefinite reading nor a 'qualitative' reading supports the KJV and others who render it 'the Word was God' ", as if I was arguing for the correctness of the KJV rendering. I was not. In fact, I already stated at least once if not twice that the true value of the Coptic is in providing evidence AGAINST this rendering. Again, he says in response to me that these opposers "simply can't get 'the Word was God' out of the Coptic sentence at John 1:1". Again, this misrepresents what I was saying in this thread. He follows this by saying: "Coptic John 1:1 certainly can be translated to read, in English, 'the Word was a god.' They need to get their heads around that, like it or not." This yet again misrepresents my point, as I nowhere deny that the Coptic can support the indefinite reading; what I question is whether it provides special support to the indefinite reading AGAINST the qualitative one (whereas I already said that it supports both the qualitative and indefinite AGAINST the definite reading).
That is the reason why I quoted from Bentley Layton, who shows that noute "god" is indeed among the nouns that can both be read as indefinite AND adjectival in Coptic, and Lambdin shows that predicate adjectives are obligatorily marked with the indefinite article (a usage of the indefinite article that is quite unlike that of English). Layton himself says that such predicates are ambiguous (p. 34), whereas Solomon maintains that "the Coptic is not ambiguous, since 'the Word was a god' and 'the Word was divine' mean essentially the same thing". This is simply not true. Indefiniteness pertains to class membership of an entity whereas qualitative predication expresses attributes pertaining to the nature of the entity -- which may or may not be reflective of class membership. The two semantic concepts are distinct, although there is some overlap. Solomon appeals to BeDuhn on claiming a lack of a real difference, and BeDuhn bases his discussion on Harner's study of qualitative predicate nouns in Greek: "What Harner calls the 'qualitative' function of Greek predicate nouns, and what I call the Greek 'expression of class' amounts to basically the same thing. A person who writes a sentence in this way is telling us that the subject belongs to the class or category represented by the predicate noun" (p. 124). Harner however was quite clear that qualitative DOES NOT IMPLY indefinite, and his analysis of John 1:1a also precluded the reading that BeDuhn prefers. On p. 83 of his article, for instance, Harner cites John 1:14 as an example of a predicate noun in which "the qualitative force of the predicate is most prominent" but which "could not be translated as either definite or indefinite". Harner then goes on to rule out indefinite, definite, and unspecified qualitative as nuances of the predicate in John 1:1c (which would better be expressed via different constructions), explaining that the sense is not that the logos is equated with ho theos NOR that the two entities are construed as two divine beings belonging to a category or class of theos (pp. 84-86). The idea is rather that "the Word is 'divine' in the same sense that ho theos is divine" (p. 86), such that:
"In terms of the analysis that we have proposed, a recognition of the qualitative significance of theos would remove some ambiguity in his interpretation by differentiating between theos, as the nature that the Logos shared with God, and ho theos as the 'person' to whom the Logos stood in relation. Only when this distinction is clear can we say of the Logos that 'he was God.' ... Perhaps the clause could be translated, 'the Word had the same nature as God.' This would be one way of representing John's thought, which is, as I understand it, that ho logos, no less than ho theos, had the nature of theos" (pp. 86-87).
This is the position I have been advocating in this thread as well, that theos is the quality or nature that ho theos and ho logos share (just as sarx "flesh" is the nature that ho logos would later share with man in v. 14). This is very different from understanding theos non-qualitatively as a member of a class or category; Harner specifically argues against this indefinite reading. 1 John 4:8 is a nice parallel to John 1:1c because [ho theos] apagé estin "God is love" is syntactically similar (involving an anarthrous predicate nominative noun and a copular "to be" verb) and qualitatively expresses the nature of the articular subject (i.e. "God has the same nature as love", compare Harner's translation of John 1:1c as "The Word has the same nature as God"). Ignatius of Antioch (who was influenced by the Johannine literature) gives another example with anarthrous theos that so far has not been noticed in the literature on John 1:1: "Faith is the beginning and love is the end, and [the two existing in unity] are God ([ta de duo en enotéti genomena] theos estin)" (Ephesians 14:1). This reproduces Holmes' translation, which has a definite rendering of theos as "God", but theos here is an anarthrous predicate nominative noun just as it is in John 1:1c. The idea is not that faith and love are two divine beings, or that they both are to be identified with a unique definite entity "God", but that theos is the nature that faith and love share when they are in unity. This also shows how the sharing of a common nature does not necessarily imply membership in a class. In this case, the nature of theos is an emergent property of two abstract entities when they are in a unity. In the case of John, the idea seems to be that the Son has the nature of theos because the Father is in him just as he is in the Father (cf. 10:30, 38), involving another notion of unity. I would not say that this understanding excludes all others, but it is the one that makes the most sense and best accounts for the available data. The main point here is that qualitative predication does not mean the same thing as the indefinite.
