CADRE Comments

A Rational Look at Christianity; Basing Reason in Truth

In summary so far: yes, Jesus is called "the God", {ho theos} or {tou theou} or {ton theon}, in the New Testament. It doesn't happen often, but it does happen.

(Part 1 introduces the topic and discusses John 1:1. Part 2 continues through other Johannine text examples.)

An implied {ho theos} is the best explanation for the textual transmission oddities, and the best fit of stably transmitted oddities nearby in the text, at John 1:18; it happens as a direct (although extended) grammatic effect in 1 John 5:20; it happens directly (if not especially obviously, thanks to the evidence being spread out a bit) in the final chapter of RevJohn; it is the best fit of the grammatic implications at John 1:1 (where the direct article wouldn't be printed for obscure grammatic reasons, but would be understood to be there for those same reasons); and it happens unambiguously, by all direct grammatic evidence and by established usage of the phrase elsewhere, at Thomas' confession in GosJohn 20.

But maybe that's only a Johannine habit, or even an outright invention of the Johannine school or line of tradition or congregation or whatever. It doesn't happen in other New Testament texts, right?

Well, not only do the Johannine texts have it, so do the Petrine epistles.

In Part 1, I went over in detail the example of "the Word was (very emphatically) the God" from John 1:1, arguing that the grammar actually points toward Jesus (as "the Word") being called "the" God there, with a direct article intended by the writer, even though due to another grammatic rule the author had to omit the article--ironically, for the purpose of even more strongly emphasizing that the Word was the God!

Is Jesus called {ho theos}, "the" God, any other times in the NT? Maybe a bit more grammatically obviously?--other than with Thomas' confession late in GosJohn? (Which I am saving for last in this entry.)

Yes, there are some times (other than Thomas' confession) when this happens grammatically obviously. But there are times when it isn't so obvious either; and on the broccoli principle I'll discuss those first.

A few texts with ancient attestation (although mostly variants of ancient Patristic commentaries) including a papyrus, call Christ {ho theos} at John 1:18, or more specifically {ho monogene_s theos} (the only begotten God). A much larger and also very respectable and ancient set of witnesses (including two papyri) call Christ "only-begotten god" without any direct article. By far the most numerous and widest attestation across types of witness, including some very respectable ancient texts, call Christ "the only begotten son" instead.

It is admittedly unlikely that a direct article for "god" would have been dropped over time, but on the other hand it is unlikely that "god" would have been changed to "son" as time went on (and the Christology debates became formal and intense). So until relatively recently the text-criticism argument landed pretty squarely on "the only-begotten son", which matches usage elsewhere in GosJohn.

But then (as mentioned earlier) two more early papyri showed up reading "only-begotten god" (without the direct article); which lends more significantly more weight to what is the most difficult reading between the two options--it now becomes more likely that early scribes "fixed" the reading to fit an established usage elsewhere in GosJohn!

Yet the form still remains very strange; if {ho} is not original but the "only-begotten god" text is, why would scribes "fix" it to "the only-begotten son"? But if "the only-begotten son" was the original texts, and reverent scribes wanted to affirm the deity of the son, why erase the "the" when changing "son" to "god"?

(It might be thought that this would help avoid confusion with the Father, but as we shall see the Father is called "god" nearby without the direct article, too!!)

Editors of the UBS/Nestle-Aland critical edition were still notoriously divided about the original reading on grounds of various plausibility (none of which involve preference for their own ideologies, by the way.)

Is there a way out of the deadlock?

The form of the sentence there indicates a triple (or even possibly quadruple!) subject. "Only-begotten", although an adjective, has some weighty 20th century scholarly argument behind it (including Raymond Brown from his commentary on GosJohn) indicating it might be being used here as a noun, specifically as a name-title. Metzger in his notes for the 4th edition of the UBS critical Greek text, reports the editors agreeing that the usage as a noun is attractive for "internal considerations".

He doesn't explain what those considerations are. But John 1:14 just previously, definitely reads "the only-begotten", without "son" or "god", in regard to the Son. (There is a minority textual tradition which only reads "the only-begotten" without either "god" or "son" at John 1:18, too, but its textual attestation is too poor to consider it original.) "The only-begotten" is also definitely a separate title for "the Son" at possibly the most famous verse in the whole New Testament, John 3:16. (English translations routinely smooth this over to the familiar "His only begotten son".)

But aside from that possibility, certainly the noun "god"-or-"the son", as well as {ekeinos} "that one", "reveals" "Him". There is also an intervening clause of {ho o_n eis ton kolpon tou patros} which describes "(the) only-begotten god/son" (or "only-begotten" and "god") as "the one who is in the heart of the father"; which certainly clarifies that "theos" in this sentence does not mean the Father, but otherwise does not help settle the reading.

So there are three (or possibly four) grammatic subjects: "only-begotten" (maybe, as an adjective being used as a name-title, which definitely happens with a direct article twice elsewhere in GosJohn, including just recently at 1:14), "god" or "the son" (depending on which textual variation is original), "the one who is in the heart of the father", and "this/that one" for the singular verb "reveals". By context these subjects would refer to the same entity, as titles or descriptions of the entity; but this does not yet solve whether the Son is being called {ho theos} here.

(The {ho} in the intervening clause is only a common pronoun shortcut for saying "the one" and/or "who", and would be used regardless of whether {theos} earlier had an original explicit or more likely silently implied direct article.)

Something overlooked (or at least not mentioned) by the UBS editing team, however, is the evidence of the preceding sentence or main clause.

The "Him" being revealed by "only-begotten" / "god"-or-"son" / "who is in the heart of the father" / "that one", is {theon oudeis heo_raken po_pote}, "god no-one has-seen anytime", the God Whom no one has seen at any time.

By context, and especially cultural context, this invisible God, Who cannot be seen by contrast to the Son, must be the Father (as people on all side of the disputational aisle typically agree). But notably, the Father is not called "the" God here in Greek!--nor can this be explained by fronting a nominative object, as there is no 'verb of being' relative to this noun, and it is properly in an accusative (not nominative) form. It is being fronted in the sentence for emphasis, but without the "the". (This is another example of something mentioned in Part 1: "the God" Whom almost all parties agrees is God Most High, even unitarian Christians, is occasionally not given direct articles either when He is being called "God".)

