How to Search for Qualitative—Contra Definitive—Force of θεὸς in John 1.1c?

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Puddin’ | Forum Activity | Posted: Sat, May 9 2020 10:58 PM

I recently read in an exegetical work of John 1.1 that if the anarthrous (i.e., lacks the article) preverbal predicate nominative θεὸς in 1.1c is to be understood as “Qualitative” (i.e., the Word is divine)—contra “Definitive” (i.e., as a marker of identity)—this would be the only place in the entire Greek New Testament that θεὸς is to be interpreted as such.  However, the author gave no other references or evidences of such a claim.

I wish I knew precisely how to search to verify (or refute) such a claim in Logos (?).  I realize this might be in the wrong section of the forum, but was just hoping to garner as much attention as possible for a response.  I have a presentation set for Tuesday & would really like to be able to conduct said search before then if possible.  Would like to know if such an inquiry can be done on iPad as well, or does such a search necessarily have to be done on laptop or home computer?

I am aware of the tension between the qualitative vs. definitive force of John 1.1b,c—as well as the works of Philip Harner, Lane McGauphy, etc. regarding this exegetical issue, but just found this claim interesting and had never heard that before.

**Oh, since I am inquiring about exegetical searches in Logos, have also been me to ask y’all how I would run a search on the masculine singular adjective translated “one” (εἷς) in contrast to the neuter singular adjective also translated “one” (ἕν).  I am wanting to see if the neuter singular is ever used for single persons, and/or if the masculine singular is ever applied to multiple persons—but again, not sure how I would go about this on either iPad or computer.

If this is a violation of forum rules concerning location, of course Admin. can relocate to appropriate section.  Much appreciation for this forum.  Wish I had known about Logos years ago!  Thank you in advance🤓.

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MJ. Smith | Forum Activity | Replied: Sat, May 9 2020 11:27 PM

a simple search on  "anarthrous preverbal predicate nominative qualitative" brings up several different resources in my library and leads me to believe that Colwell's Construction/Rule is what you want so I'd go to the documentation of Greek Constructions and see where that leads.

Orthodox Bishop Hilarion Alfeyev: "To be a theologian means to have experience of a personal encounter with God through prayer and worship."

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Keep Smiling 4 Jesus :) | Forum Activity | Replied: Sun, May 10 2020 2:48 PM

MJ. Smith:
... leads me to believe that Colwell's Construction/Rule is what you want ...

Search idea is: ([field heading,largetext] Colwell) WITHIN 3 WORDS (construction OR rule)

Another search idea is <Jn1.1> in Type:Grammar resources. Screen shot shows Exegetical Insight in a popular book for learning Greek => Basics of Biblical Greek Grammar, 3rd ed.

Puddin’:
I would run a search on the masculine singular adjective translated “one” (εἷς) in contrast to the neuter singular adjective also translated “one” (ἕν)

Root search suggestion is: <Root = lbs/el/εις:2>

Keep Smiling Smile

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MJ. Smith | Forum Activity | Replied: Sun, May 10 2020 3:52 PM

I was think more along the line of:

Colwell’s Rule


This grammatical construction posited by E.C. Colwell consists of an anarthrous predicate nominal which precedes the copular verb. That is, when the noun that is the predicate of a linking verb comes before the verb itself, it occures without an article. Though this predicate noun is anarthrous, in most cases it is definite.

Example: Matthew 27:42


βασιλεὺς Ἰσραήλ ἐστιν


He is the king of Israel.

More Information

• This can be searched for with {Section <GramCon Colwell>} in the Bible Search (Basic Seach can also be used).

• E.C. Colwell provided the initial description of this “rule” in E.C. Colwell, “A Definite Rule for the Use of the Article in the Greek New Testament,” JBL 52, No. 1 (Apr. 1933), pp. 12–21

• Daniel Wallace provides a detailed discussion of this construction in Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics

• Donald Hartley also provides provides a discussion of this construction in his essay titled Revisiting the Colwell Construction in Light of Mass/Count Nouns

• James Moulton and Nigel Turner also provide a discussion of this construction in A Grammar of New Testament Greek, Volume 3: Syntax

Conditional Statement (First Class)


This construction consists of ει followed by a verb within the indicative mood in the protasis with an apodosis containing a verb in any mood and any tense. It provides a semantic value of either “simple condition” or “assumed true for the sake of argument.”

