Coptic John 1:1, Revisited

by rmnnoute 30 Replies latest watchtower beliefs

  • rmnnoute

    1:1 ?Ν Τ??ΟΥ?ΙΤ? Ν???ΟΟΠ Ν?ΙΠ?Α??, ΑΥ? Π?Α?? Ν???ΟΟΠ Ν ΝΑ?Ρ Μ ΠΝΟΥΤ?. ΑΥ? Ν?ΥΝΟΥΤ? Π? Π?Α??

    In the beginning existed the Word, and the Word existed with God, and the Word was a God.

    --- Dr. Lance Jenott, Princeton University

  • Watkins

    What does 'coptic' mean? Makes you wonder - an 'a' or no 'a' - some versions have 'divine' which I like the sound of but don't think it's original... wow, what a mess that one little 'a' has caused! lol.

  • rmnnoute

    "Coptic" comes from an Arabic word that means "Egyptian," i.e., Christian Egyptian rather than Arab Egyptian. The Egyptian Christians are the natives ones, the descendants of the Pharaohs. The Egyptian language was heavily influenced by Greek after the conquest of Egypt by Alexander the Great, and the Coptic language is essentially the Egyptian language, written in Greek letters, with many Greek loan-words.

    In Sahidic Coptic, the adjective "divine" is normally written with the linking suffix n- as in "divine grace": pHmot n.noute. However, ou.noute ("a god"), used as a predicate adjective, can also be Englished as "divine" if the context calls for it. But such usage is not found in the Coptic New Testament, where ou.noute is routinely treated as a count noun: "a god."

    Noute, of itself, does not mean "God," but simply "god." In the Sahidic Coptic New Testament, "God," specifically, normally requires the Coptic definite article p-, i.e., p.noute, as in the first reference to the Deity whom the Logos was with in John 1:1: Hn te.Houeite neFSoop nCi p.SaJe auw p.SaJe neFSoop nnaHrm p.noute, where we have "the word": p.Saje, "the god": p.noute, but "a god" (or "divine"), ou.noute, using the Coptic indefinite article ou-, when the Word is mentioned.

    However, p.noute ("the god," "God") may grammatically also be anaphoric or demonstrative, and whether it means "God" or "the god" (i.e., the one previously referred to) can be determined by context. An example is found at Acts 7:34, where p.noute raifan does not mean "God Rephan," but, contextually, "the god Rephan," and it is so translated in English Bibles. It is also translated as "the god Rephan" in George W. Horner's Coptic version.

    Incidentally, the Sahidic Coptic New Testament is not a Gnostic work. It is the Coptic translation of the canonical Greek New Testament, and is not related to the Gnostic gospels of Thomas, Philip, or Judas.

  • jwfacts

    John 1:1 has been discussed ad nauseum on this site. It is generally conceded that the original meaning was along the lines of "as God is the Word is" or that the word is divine.

    To insist that the Word is "a god" hardly helps the Watchtower position. Christianity is a monotheistic religion and giving Jesus god status alongside the father leads the Watchtower along a polytheistic precipice. This has been an issue since inception, as explained at

    Without wanting to hijack this thread, I also wanted to respond to an illogical comment you made last week on a thread. You said:

    "If it were true that JWs studying the Bible without WT literature would revert back to the teachings of Christendom, how is it that the early Bible Students, their precursors, came out of Christendom before there was WT literature?"

    Even the Watchtower admits this happens:

      "From time to time, there have arisen from among the ranks of Jehovah's people those, who, like the original Satan, have adopted an independent, faultfinding attitude...They say that it is sufficient to read the Bible exclusively, either alone or in small groups at home. But, strangely, through such 'Bible reading,' they have reverted right back to the apostate doctrines that commentaries by Christendom's clergy were teaching ..." Watchtower 1981 Aug. 15 p.29
    The reason it can happen is that Watchtower theology is based on weak Eisegesis that collapses under scruitiny.
  • rmnnoute

    True, Christianity is a Monotheistic religion, but the Middle Eastern concept of Monotheism is not the same as the Western concept, which you presuppose is the Monotheism of the New Testament.

    The Hebrew Bible is Monotheistic, but several of its verses speak of gods besides God; even the angels are called gods and "sons of God." Jesus even quoted one such verse, where men acting on God's authority were called "gods."

