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Converting a noun into an adjective ?

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Converting a noun into an adjective ?

Postby Isaac Newton » Fri Aug 08, 2014 10:43 pm

Ἐν ἀρχῇ ἦν ὁ λόγος καὶ ὁ λόγος ἦν πρὸς τὸν θεόν καὶ θεὸς ἦν ὁ λόγος


The anarthrous θεὸς at John 1:1c is a noun, not an adjective. So it can either be used as an identity (definite sense) or as a categorization (indefinite sense) of the thing / individual to which it is applied, but not with a purely qualitative semantic function, such as Trinitarians do at John 1:1c. If that were the case, the apostle would have used the adjective θεῖος instead.

As a side note, when Unitarians use the English word "divine" (small d) for translating θεὸς in John 1:1c we mean "a divine thing" ( categorization) . Contrast this with the Trinitarian usage of θεὸς here which has the meaning "homoousious with God", "fully Divine," "Divine", which is neither an identity nor a categorization.
καὶ ὑμεῖς τὸ χρῖσμα ὃ ἐλάβετε ἀπ’ αὐτοῦ μένει ἐν ὑμῖν, καὶ οὐ χρείαν ἔχετε ἵνα τις διδάσκῃ ὑμᾶς·
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Re: Converting a noun into an adjective ?

Postby MiguelM » Sun Aug 10, 2014 3:44 pm

I don't understand your point. (Is there one?) Are you saying there are instances of nouns becoming adjectives in Greek? I may be making them up, but I think I have a few on the tip of my tongue that I can't remember right now, but I image it being possible — would very much appreciate if you could turn up some examples. The alternative, adjectives becoming nouns, is so common as to be trivial.

(Also I'm discounting as far as hermeneutically possible theological interpretations like the one you mentioned that renders "θεός" as "divine.)

The vast majority of this sort would be of the pattern X is Z, so 'Soldiers are humans', which is not by any means the same as saying that 'Soldiers are human', so what is usually in grammar called a predicate.
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Re: Converting a noun into an adjective ?

Postby Isaac Newton » Mon Aug 11, 2014 2:54 am

Hi Miguel,

MiguelM wrote:I don't understand your point. (Is there one?) Are you saying there are instances of nouns becoming adjectives in Greek? I may be making them up, but I think I have a few on the tip of my tongue that I can't remember right now, but I image it being possible — would very much appreciate if you could turn up some examples. The alternative, adjectives becoming nouns, is so common as to be trivial.

(Also I'm discounting as far as hermeneutically possible theological interpretations like the one you mentioned that renders "θεός" as "divine.)

The vast majority of this sort would be of the pattern X is Z, so 'Soldiers are humans', which is not by any means the same as saying that 'Soldiers are human', so what is usually in grammar called a predicate.



I'm doubting the existence of a "purely qualitative" anarthrous predicate noun preceding the verb , to the exclusion of a definite or indefinite sense, such as Trinitarians postulate at John 1:1c with θεός.

Here's http://digilander.libero.it/domingo7/Harner2.htm Harner's seminal study (“Qualitative Anarthrous Predicate Nouns: Mark 15:39 and John 1:1,”), but unfortunately he doesn't offer us a single clear example .
καὶ ὑμεῖς τὸ χρῖσμα ὃ ἐλάβετε ἀπ’ αὐτοῦ μένει ἐν ὑμῖν, καὶ οὐ χρείαν ἔχετε ἵνα τις διδάσκῃ ὑμᾶς·
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Re: Converting a noun into an adjective ?

Postby Isaac Newton » Mon Aug 11, 2014 6:22 am

I find the trinitarian clim that θεός in John 1:1c is a "purely qualitative noun" to be truly bizarre. See the following by Robert Hommel : http://www.forananswer.org/Top_JW/Theos_CountNoun.htm


Harner says that qualitativeness may coexist with either a definite or indefinite semantic force. Though not explicitly stated, a close reading also indicates that he believed qualitativeness may exist by itself. When considering Mark 12:35, Harner says, "the predicate noun could be interpreted as defininte, indefinite, or qualitative, depending on the particular meaning or emphasis which we understand the passage to have" (p. 79).

When this principle is applied to John 1:1c, Harner offers this as a possible translation that properly conveys John's thought: "The Word had the same nature as God" (p. 87).3...

Harner's study has been accepted and expanded upon by a number of Greek scholars, grammarians, and lexicographers.4 While English grammars do not generally classify nouns as "qualitative," and thus English speakers are not used to this term, several languages including Japanese and Coptic have qualitative nouns. Thus, while there may be some difficulty in expressing the true meaning of a qualitative noun in English without some level of paraphrase, the existence of qualitative nouns in Koine Greek is well established as is their meaning.


