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Titus 2:13 & II Peter 1:1


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#1 Evangelion

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Posted 29 December 2002 - 06:38 PM

Titus 2:13 - which in many versions refers to “our great God and Saviour, Jesus Christ” - is arguably one of the most contentious Trinitarian proof texts in the entire Bible. The argument for the legitimacy of the Trinitarian gloss ("our great God and Saviour...") is found in the work of the Greek scholar Granville Sharp. More specifically, it is found in a particular principle of Greek translation invented by Sharp which now bears his name - the "Granville Sharp Rule", defined as follows:

Basically, Granville Sharp's rule states that when you have two nouns, which are not proper names (such as Cephas, or Paul, or Timothy), which are describing a person, and the two nouns are connected by the word "and," and the first noun has the article ("the") while the second does not, both nouns are referring to the same person.

In our texts, this is demonstrated by the words "God" and "Savior" at Titus 2:13 and 2 Peter 1:1. "God" has the article, it is followed by the word for "and," and the word "Savior" does not have the article. Hence, both nouns are being applied to the same person, Jesus Christ.

White, James, Granville Sharp's Rule: Titus 2:13, 2 Peter 1:1 (online article.)
However, the Granville Sharp Rule is by no means the be-all and end-all of Greek grammar. It is not immutable, as many Trinitarians appear to believe.

Indeed, the only publication which Sharp wrote on any aspect of NT grammar was a monograph on the Greek article, appearing in 1798 and bearing the title Remarks on the Uses of the Definitive Article in the Greek Text of the New Testament: Containing many New Proofs of the Divinity of Christ, from Passages which are wrongly Translated in the Common English Version.

It consisted of less than 60 pages.

This little piece of writing (published more than two centuries ago) contained Sharp’s famous Rule, which he believed to be consistent without exception. That was certainly true of the New Testament – but even in Sharp’s own lifetime, another grammarian (Calvin Winstanley) was able to produce four classes of exceptions to Sharp’s rule in Greek literature outside the NT.

His exceptions have been largely ignored because they do not refer to passages of Scripture – but this is irrelevant, because the argument is predicated on a principle of grammar and not the material in which it is found.

The bottom line is that exceptions to Sharp’s rule were found and for this reason, it cannot be considered irrefutable.
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#2 Evangelion

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Posted 15 August 2004 - 06:57 PM

Another great grammarian (Georg Benedict Winer, who wrote near the end of the 19th Century) observed that the sheer consistency of Scripture (combined with the understanding that there were exceptions to Sharp's Rule outside the NT) demonstrated the insufficiency of the Rule when considered against the heavy weight of Biblical evidence.

He pointed out that the apostle Paul's consistent use of the terms "God", "Lord", "Father", and "Saviour" all rebel against Sharp's Rule. (Indeed, the consistency of the entire NT defies it!)

The Trinitarian argument from Sharp's Rule, therefore, rests on a single (apparent) grammatical exception within the entire body of Pauline literature, without any acknowledgement of (a) the near-500 passages where the NT writers have used another construction entirely, and (b) Winstanley's own list of exceptions to Sharp's Rule itself, outside the NT.

Let us consider the Biblical evidence for ourselves:

  • Luke 1:47
    And my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour.
  • I Timothy 1:1
    Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the commandment of God our Saviour, and Lord Jesus Christ, which is our hope;
  • I Timothy 2:3
    For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour;
  • I Timothy 4:10
    For therefore we both labour and suffer reproach, because we trust in the living God, who is the Saviour of all men, specially of those that believe.
  • Titus 1:3
    But hath in due times manifested his word through preaching, which is committed unto me according to the commandment of God our Saviour;
  • Titus 1:4
    To Titus, mine own son after the common faith: Grace, mercy, and peace, from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ our Saviour.
  • Titus 2:10
    Not purloining, but shewing all good fidelity; that they may adorn the doctrine of God our Saviour in all things.
  • Titus 2:13
    Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ;
  • Titus 3:4
    But after that the kindness and love of God our Saviour toward man appeared,
  • II Peter 1:1
    Simon Peter, a servant and an apostle of Jesus Christ, to them that have obtained like precious faith with us through the righteousness of God and our Saviour Jesus Christ:
  • Jude 1:25
    To the only wise God our Saviour, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and ever. Amen.