This leaves us with a stylistic (although not quite a grammatic) parallel. We are expected to understand {theon} to mean "the" God, even though it lacks the direct article {ton} (as practically everyone in the dispute agrees); and then we are told that "god", no direct article, in the heart of the Father reveals and explains Him.

This lends compositional weight toward considering the direct article as being silently intended in the culmination of a highly poetic and stylized prologue, just as it was silently intended for the immediately preceding usage of {theon}. The fact that "only-begotten" had itself also been recently used (at verse 14) with a direct article by itself, lends more weight by comparison: its lack at verse 18 is certainly not evidence that the idea of meaning {ho monoge_nes}, the only-begotten, is foreign to the Evangelist. Moreover, if the author did mean "the only-begotten", although he didn't write "the", that would mean "god" stands by itself between two other name/title descriptions which both feature "the" (one silently, and the other explicitly as a shorthand pronoun for "the one who").

In other words, the sequence of name/title/descriptions for Christ would look like this:

(silent "the") only-begotten
(?) god
(explicit "the" as a pronoun "who") is in the heart of the father
(explicit pronoun as a description by itself) this/that-one

"God" would be out of place in this list without an intended {ho}.

It may be replied that "the only-begotten son", which does admittedly have the best quality of external attestation (even if not decisively early), easily solves all these problems. That's true--but the ease with which it solves all problems leaves us no good explanation for why there are difficult attestation problems in the transmission of this text! The other best attested variant ("only-begotten god", no explicit "the"), which happens to now have the strongest of earliest weights among the variants, doesn't cleanly improve on "the only-begotten son", whether theologically or grammatically.

The theory that a silent {ho} was intended at John 1:18, and was known to be intended, explains the actual shape of the external data better--including why the variant with an explicit "the only-begotten god" was so popular among early commentor texts (and also has a few early respectable occurrences in some texts of GosJohn itself, including a papyrus!) Commentators (and a few early scribes) were bringing out the silent {ho}.

Still, that's a pretty obscure and difficult example--even moreso than for John 1:1, because of the dicey textual transmission!--although being a completist (and because the text is often brought up in trinitarian vs. unitarian disputes for evidence either way) I thought I ought to discuss it. (The text for John 1:1 is quite stable in transmission, by the way.)

Another not terribly obvious example (until the grammatical math is done) can be found at a more stable text, 1 John 5:20. The first portion of this text is very unstable about whether the Father is being called "the true one" or "the true god" in a couple of different grammatic ways, but the final clause is quite stable: {houtos estin ho ale_thinos theos kai zo_e_ aio_nios} "this one is the true god and the eternal life".

The pronoun “this one” {houtos} normally refers back to the nearest noun (including name/titles). But the immediately preceding noun set is “Jesus Christ”. Thus, "we are in Him Who is true, in His Son Jesus Christ: {houtos} (this one) is the true God and eternal life."

Could {houtos} be referring instead to the Father, Who is described as the True One twice recently in the same verse? (The reading of "god" there has to be rejected due to the numerous places it shows up in and around the phrase: the only reasonable explanation is that scribes were adding it in various places.) While it isn’t impossible, it would run against the tradition of Johannine texts, of calling Jesus “the Life” and “Eternal Life”, including at the beginning of this epistle (1 John 1:2 -- and the grammar of 5:20 certainly indicates that “the true God and eternal life” are referring to the same entity); this would be the only time in a Johannine text that the Father is called ‘zoe eonian’. Moreover, John has also recently said that to have Jesus in one’s heart is to have eternal life. (1 John 5:11-12)

While it’s possible for {houtos} to refer back to a subject or object beyond the nearest noun, this happens only rarely and shouldn’t be considered the first option. The Father is admittedly called “the true God” in John 17:3 (by Jesus no less), but this is no more a contradiction than for both of them to be called the true One (the Father in this verse 5:20, the Son in Rev 3:7. Indeed in John 14:6 Jesus declares himself to be the Truth!) Moreover, the grammar of the previous sentence tends to indicate an introduction of the concept: “we are in Him Who is true: in His Son Jesus Christ.” The prepositional phraseology is parallel: who are we in? He who is true, namely Jesus Christ, Son of the One Who is true. This Son of God has come (as in the first sentence of the verse) to give us understanding so that we may know Him Who also is true (by local and larger contexts, the Father).

The stability of the final clause has some bearing on grading the original version of the first description of the Father earlier in the same verse: He is at least once (and very stably in textual transmission) described as “the One Who is true”, but before then is also described either as “the One Who is true” or as “the true God”.

An impressive number of texts have “the true God”, but an even stronger majority (although split as to grammatic form) have “the true one”: the Son of God has come that we might know “Him Who is true” (or “the true God”). Considering that the context is definitely talking about the Father, it is hard to imagine later copyists changing “the true God” to “the true One”, though; whereas if the Son by grammar was understood as being called the true God, it would be tempting to add something clarifying that the Father (as Jesus occasionally says in GosJohn) is the true God--at least as much so as the Son! Moreover, as noted above, the word "god" in describing the father there shows up before or after the word "true" in various texts. Whereas, the variant grammatic forms for "the true one" indicate that scribes thought it might be better to emphatically call the Father "the truth" (in a gender neutral fashion) rather than only "the true one" twice.

In any case, the emphatic "this one", {houtos}, expects an immediate topical reference, and the most immediate and natural reference is "Jesus Christ", Son of the True One (and maybe of the true God, certainly "Son of God" as Jesus is called at the beginning of the verse). It may not be theologically convenient to any apologists wanting to deny that Jesus is ever called {ho theos} (and in this case "the true theos"!) But it's there, and its grammar explains the textual variations earlier in the verse, as scribes tried to bring up the Father's description to par, especially by the addition of {theos} to one (but not both!) of the recent incidents of the author calling the Father "the true one".

