"The Word was a god" and Qualitative Nouns

Greg Stafford(Jehovah's Witness)wrote:

"One of the problems folks like Hommel and Hartley are having, is their attempt to classify a count noun with a non-count sense. But, then, is it ["man" in the sentence "the object of his study was man"] really a count noun? No! A noun can be used with a count or non-count sense. In the example Mr. Hommel gave to you[a person in a discussion with Hommel], this is not a count use of "man." It is not "countable." It is generic. This is precisely why I have argued that usage determines the lexical sense of the term, as well as its semantic significance. Hommel and Hartley do not understand or accept this, for obvious reasons. Would Hommel use a generic sense for THEOS in John 1:1c? Would Hartley? Of course not. Thus, Hommel is using a false analogy to prove something he himself would not accept, which shows he does not fully understand either the issue involved or the significance of the point at hand. I am sure Hartley, and Hommel, are nice persons, with fine qualities. But they both have shown a strong tendency to ignore and convolute information to their own ends[or, by a term used by Dr. BeDuhn for subjective, non-neutral arguements 'not bracketed']. This issue involving John 1:1 is a textbook example." [words in square brackets ours]

[4th June 2004. NWT Defense comment to the above: Recently, R. Hommel, on a apologetic website, attempts to show that the anarhthrous predicate theos which precedes the verb in John 1.1c is purely qualitative and is not a count noun. He writes:
"Many commentators have drawn a parallel between John 1:1 and John 1:14.  They have argued that since both have the same grammatical structure (anarthrous predicate noun preceding the verb), and they occur so closely together, John intends us to take them as parallel in meaning.  In the traditional view, just as Jesus became fully human (John 1:14), He was fully God (John 1:1c).  This is, that both nouns are qualitative - attributing nature or qualities to the Logos." -italics ours
But here we see Hommel, again, "jumping ship" as it was pointed out above." If the English word "human" has a "parallel meaning" with the English word "God" in the above sentence then Hommel should have written that for the two, John 1.1's theos (which he understands has the meaning "God") and John 1.14's sarx("flesh") (which he understand to have the meaning "human)is to be really parallel in meaning he should have written "He was fully a god." How is this so? In the sentence "Jesus become fully human"("the Word became flesh"-John 1.14) "human" is a countable noun as well as having a qualitative sense(we can have more than one "human" and by being "human" one has the qualities of that class) and Jesus became one of that class "human" and hence became, "fully," a man. This being so Hommel has unknowingly admitted that theos in John 1.1c is also count noun and means that the Word was of the class theos and so is a god! Hommel makes the rather naive mistake of paralleling "human" with "God." But "God" in English is a definite count noun(one of a kind as there is only one "God") it is not qualitative at all! But, as has been pointed out elsewhere on this site, to consider theos in John 1.1c with the meaning "God" is to understand it as having definiteness which Hommel does not wish it to have(because this would mean that the Word was the God he was with and this is a form of Modalism which is against the Trinitarian's understanding of the nature of God!)!!! For a true parallel between theos and sarx in vv.1 and 14 we either have the Word is (the) God and the Word became the Human or the Word was a god and the Word became human(a man, or a human being). Both are against trinitarianism!!!]

To add to Greg's already fine comments something that Greg already knows very well but did not elaborate here, let us follow where the modern trinitarian "qualitative" reasoning leads them.

"Charles is a Prince".

To use a count noun in a generic sense (e.g. "I am man") draws attention to the *class* "man". Or, to use Slatten's (1918) classic example "Charles is a prince" could mean that Charles is the son of a monarch or that Charles is not the son of a monarch but has the qualities of the class "prince." (there are other in-between possibilites but these are the two examples that best clarify the issue).

A Class has Definite and (sometimes) Indefinite Members:

The generic use of a noun points to a class. Here is the point : This class is instantiated by *members* of the class. For example, "I am man" draws attention to class "Man." But when I am an instantiated member of class "Man," I am *a* man. I am *a member of* class "Man". As such, I am a separate and distinct instantiation of another instance of class "Man". In the second example of "Charles is a prince", Charles has the qualities and characteristics of class "Prince." This use highlights that there is a class "Prince" and it consists of princes. Those princes *in general* display certain qualities that Charles also displays. The point is that a generic use points to the class AND REFERENCES TO MEMBERS OF THAT CLASS MUST BE DEFINITE OR INDEFINITE. Re-read the last sentence if it is unclear.

John 1:1- QEOS Instantiated Twice:

So, in the John 1:1 expression "Jesus is [a] QEOS, many modern trinitarians assert that the QEOS here is "qualitative" (this is also mislabeled since QEOS is not in fact a quality, i.e. qualitative). What they are trying to do is to spin the word "qualitative" to mean as a lump all quality, substance, non-count, generic use, etc., nouns. The net effect is that you lose precision on what they mean when they use the term "qualitative." But even here in John 1:1, the QEOS class is instantiated twice. Both THE God (hO QEOS) and the one who is with him ([a] QEOS). The fact that there are two instantiations argues that the second one is indefinite. One can correctly argue to what extent the LOGOS as indefinite QEOS possesses the qualities of the definite hO QEOS as a member of class QEOS, but it is still an indefinite use, grammatically speaking. See the [NWT]R[eference]B[ible]i8 appendix 2A, last paragraph "qualitative and indefinite."