The Case for a Purely Qualitative Noun

The existence of qualitative nouns in Koine Greek has long been noted by Greek grammarians (see note 2, below). The issue Witness apologists have questioned is whether a noun can be only qualitative, to the exclusion of a definite or indefinite sense. These apologists have offered no grammarian (Greek or English) who agrees with them; however, a number of grammarians and linguists support the existence of purely qualitative nouns, both in Greek and English.16 Witness apologists have often demanded that Trinitarians provide "a clear example of a Q-only count noun." I have already demonstrated that the presupposition that theos in John 1:1c is a count noun, based on the Witness's preferred contextual definition of a count noun, cannot be substantiated. Further, if we accept the contextual definition of a count noun, qualitative theos is not a count noun at all. A noun signifying qualities or characteristics is not countable in its context.
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Re: Converting a noun into an adjective ?

Postby Markos » Mon Aug 11, 2014 2:56 pm

Hi, Isaac.

I think it is better to abandon the distinction between noun and adjective and to view both θεός as θεῖος as substantives which pretty much mean the same thing. "And Jesus was a Divine Thing."
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Re: Converting a noun into an adjective ?

Postby Isaac Newton » Mon Aug 11, 2014 5:04 pm

Markos wrote:Hi, Isaac.

I think it is better to abandon the distinction between noun and adjective and to view both θεός as θεῖος as substantives which pretty much mean the same thing. "And Jesus was a Divine Thing."


I like the gist of your translation though we should be careful to not confuse "Logos" with "Jesus" at John 1:1c . I also have a slight problem with the capital "D" (Divine), and "T" (Thing) because capitals in English connote proper names , though your use of the indefinite article alleviates this problem somewhat.
καὶ ὑμεῖς τὸ χρῖσμα ὃ ἐλάβετε ἀπ’ αὐτοῦ μένει ἐν ὑμῖν, καὶ οὐ χρείαν ἔχετε ἵνα τις διδάσκῃ ὑμᾶς·
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Re: Converting a noun into an adjective ?

Postby mwh » Sat Aug 23, 2014 3:55 am

I hesitate to set foot in these waters again, but for what it’s worth, take it or leave it:

θεὸς ἦν ὁ λόγος means “the word” (or whatever is to be understood by logos here) “was god” (or “a god,” but that’s contextually impossible here). θεός is a noun, only and always a noun, and unlike λόγος has only the one meaning. Its corresponding adjective is θεῖος. We can’t go “abandoning” the distinction between them, for the distinction is real, inherent in the language itself and never effaced. Homer or Plato may be divine, your exegesis may be divine, but cannot be god. God is god, and so (according to John) was the logos.

What John understood by “god” is up for theological dispute, but that’s what he said, and I imagine he’d be bemused by all these doctrinally driven attempts to delimit the meaning of the word and back it into a corner. If he’d wanted to say “a divine thing” (or “a Divine Thing”—now there’s an unreal distinction for you), or "homoousious with God," he could have done so. What he actually says is simply “god” (“God” if you prefer).

I should probably leave it there, but let me propose a reorientation. The statement, like all statements, needs to be taken in context. The sentence is artfully contrived, with double chiasmus in its trio of clauses. It makes a stylistically imposing and rhetorically powerful opening, and (as is often the case with rhetoric) does not readily submit to logical analysis (for if the logos was itself θεος how can it have also been προς τον θεον?) The early exegetes struggled with this. We should recognize that the sentence is a progression, with this the third and final clause being the climax, going a step beyond the previous one. It has more than a touch of the mystic about it, in keeping with the inexplicit use of ὁ λογος.

Hope this helps.
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Re: Converting a noun into an adjective ?

Postby Isaac Newton » Sun Aug 24, 2014 12:03 am

mwh wrote:I hesitate to set foot in these waters again, but for what it’s worth, take it or leave it:

θεὸς ἦν ὁ λόγος means “the word” (or whatever is to be understood by logos here) “was god” (or “a god,” but that’s contextually impossible here). θεός is a noun, only and always a noun, and unlike λόγος has only the one meaning. Its corresponding adjective is θεῖος. We can’t go “abandoning” the distinction between them, for the distinction is real, inherent in the language itself and never effaced. Homer or Plato may be divine, your exegesis may be divine, but cannot be god. God is god, and so (according to John) was the logos.

