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Robert Hommel's Third Reply

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


To all:

In trying to determine how best to answer Mr. Stafford's last post, I have tried to separate the claims and arguments he presents from the way in which he presents them.  I have tried to consider his points objectively.

Greg says that I misunderstand his arguments.  Perhaps he is right.  Perhaps not.  Let's see:

Greg argues that I (and other Trinitarians) redefine THEOS to mean "a person of THEOS," not only in John 1:1, but in every verse where the term is applied to Jesus.  This, he says, is a violation of the text, for THEOS cannot ever be used in the sense of "a person of THEOS."  He justifies this proposition with a 5-pronged attack:

1)  The Bible nowhere declares that THEOS may be defined as "a person of THEOS."

2)  Mr. Stafford and the WT argue that the context of John 1:1b demonstrates a distinction between God and the Word. The Word cannot be the God He is with.

3)  Mr. Stafford argues forcefully that the distinction in 1:1b is an ontological one, because John uses THEOS, not the PATER.  Therefore, the distinction is in terms of THEOS, not in terms of Person, as it would be if John had said: "The Word was with the Father."

4).  Mr. Stafford seeks to undermine the Trinitarian reading of THEOS in John 1:1c as purely qualitative, by arguing that NO singular count noun in Colwell's Construction referencing a personalistic subject may be viewed as purely qualitative.  Therefore, he says, since THEOS in John 1:1c cannot be demonstrated to be purely qualitative, it must have either a definite or indefinite nuance.  The context, he says, argues for the indefinite sense.

5)  Even if THEOS in John 1:1c is purely qualitative, it still cannot be used in defense of the Trinity, for if the Word shares the Divine Nature, He must either be "the Trinity" or "a god." (Earlier, Greg said it would mean that the Word was "A God" or "a god").

Now, Mr. Stafford has said he does not want to interact with me any further, until I respond to him on the Mantey letter.  I hope he will reconsider, at least to the point that he will review what I have written thus far, and show me if and where I have misunderstood his arguments, particularly since he's asked me to restate his arguments in our other dialog.

I also wish to say that I do not bear Greg any ill-will.  Though I have tried to argue my side forcefully, and have chided Greg on his rhetoric (I think with some justification, see below), Christ compells me to love my enemies as well as my neighbors and pray for them.  Since I do not view Greg as my enemy (indeed, though we have profound theological differences, I would guess we share a number of values and beliefs), how can I do anything else?  I would wish that our dialog might glorify God, for that should be the purpose of everything we do.  That has been my intent (no doubt imperfectly acted out) in this dialog, and so I have tried to respond directly to each of Greg's points, as I understand them.  In other words, I have not consciously tried to misrepresent his views, for that would not further the discussion, nor would it glorify God.

As I hope Greg will take this message in the spirit of reconciliation which I intend, I will not address his last post, point by point.  There is much I would like to say, but I will hold these comments until the appropriate time - if Greg decides to continue this discussion.

I will, however, address two specific points, as they speak directly to my credibility:

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.

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.

Clearly, once again, Hommel does not understand his own argument. Does he mean to say that the PN in Mark 2:28 is similar in sense to the PN in John 1:1? There seems to me to be no reason why the PN in Mark 2:28 is not definite. Has Hommel, or Harner, proven otherwise? No. Hommel merely assumes that this text somehow helps his cause, leaning on the studies of a fellow Trinitarian who proves nothing with respect to the subject text, in the process. Indeed, not only does Mark 2:28 fail to to rescue his view, but he completely overlooks the significance of the context in John 1:1, as compared with Mark 2:28!

In Mark 2:28 is the "Lord of the Sabbath" WITH another "Lord"? Yet, in John 1:1 we have the one called THEOS in 1:1c WITH another who is called THEOS in 1:1b, and where the one called THEOS in 1:1c is further qualified in 1:18 as MONOGENHS THEOS, showing uan nmistakable distinction between the two. THAT is why Trinitarians distinguish, not between the two as THEOS (even though that is precisely what we find in the text!) but between the PERSONS of the Trinity! An assumption has displaced fact.

Greg, I was responding to your challenge 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."  I did not overlook the context.  You did not request that the example be in a similar context to John 1:1.  I gave you precisely what you asked for (though you don't accept my evidence for viewing the semantic force of the PN as purely qualitative).  So, please don't say I don't understand my own argument.

You say there "seems to [you] to be no reason why the PN in Mark 2:28 is not definite."  As I pointed out, the NWT Translation Committee does not translate it that way - it translates the PN qualitatively.  Harner's reasoning is quite valid.  Read the context of the JBL quote.  He considers both the indefinite and definite sense and rejects them in favor of a qualitative reading.  Harner may be a Trinitarian, but that does not invalidate his knowledge of Greek nor his reasoning.  "Proven?" Well, translation isn't an exact science like math, so, no, I guess it's not proven axiomatically - but neither, then, is your assertion!  The difference between our views is that I can cite Harner AND the NWT (not to mention the NIV, NASB, NCV, KJV, Darby, YLT, NLT, NSRV, and God's Word), while you (thus far) have only given your uncorroborated opinion.  I think the fact that so many translations render the PN as qualitative, places the burden is on you to demonstrate that the sense is NOT qualitative.  And, if it is qualitative, as most scholars and translators think, then, yes, Greg, the sense is "similar" to the sense in John 1:1.