Example: John 5:47


εἰ δὲ τοῖς ἐκείνου γράμμασιν οὐ πιστεύετε, πῶς τοῖς ἐμοῖς ῥήμασιν πιστεύσετε;


But if you do not believe the writings of this one, how will you believe my words?

More Information

• This can be searched for with {Section <GramCon 1C>} in the Bible Search (Basic Search can also be used).

• James Boyer provides a detailed discussion of this construction in Boyer, J.L., “First Class Conditions: What Do They Mean?” Grace Theological Journal 2.1, p. 83

• Daniel Wallace also provides a detailed discussion in Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics

James Parks, Greek Grammatical Constructions Documentation (Bellingham, WA: Faithlife, 2015).

Orthodox Bishop Hilarion Alfeyev: "To be a theologian means to have experience of a personal encounter with God through prayer and worship."

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Dave Hooton | Forum Activity | Replied: Sun, May 10 2020 5:35 PM

Puddin’:
I recently read in an exegetical work of John 1.1 that if the anarthrous (i.e., lacks the article) preverbal predicate nominative θεὸς in 1.1c is to be understood as “Qualitative” (i.e., the Word is divine)—contra “Definitive” (i.e., as a marker of identity)—this would be the only place in the entire Greek New Testament that θεὸς is to be interpreted as such.  However, the author gave no other references or evidences of such a claim.

Within the limits of my understanding of Colwell's Rule as applied to this contention, the Morph Query

would suggest that 2 Cor 5:19 is another place where theos is 'divine', and translated with a capital G. In John 10.34, it is not divine and translated with lower case g.

Unfortunately, I can't create a Syntax Search to be a little more precise because Logos crashes!

EDIT: Cascadia Syntax Graphs shows that 2 Cor 5:19 theos is not Predicate (Subject + Verb), whereas Jn 1:1 is a Predicate + Verbal Copula. But Jn 8:54 is also Predicate + Verbal copula!

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Keep Smiling 4 Jesus :) | Forum Activity | Replied: Sun, May 10 2020 5:48 PM

MJ. Smith:

• This can be searched for with {Section <GramCon Colwell>} in the Bible Search (Basic Seach can also be used).

{Section <GramCon Colwell>} INTERSECTS root:θεος

Modified search to highlight Colwell constructions that have θεος (includes John 1:1c):

{Section <GramCon Colwell>} AND (root:θεος INTERSECTS {Section <GramCon Colwell>})

Keep Smiling Smile

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Puddin’ | Forum Activity | Replied: Sun, May 10 2020 7:47 PM

Wowsie!  Going to take some time to digest all of this—but digest it I shall👏🏼👏🏼👏🏼!  

Thank you much—exactly what (& who) I needed.  Oh, also wondering if this can be done via iPad.  Thank you much!

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Dave Hooton | Forum Activity | Replied: Sun, May 10 2020 9:16 PM

Puddin’:
Wowsie!  Going to take some time to digest all of this

KS4J's search doesn't mean that Colwell's Rule is applied to theos as there are other (nominative) nouns within the text highlighted for the rule:

  • in many cases theos has the article!
  • in Mt 4:3 and 4:6, the rule applies to the noun uios
    • theos is genitive, has the article, and follows the verb!
  • some results are wrong e.g. in Jas 2:19 the verb precedes theos

You can get a better result if you search for the nominative noun (Morph Search):

{Section <GramCon Colwell>} INTERSECTS lemma:θεός@NN

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Puddin’ | Forum Activity | Replied: Mon, May 11 2020 12:20 AM

Dave Hooton:

Puddin’:
Wowsie!  Going to take some time to digest all of this

KS4J's search doesn't mean that Colwell's Rule is applied to theos as there are other (nominative) nouns within the text highlighted for the rule:

  • in many cases theos has the article!
  • in Mt 4:3 and 4:6, the rule applies to the noun uios
    • theos is genitive, has the article, and follows the verb!
  • some results are wrong e.g. in Jas 2:19 the verb precedes theos

You can get a better result if you search for the nominative noun (Morph Search):

{Section <GramCon Colwell>} INTERSECTS lemma:θεός@NN

Got it Dave.  Thank you.

