Help a Brother Out

Jeff Downs just pointed me to an article written by Brian J. Wright and Tim Ricchuiti in the current issue of the Journal of Theological Studies entitled “From ‘God’ (ΘΕΟΣ) to ‘God’ (ΝΟΥΤΕ): A New Discussion and Proposal Regarding John 1:1C and the Sahidic Coptic Version of the New Testament.” If anyone out there has a copy of the article that they can shoot me I’d be greatly appreciative.

Wright’s 2007 ETS paper Jesus as Θεός: Scriptural Fact or Scribal Fantasy? has been extremely helpful in my studies over the years and I haven’t read something from Tim in a few years (if memory serves, he gave up blogging to tweet). Also, I haven’t read anything on this subject in quite a while. The last thing I can remember coming across was Robert Hommel’s “John 1:1c in the Sahidic Coptic Translation: What the Scholars Really Said.”



13 thoughts on “Help a Brother Out

  1. I do not have that paper, but the thrust in much NT scholarship is to see both the anarthrous ΘΕΟΣ in the Greek of John 1:1c and the indefinite (ΟΥ)ΝΟΥΤΕ in the Sahidic Coptic of that verse as “qualitative” (adjectival, in the Coptic).

    While that is possible, for the Coptic there are additional factors to consider, according to eminent Coptic scholar Bentley Layton. Some points are mentioned here:

    As for Hommel’s paper, it is unfortunately outdated and hampered by apologetics that ignore Sahidic Coptic grammar.

  2. Solomon: Thanks. Are you the same Solomon Landers that contributed an appendix to Patrick Navas’ book in which he argues against the doctrine of the Trinity?

    Sam: Will do.

  3. Nick,

    I’m curious your thoughts on this… The arguments struck me as extremely labored, especially with 2Th 2:4 and Acts 28:6. I confess myself ignorant largely of Coptic, but I didn’t see why j 1:1 could not have been anarthrous as some others. Further, I was not clear on how the appeal to the definite article in other texts about Christ was significant once it was argued that the article was used of others as at 2Co. 4:4. Finally, I utterly failed to see why an indefinite meaning for Christ must have exclusively fallen within the pagan or usurper classification, especially when the example of prophet was given. The fact that those two examples exist they would have to be the ONLY possibilities?


  4. Nick,

    Yes, he and I are the same Solomon Landers. However, my study of Sahidic Coptic has progressed substantially since 2006. My conclusions are the same, but much more syntactally grounded, thanks to indepth study of the Coptic New Testament and laboring through all of Bentley Layton’s “Coptic Grammar.”

    I have also now read the JTS article, and I found it useful. But I think that the evidence for an indefinite reading at John 1:1c cannot be dismissed so easily, based on the rest of the Coptic New Testament. An indefinite reading, in fact, is not that much different in actual meaning from a qualitative one, in Biblical context.

    At any rate, it is good to see recognition given to the value of the Sahidic Coptic New Testament.

  5. Cliff,
    Thanks for the article.

    You say that “the evidence for an indefinite reading at John 1:1c cannot be dismissed so easily, based on the rest of the Coptic New Testament,” but you also claim to have “read the JTS article.” Why do you disagree with their handling of the “rest of the Coptic New Testament,” since they adequately covered the different uses throughout? Thanks.

  6. Cliff: Much appreciated!

    Dave: I’ll have to get back to you after I read the article. I haven’t had a chance to look at it yet.

    Solomon: Gotcha. May I ask what got you interested in Coptic and where you’ve studied (or are you an autodidact)? It strikes me as one of the more neglected languages in NT scholarship.

  7. The article does not go far enough in expressing the obvious indefinite uses of the Coptic indefinite article. My study of and research in the Sahidic Coptic New Testament over the past 5 years informs me that there is no grammatical reason to prefer a qualitative reading over an indefinite one in the vast number of its Coptic NT occurrences. And the only reason I see presented in the paper for John 1:1c is essentially a theological one, not a grammatical one.

    As Thomas O. Lambdin notes in his Coptic grammar book, “the use of the Coptic articles, both definite and indefinite, corresponds closely to the use of the articles in English, only exceptions to this general correspondence will be noted.” (page 5) Throughout the Sahidic Coptic New Testament, even as reflected in Horner’s English translation, the default and normal rendering of the Coptic indefinite article plus common noun (e.g., NOYTE, “god,” as at Coptic John 1:1c) is “a” something, and only in special circumstances (i.e., other classes of nouns such as abstract nouns or substances like water) would this not be the case.

    Whereas a Coptic noun in the predicate can also have descriptive (adjectival) significance, the essential meaning of Coptic John 1:1c would not change. Descriptively, Sahidic Coptic ΝЄΥΝΟΥΤΕ ΠЄ ΠϢΑϪЄ can be translated as “the Word was divine” or “the Word was a divine one.” Denotatively, Sahidic Coptic ΝЄΥΝΟΥΤЄ ΠЄ ΠϢΑϪЄ can be translated as “the Word was a god,” and this is the general sense of Coptic predicate common nouns.

    Note that whether descriptive or denotative, the Sahidic Coptic common noun with the indefinite article can be rendered into standard English with the English indefinite article: “a divine one; a god.” — Bentley Layton, A Coptic Grammar, 2nd Edition (Harrassowitz Verlag, 2004), page 227.

    However, I appreciate that the authors of the article present their conclusions as proposals, not as the end of the matter. To get the full picture, much more needs to be done.

  8. Nick, I pursued a degree in linguistics in college, and studied Hebrew under private (Jewish) tutors and later, Koine Greek. I am essentially a researcher, and in my research I make use of the latest and best works available from competent, degreed scholars. For Coptic, I have utilized the works of renowned Coptic scholars: Bentley Layton, Thomas O. Lambdin, Ariel Shisha-Halevy, Johanna Brankaer, and others.

    I got interested in Coptic in a roundabout way. Years ago, I had purchased some Egyptian art containing hieroglyphics. Being curious as to what the hieroglyphs said, I began a study of Middle Egyptian (King Tut’s language). Coptic is the final stage of Egyptian language, and when I discovered there was a Coptic Bible, I moved from studying Middle Egyptian to learning Sahidic Coptic.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s