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The Definite-Personal Interpretation of John 1:1c

In the last two posts we’ve looked at the grammar and syntax of John 1:1, and also the four different ways Oneness Pentecostals can interpret John 1:1c. In this post, I’m going to discuss the Definite-Personal (D-P) interpretation of John 1:1c and say why I don’t think this is a good interpretation.

If you recall from the last post, to say the interpretation of John 1:1c is Definite-Personal means that the word “God” (θεός) in John 1:1c is a definite noun, and that the “Word” (λόγος) is a personal being. It’s also important to remember that by “personal” I mean that the Word is a person, and I gave a provisional list of necessary conditions for something being a person.

It’s also absolutely crucial for you to grasp the distinction between what Daniel B. Wallace calls a convertible proposition and a subset proposition in his Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics (GGBB). In the previous post I explained this distinction by explaining the “is” of identity (convertible proposition) and the “is” of predication (subset proposition). Without understanding the difference here, you won’t understand this post or the ones that follow. Please review what I said in that post and how Wallace explains the difference. You can actually read pages 40-42 of GGBB on Google Books.

Because this post is so long and I don’t think it’s a good idea (for once) to split it into several posts, I’m going to provide a Table of Contents (kind of like the SEP does) so that readers can navigate to sections more easily. For other posts of this size, I’ll make this a regular practice.

  1. Does “Was” (ἦν) Indicate Predication or Identity?
  2. The Truth of Modalism?
  3. Why is the Definite Article (ὁ) Missing?
  4. A Possible Oneness Response
  5. Two More Oneness Responses
  6. “God” (θεός) is Most Likely Qualitative
  7. “God” (θεός) is Least Likely Definite
  8. Does God Reveal Tautologies?
  9. Summary

With the previous comments out of the way, let’s see how plausible a D-P interpretation of John 1:1c is.

Does “Was” (ἦν) Indicate Predication or Identity? (Go to Top)

If the Word is God in the beginning and is personal, that means that the Word must be the Father. This is true for at least two reasons. First, according to Oneness theology, the Father is the only person who is God in the beginning.[1] And second, the word for “God” (θεός) in John’s Gospel almost exclusively refers to the Father. That’s true also in John 1:1.

So what kind of proposition do we have in John 1:1c? It seems to me that “was” (ἦν) in John 1:1c must be used in a convertible proposition. Think about it: God is a definite noun, and so must refer to a personal being (God himself). The Word is also a personal being and is therefore the Father. It simply doesn’t make any sense to say that a person can be a subset of another person. A person just is another person or not. (Is Superman a subset of Clark Kent? Or Batman of Bruce Wayne?) In other words, a subset proposition doesn’t make any sense here. John 1:1c must be a convertible proposition on the D-P interpretation.

What this means is that John 1:1c, on the D-P interpretation, is saying that Word = God, and therefore that God = Word. It is a convertible proposition that uses an “is” of identity (and hence the “=” sign). (Don’t forget that “was” and “is” are both forms of the verb “to be.”)

The Truth of Modalism? (Go to Top)

Scholars generally admit that if the word “God” (θεός) is definite in John 1:1c, then modalism is true. David Bernard describes Oneness as “modalistic monarchianism,” meaning that Oneness is a form of modalism.[2] I won’t go into it here too much here, but there are actually many types of modalism. Oneness is only one type.

I’m going to say this loud enough for those in the back to hear it: SABELLIANISM AND THE ONENESS VIEW OF GOD ARE NOT THE SAME THING. (Please excuse my Caps Lock. I try not to yell.) They are both types of modalism, of course, but they are quite distinct kinds. I’ll explain this in more depth at a later time, but here’s the difference: Sabellianism is a form of modalism that claims that God’s manifestations (i.e., modes) are sequential and non-overlapping. In other words, God becomes Father, then the Son, and then the Holy Spirit, without any of those manifestations (or modes) overlapping. That’s not the Oneness view. On Oneness theology, God is Father in light of creation, but remains Father when he is incarnate in the Son. Otherwise it would make no sense for David Bernard, for example, to assert that Jesus “is the Father incarnate,” would it?[3] The Father and Son are modes (manifestations of God) that overlap on the Oneness view, which makes it different from Sabellianism by definition.