Aren't there any examples more obvious than these, though?! Well, if the examples were all especially obvious, it wouldn't be so common among some (not all) unitarian Christians to claim that Jesus is never called the God, would it?

Of course, even when there are obvious examples, objections can still be tried. Some unitarians would say that the term "only-begotten" qualifies that this cannot be "the" God, and would still say this even if they acknowledged that the direct article was either original or tactily intended by grammatic context. It should be noted that this objection, even if it held water, would fail in any example where "theos" has no other description (completely aside from whether "only-begotten" is supposed to be a subject parallel to {theos} there)--it cannot be used against John 1:1, for example.

Such a tactic would also fail in any example where {ho theos} has maximally important descriptions, like "the true God". But since God the Father is Himself called "the God" with connected grammatic descriptions (such as, for example, "the true God"!), the inclusion of adjectives per se cannot be a very weighty objection in itself against the full deity of someone being called {ho theos} (or cognates thereof, like {ton theon}).

That doesn't mean Jesus is commonly called "the God"--again, if such incidents were common they would be obvious, and trying to claim otherwise would not be so impressive to people having trouble in other regards with orthodox trinitarian theism!

What often (not always!) happens instead is that Jesus is called "the God" in a fashion that has some grammatic ambiguity or difficulties, or by extended context instead of just directly. Here is an example of such an extended context--and with much relevance for unitarian disputes in a fashion beyond whether Jesus is called {ho theos}!

In the Revelation to John, the author himself becomes (quite naturally) confused about the identity of various persons and things he is seeing and talking to--a confusion the reader should be able to sympathize with! Late in the Revelation (19:9), an angel has shown up from somewhere, and says to John "Write, 'Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb'" and then says to John "These are the true sayings of the God." John, mistaking the angel for God, falls at his feet to worship him, but the angel quickly stops him, saying, "Look, no! I am a fellow slave of yours, and of your brethren who have the testimony of Jesus! Worship the God!--for the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy."

This clarifies that the angel isn't God, of course. It also clarifies that the angel isn't Jesus. It also clarifies that even if an angel is sent to speak directly for God, we aren't supposed to worship such an angel because the angel is not God!

Later something similar happens again, but with a far more provocative detail. An angel helping show things to John (possibly the same one as before, but anyway called "one of the seven messengers who have the seven bowls brimming with the last seven calamaties", Rev 21:9), says again to John, "These sayings are faithful and true. Now, the Lord, the God of the spirits of the prophets, commissions the messenger of Him to show to the slaves of Him what must swiftly happen."

So grammatically, {ho theos} of the spirits has sent this angel.

The angel then continues, "Now look! I am coming swiftly! Happy is the one who is keeping the sayings of the prophecy of this scroll!" (v.7)

John, hearing and seeing these things, gets confused again--most likely because the angel has started speaking as though he was {ho theos}! So John thinks the angel is {ho theos} (sent by {ho theos}, notably!) and falls to religiously worship the angel.

Once again the angel stops him (22:9): the angel is a fellow slave along with John and the other prophets. "Worship the God!" {ho theos} of the spirits, Who has sent this messenger (which is the prerogative of {ho theos} alone anyway), is the only entity Who should be religiously worshiped--even if the angel starts speaking directly for God in delivering his message.

Which the angel proceeds to do, picking up again (after a bit of a digression) with a standard declaration of YHWH {ho theos} Most High, "Look! I am coming swiftly and My wage is with Me, to pay each one as his work is!" Something only YHWH would do in the Jewish Scriptures, by the way. "I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Origin and the Consummation!" Also claims proper only to the one self-existent God Most High.

This goes on with some more detail for a verse or two, and then the messenger, sent by "the God" of the spirits, Who should alone be worshiped, and speaking for "the God" as if "the God" is there, says (22:16): "I, Jesus, send my angel to testify these things to you in the congregations!"

So: Jesus has sent this angel, who is not Jesus, to testify with the words of Jesus about these things. But earlier John specifically and clearly said that {ho theos} sent this angel!

Admittedly, Jesus speaking by means of the angel goes on to testify that {ho theos} shall add the tribulations of the scroll to anyone who adds to the prophecy of the scroll, and that {ho theos} shall be eliminating the name from the book of life anyone who eliminates anything from the scroll. But still, that hardly means the detail should be eliminated from the scroll that Jesus has been called {ho theos} here, Who sends the angels and Who alone is worthy to be worshiped, not any not-God angel even if the angel is currently speaking directly for {ho theos}!

Again, this isn't simply obvious. But it is there in the text. Nor can it be waved away by a supposed appeal to qualifying grammatic adjectives of {ho theos}: there aren't any.

Well okay, this sort of thing might be expected of the author of GosJohn and/or RevJohn (who certainly seems of John's "school" even if perhaps not the same person.) Indeed so!--although some branches of unitarian Christianity (not all of them) still claim that even the Johannine materials never call Jesus {ho theos}. That includes (what I would call) the most obvious example in the Johannine texts, Thomas' confession at GosJohn 20:28.

Overwhelmed by seeing the risen Jesus with proofs of the sort that Thomas had refused to believe without, Thomas answers Jesus with the exclamation, "The lord of me and the god of me!" In Greek this is {ho kurios mou kai ho theos mou}.

It literally couldn't be more straightforward. There are no adjectives to quibble about, as if adjectives (like "true"!?!) would necessarily qualify that someone is not really being called {ho theos}. The term is not even in a different grammatic form, like {ton theon} or {tou theou}, which would still mean the same thing as {ho theos} for any rational evaluation. (For example "about the God" or "of the God" respectively.)

The only way to even imagine that this is not being said of Jesus, is to write it off as an exclamation to the invisible God (Who naturally could be construed as omnipresently there, even if not mentioned recently.) That, however, is to read an ideology into the text.

