Theos and theon
note that in latin we also have "deus" (god) in the accusative case as "deum" (god). However, no article appears because old latin had no article, neither definite, nor indefinite.
It's my understanding that the late Dr. Julius Mantey, co-author of Dana and Mantey's Greek Grammar, wrote the following to the WTBTS on July 11, 1974 (available via Google):
"I have a copy of your letter addressed to Caris in Santa Ana, California, and I am writing to express my disagreement with statements made in that letter, as well as in quotations you have made from the Dana-Mantey Greek Grammar.
(1) Your statement: "their work allows for the rendering found in the Kingdom Interlinear Translation of the Greek Scriptures at John 1:1." There is no statement in our grammar that was ever meant to imply that "a god" was a permissible translation in John 1:1.
A. We had no "rule" to argue in support of the trinity.
B. Neither did we state that we did have such intention. We were simply delineating the facts inherent in Biblical language.
C. Your quotation from p. 148 (3) was a paragraph under the heading: "With the subject in a Copulative Sentence." Two examples occur here to illustrate that "the article points out the subject in these examples." But we made no statement in this paragraph about the predicate except that, "as it stands the other persons of the trinity may be implied ;in theos." And isn't that the opposite of what your translation "a god" infers? You quoted me out of context. On pages 139 and 140 (VI) in our grammar we stated: "without the article, theos signifies divine essence...'theos en ho logos' emphasizes Christ's participation in the essence of the divine nature." Our interpretation is in agreement with that in NEB and TED: "What God was, the Word was"; and with that of Barclay: "The nature of the Word was the same as the nature of God," which you quoted in you letter to Caris.
(2) Since Colwell's and Harner's article in JBL, especially that of Harner, it is neither scholarly nor reasonable to translate John 1:1 "The Word was a god." Word-order has made obsolete and incorrect such a rendering.
(3) Your quotation of Colwell's rule is inadequate because it quotes only a part of his findings. You did not quote this strong assertion: "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.
(4) Prof. Harner, Vol 92:1 in JBL, has gone beyond Colwell's research and has discovered that anarthrous predicate nouns preceding the verb function primarily to express the nature or character of the subject. He found this true in 53 passages in the Gospel of John and 8 in the Gospel of Mark. Both scholars wrote that when indefiniteness was intended that gospel writers regularly placed the predicate noun after the verb, and both Colwell and Harner have stated that theos in John 1:1 is not indefinite and should not be translated "a god." Watchtower writers appear to be the only ones advocating such a translation now. The evidence appears to be 99% against them."
There is no statement in our grammar that was ever meant to imply that "a god" was a permissible translation in John 1:1.
The above statement is plenty dishonest for a scholar. I did my own research in finding the same greek structures and it is clear that, depending on the context, you can interpret the anarthous as indefinite. Of course, I am not saying as the Watchtower that we must translate it as "a god", but it is not grammatically incorrect.
Also, in the first century there was no such a rule as that of Colwell.
Harner has gone beyond Colwell's research and has discovered that anarthrous predicate nouns preceding the verb function primarily to express the nature or character of the subject.
Yes, I have read the article, and I can say that the position does not exclude the indefiniteness or the definiteness of an anarthrous. Again, I have to say that only the writer knew if he meant by "kai theos hn ho logos": "The Word was God" or "the Word was a god".
SonoftheTrinity, I agree with you that theos and theon are the same word, just different grammatical cases as in he and him.
I also agree with opusdei1972 that "a god" could be a correct translation of John 1:1. If my memory serves me correctly, I have seen other cases of anarthrous Greek nouns being translated with the indefinite article in English in many different Bible translations. Consider, for example, John 6:70. The indefinite article is inserted to describe the word "devil" (Gr: diabolos). The English text usually reads something like "a devil" or "a slanderer" (NWT).
For anyone who is interested in understanding how scholars can translate John 1:1c, you must ask them the following. Change the word "logos" by other one, like "Zeus". So, ask them, without talking about of John 1:1, how would they translate the following sentence:
THEOS HN hO ZEUS
All of them will agree that it means "Zeus was a god". But they can admit that it may mean "Zeus was God" if the writer believed that Zeus was the only true God. Both are correct translations, but the context defines the definiteness of indefiniteness of the anarthrous. The problem is if you show them the noun "logos" instead of "Zeus", because it has theological consequences.
Have you ever read anything written by a neopagan where they give call a minor Deity in their Pantheon a God? I never said that it was wrong to translate it as "a god" but my assertion that theos and theon were the same word nearly made his clean-shaven little head explode.
It has long been debated whether the translation of "a god" in Jo 1:1c is a legitimate rendering of what John the monotheist had in mind. Scholars, such as Julius Mantey have been misunderstood either for supporting or denying its efficacy.
1. It must be accepted that both uses of the word in their respective cases refer to the same concept. In other words, God, or Deity.
2. The word God, in this context cannot be conveniently nuanced by contradictory applications, and thus altering the meanings, one referring to Deity and the other not. And unfortunately that is what the use of the rendering "a god" does. It makes the phrase "with God" in Jo 1:1b mean God as Deity, and the rendering of "a god" of Jo 1:1c as something less than God, or by contextual semantics something that is "non-God".
3. Thus the rendering "a" god is quite acceptable if Jo 1:1b was made to say "And the Word was with "The" god. But it is not so acceptable if the renderings are said to be: "the Word was with God... and the word was a god" . By using this convenient subterfuge one is tilting the balance in favour of an Arian understanding of the text when it is in fact teaching Monotheism. The kind of Monotheism being declared is in debate, not that the Trinitarian form is wrong and the Monad form is the only one permissible.
4. Harner helped revolutionize our understanding of this grammatical construction and thus went farther than what Colwell did. Colwell was concerned about whether Jo 1:1c made θεος a definite or an indefinite noun. Harner showed that it was neither.
5. Thus this construction is called "The Qualitative Nominative" or "Predicate Nominative". The NWT faces up to one such text in the same grammatical construction at Lu 20:38, where they say of the Father that He is "a God".
6. If the Father can be called "a God" in a construction that is exactly the same as that of Jo 1:1c, then one would at least be satisfied if the NWT also called The Word "A God" at that latter verse. This would not be theologically applicable but grammatically permissible
Harner helped revolutionize our understanding of this grammatical construction and thus went farther than what Colwell did. Colwell was concerned about whether Jo 1:1c made θεος a definite or an indefinite noun. Harner showed that it was neither.
I don't think that a count noun as the noun "theos" can lose its definiteness or its indefiniteness on account of its predicative position in a copulative sentence. I doubt that a common greek reader of the second century could grasp the difference between "kai theos hn ho logos" and "kai ho logos hn theos". So, I think that it is an anachronism to state that the position of the predicate eliminate the definiteness or the indefiniteness of the noun "theos".
It is very important to listen how a common greek reader understood naturally the sentence. Origen, commented what was the common confusion in the in the third century about John 1:1:
Now there are many who are sincerely concerned about religion, and who fall here into great perplexity. They are afraid that they may be proclaiming two Gods, and their fear drives them into doctrines which are false and wicked. (Origen, Commentary on John, book II, chapter II)
So, the many greek readers understood the anarthrous "theos" in John 1:1c as indefinite, because it is a count noun, not a mass noun. Of course, it caused terrible theological implications, because it affected the concept of the existence of "one and only true God". But we don't know what the writer of the first chapter of the Gospel of John had in mind. May be he was influenced by Philo's theology.