I’ve said all of that so when you read the word “Sabellianism” in some contexts, you should replace it with “modalism.” Daniel Wallace, for example, cites a number of authors who agree that if the D-P interpretation is correct, then modalism is true.[4] But many of them conflate modalism with Sabellianism, or misleadingly use “Sabellianism” to simply mean any kind of modalism.[5]

There’s some heavy-hitters in Christianity, then, that admit that the D-P interpretation of John 1:1c implies that modalism is true. Unfortunately for Oneness Pentecostals, I think there’s plenty of good reasons to reject D-P.

Why is the Definite Article (ὁ) Missing? (Go to Top)

God’s revelation of himself through Scripture is one of the greatest gifts of grace that mankind has ever received. There are things that we could never know about God apart from it, and he certainly didn’t have to reveal himself to us. He did it freely, and that’s why special revelation is a gift of God’s grace.

Now, assuming that God has made provision for all to be saved (that’s the Oneness Pentecostal view), let’s do a little bit of counterfactual reasoning here by considering how things might have been in comparison with what we actually have in John 1:1c. To do that, take a look at it one more time:

καὶ θεὸς ἦν ὁ λόγος

This part of the John 1:1 is obviously usually translated “and the Word was God.” But that translation requires a bit of explanation so that readers of English can understand what’s being said there.

I pointed out in a previous post that “God” (θεός) is an anarthrous predicate nominative that comes before the verb (i.e., it is pre-verbal). In other words, θεός is the predicate nominative in a Colwell Construction. The key thing I want to point out here is the fact that θεός is anarthrous.

According to Colwell’s Rule, definite predicate nominatives in Colwell Constructions are usually (about 87% of the time) anarthrous.[6] So, assuming θεός is definite in John 1:1c, we should expect it to be anarthrous.

But the appeal to Colwell’s Rule here can only be used after we’ve established that θεός is definite. But since many Oneness author’s simply assume that it is, this is where our counterfactual reasoning comes in. If God had the desire to make it unquestionable that θεός is definite (meaning modalism is true), he could have inspired John to place the definite article in front of θεός. But he didn’t.[7] That leaves the possibility open that θεός is primarily qualitative or indefinite in meaning in this Colwell Construction.

As a result, appealing to Colwell’s Rule as a “that’s just what we would expect” response doesn’t help. That’s the point (among others) that William Arnold III raises as a defense of the definite θεός. I will address Arnold’s points in more depth in a later post.

So, it seems to me, God didn’t desire to remove all doubt that θεός is definite in John 1:1c. Why is that?

A Possible Oneness Response (Go to Top)

Any Oneness response to this question will provide some justification for why God inspired John to write what he did. Here’s a possible reply: Perhaps God only wanted those who really desire him to come to know him. But this response fails on several counts. First, no matter what view of divine foreknowledge you take, I think you run into issues. I’m not going to explain each of these views or my responses in depth, so I’m going to list each view and the problem I see with each of them (stated in the form of a question):

  1. Open Theism: Why not minimize the risk of some being lost by inspiring the definite article?
  2. Molinism: Why isn’t a world where God inspires the definite article a more feasible world (regarding the number of saved vs. lost) for God to actualize?
  3. Simple foreknowledge: Why doesn’t God have knowledge that he will inspire the definite article after he creates? You simply have to appeal to mystery here, and that’s not really a response to my objection.
  4. Divine determinism: Aren’t Oneness Pentecostals Arminians? If Oneness theology were to adopt divine determinism as true, I don’t see how it has a plausible doctrine of salvation at all.

All in all, if Oneness Pentecostals want to provide this response, they have a lot more work to do to convince me that God had sufficient reason(s) to not inspire John to include the definite article before θεός.

Second, a Oneness Pentecostal would have to give a really plausible narrative for why there have been so few modalists throughout history and for why Oneness Pentecostalism is such a recent phenomenon. If the D-P interpretation is correct, why haven’t there been more modalists? Didn’t people like Clement, Irenaeus, Origen, Tertullian, and Augustine desire to know God?

I’m sure some narrative could be weaved that incorporates the “end-time revival” that Oneness preachers have been talking about for decades. That might account for this problem. But I don’t see any reason to think that Matthew 28:19 applies only to individuals in certain time periods. Rather, the idea seems to be that the Gospel will go out into all the world and stay in all those places until the Lord returns. What about all the lost before this revival, then? That’s still difficult to account for, especially if you think the first-century church was Oneness Pentecostal through-and-through.

