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In Titus 2:13, Some say that the phrase “Our God and Savior Jesus Christ” refers to two persons and some say it refers to one.

What would that phrase look like in Koine Greek if it refers to one person and how for two persons?

  • Welcome to BHSX. Do not forget to take the tour. Many thanks for this excellent and important question. – user25930 Jan 28 '19 at 20:54
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There is a wonderful rule of Koine Greek grammar called the "Granville Sharp Rule". It applies in very specific cases where peculiar constructions occur. Titus 2:13 is one of them. For references see https://www.ibiblio.org/bgreek/forum/viewtopic.php?t=460&start=10

See also https://www.gotquestions.org/Granville-Sharp-Rule.html

In these instances, this rule boils down to a specific use of the definite article: ie, "ho" (or one of its declensions), which is "the" in English, in conjunction with two nouns coupled with an additive word ("kai" = "and" in English). In Titus 2:13, because "ho" occurs only once before the first noun, then the phrase is discussing one object. Let us examine the verse in question.

τοῦ ἡμῶν μεγάλου Θεοῦ καὶ Σωτῆρος Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ

This is a perfect example of the Granville Sharp rule involving the definte article (τοῦ) an additive conjunction (καὶ) and two nouns in the same case (Θεοῦ and Σωτῆρος Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ). Thus, the titles "God" and "Saviour" both refer to the same person, "Jesus Christ"; both nouns being in the genitive case. There is another example of this in 2 Peter 1:1.

If Paul had wanted to discuss two different persons (rather than one) he would have employed a different construction that would have been something like this.

τοῦ ἡμῶν μεγάλου Θεοῦ καὶ τοῦ ἡμῶν Σωτῆρος Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ {Note the second definite article here.)

This would then have been translated as, "Our great God, and our Savour Jesus Christ."

Since thus rule of grammar was discovered in modern times after the KJV was produced (The ante-Nicaean fathers clearly understood it), the KJV gets this manifestly wrong. (It has been corrected in the NKJV.) See, for example, any of these commentaries (eg Ellicott) https://biblehub.com/commentaries/titus/2-13.htm

For much more information about this see https://bible.org/article/sharp-redivivus-reexamination-granville-sharp-rule

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  • J.N.D. Kelly (Pastoral Epistles 1960, p246) "Savior" tended to be anarthrous [no article] (cf. 1tim 1,1). – C. Stirling Bartholomew Jan 28 '19 at 23:15
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    1 Tim 1:1 is different construction again. There we definitely have two persons in God the Father and Jesus Christ. No article is required because the identification is a personal genitive pronoun, "our", thus giving, "command of God our saviour, and of Christ Jesus our hope." The context also makes it clear that the grammar is discussing two entities not one. – user25930 Jan 29 '19 at 8:51
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There is ambiguity in the Greek just as there is in English, as evidenced by long traditions of translations both ways (as two entities and as one entity described two ways).

For me, the lack of a second article is a strong hint that the author intended to describe a single entity. The text reads:

του μεγαλου θεου και σωτηρος ημων ιησου χριστου 

Alternately, it could have been stated

του μεγαλου θεου και του σωτηρος ημων ιησου χριστου 

It is a norm - but not a law - that the article be present in this way.

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  • If the grammar is understood properly, there is NO ambiguity in the Greek at all. – user25930 Jan 28 '19 at 20:51
  • While I am inclined to agree with you, it isn't the most generous posture toward those learned men and women who have respectfully disagreed. ;) – Robb Jan 29 '19 at 21:30
  • Which learned men? – user25930 Jan 29 '19 at 21:36
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    The presence of ambiguity is not a controversy. Check any greek commentary. – C. Stirling Bartholomew Jan 29 '19 at 22:16
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The phrase in question, from Titus 2:13, has been translated as both "our great God and Savior Jesus Christ" and "the great God and our Savior Jesus Christ". Since it has multiple translations, it's possible the underlying Greek has some ambiguity. While there is a disambiguating "rule", it is not necessarily absolute. Potential ambiguity is a consequence of being able to express complex ideas.