That isn't strictly impossible--the phrase is quite identical to similar phrases which definitely apply to YHWH Most High, such as at Psalm 35:24 (to give an OT example, although the order of the terms is reversed), or at Rev 4:11 (to give a NT example that even unitarians will agree applies only to God Most High--because Jesus is not immediately being mentioned!) Such standard phraseologies addressed explicitly to YHWH Most High also indicate, in the absence of any direct evidence otherwise (and there is no such evidence), that Thomas is not dividing between persons here, exclaiming to Jesus so as to mean "the lord of me (but not the YHWH ADNY of me)" and in exactly the same breath exclaiming to the Father "the God of me (by which I mean YHWH ADNY Whom I would otherwise call 'lord' to avoid accidentally saying Your name)".

But it is impossible to prove from the textual details that Thomas is exclaiming to God Most High and not to Jesus. At most, such a claim can only be an ad hoc defense for maintaining that Jesus is never called {ho theos} anywhere in the NT; and as a defense it runs up hard against the problem that the text explicitly says Thomas is "answering Jesus and saying" this--a phrase which everywhere else in the Gospels (and Acts) is a standard way of saying the speaker is addressing someone with what he is saying.

The direct grammatic argument is that Thomas, be he right or wrong (or historically or fictionally, if a sceptic prefers), is addressing Jesus personally as {ho theos}. And not only as "the God" but as "the God of me". Any other theory, for better or for worse, has to be read in over against the grammatic evidence.

This is enough to answer the charge that Jesus is never called "the" God in the NT. John 1:18 may be theoretical (although as a theory it best explains the resulting textual spread); but the grammar at John 1:1 is clear (if obscure to English grammar), and the example from 1 John is grammatically solid as well as able to explain textual variances earlier in the same verse, and the example from RevJohn is both grammatically and conceptually solid (although the thematic logic has to be followed out to see the result), and Thomas' confession is rock solid in the directness of its grammar. The only way to defend against most of these examples is to read a theological position into the text, over against the grammar (and against the thematic logic as well in RevJohn's example), in order to explain that Jesus isn't really being called {ho theos}.

Such a theological overwrite might or might not be the right thing to do; but it has to be done because the texts would otherwise indicate Jesus is being called {ho theos}!--and in each case, in a fashion that at least parallels how the Father is being described (even John 1:18, where the Father doesn't explicitly have a {ho} in front of {theos} either). Sometimes in a fashion that indicates the highest religious identity unique to God Most High: being called "the true God"; sending angels to speak for Himself, which angels are not supposed to be worshiped even though they are speaking directly for Himself in making claims proper to YHWH Most High in the Old Testament; being called by a religious phrase elsewhere appropriate only to YHWH Most High; sharing in the foundationally creative act that is supposed to be unique to God Most High.

But all the examples so far come from GosJohn or Johannine texts. That ought to be enough for unitarians to have to include in their exegetical account of things, if they can--at least, it ought to be enough for unitarians who use this argument against trinitarians (and modalists, and some other unitarians for that matter) to stop trying such a claim as an argument against textual testimony of the full divinity of Jesus.

But many non-Christians wouldn't find this at all surprising; and would simply slot GosJohn into a late development of Christology, meaning by this that the author (and/or his congregation and/or school or whatever) invented such claims about Jesus.

After all, Jesus is never called {ho theos} anywhere else in the New Testament... right?

[Next up: wrong.]

I have been working up a new series for a while, where I will be following sets of canonical texts through their claims about God Most High and His relation to Jesus Christ (the Son) and/or the Holy Spirit. It's a followup to the huge (800+ pages!) metaphysical argument I spent a few years posting here on the Cadre a while back. (Anyone who wants to discover what it feels like for their eyes to start bleeding, is welcome to start on that here. {g})

The new series will most likely be just as long, or maybe longer. (Sorry--lots of data to cover.) But although I'm not quite ready, I'm getting itchy to start, so I thought I would compile together a few things as a teaser article.

(Although with me being 'me', the "teaser" article is seven lengthy parts, of course... {wry g})

When discussing the New Testament texts with some (although not all) types of 'unitarian' Christian, as well as with some (although not all) types of non-Christian, the claim will occasionally be made that while Jesus may be called "a" god every once in a while in the NT, He is never called "the" God.

In short, should I really be using divine Caps for nouns and pronouns relating to Jesus (as I just did in that previous sentence)? Did the NT authors regard Jesus as being a lesser lord-or-god, or somehow as "the" God Most High? Do they report Jesus making such claims?--or if some perhaps do, are there others who do not?

This (please believe me when I say) is a massively huge topic, because there is much more to questions of divine identity in the NT than whether some entity is ever called "the God". The Father, for example, never outright says "I am the God" when NT authors occasionally present Him as speaking!--and rarely, as "the Father" (in a way explicitly distinguished as such), does He call Himself "the God". (I can think of only one example offhand--where the Father, explicitly identified as such, also directly calls the Son "the God"! More on that in a later entry.) But of course authors and other people by report often call the Father "ho theos" or a grammatic variant thereof.

More to the point, there are other ways, standard protocols, for discerning when an author is being a zealous monotheist, and when a zealous monotheist, especially within the Jewish religion, is speaking of God Most High and not of some lesser lord or god. And even most non-Trinitarian Christians, and even most non-Christians, agree that by using such methods NT authors are trying (even if incorrectly in various ways) to talk about God Most High when they reference God apart from the question of Jesus Christ.

Now of course, just because a collection of texts refers to an entity as God (whether that entity is Jesus Christ or anyone or anything else), does not necessarily in itself mean that anyone reading those texts should agree that such an entity exists and really is God Most High, or that the authors are talking truly about God Most High if He/She/It exists. But when assessing the claims of a text, or set of texts, for what we ought or ought not to believe about them, it naturally helps to get an accurate idea of what the authors of those texts are claiming!

More on this later, when I introduce the new series (God willing and the creek don't rise). Until then, let us consider the particular question of whether Jesus is ever called "the God" in any New Testament texts.

The most well-known clincher that I would lead out with is John 20:28, where the apostle Thomas exclaims in reply to the risen Jesus' invitation to put his hand in the holes in His hands and side, "The lord of me and the god of me!" I will still argue this by itself defeats the challenge, but it's usually well-known by people claiming none of the NT texts call Jesus "the God", and I would rather cover other examples first so I can introduce some important topics along the way.