Third, if God only wanted the truly devout to come to believe in him, then it seems strange that so many people who know the Greek language reject the D-P interpretation. If anybody is devout about reading the Bible, Christian scholars who confess Christ as Lord seem to be. It seems like Oneness Pentecostals need to give a better explanation of what being “truly devout” means in order to account for people who have spent their lives in the Greek text being condemned to Hell.

I understand that my Oneness Pentecostal friends may not actually say that God didn’t inspire the definite article in front of θεός because God only wanted the truly devout to come to believe in him. It might seem just as implausible to them as it does to me. Nevertheless, in the interest of giving a strong argument, I’m preemptively considering possible responses to my objections and showing how I think they would fail.

Two More Oneness Responses (Go to Top)

If the previous response fails, there are two other responses a Oneness believer could raise. First, one might say that if God didn’t intend for θεός to be definite, he could have used another Greek word that is lexically adjectival to make it absolutely clear that the Word is God in an adjectival way.[8] That Greek work differs from θεός by only a single letter: it is the word θεῖος. (Yes, it makes an iota of a difference—literally.) This translation would say that “the Word was divine,” and would obviously be a subset proposition.

This objection attempts to turn the tables on my worry about the missing definite article. Isn’t it unfair to say that if God wanted to make it clear that θεός is definite he would have inspired a definite article in front of it, while also knowing that if he wanted to use a qualitative noun to predicate something of the Word he would have inspired the word “divine” (θεῖος)?

The short answer is absolutely not, and there are many good reasons for thinking that. One good reason for thinking God wouldn’t have inspired the word θεῖος here is that it simply doesn’t carry the same weight that the qualitative θεός does. Plenty of beings could be described as θεῖος, not just the Word. Furthermore, we are told twice is John 1:1-18 (v. 14 and v. 18) that the Jesus (the incarnate Word) is “unique” (μονογενής). That seems to me to rule out θεῖος to describe the Word. There are other reasons, but we have to consider them in light of another possible response by Oneness here.

Second, a Oneness believer could say that θεός is definite because of Colwell’s Rule. But as I pointed out in a previous post, this response fails to understand Colwell’s Rule. The rule is that definite predicate nominatives that are pre-verbal are usually anarthrous. The rule is not that anarthrous predicate nominatives that are pre-verbal are usually definite. The second is a converse of Colwell’s Rule, and doesn’t logically follow. (It is also demonstrably false, as we’ll see in a moment.) In other words, it is fallacious to say that Colwell’s Rule gives us reason to think that θεός is definite, because it actually doesn’t.

“God” (θεός) is Most Likely Qualitative (Go to Top)

If θεός can be used as a qualitative noun, and it can be shown that it most likely is in John 1:1c, then this would turn back both of the previous Oneness objections that I just raised. It would turn back the θεῖος objection because this objection fails to recognize that θεός can be qualitative as a noun when it is used in a Colwell Construction. And it would turn back the Colwell’s Rule (if the previous response wasn’t definitive enough) objection because even if it could be invoked here, it would be improbable that θεός is definite anyway.

So, what reasons are there for thinking that “God” (θεός) is qualitative in John 1:1c? Here are two:

    1. The word “flesh” (σάρξ) is qualitative in John 1:14a. If you’ve only ever read Bible in translation, this point probably sounds absolutely useless to you. Take a look at what John 1:14 says:

      And the Word became flesh . . .

      Καὶ ὁ λόγος σὰρξ ἐγένετο

      The word “became” (ἐγένετο) is a past tense verb from γίνομαι (ginōmai). Notice that the Word (λόγος) has the definite article (ὁ) in front of it, which means that it is a definite noun and the subject of the verse. The word “flesh” (σὰρξ) occurs before the verb and is anarthrous. So, we have a Colwell Construction here: σὰρξ is a pre-verbal, anarthrous predicate nominative.