  • τοῦ μεγάλου Θεοῦ καὶ Σωτῆρος ἡμῶν Χριστοῦ Ἰησοῦ
    tou megalou Theou kai Sōtēros hēmōn Christou Iēsou
    the great God and Savior of-us Christ Jesus

What would that phrase look like in Koine Greek if it refers to ... two persons?

Consider 1 Timothy 1:1–

  • Θεοῦ Σωτῆρος ἡμῶν καὶ Χριστοῦ Ἰησοῦ τῆς ἐλπίδος ἡμῶν
    Theou Sōtēros hēmōn kai Christou Iēsou tēs elpidos hēmōn
    God Savior of-us and Christ Jesus the hope of-us

There is no article associated with Θεοῦ Σωτῆρος ἡμῶν (Theou Sōtēros hēmōn), so "our Savior" could be a legitimate translation for Titus 2:13. To clearly represent two different people, perhaps it could look like this, with ἡμῶν (hēmōn) repeated:

  • τοῦ μεγάλου Θεοῦ ἡμῶν καὶ Σωτῆρος ἡμῶν Χριστοῦ Ἰησοῦ
    tou megalou Theou hēmōn kai Sōtēros hēmōn Christou Iēsou
    the great God of-us and Savior of-us Christ Jesus

or perhaps this, with the insertion of another article:

  • τοῦ μεγάλου Θεοῦ καὶ τοῦ Σωτῆρος ἡμῶν Χριστοῦ Ἰησοῦ
    tou megalou Theou kai tou Sōtēros hēmōn Christou Iēsou
    the great God and the Savior of-us Christ Jesus

Consider this phrasing, seen in several other epistles, such as Galatians 1:3–

  • Θεοῦ Πατρὸς ἡμῶν καὶ Κυρίου Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ
    Theou Patros hēmōn kai Kyriou Iēsou Christou
    God Father of-us and Lord Jesus Christ
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Disclaimer: I have no formal education in Biblical languages, have a dubious memory and have an on-going case of foot-in-mouth disease. What I say should be understood as "as I understand it" not as an authoritative interpretation.

In my view, if Titus 2:13 were uncontroversial it would be the very first verse in scripture that is uncontroversial! It could possibly be argued that it isn't ultimate vague (because of intertextuality and such) but controversial? No question!

The case for both clauses referencing Christ is often pressed based on GS (the Granville-Sharp Rule). GS is considered by some to be a "rule" of grammar but it is actually more of a statistical observation: "it often is the case that...". It is a fallacy to use the "rule" as a rule, as explained by Don Carson in his celebrated work, "Exegetical Fallacies".

The question asks what would have been the right way to refer to one or two referents. I think it fair to say that the author has some freedom of construction and also that it is probably safe to presume that the language he chose would have effectively communicated with his target audience. The modern reader just has a handicap in terms of reading it.

Personal note

As a non-Trinitarian/non-"same substance" guy my bias is to find two different referents (IE: when the ball is precisely on the proverbial line, it is my inclination to see it in or out depending on which aligns with my view). However, here it doesn't matter because Jesus is a god in some sense because Psalm 45 addresses even Solomon as a god because he too sat on YHVH's throne:

1Ch 28:5 KJV - 5 And of all my sons, (for the LORD hath given me many sons,) he hath chosen Solomon my son to sit upon the throne of the kingdom of the LORD over Israel.

1Ch 29:23 KJV - 23 Then Solomon sat on the throne of the LORD as king instead of David his father, and prospered; and all Israel obeyed him.

Psa 45:6 KJV - 6 Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever: the sceptre of thy kingdom is a right sceptre.

However, there is no confusion in the Psalmist's mind about monotheism so he carefully distinguishes between Solomon, god to Israel as Pharaoh was to Egypt and Moses was Pharaoh, by speaking of HIS God:

Psa 45:7 KJV - 7 Thou lovest righteousness, and hatest wickedness: therefore God, thy God, hath anointed thee with the oil of gladness above thy fellows.

Solomon appears to be a type of Christ who sat in his father's throne:

Luk 1:32 KJV - 32 He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David: Rev 3:21 KJV - 21 To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne.

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  • Many would simply disagree. The GS rule as correctly stated has no exceptions. If you know of any, please state them. – user25930 Feb 28 '19 at 8:33

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