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Bob Betts and John 1:1


maklelan

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I was on another board discussing The Apologetics Study Bible with an Evangelical Christian. He commented that the book defends a Trinitarian reading of John 1:1:

I'm reading the notes for John 1 right now. Their analysis of John 1:1 is quite good.

They make the point that, "...sentences of this form in Greek {two nouns joined by a form of the verb "to be"} normally placed the article only before the subject of the sentence, regardless of word order. So the traditional translation, "The Word was God" is to be preferred."

This, of course, is in response to the Jevohah Witnesses' New World Translation which reads, "The Word was a god"

It's interesting to note the Joseph Smith Translation uses the traditional translation: "The Word was God."

Personally, I believe that had Smith lived longer he probably would have adopted the JW translation since he was constantly adjusting and refining the JST while he was alive.

To which I replied:

Your study Bible is misinformed. I suggest you pick up Daniel Wallace's Greek Grammar: Beyond the Basics, for what is unquestionably the most methodologically sound reading of the text. He points out that (1) Colwell's Rule, which is what your study Bible's claim is based on, is quite often misunderstood in its application to John 1:1 (which is what your study Bible does), and (2) Colwell's Rule is based on inexhaustive research. It presupposed the conclusion and omitted verses from the data that conflicted. According to a more comprehensive view of Koine grammar in general, and John's use in particular, the best reading of the theos in John 1:1 is qualitative. Thus, "The Word was Divine." Given the wider semantic range of "divine" in modern parlance, however, a more precise wording would be, "What God was, the Word was." It's not equating the two persons, but their qualities. All the aspects of divinity that define God are found in Jesus.

A series of posts followed in which my reading was belittled and my misunderstanding was attributed to my Mormonism. Finally, Bob Betts decided to join the fray, providing his understanding of the grammar behind John 1:1 and finishing with the following:

I also took your comments, and the above article [critiquing Colwell's Rule] and e-mailed them to Daniel Wallace, requesting his comments. I'll let you know if I hear anything.

I should note that I haven't really looked at the names associated with the posts I've been responding to, so I actually didn't know this was Bob. I tend to just hit "quote" and focus only on the response. Sometimes that gets me in trouble. I've been too busy to comment on the thread much since then, but I got an email today saying there was a response to the thread. This is Bob's most recent post:

I said I would get back to you, maklelan, if i heard a response from Daniel Wallace. I did hear from him. His response was, "I believe the Mormon has understood my position on this text well. And that is what I would affirm.

dbw"

He made no comment about the article by William Arnold III that I also sent him.

I've got to hand it to Bob, as I go back over his comments to me, I see a level tone and more respect than I'm used to in situations like that. I also appreciate that he shared Dr. Wallace's response when he easily could have just pretended he never heard back from him. I have to say Mr. Betts has earned my respect, even if I still disagree entirely with most of his positions.

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I have to say Mr. Betts has earned my respect, even if I still disagree entirely with most of his positions.

I have conversed with Bob quite a bit when he came to this board. I found him to be quite respectful and we could agree to disagree. THis post made me have more respect for him.

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Being respectful for Bob, like most people, is a conscious choice. His recent review of Mike Ash's work was pathetically awful. He despises Mormonism and profits from its demise. Quite frankly, I'm surprised that he was willing to publish Daniel Wallace's response, considering the implications it had for him.

My experience with Bob is that he will rarely, if ever, admit that he is wrong...even when it is spelled out letter by letter for each word. He'll simply ignore what he doesn't like and highlight the ridiculous. For instance, Bob was willing to go as far as to say that if he and his family were attacked by a mob, he would do absolutely nothing to stop them. They could burn down his house, murder and abuse his wife and children...but Bob, that whited sepulcher, wouldn't raise a finger in defense of his family. This of course, came in a discussion about Bob's redefinition of the word "martyr" to purposefully exclude Joseph Smith because Joseph and Hyrum used pistols to defend themselves in Carthage. His absolute passiveness later reversed in future discussion about the violence against the Saints in Missouri and the Extermination order. Bob compared the order to Jesus driving the money-changers from the Temple. I nearly fell of my chair.