When people claim that Jesus isn't ever called (nor calls Himself) "the" God, why do they put it that way?

Because in Greek, direct articles (like the English "the") are important in emphasizing special identity. While English translations naturally omit this factor, in the Greek texts proper names often feature a direct article in front of them. Jesus for example is often called "the" Jesus. Randomly picking up and thumbing through a Greek NT, the first proper name I happened upon was Zaccheus, the short tax-collector whose story is told in the Gospel According to Luke. At GosLuke 19:8, the text would literally read in English, "Now standing, the Zaccehus said toward the Lord..."

Not surprisingly, when Jewish and Christian writers wanted to help readers understand they were talking about God Most High, they would often treat "theos" as a proper name and use the direct article, "ho theos". Which can also be understood as it might be in English, the one and only God, the only one Who is God even to the gods, God Most High.

The counter-orthodox claim being considered, then, amounts to this: that Jesus is never called "God" in such a way that serious Jewish monotheists of the time would ever use for clearly identifying the one and only God Most High--specifically, by using a "the" (as we would say in English) with "God" while writing about Jesus in Greek. That would be calling Jesus "the God".

Now the data starts to complexify, though.

First, NT authors may usually use "the" to introduce proper names, but they don't always do so. Jesus isn't always called "the Jesus", for example, but we're still expected to recognize which Jesus is being talked about from the context. This immediately leaves open some agnosticism about whether the authors might be using "God" in reference to Jesus and meaning "the" God even without a "the".

Opponents may reply that surely, though, the authors always refer to God Most High as "the" God. Well, that leads to...

Second: authors, including when reporting the words of Jesus, don't always use "the" even when referring unambiguously to God the Father!

A text frequently cited by unitarian Christians themselves against trinitarianism exemplifies this, GosJohn 20:17. Jesus is reported saying to Mary Magdalene after His resurrection, "I am ascending to(ward) the father of me and father of you and god of me and god of you." No one disputes that He is talking about God the Father--even the bare handful of Christians who try to claim that "the Father" is not really God Most High after all! But while the author uses "the" in regard to the Father, translating the words of Jesus by report, the author does not quote Jesus here using "the" in regard to the term "god".

Opponents may reply that the rules of Greek grammar indicate well enough that "the" would be implied as following from the previous "the", which is one indication that Jesus (and/or the author reporting this incident) isn't talking about four different persons but only one Who can be described those four ways.

Maybe so--but that starts to open up more possibilities for the same thing to be happening in regard to Jesus, so long as He is called "the"-something-else first in a similar construction.

Third: while Greek has a direct article, like the English "the", at the time of the NT composition it did not have an indirect article (such as when I just now typed "an" indirect article. Indirect articles in English are "a" if the subsequent word starts with a consonant, or "an" if it starts with a vowel.) But authors could still write of nouns intending them to mean what we would translate as "the" without them having used a Greek equivalent of "the" (such as {ho} or {ton} or {tou}). Lack of a direct article in Greek might or might not mean we should translate in English with an indirect article instead. Context helps determine this, although sometimes we also just have to guess. But that further muffs much weight to a claim that Jesus is never called "the" God in the NT: context may indicate a "the" even if no "the" is written.

Fourth (or third-and-a-half): there are times in Greek grammar when an author would intentionally omit a direct article that would otherwise normally be supplied, because for the grammatic construction he was attempting the article was supposed to be omitted--yet still understood to be silently there.

John 1:1, one of the famous texts on this topic, could be an example of this. Literally the end of the sentence would read in English "and god was the word." Previously in this same verse, "god" is referred to with a direct article, "the god", while "word" always has a direct article here and elsewhere nearby. Trinitarians (and some other types of Christians, including modalists and even some unitarians in a way) argue that here "the word" is being identified as "the God" (while still being distinguished from "God" in some way--a point modalists would ignore or downplay).

But an argument typical for some unitarians is that there is no direct article here, and so the Word (which they may or may not agree is a reference to Jesus Christ personally) is a most only a god, not the God. Even if they acknowledge that the lack of a direct article doesn't mean no direct article should be supplied, they would still say that, at worst (for their case), the agnosticism cuts both ways: it might mean "a god" just as easily.

Detailed trinitarians don't hinge an interpretation of "(the) God" here (or elsewhere) purely on whether the word has a direct article or not, but also on other contexts of the scriptural testimony in question. After all, it might be possible (although no examples come to mind) that something not intended to be authoritatively identified as "the God" could be called that in Greek!--perhaps.

But aside from other contexts, there is another factor definitely in grammatic play here.

Somewhere in this clause must be a subject of the verb and an object of the verb.

This can be a bit confusing, but I'll give some examples.

I am he -- subject, verb, object.

I love him -- subject, verb, object.

Usually if the noun as the object has a form other than the same form it would use as the subject, it takes the other form. "Him" loves "I" would be improper grammar, because the object form is being used for the subject and vice versa. "Me" loves "he"?--also improper. It should be, as above, "I love him", or "He loves me".

But when the verb is a verb of being, like "be", or "am", or "is", the noun for the object should be in the form it would be for the subject, because some kind of identity is being expressed about the two nouns. "I am him" is grammatically wrong. "I am he" is correct.

Biblical Greek (and maybe some other types of Greek, but the NT canon was written in a more informal cosmopolitan street Greek of the period) has the same rule. The object of a verb, if the verb is one of being, should be in the nominative form (like "he" or "I", not some other form (typically the accusative), like "him" or "me").

Now things get a little more confusing! Greek, like many other languages, has far more suffixes for its word forms than English does (and we have quite a few!) Sometimes this is more helpful, sometimes not. {ho logos} {e_n} {ton theon} would be "the word was the god", but with "the god" in the accusative form (for both words, "the" and "god"), not the nominative.

(Note: I am including an underscore after long etas and long omegas, here and afterward, as Blogger doesn't have an underlining function. If an 'e' or an 'o' doesn't have one, that means it's a short epsilon or short omicron.)