You will notice that in these verses "God" is clearly distinguished from "Christ." Both are referred to as "Saviour", but we are left in no doubt as to which one is truly "God."

The Trinitarian translation of Titus 2:13 flies in the face of Scriptural consistency.
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#3 Evangelion

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Posted 15 August 2004 - 06:58 PM

Philip Towner (a Trinitarian scholar) admits that the argument from Scriptural consistency is powerful indeed:

  • In favor of the second interpretation:

  • It is unusual, perhaps unprecedented (compare Rom 9:5), for Paul to refer to Christ as “God.”
  • It is argued that in the epiphany passages of the Pastorals there is a tendency to distinguish between God and Christ (1 Tim 6:13-14; 2 Tim 1:9-10).
  • Paul tends to emphasize Christ’s dependence upon God in the pastorals, so that a reference to Christ as God would be out of character.

1-2 Timothy & Titus, 1994.
Notwithstanding this, he goes on to argue for the Trinitarian translation on the basis of the Greek grammar.
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#4 Evangelion

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Posted 15 August 2004 - 07:00 PM

The legitimacy of that grammatical argument must now be scrutinised.

  • Greek scholar Henry Alford weighed the grammatical evidence for the Trinitarian translation in The Greek Testament (1877), and concluded that the construction "The great God, and our Saviour Jesus Christ"

    ...is both structurally and contextually more probable, and more agreeable to the Apostle's way of writing.

    Alford reminds us that elsewhere in Scripture the Father and Son are clearly distinguished from each other, with the Father consistently referred to as "God", and the Son consistently referred to as "Christ", "Jesus", "Lord", and "Son." (As we have already seen.)
  • The Douay-Rheims version (a Catholic publication from 1610) reads: "...of the glory of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ."
  • The American Standard Version (1901) reads "...of the glory of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ."
  • Moffat's A New Translation of the Bible (1950) employs the Unitarian reading - despite the fact that Moffat himself was a Trinitarian.
  • The New Testament in Modern English (1963) reads "...of the great God and of Christ Jesus our saviour."
  • Segond's La Sainte Bible (1970) reads "...of the great God and of our Savior Jesus Christ."
  • Another Catholic publication - the New American Bible (1972) - reads "...of the great God and of our Savior Christ Jesus." It also contains the following footnote:

    The blessed hope, the appearance: literally, "the blessed hope and appearance," but the use of a single article in Greek strongly suggests an epexegetical, i.e., explanatory sense.

    Of the great God and of our savior Jesus Christ: another possible translation is "of our great God and savior Jesus Christ."
  • The New Revised Standard Version (1997 edition) contains a footnote which presents the optional rendering "...of the Great God and our Saviour..."

In light of the fact that Trinitarians themselves are divided on the translation of Titus 2:13 and in view of the Scriptural evidence before us, the non-Trinitarian gloss should be accepted; even if only as a viable alternative.
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#5 Evangelion

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Posted 15 August 2004 - 07:03 PM

II Peter 1:1 now demands our attention.

Of this verse, Trinitarian Albert Barnes writes in his Notes on the Bible:

God and our Saviour Jesus Christ -
Margin, “our God and Saviour.” The Greek will undoubtedly bear the construction given in the margin; and if this be the true rendering, it furnishes an argument for the divinity of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Middleton, Slade, Valpy, Bloomfield, and others, contend that this is the true and proper rendering. It is doubted, however, by Wetstein, Grotius, and others. Erasmus supposes that it may be taken in either sense.

The construction, though certainly not a violation of the laws of the Greek language, is not so free from all doubt as to make it proper to use the passage as a proof-text in an argument for the divinity of the Saviour. It is easier to prove the doctrine from other texts that are plain, than to show that this must be the meaning here.
Clearly, there is ample justification for the non-Trinitarian gloss here.
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#6 Evangelion

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Posted 15 August 2004 - 07:10 PM

But in Titus 2:13 it is a very different story.

