[B-Greek] i John 4:8 and 16

Carl W. Conrad cwconrad at artsci.wustl.edu
Fri Jul 27 16:21:52 EDT 2007

(I take the liberty of revising the transliteration for the sake of  
consistency and intelligibility)

On Jul 27, 2007, at 2:09 PM, Jerry Reimer wrote:

> Dear Sirs,
> Concerning the statements in 1 John 4:8 and 16 (hO QEOS AGAPH  
> ESTIN) and the statement in John 1:1:

(i.e. John 1:1c KAI QEOS HN hO LOGOS
> Should the anarthrous construction (of these anarthrous predicate  
> nouns) be noted for adjectival meaning? In other words, should 1  
> John 4:8, 16 be considered similar to 1 John 1:5 (hO QEOS FWS  
> ESTIN) and John 1:1 (QEOS HN hO LOGOS) not just in construction but  
> in meaning? For example, is it accurate to say that these predicate  
> nouns are not giving ontological meanings, per se, but descriptive  
> suggestions such as: God has a loving nature, is benevolent (1 John  
> 4:8,16); God is bright, shining (1 John 1:5) and the word was  
> divine, had godness, was godish (John 1:1)?
> I have long had the assumption that anarthrousness (is that a word?)

If I may be allowed to say so, although it is intelligible enough, a  
word like "anarthrousness" raises the degree of ugliness already  
present in the word "anarthrous" exponentially. I am well aware that  
the Latinate word "inarticulate," although etymologically it really  
ought to mean the same thing as the Greek-derived "anarthrous," is  
not used in grammatical parlance. I think it would be less  
inarticulate to speak of a "lack of the article" than to indulge in  
the ugliness of the adjective "anarthrous" or the noun  
"anarthrousness." I don't direct this comment to anyone who prefers  
to use such terms; I merely indicate that I just don't like them.

> usually leans over onto the qualitative side of things wherever it  
> is found. If this is generally true, and is true in these verses,  
> is it then correct to say that we do not have intended ontological  
> statements as to essence in these places but that we have  
> adjectival modification and therefore further information about the  
> subject?

Rather than speculating on whether AGAPH and FWS should be understood  
in an adjectival sense, would it not be simpler to view them as  
metaphorical? It seems to me that there are some texts that have to  
be understood in a figurative sense -- even to the most hard-headed  

I think that QEOS in John 1:1c is of a different order from the usage  
of AGAPH and FWS in the passages in 1 John; at least few are likely  
to view John 1:1c as involving a metaphor. We've talked about QEOS  
being adjectival over the course of a few megabytes of threads on B- 
Greek since the early 1990's; my impression has been that few who  
entered those discussions left them with opinions altered from those  
held a priori -- or previously.

Carl W. Conrad
Department of Classics, Washington University (Retired)

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