Sunday, November 6, 2011

Jesus Did Not Look Like This

I, like all of you, did not live to remember having actually seen the man known today as Jesus of Nazareth, nor can I say for a certainty whether the imagery found below likely matches how Jesus really, distinctively looked. However, I do have good reasons for believing Jesus did not actually look similar to how we often see him presented by others, that is, as an otherwise appealing or strong and healthy looking adult male. Before I explain why I believe this, consider the following fairly popular depictions of how Jesus is seen by many:

The reality is, it is not possible to compare these or other, similar images or depictions with the actual, physical appearance of the one who came in the name of the God called "Jah," "Jehovah," and more recently but for good reasons, "Jaho(h)-ah" (Deuteronomy 18:18-19; John 5:43; 10:25; 14:24, 31). However, in the writings of Isaiah, writings which in many places speak of the same person or of one very similar to Jesus, we read of one who would come not to "judge according to the exterior appearance that is seen by his eyes" (or 'by what he hears') but by what he knows for better (the best) reasons is "right" or "true" (Isaiah 11:3-4). Yet, like pictures or depictions of someone else what is "right" is often difficult to determine according to what others merely 'see' or 'hear.' Rather, ultimately, what is true can only be truly known by searching inside our heart, or by knowing our intentions which are manifest by our actions and by whether we change or remain the same over time.

Where it concerns the true physical appearance of Jesus of Nazareth, this is how he may have actually looked according to descriptive visions given to and seen by Isaiah:

Translation of the Hebrew Text of Isaiah 52:13-53:12

52:13:   Behold! My servant will carefully consider things. He will be raised up; and he will be lifted up
             high; and he will be glorified to a great extent.

52:14:  [now speaking to this “servant” in the second and third person:] It is as if they were appalled over
            you very much, for your disfigurement is because of man, and his form and appearance because 
            of the sons of men.

52:15:  Thus, he will sprinkle many nations with his blood [“with his blood” is implied by association with 
            the verb for “sprinkle” used in the first part of the verse]. On his account, kings will shut their 
            mouths. Because that which they had not considered they will have seen, and that which they did 
            not hear they will have understood. 

53:1:   Who has believed where it concerns our report? And on account of whom has the arm of Jaho(h)-
            ah been shown?

53:2:   And he will grow up like the young plant grows toward its top soil, and like the root grows 
           away from the dry ground. No unique form or glory belongs to him, and we will see him 
           but not with an appearance so that we will desire him.

53:3:   Despised and left alone by men, a man of sorrows and made to know sickness, despised like when 
           people hide their faces, and we have not held him in high regard.

53:4:   Truly our sicknesses he himself has removed, and our sorrows he has carried, 
            and  we ourselves considered him as one afflicted by God and disciplined.

53:5:   But he was pierced through because of our errors, badly beaten because of our guilt, punishment for 
           the sake of our security came to be upon him, and by his pain we have been healed.

53:6:   We have all wandered away like a flock of sheep, like a man to his own road we have turned
            away. But Jaho(h)-ah has caused all of our guilt to meet up with him.

53:7:   He himself was treated severely and put down by others, yet he does not open his mouth. He is
           carried along like the one among a flock of sheep taken to be slaughtered. Yet, like a quiet sheep
           that is about to be sheered he will not open his mouth.

53:8:   Because of coercion and because of judgment he was taken away, and as for his generation who
           will consider it, for he has been cut off from the land of the living because of the error of my
           people, those to whom the mark of death truly belongs.

53:9:   And his grave will be set up alongside criminals and with the wealthy at his death, though he had
           done nothing wrong and there was no deceit in his mouth.

53:10:  Jaho(h)-ah desired to break him down, to make him weak. If he will serve as compensation, then 
            his soul will see the fruit of his sacrifice. His days will continue, and the desire of Jaho(h)-ah he 
            will advance with his hand.

53:11:  Due to the burden of his soul, he will see; he will be satisfied with what he knows. My servant, 
            the righteous one, he will justify many, when he himself carries their guilt.

53:12:  And so I will give him a share along with great ones, and with mighty ones he will divide up great 
            wealth, for he has emptied his soul all the way to death. He has been counted among those who sin, 
            but he has carried  away the sins of many, and he will stand up for those who sin. 

The primary areas of physical description seen here by Isaiah are underlined. The above translation of Isaiah 52:13-53:12 is from my pending Elihu Online Paper 4, "The 'Glory' "Seen" by Isaiah According to John 12:41." The above translations, I believe, accurately represent pre-Christian, Jewish prophetic texts written by one truly named "Isaiah" and to whom the God Jah spoke, at least in part, through the well-attested book bearing his name, a book which describes the actual, physical appearance of the one whom Christians believe to be further known as Jesus of Nazareth. 

Though not likely very glorious in his appearance in "the flesh," Jesus was said to be "lifted up and glorified" in a much different but, in the end (and certainly afterward) a much better way than we often "see" with our physical or even with our mind's eyes (Isaiah 52:13; John 1:14; 3:14; 12:32-41). It is best, therefore, if we do not think of Jesus only in terms of what we would like to think may have been his true physical form, but instead recognize that what matters most is not what Jesus looked like but what he taught and, more important still, what he did to glorify the God of Moses.—John 5:41-44; 7:18-19; 17:4; Philippians 2:5-11.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Bart D. Ehrman, Daniel B. Wallace, and the Syntax and Meaning of John 1:18

On February 25, 2004, Professor Daniel B. Wallace of Dallas Theological Seminary posted an article online titled, “The Text and Grammar of John 1:18” (link [last accessed October 27, 2011]).

