Wednesday, July 19, 2006

"'Theos is a Count Noun:' Is the Word 'God' or 'a god' in John 1:1c A Response to Jehovah's Witness Apologists

Interesting:

The proper translation of John 1:1 has been the center of debate between Trinitarians and non-Trinitarians for centuries. As is well known, the traditional translation of the last clause in John 1:1c is: "And the word was God," which would seem to be a clear declaration of Christ's Deity. With the publication of the New World Translation of the Christian Greek Scriptures (NWT) in 1950, the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society (WTBTS) put its stake in the ground by rendering the last clause of John 1:1 as: "and the Word was a god." Since then, the WTBTS has officially offered a variety of arguments and scholarly quotations in support of its translation, some of which are summarized and responded to here.

The dispute centers on the lack of the definite article (Greek: ho) prior to the word "God" (Greek: theos). John includes the article prior to "God" in the preceding clause (literally, "and the Word was with the God"), but omits it in the final clause. The WTBTS sees this omission as grounds for an indefinite translation ("a god"). Trinitarians have responded that the lack of the article does not always make a noun indefinite, but often is used to attribute the nature, character, or qualities of the noun to the subject. "God," in this view, is a "qualitative noun," attributing the nature, character, or qualities of "God" to the Word. See here for a more detailed analysis.

Recently, some Jehovah's Witness apologists have developed a sophisticated defense of the NWT translation and attack on the traditional rendering on the basis of "God" being a "count noun." Count nouns, they say, cannot be purely qualitative in meaning, but must always be either definite or indefinite. The argument is often phrased like this:

Theos is a count noun. Count nouns must be either definite or indefinite. Since the Logos is said to be "with" the God, He cannot himself be "the God" (definite) and so much be "a god" (indefinite).1

In this article, I will examine this argument in detail, as presented by leading Jehovah's Witness apologists Greg Stafford, Al Kidd, and Rolf Furuli, and will provide reasons why I believe it is not logically or linguistically sound. I will also offer a brief defense of the purely qualitative semantic force. Read More.

17 comments:

Danny Haszard said...

Comprehensive confutation.

-A heads up on the Jehovah Witness-

There is no Armageddon that will annihilate 6.5 billion people,and install Watchtower leaders as world rulers.

The core dogma of the Watchtower organization is that Jesus had his second coming 'invisibly' in the year 1914.Their entire doctrinal superstructure is built on this falsehood.

Jehovah's Witnesses door to door recruitment is by their own admission an ineffective tactic. They have lost membership in all countries with major Internet access because their false doctrines and harmful practices are exposed on the modern information superhighway.

There is good and valid reasons why there is such an outrage against the Watchtower for misleading millions of followers.Many have invested everything in the 'imminent' apocalyptic promises of the Jehovah's Witnesses and have died broken and beaten.

Every Jehovah's Witness member will grow old and die just like everyone else.
----
Danny Haszard Bangor Maine 'expert witness on the Jehovah's Witness'

ousboui said...

Hello Ron,
Where is your article that sets forth your arguments? Your link is to Jeff Downs site but I do not see a link with your name. I'm interested to see if you have something new to offer on this topic. Particularly the question of whether a singular count noun (such as theos is) can loose its substantive charactoristic of class membership, in this or any other construction.

ousboui said...

Danny wrote:
Jehovah's Witnesses door to door recruitment is by their own admission an ineffective tactic.

Ousboui
This method has a sound scriptural basis. Jehovah's Witnesses have found it very effective and continue to promote such activity as their principle method of obeying Jesus command to his followers. Mt 28:18-20. TV evangelizing is of course a more effective method of reaching large numbers of people with a message (in countries where such is allowed) but it has to be said that there is no replacement for teaching a person according to their personal needs face to face.

Danny wrote:
They have lost membership in all countries with major Internet access because their false doctrines and harmful practices are exposed on the modern information superhighway.

