|For an Answer Home||Mars Hill Index||Bibliography||Glossary|
|The Bible Gateway||The Blue Letter Bible||The Greek New Testament (NA26)||Greek & Hebrew Lexicons|
Mars Hill Apologetic Discussions
Robert Hommel's Fifth Reply to Jason BeDuhn
has been a number of months since Dr. BeDuhn sent me his 3-part reply to
me. Once again, I find
myself apologizing to him and our readers for the lengthy delay in my
response. Once again I must
plead other responsibilities.
wish to thank Dr. BeDuhn for the time he has given to this discussion
and for the challenges he has offered me.
It is often in such challenges that our thoughts are clarified,
and that has certainly proven true for me in this dialog.
And so, once again into the breach, dear friends!
And so, once again into the breach, dear friends!
Ahead To a Point of Agreement
I consider Dr. BeDuhn’s arguments in detail, I’d like to jump ahead
to consider something Dr. BeDuhn wrote in the third part of his reply to
JB: John takes advantage of the polyvalence of the word THEOS to do
something different than most of the above, to draw a line across the
universe, with "God"/"Father" and
"Logos"/"Son" on one side of the line, and
more-or-less the rest of the universe on the other, and then to tell a
story of how the "Logos"/"Son" crossed that line
with the intention of, in some respects, dissolving it for those who
associate themselves with him….
JB: The only relevant question is: can John 1:1 be read
modalistically? The answer
is no, because of the careful distinction between HO THEOS on the one
hand in 1:1b and the Logos as THEOS (having qualities that puts the
Logos on the truly divine rather than the creaturely side of the
universal order) in 1:1c.
is nothing in what Dr. BeDuhn says here that I find objectionable. I
agree that by predicating THEOS to the Logos, John is placing the Logos
on the “same side” of the universe as the Father – that the Logos
is on the “truly divine” side alongside hO THEOS, and everything
else is on the “creaturely” side (that is, everything else is a
created thing [cf., Jn 1:3]). If
this is what Dr. BeDuhn means by his preferred translation, “The Word
was divine,” I agree with him!
hope I am not reading anything into Dr. BeDuhn’s comments.
If I am not, and if we qualify “divine” in the way Dr. BeDuhn
appears to do so here, I have no problem with “The Word was divine”
as a possible translation of John 1:1c.
John’s meaning is that the Logos is “divine” in every sense
hO THEOS is “divine,” and there is no quality of ‘divinity’
possessed by hO THEOS not also possessed by the Logos.
I still think “divine” is something of a paraphrase, in that
John could have used an adjectival form (THEIOS) had this been his
meaning (and thus he must have meant something more than this); but I
will concede that the qualitative aspect of a noun can sometimes be
expressed in translation with an adjective – properly qualified.
I don’t think Dr. BeDuhn’s alternate translation, “The Word was a
god,” conveys this sense – certainly not to modern readers. Recall
that Dr. BeDuhn’s objection to the traditional rendering (“The Word
was God”) is that modern readers may confuse this translation as
teaching an identification between hO THEOS and hO LOGOS tantamount to
Modalism. I would suggest
that a similar objection should be raised against “the Word was a
god.” If I have understood
Dr. BeDuhn’s comments quoted above (and elsewhere in his most recent
reply to me), he does not understand John’s use of THEOS to signify
that the Logos is “a god” in the sense of a created being.
Nor, I think we agree, is John teaching polytheism.
Yet, one of these two alternatives is, I think, the way most
modern readers would understand the “a god” rendering.
of what Dr. BeDuhn defends in his most recent reply is the “a god”
rendering – particularly in part 2, where he seems to defend it almost
to the exclusion of his preferred “divine” rendering.
Therefore, despite the tentative agreement we’ve reached, I
think it is still valuable to consider Dr. BeDuhn’s arguments to see
if he is justified in regarding the “a god” rendering as synonymous
with “divine,” as Dr. BeDuhn here defines it.
