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Robert Hommel's Second Reply

To Stafford on John 1:1 and Mass-Count Nouns


To all:

I must say, I'm disappointed in this response by Mr. Stafford.  I was hoping Greg might provide this forum with some sort of a legitmate response to my post.  Unfortunately, all we've gotten, aside from the 'attitude' and rhetoric we've come to know and love, is an attempt to force the burden of proof on Trinitarians "to produce an example of a singular count-noun predicate preceding the verb, in Greek, when used of a singular, personalistic subject where the predicate can be shown to have a qualitative-only sense," when, in fact, the burden lies with him and those who claim the Q sense not only CANNOT (not simply "does not") apply in John 1:1c, but doesn't exist at all for a highly restrictive class of referents!  Since, as far as I am aware, Greg cannot substantiate his claim by citing a single grammatical source (he, at least to this point, has not done so), this burden is then substantially higher than it would otherwise be, since he must persuade us that he is so astute a greek scholar that he has discovered a heretofore unknown grammatical principle.  Not impossible, of course, but highly unlikely and therefore requiring extraordinary proof.

Note also that Greg's usual tactic of creating a strawman: "a qualitative-only sense."  As I said in my previous post:   No scholar I'm aware of, Trinitarian or otherwise, claims that "singular count nouns placed before a copulative verb convey ONLY the idea of qualitativeness." Grammarians have demonstrated PNs in Colwell's Construction exhibit a range of semantic forces, including qualitative.  The question with regard to semantic force is really which force is dominant, or which is the primary emphasis.  Greg falsely assumes that a noun MUST exhibit ONLY qualitativeness to be tagged Q, when, in fact, even Don Hartley (whose study most cogently argues for the purely Q semantic force), defines Q as follows:

"The qualities, nature or essence of concepts, beings or things are stressed. It is usually associated with one member and usually without reference to class" (Revisiting the Colwell Construction in Light of Mass/Count Nouns).  Note the words "stressed" and "usually."

Thus, though some contexts may suggest another force along with Q, if the dominant force is Q (so much so that the other forces do not warrant inclusion in the tag, i.e., Q-I or Q-D), this is the force that should be preserved in translation, if possible in the receptor language.

Now, though I don't have the burden, I will simply point out that the vast majority of scholars and translators, both before and after Colwell, have argued for a Q semantic force for THEOS in John 1:1c.  Not that this, in and of itself, if proof positive, but it does lend credibility to the Trinitarian reading of the text, and places the burden anyone who would suggest otherwise.  Don Hartley's study demonstrates that, statistically, the preponderance of PNs in Colwell's Construction are Q in John's Gospel (Gregs' accusations [projections?] of bias notwithstanding).  Further, the NWT renders several PNs in Colwell's Construction as qualitative, as I pointed out in my previous post.  The three Markan passages clearly contain a "personalistic" subject (though, as I've previously stated, assuming that the nature of the SUBJECT should in any way influence the semantic force of the PN is nothing more than an example of the referential fallacy).  No doubt, Greg will claim that each demonstrates a definite or indefinite nuance in addition to qualitative.  Since it is Greg who argues (in his book) that determining the semantic force of any PN is largely based on context, (and thus subject to interpretation), what will that prove, beyond what we already know: That Greg will subjectively interpret the evidence however necessary to justify his theology, including claiming that SARX (a mass noun) should be considered Q-I in John 1:14 (cf., the Hartley/Stafford discussion; a mass noun cannot, grammatically, be indefinitized, and therefore cannot exude an indefinite semantic force - claiming it does because "flesh" implies "a man," is, again, nothing more than the referential fallacy, writ large).  What we can say, however, given their translation of the three passages, is that the NWT Translation Committee must have recognized an exclusive or at least dominant qualitative force.  What more, we may ask, does Greg want than the examples provided by his own Organization, if he will not accept its clear statements regarding the force of THEOS in John 1:1c?

