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To MS , Re: More on John 20:28


Hi MS,

You wrote:

Nice try :) ... but Jesus was NEVER addressed with the "nominative of address" by ANYONE in the GNT ...

ROBERT:  MS, let's not exaggerate.  Jesus is called RABBI numerous times.  RABBI is indeclinable - the form is nominative in all cases.  Jesus is called HUIOS DAUID in Matthew, though "Son of David" is in the vocative in Mark.  In John 13:13, Jesus says his disciples call him "KURIOS," and commends them.  Clearly, if there were some sort of distinction between KURIOS and KURIE in terms of address, Jesus would have said so here.  The terms are semantically transparent - KURIOS *may* reflect somewhat more elevated or formal diction, but there is no difference in meaning or referent.  Harris sees KURIOS in John 13:13 as a nominative of address, and it is certainly possible to see it that way, given that Jesus is repeating what this disciples called him.

MS:  ...and the Father WAS addressed at least once at Revelation 4:11 with a similar form.

ROBERT:  Rev 4:11 demonstrates that the elders are comfortable addressing their God with the nominative of address, just as is Thomas.  Of course, your statistics - as you cast them - indicate that 96% of the time, Jews addressed their God with a form of the vocative, so I guess we should conclude that the Father is NOT being addressed in Rev 4:11, based on your logic?  (If you did, I would point out that here LEGONTES serves the same function as EIPEN AUTWi).

MS:  Therefore our phrase from John 20:28 is used only once in the GNT in a completely different context and not in isolation. This fact favors the interpretation that the phrase is an exclamation similar to the one "K" mentioned when he said:

I hope you gentlemen don't mind my butting in, but, oh well, here I go (()) My Grandfather died a few years ago. If I get to see him resurrected, would it be unusual for me, at that very first moment when I realize he's standing before me, to exclaim: Oh my god, Grandpa, it's really you! Now, the question is, did I call my Grandpa "oh my God"?

ROBERT:  This "fact" favors no such thing, MS.  An exclamation "similar" to K's would be blasphemy, unless K were directing the "my God" statement to his God.  Second Commandment and all that.  You might say that Thomas was being reverent and making a prayerful exclamation, but this argument is easily surmounted by the words John uses to describe the entire CONVERSATION taking place between Thomas and Jesus.  There is a clear exchange of statements and responses: "He said to Thomas...Thomas answered and said to him...Jesus said to him."

Even you must admit, below: "Of course, we know that Thomas spoke the words AUTWi (to Jesus) and that his exclamation en toto was of course an ANSWER or acknowledgement to Jesus that he had in fact been weak in faith but now he was totally convinced."  So, once again, your argument boils down to trying to prove a distinction between "spoken to" and "directed to."  I submit this is a non-distinction.  Rev 4:11 establishes that John felt comfortable using the nominative of address in relation to God.  Again, if Thomas has come to believe that Jesus is also his God, John would likely have used this form of address when quoting Thomas.  To argue that the referent of Thomas' statement DEPENDS on the form of address, and in fact, should override AUTWi, is a variation of the referential fallacy.  You argue that the referent determines form; the referential fallacy that the referent determines lexical meaning.  A rose is a rose...;-)

MS:  The reason I left so much of the raw data visible was to allow for more discussion of the different phrases, otherwise I could have given the statistics and left it at that.  And so when we analyze the data we find that not only did Thomas use two words (KURIOS and QEOS) that had never been used before in reference to Jesus, but he used them in a different way than was normally used to address the Father as well, even if we limit our examples to the NT.

ROBERT:  What do you mean by "never been used before?"  Certainly you don't dispute that KURIOS and THEOS are both applied to Jesus previously in John's gospel (though not in forms of address).  Jesus commends the disciples for calling him "KURIOS" in John 13:13.  We also must consider whether Thomas was familiar with Ps 35:23 (34:32 LXX):  "HO THEOS MOU KAI HO KURIOS MOU." Thomas may well have been alluding to it, if not actually quoting it.  John certainly would have no problems writing a quotation from Thomas applying a verse in the OT to Jesus; he was probably aware that Paul had done so on several occasions, as he had himself with "King of Kings and Lord of Lords" in Revelation.

MS:  In addition, most of these occur in Revelation which is known for having non-standard Greek in the first place. Some might even eliminate Revelation from the statistics on that basis alone. In Revelation (the only book that uses QEOS in a direct address, to the Father) we find KURIE hO QEOS hO PANTOKRATWR used 3 times and one time as hO KURIOS KAI hO QEOS HMWN.