I am aware that Wallace, Mounce, et al. claim that Colwell’s Rule doesn’t apply to John 1.1c—but I find their reasons unconvincing.  Carson, Blomberg, Leon Morris, Metzger, etc. do indeed argue in favor of the definitive force in 1.1c.  In fact, Cowell expressly stated in his paper that just because the anarthrous preverbal PN lacks the article this does not make the PN qualitative.  I have my own syntactical reasons for rejecting the “qualitative“ force in 1.1c, but probably already pushing the boundaries of forum rules so will keep them to myself (can always tag in via PM).

Just so I am following you are you saying that the claim that if Theos in 1.1c is qualitative this would be the only place in the NT that this is the case is erroneous?  Not at all a “challenge“ to this claim if that’s indeed the assertion.  That’s the very reason I am wanting to research that claim.  I had never heard that, and if that pans out to be accurate this would be powerful support for a definitive force of Theos in 1.1c—but I am a bit dubious regarding the claim since I have read tons of exegetical literature concerning John 1.1-18....& no one has ever made that assertion before to my knowledge.

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Dave Hooton | Forum Activity | Replied: Mon, May 11 2020 5:27 AM

Puddin’:
Just so I am following you are you saying that the claim that if Theos in 1.1c is qualitative this would be the only place in the NT that this is the case is erroneous?

Jn 1.1c appears in my Morph Search + KS4J's. It is possible that Jn 8.54 is also qualitative (the verb does not immediately follow, though) + 2 Cor 5:19, Gal 6:7 and Php 2:13. But I am not a grammar scholar!

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Puddin’ | Forum Activity | Replied: Tue, May 12 2020 1:34 AM

Dave Hooton:

Puddin’:
Just so I am following you are you saying that the claim that if Theos in 1.1c is qualitative this would be the only place in the NT that this is the case is erroneous?

Jn 1.1c appears in my Morph Search + KS4J's. It is possible that Jn 8.54 is also qualitative (the verb does not immediately follow, though) + 2 Cor 5:19, Gal 6:7 and Php 2:13. But I am not a grammar scholar!

Gotcha’!  I will definitely look into these.  You may not be a grammar scholar, but I have noted before that you’re much further down that path than I am (🤓)—same w. MJ, Denise & several others on here (as the posts above demonstrate).

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Lucian Benigno | Forum Activity | Replied: Tue, May 12 2020 6:54 AM

Dave Hooton:
It is possible [...]. But I am not a grammar scholar!

The grammar here says that as a rule the article is not used with the predicate noun, even when the subject is definite, as in John 1:1c and John 8:54 (this rule doesn't apply when the noun is the subject of the sentence like in 2 Corinthians 5:19 and Philippians 2:13, or is in the middle voice, like in Galatians 6:7).

"The claim of unitarians to be logical should of course be respected, but the grammarian will resist their attempts to impress grammatical principles in the service of their cause in a way which is not legitimate. The fact that theos has no article does not transform the word into an adjective.”

Nigel Turner, Grammatical insights into the New Testament. (Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1966), 17.

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Dave Hooton | Forum Activity | Replied: Tue, May 12 2020 4:32 PM

Thanks for your response, Lucian

Lucian Benigno:
The grammar here says that as a rule the article is not used with the predicate noun, even when the subject is definite

What rule of grammar is being referenced here? Does it oppose or supplement Colwell's rule?