Jesus is God and the Lump is Yogurt:

What trinitarians are trying to do is to use the word QEOS as if it were a substance (or other noncount noun or count noun in a noncount sense). For example, if I took a lump of yogurt from a cup of yogurt and placed the lump next to the cup, I could say "The lump was with the yogurt and the lump was yogurt." Since yogurt is a mass noun, this works grammatically. However, there are two instantiations here of class "Yogurt". You can convert a mass noun to a count noun but adding quantifiers. Here you have "the cup of" yogurt and "a lump of" yogurt. Thus, instantiations of class "yogurt" are indefinite or definite depending on its reference in context. Since QEOS is not a substance or other kind of mass noun, the expression "the LOGOS was God" does not work grammatically. And even if some argue that it is a count noun used in a noncount sense in "Jesus is God", take them to the next step and ask them if Jesus is a definite QEOS or an indefinite one. Since they reject definiteness as heresy, where does that lead them?


Thus, the literal translation "and the Word was a god" is really the best literal translation.

Wes Williams.

"Would someone please explain what "count" and "mass" nouns are to us unwashed?"

A count noun is simply a noun that you can pluralize (pencil-pencils, god-gods, phone-phones). A noncount noun is a noun that you cannot make plural (yogurt, water, wine, air). Mass nouns are technically nouns that describe a substance ("flesh" in John 1:14, "bread"; "wood"). Noncount nouns are also called "mass" nouns in some literature because mass nouns are a large subset of noncount nouns, as in my above examples for noncount nouns. Abstract nouns are nouns that cannot be instantiated: "aether" Qualitative nouns are abtract nouns that describe qualities: love, peace, self-control. They are not instantiated: "a love"; "a peace" Generic nouns refers to a class as a composite whole: I am "man"; Rover is "dog" (meaning: I am a member of class "man" = "I am *a* man") Now here is a point to remember: You convert a mass noun to a count noun by adding quantifiers: "a cup of" yogurt; "a piece of" bread; "a pint of" wine. That is why at John 1:14 "the Word became flesh" as a mass noun argues for indefniteness since when you add a quantifier to the mass noun "flesh", the LOGOS becomes *a* human being.
Hartley is arguing a-priori that a count noun can have the properties of a mass noun, thus, the Word was QEOS (count noun) in a yogurt-type sense. He wants the LOGOS to be _theos_ in a way that is different than _ho theos_ but there be only one instantiation of _theos_ . But there is no grammatical basis for this. It must be assumed and believed without evidence. It is just an assertion. Any way you look at it, there are two instantiations at John 1:1.
Wes Williams

Paul Dixon's thesis is very valuable from the point of view that he was an early one who challenged Colwell. For this, Paul deserves credit for his courage. He clearly recognizes that many support Modalism in their defense of the Trinity using John 1:1 by equating the LOGOS with the One he is *with*. All three have postulated that count nouns can be included in the category of nouns called "qualitative" nouns. Linguistically, a "qualitative" noun is limited to abstract qualities like "love, joy, peace." Concrete nouns that can be instantiated cannot be qualities. All three have built their arguments upon the assumption that such a category even exists. Paul differs from both Harner and Hartley in an important area. Harner and Hartley maintain that a noun can be *both* qualitative and indefinite at the same time. Paul maintains that a noun must be *either* qualitative or
indefinite. Harner and Hartley really stand closer to reality on this point. After several discussions with Paul, the basis for his position that that an indefinite noun cannot *also* be qualitative is an assumption. He assumed that this was true and built upon it as a base. Paul admitted this even recently:

"In every case I was looking for the leading nuance of the noun and assumed it could be either definite, indefinite or qualitative, but only one of these. I never considered that a predicate nominative would receive definite or indefiniteness emphasis simply by fronting it.[Paul Dixon]"

The flaw in the methodology is similar to Hartley and Harner -- they *assumed* something to be true and built on it. Readers apparently accept the assumptions. The flaw common to all three is that they assume that a count noun can be solely a quality and rob its potential indefinite membership in a class. This is what they call a "qualitative" noun and have departed from language grammar in doing so. It is a castle built on a cloud. There is no such category for count nouns. They have proffered no evidence for its existence nor can they offer a single example of a count noun (like "god") that is robbed of definite or indefinite status. The conclusion of all this is that the LOGOS belongs to class _theos_ as an indefinite member, something repulsive especially to graduates of DTS but nevertheless in harmony with what the text says. Being a definite member is equally repulsive to them but not in harmony with what the text says. "Qualitativeness" is something that naturally results from membership in the class. In other words, the LOGOS has certain qualities and attributes that are inherent within class _theos_ ***because*** the LOGOS is a member of that class!
Wes Williams.