It ought to be the nominative form, thus: {ho logos} the word {e_n} was {ho theos} the God. ({ton} and {ho} both translate directly in English to the direct article "the", but the first form is accusative and the second form is nominative.)

Still with me? Okay, if the author for some reason didn't want to say "the god", he could still write {ho logos e_n theos}. He might still mean "the god", or he might only mean "a god".

What if he wanted to emphasize he meant the God? The first way he would do that would be to include the direct article, of course, and write {ho theos}. For poetic or other artistic reasons he might prefer to use some other way, but that would be the normal first way.

What does it read in Greek there? Well, it doesn't read {ho logos e_n ho theos}, but it doesn't read {ho logos e_n theos} either. It reads {theos e_n ho logos}.

More complexity! Argh!!!

So, does this mean {theos} is the subject and {ho logos} is the object?--"a god was the Word"?

It might mean that (although for the grammatic reasons I will give below I strongly doubt it). But it might also mean something else.

Word order isn't quite as important in Biblical Greek (or in some other languages) as it is in English. There are normal expected word orders, but when authors want to emphasize a term, they'll front it ahead of its usual order. Readers are supposed to know where a noun 'really' goes by what kind of suffix it uses, and especially by the form of its direct article (which has fewer overlaps in common form than suffixes for nouns).

For verbs of being, though, the form would be nominative whether the word was a subject or an object. And if the object was supposed to have a direct article, there would be literally no way to tell for sure which word was supposed to be the subject and which the object.

Consequently, there was a rule: wherever the object of a verb of being was placed by the author, before or after the verb, or even before the subject, it would not have a direct article even if the author intended its meaning such that we in English would translate it "the".

[NOTE: ON THIS POINT MY ANALYSIS IS WRONG! Please see this comment below for my correction. For self-critical purposes I am leaving my original fault in the text, since ultimately it makes no difference to the conclusion of my analysis. I will try to catch brief references to it in subsequent entries and fix those, however.]

But then, what if an author wanted to stress that he meant "the", in order to avoid misunderstanding that the object was only "an" object?

Then the author would be very well advised to front the object in his sentence, which was a common way of emphasizing the importance of a word to the idea of the author. But then to make sure people didn't mistake this word for the subject, the author would be well advised to put the subject after the verb with a direct article (especially if he thought it ought to have a "the" anyway).

And that brings us to the form of the statement at the end of John 1:1.

Put shortly, while the clause might mean "a god was the Word", it fits the situation of the author wanting to say that the Word was "the God"; but having to drop the direct article for the object of the verb; while still wanting readers to know he didn't mean (as we would say) "a god". In fact, he would be inept to write {theos e_n ho logos} if he didn't mean {ho logos} was {ho theos}!

Is there a way to tell the difference? Aside from considering other contextual clues (which I will discuss in the main series), we may consider the author's hypothetical options.

The author has just finished saying that "the Word was with the God", clearly using direct articles. Rhetorical parallel construction would suggest the next phrase would be "the Word was the God", unless of course the author wanted to emphasize that the Word was only a lesser god not the God. But if he wanted to emphasize the dis-identification, he chose a strange way of doing so. He does not say, as he does shortly afterward when emphasizing a dis-identification, that X is not the Y. Nor does he use a contrasting conjunction "but": "the Word was with the God but the Word was a god" or "...but a god was the Word". He doesn't use the specific contrasting conjunction {alla}, but the general purpose conjunction {kai}. While {kai} can mean "but", that doesn't happen as often as with the weaker general purpose conjunction {de}. It is much more usual for authors to use {alla} instead of {kai} to mean "but"; and per the hypothesis our author, a devout monotheist, wants to emphasize that he doesn't mean the Word is the God but only a lesser god. It isn't impossible that he would use {kai} for "but" here, but it would be inept to his hypothesized purpose.

On the other hand, hypothesizing that the author wanted to stress an identification that he knew his audience was going to have natural trouble believing, namely that the Word despite being distinguished from the God in some ways nevertheless also was the God, fronting "the God" would be a very good way to do that--but he would have to omit the article.

(On yet another hand, had the author wanted to stress that there was no personal difference between "the Word" and "the God" somehow, such as for modalistic theology, he would not have included personal distinctions nearby or elsewhere in GosJohn, of which there are many.)

Taken altogether, the grammar together with nearby contextual logic points toward "the Word" (which the author identifies as Jesus soon afterward) being called "the God" here, even though the direct article is not printed.

This is quite a subtle and obscure example, unfortunately, so I certainly don't blame opponents for not picking up on it. (I didn't either until a few years ago!) There are other examples much less obscure, such as the one I started this article with--and which I will return to last!--but... say, how many examples of Jesus being called "the God" are there anyway?

[Next time: more examples from the Johannine texts, including the Thomas declaration.]

No updates this year to my Cadre Thanksgiving Sermon, so I'll just link back to last year's version.

For any readers hoping for yet another massive series between now and Easter: there's one on the way, God willing!

But not until Monday, probably. For which other Cadre readers may gladly give thanks. {g}

Since atheist have low self esteem they are constraint trying to reassure themselves by maintaining the myth that they are more intelligent than religious people. The stduies linking atheists to low self esteem I have posted on this blog before. They are mainly by Leslie Francis but there are others that link negative God image with negative self esteem. I have contacted a theory that atheists are so snide and rude on message boards and often reveal such vehiment hatred toward religion and religious people becuase their method of ganiing self esteem is to put down religious people. They put themselves up by putting us down.

I had previous done several pages on Doxa on atheist IQ claims. I went through every study to date (in the 90s) and demonstrated how 16 t0 6, the preponderance of the evidence favored a view that either religious people are smarter or that there is no correlation. Since that time some more studies have been done by atheists and they are being used extensively for propaganda. These new one's are even worse than those done before.

Here present a little synopsis of the new studies and criticism thereof and then a loot the old studies.

Einstein believed in God.