The Argument over Harner
As our readers may recall, Dr. BeDuhn had previously suggested that
while I based much of my argument on Harner’s study (JBL 92, 1975, pp
75 – 87), I failed to accept his preferred translation:
As our readers may recall, Dr. BeDuhn had previously suggested that
while I based much of my argument on Harner’s study (JBL 92, 1975, pp
75 – 87), I failed to accept his preferred translation:
JB (previous): But Harner himself states that the most
accurate rendering of John 1:1c qualitatively would be "The Word
that Dr. BeDuhn argues that Harner explicitly “states” that the
“most accurate” translation of John 1:1c is “the Word was
divine.” This statement is
patently untrue. I pointed
this out in my last post, suggesting that perhaps Dr. BeDuhn was writing
from memory and, not having Harner’s article before him, had simply
misremembered what Harner actually said.
Harner never says “the Word was divine” is “the most
accurate” translation of John 1:1c.
BeDuhn has now apparently had time to review Harner’s article – he
quotes from it several times in his most recent post – yet rather than
admitting his error, he finesses his argument as follows:
JB: Mr. Hommel is incorrect when he claims that Harner “dismisses the
‘divine’ rendering in no uncertain terms.”
Rather, as Hommel himself quotes Harner, Harner looks with
cautious favor on “the Word was divine” as suggested by Vawter
BeDuhn’s position has apparently evolved.
Instead of Harner “stating” that “the Word was divine”
was the “most accurate” translation, Dr. BeDuhn now has Harner
looking “with cautious favor” upon it.
Unfortunately, this new position is still not in agreement with
considers five alternative grammatical constructions John could have
used when writing John 1:1c. Of
the fifth, hO LOGOS HN THEIOS, Harner writes:
that Harner says that merely stating that the Word was THEIOS
(“divine”) would not accurately reflect John’s thought.
Harner then considers Vawter:
there is cautious favor expressed here, it is not towards “the Word
was divine,” but rather towards Vawter’s complete explanation of
John’s meaning – combined with the cautions Harner adds to it.
Harner says that we will misunderstand “the Word was divine”
unless we fully understand the force of John’s language.
Of the “divinity” in John 1:1, Harner writes: “ho logos,
no less than ho theos, had the nature of theos (Harner,
p. 87, emphasis added). And,
as I noted in my previous post, Harner offers, “the Word had the same
nature as God” as one “representing John’s thought” (Ibid).
Harner, then, rejects “the Word was divine” as a ‘standalone’ translation, accepting it only with extreme qualification – that is, only if one understands that the Word no less than hO THEOS has the nature of THEOS – not as “a god” or “a divine being” in the class or category of THEOS, but as One possessing the very nature of the true God.
I would encourage Dr. BeDuhn to reconsider Harner’s article; based on Dr. BeDuhn's recent explanation about what he means by "divine" (placing the Logos alongside hO THEOS, in distinction from all created beings), he may not be as far from Harner as he supposes.
BeDuhn goes on to suggest, “Harner agrees
with neither Mr. Hommel or myself.”
Now, I have repeatedly referred to Harner’s article in my
previous posts to Dr. BeDuhn, and explicitly stated at least twice in my
last post that I agreed with Harner, so while I understood that Dr.
BeDuhn differed from Harner, I was most interested to learn that I did
as well. Dr. BeDuhn offers
the following as evidence that Harner’s view differs from my own:
JB: Yet even Harner, in using “same nature as” does not mean the
same thing as Hommel does by “the Word was Deity.”
I assert this on the basis of Harner’s unqualified rejection of
objection to these translations is that they may lead the reader to
assume a definite semantic nuance for THEOS in John 1:1c, which – in
Harner’s view – leads logically to modalism:
it may be that I have produced a translation with the same ambiguity as
those discussed by Harner. I
don’t believe I have, because the use of the definite article in John
1:1b (“the Word was with the Deity”) serves to distinguish
the semantic nuance from the article-less use in 1:1c (“the Word was
Deity”). Just as in Greek,
the definite semantic nuance is not as likely in clause C, given the
non-use of the article. I
have argued extensively about what I think John meant with his choice of
language, and defended my use of “Deity,” (being more commonly
understood as qualitative when used sans article than “God”), and
even my use of the capital “D.”
