Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Tuesday Top Seven

Top Seven Reasons why the Coptic John 1:1c should be translated "a god"

This Tuesday Top Seven courtesy of Memra who has a wealth of information on the ancient Coptic translation of the New Testament on his blog. Trinitarian apologists have long been dumbfounded by this Coptic text which as an ancient witness, translates John 1:1c as "a god", in line with the modern New World Translation. Still they try and "muddy the waters" by introducing abstract issues. So we are presenting seven, solid reasons why John 1:1c should definitely be translated "a god."

1. Grammatical
ne.u.noute pe p.Saje , which is is literally:
ne = indicates past tense of what follows;
(o)u = a (indefinite article);
noute = god;
pe = was;
p = the (masculine singular definite article);
Saje = Word;

Which gives us interlinearly - "a god was the Word."

2. Grammatical and syntactical
The Coptic word "noute" (god) is not an abstract noun or noun indicating substance, in which case the indefinite article could go without translation in English. Rather, it is a regular or count noun, in which case the English indefinite article "a" is customarily utilized in translation, as in the English translation of the Coptic New Testament by George Horner, and in numerous English translations of other Coptic works, such as the Gnostic gospels of Thomas, Philip, and Judas.

3. Faithful to underlying Greek text
Greek anarthrous pre-verbal predicate nouns are often translated as indefinite in English, utilizing the English indefinite article "a."

4. Understanding grounded on the underlying Greek text
Apart from theology, and on the basis of grammar alone, the ancient Coptic translators of the 2nd and 3rd centuries CE obviously understood the Greek construction of John 1:1c to be indefinite, and translated accordingly in the Coptic. If they had understood it to be definite ("the Word was God"), they had no indication of such a meaning in the Greek text, which does not have the Greek definite article here. If they understood it to be "qualitative," ("the Word was deity or divine") they could have translated it by means of Coptic adjectival prefixes. They did not, but utilized the Coptic indefinite article instead: ou noute: "a god."

5. Timeline
While we cannot know with specificity the theological presuppositions of the Coptic translators, or even if those presuppositions guided their translation of John 1:1c, it should be noted that their translation was most likely made before Trinitarianism became the established church dogma. The translators would have had no need to translate John 1:1c according to any Trinitarian formula that equated Jesus Christ with God Almighty.

6. Theology
Several early Church fathers contemporaneous with the Coptic translators distinguished between God and His Son, and were subordinationist in outlook, i.e., the Son was subordinate to the Father, and not equal in either eternity or in ontology with the Father. To understand John 1:1c as saying "the Word was a god [or, a divine being]" would not have been out of harmony with the hermeneutics of the time.

7. New Testament Harmony
Like any other accurate translation of the New Testament, the ancient Sahidic Coptic New Testament preserves all the verses which show that Jesus Christ is a god, a divine being, the divine Son of God, the Image of God, God's firstborn, etc., but not God Himself.

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