I agree, but if you know of any grammars wherein this is elaborated, let me know, ok? I think that might provide some help in providing clarification. Just as you and I disagree with Hartley, realizing that his understanding of the lexical sense of thoes is based on his presuppositions, so, likewise, he and all trinitarians will disagree with you and me, unless we can appeal to a non-theological source for clarification. This may not be possible, but it might help.

Dear Sean:
The grammars, as many have noted, are not comprehensive most of the time in their treatment of count and mass nouns. But it is rather easy to explain and to demonstrate that nouns used generically are not countable (certainly not as presented in Hommel's example [see below], anyway), and, therefore, our contention that they should not be erroneously labeled as such is based on our demonstrated point. The use of the nouns in the examples given, after noting the meaning in the given sentence (i.e., once the sense is identified and, hence, the proper tagging [count, non-count] made), we can just put what is said to constitute a count noun side by side with the term used in a particular example, and ask, "Does it fit here or there?" We really do not need a grammar book to tell us anything beyond what is considered a count noun, a generic noun, etc. But I am sure there are grammars that would essentially say what we are saying, and, indeed, through their discussion of what is countable, generic, etc., they are in fact saying precisely what we are saying. But since they are not facing the particular labeling problem posed by Hartley and others, which problem springs from a theological desire to promote a concept they *think* can be used to support their views, then the grammars are not likely to delve too deeply into this particular issue.

If *theos* were generic, would that not mean that "a god" would be the correct reading? Because, if it were generic, that would ipso facto make Jesus a god among a class of divine beings, which is what we believe --and thus why Hommel and Hartley would reject their own arguments if they understood this implication. Do I understand this correctly, or am
I being obtuse?

[GS]The generic sense of "man" in Hommel's example describes the entire *class* or *group* known as "man." So to transfer its generic meaning from Hommel's example to John 1:1c. would give us, to put it paraphrastically, "the Word was the class of THEOS," or "the Word was the group known as THEOS." This is utter nonsense, even from his theological frame of reference, and his attempt to make a point by using the example he chose, is nothing short of amazing, in that he actually believes he made some useful contribution to and defense of his position. Your brother,Greg

In an ongoing discussion between myself and Robert Hommel, Hommel not only feels that Harner's study supports the Q only semantic, but he, quite amazingly, asserts that the WTS agrees with this!

Dear Kazz:
Actually, though Hommel has made logical and grammatical mistakes too numerous to summarize (see my replies to him on a variety of issues), he is actually not too far off the mark when it comes to the WTS' view of QEOS in John 1:1c. Let me explain:
It is true that the WTS has taken the view that QEOS in John 1:1c. is qualitative. Now, their view of "qualitative" is not the same as that advanced by Harner (whose view is tailored to suit the needs of Trinitarianism) and others, though they did accept his view that QEOS was primarily qualitative. Of course, here you might rightly note that the primary (not exclusive) sense is in view, and you are correct. But I believe it is fair to say that they accepted the argument that the syntax of John 1:1c. involves a primarily qualitative sense for the term, but that the context ("the Word was with God"; "the only begotten god") demands an indefinite sense. So, if Hommel wants to argue that the WTS held to a Q-only view of QEOS, you might consider suggesting that this is possible in relation to the syntactical argument. However, since that is not the only argument advanced by the WTS for the "a god" translation, and since the remainder of the argument supports the indefinite sense of their "a god" translation, why does he not simply deal with the whole argument and go from there?
Your brother,

[Edgar Foster]After quoting Harner's article in JBL, the KIT (Appendix 2A) says: "Following is a list of instances in the gospels of Mark and John where various translators have rendered singular anarthrous predicate nouns occurring before the verb with an indefinite article to denote the indefinite and qualitative status of the subject nouns" (1985). The NWTRefBi (Appendix 6A) says the same thing. So how can Hommel contend that the WTS agrees with a Q only construal of John 1:1c?

[Greg Stafford]That's a good point, Edgar, though I believe from a syntactical point of view they did accept a Q-only ("divine") sense. But since they also, surely, argue for an indefinite semantic (this is where Hommel jumps ship) that is why they list other grammatically similar examples where it is legitimate to bring out both the qualitative and the indefinite sense of the PN, by use of the English indefinite article.
In the same KIT Appendix, for example, they write in contrast to the articular construction: "A singular anarthrous predicate noun preceding the verb points to a quality about someone. Therefore, John's statement . . . merely expresses a certain quality about the Word."
It is because of such statements that I believe they accepted the qualitative sense of the PN from a syntactical point of view, but from a contextual consideration they rightly recognized the indefinite sense, also.
Your brother,

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