If that weren't enough, we may consider the statement by Harner regarding Mark 2:28:  "The question is not who the lord of the sabbath is, but what the nature or authority of the Son of Man is. Thus it appears more appropriate to say that the Son of man is simply "lord" of the sabbath.  The predicate noun has a distinct qualitative force, which is more prominent in this context than its definiteness or indefiniteness" ("Qualitative Anarthrous Predicate Nouns," JBL, 92,1, p. 77).  Now, recall that Harner is recognized as authoritative on this subject by the WT, and that the WT translated Mark 2:28 EXACTLY as Harner suggests.

So the ball is in Greg's court - just as it was after my previous post.  Let's see him deal with Mark 2:28.  But if he tries to argue that the semantic force of this anarthrous pre-cop count noun PN (which is used of a "personalistic" subject) is not overwhelmingly qualitative, he can take up his argument up with the WT.

A word about rhetoric.  Those who have followed any of my posts in this forum would, I think, agree that I endeavor to be respectful and polite to those I interact with.  It is difficult to maintain that attitude towards Greg, however, since he seems determined to play the rhetorical bully.  Greg tries at every point to portray Hartley and myself as some sort of country bumpkins, who are either so blinded by our theology, or so abjectly stupid, that we simply cannot understand his arguments.  As this rhetorical posture is so common in Greg's apologetics, it's hard to take it seriously any longer.  Anyone recall the exchanges with Bowman?  How about his response to James White?  Anyone followed the antics of "APOK"?  Anyone recall what the moderator over at B-Greek had to say about Greg's rhetoric?  Greg delights in demeaning those who disagree with him, or who object that he has not proven his points (a far cry from "misunderstanding" them).  It is a convenient posture to take, in that one can ridicule one's opponent, while avoiding meaningful dialog on the subject at hand.  Indeed, if anyone has read Greg's most recent reply to me on the Mantey letter, you will note how often Greg claims I have misunderstood him and repeats his previous statements, without addressing the pertinent points I have raised in objection to them. What's sad about this tactic is though may play to those on the WT side whose minds are already made up, anyone who is honestly considering this subject is deprived of reasonable dialog.

I invite anyone to read our exchange, both at the site Greg references, and at Dave Sherrill's site (  If anyone thinks that I have not understood or misrepresented Greg's arguments in ANYTHING I've written, please email me at the above address.  It may be convenient for Greg's apologetcs to portray his opponents as idiots, but if so many of us "misunderstand" his points, we may well ask if the problem doesn't lie with his inability to articulate them, or (more likely) with the incoherence of the arguments themselves.

I'd love to hear what JWs think of Greg's comments regarding the semantic force of John 1:1c.  He apparently is setting himself up as an authority above the Anointed of the NWT Translation Committee, when he makes comments like "even if we accepted a qualitative-only sense for THEOS in John 1:1c (and that is what the Society argues for in their Appendix in the 1984 Reference Bible, based on the studies of Harner and others [though the sense in which they view the qualitativeness of THEOS is different from Harner, of course])" and "I believe the WT relied too heavily on Harnerís conclusions, and that the anarthrous preverbal PN primarily signals a qualitative-indefinite semantic, when used of singular personalistic subjects."  The WT has made it quite clear in numerous publications that it views THEOS in John 1:1c as qualitative, and the indefinite article is used in translation to emphasize the qualites or character of the LOGOS:

"In these places translators insert the indefinite article "a" before the predicate noun in order to bring out  the quality or characteristic of the subject.  Since the indefinite article is inserted before the predicate noun in such texts, with equal justification the indefinite article "a" is inserted before the anarthrous THEOS in the predicate of John 1:1 to make it read "a god" (1985 KIT, Appendix 2A).

"Careful translators recognize that the articular consruction of the noun points to an identity, a personality, whereas an anarthrous construction points to a quality about someone" (1969 KIT, Appendix entry for John 1:1).