In his online article, Wallace takes issue primarily with a specific syntactical observation and argument made in 1993 by Professor Bart D. Ehrman. Prior to expressing his specific syntactical point in relation to the grammar of John 1:18, Ehrman noted the difficulty for those (presumably Trinitarians [= “orthodox”]) who favor the variant for John 1:18 that has theos (“a god” or “G/god”) instead of huios (“a son” or “S/son”), or no substantive (noun) used at all after the adjective monogenēs (“only-begotten”/“unique”).[1] Ehrman wrote (with my bracketed words added):

By definition there can be only one [monogenēs]: the word means “unique,” “one of a kind” [and, “only-begotten,” contrary to Ehrman’s acceptance of Dale Moody’s arguments (see discussion in my note 2)]. The problem, of course, is that Jesus can be the unique God only if there is no other God; but for the Fourth Gospel, the Father is God as well. Indeed, even in this passage the [monogenēs] is said to reside in the bosom of the Father. How can the [monogenēs theos], the unique God, stand in such a relationship to (another) God?[2]

In answer to Ehrman’s last question, see Chapter 2, “‘One God, the Father,’” in my Third Edition of Jehovah’s Witnesses Defended, in which the biblical concept of monotheism, inclusive of God the Father and his divine “S/sons,” is explained and defended against the Trinitarian concept of “God.” Here in this article I will concentrate primarily on the syntactical argument presented in Ehrman’s Orthodox Corruption of Scripture, and with which Wallace takes issue in his “Text and Grammar of John 1:18” article.

After Ehrman presents what I have quoted from him above as a problem for those who favor the reading of John 1:18 which uses “G/god” instead of “S/son,” Ehrman refers to a grammatical position favored by those who, though accepting the reading which uses “G/god” after monogenēs (“only-begotten”/“unique”), do not consider it to be a problem since they “understand the adjective [monogenēs] substantively,” with the resulting translation being along the lines of, “the unique one, who is also God, who is in the bosom of the Father.”[3] By “substantively,” as can be seen also from the sample translation given by Ehrman for those who view monogenēs in this way, Ehrman means that those who accept the reading which calls the Word “G/god” in John 1:18 understand the term preceding theos (namely, monogenēs) to be used as a noun with the meaning, “the unique one.”

This view of monogenēs functioning as a noun[4] is, according to Ehrman, a “more common expedient for those who opt for” the reading which uses theos (“G/god”) instead of huios (“S/son”) after monogenēs. Though Ehrman sees “something attractive about the proposal,” he concludes, “Nonetheless, the solution [= understanding monogenēs as a noun meaning “unique one” rather than as an adjective qualifying theos as in “unique G/god”] is entirely implausible.”[5]

Ehrman then gives reasons for his view, the primary one of which (for the purpose of this article’s consideration of the syntactical point taken up by Wallace, in his online article) is stated in this way (with my underlining and bracketed words added):

[A] moment’s reflection shows that the proposed construal is not at all the most natural. It is true that [monogenēs] can elsewhere be used as a substantive (= the unique one, as in v. 14); all adjectives can. But the proponents of this view have failed to consider that it is never used in this way when it is immediately followed by a noun that agrees with it in gender, number, and case. Indeed one must here press the syntactical point: when is an adjective ever used substantivally when it immediately precedes a noun of the same inflection? No Greek reader would construe such a construction as a string of substantives, and no Greek writer would create such an inconcinnity [= unsuitableness in writing]. To the best of my knowledge, no one has cited anything analogous outside of this passage. The result is that taking the term [monogenēs theos] as two substantives standing in apposition makes for a nearly impossible syntax, whereas construing their relationship as adjective-noun [= “unique/only-begotten G/god”] creates an impossible sense.[6]

The “impossible sense” which Ehrman believes results from “unique/only-begotten G/god” is really due to Ehrman’s lack of recognition for what is biblical monotheism and how the Word can, in fact, truthfully and consistently be “a” or even the “unique/only-begotten god,” in light of biblical and associated literature’s presentation of God’s “sons” as “gods” who serve but who do not rival him, even acting as if they are God because they only do Jah God’s will (see Judges 13:3-22 [compare Judges 6:22-23]; Job 38:7; Psalm 8:5; 82:6; 96:7; 138:1; John 1:1; 5:30; 6:38; 7:16-18; 8:28; 12:48-50; 10:33-36).[7] However, Ehrman does not understand John 1:18 in the light of these and other, similar texts, and because Ehrman believes “taking the term [monogenēs theos] as two substantives standing in apposition [as in ‘a unique one, G/god’] makes for a nearly impossible syntax,” Ehrman prefers the reading monogenēs huios (“unique Son”).[8] 

Returning to the “nearly impossible syntax” Ehrman writes about when it comes to those who view monogenēs theos “as a string of substantives” (= “the unique one, who is God/a god”), in his online article (“The Text and Grammar of John 1:18”) Wallace attempts to answer Ehrman’s challenge first by referring to Ehrman’s syntactical argument and then by claiming it “assumes that [monogenēs] cannot normally be substantival [= used as a noun rather than as an adjective modifying another noun], even though it is so used in [John 1:]14—as he [Ehrman] admits.”

Yet, the use of monogenēs in John 1:14 is not the same use we find in John 1:18, namely, to quote Ehrman’s argument, “when it [monogenēs] is immediately followed by a noun that agrees with it in gender, number, and case.” The use of monogenēs in John 1:14 as a substantive (= “the only-begotten/unique one”) thus stands in contrast to the use of the same term in verse 18 where it is not used apart from an immediately following noun with which it is in grammatical agreement. This difference, in fact, cannot help but suggest that there is indeed a different use of the same term in verse 18 (namely, as an adjective modifying the following noun) than there is in verse 14.

John 1:14 is only the first of many non-parallels cited by Wallace in an attempt to refute Ehrman’s syntactical argument about the use of monogenēs in John 1:18. Indeed, after wrongly paralleling the clear substantival use of monogenēs in John 1:14 with Ehrman’s syntactical argument for monogenēs and an immediately following noun in John 1:18, Wallace proceeds to cite eleven (11) examples which he admits (and which can be shown plainly) are “not exactly the same.” Why, then, cite these examples, at all? The reason appears to be to broaden what Wallace hopes will in some sense be seen as a more significant number of exceptions to Ehrman’s point, even if they are “not exactly the same.”

