In this post I am going to be addressing Jehovah’s Witness (JW) apologist Bernard Maina’s claim that he made on his facebook page. Here is what he says about the meaning of theos when it is used with and without the definite article ho in the Greek NT:
Bernard Maina John 1:1 does not prove Jesus is God. In Greek, if you want to say ” God, ” you say “ho theos” (the God). If you want to say “a god” you simply drop “ho.” Jesus is never referred to as “ho theos.” He is grammatically speaking “a god.” King James translators deliberately mistranslated to give a perception that Jesus is God. But they forgot to insert “ho” in the Greek text. JWs have no problem. They are backed by scholars who are the best, of the best, of the best. October 11 at 8:54am (LINK https://www.facebook.com/bernard.maina.942/posts/871950082941523?comment_id=872833459519852&comment_tracking=%7B%22tn%22%3A%22R0%22%7D&pnref=story)
Note Maina’s assertion. When in Greek a person wants to refer to “a god” s/he will not include the Greek definite article ho before the word theos. This means that every time the word theos appears without the article then it is always referring to A god, and not the true God Jehovah.
I am now going to apply Maina’s claim to all the places where the Father is described as theos without the article and see what we end up with.
In all of the following examples I am going to change the meaning of theos in English to reflect Maina’s “rule” of Greek grammar.
“There was a man sent from a god (para theou), whose name was John… But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of a god (tekna theou), even to them that believe on his name: which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of a god (ek theou)…No man hath seen a god (theon) at any time; the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him.” John 1:6, 12-13, 18
“the same came to Jesus by night, and said unto him, Rabbi, we know that thou art a teacher come from a god (apo theou): for no man can do these miracles that thou doest, except God be with him.” John 3:2
“But he that doeth truth cometh to the light, that his deeds may be made manifest, that they are wrought in a god (en theo).” John 3:21
“It is written in the prophets, And they shall be all taught of a god (didaktoi theou). Every man therefore that hath heard, and hath learned of the Father, cometh unto me.” John 6:45
“Jesus answered, If I honour myself, my honour is nothing: it is my Father that honoureth me; of whom ye say, that he is a god of yours (hoti theos hymon estin):” John 8:54
“Therefore said some of the Pharisees, This man is not of a god (para theou), because he keepeth not the sabbath day. Others said, How can a man that is a sinner do such miracles? And there was a division among them.” John 9:16
“If this man were not of a god (para theou), he could do nothing.” John 9:33
“Now are we sure that thou knowest all things, and needest not that any man should ask thee: by this we believe that thou camest forth from a god (apo theou).” John 16:30
“The Jews answered him, We have a law, and by our law he ought to die, because he made himself the Son of a god (hyion theou).” John 19:7
Compare this with the following:
“Then they that were in the ship came and worshipped him, saying, Of a truth thou art the Son of a god (theou hyios).” Matthew 14:33
Here are several more cases:
“Jesus saith unto her, Touch me not; for I am not yet ascended to my Father: but go to my brethren, and say unto them, I ascend unto my Father, and your Father; and to a god of mine, and to a god of yours (kai theon mou kai theon hymon).” John 20:17
“Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of a god (tekna theou): therefore the world knoweth us not, because it knew him not. Beloved, now are we the sons of a god (tekan theou), and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is.” 1 John 3:1-2
“No man hath seen a god (theon) at any time. If we love one another, God dwelleth in us, and his love is perfected in us.” 1 John 4:12
“Grace be with you, mercy, and peace, from a god the Father (theou patros), and from the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of the Father, in truth and love… Whosoever transgresseth, and abideth not in the doctrine of Christ, hath not a god (theon). He that abideth in the doctrine of Christ, he hath both the Father and the Son.” 2 John 1:3, 9
“And I saw another angel ascending from the east, having the seal of a god [who is] living (theou zontos): and he cried with a loud voice to the four angels, to whom it was given to hurt the earth and the sea,” Revelation 7:2
“For a god (theos) hath put in their hearts to fulfil his will, and to agree, and give their kingdom unto the beast, until the words of God shall be fulfilled.” Revelation 17:17
In light of all of these places where the Father is called theos without the article, Maina is now forced to accept the fact that per his argument the Father is not God Almighty but merely A god. However, such would be utter nonsense since there is no denying that the NT writings go out of their way to identify the Father as the one true supreme God of all. Therefore, if the Father is not THE God then nobody is!
