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Ephesians 5:5: Another Example of Granville Sharp’s First Rule?

In some of my previous discussions (https://answeringislamblog.wordpress.com/2019/12/11/biblical-verses-that-call-jesus-god/), I spoke of a specific Greek feature found throughout the NT writings, which scholars typically refer to as a Graville Sharp construction. The construction is in reality a rule of Greek grammar in regards to how the definite article ho (“the”) and all of its various cases function.

According to this particular rule, when two singular nouns/adjectives/participles that are not proper names are connected by the conjunction kai (“and”), with the definite article only appearing before the first noun/adjective/participle, then both nouns/adjectives/participles refer to one and the same individual.

This is precisely what we find in the following text:

“for this ye know, that every whoremonger, or unclean, or covetous person, who is an idolater, hath no inheritance in the reign of the Christ and God (tou Christou, kai Theou).” Ephesians 5:5 Young’s Literal Translation (YLT)

However, certain scholars are hesitant to view this as another place where the risen Lord is expressly called God on the grounds that the title Christos (“Christ”) functions as a proper name of Jesus in the NT documents, and Sharp’s rule excludes proper nouns.

On the other hand, though Christos has the force of a proper name in respect to Jesus in certain passages, this is not always the case.

Furthermore, Sharp’s rule typically excludes proper names which appear after the conjunction kai, but may not necessarily exclude them if placed in the first attributive position. E.g., if Ephesians 5:5 had read “of the God and Christ,” then this would have made it less likely that both nouns refer to Christ.

More importantly, there are thousands of instances in the writings of the early Greek fathers where Ephesians 5:5, Titus 2:13 and 2 Peter 1:1 are all quoted as places where Jesus is expressly called God. As Evangelical NT textual scholar Dr. Daniel B. Wallace noted:

49 As was mentioned earlier, we believe that Eph 5:5 is the only other christologically significant text in which Sharp’s rule might be valid. But the main reason we have not altogether denied its validity is that although Christos is used in the construction, the Greek patristic writers uniformly see the text as applying to one person. (Wallace, Granville Sharp’s Canon and Its Kin: Semantics and Significance [Peter Lang Inc., International Academic Publishers; First printing edition, November, 2008], p. 251; bold emphasis mine)

I cite at length Wallace’s discussion and quotation from Christopher Wordsworth who thoroughly searched the early Greek church writers to see how they interpreted texts that Granville Sharp used to affirm the Deity of Christ, such as Ephesians 5:5:

Concerning the remaining three passages (Eph 5:5; Titus 2:13; and 2 Pet 1:1), he noted that they were all used frequently, from the second century on. Indeed, he became quite convinced that Sharp had articulated such a sound principle that at one point he declared,

. . . I fully believe, that there is no one exception to your first rule in the whole New Testament: and the assertion might be extended infinitely further. But, in all other places, (whatever it may be in those concerning which we are particularly interested) having, under your guidance, examined them, I am persuaded that the idiom is not “anceps,” not “ambiguum.” Nay, may I not venture to add, that the Greek must be a strange language, if such a thing were possible?163

After an exhaustive investigation, from Greek Christian literature covering a span of over 1000 years, Wordsworth was able to make the astounding comment,

. . . I have observed more (I am persuaded) than a thousand instances of the form  Χριστος και Θεος (Ephes. v. 5)[,] some hundreds of instances of the ὁ μεγας θεος και σωτηρ (Tit. ii. 13); and not fewer than several thousands of the form ὁ θεος και σωτηρ(2 Pet. i. 1.)[,] while in no single case, have I seen (where the sense could be determined) any of them used, but only of one person.164

Wordsworth quotes a number of fathers who used these passages as proofs against Arianism—in fact, he even finds a few Arians who conceded the syntax of the construction to their opponents. For example, regarding Titus 2:13 he argues that

The interpretation of our version [KJV] was never once thought of in any part of the Christian world, even when Arianism was triumphant over the Catholic faith. Surely, this fact, [sic] might of itself suffice to overturn every notion of an ambiguity in the form of expression.166

163 Ibid., 103…

165 Ezra Abbot in fact tries to nullify the masses of patristic evidence with this approach (“On the Construction of Titus II.13,” in The Authorship of the Fourth Gospel and other Critical Essays [Boston: G. H. Ellis, 1888] 145):

That the orthodox Fathers should give to an ambiguous passage the construction which suited their theology and the use of language in their time was almost a matter of course, and furnishes no evidence that their resolution of the ambiguity is the true one.

The cases are so numerous in which the Fathers, under the influence of a dogmatic bias, have done extreme violence to very plain language, that we can attach no weight to their preference in the case of a construction really ambiguous, like the present.

Apart from the question as to whether unorthodox writers also used such texts, what seems to be a significant blow to Abbot’s sweeping statement is the fact that the patristic writers did not invoke the language of 1 Tim 5:21 or 2 Thess 1:12 in their appeals to Christ’s deity—the very passages which have proper names and are thus not valid examples of Sharp’s rule. Thus, the singular construction which does not involve proper names seems to be a genuine idiom in the language.