Sometimes in order to analyze what a writer said it is often necessary to determine HOW he could have said it using a different phrase. This is particularly applicable here when one considers that if Thomas had answered and said to Jesus KURIE hO QEOS MOU we would not be having this discussion at all! This is because when one looks at the statistics using only the NT it becomes clear that when someone is being addressed with a divine title that contains both KURIOS and QEOS (leaving out John 20:28) the odds are in favor 3 to 1 that KURIE hO QEOS would be used. This latter phrase also has the distinction of combining the form of KURIOS used exclusively used for direct address to Jesus by the disciples with QEOS in a way that makes the phrase completely unambiguous. The other way that this text could have been expressed is found also in the book of John with an expression by Nathanael at John 1:49 where he prefaces his statement with SU EI (you are) as in "you are the Son of God" (cf John 20:31).

ROBERT:  Of course we would be having this discussion, because you would deny that Thomas is calling Jesus his God, regardless of the language used to express that idea.  You have admitted that Rev 4:11 is a parallel phrase, directed to the Father.  Since all examples of KURIE hO THOES are also directed to the Father, you would argue that this is the case here as well - just as you are now!  To say otherwise is simply disengenuous, MS.  It does prove a vital point, though, and that is that your counter-example is not a counter-example at all.   I've already addressed SU EI in a previous post.  I've also provided examples of how John could have made clear that Thomas was praising the Father while addressing Jesus, as you have suggested, which also would mean that we would not be having this discussion now, had he written one of them.

The following footnote is from the NET bible to which I understand Dan Wallace has contributed. Many of the footnotes are also in his Exegetical Syntax. The following is from John 20:28:
Should Thomas’ exclamation be understood as two subjects with the rest of the sentence omitted (“My Lord and my God has truly risen from the dead”), as predicate nominatives (“You are my Lord and my God”), or as vocatives (“My Lord and my God!”)? Probably the most likely is something between the second and third alternatives. It seems that the second is slightly more likely here, because the context appears confessional. Thomas’ statement, while it may have been an exclamation, does in fact confess the faith which he had previously lacked, and Jesus responds to Thomas’ statement in the following verse as if it were a confession. With the proclamation by Thomas here, it is difficult to see how any more profound analysis of Jesus’ person could be given. It echoes 1:1 and 1:14 together: the Word was God, and the Word became flesh (Jesus of Nazareth). The Fourth Gospel opened with many other titles for Jesus: the Lamb of God (1:29, 36); the Son of God (1:34, 49); Rabbi (1:38); Messiah (1:41); the King of Israel (1:49); the Son of Man (1:51). Now the climax is reached with the proclamation by Thomas, “My Lord and my God,” and the reader has come full circle from 1:1, where the author had introduced him to who Jesus was, to 20:28, where the last of the disciples has come to the full realization of who Jesus was. What Jesus had predicted in John 8:28 had come to pass: “When you lift up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am he” (Grk “I am”). By being lifted up in crucifixion (which led in turn to his death, resurrection, and exaltation with the Father) Jesus has revealed his true identity as both Lord (kuvrio" [kurios], used by the LXX to translate Yahweh) and God (qeov" [qeos], used by the LXX to translate Elohim). [e.a.]

Therefore, Wallace does make a comparison specifically to the LXX usage of KURIOS and QEOS. The statistics when looking at just the NT alone favors the interpretation that Thomas either did not directly address ANYONE (ie a joyful exclamation), or that the odds are slightly in favor of addressing the Father. When the LXX evidence is added the statistics favor this even more.

ROBERT:  Well, no matter who wrote the footnote and no matter what Wallace's input was, it certainly doesn't pertain to the vocative vs. nominative of address, which is what we were discussing.  You don't dispute what the author of the footnote says about the use of KURIOS for YHWH and THEOS for ELOHIM in the LXX, do you?

If Thomas's phrase was floating all by itself without a context, and if we accept your interpretation of the statistics, then we might conclude that taking ONLY the statistics into consideration, your conclusions are possible.  However, the verse IS in a context, and this context makes it abundantly clear who is being addressed:  "Answered...and said to him (Jesus)."

Interestingly, of the instances of QEOS used as vocative, both the LXX and the GNT have almost the exact same percentage, about 20%. In addition the use of KURIOS as vocative is exceedingly rare in both as well. I found one example of both KURIOS and QEOS used together in Stafford's Jehovah's Witnesses Defended, page 353. The reason I missed it is that BibleWorks had not tagged either the QEOS or KURIOS in that verse as vocative.

