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In 2 Corinthians 4:4, we find (ho theos) as it was used in John 1:1 to describe the Devil, but, the system of translation changed.

“ ὁ (ho)the θεὸς (theos) god of this world (the Devil) hath blinded the minds of them which believe not.” KJB

Paul used the same words to describe the Devil in 2 Corinthians 4:4 but why is “The God” translated as “the god” when referring to 2 Corinthians 4:4, the Devil ? and why is “divine/ god” translated as the “God” when referring to “The Word”? John 1:1c

en pros ton theon kai theos en ho logos

was with the god and god was the word

How were these verses understood by its readers at the time it was written?

Were the "original" manuscripts filtered through languages and cultures different from those who understood and spoke the language of that age?

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  • Great question that reveals much about the subject you dislike. I will answer after I have slept.
    – Dottard
    May 24, 2022 at 11:54
  • It is a new practice to capitalise God. The old English such as Tyndale didn't capitalise god at all. It is derived to simply distinguish the monotheistic one God. hermeneutics.stackexchange.com/questions/21072/…
    – Michael16
    May 25, 2022 at 5:17

1 Answer 1

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There is a similar problem in Phil 3:19 were we have:

ὧν τὸ τέλος ἀπώλεια, ὧν ὁ θεὸς ἡ κοιλία καὶ ἡ δόξα ἐν τῇ αἰσχύνῃ αὐτῶν, οἱ τὰ ἐπίγεια φρονοῦντες = Their end is destruction, their the god is their belly, and they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things.

2 Cor 4:4 says this:

ἐν οἷς ὁ θεὸς τοῦ αἰῶνος τούτου ἐτύφλωσεν τὰ νοήματα τῶν ἀπίστων εἰς τὸ μὴ αὐγάσαι τὸν φωτισμὸν τοῦ εὐαγγελίου τῆς δόξης τοῦ Χριστοῦ, ὅς ἐστιν εἰκὼν τοῦ Θεοῦ = In their case the god of this world/age has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of the Christ, who is the image of the God.

In John 1:1 we have:

Ἐν ἀρχῇ ἦν ὁ Λόγος, καὶ ὁ Λόγος ἦν πρὸς τὸν Θεόν, καὶ Θεὸς ἦν ὁ Λόγος = In [the] beginning was the word and the word was with the God and the word was God/god.

For completeness, let me quote John 1:6 -

Ἐγένετο ἄνθρωπος, ἀπεσταλμένος παρὰ Θεοῦ, ὄνομα αὐτῷ Ἰωάνης - There came a man sent from God, whose name was John.

Now, I do not intend to launch into a major treatise in the subject of the Greek article which has been thoroughly examine in many places, most notable (and competently) in Daniel Wallace, "Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics", which I highly recommend.

In the case we have at hand, the use of the article in these texts can be understood as follows:

  • In Phil 3:9, the article is monadic - for some people their one and only (but still false god) is their stomach. This can be readily deduced because the exclusive class is explicitly stated as the the group of people who are enemies of the cross (v18) and who worship this false god.
  • In 2 Cor 4:4, the article is again monadic as pointing to a single example in the class of the false god of the world/age - again readily deduced as the source of spiritual blindness (v4) in contradistinction to the true God of the universe who imparts spiritual eyesight (v6)
  • In John 1:1 we again have an example of the article used to signify that "God" is monadic, AND, we have another example of Colwell's rule of grammar for the Greek article - see appendix below. In any case, both forms of "theos" denote the one and only true God.

Another example of "theos" without the article is John 1:6 which again, indisputably, denotes the One true God.

APPENDIX - Colwell's Rule of Grammar

The following quote is taken from an article by the esteemed NT linguist and editor, Bruce Metzger found here >> http://www.bible-researcher.com/metzger.jw.html

Some years ago Dr. Ernest Cadman Colwell of the University of Chicago pointed out in a study of the Greek definite article that, “A definite predicate nominative has the article when it follows the verb; it does not have the article when it precedes the verb. … The opening verse of John’s Gospel contains one of the many passages where this rule suggests the translation of a predicate as a definite noun. The absence of the article [before θεος] does not make the predicate indefinite or qualitative when it precedes the verb; it is indefinite in this position only when the context demands it. The context makes no such demand in the Gospel of John, for this statement cannot be regarded as strange in the prologue of the gospel which reaches its climax in the confession of Thomas [John 20:28, ‘My Lord and my God’].”

In a lengthy Appendix in the Jehovah’s Witnesses’ translation, which was added to support the mistranslation of John 1:1, there are quoted thirty-five other passages in John where the predicate noun has the definite article in Greek. These are intended to prove that the absence of the article in John 1:1 requires that θεος must be translated “a god.” None of the thirty-five instances is parallel, however, for in every case the predicate noun stands after the verb, and so, according to Colwell’s rule, properly has the article. So far, therefore, from being evidence against the usual translation of John 1:1, these instances add confirmation to the full enunciation of the rule of the Greek definite article.

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  • The que is not about the article but just the practice of capitalization. english.stackexchange.com/questions/3139/…
    – Michael16
    May 25, 2022 at 5:19
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    @Michael16 - then why did they ask about "ho theos" vs "theos". That is a question about the article if ever I saw it!
    – Dottard
    May 25, 2022 at 5:21
  • Yes, the Greek article confusion is very common, however his que focuses on the capitalization practice in orthography. You might also start with the nomina sacra abbreviation for GD and Son as SN. We don't know when did it start but we can know when and hos did Capitalization of God started.
    – Michael16
    May 25, 2022 at 5:23
  • @Michael16 - you are entirely correct that nomina sacra are evident in all the very earliest MSS and applied in John 1:1 as well.
    – Dottard
    May 25, 2022 at 5:38
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    @Michael16 - despite you protests, the OP never mentions capitalization. Rather, the question focuses on the correct translation/understanding of theos vs ho theos - when are they referring to "THE God vs a god.
    – Dottard
    Jun 25, 2022 at 11:32

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