Ousboui
There is much hatred for JW's, and I have personally found that many people resort to out-right lies and half truths to mis-represent JW's and their beliefs. Erronious information gets repeated by people that believe it and don't carefully reason on the facts themselves.
It is true that some JW's have doubted their beliefs after reading such material on the net. To imply that this is having a massive effect on the number of JW's in some countries is misleading, and is simply not true. Those that leave for some other religion are a tiny minority, most that leave, do so to pursue an immoral way of life, and the majority that leave for whatever reason eventually go back to being JW's. Slow growth in some countries like here in Britain is largely due to growing apathy to toward religion.

As one ofJW's I have always been encouraged to test out and make sure of what is taught, I have been encouraged to be a scholar when it comes to the Bible, I have been encouraged to discuss religious doctrine with people of all religions, I have been encouraged to learn from Bible reference works not published by JW's, the bulk of my personal library is made up of such publications and I lean on them heavily in my studies of scripture. I use the internet extensively. All of this has only strengthened my convictions as one of JW's, that I have found the pure teaching of the truth. Further I see it in action in our international Congregation that is characterized by faith, hope and love.

Ron Ballew said...

Greetings, boy this thread is old!

Ousboi,

You live in the UK? I used to live in Slough.

Concerning the JW's, my greek is to rusty to argue. From what I understand and have seen a major fundamental difference between JW's and orthodox christianity would be works. I do not believe in a works based faith, rather we are saved by grace and cannot earn our salvation.

The closest analogy for JW doctrine would probably be 2nd century gnosticism. (See the Nag Hammadi texts-if you want i can find a link). Salvation is by what you know and what you do. I reject this, especially in light of the Pauline corpus.

If wanted I will be glad to follow this up. This could be quite fun! Thanks.

ousboui said...

Ron wrote:
I do not believe in a works based faith, rather we are saved by grace and cannot earn our salvation.

Ousboui
Then you and JW's agree - There is nothing we can do to earn salvation! It is undeserved and a gift.

Yet Christian love and faith do not fail to move people to action. Can a person love God and have faith in Him and at the same time not be obedient to his commands? The following verses answer this question.
1 John 2:3-6; 5:3-5; James 2:14-26

ousboui said...

I am a little familiar with the bizarre Gnostic teachings. Perhaps, the Apostle Paul had such teachings in mind when he refered to THS YEUDWNUMOU GNWSEWS, "the falsely called knowlege" at 1 Tim 6:20.
In what way do Gnosticism and JW's have something in common? What do you have in mind?

Ron Ballew said...

Ousboui,

Exclusivism: especially in reference to the 144,000 which we would disagree on the interpretation.

As I recall the door to door has a very small positive response. The JW church in our town is not growing, but several of the protestant churches are.

Concerning Gnostics, they stressed having the right knowledge that only they possessed, sound familiar?

Paul in 1 Tim would have been referring to what is called incipient gnosticism, gnosticism as a full blown movement was second century.
Our understanding of who Jesus is, is also a major difference.

ousboui said...

Ron
Exclusivism: especially in reference to the 144,000 which we would disagree on the interpretation.

Ousboui
Not sure what you mean by exclusivism; is not Salvation and a sacred, barrier-less filial relationship with God open to the whole world? John 3:16

We do believe that 'chosen ones' are selected by God to serve with Jesus as kings and priests over the earth. Would it be right for those not chosen for this purpose to feel excluded as though they had a right to such an office and assignment?

Ron
As I recall the door to door has a very small positive response. The JW church in our town is not growing, but several of the protestant churches are.

Ousboui
It is not easy to join the Christian Congregation of JW's, one must first bring their life into harmony with Christian principles and few people are willing to do such. Still we have large growth. In Britain most protestant Churches are in decline.

Ron
Concerning Gnostics, they stressed having the right knowledge that only they possessed, sound familiar?

Ousboui
They believed in a mystical individual revelation of knowledge.