Ehrman’s syntactical argument is clear in light of his question from my quotation of Ehrman above and from Wallace’s quotation of the same, namely, “[W]hen is an adjective ever used substantivally when it immediately precedes a noun of the same inflection?” Yet, Wallace first cites Romans 10:19, which uses prōtos Mōusēs, and where prōtos is not “used as a substantive” (Ehrman), though Wallace claims it “fits into the ‘impossible’ category that Ehrman says does not exist”! In fact, it has nothing to do with the specific syntactical “category” Ehrman objects to, namely, “two substantives standing in apposition,” that is, where one substantive further defines the other (as in Romans 1:1, Paulos doulos, “Paul, a slave”).

Wallace next cites 1 Corinthians 5:10 which he admits is “not exactly a parallel,” but which he then claims is “awfully close.” We are not playing horse shoes, nor are we on a battlefield with hand grenades (thankfully), and so “close” or even “awfully close” does not count for much if anything. It is strange, indeed, for me to find Wallace, one who has made so much out of precise syntactical parallels, such as when it comes to the Granville Sharp rule, would be more precise with his examples, examples which if they include John 1:18 then they would not contain several clear uses of substantives separated by conjunctions, substantives which are not immediately followed by a noun in the same gender, number, and case.[9]

Next under his “Similar Structural Parallel” category listing, Wallace cites 1 Corinthians 6:9 which again does not parallel Ehrman’s point, nor does Wallace’s citation of 1 Corinthians 9:6, for in neither do we have “two substantives standing in apposition,” where the “adjective [is] used substantivally when it immediately precedes a noun of the same inflection.” Wallace next cites 1 Corinthians 12:29, which does use the pronominal adjective pantes (“all”) several times and where each time it is followed immediately by a substantive in grammatical agreement. But as Wallace also notes here pantes is used in predicate relation (for example, “not all are apostles”) to the immediately following substantives; not one instance in this text has what Ehrman has put forth as part of his syntactical point, namely, “two substantives standing in apposition.”

Wallace’s next three ‘similar parallels’ (1 Corinthians 4:24; 2 Corinthians 3:3; Ephesians 5:5) are all not parallel to Ehrman’s argument, as in each example conjunctions again separate the terms. For the same reason, Wallace’s citation of 1 Timothy 1:13 is also invalid. The two other examples cited under Wallace’s “Category 1: Similar Structural Parallels” are more significant, at least for Wallace, since he places asterisks (* and **) next to each one because Wallace believes these “are [among] the clearest examples that invalidate Ehrman’s absolute rule.” Yet, how can that be the case when to invalidate Ehrman’s position we must have examples of adjectives “used substantivally” when they immediately precede a noun of the same inflection and where they are “standing in apposition”?

Indeed, the two asterisked examples Wallace here cites (Colossians 1:2 and Hebrews 9:24) are not parallel in critical syntactical areas, for in the latter (Hebrews 9:24) the noun for “Christ” separates hagia (“holy place”) from antitypa (“a type”), and in the former (Colossians 1:2) we not only have a conjunction separating the terms (hagios is separated from pistois adelphois by kai), but in the final part of Wallace’s example we have the very syntactical relationship argued for by Ehrman in relation to John 1:18, “faithful brothers” (pistois adelphois”).

Now I will consider Wallace’s “Category 2: Identical Structural Parallel” examples, of which Wallace’s very first example again fails to parallel “Ehrman’s absolute rule,” namely, John 6:70, where we have a pronominal adjective in heis (“one”) followed by what we can consider a substantival use in the adjective diabolos. Here again the terms are in predicate relation to each other (“one ... is [estin] a slanderer”); they are not “two substantives standing in apposition.” Wallace’s second example is Romans 1:30 (see also the end of verse 29 and verse 31), next to which Wallace again puts an asterisk, meaning he considers it one of the “clearest examples that invalidate Ehrman’s absolute rule.”

But in this example we have a string of plural nouns and adjectives used as nouns. Because they are all plurals, even according to Wallace[10] we may be (and, in fact, we are) dealing with different groups, even if they are related in some sense, which suggests the nouns and adjectives used here as nouns are, again, not in apposition to each other; rather, they constitute a series of different types of people without one necessarily defining the other as we would have in monogenēs theos if there were “two substantives standing in apposition.” The same is true for Wallace’s citation of 1 Timothy 1:9, which also uses plurals in a similar series of related but different types of people and here, too, as Wallace admits, bebēlois (“profane”) “does not modify” the immediately following term patrolōias (“father-killer”). Rather, it is connected with the preceding plural term, which also does not immediately precede it, but which is separated from and connected to it by a conjunction (kai). Therefore, these texts also do not fit Ehrman’s “absolute rule.”

Wallace’s next example is Galatians 3:9 and it is also asterisked. The Greek is i pistōi Abraam, which seems quite naturally to mean “faithful Abraham,” showing an attributive relationship between the noun “Abraham” and the adjective “faithful,” which is precisely what Ehrman’s “rule” would also indicate! Yet, Wallace quotes the NASB and the NRSV translations which render this as, “with Abraham, the believer” and “Abraham who believed,” respectively. Wallace does not object to these two translations, necessarily, writing, “Regardless of how it is translated, here is an adjective wedged between an article and a noun that is functioning substantivally, in apposition to the noun.”