The contextual argument is obviously an important one, but it's not what you were arguing here.  You were arguing point #4; I answered that argument.  You responded partially to point #4 (your view that the PN is [may be?] definite) and introduced point #2 and said I "overlooked" it.  I'll be happy to address point #2, but that's not what you were originally requesting at this point.

Point number 2:

I also find it most amusing that Hommel chooses to attack me personally, as follows:

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. >>>

More fantasy...Hommel gives, as you can see, NOT EVEN ONE example. Indeed, what did the B-Greek Moderator say? It seems to me that he accepted what I had to say about Luke 23:43, quite readily.

If Hommel thinks that merely pointing out the fact that he and the others he mentions do not understand certain things (and they do not) is disrespectful, then fine. But that is not how I view the term. Hommel and those he mentions regularly misrepresent the JWs and the Scriptures, and I am going to point that out forcefully every time it happens. So, give us some examples of disrespect, Hommel, and I will place them in their proper context.

If you'll read what I originally said, I did not claim you were disrespectful.  I said *I* TRIED to be.  What I said was that you rhetorically portray your opponents as either theologically blind, or stupid - how else are we to take continually being told we "fail to understand" your arguments, "misunderstand" our own, "read into the text" things that aren't there, are "making things up," engage in "fantasy," etc.?  I characterized this rhetoric as "ridicule," and I don't believe that's an exaggeration.  Greg, surely you must see the implied ad hominem in such remarks.

The moderator at B-Greek apparently did:

My guess is that MOST readers will see this as "bantering," but without the good humor one would rather associate with "banter." It is not a matter of a lack of learned argumentation from Biblical texts but rather that it is a personal response in kind to a provocative message directed to you rather than to the list, which message and response, while they may not technically fit the definition of an 'ad hominem' response, are more or less equivalent to it.... Others may find this exchange just simply boring or "banter," which my dictionary defines as "good-humored ridicule; raillery, repartee." I don't find that much good humor in it. What does bother me about it is that there is present, not very far beneath the surface and occasionally openly exposed, a doctrinal opposition between a trinitarian and a non-trinitarian
perspective.... In sum then, what I have found particularly disturbing about this exchange is that is HAS NOT been good-humored banter; it has not really been very illuminating about the meaning of MONOGENHS either; more to the point, however, is that promotion or defense of a doctrinal stance has seemed more central to the exchange than elucidation of the meaning of a Greek text, and that respect and courtesy are scarcely, if at all, to be discerned any longer. If this discussion is to be continued, I would prefer it be carried on away from the B-Greek list.

Carl W. Conrad
Department of Classics, Washington University

HOMMEL (Con't):
Here's just one comment that may have caused Mr. Conrad to chide you (and "economy1) on your rhetoric:  "So then the best you can do, as far as the OL is concerned, is assume."  I find this interesting, in that the one example you give from our interaction on the Mantey letter that you say demonstrates a lack of respect (and therefore entitles you to brand me a hypocrite) is virtually the same rhetorical comment: "Is this the best you can do?"  So, either the comment is not particularly offensive (my view), or it is, and we're both guilty of it.

You said: "If Hommel thinks that merely pointing out the fact that he and the others he mentions do not understand certain things (and they do not) is disrespectful, then fine."  No, Greg, I did not say it was disrespectful.  I said it was an example of a rhetorical tactic.  I conclude that it is a tactic, because it occurs so frequently in your dialogs with Trinitarians (if you really want me to provide examples, I will).  It is, of course, possible that all of us are - as you claim - unable to understand your arguments because of bias or some other deficiency.  However, given the number of times you level the charge, and the number of targets, I conclude that statistically it is improbable that we all suffer the same malady, and more likely that it is a rhetorical tactic, or (perhaps) you have not clearly expressed your argument in the first place (don't take this as a personal attack - sometimes we all need to restate our arguments several times, in different ways, to properly convey our ideas).

You go on to say that you are entitled to your opinion regarding your opponent's (mis)understanding of your arguments, and you certainly are.  However, if you sincerely want to help people see the truth as you perceive it, you might try going at your argument from a different angle once or twice, rather than always assuming unwillingness or bias.  You might find that even someone as "unreasonable" as I will become quite reasonable ;-)

Greg, it is my hope that we can continue this dialog.  This is a vitally important subject, and I do appreciate both the learning you bring to the subject, and the time you've put into our dialog thus far.

Best regards,


Mr. Stafford was true to his word and did not respond to this post.

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