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This question is the result of numerous discussions with Biblical Unitarians who attempt to exegete the original languages on verses which otherwise prove the pre-human existence of God’s Son.

Προς at John 1.1b where the Word is with God (ην προς τον θεον) is compared to English versions of Hebrew texts in the OT that merely have the English word “with” and where the LXX does not even use προς.

The Word is said to be the spoken word from God when Greek 101 for the preposition προς followed by the accusative is used of something/someone facing and potentially moving towards someone, not away from them like εκ or από.

Acceptable Hermeneutic Principles

Does anyone disagree that the following hermeneutic principles are important and if so, why?

  1. One should determine all the legitimate grammatical possibilities from the syntax of the original language before selecting one of them in a particular context. It is necessary to decide what the grammar can say before one decides what it means. Allowing ones view of the "context" to overturn the grammar is eisegesis.

  2. An author’s frequency of usage of a syntax or vocabulary is stylistic, internal to a writer and never overturns syntax. Syntax are rules of grammar for a language that are external to every writer and govern what he writes in that language

  3. Greek and Hebrew in Scripture are grammatical and must always be translated into grammatical English. Translation Greek may not be grammatical.

  4. Never appeal to exceptional usage when a parallel exists in the corpus. Frequent appeals to exceptional usage is a sign of eisegesis.

  5. Give priority to a literal over a metaphorical meaning. Never appeal to metaphorical usage unless clear parallel examples are attested in the original language.

  6. Never exegete Greek or Hebrew based on synonyms from English glosses.

  7. Never appeal to a unique sense of a word in an original language when the word occurs in the corpus.

  8. Parallels to a particular text should give preference to

    • the immediate context; then
    • the same book; then
    • the same author; then
    • LXX and Hebrew quotes in the NT with care being taken for how they are applied; then
    • non Canonical books may be used to make points on grammar and history, with caution.
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    Is there any room for how the initial audience receives a text in your rules? – Revelation Lad Feb 9 at 23:16
  • @RevelationLad I suppose so but isn't that pretty subjective? I would say that things like that would be subject to my point #1. – user33125 Feb 9 at 23:21
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    Well, based on some your questions, it would seem like the initial audience would need to spend days researching (assuming they even had access to resources, or that such resources existed) before deciding what a writer meant. That might be plausible for personal letters but strikes me as improbable for most writings. – Revelation Lad Feb 9 at 23:27
  • +1 for asking a question that, if considered appropriately, should yield useful results. – enegue Feb 10 at 0:42
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    There are some interesting and on-topic questions in here, but as written it seems to me way too broad. Feel free to narrow and we can see about reopening. – Susan Feb 10 at 22:17
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It is doubtful a translator who sought to best convey a passage would agree with rule #1.

  1. One should determine all the legitimate grammatical possibilities from the syntax of the original language before selecting one of them in a particular context. It is necessary to decide what the grammar can say before one decides what it means. Allowing ones view of the "context" to overturn the grammar is eisegesis.

For example, consider this passage in Amos:

11 “In that day I will raise up the booth of David that is fallen and repair its breaches, and raise up its ruins and rebuild it as in the days of old, 12 that they may possess the remnant of Edom and all the nations who are called by my name,” declares the LORD who does this. (Amos 9 ESV)

James draws upon Amos in making a decision regarding Gentile Christians:

13 After they finished speaking, James replied, “Brothers, listen to me. 14 Simeon has related how God first visited the Gentiles, to take from them a people for his name. 15 And with this the words of the prophets agree, just as it is written, 16 “‘After this I will return, and I will rebuild the tent of David that has fallen; I will rebuild its ruins, and I will restore it, 17 that the remnant of mankind may seek the Lord, and all the Gentiles who are called by my name, says the Lord, who makes these things 18 known from of old.’ 19 Therefore my judgment is that we should not trouble those of the Gentiles who turn to God (Acts 15 ESV)

It is obvious James has the LXX-Amos, not the MT in mind:

11 On that day I will raise up the tent of Dauid that is fallen and rebuild its ruins and raise up its destruction and rebuild it as the days of old 12 in order that those remaining of humans and all the nations upon whom my name has been called might seek out me says the Lord who does these things. (LXX - NETS)

Of the difference between the MT and the LXX, Karen H. Jobes and Moisés Silva say:

Since the Hebrew preserved in the MT is not particularly difficult, we may consider the possibility that the LXX translator - whether or not he made a mistake in reading the Hebrew characters - was primarily motivated by hermeneutical concerns. Elsewhere in the Minor Prophets (Hos. 9:6, Amos 2:10; Ob. 17, 19, 20; Mic. 1:15; Hab. 1:6; Zech 9:4) the Hebrew word ירש is represented with κληρονομέω ("to inherit") or one of its cognates, but such a rendering here may have appeared to the translator less appropriate here. 1

Rule #1 would rule out this passage which was a product of hermeneutics!

