Saturday, August 27, 2016

John 1:1b-c and the LOGOS: Again? (Gender and Intimacy)

Brooks' and Winbery's Syntax of NT Greek (Lanham, MD: Univesity Press of America, 1979) points out that ὁ Λόγος in Jn 1:1c is the subject nominative within the construction since that noun phrase has the article while the preverbal anarthrous PN does not (page 78).

Of course there are exceptions to the aforesaid general rule, as Richard A. Young shows in his Intermediate NT Greek: A Linguistic and Exegetical Approach (Nashville, TN: Broadman and Holman, 1994) on pages 64-65. Nevertheless, I think it's safe to conclude that ὁ Λόγος is the subject nominative in 1:1c.

There is a question about whether one could rightly conclude that the articular occurrence of Λόγος in 1:1c necessarily signifies a person over against a non-personal entity (especially in view of the fact that the article can be and is used in the NT to describe impersonal objects). But there are possibly other indicators in the context that suggest ὁ Λόγος is a person.

Jn 1:1b declares that ὁ Λόγος was πρὸς τὸν θεόν. A number of grammarians and commentators believe this part of the verse describes the intimate relationship between ὁ Λόγος and τὸν θεόν.

1:9-14 also indicates that John delineated the features of a person. As he writes in 1:14:

"So the Word became flesh and resided among us . . ."

Additionally from Young (page 101): "John writes that the Word was with God (John 1:1 acc.). Harris (1978:1205) suggests that the πρὸς in John 1:1 refers to active communication rather than passive association."

Lastly, ὁ Λόγος is masculine: so is αὐτοῦ and μονογενοῦς, which doesn't necessarily mean the Word is a person, but the gender of nouns and pronouns along with the literary context definitely affects how we translate Bible verses.


Duncan said...

"resided" a poor reflection of the Hebraic thinking here. Coming as it does from a meaning of a temporary residence. A term used in the lxx for the dwelling place of the arch of the covenant holding Torah.

Edgar Foster said...

Would it surprise you if I disagreed with this perspective? :)

Some try to read "temporary residence" into the meaning of ἐσκήνωσεν, but "resided" is perfectly within the range of this word's meaning. I personally think we etymologize illegitimately when trying to read "temporarily residing" into the verb here.

Compare Revelation 7:15; 12:12; 13:6; 21:3.


Duncan said...

Back to Hebraisms again & this is why YLT uses tabernacle. Its significance is greater than just a residence.

Edgar Foster said...

Maybe its significance is greater than residence, but my comment was never intended to imply that resided is the best or only way to render the Greek verb. There are many ways the verb could be rendered, and I agree that the tabernacle is probably in the background. However, I reject the etymologizing and theologizing that often takes place with this verse, where some link the verb with the doctrine of Christ's "Incarnation." Reside is within the word's semantic range, and I would like to point out that more than Hebraic thought shaped the NT's language. Greco-Roman thought also had to factor into the NT lingo. So we consult the papyri and other Greek works to understand the GNT.

Edgar Foster said...

"The Word became flesh and took up residence among us. We observed His glory, the glory as the One and Only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth." (1:14 HCSB)

Duncan said...

The evidence currently emerging as to Hebrew being a prominent living language in first century isreal cannot be ignored. Greek must be taken into account because this is the textual evidence we have to hand but judging by modern standards of insular Jewish communities in London that I have experienced i would not attach to much significance to Greco Roman culture and thought since we are especially referring to one's not effected by a forced diaspora. Persian influence is of more note.

Edgar Foster said...

I concur with your statement that scholars are beginning to argue that Hebrew was a living language in first-century Israel, but we cannot overlook Greco-Roman culture/thought either or the papyri, which have shed so much light on the GNT. There could be Persian influence there, but many works testify to the influence that the ancient Weltsprache initiated by Alexander had on Jews of the Diaspora.

Duncan said...

Greek could be called a world language at the time and evidence does seem to point to it being lingua franca from some time in the first century CE. We could say the same for English today regarding trade and government but this is still a small minority of the population especially when taking the 6% litteracy estimate in to account. Tourism seems to be a large driver for this process today. But Jerusalem was not on the tourist trail and the Alexandrian legends regarding his visit to Jerusalem are IMO greatly exaggerated.

Duncan said...

Came across an interesting point about Josephus:-

"Randall Buth has pointed out to me a fascinating indication that Hebrew was the spoken language in the first century. The Jewish historian Josephus describes an incident that took place during the siege of Jerusalem (War 5:269-272). Josephus relates that watchmen were posted on the towers of the city walls to warn residents of incoming stones fired from Roman ballistae. Whenever a stone was on its way, the spotters would shout “in their native tongue, ‘The son is coming!’” (War 5:272). The meaning the watchmen communicated to the people was: האבן באה (ha-even ba’ah, the stone is coming). However, because of the urgency of the situation, these words were clipped, being abbreviated to בן בא (ben ba, son comes). (This well-known Hebrew wordplay is attested in the New Testament: “God is able from these avanim [stones] to raise up banim [sons] to Abraham” [Matt. 3:9 = Luke 3:8].)

The wordplay (and pun) that Josephus preserves is unambiguously Hebrew. This wordplay does not work in Aramaic: kefa ate (the stone is coming), or the more literary, avna ata, when spoken rapidly, do not sound like bara ate (the son is coming). Another Aramaic word for “stone,” aven, which is related to Hebrew, changes the gender of the verb and, in any case, does not work with “son.”"

Edgar Foster said...

On Greek as a lingua franca/Weltsprache, Jews in the Diaspora almost certainly were exposed to Koine, including those in Alexandria. I don't think Jerusalem even avoided the influence of Koine nor did travelers who did business.

Duncan said...

But when it comes to the LXX Torah which is still thought to have been penned in Alexandria, it is still seen to be the most Hebraic in style. Hebrew in Greek. The origins of many other books are not so clear.