I’ve also agreed with Harner that this verse is difficult to
render in English and any translation other than a paraphrase will
require some explanation.
I have stated my agreement with Harner explicitly on more than one
occasion, such as:
support this last point, the Oxford English Dictionary includes
in its definition of “deity:”
it should be obvious that I agree completely with Harner’s use of the
phrase “the same nature as.” With
respect, Dr. BeDuhn’s suggestion that I’m not on the same page as
Harner further demonstrates that he misunderstands my argument,
misunderstands Harner, or both.
Dr. BeDuhn states:
JB: Harner does not say that HO LOGOS, no less than HO THEOS, had the
nature of HO THEOS, but rather the nature of THEOS, that is, a being of
the THEOS class
but it is clear that he understands John to be attributing THEOS to the
Logos in precisely the same way and precisely to the same
extent that John, by implication, attributes THEOS to hO THEOS (Harner,
p. 85). Harner specifically
rejects the LOGOS as “a being of the THEOS class.”
Harner forcefully argues that what John wrote must be
distinguished from word choices that would mean that the LOGOS was “a
god or a divine being of some kind, belonging to the general category of
theos but as a distinct being from ho theos” (Ibid).
Dr. BeDuhn is reading his own theory about categorical nouns
being equivalent to qualitative nouns into Harner’s argument –
Harner distinguishes these semantic forces quite clearly, and states
several times that John’s meaning is that Word is no less THEOS
than is hO THEOS.
BeDuhn asserts that there is no grammatical distinction in Koine
Greek between indefinite and qualitative nouns, but the evidence he
offers in support of this view (and contra Harner) is thin, indeed, and
riddled with errors. It will
be interesting to see how he handles this crucial piece of his argument
in his forthcoming publications.
Anarthrous nominatives and accusatives-D, I, or Q?
In a prior post, Dr. BeDuhn challenged Harner as follows:
In a prior post, Dr. BeDuhn challenged Harner as follows:
had countered that anarthrous THEOS in Mark 12:27 and Luke 20:38 is most
likely definite on the basis of 3 lines of evidence:
1) Apollonius’ Canon; 2) genitive adjunct; 3) Harner considers
THEOS to be definite in this verse in any case, in part because
anarthrous THEOS is “almost always” definite in the GNT.
Dr. BeDuhn responded only to the last of these points.
Here’s what he said:
should first note that even if Dr. BeDuhn is correct, to find fault with
Harner’s argument for qualitative nouns on the basis of a noun Harner
considers definite is hardly an answer to Harner!
Harner did not argue on the basis of these verses in the first
it may be that Harner was wrong about the semantic force of THEOS in
these verses, and this might suggest his understanding of the semantics
of Greek nouns was flawed – thus undermining his argument.
On the other hand, the same holds true for Dr. BeDuhn – if he
is unable to correctly identify the semantic force of THEOS in these
verses, perhaps his argument regarding THEOS in John 1:1 is suspect.
To determine who might be right, and since Dr. BeDuhn did not
offer any statistical analysis to prove his point, I decided to check
all the occurrences of anarthrous THEOS in the GNT that occurred in the
nominative or accusative case. I
listed these in a reply to Dr. BeDuhn, including a semantic tag, which
indicated whether I saw that noun as Definite, Indefinite, or
Qualitative. The results
validated the assertion that anarthrous THEOS was usually defininte,
even if we restricted the data sample as Dr. BeDuhn suggested.
I then concluded:
RH: “Now, Dr. BeDuhn may wish to further nuance his argument by
demonstrating that there are a number of definitizing factors that may
come into play with both nominative and accusative nouns.
I certainly recognize that some are present in these verses, and
have mentioned some of them previously.”
it turned out, this is precisely what Dr. BeDuhn did.