Getting back to Coptic from this digression of the Greek (occasioned by Solomon's reference to BeDuhn), Solomon has this to say about my quoting of Layton: "In quoting Bentley Layton's book, Coptic in 20 Lessons, they fail to grasp that he shows that when the Coptic word noute (god) refers to an entity, the translation 'a god' is proper. And that is precisely what we have at John 1:1, since throughout his Gospel, John identifies the Word as an entity, not as a substance or an abstract idea". Simply asserting that noute in John 1:1 refers to an entity instead of an abstract nature of theos -- without addressing Harner's detailed arguments on this topic -- is not enough. It is also false that the Word (= the Son, Jesus, etc.) is never described in abstract terms in the gospel; the Word is described as becoming "flesh" (1:14), as being light (8:12, 9:5), as being life (11:25, 14:6; cf. 6:63), as being truth (14:6), etc. And if the Coptic translator grasped this nuance of the Greek, there is no reason why he could not have used the appropriate Coptic expression; in fact it is not even necessary to posit that the translator correctly understood the Greek since noute accommodates both indefinite and qualitative readings. It is perfectly valid to point out that Layton shows that noute is a noun that can be used in (qualitative) adjectival predication, and that there is an ambiguity in interpreting predicate ou-noute which may refer to either indefinite entities or qualities (as the indefinite article is obligatory in adjectival predication). The article shows only that the translator recognized either a qualitative sense or an indefinite sense in John 1:1; it doesn't by itself point exclusively to the indefinite option over against the qualitative one.
Finally I will close with another straw man erected by Solomon: "Even the Society accepts 'divine' for the anarthrous theos of John 1:1 in the New World Translation Reference Bible, appendix 6A. These opposers are way behind the times". Does Solomon really think I would be unaware of this? In any case, accepting "divine" as a valid translation option is not the same thing as understanding that the Word is just as "divine" as ho theos is divine (i.e. as fully theos as God is theos), which is the nuance that Harner was after. The same appendix quotes Harner as an authority demonstrating that theos is qualitative instead of definite, but they adopt the "a god" rendering that Harner specifically disqualified as expressed by the syntax in John 1:1c and their theology constrains "the Word was divine" as referring to the Word as a divine being but not as fully divine as God himself.
These arguments by WT apologists about semantics serve only to obfuscate the issue,which I believe is their intention.
The Bible makes plain that Almighty God,The Son.and the Holy Spirit are ONE.
If you then go on to look at that without WT goggles on,you may draw close to God.
p.s thanks for the thread,and thanks to Leolaia for her usual measured and erudite contribution,much appreciated!
Thanks for that interesting response Leolaia. You mention a passage from Ignatius that throws light on the use of theos in John 1:1 that has not been discussed in the literature on the subject. I wonder if you had any particular method for locating that example or if you just came across it in your reading of early Christian literature.
I hear what you say about Harner, how he was arguing that John 1:1 points to the divine nature of the Word rather than its inclusion in a 'class' of divine being as Jehovah's Witnesses read it. But I can't help thinking Jehovah's Witnesses have a good story to tell. As I understand it Colwell's rule was long used to uphold the traditional rendering of John 1:1c. It was only when it was challenged by the NWT's rendering 'and the Word was a god' that the scholarly community scrutinised Colwell's rule again, found it wanting, and Harner's thesis prevailed as the means by which orthodoxy was maintained, even if dogmatism over the rendering could be compromised.
In any case, accepting "divine" as a valid translation option is not the same thing as understanding that the Word is just as "divine" as ho theos is divine (i.e. as fully theos as God is theos ), which is the nuance that Harner was after.