The foregoing examples should make it obvious to the reader that the lack of the article does not make the word theos indefinite, e.g. A god as opposed to THE God. Rather it is the context that determines whether anarthrous (without the article) theos refers to one who is God in an absolute sense or not. Noted NT Evangelical scholar Murray J. Harris explains it best:
“To those Jews or Gentile ‘God-fearers’ of the first century A.D., who became the first converts to Christianity and who knew the Scriptures in their Greek dress, the term theos would probably have seemed extremely rich in its connotations and yet at the same time very varied in its applicability. Rich in meaning, because it summed up everything that distinguished God from humans, signifying godhood as opposed to manhood and representing in Greek the two basic generic terms for God (el and elohim) that were used in the Hebrew OT; it denotes the one supreme God whom Jews worshiped as Creator and Redeemer; it was not infrequently found in the LXX where the sacred name YHWH stood in the Hebrew Text. Varied in application, because it could be used to refer to deity in general, a particular heathen god or goddess, pagan deities at large (along with their images), angels, human rulers or judges, persons of valor or rank, godlike persons, as well as the one true God of Israel. What was more, on occasion it was simply equivalent (in the form tou theou) to the adjective “mighty.”
“Neither in LXX Greek nor in secular Greek is a firm or a fine distinction drawn between the articular and the anarthrous theos, with ho theos denoting, for a example, a specific god and theos designating deity in general or emphasizing the qualities of godhood. This is not to say that the use of the article is totally capricious or that the above distinctions are never drawn. But it does mean that in certain contexts it is as possible for ho theos to refer generically to divinity as it is for theos to denote God or a particular god.” (Jesus as God: The New Testament Use of Theos in Reference to Jesus [Baker Book House, Grand Rapids MI, 1992], p. 29; bold and underline emphasis ours)
- Frequently Interchangeable
How valid are such distinctions? From three converging lines of evidence it becomes abundantly clear that in NT usage ho theos and theos ARE OFTEN INTERCHANGEABLE.
First, when it is a dependent genitive, theos will be articular or anarthrous, generally depending on the state of the preceding noun; this is the canon of Apollonius. Thus in 1 Corinthians 3:16a (ouk oidate hoti naos theou este), theos is anarthrous because naos is anarthrous, and naos is anarthrous because it is predicative. In the following verse (1 Cor. 3:17), however, Paul twice uses ho naos tou theou. Examples are too numerous to be cited in full where either tou theou or theou is attached to the same noun occurring twice or more within the same book. While this oscillation may often be grammatically or theologically conditioned, and not capricious, the fact of the possible interchangeability remains.
Second, table 2 lists examples where the same preposition is used with both articular and anarthrous theos within one NT book (or, in the case of Mark 10:27, within a single verse). Even though a definite grammatical or stylistic principle sometimes accounts for the presence or absence of the article, it remains true that the same basic fact (such as divine origin or agency) may be expressed by articular theos or by anarthrous theos.
In the third place, in the NT theos (like kurios) is virtually a proper name and consequently shares the imprecision with regard to the use of the article that seems to mark all proper names.
It is therefore NOT POSSIBLE to maintain that whenever theos is anarthrous it differs from ho theos in meaning or emphasis.” (Ibid., pp. 37-38; capital and underline emphasis ours)
Now that we have thoroughly exposed Maina’s gross misinformation and ignorance of how anarthrous theos functions in the inspired Greek Christian Scriptures, we can therefore proceed to the second part of our reply https://answeringislamblog.wordpress.com/2016/12/09/a-jehovahs-witness-proves-that-the-father-is-not-god-almighty-pt-2/ where we will see whether any NT writer describes Jesus as ho theos, THE God.