Lucian Benigno:
this rule doesn't apply when the noun is the subject of the sentence like in 2 Corinthians 5:19 and Philippians 2:13, or is in the middle voice, like in Galatians 6:7

Noun in "middle voice"? I thought that was for the Verb; which here is Passive. As the noun is the subject of Gal 6:7, it would be excluded on that basis?.

Lucian Benigno:
"The claim of unitarians to be logical should of course be respected, but the grammarian will resist their attempts to impress grammatical principles in the service of their cause in a way which is not legitimate. The fact that theos has no article does not transform the word into an adjective.”

It would help if the context of this quote was supplied. To whom is "not legitimate" addressed? Where is theos being "transformed"?

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Lucian Benigno | Forum Activity | Replied: Tue, May 12 2020 7:33 PM

Dave Hooton:

Thanks for your response, Lucian

Lucian Benigno:
The grammar here says that as a rule the article is not used with the predicate noun, even when the subject is definite

Dave Hooton:
What rule of grammar is being referenced here? Does it oppose or supplement Colwell's rule?

This is a basic general rule, known long before the Colwell's one (1933 AD). You can see more details below (italics are mine):

"As a rule the article is not used with the predicate noun even when the subject is definite. Cf. Mk. 3:1. 1 John 4:16 Ὁ θεὸς ἀγάπη ἐστίν God is love, but love is not God. Thus we can tell subject from predicate. Hence in John 1:1 θεὸς ἦν ὁ λόγος we translate the Word was God, not God was the Word, for subject and predicate are not here co-extensive." A. T. Robertson, A Short Grammar of the Greek New Testament, for Students Familiar with the Elements of Greek (New York: Hodder & Stoughton, 1908), 75.

"NOUNS IN THE PREDICATE. These may have the article also. As already explained, the article is not essential to speech. It is, however, “invaluable as a means of gaining precision, e.g. θεὸς ἦν ὁ λόγος.” As a rule the predicate is without the article, even when the subject uses it. Cf. Mk. 9:50; Lu. 7:8. This is in strict accord with the ancient idiom. Gildersleeve (Syntax, p. 324) notes that the predicate is usually something new and therefore the article is not much used except in convertible propositions. Winer, indeed, denies that the subject may be known from the predicate by its having the article. But the rule holds wherever the subject has the article and the predicate does not. The subject is then definite and distributed, the predicate indefinite and undistributed. The word with the article is then the subject, whatever the order may be. So in Jo. 1:1, θεὸς ἦν ὁ λόγος, the subject is perfectly clear. Cf. ὁ λόγος σὰρξ ἐγένετο (Jo. 1:14). It is true also that ὁ θεὸς ἦν ὁ λόγος (convertible terms) would have been Sabellianism. See also ὁ θεὸς ἀγάπη ἐστίν (1 Jo. 4:16). “God” and “love” are not convertible terms any more than “God” and “Logos” or “Logos” and “flesh”." A. T. Robertson, A Grammar of the Greek New Testament in the Light of Historical Research (Logos Bible Software, 2006), 767–768.

Lucian Benigno:
this rule doesn't apply when the noun is the subject of the sentence like in 2 Corinthians 5:19 and Philippians 2:13, or is in the middle voice, like in Galatians 6:7

Dave Hooton:
Noun in "middle voice"? I thought that was for the Verb; which here is Passive.

Lapsus calami. I should have written more clearly and in more detail. I read the verb semantically in the middle voice (though morphologically is also passive, same affixes). This is the reason why Bengel says:

"Θεὸς οὐ μυκτηρίζεται The verb is in the middle voice." Johann Albrecht Bengel, Gnomon of the New Testament, ed. M. Ernest Bengel e J. C. F. Steudel, trans. James Bryce, vol. 4 (Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1860), 55.

Please see also: "Translating Gal 6:7 “God is not mocked” is accurate—even though the context means “God is not trifled with, is not duped”—but does not convey the nuance or ridicule and humiliation, disdain, scoffing insult, which would be better conveyed by our expressions “thumb one’s nose at” or “hold up to ridicule”." Ceslas Spicq e James D. Ernest, Theological lexicon of the New Testament (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 1994), 534.