JB: What is worth noting, I think, is that each of the verses where he
and I agree in seeing as definite, there is some definitizing element in
the verse itself. These,
then, are special cases that override the general rule that anarthrous
nominatives are indefinite, which they are in the absence of such
However, I had gone on to say:
RH: “But I had quoted Harner's statement about anarthrous theos usually being definite in the context of two verses (Mark 12:27; Luke 20:38) which both contain such definitizing factors…Thus, if Dr. BeDuhn wishes to argue that my sample is skewed towards definiteness, he must explain why the factors which introduce the 'skew' do not function to make theos definite in the two verses in question."
Perhaps Dr. BeDuhn missed this statement, for while he
addresses a number of other verses, he does not directly address the
verses we have been discussing. He
continues to class them as indefinite (or “I/Q”).
He graciously acknowledges that he spoke “more broadly” than
he should have, and thanks me for bringing these “special cases” to
his recollection. I would
simply ask him why, now that he has recalled that factors other than
the presence of the article can make a noun definite, he does not regard
these factors as relevant to the two verses we have been disputing.
Does this not suggest a contradiction in Dr. BeDuhn’s argument?
As for these definitizing factors being “special
cases,” we may note that by Dr. BeDuhn’s own analysis, these
“special cases” account for over 50% of the sample (Dr. BeDuhn
classes 25 out of 43 verses with anarthrous THEOS as definite).
This is hardly the “limited set of exceptions” Dr. BeDuhn has
I wish to thank Dr. BeDuhn for providing his reading of
the verses in my list. It
has confirmed for me why he regards THEOS in John 1:1c as indefinite –
he regards far more examples of THEOS as indefinite than I do.
In fact, Dr. BeDuhn regards THEOS as being indefinite far more
often than does any Greek scholar I’ve encountered.
This does not, of course, mean that Dr. BeDuhn is necessarily
wrong. It does, however,
place a significant burden of proof upon his shoulders, for he will have
to convince his readers that he has obtained insights into Greek that
few – if any – other scholars have acquired.
In addition to his idiosyncratic approach, Dr. BeDuhn
also appears to be somewhat careless in ways that skew the data in his
favor. For example, Dr.
BeDuhn states that previously, he “forgot to mention possessive
phrases” as constructions in which anarthrous nouns are definite.
He now suggests that possessives definitize THEOS in John
, 2 Cor
6:16, and Heb 11:16. However,
he classes THEOS in Rev 21:7 as I/Q, despite the fact that it is a
possessive also. Dr. BeDuhn
says that 2 Cor
, 5:5, and
Heb 3:4 are examples of definite THEOS, but they are “not anarthrous.”
THEOS in each of these verses is, indeed, anarthrous; the article
in each case goes with the following participle, not with THEOS.
I’m sure Dr. BeDuhn will be more careful in his forthcoming
publications, but errors like these (and those I’ve detailed
elsewhere) make it difficult to grant Dr. BeDuhn his other arguments.
With regard to the verses I classed as ‘definite’ and
Dr. BeDuhn as ‘indefinite/qualitative,’ Dr. BeDuhn writes:
JB: As for Rom 8:33b, 2 Cor 5:19, Gal 6:7, Phil
2:13 -- Paul has a rhetorical way of making an argument that drawn upon
the general understanding of his audience about “gods.”
He uses the indefinite to make a point about the significance of
interaction with a god. So,
everyone in his environment understands that “A god is not to be
mocked” (Gal 6:7). Likewise,
he can argue that “If a god declares (one) innocent, who can condemn
JB: (Rom 8:33b).
And against those who think that Christ acted on his own
authority, which may or may not carry much weight with Paul’s
audience, he asserts that “through Christ a god was reconciling a
world to himself”-stated thus abstractly, “a god” and “a
world” as a way of describing what Paul has been explaining about a
particular (only) God and a particular (only) world.
Similarly, for those who may wonder what agency (demonic?) was
operating in them after undergoing Christian initiation, Paul asserts
“The one working within/through you is a god” (Phil 2:13 -- a very
close grammatical parallel to John 1:1c).
