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In October 2000, "Smart's Rule," started as a parody of Sharp's Rule, was proposed on the B-GREEK list list by Martin Smart.

The rule states:

In the proper native[a] Koine Greek of the Greek New Testament, when και connects two personal substantives in regimen[b] in the construction “noun genitive personal pronoun και noun (repeat of the same) pronoun,” two persons or groups of persons are in view.

Example texts:

Thomas answered him “My Lord and My God!” (John 20:28, ESV)

5b which dwelt first in thy grandmother Lois, and thy mother Eunice; and, I am persuaded, in thee also. (2 Ti 2:5, ASV)

It was claimed that there are no exceptions in the NT.

Is Smart’s Rule in effect in these verses? What evidence supports and/or refutes the use of this rule as applied to a similar clause in another text governed by the rule?

Note: While other questions have discussed John 20:28, none of them are suitable for the answering of this question.


[a] Greek that has been translated from Hebrew, such as the Greek Septuagint, is excluded from the rule.

[b] The same possessive pronoun must be found on each substantive.

  • John 20:28 included the article or do you mean the article is the pronoun? Also would the rule apply to John 20:17? – Revelation Lad Feb 11 at 17:21
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    The rule is obviously wrong. There can only possibly be one reading of John 20:28, that 'My Lord' and 'My God' refer to the same person, that is to say, Jesus Christ, the Son of God. Sharp's Rule was based on disciplined research. – Nigel J Feb 11 at 20:56
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    Hands and feet are members of one body. That’s the point with the mother and brethren comment, He was referring to one uniform group of people, the disciples using two distinct proper nouns. It might adhere to the rule but doesn’t exclude the possibility of the two being part of or associated with a single entity. Does it? – Nihil Sine Deo Feb 11 at 21:12
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    Why don't you provide some background for "Smart's Rule?" The link states the rule but not where it came from; nor is the request for that information ever answered. – Revelation Lad Feb 11 at 23:31
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    @ThomasPearne This site is not a discussion site, but all of your questions are generating too many comments. I think the reason is that you have a philosophical agenda only marginally related to the study of the biblical texts, and the members here can sense it. Stackexchange's Latin site is open to questions relating to the Greek language, if you want to try there. – enegue Feb 12 at 0:30
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I do not like this proposed rule for several reasons, apart from the fact that it is confusing and misleading and never required. If the rule is correct (which I doubt) then John 20:28 is a clear exception.

  • I cannot find an instance of where the Apostolic Fathers suggested that part of John 20:28 is addressed to God the Father rather than entirely to Jesus as "the God". Only modern Unitarians (and similarly persuaded groups) attempt to split this clear affirmation that Jesus is "the God" = ὁ Θεός.
  • The other quoted examples in the question and on the B-Greek site have clear grammatic distinctions between the two persons or groups of persons to clarify such. (See below for more detail.)
  • Such a rule appears to be completely unknown to any modern theologian - a quick survey of traditional commentaries including, Ellicott, Barnes, Matthew Henry, Jamieson-Fausset-Brown, Matthew Poole, David Bentley Hart, Gill's, Meyer's, Cambridge, Bengel's, Pulpit, etc, are unanimous as all agree that John 20:28 is an unambiguous statement about the absolute divinity of Jesus.
  • The text explicitly says that Thomas addressed his comments specifically to Jesus.

More information about the other supposed instances of "Smart's Rule" which shows that the rule is not necessary as listed by B-Greek site.

  • 1 Thess 3:11, "the God and Father Himself of us, AND the Lord of us Jesus". Note here the quite different constructions that clearly distinguish between two persons and uses the reflexive pronoun for one of those addressed.
  • 2 Thess 2:16, "the Lord Himself of us Jesus Christ, AND God the Father of us". Again, note the different construction for each person and the different placement of the definite article as well as the use of the reflexive pronoun.
  • 1 Tim 1:1, "God Saviour of us, AND Christ Jesus the hope of us". Two different titles and different placement of the definite article.
  • Matt 12:49 and Mark 3:33, 34, "the mother of me, AND the brothers of me". One is singular and the other plural - a clear distinction.
  • 2 Tim 1:5, "the grandmother of you Lois, AND the mother of you Eunice". Two named people are clearly different.

By contrast to all of the above, John 20:28 reads, "the Lord of me, AND the God of me". This involves an identical grammatical construction on both sides of the 'kai' in clear distinction from all of the above.

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    @ThomasPearne I don't think there is any appropriate way to argue for a novel grammar rule on this site. Instead that's something to take to a journal. Personally any rule which just arbitrarily excludes the LXX is lacking value IMO. – curiousdannii Feb 12 at 5:13
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The text at hand does seem like a handy example which undermines this proposed 'rule', because splitting the section into two subjects would not only create a very awkward rendering in English, but it also wouldn't really change the meaning at face value:

27 Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.”

28 Thomas said to him, “My Lord!", and "My God!”

29 Then Jesus told him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”

In idiomatic speech, it would be too awkward to maintain such a separation of subjects - indeed, for something this difficult I'd perhaps expect copyists in early generations to have expanded this slightly if such a separation were understood or taught by early readers.

This idea introduces an unnatural awkwardness into the text, where Thomas breaks from his response to Jesus and instead remarks to God, or perhaps even blasphemes. When considered in the local context of the text, this idea really does seem like a non-starter.

Let's not forget that as far as we can tell, Thomas himself was Jewish and not a native Greek speaker, so if there were a strict technical rule then it's doubtful he would have stopped to observe it in casual speech.

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    @ThomasPearne - this is another solid example of importing external influences into texts, and ignoring all other hermeneutical tools, especially considering the immediate context of the verse. As a general rule, if you have to ignore all the words around a phrase to make it mean something, then that's eisegesis - not exegesis. – Steve Taylor Feb 13 at 9:45
  • It's easy to push motives onto authors - in response we could say that if John wanted to make it clear that Jesus wasn't being addressed as Lord and God, he would have divided the exclamation cleanly in two. For lack of a clear given motive, it's perhaps better to dismiss both of our theories and stick with the source text. Then again, it's hard to get past John 1:1-4 without determining how John thinks about Jesus, right? ;) It would seem unreasonable to think he expected anybody to arrive at John 20 without having read and understood his earlier inferences. – Steve Taylor Feb 13 at 10:44

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