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I have conversed with Bob quite a bit when he came to this board. I found him to be quite respectful and we could agree to disagree. THis post made me have more respect for him.

Kudos to Bob.

See my tag line for an example of my interactions with Bob, in the past.

I cannot trust someone who does not tell the truth at all times. --Bob Betts

Yet Bob beleives everything Peter says.

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Yes, theos does seem most appropriately read in that clause as a predicate adjective.

But your Greek is much better than mine, Dan, so riddle me this: how would John might have written "and the Logos was a god" if that's what he had wanted?

Of course him saying that the Word was divine is essentially the same thing, I guess.

And as an irrelevant sidenote, I do not respect Bob Betts.

:P

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Yes, theos does seem most appropriately read in that clause as a predicate adjective.

But your Greek is much better than mine, Dan, so riddle me this: how would John might have written "and the Logos was a god" if that's what he had wanted?

Of course him saying that the Word was divine is essentially the same thing, I guess.

And as an irrelevant sidenote, I do not respect Bob Betts.

:P

I would think a verbless clause would more clearly communicate that kind of predication.

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At the risk of completely derailing this thread, I have a question about John 1:1. In "The Coptic Version of the New Testament in the Southern Dialect", John 1:1 is translated:

In the beginning existed the Word, and the Word existed with God, and the Word was a God.

How valid is this translation? I have heard that the manuscript that this was translated from dated back to the third century, is this true and how valid is this translation?

I'm no ancient language scholar, as far as I know, and I'm fully aware that just because something can be found on the internet doesn't make it true, but this site, An Early Coptic Translation and John 1:1c, said this:

The Sahidic Coptic text of the Gospel of John has been found to be in the Alexandrian text tradition of the well-regarded Codex Vaticanus (B) (Vatican 1209), one of the best of the early extant Greek New Testament manuscripts. Coptic John also shows affinities to the Greek Papyrus Bodmer XIV (p75) of the late 2nd/3rd century.4 Concerning the Alexandrian text tradition, Dr. Bruce Metzger states that it "is usually considered to be the best text and the most faithful in preserving the original."5

Therefore, it is all the more strange that insights of the Sahidic Coptic text of John 1:1 are largely ignored by popular Bible translators. Might that be because the Sahidic Coptic Gospel of John translates John 1:1c in a way that is unpopular in Christendom? The Sahidic text renders John 1:1c as auw neunoute pe pshaje, clearly meaning literally "and was a god the Word."6 Unlike koine Greek, Sahidic Coptic has both the definite article, p, and the indefinite article, u. The Coptic text of John 1:1b identifies the first mention of noute as pnoute, "the god," i.e., God. This corresponds to the koine Greek text, wherein theos, "god," has the definite article ho- at John 1:1b, i.e., "the Word was with [the] God."

How valid is this criticism?

Also, in written Coptic , were there upper and lower case letters?

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How valid is this translation? I have heard that the manuscript that this was translated from dated back to the third century, is this true and how valid is this translation?

I'm not familiar with the manuscript, but if the transcription is correct, then it is definitely an indefinite: "a god." From my (albeit very limited) experience, Coptic translations tend to follow Greek pretty strictly in terms of articles: if the Greek has a definite article, the Coptic has one; if the Greek lacks a definite article, the Coptic generally supplies the indefinite article.

But for any serious inquiries about Coptic, John Gee is the guy to ask.

How valid is this criticism?