JW's are interested in gaining accurate knowlege of scripture. Such knowledge of God and Christ leads to everlasting life (John 17:3)Yes, we are convinced we have the truth. Scripture gives an overall view of Gods purpose for his creation and how it is proceeding. Of course we believe our overall understanding is correct, don't you? Accurate knowlege is something that God gives Col 1:9,10; 2 Tim 3:6,7. We also acknowlege that there are elements of truth in all religions.

Ron
Paul in 1 Tim would have been referring to what is called incipient gnosticism, gnosticism as a full blown movement was second century.

Ousboui
Gnosticism began in pre-christian times. It reached its peak in the 2/3rd century. So I say "perhaps".

Ron
Our understanding of who Jesus is, is also a major difference.

Ousboui
Our Messianic King, High Priest, Savior, Master, Exemplar, Fine Shepherd, Head of the Congregation, the Word, Commander of the heavenly angels, the Son of God, the begining of God's creation, even PRWTOTOKOS of it, the One exalted to God's right hand and given the name above all others, the One annointed by God and given all authority, the One who is the reflection of God's glory and the XARAKTHR THS hUPOSTASEWS AUTOU.

Do you agree with the descriptions above?

Ron Ballew said...

"the beginning of God's creation"

Jesus is a creature? I reject this.
We are saved through christ and justified by him so that we may be freely made righteous.

Question: Can you be saved outside of the watchtower? And what do you do with 2000 years of church history before Russell?

It seems that you are beginning to delve into the grammatic historical method, i thought JW's didn's use this. Can you interpret scripture outside of the watchtower?

ousboui said...

Ron:
Jesus is a creature? I reject this.

Ousboui
Absolutely! Such is clearly taught in scripture. JW's base there beliefs only on scripture and reject the contrary teachings of the post biblical churches.

Ron
We are saved through christ and justified by him so that we may be freely made righteous.

Ousboui
Absolutely!

Ron
Question: Can you be saved outside of the watchtower?

Ousboui
Salvation is a gift of God.

I don't expect every single one of JW's to be saved, Jesus will judge hearts.

Jesus does have an arrangement for shepherding his sheep through overseers, he is head of a congregation that cares for the spiritual needs of its members and that takes the lead in doing God's work. Association with such a Congregation helps one to maintain their faith, which is something the world in general can erode.

Heb 5:9 says of Jesus "he became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him". So an important question is, what do we need to do to obey Jesus? Who today are truely doing such?

Can those that teach falsehoods that dishonor God, have his favor?

Can a person truely claim to have accepted Jesus as Lord, if they reject to associate with the Christian Congregation or refuse to repent and persue Christian values or refuse to share in making disciples as Christ commanded?

Ron
And what do you do with 2000 years of church history before Russell?

Ousboui
Very soon into the 2nd century teachings become widely diverse, prominant Church teachers looked to Greek philosophers for wisdom, general teaching deviated from that of Jesus and his Apostles, and orthadox Christianity disowned him by its works. I have no hesitation rejecting such an appalling apostacy. It was certainly not a maturing of Christianity with Gods blessing. Mainstream Protestants reject a few hundred years of Church history, repudiating falsehoods of the Catholic Church, but do not go far enough to re-form true Christianity by means of scripure alone. JW's have done such.

Ron
It seems that you are beginning to delve into the grammatic historical method, i thought JW's didn's use this.

Ousboui
When we study the Bible we let scripture explain scripture and play close attention to context. All of JW's are encouraged to constantly ask questions and seek out the answers in scripture. Very often our publications highlight details from the original Bible languages, yet our teaching is always on a popular level. We are all encouraged to study as deep as we can but the emphasis is on humility and being ready and willing for our thinking to be changed by what we find in scripture, we appreciate that God blesses diligence and pure motive and that true understanding is a blessing.

Ron
Can you interpret scripture outside of the watchtower?