166 Ibid., 95.  Cf. also 22-23. (Wallace, Sharp Redivivus? – A Reexamination of the Granville Sharp Rule https://bible.org/article/sharp-redivivus-reexamination-granville-sharp-rule; bold emphasis mine)

154 S.v. Χριστός in BAGR, (2). Nevertheless, Middleton accepted this text as fitting Sharp’s canon, though principally on the strength of the numerous patristic uses of this phrase (ὁ Χριστὸς καὶ θεός) to affirm the deity of Christ (Doctrine of the Greek Article, 362-65). We may add further that Χριστός occurs in the first position. It is possible that the reason proper names do not fit Sharp’s rule is that they are usually in the second position. Since they do not require an article to be definite, one cannot conclude that the article “carries over” to the proper name in the sense of referential identity. Indeed, almost all the mixed constructions that I examined, in both the NT and the papyri, had the proper name second. Ephesians 5:5, then, may well fit Sharp’s rule. Although almost none of our examples of common noun-proper name mixture yielded referential identity, exact parallels to Eph 5:5 are not easily forthcoming. We must, therefore, in this essay remain undecided. (Ibid. https://bible.org/article/sharp-redivivus-reexamination-granville-sharp-rule#_ftn154; bold emphasis mine)

168 Ibid., 122-24.  Wordsworth lists Clement of Rome, Polycarp, Justin Martyr, Irenaeus, Clement of Alexandria, and Origen among the earliest writers. (The following texts are first listed by Wordworth’s pre-standard nomenclature, sometimes of a particular printed edition, then converted to the current standard form of citation.) For example, Clement of Rome refers to Christ as ὁ παντεπόπτης θεὸς καὶ δεσπότης τῶν πνευμάτων καὶ κύριος πάσης σαρκός (Epist. i . c. 58=1 Cor. 64.1); Polycarp speaks of him as τοῦ κυρίου καὶ θεοῦ (Philip. c. vi.=Phil. 6.2); Justin Martyr extols the Lord as τοῦ ἡμετέρου ἱερέως καὶ θεοῦ καὶ Χριστοῦ (Dialog. cum Tryphone, p. 282, ed. Jebb=Dialogue with Trypho 115.4); Irenaeus addresses him with four epithets: Χριστῷ  ᾿Ιησοῦ τῷ κυρίῳ ἡμῶν καὶ θεῷ καὶ σωτῆρι καὶ βασιλεῖ (L. i. c. x. p. 48=Adversus haereses 1.2.1); Clement of Alexandria refers to Christ as ὁ ἄτυφος θεὸς καὶ κύριος (Paedagog. l. ii. c. iii. p. 161=Paedagog. 2.3.38.1), as well as ὁ σωτὴρ ἡμῶν καὶ θεός (Stromat. l. viii., p. 737=Stromata 7.10.58); Origen often refers to Christ as ὁ θεὸς καὶ σωτήρ (e.g., ὁ ἀψευδὴς θεὸς καὶ σωτὴρ,ὁ κύριος ἡμῶν  ᾿Ιησοῦς Χριστός [Selecta in Psalmos, vol. ii, p. 564=Selecta in Psalmos 12.1149]; τοῦ θεοῦ καὶ σωτῆρος ἡμῶν [Selecta in Psalmos, vol. ii, p. 584=Selecta in Psalmos 12.1185]; and (not listed by Wordsworth) τοῦ θεοῦ καὶ σωτῆρος ἡμῶν [Fragmenta in Lucam 172.6]; τοῦ θεοῦ καὶ σωτῆρος ἡμῶν [Fragmenta in Psalmos, Psalm 88:45]). (Ibid. https://bible.org/article/sharp-redivivus-reexamination-granville-sharp-rule#_ftn168)

169 What is interesting in this regard is that Eph 5:5 stands up just as well as Titus 2:13 and 2 Pet 1:1.  Because of this, it is probably not prudent simply to reject it outright as an explicit affirmation of Christ’s deity.  Nevertheless, since Χριστός is in the equation—a term which we believe is a proper name in the epistles—we are on surer ground if we restrict our discussion to the latter two passages. (Ibid. https://bible.org/article/sharp-redivivus-reexamination-granville-sharp-rule#_ftn169; bold emphasis mine)

189 As was mentioned earlier, we believe that Eph 5:5 is the only other christologically significant text in which Sharp’s rule might be valid. But the main reason we have not altogether denied its validity is that although Χριστός is used in the construction, the Greek patristic writers uniformly see the text as applying to one person. (Ibid. https://bible.org/article/sharp-redivivus-reexamination-granville-sharp-rule#_ftn189; bold emphasis mine)

Another renowned scholar of the Greek NT mentioned Wordsworth’s exhaustive research concerning the Greek patristic interpretation of Ephesians 5:5:

“… and the proper rendering of tou Christou kai Theou is not ‘of the anointed and God,’ but, ‘of Him, (being, or) who is, the Christ and God;’… But not only in principle of the rule, Part 1. Chap. III. Sect. iv. 2. and the invariable practice in the N. T. with respect to These and all other Attributives, compel us to acquiesce in the identity of Christou kai Theoubut the same truth is evinced by the examination of the Greek Fathers so ably executed by Mr. Wordsworth; who affirms, ‘we shall have the consolation to find, that NO OTHER INTERPRETATION THAN YOURS (Mr. Sharp’s) was ever heard in all the Greek churches;’ p. 26. He then adduces, among other examples, some very decisive passages from Chrysostom, Cyril Alex. and Theodoret, in which this very text is cited with the common Trinitarian texts, John i. 1; Rom. ix. 5… Besides, how will this sccord with Theodoret’s explanation of Titus ii. 13 (see Wordsworth, p. 32.) ‘He’ (the Apostle) ‘hath called the same person the Saviour and the Great God and Jesus Christ?’… Mr. Wordsworth avers (p. 132) ‘I have observed more, I am persuaded, than a thousand instances of the form ho Christos kai Theos (Eph. v. 5.) some hundreds of instances of ho megas Theos kai soter (Tit. ii. 13.) and not fewer than several thousands of the form ho Theos kai soter (2 Pet. i. 1.:) while in NO SINGLE CASE have I seen, where the sense could be determined, any one of them used, but only of one person.’” (Thomas Fans-haw Middleton, The Doctrine of the Greek Article Applied to the Criticism and Illustration of the New Testament [Cambridge, Second edition 1828], pp. 502-504 https://books.google.com/books?id=0LfTEuP9cV0C&printsec=frontcover#v=onepage&q&f=false; bold and capital emphasis mine)

That Jesus is called both Christ and God is strengthened by the fact that in this very epistle the blessed Apostle describes the risen Lord as Jehovah Almighty of the OT:

“But grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of the gift of Christ. Therefore He says: ‘When He ascended on high, He led captivity captive, and gave gifts to men.’ (In saying, ‘He ascended,’ what does it mean but that He also descended first into the lower parts of the earth? He who descended is also He who ascended far above all the heavens that He might fill all things.)” Ephesians 4:7-10 Modern English Version (MEV)

Note how the following versions translate this passage:

“(Note the implication here—to say that Christ ‘ascended’ means that he must previously have ‘descended’, that is from the height of Heaven to the depth of this world. The one who made this descent is identically the same person as he who has now ascended high above the very Heavens—that the whole universe from lowest to highest might know his presence.)” J. B. Philips

“What does ‘he went up’ mean? It can only mean that he also came down to the lower, earthly places. The one who came down is the same one who went up. He went up higher than all the heavens. He did it in order to fill all creation.” New International Reader’s Version (NIRV)

Paul speaks of Christ ascending back to heaven from where he initially came, a clear affirmation to Jesus’ prehuman existence. As if this weren’t amazing enough, the inspired Apostle cites the following Psalm,

“You have ascended on high, You have led captivity captive; You have received gifts from people, yes, even from the rebellious, that the LORD God might dwell among them.” Psalm 68:18 MEV

And ascribes the language of this next OT text,

“Am I a God who is near, says the LORD, and not a God far off? Can a man hide himself in secret places so that I do not see him? says the LORD. Do I not fill heaven and earth? says the LORD.” Jeremiah 23:23-24 MEV

To Jesus, thereby identifying Christ as that very Jehovah God that fills all creation with his spiritual presence and who ascended back from where he descended!

Paul further describes Christ’s physical ascension and transcendence over every creating thing in existence,

“and what is the surpassing greatness of His power toward us who believe, according to the working of His mighty power, which He performed in Christ when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His own right hand in the heavenly places, FAR ABOVE ALL principalities, and power, and might, and dominion, and EVERY name that is named, not only in this age but also in that which is to come. And He put all things in subjection under His feet and made Him the head over all things for the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all things in all ways.” Ephesians 1:19-23 MEV

In language that is virtually identical to the way the Hebrew Bible speaks of Jehovah’s exalted status above all creation:

“For You, O LORD, are Most High above all the earthYou are exalted FAR ABOVE all gods.” Psalm 97:9 MEV

“Let them praise the name of the LORD, For His name ALONE is exalted; His glory is ABOVE the earth and heaven.” Psalm 148:13 (NIV)

Since Paul had no qualms identifying Jesus as Jehovah Almighty in the flesh then he surely would have no problem calling Christ God, since one cannot be Jehovah without also being the only true God and everlasting King:

“For a long time Israel has been without the true God, and without a teaching priest and without law, but when in their trouble they turned to the LORD God of Israel, and sought Him, He was found by them.” 2 Chronicles 15:3-4 MEV

But the LORD is the true God; He is the living God and an everlasting King. At His wrath the earth trembles, and the nations cannot endure His indignation.” Jeremiah 10:10 MEV

Hence, since Jesus is clearly described as the Jehovah who ascended back to heaven after taking hold of captivity and proceeded to fill the entire creation with his glorious spiritual presence, then there can be no doubt of his also being God in the flesh.

It, therefore, makes sense that the inspired Apostle could refer to the kingdom of the Christ who is God after having just described him as Jehovah Incarnate:

“Certainly you are aware of this: No immoral, impure, or greedy person—such a person is an idolater—has an inheritance in the kingdom of Christ, who is God.” Evangelical Heritage Version (EHV)

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