What John understood by “god” is up for theological dispute, but that’s what he said, and I imagine he’d be bemused by all these doctrinally driven attempts to delimit the meaning of the word and back it into a corner. If he’d wanted to say “a divine thing” (or “a Divine Thing”—now there’s an unreal distinction for you), or "homoousious with God," he could have done so. What he actually says is simply “god” (“God” if you prefer).

I should probably leave it there, but let me propose a reorientation. The statement, like all statements, needs to be taken in context. The sentence is artfully contrived, with double chiasmus in its trio of clauses. It makes a stylistically imposing and rhetorically powerful opening, and (as is often the case with rhetoric) does not readily submit to logical analysis (for if the logos was itself θεος how can it have also been προς τον θεον?) The early exegetes struggled with this. We should recognize that the sentence is a progression, with this the third and final clause being the climax, going a step beyond the previous one. It has more than a touch of the mystic about it, in keeping with the inexplicit use of ὁ λογος.

Hope this helps.


What can "god" (with a small "G") possibly mean if not "a god" or "a divine thing" ?
καὶ ὑμεῖς τὸ χρῖσμα ὃ ἐλάβετε ἀπ’ αὐτοῦ μένει ἐν ὑμῖν, καὶ οὐ χρείαν ἔχετε ἵνα τις διδάσκῃ ὑμᾶς·
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Re: Converting a noun into an adjective ?

Postby Victor » Sun Aug 24, 2014 2:20 pm

Isaac Newton wrote:What can "god" (with a small "G") possibly mean if not "a god" or "a divine thing" ?

"God", as already stated:
mwh wrote:What he actually says is simply “god” (“God” if you prefer).
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Re: Converting a noun into an adjective ?

Postby Isaac Newton » Sun Aug 24, 2014 5:16 pm

Victor wrote:
Isaac Newton wrote:What can "god" (with a small "G") possibly mean if not "a god" or "a divine thing" ?

"God", as already stated:
mwh wrote:What he actually says is simply “god” (“God” if you prefer).


But this leads either to linguistic nonsense or else to Modalism. Certainly, Trinitarianism is discounted by such an understanding, and such a translation. You don't have to take it from me of course. Here's Daniel Wallace;

3tn Or “and what God was the Word was.” Colwell’s Rule is often invoked to support the translation of θεός (qeos) as definite (“God”) rather than indefinite (“a god”) here. However, Colwell’s Rule merely permits, but does not demand, that a predicate nominative ahead of an equative verb be translated as definite rather than indefinite. Furthermore, Colwell’s Rule did not deal with a third possibility, that the anarthrous predicate noun may have more of a qualitative nuance when placed ahead of the verb. A definite meaning for the term is reflected in the traditional rendering “the word was God.” From a technical standpoint, though, it is preferable to see a qualitative aspect to anarthrous θεός in John 1:1c (ExSyn 266-69). Translations like the NEB, REB, and Moffatt are helpful in capturing the sense in John 1:1c, that the Word was fully deity in essence (just as much God as God the Father). However, in contemporary English “the Word was divine” (Moffatt) does not quite catch the meaning since “divine” as a descriptive term is not used in contemporary English exclusively of God. The translation “what God was the Word was” is perhaps the most nuanced rendering, conveying that everything God was in essence, the Word was too. This points to unity of essence between the Father and the Son without equating the persons. However, in surveying a number of native speakers of English, some of whom had formal theological training and some of whom did not, the editors concluded that the fine distinctions indicated by “what God was the Word was” would not be understood by many contemporary readers. Thus the translation “the Word was fully God” was chosen because it is more likely to convey the meaning to the average English reader that the Logos (which “became flesh and took up residence among us” in John 1:14 and is thereafter identified in the Fourth Gospel as Jesus) is one in essence with God the Father. The previous phrase, “the Word was with God,” shows that the Logos is distinct in person from God the Father.
καὶ ὑμεῖς τὸ χρῖσμα ὃ ἐλάβετε ἀπ’ αὐτοῦ μένει ἐν ὑμῖν, καὶ οὐ χρείαν ἔχετε ἵνα τις διδάσκῃ ὑμᾶς·
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Re: Converting a noun into an adjective ?

Postby Victor » Sun Aug 24, 2014 6:53 pm

Isaac Newton wrote:But this leads either to linguistic nonsense or else to Modalism. Certainly, Trinitarianism is discounted by such an understanding, and such a translation. You don't have to take it from me of course.

I'm afraid its tendency to nonesense is entirely a product of the collective failure of theists to agree on a coherent definition of "God". Without a coherent definition of "God" there is no proposition to either verify or falsify, and therefore your objection to the casual interchange by others of "God" and "god" has no ground to stand on but that of your own arbitrary theological constructs, or those borrowed from others.