I think that when we look closer at the forms of address used of God, what Thomas said is definitely both an outlier and ambiguous. While both forms are used, they are used in a markedly different way that in either the LXX or the GNT. What statistics do you have with respects to two parallel accounts, one with vocative and one with nominative? I hope you statement is not based on the sole example of QEE in the GNT which is translated into Greek from Aramaic.

ROBERT:  I'll address your last point first.  Your argument here is that if the Greek is translated from the Aramaic, we can draw no conclusions about the nominative vs the vocative?  Is that right?  OK, what language was Thomas speaking in, MS?

Harris quotes several scholars who see John's use of hO KURIOS owing something to the Semitic vocative (_Jesus as God_, p. 108).

With regard to examples, I wonder how carefully you read my posts, MS.  I said that Robertson had listed a number of examples, and I provided the reference to his big grammar.  Compare the parallel accounts of the woman who reached out and touched the hem of Jesus' garment (Matt 9:22; Mk 5:34; Luke 8:48). The noun "daughter" is "thyga'teer" in the nominative sing (eta in the ending, and penult accented), but "thy'gater" in the vocative (epsilon in the ending, and antepenult accented). Keeping in mind that these are parllel accounts of the same event, and all these writers were inspired, note what happens from once account to the next. In Matthew's account "Thy'gater" is vocative and preceded by the verb "eipen", but in both Mark's and Luke's account the same noun is presented in the nominative "thyga'teer"...even though direct address is presented in all three accounts. This change cannot be accounted for by just a simple change of a single character in the ultima either, for notice that the accent also changes and this could be done only with conscious deliberation.

Direct address (vocative) occurs several times in John's Gospel, sometimes with Jesus using the nominative singular for Father "pateer" (eta in the ultima and also the accent), but at other places using the vocative "pa'ter" (epsilon in the ultima and the accent over the penult). For example in John 12:38, in praying Jesus uses the vocative "pa'ter". Also in John 17:1,5, & 11. But later in John 17, Jesus still in direct address uses the nominative "pateer'", for example in 17:21, 24, & 25. And the same point applies here with regard to the conscious deliberation in the changing of the accent.

Finally, MS, you really didn't engage my argument that your examples of combined forms in a single passage actually argues for the transparency with which the NT writers viewed the forms with regard to lexis and reference.

It looked to me like the Septuagint always clearly distinguished between the angel of Jehovah and Jehovah, and that the MT included a YHWH or two in the passage (although in the NWT the footnote references the LXX). If you are adamant that the phrase APEKRITHE ... EIPEN AUTW(i) be exactly duplicated in any text that we use as a parallel to John 20:28 or even that AUTWi/AUTOUS be used then I don't see that the Hebrew can be used at all.  In another search I checked to see how often AUTWi was used with KURIE in the GNT I found that it was only present 42 times out of a total of 107. This clearly shows that AUTWi is not needed at all when making a direct address.

ROBERT:  Look at how you're trying to make your case.  You running all over the Bible, trying to show that the plain meaning of APEKRITHE...EIPEN AUTW(i) is not the true meaning of this text.  Why don't you just show me grammatically how it's possible that a phrase following EIPEN AUTW(i) is NOT addressed to the referent of AUTW(i).  Of course AUTWi is not NEEDED when making an address, MS.  I never said it was.  But when it's present, as it is here, it makes it clear to whom the address is directed.

MS:  In addition I do think that your argument based on the occurrence IS statistically based because you are not making a grammatical argument at all. If you said that you did not think it was grammatically possible based on some legitimate rule of grammar then it would be different. Even Wallace does not do this. He buttresses his example with the statement which emphasizes the narrow set of statistics of how often in the NT "God" is addressed with QEE. However, even in the NT 60% of the time when QEOS is used as an address it is either QEE or accompanied by KURIE, not KURIOS.

ROBERT:  MS, please.  My argument is based in the meaning of APEKRITHE...EIPEN AUTW(i).  I've discussed how AUTW(i) is dative, and means "to him."  How is this NOT a grammatical argument?  EIPON is a 2nd aorist of lego, and commonly uses the dative in narratives, whether implied or expressed, but not always (cf., John 8:55). So when John follows EIPEN with the dative AUTW(i), he is not merely conforming with grammar, but is using the dative for emphasis: "said TO."  All you can prove is that Thomas may have addressed Jesus in a unique way - not that Thomas didn't address Jesus at all.  And by "unique," I mean in terms of how Jesus was ADDRESSED, for he was CALLED THEOS and KURIOS, and the nominative of address is precedented by Ps 35:23 (34:23 LXX) and Rev 4:11.  Simply because the referent in the two precedents was the Father does not DICTATE that it is the Father here.  It may, however, indicate the new role Jesus had taken in Thomas' devotion.