There's a huge lie being propagated about the net that religious people have lower IQ's than atheists. This is one of the major points being made the site that we looked at last time, the Psychology Today blog tended by Satoshi Kanazawa. That article and study she sites are everywhere. They are repeated on every atheist blog and website ad infinitum, not always approvingly.I promised I would deal with the IQ scam and I shall. The Study sited by Kanasawa is the Lynn, Harvey, Nyborg study. Nyborg is the main the figure. There are actually two studies by this same group. One of them deals with data gathered by department of labor (National Longitudinal surveys) the other study takes the data an analyzes it country by country. So one is about do religious children have higher IQ's version atheist (of course they say "no!"). The other one (linked above) is about do religoius countries have more smart people than atheist countries (of cousre they say not, atheist countries--wherever those are--have more smart people). These studies are ubiquitous. From this one set of data that the alleged researchers did not compile the vast army of atheists are willing to pat themselves on the back and assume they are smarter than people who believe in God.

The fact that the group did not collect their own data but used department of labor statistics is a problem because they data was not gathered from a study designed to measure or compare the intelligence of believers vs. non believers. There is no study design there. They have been criticized for referring to a large desperate group of statistics gathered by others with no attempt to unify or make sure they pertain to the same things. Before turning to that, however, it would be more helpful to examine the old data. Before the Nyborg study there was an atheist website that tried to prove the same thing, it got a great deal of attention, until I destroyed it. I proved that they lied about one of the studies.

Nyborg had also been criticized as a racist and sexist. He believes that women are less intelligent then men. He says the Danes have given up trying to control their dentity by relaxing natural selection and an influx of low IQ foreign workers has brought down the IQ of the nation.

The original data was from "Free Inquiry" Spring of 1986. This forms the basis of the whole IQ scam. It's been floating around for years and thousands of atheists have been brain washed by its' lie. It is a lie as I am about to demonstrate. It's been floating around in the form of several websites that take their ques from this one. The sites its on is called 'the liberalism resurgent, by Steve Kangas." That's the site I linked to for my rebuttal page way back years ago when I first put it up. All he does is list a bunch of studies that supposedly show that atheists have higher IQs than religious people. These were all done with school children, so there's no way to know how many of the same kinds in the study who said they were atheists became religious in adulthood.It's an easy guess that many did because that happens a lot so it would be important to know that. Moreover, notice he places the Hoge study (#15) Hastings and Hoge, 1967, 1974 (actually two studies) in the category of those that back his view. But I received literature form Dr. Francis a researcher in UK university who did several studies on the issue, this literature showed that Hoge showed no correlation between intelligence and religious belief, which contradicts the study and indicates that Kangas either lied or made a blunder. One can see from the rest of the literature that the thesis Kangas is working on is totally ravaged by the facts from just listing the studies that Francis sent in his study:

What follows is reproduction of my page:
The site also presents 17 studies giving the impression that all 17 support the thesis that more successful and higher scoring students tend to be non-believing students, while religious students score lower. Then they actually argue that this is a reliable guide to which world view is correct! (Appeal to success, similar to appeal to authority!)

But if we divide them into categories according to what they actually say, we see a much different picture. The first number is the counting number, to show how many are in each section, the number in parenthesis is the actual number given in the list on the website.

Studies too Veg to Draw a Conclusion

1. (#7) Donald Gragg, 1942
Reported an inverse correlation between 100 ACE freshman test scores and Thurstone "reality of god" scores.

2. (#9) Michael Argyle, 1958
Concluded that "although intelligent children grasp religious concepts earlier, they are also the first to doubt the truth of religion, and intelligent students are much less likely to accept orthodox beliefs."

3. (#14) Robert Wuthnow, 1978

Of 532 students, 37 percent of Christians, 58 percent of apostates, and 53 percent of non-religious scored above average on SATs.[but wait, there's no comparison of the scores, so even though only 38% of Christians as opposed to 58% of apostates scored above average, what if the Christians scored way above average and the apostates only slightly?]

4. (#16) Norman Poythress, 1975
Mean SATs for strongly anti religious (1148), moderately anti-religious (1119), slightly anti religious (1108), and religious (1022). [From what sample group? All of them? Doesn't say!]

The few studies that actually seem to support the conclusion

1. (#1.) Thomas Howells, 1927
Study of 461 students showed religiously conservative students "are, in general, relatively inferior in intellectual ability."

Doesn't show how conclusion was arrived at 2 (#2.) Hilding Carlsojn, 1933
Study of 215 students showed that "there is a tendency for the more intelligent undergraduate to be sympathetic towards atheism."

Doesn't really say "sympathetic" means self-identified as atheists, nor does it show how he arrived at his conclusion.

3 (3.) Abraham Franzblau, 1934
Confirming Howells and Carlson, tested 354 Jewish children, aged 10-16. Found a negative correlation between religiosity and IQ as measured by the Terman intelligence test.

4 (11.) Young, Dustin and Holtzman, 1966
Average religiosity decreased as GPA rose.8. Brown and Love, 1951 At the University of Denver, tested 613 male and female students. The mean test scores of non-believers was 119 points, and for believers it was 100. The non-believers ranked in the 80th percentile, and believers in the 50th. Their findings "strongly corroborate those of Howells."

5 (13.) C. Plant and E. Minium, 1967
The more intelligent students were less religious, both before entering college and after 2 years of college.[Doesn't say how they determined this]The interesting thing about this is, there are actually more studies that have counter findings than there are supporting the thesis, which give enough information to be clear about how they obtained it (with four that are too vague about this to consider).

6. (#4) Thomas Symington, 1935
Tested 400 young people in colleges and church groups. He reported, "There is a constant positive relation in all the groups between liberal religious thinking and mental ability There is also a constant positive relation between liberal scores and intelligence҆"Note: This guy with the website habitually assumes that liberal religious views are not religious views and counts liberal religious thinkers as unbelievers, which is absurd and dishonest; he does it with this study and on page 2, you will see he does it a lot.

Studies presented that actually count as evidence counter to the claim.

1. (#5) Vernon Jones, 1938

Tested 381 students, concluding "a slight tendency for intelligence and liberal attitudes to go together." [This doesn't say anything about religious belief or lack thereof. He's equating "liberal" with non-religious.]