When all's said and done, it's futile trying to counter an ignostic (sic) viewpoint by pointing out that "God" and "god" should not be used interchangeably or that doing so smacks of Modalism or conflicts with Trinitarianism. Doubtless you'll see an equal futility in others' efforts to counter a theistic viewpoint with an igtheistic one. Experience tells me that all too often this is indeed an exercise in futility.
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Re: Converting a noun into an adjective ?

Postby mwh » Sun Aug 24, 2014 6:57 pm

So here we go again. Before anyone else gets sucked (suckered?) into this discussion, I would recommend a look at Isaac Newton’s previous thread on this, “An inspection of John 1:1,” viewtopic.php?f=23&t=60130, or indeed at any of his previous threads. That will give a taste of what you’re in for, or you will be in for if you choose to engage, as I do not.

Lasciate ogni speranza, voi ch'entrate. This is a public service announcement.
Last edited by mwh on Sun Aug 24, 2014 7:02 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Converting a noun into an adjective ?

Postby uberdwayne » Sun Aug 24, 2014 7:02 pm

So here we go again. Before anyone else gets sucked (suckered?) into this discussion, I would recommend a look at Isaac Newton’s previous thread on this, “An inspection of John 1:1,” viewtopic.php?f=23&t=60130, or indeed at any of his previous threads. That will give a taste of what you’re in for, or you will be in for if you choose to engage, as I do not.

This is a public service announcement.


I second Michael's post!
μείζων ἐστὶν ὁ ἐν ὑμῖν ἢ ὁ ἐν τῷ κόσμῳ
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Re: Converting a noun into an adjective ?

Postby Isaac Newton » Sun Aug 24, 2014 11:58 pm

Thanks for your contributions to this thread, Uberdwane and mwh. Blessings to you both..

In peace,
καὶ ὑμεῖς τὸ χρῖσμα ὃ ἐλάβετε ἀπ’ αὐτοῦ μένει ἐν ὑμῖν, καὶ οὐ χρείαν ἔχετε ἵνα τις διδάσκῃ ὑμᾶς·
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Re: Converting a noun into an adjective ?

Postby jaihare » Thu Sep 11, 2014 9:46 am

What about the following sentences:

I speak the truth.
I speak truly.
I speak true things.

Is there a distinction in Greek?

τὸ ἀληθὲς λέγω.
ἀληθῶς/ἀληθινῶς λέγω.
τὰ ἀληθῆ (or, τἀληθῆ) λέγω.

Is there really a conceptual difference here?
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Re: Converting a noun into an adjective ?

Postby Markos » Thu Sep 11, 2014 9:22 pm

jaihare wrote:What about the following sentences:

I speak the truth.
I speak truly.
I speak true things.

Is there a distinction in Greek?

τὸ ἀληθὲς λέγω.
ἀληθῶς/ἀληθινῶς λέγω.
τὰ ἀληθῆ (or, τἀληθῆ) λέγω.

Is there really a conceptual difference here?

There is a difference in form. There is a difference in sound. There may be a difference in feel. I do not believe there is a difference in meaning.

Or, a better way to look at it, is to ask 100 fluent English speakers what the semantic difference is in your English sentences. 50 people will say there is no difference. The other 50 will explain the differences in 50 different ways. I think the same would apply to Ancient Greek, which is one reason I trend towards semantic minimalism.
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Re: Converting a noun into an adjective ?

Postby Isaac Newton » Sun Sep 14, 2014 10:44 pm

jaihare wrote:What about the following sentences:

I speak the truth.
I speak truly.
I speak true things.

Is there a distinction in Greek?

τὸ ἀληθὲς λέγω.
ἀληθῶς/ἀληθινῶς λέγω.
τὰ ἀληθῆ (or, τἀληθῆ) λέγω.

Is there really a conceptual difference here?


No, but then again this is a false analogy. ...Look at this :

ὁ λόγος ἦν πρὸς τὴν ἀλήθειαν , καὶ ἀλήθεια ἦν ὁ λόγος


Now do your experiment again with this and see if there is not a difference in meaning, especially if you're approaching the text with an eternally existing "Divine person" in mind with ὁ λόγος... :)
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Re: Converting a noun into an adjective ?

Postby mwh » Mon Sep 15, 2014 12:23 am

ω φιλε Μαρκε,
Amicus Marcus sed magis amica veritas.

I’ve resisted many earlier opportunities to take issue with your “semantic minimalism,” but it can’t be allowed to go unchallenged any longer. We agree, of course, that meaning is contingent: the meaning of a given utterance will vary according to the circumstances under which it's issued and received. J.L. Austin taught us that. Context is all: we have both said that.