Ousboui
JW's promote and always have promoted the use of reference works outside of our own publications and I employ such extensively. We are all encouraged to think everything out for ourselves. The Watchtower reflects deep spiritual insight, it is never, ever, just opinion, it's explanations are always based on reason and careful comparrison of the scriptures. I never just accept something because it's in the WT, I always ask, why? If an explanation is not given explicitly, I seek out where it has been previously given in detail, so that every facet of the truth has been studied in detail from scripture. Such brings deep confidence and appreciation for Bible truth. Understanding the deep things of God is part of Christian maturity, it is a shame when people say "this or that is beyond our understanding, a mystery". The picture we have is not perfect, but the whole picture is there with many sharp details.

Ron Ballew said...

Then all who believe in Jesus are saved. I didn't realise JW's accepted other denominations as legitimate. Good news indeed.

On context: It has been an exciting 100 years with the discovery of the dead sea scrolls, nag hammadi, ebla, and elephantyne papyrus. Our understanding of the 1st century is so much better.

Even our understandings of philosophy of the 1st century with Philo. A brilliant book is Craig Keeners background commentary of the new testament.

Ousboui:
"Very soon into the 2nd century teachings become widely diverse, prominant Church teachers looked to Greek philosophers for wisdom, general teaching deviated from that of Jesus and his Apostles, and orthadox Christianity disowned him by its works."

Not exactly. Take John. It is widely understood that he was not using greek models for his thought (see Barrett and Carson) but picking up up 1st century jewish ideas. In the revelation, the war scroll uses much of the same imagery especially the section on the son's of light and the son's of darkness.

ousboui said...

Ron
Then all who believe in Jesus are saved. I didn't realise JW's accepted other denominations as legitimate. Good news indeed.

Ousboui
I'm not sure what part of what I wrote your responding to. JW's consider other demoninations to fall far short of Christ's standards. All who truely have faith are obedient to Jesus commands and that means accepting him as Master and being a part of his organized Congregation, living by the rule of love, and doing God's work. Only one Christian group passes the test of having true faith that leads to salvation. Joh 13:34,35

Ron
On context: It has been an exciting 100 years with the discovery of the dead sea scrolls, nag hammadi, ebla, and elephantyne papyrus. Our understanding of the 1st century is so much better.

Even our understandings of philosophy of the 1st century with Philo. A brilliant book is Craig Keeners background commentary of the new testament.

Ousboui:
"Very soon into the 2nd century teachings become widely diverse, prominant Church teachers looked to Greek philosophers for wisdom, general teaching deviated from that of Jesus and his Apostles, and orthadox Christianity disowned him by its works."

Ron
Not exactly. Take John. It is widely understood that he was not using greek models for his thought (see Barrett and Carson) but picking up up 1st century jewish ideas. In the revelation, the war scroll uses much of the same imagery especially the section on the son's of light and the son's of darkness.

Ousboui
My comment was about the post biblical period. Are you suggesting that Bible writers laced their writings with the wisdom of men? Yet, repeatedly the scriptures glorify God as the source of true wisdom. The entire message of scripture is inspired of God. It is the "pure sayings of God". Still things can be expressed in familiar terms even as secular philosophers would have and occasionally there may be coincidentally comparitive imagery between the NT and other writings of the time. It's hard to say for sure if one copied the other, or if they both drew on ideas from the presupposition pool of their audience.

Still from the second century onwards there is a great influence of Platonic thinking on early Church writers. This corruption of the truth was extensively warned about in the NT. Acts 20:28-31; 1 Ti 4:1-5; 2 Pe 2:1-3; 1 Jo 2:18; 2 Co 11:12-15. This is why we reject doctrines that developed in the post Biblical period, they are not the teaching of scripture. The Devil has developed a 'Counterfeit Christianity' to lead people away from true worship. Joh 4:23,24.

Ron Ballew said...

Ousboui

The Devil has developed a 'Counterfeit Christianity' to lead people away from true worship. Joh 4:23,24.

Ron

True, however his church has always been present. That is the remarkable thing about grace, even though we are unworthy and do not know all truth (we are human) if we put our trust in Jesus he accepts us.

You are over stating 2nd century platonism, yes plato influenced christian philosophy (is not God the creator of all wisdom) but the foundational truths have been consistent.