JB: Rom 1:21 offers another good example of
what I said above concerning Paul’s use of indefinite THEOS, here
combined with his tendency towards abbreviated phrasing: “Although
they knew God, they did not praise or thank him as a god (should be
praised and thanked).” Gal
4:8 brings this set of examples close to what Mr. Hommel and I are
debating. Paul uses the
indefinite: “When you did not know a (real) god, you served the ones
who in nature are not (real) gods.”
He is clearly drawing attention to the “qualitative,” that is
to the nature or character of the being he is talking about
(Father/God), and he does so by distinguishing his rights, as opposed to
theirs, to be called, that is classed as, “god,” “divine.”
I am unaware of any Greek scholar – whether translator,
lexicographer, or commentator – that agrees with Dr. BeDuhn on these
verses. While Dr. BeDuhn may
chide me for “relying too much on existing English translations,” it
might help Dr. BeDuhn’s argument if he could point to at least one
major English translation, lexicon, or commentary that understands THEOS
in these verses in the same way he does.
While I reject Dr. BeDuhn’s characterization that I rely “too
much” on English translations (I think I’ve provided ample evidence
for my views in previous posts quite apart from English translations),
comparing one’s views to those of recognized scholars in the field, it
seems to me, is merely a prudent means of validation.
Interestingly, not even the NWT, which Dr. BeDuhn is
defending with regard to John 1:1, provides him support on these verses.
Let’s consider one of Dr. BeDuhn’s examples.
In Romans 1, Paul is specifically discussing the denial of the
true God by the unrighteous, who, though they know God through the
display of His eternal attributes and divinity in nature, nevertheless
suppress the truth. They
exchanged the worship of the true God for idolatry – the worship of
false gods. It is simply not
credible that in the midst of a polemic against idolatry, Paul would
suddenly introduce the idea that the problem for the unrighteous is
simply that they do not render to God the worship proper to “a god.”
Paul’s meaning could not be clearer:
The unrighteous know God (through natural revelation) but refuse
to worship Him as God. All
English translations I consulted – including the NWT – render THEOS
in this verse as definite. This
semantic force makes perfect sense, exegetically, while Dr. BeDuhn’s
does not. Dr. BeDuhn
suggests that if THEOS lacks the article (and absent any definitizing
factors), THEOS must be indefinite.
This ‘rule’ leads him down some interesting and idiosyncratic
translational paths, but not ones on which I see good reasons for
following him. Particularly
when he appears to be alone in his travels.
I could make similar comments about each of the other
verses Dr. BeDuhn mentions.
Dr BeDuhn concludes:
JB: The overarching concern for all of the
above verses, nominative and accusative is this: in the absence of the
one certain marker of definiteness in Greek-the definite article-on what
basis does Mr. Hommel declare an anarthrous noun to be definite?
think Dr. BeDuhn has lost sight of the original discussion.
We were discussing Mark 12:27 and Luke 20:38.
Dr. BeDuhn was attempting to undermine Harner by arguing that
THEOS in each of these verse – both anarthrous, one after the verb,
the other before it – had an indefinite semantic force.
Dr. BeDuhn asserted that Harner’s grammatical distinction
between indefinite and qualitative nouns didn’t hold up, based on
this. This despite the fact
that Harner does not regard THEOS in Mark
qualitative, but definite. I
have argued that THEOS is definite in both verses because of the
presence of at least two definitizing factors, as well as the parallel
passage in Matthew, in which THEOS is articular, according to many MSS.
overarching concern, really, is this:
Has Dr. BeDuhn presented convincing evidence to support his
contention that anarthrous THEOS in the GNT is overwhelmingly
indefinite? Readers will
recall that Dr. BeDuhn has had to refine his original argument several
times over the course of our discussion, and even now, when he says,
“What I asserted holds true if we set aside special definitizing
elements,” we can only agree if we accept his idiosyncratic assessment
of verses like those discussed above.
If we do not (and I think there will be a very great many that do
not), Dr. BeDuhn has not made his case, and we must conclude that
Harner’s methodology has yet to be undone.
answer to Dr. BeDuhn’s question is the same one I’ve offered a
number of times before – meaning is determined by context.