      “Flesh” (σὰρξ) is qualitative here, as Wallace says, because the “idea is not that the Word became ‘the flesh,’ nor ‘a flesh,’ but simply ‘flesh.’ That is, the Word partook of humanity. Many pre-1933 exegetes (i.e., before Colwell’s rule was published) saw a parallel between this verse and John 1:1, noting that both [predicate nominatives] were qualitative.”[9]

      If both John 1:1c and 1:14 have qualitative predicate nominatives, then it seems like John is emphasizing the fact that the Word had two natures: one eternal, divine (only the way that God is divine) nature, and one human nature from the time of his birth. There’s a direct parallel between the two verses. And I don’t see any reason to deny this direct parallel.[10]

      There is a possible, but implausible objection to this that I will relegate to a footnote because the response to the objection is somewhat technical.[11]

    1. Anarthrous predicate nominatives in Colwell Constructions in John’s Gospel are usually qualitative. Paul Stephen Dixon published a Master’s Thesis in 1975 called “The Significance of the Anarthrous Predicate Nominative in John.” He was a student at Dallas Theological Seminary, interestingly enough, where Daniel Wallace now teaches. Wallace makes heavy use of Dixon’s thesis in Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics.[12]

      Dixon examined all of the Colwell Constructions in the Gospel of John. According to him, there are 53 places where this construction occurs, and in 45 of those cases (84.9%) the predicate nominative is qualitative. Of the remaining 8 occurrences, he says that three are “clearly definite” and five are “probably qualitative.”[13] That means that if all of those predicate nominatives that could be qualitative actually are, then 94.3% of the predicate nominatives in Colwell Constructions, in the Gospel of John, are qualitative. So, the predicate nominatives in Colwell Constructions in John are qualitative in anywhere from 84.9% to 94.3% of the cases.[14] Predicate nominatives in Colwell Constructions are overwhelmingly qualitative in John, in Dixon’s view.

      Dixon’s study, as thorough as it was, is somewhat misleading. As Harner points out, predicate nominatives can actually carry more than one nuance.[15] They can be primarily definite, qualitative, or indefinite, but being one of these primarily doesn’t rule out the other categories by definition. Consider, for example, the statement “he is a prophet.” This statement would mean, primarily, that an individual is within the category “prophet,” but isn’t a particular individual in that group. Hence “a prophet” is primarily indefinite. But a statement like this could also contain qualitative meaning, perhaps because the reason one would say “he is a prophet” is because somebody has the qualities of a prophet. If so, then we can say that the predicate nominative in this statement is primarily indefinite, but secondarily qualitative, in meaning.

      Now, Harner said (like Dixon) that there are 53 occurrences of Colwell Constructions in the Gospel of John. He concluded that 40 of the predicate nominatives in these constructions (75.4%) are primarily qualitative in emphasis.[16]

      Closer to the truth here is probably Dr. Don Hartley’s massive study of Colwell Constructions in the entire New Testament.[17] (I’ll mention it again in just a moment.) Because his study is quite technical, I won’t go into details here. Suffice it to say that with regard to John’s Gospel, Hartley concludes that 73% of all predicate nominatives have some qualitative meaning to them. And 56% have only a qualitative meaning.

      Even with Hartley’s adjusted figure, I see no reason to conclude that θεός is anything but qualitative in John 1:1c, given John’s own usage of Colwell Constructions.

All in all, there’s an enormous burden of proof on anybody (Oneness Pentecostals included) who wants to claim that “God” (θεός) is definite in John 1:1c. For my part, I don’t see how that burden of proof can be met.

“God” (θεός) is Least Likely Definite (Go to Top)

The article by Hartley that I mentioned a moment ago is called “Revisiting the Colwell Construction in Light of Mass/Count Nouns.” It is incredibly in-depth and technical, so I’ll only summarize the key points of his article so that those new to (or just beginning to learn) Greek can understand my point here.

Hartley provides statistics for all of the Colwell Constructions in the New Testament in that article. The relevant chart for our purposes provides an answer this question: When considering any particular Colwell Construction in the New Testament that is relevantly similar to John 1:1c, what is the probability that the predicate nominative will be definite?[18] Hartley answers that there is only a 6% chance that the predicate nominative will be definite. In his study, he excluded disputed passages (like John 1:1c!) from these statistics.

What’s more relevant, though, is John’s usage of Colwell Constructions. Hartley has a figure for this as well. He concludes that in only 11% of the constructions relevantly like John 1:1c, 11% of the predicate nominatives are definite.[19] Again, he excluded disputed passages from these statistics.