Regardless of how it is translated”? What if we translate it as I have done, “faithful Abraham”? This would not be “two substantives standing in apposition.” Indeed, here we also have the article preceding the adjective-noun construction and, according to Wallace’s earlier paper on the subject of the relation between adjectives and nouns in anarthrous construction, “With few exceptions, the article, when present, completely solves the problem.”[11] Why, then, should we not here in Galatians 3:9 have in translation the answer to the very same syntactical question about the relation between adjective and noun? To quote Wallace again, “When the construction is article-adjective-noun ... the adjective is both in attributive position and attributive relation to the noun,” meaning the “attributive adjective modifies, restricts, or qualifies the substantive.”[12]

In fact, digressing from Wallace’s “Category 2” examples for a moment, if we take from his “Relation of Adjective to Noun” article the “further [method of] validation,” that is, by examining variant readings for our subject text (John 1:18) “to see if the presence of the article in some [manuscripts] might define the relation of adjective to noun,”[13] we see that apart from the variants involved with what may follow monogenēs, only the presence or absence of the article  immediately before the adjective-noun (monogenēs theos) construction represents a legitimate textual question. If we accept the presence of the article (as in P75 [original and by the corrector], A, in the corrected copy of a, and other manuscripts [see references in note 1]) then the question of the adjective’s relation to the noun in John 1:18, similarly, ‘completely solves the problem.’ Even without the article the adjective’s relation to the noun in most constructions is clearly attributive.[14]

Returning to Wallace’s alleged “Identical Structural Parallels,” he next cites and asterisks Ephesians 2:20. Yet, Wallace writes only that the subject adjective (akrogōniaiou) “seems to be functioning substantivally here,” noting also that “it could possibly be a predicate adjective,” and yet it is either that or an adjective used as a noun, but in either case the predicate part of the clause: The participle form of eimi (ontos, “being”) is used with “Jesus Christ himself” (autou Christou Iēsou) as the subject and akrogōniaiou (“cornerstone”) as the predicate. One thing is for sure, we do not here in Ephesians 2:20 have “two [or even three] substantives standing in apposition,” but used in predicate relation with an expressed form of eimi, similar to what we have in John 6:70.

Next Wallace cites 2 Timothy 3:2 in his “Category 2” (but without an asterisk), though here again we do not have a parallel to Ehrman’s “absolute rule.” Wallace appears to realize this, writing as he does that “it could be said that the adjectives ... refer back to the subject mentioned earlier.” Indeed, the subject of 2 Timothy 3:2 is “men” (hoi anthrōpoi) with the future, indicative, plural form of the verb eimi, and with the terms which then follow the subject as the predicate. So we again have a series of predicate adjectives and nouns, not “two [or more] substantives standing in apposition” in a manner similar to what Ehrman argues for in relation to monogenēs theos in John 1:18. Similarly, in Titus 1:10 polloi (“many”) is the subject, eisin (“are”) is the verb, and the terms following polloi are the predicate nouns and adjectives, “For many are disobedient, meaningless talkers and liars.”

Wallace’s own final two examples (after which he cites several others from the Th.M. thesis of Stratton Ladewig [see my discussion of these examples below]) are asterisked. The first is from 1 Peter 1:1, where we have eklektois parepidēmois, a dative plural, for which there is no apparent reason (and none given by Wallace) to take it as meaning anything but “to chosen refugees,” and so we have yet again another instance of the very syntax and resulting attributive relation and meaning argued for by Ehrman in relation to John 1:18: “chosen” modifies “refugees” as an adjective. Wallace tries to separate the terms into two substantives by placing a comma after first term (= “the elect, sojourners), and yet, again, Wallace offers no reason for viewing the relation between the two as anything but adjective-noun, the most natural way of construing their relationship even according to Wallace.[15]

Wallace’s last example (apart from those to be considered below from Stratton) is interesting, at least in terms of how Wallace views and explains it. Note what Wallace writes after citing the Greek text of 2 Peter 2:5 and then after translating it as (with all bracketed words original to Wallace, but with my underlining), “did not spare [the world], but [preserved] an eighth, Noah, a preacher of righteousness”:

The adjective “eighth” stands in apposition to Noah; otherwise, if it modified Noah, the force would be “an eighth Noah’ as though there were seven other Noahs!

The Greek ordinal ogdoos (“eighth”) is used idiomatically just as it is in Classical Greek,[16] not “in apposition” in the regular sense to “Noah,” that is, in the manner which Wallace describes apart from consideration of Greek idioms for numerals, nor does it ‘modify Noah.’ Rather, it refers to the number of people whom God preserved alive, one of whom is Noah. Otherwise, if we translate 2 Peter 2:5 as, “and he [God] did not spare an ancient world but protected an eighth, Noah, a preacher of righteousness,” then it would mean God only protected the eighth, not eight total people, and yet we know the biblical tradition on which 2 Peter here relies indicates it was more than the “eighth” alone whom God protected from the flood.—Genesis 8:18.

Undoubtedly, this is the very reason the sense of ‘eight people’ is found in most translations, but rendered in accordance with the Greek idiom for numerals here used. Consider the following English translations (with my underlining added):

NASB: ... but preserved Noah, a preacher of righteousness, with seven others”;

NIV: ... but protected Noah, a preacher of righteousness, and seven others”;

NRSV: ... even though he saved Noah, a herald of righteousness, with seven others”;

NJB: ... he saved only Noah, the preacher of uprightness, along with seven others”;

ESV: ...  but preserved Noah, a herald of righteousness, with seven others.”

Wallace has not fully considered the use of ogdoos in 2 Peter 2:5, and he has not provided one single exception to “Ehrman’s absolute rule” as expressed by Ehrman in relation to John 1:18. This leaves only the three examples Wallace cites near the end of his “The Text and Grammar of John 1:18” from the Th.M. thesis of Dallas Theological Seminary doctoral student Stratton Ladewig, namely, Luke 14:13, 18:11, and Acts 2:5.

Wallace offers no comment on any of these examples in his article. But in Luke 14:13 we do not have “two [or more] substantives standing in apposition.” Rather, we have another series of plural substantives, not in apposition, but listed for specific, different, but related groups, “the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind,” unless we are going to believe all of these are persons having the same handicaps. This is not indicated by the text or by common sense for each term when it comes to the types of people in view here, that is, those who might be invited among all those suffering from different ailments or disabilities.

