Jehovah`s Witness/Robert Countess
I know you have a lot of information about John 1:1. In a recent post by Richard he quoted a Greek scholar by the name of Robert Countess who evidently looked up all occurrences in the NT (theos without the definite article) and checked the NWT. He discovered that the WTS only followed their stated rule 6% of the time. 94% of the time, they translated it "God" anyway! What do you make of this
Nice to hear from you again.
To be very blunt, the statics of Dr Countess ARE MISSLEADING
You know, Dr Countess is both right and wrong. He said “…of 282 occurrences of the anarthrous Θeὀς NWT sixteen times has either “a god, god, gods, or godly.” The translators were, therefore only 6% faithful to their canons” (as sourced from the internet). . What does that actually mean.
In English we use both the definite article (the word “the”) and an indefinite article (the word “a”) Here is a brief explanation for readers to show the difference.
“When you enter the room sit in THE chair on the right at the front
” - That is being definite as to which chair you are to sit on
“When you enter the room just sit on A chair
” - That is saying that there is no particular' chair you can sit on just sit on one of many. It is indefinite
Now in Greek they do not have an indefinite article only the definite article. That means that in English we have to add the indefinite article when it is called for.
The argument of Dr countess is that there are some 282 times where the Greek word for God is used without the definite article. He is assuming that because at John 1:1 does not have an indefinite article the NWT committee decided that was the reason for rendering it as “and the Word was a god”
Here is a quote where someone else quotes from Dr. Countess, that I found on the internet. (Area in Bold is a quote from the 1950 NWT appendix. Area underlined is supposed to be Dr Countess's understanding of that quote)
Discussing the appendix in the NWT, Mr. Countess comments: “The appendix is not slow to give reasons. Referring to The Complete Bible and to Moffatt,” the NWT appendix argues:
The reason for their rendering the Greek word “divine,” and not “God,” is that it is the Greek noun theos without the definite article, hence an anarthrous theos. The God with whom the Word or Logos was originally is designated here by the Greek expression ὸ Θeὀς, theos preceded by the definite article ho, hence an articular theos. Careful translators recognize that the articular construction points to an identity, a personality, whereas an anarthrous construction points to a quality about someone.
Based upon this statement in the NWT appendix, Dr. Countess identifies the principles followed by the Watchtower Bible translators:
Thus NWT derives a translation principle which may be stated as follows: anarthrous Θeὀς equals “a god”; arthrous Θeὀς equals “God.” The anarthrous is qualitative; the arthrous is quantitative. An incidental criticism at this point is necessary. NWT has “a god,” clearly a quantitative rendering! The translators, to be consistent with their principle, should have followed Moffatt and The Complete Bible, both reading “divine.”
So his opinion of the NWT committee is that that they “formed a rule” that when the deifinate article is used before God then that must refer to GOD, but when there is no definatee article then it can not refer to God. So on that basis the NWT rendered John 1:1 as they have done.
That reasoning by Dr Countess is not correct. The book that he wrote is dated 1982. The quote he used is from the 1950 New Testament portion only NWT. (The NWT was released in stages over a period of about ten years) The completed NWT Bible was released in 1961. None of the editions I have after 1950 have an appendix on John 1:1 until 1984. (The new 2013 Revised NWT does not have this verse as part of its appendix.) The wording was slightly changed to reflect more accurately the Greek gramma of John 1:1 The revised 1984 appendix reads
difference is highlighted in bold and underline – italics original)
These translations use such words as “a god,” “divine” or “godlike” because the Greek word θεός (the·os′
) is a singular predicate noun occurring before the verb and is not preceded by the definite article. This is an anarthrous the·os′
. The God with whom the Word, or Logos, was originally is designated here by the Greek expression ὁ θεός, that is, the·os′
preceded by the definite article ho. This is an articular the·os′
. Careful translators recognize that the articular construction of the noun points to an identity, a personality, whereas a singular anarthrous predicate noun preceding the verb
points to a quality about someone. Therefore, John’s statement that the Word or Logos was “a god” or “divine” or “godlike” does not mean that he was the God with whom he was. It merely expresses a certain quality about the Word, or Logos, but it does not identify him as one and the same as God himself.
The main point in the above is this “whereas a singular anarthrous predicate noun preceding the verb
points to a quality about someone” > Now that is not a rule that the translation committee of the NWT came up with. It is one that has been understood for a long time. In 1935
, Greek scholar E C Colwell made this rule clear. Dr Countess should have been well aware of this aspect of Greek grammar.
In John chapter 1, the word God appears 6 times with the definite article (the) before it and 4 times without the definite article. Of those 4 times the NWT renders the word God only once as “a god” The other three times the word is "God"
So why are they not being inconstant? Because of the GRAMMAR. Only in John 1:1c
is the word god a predicate noun preceding the verb
. A predicate noun in the Greek is in the nominative case – that is referring to the the subject of the sentence. In the other instances of the word god without a definite article the grammar is different.
In Verse 6 we have the word θεού (notice it looks different to John 1:1c θεός ) Here the word for God does not
come before a verb, </b>is not</b> in the nominative case, but the Genitive case – it generally denote possession.
In verse 13 the word again is θεού (= Theou) in the Genitive case. It does come before a verb
... is not relating to the subject (nominative case) so is not describing a “quality”
The final occurrence of the word God without the indefinite article is at verse 18. Here the Greek word is Θeὀν (= Theon) in the accusative case ( "The accusative measures an idea as to its content, scope, direction" )
So Greek grammar has a great deal to do with the way words from Greek are rendered into English.
Here is an example to ponder as to how you would render this into correct English. I will use the grammar of John 1 but take theology out of the context. First line is John 1 second is my example
IN BEGINNING WAS THE WORD AND THE WORD WAS WITH THE GOD AND GOD WAS THE WORD
IN BEGINNING WAS THE CHILD AND THE CHILD WAS WITH THE MAN AND MAN WAS THE CHILD
Now to correctly render that into English it would look like this
In the beginning was the child and the child was with the man and the child was a man.
The last part of that “child was a man” is telling us something about the boy. He was of the same gender or class OR nature as the person he was with. Some people will say that Jesus is of the same nature as God and that is correct. Jesus and God both belong to a group of beings that are called spirits. Even angels are called gods.
Now when the same rules discussed above is seen in texts where there is no theology involved as in the ample I gave of the child, translators have no problem inserting the word “a” which shows a quality. If you would like examples of that please ask.