Daniel B. Wallace,
Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics: An Exegetical Syntax of the New Testament,
6. Application of Colwell’s Construction to John 1:1John 1:1 states: vEn avrch/| h==n o` lo,goj( kai. o` lo,goj h==n pro.j to.n qeo,n( kai. qeo.j h==n o` lo,goj) In the last part of the verse, the clause kai. qeo.j h==n o` lo,goj (John 1:1c), qeo,j is the PN. It is anarthrous and comes before the verb. Therefore, it fits Colwell’s construction, though it might not fit the rule (for the rule states that definiteness is determined or indicated by the context, not by the grammar). Whether it is indefinite, qualitative, or definite is the issue at hand.
a. Is Qeo,j in John 1:1c Indefinite?If qeo,j were indefinite, we would translate it “a god” (as is done in the New World Translation [NWT]). If so, the theological implication would be some form of polytheism, perhaps suggesting that the Word was merely a secondary god in a pantheon of deities.The grammatical argument that the PN here is indefinite is weak. Often, those who argue for such a view (in particular, the translatorsof the NWT) do so on the sole basis that the term is anarthrous. Yet they are inconsistent, as R. H. Countess pointed out:In the New Testament there are 282 occurrences of the anarthrous qeo,j. At sixteen places NWT has either a god, god, gods, or godly. Sixteen out of 282 means that the translators were faithful to their translation principle only six percent of the time. . . .The first section of John–1:1-18–furnishes a lucid example of NWT arbitrary dogmatism. Qeo,j occurs eight times–verses 1, 2, 6, 12, 13, 18–and has the article only twice–verses 1, 2. Yet NWT six times translated “God,” once “a god,” and once “the god.”If we expand the discussion to other anarthrous terms in the Johannine Prologue, we notice other inconsistencies in the NWT: It is interesting that the New World Translation renders qeo,j as “a god” on the simplistic grounds that it lacks the article. This is surely an insufficient basis. Following the “anarthrous = indefinite” principle would mean that avrch/| should be “a beginning” (1:1, 2), zwh, should be “a life” (1:4), para. qeou/ should be “from a god” (1:6), VIwa,nnhj should be “a John” (1:6), qeo,n should be “a god” (1:18), etc. Yet none of these other anarthrous nouns is rendered with an indefinite article. One can only suspect strong theological bias in such a translation.According to Dixon’s study, if qeo,j were indefinite in John 1:1, it would be the only anarthrous pre-verbal PN in John’s Gospel to be so. Although we have argued that this is somewhat overstated, the general point is valid: The indefinite notion is the most poorly attested for anarthrous pre-verbal predicate nominatives. Thus, grammatically such a meaning is improbable. Also, the context suggests that such is not likely, for the Word already existed in the beginning. Thus, contextually and grammatically, it is highly improbable that the Logos could be “a god” according to John. Finally, the evangelist’s own theology militates against this view, for there is an exalted Christology in the Fourth Gospel, to the point that Jesus Christ is identified as God (cf. 5:23; 8:58; 10:30; 20:28, etc.).
b. Is Qeo,j in John 1:1c Definite?Grammarians and exegetes since Colwell have taken qeo,j as definite in John 1:1c. However, their basis has usually been a misunderstanding of Colwell’s rule. They have understood the rule to say that an anarthrous pre-verbal PN will usually be definite (rather than the converse). But Colwell’s rule states that a PN which is probably definite as determined from the context which precedes a verb willusually be anarthrous. If we check the rule to see if it applies here, we would say that the previous mention of qeo,j (in 1:1b) is articular. Therefore, if the same person being referred to there is called qeo,j in 1:1c, then in both places it is definite. Although certainly possible grammatically (though not nearly as likely as qualitative), the evidence is not very compelling. The vast majority of definite anarthrous pre-verbal predicate nominatives are monadic, in genitive constructions, or are proper names, none of which is true here, diminishing the likelihood of a definite qeo,j in John 1:1\c.Further, calling qeo,j in 1:1c definite is the same as saying that if it had followed the verb it would have had the article. Thus it would be a convertible proposition with lo,goj (i.e., “the Word” = “God” and “God” = “the Word”). The problem of this argument is that the qeo,j in 1:1b is the Father. Thus to say that the qeo,j in 1:1c is the same person is to say that “the Word was the Father.” This, as the older grammarians and exegetes pointed out, is embryonic Sabellianism or modalism. The Fourth Gospel is about the least likely place to find modalism in the NT.c. Is Qeo,j in John 1:1c Qualitative?The most likely candidate for qeo,j is qualitative. This is true both grammatically (for the largest proportion of pre-verbal anarthrous predicate nominatives fall into this category) and theologically (both the theology of the Fourth Gospel and of the NT as a whole). There is a balance between the Word’s deity, which was already present in the beginning (evn avrch/| ) ) ) qeo.j h==n [1:1], and his humanity, which was added later (sa.rx evge,neto [1:14]). The grammatical structure of these two statements mirrors each other; both emphasize the nature of the Word, rather than his identity. But qeo,j was his nature from eternity (hence, eivmi, is used), while sa,rx was added at the incarnation (hence, gi,nomai is used).Such an option does not at all impugn the deity of Christ. Rather, it stresses that, although the person of Christ is not the person of the Father, their essence is identical. Possible translations are as follows: “What God was, the Word was” (NEB), or “the Word was divine” (a modified Moffatt). In this second translation, “divine” is acceptable only if it is a term that can be applied only to true deity. However, in modern English, we use it with reference to angels, theologians, even a meal! Thus “divine” could be misleading in an English translation. The idea of a qualitative qeo,j here is that the Word had all the attributes and qualities that “the God” (of 1:1b) had. In other words, he shared the essence of the Father, though they differed in person. The construction the evangelist chose to express this idea was the most concise way he could have stated that the Word was God and yet was distinct from the Father.