    I recommend to you, on this matter, the excellent treatment of Biblical Monotheism in the recent book by Professor James F. McGrath, The Only True God: Early Christian Monotheism in its Jewish Context (University of Illinis Press, 2009).

    The article in The Watchtower of 1981 does not at all negate my statement that the early Bible Students, the precursors of Jehovah's Witnesses, came out of Christendom before there was WT literature. That article deals with the specific issue of those who leave and seek other affiliation. Your statement does not "hijack" this thread, but it is totally irrelevant to it.

    When one thinks about it, it is not calling the Logos "a god" that is polytheistic. Philo of Alexandria, a Jew, also called the Logos a god. But what is clearly polytheistic is the worship of three Gods, all equal and eternal. Asserting that these three Gods are "one" is mere special pleading.

    Regardless, the Coptic was not produced by Jehovah's Witnesses, and apart from Jehovah's Witnesses, the Coptic translation literally says "the Word was a god." This is the Coptic translation from the Koine Greek text, not from the New World Translation.

  • jwfacts

    You have not given enough information to explain what you point and motive is, though it appears you are a JW apologist.

    To draw on the Coptic version is of little relevance as it is a translation and may or may not follow the intention of the original writer of John. A Watchtower apologist will use it as it lends weight to their argument, but will equally readily dismiss other 2nd century works as being part of the apostasy when they contradict Watchtower thinking.

    Regarding Bible Students, they did not have current Watchtower beliefs. They were in fact different in many areas. Furthermore, they did not come from reading the Bible, they came from studying the works of the Second Adventists, whom I am sure you would not regard as representing the truth.

  • rmnnoute

    The point and motive is to share information. I have posted a translation of Coptic John 1:1 by a respected scholar that is accurate and thoughtful. It's information, for those who wish to know it.

    I disagree that the Coptic is of little relevance. New Testament scholars have been including Coptic renderings in their treatments of the New Testament text for nearly one hundred years. Get a copy of the Nestle-Aland Novum Testamentum Graece or Dr. Bruce M. Metzger's A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament, 2nd edition, and you will see that this is so.

    Translations have great value, especially ancient translations. They demonstrate how the original text was understood by the people and translators who lived at the time. In the case of the Sahidic Coptic versions, it sheds light on the Christology of the 2nd and 3rd centuries.

    The Greek Septuagint (LXX) was a translation of the Hebrew Scriptures, and that translation was used by the early Christian church. It was even quoted by the apostle Paul and other New Testament writers.

    The Sahidic Coptic translators did their work at a time when Koine Greek was still a living language among the Egyptians. That gives them an advantage in understanding the nuances of that language that not even modern Koine scholars possess.

    I would rather deal with facts in this thread, not with innuendo.

  • PSacramento

    If someone choose to translate and interpre John 1:1 as "a god" that is certainly their choice, there have been many commentaries done on John 1: 1 and the GOJ and the Letters of John, many done by people that have no vested interest on it being "a god", "god" or "divine".

    It is strickly a matter of context and interpretation inregards to the WHOLE of Johnanine teaching.

  • jwfacts

    LXX was used by early Christians, but is dismissed by the Watchtower as being inaccurate in that it removed the word Jehovah.

    It is difficult for a thread to lead to a discussion when a fact is presented without your interpretation of what you think those facts mean, or how they relate. If I start a thread stating a "fact" such as "the sky is blue" there are numerous directions that the topic could head, but most likely it will go nowhere.

  • rmnnoute

    This thread begins by quoting the translation of Sahidic Coptic John 1:1 by Dr. Lance Jenott of Princeton University, whereby he translates it to say:

    "In the beginning existed the Word, and the Word existed with God, and the Word was a God," as found, with Coptic characters, at this link:

    My interpretation of this is quite simple: Dr. Jenott gives a clear and accurate translation of what the Coptic text says.

    And by so doing, he accurately demonstrates how the ancient Sahidic translators understood and/or interpreted the Greek text of John 1:1. As with the readings of other ancient translations -- the Syriac and Latin Vulgate, for example -- an understanding of how early Christians understood John's Christology has both historical and exegetical value.

    It is a valid point of information, whether this thread "goes" anywhere or not.

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