Similarly at the end of LXX-Amos:

I will plant them on their land, and they shall never again be uprooted out of the land that I have given them,” says the LORD your God. (Amos 9:15 ESV)

וּנְטַעְתִּים עַל־אַדְמָתָם וְלֹא יִנָּתְשׁוּ עֹוד מֵעַל אַדְמָתָם אֲשֶׁר נָתַתִּי לָהֶם אָמַר יְהוָה אֱלֹהֶֽיךָ

And I will plant them on their land, and they shall never again be plucked from their land I have given them, says the Lord God the Almighty. (LXX NETS)

καὶ καταφυτεύσω αὐτοὺς ἐπὶ τῆς γῆς αὐτῶν καὶ οὐ μὴ ἐκσπασθῶσιν οὐκέτι ἀπὸ τῆς γῆς αὐτῶν ἧς ἔδωκα αὐτοῗς λέγει κύριος ὁ θεὸς ὁ παντοκράτωρ

It is context which explains rendering יְהוָה אֱלֹהֶֽיךָ, the LORD your God, as κύριος ὁ θεὸς ὁ παντοκράτωρ, the Lord God the Almighty. Regardless of the explanation for this change, it cannot be dismissed as eisegesis. It is a statement of fact (cf. Revelation 4:8, 11:17, 15:3, 16:7, 21:22).

As W. Edward Glenny states, the issue is the translator's view on the Gentiles:

...MT's "the Lord your God"(יְהוָה אֱלֹהֶֽיךָ) becomes in the LXX "the Lord, the God, the Almighty One" (κύριος ὁ θεὸς ὁ παντοκράτωρ). This rendering of LXX-Amos 9:15, which describes God as a universal God (παντοκράτωρ) instead of "your [Israel's] God," as in the MT, is consistent with the changes in the translation of LXX-Amos 9:12, which describes the God of Israel as a universal God to whom the Gentiles, who can be called by his name may come. In 9:15 the translator omits the only reference in Amos to the Lord as "your God," referring to him as the God of Israel, and instead uses a divine name that is common in LXX-Minor Prophets and emphasizes the Lord's omnipotence. The fact that his designation of God in 9:15 concludes the book of Amos makes it especially emphatic and memorable. The Lord God (κύριος ὁ θεὸς) is not "your [Israel's]" God in the LXX, but instead ὁ παντοκράτωρ, the creator God who is sovereign overall. The perspective of the LXX concerning Gentiles would be much more attractive than that of the MT to Jews in the Diaspora who sought to fit into their culture and show the attractiveness of their religion to the Gentiles among whom they lived.2

For Christian exegesis, the Greek is a more accurate understanding of the passage then the Hebrew. The God of Israel is sovereign over all the nations; He is the Lord God the Almighty. In other words, when one reads יְהוָה אֱלֹהֶֽיךָ which is translated as κύριος ὁ θεός σου, the explanation given to a Gentile would be κύριος ὁ θεὸς ὁ παντοκράτωρ.

Not only is the passage more accurate theologically, Glenny's point of a text which is better suited to convert Gentiles to Judaism is exactly the type of change one would expect in making a translation into the Greek language. It is not "eisegesis." It is an application of hermeneutics which the first Church leaders accepted and continued.


  1. Karen H. Jobes, Moisés Silva, Invitation to the Septuagint, Baker Academic, 2000, p. 195
  2. W. Edward Glenny, Finding Meaning in the Text: Translation Technique and Theology in the Septuagint of Amos, Brill, 2009, p. 248
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  • Thanks for the reply. The LXX edition I have on my iPhone has a critical apparatus that gives a variant with αυτών at Amos 9:15. We also don't know what manuscripts the LXX translators had at the time. And all LXX translations are not equally skillful. Finally some LXX translations are known to be interpretation. – user33125 Feb 15 at 15:19
  • @ThomasPearne 1. Manuscript variation exists for NT as well and is hardly a reason to discount the LXX. 2. Obviously Amos is an interpretation, or an application of hermeneutics to arrive at Lord God Almighty. The point is the "LORD your God" is the Lord God Almighty. – Revelation Lad Feb 15 at 22:36
  • My point is that you don't know what Hebrew manuscript was used. – user33125 Feb 15 at 23:39
  • @ThomasPearne And that matters for what reason? You have an accepted Lord God Almighty which is obviously different and conspicuously in the only positive message from the prophet. Doesn't a hermeneutical approach to translating from the Hebrew into the Greek indicate a change is appropriate? To what extent do you discount the need to be relevant to the reader rather than slavish to the original text? – Revelation Lad Feb 16 at 0:04
  • You have not provided the Hebrew manuscript the LXX translator uses, so you don't know if he changed it. It might have been a variant at that time. – user33125 Feb 16 at 0:54

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