Not very, in my opinion. The later Coptic translations from the Greek have little bearing on the intended meaning of the Greek which was written approximately three centuries earlier. It's true that this Coptic text seems to say "the word was a god," but it's late date means that it isn't actually very relevant to the exegesis of John 1:1. I don't think biblical scholars are ignoring this because it makes them uncomfortable; I think they're ignoring it because it isn't very relevant. And besides, most biblical scholars aren't very interested in any Coptic literature that isn't heterodox (principally Nag Hammadi).

But what is interesting about this is that it means that the Egyptian Christians who translated and used this Coptic text must not have been strict Trinitarians.

Also, in written Coptic , were there upper and lower case letters?

No, there weren't. Anciently Coptic only had a single script case, although more modern forms are written with improvised capital letters.

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I'm not familiar with the manuscript, but if the transcription is correct, then it is definitely an indefinite: "a god." From my (albeit very limited) experience, Coptic translations tend to follow Greek pretty strictly in terms of articles: if the Greek has a definite article, the Coptic has one; if the Greek lacks a definite article, the Coptic generally supplies the indefinite article.

But for any serious inquiries about Coptic, John Gee is the guy to ask.

Not very, in my opinion. The later Coptic translations from the Greek have little bearing on the intended meaning of the Greek which was written approximately three centuries earlier. It's true that this Coptic text seems to say "the word was a god," but it's late date means that it isn't actually very relevant to the exegesis of John 1:1. I don't think biblical scholars are ignoring this because it makes them uncomfortable; I think they're ignoring it because it isn't very relevant. And besides, most biblical scholars aren't very interested in any Coptic literature that isn't heterodox (principally Nag Hammadi).

But what is interesting about this is that it means that the Egyptian Christians who translated and used this Coptic text must not have been strict Trinitarians.

No, there weren't. Anciently Coptic only had a single script case, although more modern forms are written with improvised capital letters.

Thanks JA, I appreciate the time you took to respond. What did you mean by "And besides, most biblical scholars aren't very interested in any Coptic literature that isn't heterodox (principally Nag Hammadi)." Is the stuff I wrote about considered to be orthodox or do I have any idea what I'm asking?

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Thanks JA, I appreciate the time you took to respond. What did you mean by "And besides, most biblical scholars aren't very interested in any Coptic literature that isn't heterodox (principally Nag Hammadi)." Is the stuff I wrote about considered to be orthodox or do I have any idea what I'm asking?

There's lots of Coptic Christian literature that is considered orthodox (in opposition to the Gnostic heterodox texts), and therefore pretty unexciting for the biblical scholar. The Coptic translations of the Old and New Testament are good examples of orthodox Coptic literature, but another example is the Apophthegmata Patrum, or Sayings of the Desert Fathers. None of these receive anywhere near the attention that the heterodox Gnostic texts do (again, especially Nag Hammadi), which is the principal reason that the majority of scholars learn Coptic today.

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There's lots of Coptic Christian literature that is considered orthodox (in opposition to the Gnostic heterodox texts), and therefore pretty unexciting for the biblical scholar. The Coptic translations of the Old and New Testament are good examples of orthodox Coptic literature, but another example is the Apophthegmata Patrum, or Sayings of the Desert Fathers. None of these receive anywhere near the attention that the heterodox Gnostic texts do (again, especially Nag Hammadi), which is the principal reason that the majority of scholars learn Coptic today.

Now that you mentioned heterdox Gnostic texts, your comments make great sense.

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I was on another board discussing The Apologetics Study Bible with an Evangelical Christian. He commented that the book defends a Trinitarian reading of John 1:1:

To which I replied:

A series of posts followed in which my reading was belittled and my misunderstanding was attributed to my Mormonism. Finally, Bob Betts decided to join the fray, providing his understanding of the grammar behind John 1:1 and finishing with the following:

I should note that I haven't really looked at the names associated with the posts I've been responding to, so I actually didn't know this was Bob. I tend to just hit "quote" and focus only on the response. Sometimes that gets me in trouble. I've been too busy to comment on the thread much since then, but I got an email today saying there was a response to the thread. This is Bob's most recent post:

I've got to hand it to Bob, as I go back over his comments to me, I see a level tone and more respect than I'm used to in situations like that. I also appreciate that he shared Dr. Wallace's response when he easily could have just pretended he never heard back from him. I have to say Mr. Betts has earned my respect, even if I still disagree entirely with most of his positions.