We have the same situation in Luke 18:11, where there is another listing of plural substantives, not in apposition, but listed for specific, different, but related groups of “other men” (hoi loipoi tōn anthrōpōn), namely, those who are “greedy, dishonest, adulterers.” Also listed after these plural terms is the specific “tax collector” (ho telōnēs) praying to God in comparison to the Pharisee who is here praying self-righteously. Otherwise, we would have to argue the “greedy” people mentioned here are also all “adulterers.”

The final example in Acts 2:5 appears once again clearly to involve attributive terms in an adjective-noun-adjective syntactical relation (Ioudaioi andres eulabeis), “devout Jewish men,” similar to Mark 12:42 (mia chēra ptōchē), “one poor widow.”[17] And so Wallace and Stratton have failed to provide even one clear counter-example which invalidates Ehrman’s syntactical argument about what must otherwise be considered a highly likely attributive relationship between monogenēs and theos in John 1:18.

Wallace concludes his “Text and Grammar of John 1:18” article by claiming that Ehrman, apart from his “absolute rule,” provides sufficient contextual indicators to show that monogenēs is, in fact, “functioning substantivally” in John 1:18, namely, by Ehrman’s admission/belief that 1) it is “unthinkable that the Word could become the unique God,” and 2) Ehrman’s acceptance of the use of monogenēs as a substantive in John 1:14.

Quite the contrary on both points, indicating a separate, “unique” or “only-begotten G/god” in John 1:18 is the only way to maintain consistency with the theology of John 1:1 and with the theology of the rest of the biblical tradition concerning the “one God” and his divine “S/sons” (see my note 7). 

The use of monogenēs in John 1:14, where it is not “immediately followed by a noun that agrees with it in gender, number, and case,” in comparison with monogenēs in John 1:18 where it is “immediately followed by a noun that agrees with it in gender, number, and case,” strongly suggests based the best available syntactical and contextual evidence that monogenēs is in the latter case used as an adjective modifying the noun theos, the best-attested and arguable textual variant, with the resulting translation and meaning, “an/the only-begotten/unique G/god” who came to show us and to thereby also make known “one God, the Father.”—John 1:18; 14:24; 8:54; John 20:17; 1 Corinthians 8:6.


[1] For a listing of some of the primary variant readings for this part of John 1:18, see pages 334-335 of my Jehovah’s Witnesses Defended: An Answer to Scholars and Critics, Third Edition (Murrieta, CA: Elihu Books, 2009). See also the listing of variants in Reuben Swanson, New Testament Greek Manuscripts: John (Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 1995), page 8.

[2] Bart D. Ehrman, The Orthodox Corruption of Scripture: The Effect of Early Christological Controversies on the Text of the New Testament (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1993), page 80. For more on the meaning of monogenēs as “only-begotten,” see my Jehovah’s Witnesses Defended, Third Edition, pages 335-345. In my discussion of the meaning of monogenēs I primarily address the arguments of Gerard Pendrick, “ΜΟΝΟΓΕΝΗΣ,” NTS 41 (1995), pages 587-600, whose study is far more recent and extensive in its discussion than that of Dale Moody (“God the Only Son: The Translation of John 316 in the Revised Standard Version,” Journal of Biblical Literature 72.4 [December, 1953], pages 213-219). Moody’s arguments against the meaning of “only-begotten” for monogenēs, which Ehrman finds ‘convincing’ on “the grounds of etymology and usage (Ehrman, The Orthodox Corruption of Scripture, page 112, note 164), are referenced and considered in relevant part in an article which for some reason Ehrman does not reference or discuss anywhere in his discussion of this text, namely, the article by John V. Dahms, “The Johannine Use of  Monogenēs Reconsidered,” New Testament Studies 29 (1983), pages 222-232, in which Dahms concludes after a fairly thorough review of the evidence:

Apart from the few references discussed above, every occurrence of our term [monogenēs] with respect to persons is in a context in which the idea of descent is either implied or is appropriate. Such phrases as ‘monogenēs brother’ are notably non-existent. ... It seems clear that monogenēs, when used of persons, was always understood to include the idea of generation. This understanding did not have its beginning at the time of the Arian controversy. [Dahms, “The Johannine Use of Monogenēs Reconsidered,” pages 227, 228.]

The lack of citation or even of any reference to Dahms’ article by Ehrman is made more curious by the fact that Ehrman does cite a 1985 article which is more in line with his view from the very same journal in which Dahm’s 1983 article appeared, namely, the article by D.A. Fennema, “John 1.18: ‘God the Only Son,’” New Testament Studies 31 (1985), pages 124-135 (see the citations and discussion of Fennema’s article in Ehrman, The Orthodox Corruption of Scripture, page 112, notes 157, 159, 168, and note 170 on pages 112-113). Equally if not more strange is the fact that Fennema, though writing in the very same journal as Dahms, and two years after Dahms’ article on the very same subject, nowhere discusses or even references Dahms’ article!

[3] Ehrman, The Orthodox Corruption of Scripture, page 81.

[4] When we speak today about “adjectives” and about them functioning as nouns, it must be remembered that this is not exactly how ancient Greeks understood or viewed such terms. See A.T. Robertson, A Grammar of the Greek New Testament in the Light of Historical Research (Nashville, TN: Broadman Press, 1934), pages 270-271, and 650, on which page (650) Robertson writes:

There is no absolute line of cleavage between substantive and adjective either in form or sense. The Alexandrian grammarians had no special treatment of the adjective. ... Indeed it is not difficult to conceive the time when there was no distinct adjective. The substantive would be used in apposition as in English, brother man, church member. Cf. the common use of titles also like doctor, president, governor, etc. This attributive use of the substantive is not a peculiarity of any language, but belongs to Hebrew, Sanskrit, Greek, Latin, English, etc. It is out of this use of the substantive that the adjective as a separate part of speech developed. The adjective is not therefore a mere variation of the genitive, though, like the genitive, it is descriptive. The term noun [onoma] is used to cover both substantive and adjective, but many substantives continue to be used in a descriptive or adjectival sense and many adjectives in a substantival sense. The term adjective covers words of one, two or three genders, and indeed includes numerals and some of the pronouns also.