Dave Hooton:
As the noun is the subject of Gal 6:7, it would be excluded on that basis?

If the noun is the subject, it can't be predicate.

Additionally, it is not fitting to translate theos in Galatas 6:7 as "a god" or as some kind of adjective:

"In no one makes a fool of God, the word God is emphatic, emphasizing that God is not a man and therefore cannot be “mocked”." Daniel C. Arichea e Eugene Albert Nida, A handbook on Paul’s letter to the Galatians, UBS Handbook Series (New York: United Bible Societies, 1976), 151.

Lucian Benigno:
"The claim of unitarians to be logical should of course be respected, but the grammarian will resist their attempts to impress grammatical principles in the service of their cause in a way which is not legitimate. The fact that theos has no article does not transform the word into an adjective.”

Dave Hooton:
It would help if the context of this quote was supplied.

Here is the context:

"Dr. Moffatt, in a version which is now more generally recognized as brilliant paraphrase than as skilful translation, set a fashion in this kind of thing when he changed St. John’s proclamation that “the Word was God” into an ambiguous assertion that “the Logos was divine” (John 1:1). The implication is that even human persons may be called divine, in a sense. Dr. Moffatt considered that he had Greek grammar on his side. The word for God, theos, does not have the definite article; therefore theos is not a noun but a kind of adjective; therefore it must be translated “divine” and not “God.” The fallacy of this has been exposed since Dr. Moffatt’s time, but he has never lacked a following. The one he would doubtless be most anxious to disown is the utterly unsuitable translation of a German ex-Roman priest, “the Word was a god.” Understandably, Unitarians find difficult the apparent contradiction that in the first verse of the gospel “God” appears to mean the Father, while it is predicated of the Word in the same verse. Christians may be illogical, but they find no difficulty in thinking that this verse refers to God the Son.

The claim of unitarians to be logical should of course be respected, but the grammarian will resist their attempts to impress grammatical principles in the service of their cause in a way which is not legitimate. The fact that theos has no article does not transform the word into an adjective. It is a predicate noun, of which the subject is Logos, and it is a fairly universal rule in New Testament Greek that when a predicate noun precedes a verb it lacks the definite article; grammatical considerations therefore require that “there need be no doctrinal significance in the dropping of the article, for it is simply a matter of word-order.” Once again dilution of the high Christology of a New Testament author is seen to be based on a fallacious appeal to unfounded grammatical principles." Nigel Turner, Grammatical insights into the New Testament. (Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1966), 16–17.

Dave Hooton:
To whom is "not legitimate" addressed? Where is theos being "transformed"?

Although the broader context deals with Moffatt's version, Nigel Turner directs criticism against Unitarians who use the grammar illegitimately. One of these illegitimate uses of the grammar is to change the noun theos into an adjective (in John 1:1).

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Puddin’ | Forum Activity | Replied: Wed, May 13 2020 12:39 AM

While I find that many seem to (erroneously) identify some belief systems as “Unitarian”—when that is patently false—these quotes are interesting (I have Robertson & Turner’s grammars).  As stated above, the “qualitative” application of Theos in 1.1c seems to be swallowed hook, line & sinker (largely based upon Harner’s work)—and yet there are many scholars who reject it in favor of the definitive force based upon McGauphy, Goetchius, etc. (the indefinite is not really a practical option from what I have read).

Appreciate the data—just wish I knew if the assertion made regarding 1.1c being the sole example of the qualitative force of Theos.  As stated earlier I have read tons of exegetical works on 1.1 & have never heard that (hence I am a bit dubious about the claim).  Plan to dig further into this using the instructions provided above👍.

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Lucian Benigno | Forum Activity | Replied: Wed, May 13 2020 5:47 AM

While I agree that "Unitarian" is one of those words that have different meanings at different times, I think the author has used the term in a more general sense, like this one:

"Unitarianism — A movement that denies the Trinity, believes there is only one God, and denies Jesus was divine. They prize reason and experience over Scripture and doctrine." Douglas Mangum, The Lexham Glossary of Theology. Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2014.

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