Absent any definitizing factors, a garden-variety anarthrous noun
is probably indefinite, but not always so.
Contextual or other factors may argue for a definite or
qualitative meaning. In the
case of Mark 12:27 and Luke 20:38, there are definitizing factors that
lead me to conclude THEOS is definite in both verses, and thus Dr.
BeDuhn’s objection to Harner’s methodology is not sound.
I agree with Dr. BeDuhn there are no such definitizing factors in
John 1:1, but then, I have not suggested otherwise, nor contended that
THEOS in 1:1c is definite.
“Is” of identity and “is” of predication
my previous post, I attempted to explore why Dr. BeDuhn argues “the
Word was divine” means the same thing as “the Word was a god.”
I have never quite understood this aspect of Dr. BeDuhn’s
argument. In fact, I viewed
it (and continue to view it) as the main issue of contention between us.
If Dr. BeDuhn merely argued in favor of “The Word was
divine,” and not that “The Word was a god” was its semantic
equivalent, we could achieve a large degree of agreement (leaving only
the proper understanding of the precise nature of John’s predication
of THEOS to the Logos to be resolved).
As it is, I view these two translations as semantically distinct,
and have attempted to delineate this distinction by noting that “the
Word was divine” is an example of the so-called “is” of
predication, while “the Word was a god” is an example of the
“is” of identity.
JB: In his latest response, Mr. Hommel says the NWT translation
“the Word was a god” represents a usage we can agree to call the
“’is’ of identity” while an accurate qualitative rendering of
the verse would employ the “’is’ of predication.”
Surprisingly, he uses as an example of the “is” of
predication, “The car is red,” employing a predicate adjective, just
as I do when I suggest “The Word was divine” as an acceptable
translation of John 1:1c. Since
has taken me so much to task for my suggestion, I think I get to say
Dr. BeDuhn says, “gotcha,” he might want to re-read what I had said
"is" of predication attributes a quality or characteristic to
a subject: "the car is red."
Dr. BeDuhn's preferred translation assumes the "is"
of predication - as does mine. However,
the NWT translation assumes the "is" of identity.
Dr. BeDuhn argues that the "is" of identity is
semantically equivalent to the "is" of predication - and this
is simply not true.
of course I recognize that an adjective expresses predication – as
does a qualitative PN. That’s
essential to the point I was making.
Dr. BeDuhn’s preferred rendering and mine both agree on this
point. The ‘bone of
contention’ is whether “the Word was a god” and “the Word was
divine” (identity and predication) are synonymous, as Dr. BeDuhn
suggests. I maintain they
are not. Dr. BeDuhn
recognizes a distinction in meaning, if not in grammar, when he says: “Of
course, the crux here is knowing, based on Greek phrasing that may be
equivalent to either ‘identity’ or ‘predication’, which meaning
to settle upon.” In other words, Dr. BeDuhn acknowledges a
distinction in meaning between ‘identity’ and ‘predication,’ and
suggests we must “settle upon” one of them apart from grammar.
BeDuhn argues that John’s meaning is the predication of qualities to
the Logos – which, again, is semantically distinguished – by
his own admission – from identity as member of a class; yet he
suggests that because (in his view) there is no grammatical
distinction in Greek between these two semantic forces, we should
translate John 1:1c in such a fashion that it mirrors grammatically
what John wrote. For Dr.
BeDuhn, John ascribes qualities to the Logos by placing Him in a
class or category. Now, even
if that’s true (and Harner demonstrates that there is a
grammatical distinction between qualitative and indefinite nouns – and
Dr. BeDuhn has yet to present a convincing argument otherwise), there is
no good reason, other than a rigorous fidelity to formal equivalence in
translation (which Dr. BeDuhn has previously said he does not favor), to
ascribe qualities to the Logos by placing Him in a class or category in
English. Dr. BeDuhn may
defend his “the Word was divine” translation as transparently
qualitative, but he cannot say the same about “the Word was a god.”
and “Common Usage”
BeDuhn continues to chastise me for capitalizing “Deity” in my
preferred rendering of John 1:1c. In
previous posts, I had appealed to a descriptive rather than prescriptive
grammar (as taught by virtually all modern linguists) and noted that
‘common usage’ (particularly in Bible translations, but also in
other texts), capitalizes qualitative nouns for emphasis.