Keep in mind the church was battling some serious heresy in the 2nd century from:sabbelianism, pelagianism, antinomianism and of course Marcion.

So you are correct the devil is always trying to undermine the church, but god's truth always comes through even if we see it through a glass darkly.

ousboui said...

Ron
True, however his church has always been present. That is the remarkable thing about grace, even though we are unworthy and do not know all truth (we are human) if we put our trust in Jesus he accepts us.

Ousboui
I agree that there has always been true worshippers, but as Jesus said 'such ones must worship with spirit and truth'. To be accepted by Christ more is involved than putting trust in him. Jesus himself said

“Not everyone saying to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter into the kingdom of the heavens, but the one doing the will of my Father who is in the heavens will. 22 Many will say to me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and expel demons in your name, and perform many powerful works in your name?’ 23 And yet then I will confess to them: I never knew YOU! Get away from me, YOU workers of lawlessness.

Simply claiming to be Christian does not bring salvation (even if one does powerful works in hid name), but BEING Christian does, and being Christian involves as Jesus said DOING the will of the Father. It also involved following the teachings of Christ. It is not enough to say I believe in Jesus and then follow teachings of men that go contrary to the body of truth revealed in scripture.

Jesus also said

“Go in through the narrow gate; because broad and spacious is the road leading off into destruction, and many are the ones going in through it; 14 whereas narrow is the gate and cramped the road leading off into life, and few are the ones finding it.

15 “Be on the watch for the false prophets that come to YOU in sheep’s covering, but inside they are ravenous wolves. 16 By their fruits YOU will recognize them. Never do people gather grapes from thorns or figs from thistles, do they? 17 Likewise every good tree produces fine fruit, but every rotten tree produces worthless fruit; 18 a good tree cannot bear worthless fruit, neither can a rotten tree produce fine fruit. 19 Every tree not producing fine fruit gets cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 Really, then, by their fruits YOU will recognize those [men].

So Jesus taught that true Christians can be identified by their fruits. The road to life is a hard one to walk that few people follow.

Ron
You are over stating 2nd century platonism, yes plato influenced christian philosophy (is not God the creator of all wisdom) but the foundational truths have been consistent.

Ousboui

Foundational truths have not remained consistent, the Christianity of Jesus was totally corrupted.
God is not the creator of all wisdom, 1 Co 1:18-25 says

18 For the speech about the torture stake is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is God’s power. 19 For it is written: “I will make the wisdom of the wise [men] perish, and the intelligence of the intellectual [men] I will shove aside.” 20 Where is the wise man? Where the scribe? Where the debater of this system of things? Did not God make the wisdom of the world foolish? 21 For since, in the wisdom of God, the world through its wisdom did not get to know God, God saw good through the foolishness of what is preached to save those believing.

22 For both the Jews ask for signs and the Greeks look for wisdom; 23 but we preach Christ impaled, to the Jews a cause for stumbling but to the nations foolishness; 24 however, to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25 Because a foolish thing of God is wiser than men, and a weak thing of God is stronger than men.

Ron
Keep in mind the church was battling some serious heresy in the 2nd century from:sabbelianism, pelagianism, antinomianism and of course Marcion.

Ousboui
What emerged out of all this debate as mainstream 'Christian teaching' was also serious herasy. A great apostacy from Bible teachings had taken place, what emerged as popular appealed to the wise men of the world and to pagans to, it was not pure Christianity but a compromise. Afterall Constantine was fighting to keep his empire together and religion was a tool he could use. By the way what fruits did that man have?

Ron
So you are correct the devil is always trying to undermine the church, but god's truth always comes through even if we see it through a glass darkly.

Ousboui
Today there are hundreds of denominations that claim to represent Christ. Some may take the position that they are all true if they confess some to basic some basic teachings, like belief in Jesus.
Yet not all of these denominations can at the same time be teaching the truth because they are so greatly diversified in what they teach. In contrast true Christianity was not to have any divisions. In fact Jesus prayed for unity among is followers "in order that the world may believe that you sent me forth" Joh 17:20-23.

also 1 Co 1:10 says

Now I exhort YOU, brothers, through the name of our Lord Jesus Christ that YOU should all speak in agreement, and that there should not be divisions among YOU, but that YOU may be fitly united in the same mind and in the same line of thought.