Therefore, when in 1984 Wallace wrote:

The grammar by Dionysius Thrax, dating to ca. 100 B.C., has a section on the noun as well as a paragraph on the article, but nothing on the adjective or its relation to the noun. Neither does Apollonius Dyscolus, whose grammar is dated ca. A.D. 150, deal specifically with the adjective’s relation to the noun. [Daniel B. Wallace, “The Relation of Adjective to Noun in Anarthrous Constructions in the New Testament,” Novum Testamentum 26.2 (1984), page 1146.]

this should not be surprising, nor should it be considered unusual for these early grammarians not to have specifically commented on the “adjective” as such or “its relation to the noun.”  

[5] Ehrman, The Orthodox Corruption of Scripture, page 81.

[6] Ehrman, The Orthodox Corruption of Scripture, page 81.

[7] Again, see Chapter 2, “‘One God, the Father,’” in my Third Edition of Jehovah’s Witnesses Defended, for an extensive discussion and defense of the biblical concept of monotheism which openly and often presents “one God, the Father” who has many divine “S/sons” who are also “G/gods” because they serve and represent only him and his will to others, rather than rival and oppose him as Satan and others have done to set themselves up as different “G/gods.”

[8] See Ehrman’s conclusion and his resulting understanding of John 1:18 on page 82 of The Orthodox Corruption of Scripture. Yet, as I have shown (see the reference in my note 7) there is nothing “impossible” at all about the sense conveyed in “unique/only-begotten G/god” in a biblical context, particularly in John’s writings in light of John 1:1, which presents two beings who are distinct from each other in terms of theos, not in “persons of theos.” Further, there are numerous reasons to accept theos rather than huios as the correct reading of John 1:18, not the least of which are given by one of the very sources referenced by Ehrman, namely, F.J.A Hort’s 1876 book Two Dissertations, in which Hort writes in part as follows in defense of the reading monogenēs theos:

[Monogenēs theos] is an unique phrase, unlikely to be suggested to a scribe by anything lying on the surface of the context, or by any other passage of Scripture. ...  The always questionable suggestion of dogmatic alteration is peculiarly out of place here. ... Once more, assuming [monogenēs theos] to have obtained a footing in [manuscripts], we cannot suppose that it would gain ground from [ho monogenēs huios (“unique”/“only-begotten S/son”] in transcription, unless we trust modern analogies more than actual evidence. ... The only other possible explanation is pure accident. ... Thus, on grounds of documentary evidence and probabilities of transcription alike, we are irresistibly led to conclude that [monogenēs theos] was the original from which [ho monogenēs huios] and [ho monogenēs] proceeded. More than this no evidence from without can establish: but in a text so amply attested as that of the New Testament we rightly conclude that the most original of extant readings was likewise that of the author himself, unless on full consideration it appears to involve a kind and degree of difficulty such as analogy forbids us to recognise as morally compatible with the author’s intention, or some other peculiar ground of suspicion presents itself. ... It is as inconceivable that [theos] should have been supplied to complete [ho monogenēs] in the second century, with the further omission of the article, as that [ho monogenēs huios] should have been altered to [monogenēs theos]. Nor is the case improved by supporting accidental errors arising out of similarities of letters ... It would be an extraordinary coincidence either that both slips of the pen should take place at the same transcription, though separated by [monogenēs]; or that two corruptions of the same clause should take place at different times, yet both before the earliest attested text of the New Testament. [F.J.A Hort, Two Dissertations (Cambridge and London: Macmillan and Co., 1876), pages 8-12.]

Hort wrote the above without knowing that even earlier (in fact, the earliest) witnesses to this text, P66 and P75 (discovered in the mid-20th century), contain the readings monogenēs theos and ho monogenēs theos, respectively. Remarkably, Ehrman (The Orthodox Corruption of Scripture, page 79) considers these findings of little to no consequence, believing them to be nothing more than what “we already knew” (emphasis Ehrman’s) “must have been preserved in early Greek manuscripts of Alexandria—even before we had access to any of them”!

[9] Compare the following from Wallace, Granville Sharp’s Canon and Its Kin: Semantics and Significance, ed., D.A. Carson, Studies in Biblical Greek, vol. 14 (New York: Peter Lang, 2009), page 282 (with my underlining added):

History is filled with biting ironies. The debate over Sharp’s rule in the past two centuries has revealed one of them. Virtually no statement of the rule with the specific requirements of personal, singular, non-proper nouns, has been made in any major work since the latest edition of Middleton’s Doctrine of the Greek Article in 1841. ... Friend and foe alike have unwittingly abused the canon, with the result that the TSKS construction in dozens of NT passages has been misunderstood.