Regarding John 1:1, it may interest some to know that there is soon to be published an 18+ year study (as of 10/2010), a thoroughly researched reference work on this scripture (as well a upon many of its other related topics), it will be entitled, What About John 1:1?

To learn more of its design and expected release date, we invite you to visit:

Good Companion Books

Agape, JohnOneOne.

~~~~~~~~~~

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There's lots of Coptic Christian literature that is considered orthodox (in opposition to the Gnostic heterodox texts), and therefore pretty unexciting for the biblical scholar. The Coptic translations of the Old and New Testament are good examples of orthodox Coptic literature, but another example is the Apophthegmata Patrum, or Sayings of the Desert Fathers. None of these receive anywhere near the attention that the heterodox Gnostic texts do (again, especially Nag Hammadi), which is the principal reason that the majority of scholars learn Coptic today.

Hi Joseph--

This is a bit far afield from the topic at hand, but I was wondering if you could comment on the textual base of the BYU NT Translation and Commentary project. I had asked that in an earlier thread, but it has long since disappeared from the front page here.

I'm attempting to follow the project as best I can, but haven't been able to get much in the way of specific information.

I ask you since you were pulling RA duties on, I believe, Hebrews.

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Hi Joseph--

This is a bit far afield from the topic at hand, but I was wondering if you could comment on the textual base of the BYU NT Translation and Commentary project. I had asked that in an earlier thread, but it has long since disappeared from the front page here.

I'm attempting to follow the project as best I can, but haven't been able to get much in the way of specific information.

I ask you since you were pulling RA duties on, I believe, Hebrews.

I'm no longer doing research for the project. I wasn't involved in any of the actual translating, and honestly I can't confirm the textual basis for the Rendition. Sorry. :P

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I'm no longer doing research for the project. I wasn't involved in any of the actual translating, and honestly I can't confirm the textual basis for the Rendition. Sorry. :P

Ah, okay. Thanks anyway.

Time will tell, I'm sure.

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Were those who translated the Greek into the Coptic in the third century also following the heresy of Arius of Alexandria of the fourth century?

I don't know that but it depends on the why of the translation in what terms are used and what is meant by the terms used.

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I don't know that but it depends on the why of the translation in what terms are used and what is meant by the terms used.

The Coptic translation is almost completely analogous to the Jehovah's Witnesses' translation. It implies that Jesus is a god distinct from the Father.

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The Coptic translation is almost completely analogous to the Jehovah's Witnesses' translation. It implies that Jesus is a god distinct from the Father.

The question remains then what do they intend to mean by saying that Jesus is "a god" as the Jehovah's Wintesses identifies Jesus as a "created being" the heresy known as Arianism? This the Nicene Creed was dealing with in the affirming of Jesus as being God in the flesh of John 1:1-3, 14. In Colossians it is stated that:

Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ. For in him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily. (Colossians 2:8-9)

In the BofM, Joseph use

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The question remains then what do they intend to mean by saying that Jesus is "a god" as the Jehovah's Wintesses identifies Jesus as a "created being" the heresy known as Arianism? This the Nicene Creed was dealing with in the affirming of Jesus as being God in the flesh of John 1:1-3, 14. In Colossians it is stated that:

Does not the Bible Identify "Wisdom" AKA Jesus Christ as a created being?

A Created Being

Of the passages that speak of Wisdom we note the most significant to be those that speak of her creation. (Prov. 8:22) Theologically, this point proves to be very significant, for as Jesus Christ is this Wisdom we see him to be created The Septuagint specifically uses the Greek verb for

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