2. (#6) A. R. Gilliland, 1940
At variance with all other studies, found "little or no relationship between intelligence and attitude toward god."[Obviously its not really at variance with "all" others since I just listed several others that don’t make those findings, and little or no relationship counts as negative evidence.]

3.(#10) Jeffrey Hadden, 1963
Found no correlation between intelligence and grades. This was an anomalous finding, since GPA corresponds closely with intelligence. Other factors may have influenced the results at the University of Wisconsin. [counts against his assumption that grades = intelligence so he can't measure intelligence through the studies that make that assumption. Also, what does he site in the face of this one to prove that graces indicate intelligence? And what about motivations?] (I suggest a sentence such as [This study discounts his assumption…)
4.(#12) James Trent, 1967
Polled 1400 college seniors. Found little difference, but high-ability students in his sample group were over-represented.[so they polled them? What did they use as a measure of intelligence? Doesn't say. But it does say they found no relation, or little, and virtually admit the sample is worthless so this counts as negative or at best as inconclusive.]

5. (#15) Hastings and Hoge, 1967, 1974
Polled 200 college students and found no significant correlations.[negative correlation is clearly negative evidence, there is no relation] Notice: the Francis study lists Hoge under the category of those that show no correlation between intelligence and religion, but that website lists it as positive to their thesis.
6. (#17) Wiebe and Fleck, 1980
Studied 158 male and female Canadian university students. They reported "nonreligious S's tended to be strongly intelligent" and "more intelligent than religious S's."[dosen't hint at how this was determined]

Studies not on the web site (listed by Francis) which found either no corrollation or postive corrollation

No Correllation

1) Feather (1964)Critical reasoning test and religious attitudes scale to 165 male psychology students. "He found no significant relationship between these measures."

2) Feather (1967) replicated in among 40 students.

3) Young et al., (1066) 32 item scale by Holtzman and young (66) five percent random sample of native born full time students at University of Texas, "where they found no significant relationship between mean attitude scores and cumulative grade points."

4) Dodrill (1976) 20 Christians, 24 non Christians, "This study found no significant differences between the two groups using the Westchester Adult Intelligence scale."

5) Francis (1979)using frequency of prayer and church attendance) 2272 school children between 9-11,"found no relationship between school assigned IQ's and religious behavior after controlling for paternal social class."

6) Fracis'('86 replication) findings replicated in second study among 6955 students.

7) Francis ('98) the study these studies are sited in, using sample of 711 students, the Francis Religious attitude Scale and standard IQ tests Francis again found no correlation.

Positive Correllation

1) Pratt (1937) among 3040 students at regional state college, taking denominational affiliation as sign of religiosity, "found that non-affiliates recorded lower mean scores on the American council Examination than any students affiliated to any denominational group."

2) Rummell (1934) also using denominational affiliation 1194 students at University of Missouri. "He found that non-affiliates recorded lower mean scores on his scholastic index compared with Methodists and Episcopalians."

3) Corey (1940) 234 Freshmen University of Wisconsin positive correlation between scores on the Ohio State Psychological Examination and the Thurstone scale of attitude toward God. "'The more intelligent were more favorably inclined toward God.'"

4) Kosa and Schomer (1961) 362 students at a Catholic undergraduate college: taking participation in campus religious activities as scale of religious attitude "intensive participants recorded significantly higher scores than non-participates on OSU aptitude Test and OSR reading comprehension test.

6 studies find negative correlation.

17 find positive or no correlation.

[Leslie J. Francis, University of Wales Lampiter, "The Relationship Between Intelligence and Religiosity Among 15-16 year olds," Mental Health, Religion & Culture, Volume 1, Number 2, 1998]

Counting all the studies together, both those presented as negative and those presented by Francis which are either neutral or positive, 17 to 6 in favor of the thesis being unproven. But more importantly, Hoge was listed wrongly, so what else can we not trust about those studies? Moreover, the sample size for the positive or neutral correlations are much larger in many instances. None of the negative sample sizes come close.

negatives: 1448, 532, 354, 315, 613, 400 (not all listed)

Largest positive or neutral:381, 1400, 200, 158, 165, 44, 2272, 711, 3040, 1194, 362.

The Positive or neutral studies would tend to be the better studies since they have more with larger samples sizes, and Francis controls for the Freudian bias which taints all the negative studies. Poythres (1975) sets the differences within the context of psychoanalytic theory.(Francis 188). We also notice that the negative studies tend to be older, ranging mainly form the 1930s to 1968, while all of the positive or neutral studies tend to be set in the 1960s to the 80s and one as recent as 98. This is explained by Hoge in terms of increasing socioeconomic status and greater exposure of religious people to new ideas at a younger age.

"The long discussed shock of freshmen encountering Atheistic professors at college and the transition problems from childhood beliefs to intellectually defensible beliefs have been reduced in recent years. Today the shock comes earlier and with less force than in decades past."(in Francis 188). (This capitalization is a matter of mild controversy. If Atheism is a religion, then it is capitalized as Buddhist, Moslems and Christianity are.)

We really have to ask ourselves, in studying students, especially freshmen in college, they are getting kids when they are the most rebellious? For those in early college they are going off to school for the first time, away from home, no longer under the strictures of Mom and Dad, they tend to rebel against Mom and Dad. It's a time of experimentation. Naturally we should expect to find that bright kids are experimenters, that they are willing to try new ideas. Secondly, how long did these kids remain unbelieving? How many are no in middle or even old age having had a life time of religious commitment gained in graduate school or beyond? Not a single one of these studies gave any indication of being longitudinal! That is extremely important, because it makes sense that students in late high school and early college will be rebellious and more inclined to question their upbringing. How many of them were actually still atheists 20 or 30 years latter? We don't know and not a single one of the studies even tried to find out. For all we know the vast majority of them might have become believers in 10 years out of college! In fact we have good reason to suspect that this is the case; after they got married and started raising families, they probably began to believe again, and this seems to be the pattern. That conclusion would also be supported by the quotation form Hoge above, the shock of leaving home, encountering atheist professors, dealing for the first time with serious challenge of new ideas could for time lead the unwary into doubt, but latter they recover.

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