Yet, Wallace does not hesitate to provide examples which do not conform to the “specific requirements” laid down by Ehrman. A further, true irony is the fact that while Wallace makes so much out of precise syntactical parallels to Sharp’s rule in his writings, he nonetheless fails to consider the very real syntactical differences in most of the christologically significant New Testament texts, as noted in part in my most recent work on the same subject as follows:

[O]f the 79 non-variant examples listed by Wallace in his 2009 publication only 31 appear comparable to me in their use of an indisputable proper name (“Jesus”) in the second position, or in their use of nouns as quasi proper names (“Lord,” “Christ”), or in their use of both a proper name and a quasi proper noun together as compound titles or fixed expressions (such “Christ Jesus,” “Lord Jesus Christ,” and “Savior Jesus Christ”). ... The texts which are most comparable to disputed texts (such as Titus 2:13 and 2 Peter 1:1) include Matthew 12:26; Luke 20:37; John 20:17; Romans 15:6; 1 Corinthians 15:24; 2 Corinthians 1:3 ; 1:21; 11:31; Galatians 1:4; Ephesians 1:3; 5:20; Philippians 4:20; Colossians 1:3; 2:2; 3:17; 1 Thessalonians 1:3; 3:11; 3:13; 1 Timothy 6:13; 6:15; Hebrews 12:2; James 1:27; 3:9; 1 Peter 1:3; 2 Peter 1:11; 2:20; 3:2; 3:18; Jude 4; Revelation 1:6. ... the differences between these texts and those listed by Wallace in his appendix are obvious, foremost of which is the fact that many of the christologically significant NT texts often have the proper name “Jesus” included in the expression. This makes the question of whether the personal noun (“Savior”) is semantically restricted by the proper name with which it is associated rather moot, as it is unlikely that a first-century CE and following reader would have failed to connect the proper name “Jesus” with “Savior” in both Titus 2:13 and 2 Peter 1:1. [“Another Exception to Granville Sharp’s Canon and Its Kin: A Further Response to Dan Wallace (With an Appendix),” Elihu Online Papers 2 (July 26, 2010 [rev. January 30, 2012]), page 21, including note 52.]

For more on this and on the Granville Sharp rule in general, and particularly in response to Wallace’s writings, see my forthcoming, The "Sharpest Rule": A Review and Restatement of Greek’s Most Tragic Rule.

[10] Compare Wallace’s remarks in his article, “The Semantic Range of the Article-Noun-KAI´-Noun Plural Construction in the New Testament,” Grace Theological Journal 4.1 (spring, 1983), page 66, “[T]he very nature of a plural construction demands that several other questions be asked if we are to see with precision its semantic range (i.e., since the plural construction deals with groups, there may be other possibilities besides absolute distinction and absolute identity).”

[11] Wallace, “The Relation of Adjective to Noun in Anarthrous Constructions in the New Testament,” page 128.

[12] Wallace, “The Relation of Adjective to Noun in Anarthrous Constructions in the New Testament,” pages 128, 135.

[13] Wallace, “The Relation of Adjective to Noun in Anarthrous Constructions in the New Testament,” pages 136, note 22. Similarly, on page 133 of his article Wallace writes about comparing “every possible predicate adjective” in several critical NT texts “in order to see if the position of an article in some manuscripts might help to interpret the adjective’s relation to the noun.”

[14] Indeed, Wallace (“The Relation of Adjective to Noun in Anarthrous Constructions in the New Testament,” 152) found “882 attributive relation” in “adjective-noun” constructions, including examples where “the adjective was separated from the substantive by an intervening word” (Wallace cites Revelation 3:8, mikran echeis dynamin [“you have a little power”], where the verb separates the adjective and the noun but does not change the attributive relation).

[15] See note 14. See also Wallace, “The Relation of Adjective to Noun in Anarthrous Constructions in the New Testament,” page 153, who concludes, “Thus in constructions in non-equative clauses/phrases involving one adjective and one substantive we have seen primarily attributive relations, though there were a number of questionable cases and even more definitely predicate relations.” Wallace’s view of the “questionable cases” and the “predicate relations” are also open to further question.

[16] Which is why in F. Blass and A. Debrunner, A Greek Grammar of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature, Robert W. Funk, ed., trans. (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1961), page 134, under sec. 248(5), we read (with underlining added), “Noah with seven others ... 2 P 2:5 is good classical.” See also the entry for ogdoos in the Third Edition (BDAG) of A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature, F.W. Danker, ed. (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000), page 689, in which after citing 2 Peter 2:5 as (with underlining added), “he preserved Noah as a preacher of righteousness, with seven others (lit. ‘as the eighth’),” BDAG explains this idiom with reference to the writings of Thucydides, Plutarch, Pseudo-Apollodorus, and also 2 Maccabees 5:27, the last of which refers literally to “Judas Maccabees as the “tenth,” but idiomatically the sense is “with nine others” (compare the translation in Brenton’s English translation [online here]). Robertson (A Grammar of the Greek New Testament in the Light of Historical Research, page 672) calls this The Inclusive Ordinal, citing 2 Peter 2:5 as an example.

[17] Compare Wallace, “The Relation of Adjective to Noun in Anarthrous Constructions in the New Testament,” pages 154-155, who found “more than forty instances” of this construction which “displayed attributive relations,” concluding, “Thus in anarthrous constructions in non-equative clauses/phrases involving one substantive and two or more adjectives we have seen primarily attributive relations, though there were some questionable and definitely predicate relations as well as constructions in which one adjective was attributive and one was predicate.” The NRS (“devout Jews”), the NIV (“God-fearing Jews”), and the NJB (“devout men”) all express a similar attributive relation and meaning. The NASB (“Jews ..., devout men”) expresses a meaning similar to that preferred by Wallace in his “The Text and Grammar of John 1:18” article.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Tiny Silver Scrolls (or Amulets) = Oldest Biblical Text

Today when asked about the oldest available evidence for any part of a text from a biblical book, it is not unlikely the response may be, “The Dead Sea Scrolls.” While these Scrolls do contain many ancient treasures, treasures which preserve among other things various forms of the name of the God of Moses in special, but often very recognizable and quite pronounceable forms (unlike what we read in many modern English Bibles such as the NIV, for reasons that are not altogether unknown). But when it comes to the most ancient of all presently known biblical texts, be sure not to forget these tiny silver scrolls or amulets dated to the late 7th/early 6th century BCE, and known variously as the “Ketef Hinnom Scrolls” or “Amulets.”