But I guess a Jehovah's Witness can concede that the Word is 'just as "divine"' as God in as much as divinity is qualitative rather than quantitative. One man is just as male as another male for example. It does not usually make sense to talk about one being more male than another, although they may differ in height, age, status, weight and all sorts of other variables. Jehovah's Witnesses as I understand it believe God and the Word are both divine but differ with respect to power, authority, and the source of their being. I am not sure if the debate about whether divinity describes nature or membership of a class gets us anywhere in John 1:1.
Solomon seems to jealously guard any criticism of the Coptic version's support for the JW view of John 1:1 as his own exegetical innovation, so that might explain his intemperate language. I would not be surprised if it was his personal lobbying of the WT writing department that led to the publication of the article. Maybe he wrote it himself in fact.
1) I'm not sure exactly how I came across the Ignatius passage as it was a year ago. It may have been through my usual reading, but probably it was via a TLG search. I just searched the TLG this morning and I found a few other interesting texts that syntactically similar to John 1:1 (if not directly influenced by it) and which have a clear qualitative understanding of theos. Melito of Sardis (c. AD 160) in a lovely poetic text has a long string of qualitative predicates (of one nature being changed into another) with anarthrous nominative nouns cumulating in theos:
"For indeed the Law has become reason (ho nomos logos egeneto), and the old new (ho palaios kainos [egeneto]), and the commandment grace (hé entolé kharis [egeneto]), and the impression truth (ho tupos alétheia [egeneto]), ... and the sheep man (to probaton anthrópos [egeneto]), and the man God (ho anthrópos theos [egeneto]). ... He rose from the dead as God (anesté ek nekrón hós theos), being by nature God and Man (phusei theos ón kai anthrópos)" (Melito of Sardis, Peri Pascha 7-8).
The phrase ho anthrópos theos egeneto is a parallel not only to the syntax of John 1:1 but it is also an inverse of the thought in John 1:14 (ho logos sarx egeneto; the Logos became sarx in the incarnation, the Logos became theos in the resurrection). "God" here is not a specific entity but the nature that Jesus obtains in the resurrection. The use of the word phusei "by nature" also highlights the qualitative sense of both theos and anthrópos in the passage. There were also similar passages in Irenaeus. In Adversus Haereses 4.20.4, he wrote that "The Logos is our Lord Jesus Christ who in these last times became God among men (theos en anthrópois genomenos), that he might unite the end to the beginning, man to God (anthrópon theoi)". As in the Peri Pascha quote above, theos is what the Logos became. In another passage commenting on John 1:1, we read: "And the Word was God (theos én ho logos) since that which is begotten of God is God" ([to ek theou gennéthen] theos estin, 1.8.5). The emphasis again is on nature that the Logos has -- this time on account of being begotten of God (the begotten has the same nature as the begetter). Irenaeus was here representing the interpretation of his adversaries, but elsewhere he indicated the exact same thought as part of his own theology: "The Father is Lord, and the Son is Lord, and the Father is God and the Son is God, for he who is born of God is God, and thus God is shown to be one according to the essence of his being and power" (Demonstratio Apostolicae Praedicationis, 47). Unfortunately, the text is not available in the original Greek.
2) I don't know what led to Harner's reevaluation of Cowell's Rule -- it is not inconceivable that anti-JW apologetics citing Cowell's Rule in response to the NWT was a factor in getting Harner interested in taking a closer look at the evidence. But that is pure speculation.
3) I agree that there is a slippery slope of theology since the lexical item in focus just so happens to be theos. Harner's approach avoided the entanglements of theology by comparing John 1:1c with other syntactic and lexical options, and determining how these refine the nuance of the phrasing that the evangelist actually used. He concluded that the author meant more than simply that the Word was "divine" -- the idea was more that the Logos was theos no less than God was theos, and just as God was theos. There is thus a parity of nature, even though there is an inequality in relationship (i.e. one of submission to the Father). This reading perfectly suits the theology elsewhere in John, where the Son has the same power and privileges and traits of the Father -- such that one can experience the Father by experiencing the Son (1:18, 14:7,9), and that anything the Father does, the Son does as well (5:19, 20-21, 22-23, 25-26). The emphasis seems to be: "Whatever God is, the Word is". I don't think JWs would go as far as this, where Jesus is more of a "mighty spirit creature" in heaven and only a "perfect man" in his earthly incarnation.
What a classy act Leolaia. I'm sure I would have been less reserved in my response to his misrepresentation.