"The word for 'god' (Greek, THEOS) in its second occurence in the verse is without the definite article 'the' (Greek, HO).  Regarding this fact, Bishop Westcott, coproducer of the noted Westcott adn Hort Greek text of the Christian Greek Scriptures, says:  'It is necessarily without the article (THEOS, not HO THEOS) inasmuch as it describes the nature of the Word and does not identify His Person'" (Aid to Bible Understanding, p. 919).

So, I'll repeat the question from my last response:  Greg, are you wiser than the Anointed?  Do you think you know more than they?  Actually, you probably do, but I wonder what your audience of rank-and-file JWs thinks about that?  Comments, anyone?

OK, one final exchange, just for clarity:

Who is arguing from silence? I have provided numerous examples of singular count- noun predicates preceding the copula verb, none of which can be shown to have qualitative-only sense, and ALL of which can easily be translated and understood as count nouns with an indefinite sense. Hommel either does not understand what I have written online and in my book concerning this subject, or he is ignoring it.

Here's what you said:   "There is absolutely no evidence to support the theory that singular count nouns placed before a copulative verb convey ONLY the idea of qualitativeness."  From the standpoint of pure logic, this is an argument from silence.  Such arguments usually start with some sort of comment like "There is no evidence..."  You do understand that an argument from silence is not logically supportable, right?  Absence of evidence does not logically imply evidence of absence.  Now, what you really mean is that YOU have found "absolutely no evidence."  But since we've seen you attempting to wring a Q-I semantic force out of SARX in John 1:14, you'll pardon us if we don't consider your "evidence" credible, and therefore it doesn't matter how many examples you have.  Speaking of your examples, that they "CAN easily be translated and understood as count nouns with an idefinite sense" is quite meaningless.  The fact that count nouns CAN (by defnintion) be indefinitized would allow anyone with a theological ax to grind to claim they have an "indefinite" sense, even if the primary sense is qualitative.  Further, since English idiom often REQUIRES the use of an indefinite article to convey qualitativeness, you will have to prove the PNs in your sample manifest an indefinite-only force, and are not merely RENDERED with the indefinite article to suit the exegencies of English usage.

It is Hommel, Hartley and others like them who continue to assume and force their meaning into the singular count-noun predicates of the aforementioned construction, and they even tamper with the text as did Hartley with Luke 7:39. If we had done what Hartley did there, then I doubt Hommel would fail to see the dishonesty. But since Hartely is a Trinitarian...

I'll let Don handle this one, when he finds a spare minute or two.  If you have evidence that I have "tampered" with a text, please let me know.  Until then, this is simply a classic ad hominem (Hommel is a Trinitarian apologist.  Trinitarian apologists like Harley "tamper" with the text.  Hommel is, therefore, not credible).  That you have the temerity to accuse Don Hartley of "dishonesty," after you were caught masquerading on several discussion boards as one of your friends, so as to hide the fact that you were acting against published WT guidelines about the Internet, is quite adacious.  If Hartley is in error (which I don't believe he is, but I'll defer to him to explain fully), he may - at worst - have simply made an "honest" mistake.  Of course, a liar hears only lies, they say.

Notice that in Hommel's above comments his (English) example is NOT with a singular, personalistic subject! Why does he fail to respond to the actual arguments I put forth? The same reason Hartely does: they have no logical response built on anything other than asumptions. I have explained this time and time again, and will do so once more in my forthcoming reply to Hartley, but if Hommel and Hartely refuse to accept the arguments as given, that is no reason why anyone else should fail similiarly, is it?

This is your argument to which I was responding:  "there is absolutely no evidence to support the theory that singular count nouns placed before a copulative verb convey ONLY the idea of qualitativeness."  Notice, no mention of "personalistic."  That comes a bit later (and in your latest response to me on the Mantey letter).  That you would cavil over the English example and ignore the other arguments I make in the paragraph is quite telling, particularly since I responded DIRECTLY to your claims about a "personalistic" subject in several other places.  Perhaps you simply don't want to deal with the fact that your views are putting you more and more at odds with those of your Organization.