Dr. BeDuhn now says he accepts the descriptive model, but still
objects to capitalizing THEOS in John 1:1c:
JB: Contemporary “common usage” does not capitalize qualitative
English nouns. His appeals
to literature of previous centuries or to the special genre of poetry,
or to the preserved conventions of English Bibles have nothing to do
with “common usage.”
my last post, I noted that while “contemporary usage” may not
regularly capitalize qualitative nouns, I was focusing on “common
usage” in English Bible translations:
RH: If most - if not all - English Bible translations actually use
"God" to render theos when it refers to the true God, does
this not signal common usage, the very criterion I have argued
BeDuhn says this usage represents “preserved conventions.”
To which, with respect, I must respond – so what?
Regardless of the reason (and I don’t agree this is a
‘preserved convention’), it is common in English Bibles to translate
THEOS with a capital when referring to the true God.
Dr. BeDuhn may not like this; he is free to disagree with the
scores of Bible translators on this point if he wishes.
But to continue to argue that such capitalization is “a
grammatical mistake” is without warrant.
BeDuhn also finds a terrible inconsistency in my argument regarding the
fossil dog. Dr. BeDuhn
JB: Finally, on “true Dog”-Mr. Hommel repeats a lapse he has made
several times before. After
very carefully setting up a context in which “Dog” may be used
qualitatively, and the capital “D” may help to convey this sense, he
confuses that categorical/qualitative function (that is, this fossil can
be called “(true) Dog” because it has the set of qualities by which
science has defined the “dog” species) with an altogether different
meaning, one in which he has “established a context in which there is
only one true ‘Dog,’ though there may be other ‘dogs’
which-though similar-are distinct from true Dog.”
BeDuhn seems to take my statement about there being “only one true
‘Dog’” as meaning there is only one individual dog that is true
Dog. This was not my
intention – and I apologize if I was unclear.
I meant to argue (using biological terms) that within the genus canis,
there was a species of ‘true Dog’ (canis veritas).
As Dr. BeDuhn says:
JB: …a fossil that matches an abstracted (categorical) definition of
“dog” derived from establishing a set of qualities shared by all
members of the “dog” species.
This particular fossil matches the categorical definition (or
“has the qualities of”) the species canis veritas – true
Dog – not merely the canis genus, or some other species within
If “Dog” is used to
represent this defining set of qualities, then it is not true that there
are “other ‘dogs’ which-though similar-are distinct from true
are other members of the genus canis, but not all of them are
members of the species canis veritas.
That is, while there are a number of species of dogs in our
hypothetical fossil record (all are ‘dogs’ with a lower case
‘d’), there is only one ‘set’ of dogs that are members of the
‘true Dog’ species. And
we may use the capital “D” to distinguish dogs (genus) from Dogs
when our paleontologist says of his fossil find: “Snoopy is (true)
Dog!” He is saying that this particular fossil has the qualities of
the species canis veritas. And
the capital is used to make the distinction from other generic
Dr. BeDuhn may not agree that it is appropriate to capitalize what he
would term a ‘categorical’ noun in this context, but if we posit a
situation like THEOS in English Bible translations, in which virtually
every biological text used this capitalization scheme, it would seem
difficult to claim it is “a mistake.”
that Dr. BeDuhn had originally complained that we would never capitalize
“dog” in the following sentence: “Snoopy is dog.”
My invented scenario was merely an attempt to create a context
analogous to John 1:1, in which capitalizing “dog” for emphasis was
reasonable and grammatically sound.
I believe I’ve met this burden.
concludes part 1 of my response to Dr. BeDuhn.
More to follow!
Return to Jason BeDuhn - Robert Hommel Index