I find John’s usage of Colwell Constructions decisive on its own. But no matter which way we take the statistics, I don’t see how anyone can reasonably conclude that θεός in John 1:1c is definite.

Does God Reveal Tautologies? (Go to Top)

But let’s (theoretically) suppose that Dixon, Harner, and Hartley are all mistaken and that Oneness Pentecostals are justified in thinking that θεός is a definite noun after all. Does that get them off the hook?

I don’t think that it does. Consider a bookshelf lined with books. Often times we buy bookends (preferably matching!) to place on either side of a row of books to hold them together. Interestingly enough, there’s something kind of like bookends in the Greek language called an inclusio (“inclusion”).

An inclusio is a framing device that indicates that a section of writing goes together. It is indicated by the beginning and ending of the section having the same (or similar) words or ideas. What’s clever about this is the fact that Greek was originally written in all capitals without any spaces between the letters. Obviously, writing in all capitals (it seems to us) makes it harder for Greek writers to indicate where one section begins and another ends. The inclusio is one way to do this.

I’m going to assume that John 1:1b forms an inclusio with John 1:18 because they use similar words that express a similar meaning—an idea that many find unobjectionable. Here are those two verses next to each other in English (ESV) and Greek (NA28):

John 1:1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
John 1:18 No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known.


John 1:1 Ἐν ἀρχῇ ἦν ὁ λόγος, καὶ ὁ λόγος ἦν πρὸς τὸν θεόν, καὶ θεὸς ἦν ὁ λόγος.
John 1:18 Θεὸν οὐδεὶς ἑώρακεν πώποτε· μονογενὴς θεὸς ὁ ὢν εἰς τὸν κόλπον τοῦ πατρὸς ἐκεῖνος ἐξηγήσατο.

Note: The bolded Greek phrase in John 1:18 is a phrase that can be translated literally as “the one who [is] at [or in] the Father’s bosom.”

Do you see the inclusio here? John 1:1b says that the Word was with the Father, and John 1:18 says that the Son (Word made flesh) is now with the Father—at the side of the Father, in fact.

With that out of the way, here’s my concern. If the Word (λόγος) is personal in John 1:1c, then the only person he could be is the Father. That means that John 1:1 reads, “In the beginning was the Word [Father], and the Word [Father] was with God [Father], and the Word [Father] was God [Father].” In other words, both “Word” and “God” refer to the Father in John 1:1 on the D-P interpretation.

On this understanding, John 1:1b and John 1:1c are tautologies. A tautology is a statement that is always true in virtue of its logical form. On the Oneness view of God, John 1:1b says that the Father was with the Father, and John 1:1c says that the Father was the Father. Both of those statements are tautologies.

So what’s the problem? At least two things. First, and I’ll talk about this more later on, is that there might be good reasons to think that God doesn’t reveal tautologies in Scripture. Tautologies are knowable without God’s revelation (i.e., a priori), so why would he “reveal” them in Scripture? Second, it’s just not obvious that John 1:18 is a tautology. When you read that verse without assuming Oneness is true, it seems like the Father and the Son are two persons there. In other words, even if John 1:1b asserts a tautology, it just isn’t obvious that John 1:18 does. That seems like a good reason to be suspicious, at least, that the Word just is the Father. I’ll have more to say about the prepositions in John 1:1b (πρός) and John 1:18 (εἰς) in a different post.

To make matters worse, some (like Raymond Brown) claim that John 1:1c forms an inclusio with John 20:28. Oneness Pentecostals would probably affirm that this is the case, seeing how Thomas (as a unitarian Jew, in their view) confesses that Jesus is “my Lord and my God” (John 20:28) and John 1:1c says the Word is God. But if John 1:1c is a tautology, then why does John seemingly go through great lengths to argue that Jesus is God incarnate, and then have Thomas state it outright as the climax of his Gospel? Should we seriously think that John 20:28 forms a tautological inclusio with John 1:1c? That seems suspect to me.

