In Coptic, the Choice of Article IS Significant Some apologists have made the claim that the use of the

indefinite article ou in the Coptic bound construction ou.noute ["a-god"] at John 1:1c is insignificant, that it is merely a grammatical necessity that does not change the meaning from "the Word was God" to "the Word was a god." But that is incorrect. Whereas in the Greek New Testament, the anarthrous theos, i.e., "god" without the Greek definite article, may mean either "God" or "a god" depending on context, Sahidic Coptic grammar has both the definite and the indefinite article , and the use of either Coptic article with a common or count noun like noute, "god," does have significance. Although the use of the Coptic definite article with noute does not always refer to God Almighty [e.g., Acts 7:43] -- since the definite article can also be used anaphorically -- when God Almighty is the specific referent, the Coptic definite article is used routinely in the Sahidic Coptic New Testament. The Sahidic Coptic translators had a choice at John 1:1c as to which bound construction to use, a definite one or an indefinite one, in accordance with Sahidic syntax and grammar. If they understood the Greek text to say "the Word was God" they would have used the Coptic definite article bound with the count noun: p.noute. They did not have to use the Coptic indefinite article unless they understood the Greek to actually say "the Word was a god," i.e., ou.noute pe pSaje. Therefore, the fact that they did use the Coptic indefinite article at John 1:1c is very significant. The Egyptian theologian Origen (c. 185-254) was roughly contemporaneous with the Egyptian Sahidic Coptic translators. Origen was born in Alexandria, Egypt, and taught there for a while. In his Commentary on the Gospel of John, Origen writes that even in the New Testament Greek text of John 1:1c, the choice of the article is significant. He says: "We next notice John's use of of the [Greek] article in these sentences.

He does not write without care in this respect, nor is he unfamiliar with the niceties of the Greek tongue....He uses the [Greek definite] article when the name of God refers to the uncreated cause of all things, and omits it when the Logos ["the Word"] is named God...as God who is over all is God with the article, not without it." Origen also distinguishes between Almighty God, whom he calls "Autotheos, God of Himself," and the Word or Logos, who 'attracts divinity to himself' by being with God in intimate association, "not possessing that [divinity] of himself, but by his being with the Father." -- Ante Nicene Fathers, volume 9, page 323 If the Sahidic Coptic translators had a viewpoint similar to that of their fellow citizen and contemporary, Origen, it is more than likely that they also 'did not write without care' with respect to John 1:1c. It was not because they had no other option that they wrote "a god" [ou.noute] as the translation of the Greek's anarthrous theos in this verse.. They did have another option. They had the option of using the Coptic definite article here if they understood the Greek to mean "the Word was God" instead. Nor did the Sahidic Coptic translators write "the Word was a god" out of ignorance of Greek grammar and syntax. Koine Greek was still a living language when the Sahidic Coptic translators did their work, and by then Greek had been a part of Egyptian culture for 500 years. If anything, it is likely that those Coptic translators had as good or better an understanding of the living Koine Greek as do scholars today. The conclusion: The Coptic translators rendered John 1:1c from the Greek text to say "the Word was a god" because that is exactly what they understood it to say, not because they were grammatically ignorant of Greek, or grammatically restrained by Coptic from doing otherwise.

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