Notwithstanding his guarded statements on II Peter 1:1, Barnes here argues vigorously (albeit defensively) in favour of the Trinitarian gloss:

  • Of the great God -

    There can be little doubt, if any, that by “the great God” here, the apostle referred to the Lord Jesus, for it is not a doctrine of the New Testament that God himself as such, or in contradistinction from his incarnate Son, will appear at the last day. It is said, indeed, that the Saviour will come “in the glory of his Father, with his angels” Matthew 16:27, but that God as such will appear is not taught in the Bible.

    The doctrine there is, that God will be manifest in his Son; that the divine approach to our world be through him to judge the race; and that though he will be accompanied with the appropriate symbols of the divinity, yet it will be the Son of God who will be visible.

    No one, accustomed to Paul’s views, can well doubt that when he used this language he had his eye throughout on the Son of God, and that he expected no other manifestation than what would be made through him.

    In no place in the New Testament is the phrase επιφάνειαν του Θεου epiphaneian tou Theou - “the manifestation or appearing of God” - applied to any other one than Christ. It is true that this is spoken of here as the “appearing of the glory - τηος δόξης tēs doxēs - of the great God,” but the idea is that of such a manifestation as became God, or would appropriately display his glory.

    It is known to most persons who have attended to religious controversies, that this passage has given rise to much discussion. The ancients, in general, interpreted it as meaning “The glorious appearing of our great God and Saviour Jesus Christ.”

    This sense has been vindicated by the labors of Beza, Whitby, Bull, Matthaei, and Middleton (on the Greek article), and is the common interpretation of those who claim to be orthodox; see Bloomfield, Rec. Syn., and Notes, in loc. He contends that the meaning is, “the glorious appearance of that great being who is our God and Saviour.” The arguments for this opinion are well summed up by Bloomfield.

    Without going into a critical examination of this passage, which would not be in accordance with the designof these Notes, it may be remarked in general:

  • That no plain reader of the New Testament, accustomed to the common language there, would have any doubt that the apostle referred here to the coming of the Lord Jesus.
  • That the “coming” of God, as such, is not spoken of in this manner in the New Testament.
  • That the expectation of Christians was directed to the advent of the ascended Saviour, not to the appearing of God as such.
  • That this is just such language as one would use who believed that the Lord Jesus is divine, or that the name God might properly be applied to him.
  • That it would naturally and obviously convey the idea that he was divine, to one who had no theory to defend.
  • That if the apostle did not mean this, he used such language as was fitted to lead people into error.
  • And that the fair construction of the Greek here, according to the application of the most rigid rules, abundantly sustains the interpretation which the plain reader of the New Testament would affix to it.

The names above referred to are abundant proof that no violation is done to the rules of the Greek language by this interpretation, but rather that the fair construction of the original demands it. If this be so, then this furnishes an important proof of the divinity of Christ.
An impressive exegesis at first glance - but Barnes undermines his entire argument with the early admission that:

…it is not a doctrine of the New Testament that God himself as such, or in contradistinction from his incarnate Son, will appear at the last day.

It is said, indeed, that the Saviour will come “in the glory of his Father, with his angels” Matthew 16:27, but that God as such will appear is not taught in the Bible.

The doctrine there is, that God will be manifest in his Son; that the divine approach to our world be through him to judge the race; and that though he will be accompanied with the appropriate symbols of the divinity, yet it will be the Son of God who will be visible.
The highlighted section serves well to contradict Barnes’ interpretation and confirm true Christian teaching; namely that God Himself will not appear on Earth but will instead be represented by Jesus Christ.

Our Lord will appear in the glory of the Father, invested with His divine authority and bearing His name.
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#7 Evangelion

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Posted 15 August 2004 - 07:26 PM

Though rarely mentioned in the debate over the Granville Sharp Rule, the grammatical construction of II Thessalonians 1:12 is actually identical to that of II Peter 1:1 - despite being arranged differently in the English.

Thus:

  • II Peter 1:1
    Simon Peter, a servant and an apostle of Jesus Christ, to them that have obtained like precious faith with us through the righteousness of theou kai hēmōn sōtēr Iēsou Christou:
  • II Thessalonians 1:12
    That the name of our Lord Jesus Christ may be glorified in you, and ye in him, according to the grace of hēmōn theou kai kuriou Iēsou Christou.