Summary (Go to Top)

I’ve said a lot in this post—enough, probably, for a small book chapter. Just to make myself absolutely clear, here’s an outline of the arguments I’ve made in this post:

  1. Is John 1:1c a convertible proposition or a subset proposition?
    1. “God” (θεός) and “Word” (λόγος) are both persons here.
    2. A subset proposition doesn’t make sense because a person cannot be a subset of another person.
    3. So, John 1:1c is a convertible proposition.
  2. It seems like God didn’t desire to remove all doubt that θεός is definite in John 1:1c.
    1. God could have inspired John to place an article in front of θεός to make it unquestionable that modalism is true. But since he didn’t, it is possible that θεός is primarily qualitative or indefinite in meaning.
    2. Possible Oneness objection (1): God only wants those who truly desire him to come to believe in him.
      1. My response (1): No matter what view of God’s sovereignty (and omniscience) you take, this response is implausible.
      2. My response (2): If D-P is the true interpretation, why haven’t there been more modalists (let alone Oneness Pentecostals) in history?
      3. My response (3): Don’t Christian Greek scholars truly desire to know God? If they don’t, who does?
    3. Possible Oneness objection (2): If God wanted to, he could have used a clearly qualitative noun in the place of θεός: namely, the word θεῖος.
      1. My response (1): This would be a weak affirmation of the Word’s full divinity.
      2. My response (2): This fails to understand that θεός is most likely qualitative. (See point 3 below.)
    4. Possible Oneness objection (3): θεός is most likely definite because of Colwell’s Rule.
      1. My response (1): This is a mistake in reasoning. This follows from the converse of Colwell’s Rule, not from the rule itself. And that inference is fallacious.
      2. My response (2): This fails to understand that θεός is most likely qualitative. (See point 3 below.)
  3. θεός is most likely qualitative in John 1:1c.
    1. “Flesh” (σάρξ) is qualitative in John 1:14. This is significant because John 1:14 also uses a Colwell Construction.
      1. So, it seems unlikely that θεός would be definite while σάρξ is qualitative.
    2. Anarthrous predicate nominatives in Colwell Constructions in John’s Gospel are usually qualitative.
  4. θεός is least likely definite in John 1:1c.
    1. If one reasons from all the Colwell Constructions in the entire New Testament to find out if θεός is definite, there is only a 6% chance that it is.
    2. If one reasons from all the Colwell Constructions in the Gospel of John to find out if θεός is definite, there is only an 11% chance that it is.
  5. If the D-P interpretation is correct, John 1:1b and John 1:1c contain tautologies.
    1. Tautologies are true by definition. If there’s reason to think God doesn’t “reveal” tautologies in Scripture, then this is an unexpected phenomenon.
    2. John 1:1b forms an inclusio with John 1:18, and John 1:18 isn’t obviously a tautology, given that the Father and Son sound like two persons there.
      1. i.e., if the Oneness view is correct, it seems to compromise the plain language of John 1:18.
    3. John 1:1c forms an inclusio with John 20:28, and John 20:28 isn’t obviously a tautology, given that John uses it as a climax to his Gospel. How is a tautology a climax?
      1. i.e., if the Oneness view is correct, it seems to compromise John’s intended use of John 20:28.

Due to the weight of reasons (2) through (5), I think that the D-P interpretation of John 1:1c is incredibly implausible and, quite honestly, downright indefensible.

For that reason, we have to see if any of the remaining three interpretations of John 1:1c will work for Oneness Pentecostalism. We’ll look at the Definite-Impersonal (D-I) interpretation next.



[1] I’ve deliberately worded this somewhat ambiguously. That’s because there’s a question whether Oneness Pentecostals claim that God is identical to the Father causally prior to creation (i.e., is eternally the Father), or is only Father since creation itself. I’ll talk more about this later on.

[2] Bernard, The Oneness of God, 15.

[3] Bernard, The Oneness of God, 66-70.

[4] Wallace, GGBB, 268 (footnote 30).

[5] Another caveat: The truth of modalism is necessary, but not sufficient, for the Oneness view of God to be correct. That’s because there’s other types of modalism that could be true (like Sabellianism).

[6] E.C. Colwell, “A Definite Rule for the Use of the Article in the Greek New Testament,” JBL 52, no. 1 (Aril 1933): 17.

[7] Those with some understanding of textual criticism may know that Codex Regius records θεός with the definite article. But this reading is incredibly unlikely for two reasons: (1) There are better witnesses (e.g., P75, א, B) for the anarthrous reading; (2) Colwell’s Rule, properly understood, actually gives us reason to think the anarthrous reading is original because it would have given rise to the articular reading. So, I will proceed with the understand that God did not inspire the articular θεός.