I don't think I made that argument at all, for I limited my comments to the Greek of the LXX. I have not compared the Hebrew and the Greek as yet. Also I think that it matters not so much who Gideon was actually addressing but who he thought he was addressing. Gideon did not find out it was an angel until after the angel disappeared. If the MT has Gideon calling someone Jehovah that he had not yet realized was even an angel, then we have quite a conundrum, don't we?

ROBERT:  No, you didn't articulate the argument, but that is the common Witness belief, is it not?  I was responding to two-cents references which you cited, and said that - at best - they demonstrated that an Angel was addressed as Jehovah because (in the view of most Witnesses I've spoken to about this) the angel "represented" Jehovah.  You, I thought, were trying to imply that these passages suggested that someone could be addressed while the speaker was directing his comments to another.  I don't follow your point about the 'conundrum' at all, as I'm not clear on which passage you're referring to.

That is a statistically based argument, not a grammatical or contextual one.

ROBERT:  No, it is a contextual one, MS.  If Gideon is reported to say, "O Lord!" but we have no indication in the text that he said this TO the angel (who isn't even there!), arguing that he is speaking to the Angel fails to take context into account.

MS:  Perhaps at John 20:28 those words are used PRECISELY because the vocative is missing. The lack of any vocative in this context and the lack of AUTWi may have been awkward. Remember, Thomas did not say AUTWi, John added it. I believe that he explains why at John 20:31 :).

ROBERT:  I wouldn't term it a "lack" of the vocative.  The vocative is expressed in the nominative, and is signalled by EIPEN AUTW(i).  Bibleworks uses Friberg semantic tags, doesn't it?  What tag to they assign to KURIOS and THEOS in this verse?  Why would the context be "awkward" without AUTW(i)?  EIPEN doesn't require the dative, and can stand on it's own just fine.  In fact, if John left AUTW(i) out, it might have made your case a bit more secure.  Thomas would have simply SAID (to noone in particular, you might plausibly argue) "My Lord and my God."  As it stands, the nominative of address is clearly signalled by AUTW(i), and designates to whom the address was directed.

One cannot ignore that the sentence in verse 30-31 which contains the word PISTEUW twice which is a reference to the usage in the passage which just was completed!

ROBERT:  I don't.  Of course John's Gospel is written to inspire faith!  Thomas' faith seems quite clearly stated.  He realizes who Jesus is:  God to him!

Although I can see what I wrote was ambiguous, I meant that in this scenario, the exclamation of KURIOS was meant for Jesus while the exclamation of hO QEOS MOU! was meant for the Father. Of course, we know that Thomas spoke the words AUTWi (to Jesus) and that his exclamation en toto was of course an ANSWER or acknowledgement to Jesus that he had in fact been weak in faith but now he was totally convinced.

ROBERT:  So, if my count is correct, you now have posited 4 explanations for Thomas' words, all designed to deny it's clear meaning:  1)  Thomas is speaking to Jesus, but addressing God.  2) Thomas is making a prayerful exclamation.  3)  Thomas is calling Jesus his God, but not in an absolute sense.  4)  Thomas is addressing both Father and Son.

You may not be dogmatic about what the verse means, but you sure seem to be with regard to what it DOESN'T mean! ;-)

There is no indication in the words spoken by Thomas nor in Jesus' reply that Thomas is addressing two persons.  KAI links the two nouns, and there is no distinguishing reference to Jesus or the Father on either side of it.  While KURIE KAI THEOS may be a more common way to join the two nouns, both KURIOS and THEOS, when joined by KAI always refer to the same person (yes, that's a statiscal argument).  In the two verses that provide the closest parallels (Ps 34:23 LXX and Rev 4:11), one person is in view.  Again, there is no difference semantically or referentially between vocative and nominative of address (that's a grammatical argument).

MS:  Convinced of what?  If Thomas had just then at that point realized that he was standing face to face with Jehovah God, why is it that no one ever bothered to tell him that before? And if all of them had just found out at that same point that Jesus really is Jehovah, why is it the only thing that you read is this short statement "The Lord of me and the God of me?" And we see nothing else about it in the rest of the bible. It would have to be the single most IMPORTANT REVELATION in the scriptures and yet we don't see it recorded as such.