Further, though it's possible I may have missed a reference somewhere along the line, I first became aware of your "personalistic subject" criterion in your most recent reply to me on the Mantey letter.  You did not mention it in your first response to me, nor does it appear in your exchage with Don Hartley, except in reference to John 1:14 and the discussion about the mass noun, SARX.  In fact, in your 2nd reponse to Hartley, we find: "Please provide, for purposes of discussion and illustration, what you consider clear examples of purely qualitative count nouns, in an anarthrous precopulative position."  Where was the "personalistic subject" criterion then?  Now, maybe its just me, Greg, but it sure looks like your argument is - to put it kindly - a developing one. I begin to suspect we'll never hear the end of this one - as evidence continues to mount against you, you'll just keep adding hoops for us to jump through, logic and good grammar aisde.

When Hommel or Hartley decide to produce an example of a singular count-noun predicate preceding the verb, in Greek, when used of a singular, personalistic subject where the predicate can be shown to have a qualitative-only sense, then we'll talk.

Again, Greg, it is you who bear the burden of proof.  Trinitarians are merely claiming that what Greek scholars tells us about qualitative PNs applies - precisely as they state it - to John 1:1. Even the WT says THEOS in John 1:1c is qualitative.  You are the one swimming against the tide.  You are the one claiming that THEOS in John 1:1c is Q-I (contra prevalent scholarship, including the WT).  You are the one claiming that the subject of a PN in some way determines the semantic force of the PN (not supported by any grammarian, and in fact, is an example of a common logical fallacy).  You are the one claiming that a recognized semantic force (Q) cannot apply to PNs that reference subjects belonging to an idiosyncratically defined class (again, not supported by any grammarian, and again, logically flawed).  Since you have the weight of scholarship against you, your logic is questionable, and you cannot provide credible supporting evidence from recognized authority, it is you who bear the burden, and a heavy one it is!  You can spew the rhetoric all you want, the bottom line is that you're arguing against your own Organization's published statements, and you cannot even properly interpret THEOS as Q-I without equivocating on the meaning of qualitative (not surprising, of course, in that this is the WT's downfall as well), because even if the LOGOS is "a god," He is a God in every sense, just as the Father is.  Per the definition of "qualitative."

At this point, I am not convinced that either Hartley or Hommel have a clear understanding of my arguments, which is why in my last reply to Hommel I have asked him to reword my arguments, so that it can be seen whether he truly knows what he is talking about, at all. I submit he displays a severe lack of understanding when it comes to my arguments, and that his reading of the NT in light of post-biblical theology has drammatically affected his ability to properly exegete what are really rather simple passages.

Finally, Hartley and Hommel can "respond" all they want, but unless they know what it is to which they are responding, and stop missing the point(s), then does it really matter? If anyone is confused or needs any additional clarification on any of the points raised in my discussions with Hommel, Hartely, or anyone else, please send me an email.

[email protected]

I will not respond to this nonesense, except to ask anyone who reads this to consider why it is that Greg must spend so much of this post in negative rhetoric, why he chose not to respond to specific points raised in my last post, and why he continues to argue his point, despite the fact that it is contrary to what the WT has taught on this matter.

One final note:  Greg, I submit that the WT painted you into a corner you couldn't get out of - namely the qualitative force of THEOS in John 1:1c.  It is an indefensible position for WT theology, as your rabid attempts to categorically deny the Q semantic force for a class of referents and your unwillingness to address the implications of qualitative THEOS clearly demonstrate.  You're trying desperately to shore up the NWT translation and the WT's reputation by proposing your own solution (Q-I), and the Powers in Brooklyn are probably wondering who you think you are, publicly questioning their authority.

Best regards,


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