[8] θεῖος is listed as an adjective, but can be used as a substantive to mean “divine being” or “divinity.” (See BDAG, 446.)

[9] Wallace, GGBB, 264.

[10] If the Word = Father in John 1:1c (as D-P implies), then obviously the Word has God’s nature. That would mean that there is an indirect parallel between John 1:1c and 1:14, because the parallel comes from a corollary of the truth of 1:1c, rather than from a directly stated emphasis. And I don’t see why we should prefer the indirect parallel over the direct one.

[11] One might claim that there isn’t a good parallel between John 1:1c and John 1:14 because they use different verbs. After all, the verb in John 1:1c (ἦν) is a form of the verb ἐιμί and the verb in John 1:14 (ἐγένετο) is a form of the verb γίνομαι. If John wanted to make a precise parallel between the two verses, wouldn’t he have used the same verb? Unfortunately, the answer is no because focusing on the verb is irrelevant. What is relevant between the two verses is the fact that σάρξ is what Hartley calls a “mass” noun. In part, this means that it is lexically qualitative by definition. (See Hartley, pp. 10-11 under the heading “What is a Qualitative Noun?”) So, this means that σάρξ is qualitative regardless of the fact that it appears in a Colwell Construction. As Hartley points out, the best explanation of this is that John deliberately placed σάρξ in a Colwell Construction to parallel John 1:1c even though it was unnecessary (p. 34).

[12] See pp. 256-262.

[13] Dixon, “The Significance of the Anarthrous Predicate Nominative in John,” 32.

[14] Wallace says that Dixon “concluded that 94% of these predicate nominatives in John were qualitative, while only 6% were definite” (GGBB, p. 260, footnote 16). I don’t know if Wallace was just citing Dixon’s results by memory here, but this is obviously somewhat inaccurate, given what Dixon actually said.

[15] Harner, Philip, “Qualitative Anarthrous Predicate Nouns: Mark 15:39 and John 1:1,” JBL 92, no. 1 (March 1973): 75-87. See his discussion of Colwell Constructions in the Gospel of Mark in 77-81 to see my point.

[16] Harner, 83.

[17] Hartley, “Revisiting the Colwell Construction in Light of Mass/Count Nouns,” 33. Note: Whenever I refer to a page number for Hartley’s article, it is the page number in the Microsoft Word document that the website I’ve linked to allows you to download at the very top.

[18] The “relevantly similar” qualities are that each construction in question in the New Testament has (1) a singular count noun as the predicate nominative, and (2) no additional factors present that clearly make the predicate nominative definite.

[19] Hartley, 33.

2 thoughts on “The Definite-Personal Interpretation of John 1:1c

  1. Word (logos) does not mean person or a person. Please find a definition the say this. Then maybe this discussion can be settled.

    1. Mutai,

      This post is only one of four. There are two other interpretations of John 1:1c that the Oneness Pentecostal can take that involve an impersonal “Word”(logos). Your assertion is possible, and your only argument seems to be that there’s no lexical definition that says logos can be used by a Greek writer as a reference to a personal being.

      On the face of it, you should know that’s obviously false. We spoke about 1 John 1:2 in another post, and there the “Word of Life” is clearly a reference to Jesus Christ. So, yes, the logos can refer to a personal being: Jesus Christ himself. So now you need to modify your claim: there’s no evidence that logos can refer to a pre-incarnate personal being. Otherwise you are assuming what you need to prove (i.e., begging the question).

      But do lexical definitions settle debates? Absolutely not; we also have to consider grammar and syntax. Definitions are derived from how words are used in particular contexts. And in the context of the prologue of John’s Gospel (1:1-18), I can think of at least six reasons one can appeal to, in the prologue alone, to try to show that the logos is personal. (Not to mention the rest of John’s writings.) I don’t think they are all good reasons, but some of them are certainly strong (like the Word was “with” God). Again, we have to look at how words are used, in a particular grammatical-historical context, to determine meaning.

      In any case, it’s possible that your claim about the logos is false even in the context of Second Temple Judaism, and due to the use of the memra in Jewish sources. These are all things that I will discuss in later posts, and it may be a while because I’m still investigating them. After I discuss those things, feel free to object and state where I’ve gone wrong.

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