ROBERT:  Yes, it is the single most important revelation in scripture, but Jesus predicts that even if one comes back from the dead, the unbelievers will persist in their unbelief.  It means that God revealed Himself to us personally, not through a perfect creature, but by coming Himself and 'tenting' among us.  In your view, God's self-revelation is imperfect.  The Father knows his creatures perfectly, but not even a perfect creature can know God perfectly.  Yet, Jesus says he knows the Father "even as" the Father knows Him.  In your view, Christ's mediation is imperfect, because while he has memories of his life on earth, he is not now a Man, nor is he God.  A perfect mediator is one who is both God and Man.  Indeed, unless you are one of the Annointed, MS, you don't even believe the imperfect mediator is your mediator, do you?  How sad, MS, that God's Eternal Son came and gave his life for you, and is now your advocate with the Father, and you believe He died only to remove the stain of Adam's sin from your life, and that he does not mediate for you, but for only for others who have all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God, just as you and I.

MS:  Winer states on this expression that: "On the other hand, Jno. xx. 28, although directed to Jesus (EIPEN AUTWi) is rather exclamation than address; and, in the Greek authors, such a Nom. has early and strong prominence. (Bhdy. as above, Kru. 12). (Winer 183)

ROBERT:  Harris calls this comment "curious" and I agree.  How an exclamation can be "directed to Jesus" but not be addressed to him is quite beyond me.  Sounds like having one's cake and eating it, too.

MS:  The footnote to the NET which is influences by Wallace says that the expression is an exclamation and does not provide an argument against the possibility that it was not addressed to Jesus. The fact that Winer makes this statement is proof that it is a grammatical possibility.

ROBERT:  Yes, the footnote uses the term "exclamation," but it's obvious from the context that the author of the note views that exclamation as being directed to Jesus.  "Does not provide an argument against...?"  MS, you know that arguments from silence prove nothing, right?  There's no argument there that Thomas is NOT speaking to Jesus, either.  So what?  I'm not sure Winer "proves" a grammatical possibility at all - he does admit the phrase is "directed to Jesus," regardless of what he means by exclamation.  Your quote doesn't prove that Winer thought the "addressee" was the Father, or no one, either!  His argument is not based on grammar, but on extra-Biblical uses of the nominative of address as an "exclamation."  Finally, even if you have a "grammatical possibility," you need far more that a possibility when faced with the clear meaning of "Answered...and said TO HIM."

MS:  Karl Rahner, S.J., Theological Investigations, Vol. i, p. 136 says:
The article in Jn 20:28 is explained by the MOU which normally requires the article before it; by its use with the vocative [case]...and by its presence in the established formula ‘the lord and the god’...It should be further noted that ‘the god of me’, whether it is taken as vocative or nominative, is predicative in sense and so cannot be used as evidence either way to show whether the god in New Testament usage ever appears as subject of a statement referring to Christ.”

ROBERT:  You know what Rahner is getting at here, right?  He's trying to say that THEOS is not used as the SUBJECT of a sentence in reference to Christ.  If Christ is called THEOS predicatively, he's still being called God, MS.  Rahner would have us infer a subject, which can only be "You are" in this case, since Jesus is the one spoken to.

Wallace has an interesting comment on the possessive MOU used with respects to Jesus and QEOS. He says:

The idea of possession in such expressions is not to be pressed in the sense that the Lord owned fully by Thomas. But in a broad sense, the Lord belongs to Thomas-now, on this occasion, in a way not true before. (Wallace 82, Possessive Genitive [belonged to, possessed by]

Apparently he sees a problem with the Trinitarian interpretation while accepting the normal usage of the Greek possessive. The genitive serves to limit and therefore if interpreted as we do other genitives in this type of construction it limits the application of QEOS to Jesus if we interpret that Thomas is calling Jesus QEOS. This means that he is being called QEOS in a different sense than if Thomas had said he was KURIE hO QEOS hO PANTWKRATHR or "The Lord God the Almighty" as the phrase is used in Revelation.

ROBERT:  You avoided my question, MS.  How many Gods does Thomas have?  Wallace, I'm sure, would be interested to see the eisogesis you bring to his work, MS ;-)  Nowhere in the quote you provided does Wallace indicate that he sees a "problem" with the Trinitarian interpretation.  He is discussing the aspects of the possessive genitive, and saying that while often it indicates simple possession (Thomas literally says "the hands of me," meaning his hands - the ones that belong to him), there are copious examples where the idea of POSSESSION or OWNERSHIP is not to be pressed.  Thus, the Lord is not Thomas' in the sense the He is "fully owned by Thomas."  Wallace says that in a "broad sense," Thomas is calling Jesus his God because Jesus "belongs to Thomas now in a way not true before."  Thomas doesn't OWN Jesus, but he is now claiming Him as His God as he had not claimed before.

Best Regards,


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