Matthew 5:8

"Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God". ESV "God/ton theon".

Matthew 5:9

"Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God". "God/theou".

With regard to John 1:1 Cambridge Greek Testament for Schools and Colleges makes a comment about "ton" with "theon":

"'Ton theon' having the article, means the Father".

Is this Cambridge comment a general principle which can be applied to Matthew 5:8 or only relevant to John 1:1?

What difference does having or not having the article make with "God" in Matthew 5:8-9?

  • Cambridge comment is baseless. theos with or without article dont make any different, except by the context as to its meaning. In Greek, demonstrative article is more frequent than English, and it is not even demonstrative as in English. Matthew example makes no difference between both references.
    – Michael16
    Apr 9, 2022 at 17:11

2 Answers 2


Oh, this is a delicate subject that requires some intimate knowledge of the subtle workings Greek grammar. I will not bore people with too much here other than to say that the function of the article in Greek is NOT the same as in English although their workings do overlap.

Most often (but not always) "the God" refers to the Father. This unquestionably true in John 1:1. However, there are some notable exceptions as per the appendix below.

There is also another function (among others) that the Greek article serve - the function of being anaphoric.

In Matt 5:8, 9 we have perfect instances of the variety of ways the article is used. In V8 we have a clear instance of "ho theos" meaning the Father. In V9 we have "God" more generally as "sons of God" arguably meaning the entire Godhead; but I would not make too much of this point. In any case, the meaning is clear.

APPENDIX - "The God" instances that do NOT refer to the Father

"The God", ὁ Θεός = ho theos, can refer to Jesus sometimes in the NT - here is a sample.

  • Matt 1:23, … and they will call Him Immanuel, which means, “the God with us”.
  • John 20:28, “Thomas said to him, ‘My Lord and my God.’” [Literally, "The Lord of me and the God of me."]
  • Titus 2:13, “…our great [the] God and Savior, Jesus Christ.” [This also has, “ho theos”.]
  • Heb 1:8, “About the Son he says, ‘Your throne, O God [ho theos], will last forever’”.
  • Heb 1:9, “therefore O God, Your God [ho theos], has anointed You above Your companions with the oil of joy.”
  • 2 Peter 1:1, “…righteousness of our God [= ὁ Θεός] and Savior, Jesus Christ.”
  • τoν is the definite article ("the") in the accusative masculine singular form
  • Θεoν is the Greek word for God (θεός), in the accusative masculine singular form
  • Θεοῦ is the same Greek word for God (θεός), in the genitive masculine singular form

In Matthew 5:8, the word "God" is in the accusative form because God is the direct object of the verb ὁράω -- He is being seen.

In Matthew 5:9, the word "God" is in the genitive form to indicate possession: the "sons" are the sons of God.

τoν Θεoν, whether in Matthew 5:8 or John 1:1, can be literally translated "the God"; the definite article indicates that it is a specific entity (this God) being referred to, not any god (The definite article has other functions in Greek as well, e.g. changing the subject/actor in a sentence). A noun without the definite article could be translated with or without an indefinite article ("a", "an"), depending on context.

But τoν Θεoν could be used to refer to Zeus, or Poseidon, or any deity. The Jewish context of Matthew & John is such that we know that's not the deity they are referring to, and "the Father" is a reasonable interpretative translation...but there's nothing in Greek that says the words "τoν Θεoν" can only refer to God the Father.

In Matthew 5:9 the genitive construction υἱοι Θεοῦ ("sons of God") does not require an article. It is also clear from context that the God Jesus refers to is the God the Jews believe in.

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