However, with all otherwise due deference to the site linked above for hosting images of these treasures, the site has also meaningfully hidden the greatest treasure, that is, the treasure within the text itself. While the actual images of these silver scrolls are fine (which is why I use this link to show them), the translation of their preservation of Numbers 6:24-26 (among other texts), three times using “Lord” rather than an actual form of the name used in these texts, is a great mistake in the representation of this God.

Further, at least one other popular site’s translation of these silver scrolls (last accessed on September 15, 2011) uses a form of the divine name (“Yahweh”) which is not at all based on the best available evidence, but which is nonetheless popular and used and misused in place of other, better forms of the name, including the Anglicized forms “Jah,” “Jaho(h),” “Jaho(h)-ah” and even the more popular “Jehovah” (see notes 3 and 6 on pages 2 and 4, respectively, in Chapter 1 of my Jehovah’s Witnesses Defended, Third Edition [available online here]).

The form of the name “Yahweh” is really in large part the product of inaccurate assumptions about the pronunciation and use of the divine name by ancient Jews of various periods, as well as the result of assumptions about the origin of the name itself. In fact, such a pronunciation of the name (“Yahweh”) contradicts nearly all known (certainly the best available) evidence having to do with the history of the pronunciation of the name by both Jews and non-Jews, of similar and different times, and in similar and in different locations. See, again, my Jehovah’s Witnesses Defended, Third Edition, Chapter 1, in particular pages 28-56; see also my more recent, “‘Christian’ Witnesses of Jah, Jaho(h)-ah God,” Watching the Ministry (April 2, 2011).

Christian Witnesses of Jah base pronunciations of the divine name on the best phonetic evidence; we do not assume anything (other than for convenience after already having presented our good reasons/evidence) about the forms of the name; we intend to consider what can be shown through credible means to be the best available evidence. Evidence which for the divine name involves multiple forms throughout history (three in ancient Hebrew/Aramaic alone [namely, YHWH, YHW, and YH]), but all of which can be traced through quite a reasonably accurate extent (better than many if not better than most other, similar ancient names’ histories can be traced) from ancient Semitic and other languages of the ancient world through to the present. That is why we should consider the best available evidence: It is very good and it is available!

I believe the best available evidence, which I have regularly presented (see the links throughout this article and also under “D, Divine Name,” in the Elihu Books Topical Index), supports by far the recently Anglicized form, “Jaho(h)-ah,” as the form which English speakers should use. It provides great utility to the user, allowing anyone to represent the pronunciation of all three of the best English pronunciations in this one form, namely, “Jaho(h)-ah” itself, “Jah,” and “Jaho(h),” the last of which is the least known form/pronunciation of the divine name, yet it is perhaps in line with the best available evidence, as explained most recently in my Addendum, “On the Use of ‘Jah,’ ‘Jaho(h),’ and ‘Jaho(h)-ah’ as Anglicized Pronunciations of the Divine Name,” a little past the middle of my online article, “‘Christian’ Witnesses of Jah, Jaho(h)-ah God.” 

Each of the three forms of the divine name can be seen and pronounced appropriately, in a given language, just from just the use of the one form (in English), “Jaho(h)-ah.” That is why I try most often to use this form of the name, along with the already familiar form, “Jah.”


None of these phonetically based forms of the divine name require any disassociation of any of the verbal ideas otherwise and everywhere associated with the God of Moses in biblical and in any other accurately related histories. Compare R. Laird Harris, who also wrote the divine “Name is explained by the attributes of God revealed in the” Bible (see “The Pronunciation of the Tetragram,” in The Law and the Prophets: Old Testament Studies Prepared in Honor of Oswald Thompson Allis, ed. John H. Skilton [Phillipsburg, New Jersey: Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing, 1974], page 223). An assumed verbal root is not needed for the name that is, in fact, best supported by the available phonetic evidence and which name at all times, also, conveys all of this God’s “revealed” attributes to those who know him. These attributes are those so known or understood in relation to his person and to Jaho(h)-ah’s historical acts, such as those done through Moses and others including, we believe, Jesus of Nazareth. For reliable, historical evidence of the latter’s fulfillment of the role of biblical “Messiah” or “Christ,” see my online article, “Micah 5:1(2): Reliable Prophecy and Real Personal Preexistence,” Watching the Ministry (November 24, 2010).

But, remember, when it comes to biblical writings the oldest available text is presently that which is preserved on tiny silver scrolls (or amulets) which are 400-600 years older than the oldest of the Dead Sea Scrolls, namely, several texts which are dated to the 2nd century BCE (examples include 4LXXDeut and PRyl458). Other credible evidence roughly equal or better in age and in quality also exists to support many biblical accounts, including the Nabonidus Cylinder (555-540 BCE), the Moabite Stone (or Mesha Stele) dated to the early 9th century (around 890) BCE, and other documents or findings from the ancient world which more than reasonably verify the history of the ancient people “of the house of David” and the God, theophorically named on these late 7th/early 6th century BCE clay seals, whom they and others have at various times formally worshipped. Still other evidence may further and strongly support various biblical accounts or claims, but some of this evidence is not yet above the level of critical review to use or to accept fully, yet. See, “Oldest Hebrew Text Is Evidence for Bible Stories?” by Mati Milstein in Elah Valley, Israel for National Geographic News (November 3, 2008); and, “4,000-Year-Old Tombs Found Near Jerusalem Mall,” by Mati Milstein for National Geographic News (November 21, 2006).

For more on some of these and other features of biblical history and texts like those found on these tiny silver scrolls or amulets, see the second page of the PDF of the tract, “Beliefs Based on the Best Available Reasons.” See also the listings in the Elihu Books Topical Index under “A, Archaeology: Biblical.” For further, extended discussions of issues related to the history, use, and pronunciation of the name of the God of Moses, see my Jehovah’s Witnesses Defended, Third Edition, Chapter 1 (available online here), along with my more recent online article, “‘Christian’ Witnesses of Jah, Jaho(h)-ah God.”