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The beginning of the Bible states:

In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. (Genesis 1:1 ESV)
בְּרֵאשִׁית בָּרָא אֱלֹהִים אֵת הַשָּׁמַיִם וְאֵת הָאָֽרֶץ

In the beginning God made the heaven and the earth. (LXX-Genesis 1:1)
ἐν ἀρχῇ ἐποίησεν ὁ θεὸς τὸν οὐρανὸν καὶ τὴν γῆν

Wouldn't this translation say the same thing?

In the beginning God made the heaven and the earth.
ἐν ἀρχῇ ἐποίησεν θεὸς τὸν οὐρανὸν καὶ τὴν γῆν

What does the translator convey by translating אֱלֹהִים as ὁ θεὸς rather than θεὸς?

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  • Would it be safe to assume that you are unfamiliar with Greek ?
    – Lucian
    Jun 11 '20 at 16:45
  • @Lucian Well I would assume ὁ θεός would mean the God just as τὸ φῶς means the light. But there does not appear to be any translator which understands ὁ θεός as such. Jun 11 '20 at 16:50
  • 3
    Not all languages possess the same type of syntax.
    – Lucian
    Jun 11 '20 at 16:56
  • @RevelationLad—Please see my answer to another question. Jun 11 '20 at 17:24
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    No one "added" anything. Hebrew does not translate word-for-word into Greek, nor Greek into English.
    – Lucian
    Jun 11 '20 at 17:46
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ἐν ἀρχῇ ἐποίησεν θεὸς τὸν οὐρανὸν καὶ τὴν γῆν

In the beginning, a god made the heaven and the earth.

ἐν ἀρχῇ ἐποίησεν ὁ θεὸς τὸν οὐρανὸν καὶ τὴν γῆν

In the beginning, the god made the heaven and the earth.
In the beginning, God made the heaven and the earth.

What does the article signify in the Greek translation of Genesis 1:1?

It signifies a definite god, not just any god.

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θεὸς vs ὁ θεὸς: not so easy …

Someone here has already tried to dismiss the Question, wondering if the questioner is fully familiar with Greek.

I will spare you all my immediate reaction, when I read the comment.

Perhaps it is more useful to say that, if a Google search with the string "ὁ θεὸς" "θεὸς" "article" site:hermeneutics.stackexchange.com returns 237 hits (!!!), the question is not easy, and has never been satisfactorily answered, here at Biblical Hermeneutics.


My simple answer is this: the Greek determinative article ὁ, ἡ, τό, very much like the (genderless) English determinative article "the", in front of a noun, means "this one here", either expressly indicated, or obvious in context. In the case of God, ὁ θεὸς (rather than the anarthrous θεὸς) normally translates the Hebrew אֱלֹהִ֑ים (plural of אֱלוֹהַּ), when it refers to the One and Only God.

But ὁ θεὸς, when qualified, can (and does) in the NT refer to even to Jesus (John 20:28) and even to ... Satan, ο θεος του αιωνος τουτου ("the god of this age" - 2 Cor 4:4)

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  • I wish every time somebody posted something on the Internet about number of Google hits, this article would pop up in front of them. 9,000 Google hits can't be wrong - or can they?
    – Kyralessa
    Jun 10 at 10:51
  • What a silly, superficial comment … Jun 10 at 11:09
  • It's no more superficial than the notion that "number of Google hits" is a meaningful metric.
    – Kyralessa
    Jun 10 at 16:37
  • @Kyralessa Unlike your silly example, the Google string I have shown, very specific, indicates that the question about θεὸς vs ὁ θεὸς (with the article), in spite of many Q&As dedicated to it, here at Biblical Hermeneutics, never got satisfactorily answered. Jun 10 at 19:43
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Waltke & O'Connor Biblical Hebrew page 240 says Elohim is a unique appellative that is "inherently definite." Terms like these are used "more or less as names."

And,

"The anarthrous form is more common in the Pentateuch."

The word is a plural form with a singular verb and as such cannot be confused with a numeric plural.

Greek has no way of duplicating this identification and is naturally articular, especially for a nominative subject.

The ο θεός is also semantically a convertible proposition that unpacks to "He being God" or "ο ων θεός."

Thus the author assumes the existence of God and does not merely assert it.

That being said, this is translation Greek. I would not make any comparisons to native idiomatic Greek.

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