The only worshipers that are acceptable to the Father are those that worship 'with truth' these ones are united in 'the same mind and line of thought'. The only Christianity acceptable to Jesus is that which is doing the will of his father and bearing Christain fruit, the greatest mark of which is self sacraficing love. In order to identify true Christianity one must determin from scripture what features true Christianity must have. Joh 15:17-20; joh 17:14-25; Joh 3:36; Joh 13:35; 1 Jo 3:10-12; 4:20,21; Mt 24:14; 28:18-20 etc.

Ron Ballew said...

"Simply claiming to be Christian does not bring salvation (even if one does powerful works in hid name), but BEING Christian does, and being Christian involves as Jesus said DOING the will of the Father."

True, but where you and I differ is that believe that many other denominations preach salvation. We may not all agree on everything, but we agree on the basics.

God is a big God and he guides his church.

"Foundational truths have not remained consistent, the Christianity of Jesus was totally corrupted.
God is not the creator of all wisdom,"

Your confusing sophia (wisdom) of men with wisdom of God. If we believe that God is the definition of truth then he is truth.

ousboui said...

"Simply claiming to be Christian does not bring salvation (even if one does powerful works in his name), but BEING Christian does, and being Christian involves as Jesus said DOING the will of the Father."

Ron
True, but where you and I differ is that believe that many other denominations preach salvation. We may not all agree on everything, but we agree on the basics.

Ousboui
There is much we can agree on, yet we would disagree on HOW Jesus death brings us salvation. I would also say that Gods will includes the telling of the "Good news of the kingdom" as part of the message of salvation. (Mt 24:14) Yet there are differing views on what the kingdom is. Doing Gods will also includes living according to Christian principles, e.g. James 1:22-27

Ron
Your confusing sophia (wisdom) of men with wisdom of God. If we believe that God is the definition of truth then he is truth.

Ousboui
You seemed to suggest that a proper way to interpret scripture is by applying the philosophies of men. You said:
"yes plato influenced christian philosophy (is not God the creator of all wisdom)"

I quoted a section of scripture that distinguishes between human wisdom and Gods wisdom and shows their relative value.

The true understanding of scripture is gained by letting scripture explain scripture. Jesus said in prayer to his God "Sanctify them [his disciples] by means of the truth; your word is truth." Gods holy written word is the touchestone by which truth can be tested.

When human ideas are merged with elements of divine truth, the result is a corrupted doctrine that dishonors and often misrepresents God.

Personally, my firm desire is for my "Christian philosophy" to be "influenced" only by Gods Word, and therefore be the sophia of God. We read in Ephesians 5

"the Christ also loved the congregation and delivered up himself for it, 26 that he might sanctify it, cleansing it with the bath of water by means of the word, 27 that he might present the congregation to himself in its splendor, not having a spot or a wrinkle or any of such things, but that it should be holy and without blemish."

Ron Ballew said...

"Good news of the kingdom"

Kingdom theology is a major part of evangelicalism. I'm not sure in what sense you use the term.

"The true understanding of scripture is gained by letting scripture explain scripture. Jesus said in prayer to his God "Sanctify them [his disciples] by means of the truth; your word is truth." Gods holy written word is the touchestone by which truth can be tested."

That is the first principle of Hermenuetics. We also need to look at the grammatico-historical context. Also what others have written. Not that what they have written is scripture but has god given them an insight. They can and are fallible (just as Russel was) but can still have gleaned insights. Take for example Karl Barth.

"When human ideas are merged with elements of divine truth, the result is a corrupted doctrine that dishonors and often misrepresents God."

True but God's word came through the words of men. None of us have a lock on knowledge. Even Paul admits he did not see things clearly. If he didn't, I certainly don't.