But not literally all. There are the words themselves. “Call me Ishmael” could carry quite a variety of meanings in various contexts, but what you might be content to call its “basic” meaning is stable and definable in grammatical terms. Try going around saying it to people and noone will misunderstand what you have said, though they might not know quite what you mean by it.

Try going around saying “I speak true things” and people will think you’re mad. In other words the English sentences jaihare offered will not all communicate the same thing, regardless of the locutionary context. And nor will the Greek. And we should stick with the Greek, since English translations can be no better than approximate, and English analogies will likely be false.

50 out of 100 ancient Athenians, having chastized your impertinence, might have told you there’s no difference between το αληθες λεγω and τα αληθη λεγω. But you could have proved them wrong, by pointing out that the circumstances under which they would say the one were not always identical with the circumstances under which they would say the other. If the difference can’t well be rendered in English, that’s not to say there is none. (I think that’s one of the traps you fall into.)

When it comes to θεος and θειος, no more than 1% of any ancient Greeks you polled would say they mean the same thing, and any who did would be wrong. The rest would tell you (if they had the patience: it would be wearing thin by now) that any number of things can be described as θειος, but nothing is a god but a god. And if you replied “Well, I’m a semantic minimalist, and I happen not to believe that. I think it is better to abandon the distinction between noun and adjective and to view both θεός as θεῖος as substantives which pretty much mean the same thing" they might (if they didn’t just box your ears) invite you to look at the tens of thousands of occurrences of θεος in their literature and challenge you to find one where θειος or θειον or το θειον could be substituted without affecting the meaning.

Adjectives can of course be “converted” into quasi-nouns by the article: ὁ χριστός, τὸ καλόν, “the poor.” But nouns can’t be converted into adjectives, or not without changing their morphology. (That's not true in English, but it is in Greek.)

In short, I submit that grammar and word choice make more semantic difference than you like to imagine. Examples previously touched on in other threads include aor.:impf. indicatives, aor.:pres. infinitives, and many more. Just because you can’t see a difference in any given instance doesn’t mean that there isn’t one. — You can of course retort that just because I can doesn’t mean there is. :D

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Re: Converting a noun into an adjective ?

Postby Markos » Mon Sep 15, 2014 1:35 am

Hi, Michael.
mwh wrote:I’ve resisted many earlier opportunities to take issue with your “semantic minimalism,” but it can’t be allowed to go unchallenged any longer...If the difference can’t well be rendered in English, that’s not to say there is none...

Actually, I think here we can agree. For example:
Romans 9:1: Ἀλήθειαν λέγω ἐν Χριστῷ, οὐ ψεύδομαι...

I would say that if Paul had instead written λέγω ἀληθῶς or ἀληθῆ λέγω, there would have been a difference, but that that difference cannot be rendered well in English. That in essence is semantic minimalism.
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Re: Converting a noun into an adjective ?

Postby Markos » Mon Sep 15, 2014 7:28 pm

Isaac Newton wrote:No, but then again this is a false analogy. ...Look at this :

ὁ λόγος ἦν πρὸς τὴν ἀλήθειαν , καὶ ἀλήθεια ἦν ὁ λόγος


Now do your experiment again with this and see if there is not a difference in meaning, especially if you're approaching the text with an eternally existing "Divine person" in mind with ὁ λόγος... :)

My sense is that anarthrous θεός, when the context supports it, can indeed function as a type of adjective. (What I mean is, that is one meta-language way to look at it.) I remain convinced that it does so in John 1:1c. ἀλήθεια doesn't work that way. I think only a few Greek nouns do.
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Re: Converting a noun into an adjective ?

Postby Isaac Newton » Mon Sep 15, 2014 10:38 pm

Hi Markos,

Markos wrote:
Isaac Newton wrote:No, but then again this is a false analogy. ...Look at this :

ὁ λόγος ἦν πρὸς τὴν ἀλήθειαν , καὶ ἀλήθεια ἦν ὁ λόγος


Now do your experiment again with this and see if there is not a difference in meaning, especially if you're approaching the text with an eternally existing "Divine person" in mind with ὁ λόγος... :)

My sense is that anarthrous θεός, when the context supports it, can indeed function as a type of adjective. (What I mean is, that is one meta-language way to look at it.) I remain convinced that it does so in John 1:1c.


If it does, then it's the only place in the GNT where it (θεός) is "only qualitative, to the exclusion of a definite or indefinite sense", which seems to me to be a rather self-serving position -- Petitio Principii.

ἀλήθεια doesn't work that way. I think only a few Greek nouns do.


How do you determine this ?
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