When read directly from the Greek (i.e. word for word, in the order of occurrence) II Peter 1:1 says “…God and our saviour Jesus Christ.” But when read in exactly the same way, II Thessalonians 1:12 says “…our God and Lord Jesus Christ.”
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#8 Evangelion

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Posted 15 August 2004 - 07:32 PM

Why then is the Trinitarian argument taken from II Peter 1:1 instead of II Thessalonians 1:12, which appears to say exactly what the Trinitarian requires? Why rearrange the Greek of II Peter 1:1 from “God and our Saviour Jesus Christ” to “our God and Saviour Jesus Christ” whilst simultaneously rearranging the Greek of II Thessalonians 1:12 from “our God and Lord Jesus Christ” to “God and our Lord Jesus Christ”?

The New English Translation makes no comment on this anomaly, but Trinitarian Greek scholar A. T. Robertson (who admits that both verses contain an identical construction) offers his own explanation:

Of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ (tou theou hēmōn kai kuriou Iēsou Christou).
Here strict syntax requires, since there is only one article with theou and kuriou that one person be meant, Jesus Christ, as is certainly true in Titus 2:13; 2 Peter 1:1 (Robertson, Grammar, p.786).

This otherwise conclusive syntactical argument, admitted by Schmiedel, is weakened a bit by the fact that Kurios is often employed as a proper name without the article, a thing not true of sōtēr in Titus 2:13; 2Peter 1:1.

So in Ephesians 5:5 en tēi basileiāi tou Christou kai theou the natural meaning is in the Kingdom of Christ and God regarded as one, but here again theos, like Kurios, often occurs as a proper name without the article.

So it has to be admitted that here Paul may mean “according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ,” though he may also mean “according to the grace of our God and Lord, Jesus Christ.”
Robertson has an answer and it seems to be a good one. But in his eagerness to prove the deity of Christ, he undermines his original argument.

By insisting that II Thessalonians 1:12 (an admitted exception to the Granville Sharp Rule) may also be read in the way that Trinitarianism requires - as Robertson himself would prefer - he tacitly admits that II Peter 1:1 (an obvious example of the Granville Sharp Rule) may also be read in the way that Biblical Unitarianism requires.
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#9 Evangelion

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Posted 15 August 2004 - 07:34 PM

Additional proof comes from the New American Bible, which translates II Thessalonians 1:12 as follows:

that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in him, in accord with the grace of our God and Lord Jesus Christ
Here the translators have used the very gloss which (according to Robertson et al) is supposedly precluded by the Granville Sharp Rule!

The accompanying footnote reads:

The grace of our God and Lord Jesus Christ: the Greek can also be translated, "the grace of our God and of the Lord Jesus Christ."
Their blatant disregard for the supposedly incontrovertible Granville Sharp Rule is seen again in Titus 2:13, where they have:

as we await the blessed hope, the appearance of the glory of the great God and of our savior Jesus Christ,
As before, the alternative is provided in a footnote:

The blessed hope, the appearance: literally, "the blessed hope and appearance," but the use of a single article in Greek strongly suggests an epexegetical, i.e., explanatory sense. Of the great God and of our savior Jesus Christ: another possible translation is "of our great God and savior Jesus Christ."
But in their rendition of II Peter 1:1, Sharp’s rule prevails…

Symeon Peter, a slave and apostle of Jesus Christ, to those who have received a faith of equal value to ours through the righteousness of our God and savior Jesus Christ:
…while the footnote contains a now-familiar admission:

The words translated our God and savior Jesus Christ could also be rendered "our God and the savior Jesus Christ"; cf 2 Peter 1:11; 2:20; 3:2, 18.

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#10 Evangelion

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Posted 15 August 2004 - 07:37 PM

From the following evidence...

  • Barnes' refusal to apply the Granville Sharp Rule in II Peter 1:1, where he argues against the Trinitarian gloss
  • An attempted contradiction of the Rule by Robertson himself in his analysis of II Thessalonians 1:12
  • An arbitrary application of the Rule by the translators of the New American Bible

...we learn:

  • That the Granville Sharp Rule is not incontrovertible (as so frequently claimed)
  • That the Granville Sharp Rule is occasionally problematic for Trinitarians themselves, resulting in exegetical gymnastics of the most ingenious kind

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