Articles Archive -- Topical Index -- Textual Index

by Al Maxey

Issue #740 ------- January 22, 2018
If thought corrupts language,
language can also corrupt thought.

George Orwell [1903-1950]

The Case of the Added Article
"Thou"-Distancing "The" of 2 Thess. 1:12

Aldous Huxley (1894-1963), the prominent English novelist and philosopher, in his work "Words and Reality," wrote, "There have been periods in the history of the various cultures, when the language of spirituality was clear, accurate and exhaustive. At the present time it is muddled, inadequate to the fact and dangerously equivocal. Lacking a proper vocabulary, people find it hard, not only to think about the most important issues of life, but even to realize that these issues exist." Both Huxley and Orwell (quoted at the top of this article), in their own ways, have noted the vital correlation between language (regardless of its mode of expression) and thought, and how inadequacies in one may have a tremendous impact upon the other. This is compounded when thoughts expressed in the language of one culture or people are transferred through translation into the language of another culture and people. Exact transfer of thought through translation is difficult, and at times almost impossible, given the many differences in the various peoples of this planet. The old adage "lost in translation" is quite often very true when we seek to transfer thoughts via the process of translating those thoughts from one language to another. Corruption of original meaning is common, and this must constantly be guarded against by those attempting such transfers and translations.

This all becomes especially critical when dealing with the inspired Scriptures that we all hold dear, and by which we seek significant spiritual guidance and consolation. Getting it wrong here can not only be very confusing, but it could also prove very costly with respect to our understanding and application of eternal truths and realities. I have dealt with such textual and contextual difficulties in past Reflections, especially with respect to such matters as our response to God's grace and particulars of the redemptive process, but in this current study I would like to notice how a single word added to a phrase within a sentence can have an impact on whether one accepts or questions the very deity of God's Son. The passage in question is from Paul's second epistle to the brethren in the city of Thessalonica. In the New American Standard Bible, 2 Thess. 1:12 informs us that Paul prays "that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in Him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ." In that last phrase ("our God and the Lord Jesus Christ") we find our problem: the definite article "the" has been ADDED to the text. It does not appear in the original text. In fact, the NASB, in a footnote to this verse, reads: "omit: the." If we let the passage read as it was intended (without the addition of the definite article), it would say: "...according to the grace of our God and Lord Jesus Christ." The distinction is huge! In the latter, Jesus is declared to be both "God and Lord," whereas in the former (with the addition of "the") Jesus is separated from the word "God," which negates this declaration of deity. This passage, and this added word, has led to centuries of heated theological debate, even causing some to deny Paul's authorship of this epistle. "This matter is important for the critics, for they make genuineness of the epistle depend on the answer to this question; if only one person is here referred to, they claim that this epistle cannot be written by Paul" [Dr. R.C.H. Lenski, The Interpretation of St. Paul's Epistles to the Thessalonians, p. 399]. Yes, just one little word can cause that much confusion.

In the original Greek text, this passage literally reads: "...tou theou hemon kai kuriou iesou christou" ("...of the God of us and Lord Jesus Christ"). There is only one definite article in this phrase, appearing in the genitive case in Greek ("tou" = "of the"), and it appears before the word "God." This is followed by a personal pronoun, also appearing in the genitive case, meaning "of us." In translation, this would be smoothed out from the more literal "of the God of us" to the more natural (in the English language) "of our God." The Greek conjunction "kai" ("and") then follows, which serves to connect the two terms (both of which appear in the genitive case): "theou kai kuriou" ("God and Lord"). It is important to note that both "God" and "Lord" appear in the same case, as this is further evidence that they may be taken together. Had they been in separate cases, this could legitimately suggest a point of separation between the two. That is not the case here, however, which is important to note. The phrase ends with "Jesus Christ," which most take as a statement of identity with respect to the two terms just given: "God and Lord." Thus, it would certainly appear, at least in the original, that Paul is identifying Jesus Christ as "our God and Lord." It is here that some down through the centuries have had a theological difficulty, for not all accept Jesus as God. By adding the definite article before the word "Lord," some have introduced a level of separation between the two terms, thus: "the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ." Although the connective term "kai" ("and") still links the two intimately, it serves to negate the equality of the two.

Sadly, most disciples of Christ Jesus are completely unaware of this centuries old behind-the-scenes textual and interpretive struggle within Christendom. Yet, it is an extremely important one, for it deals with the matter of the deity of Jesus, bringing into question (if not outright denying) one of the key texts that affirms that deity. The fact that there is one definite article used with two substantives connected by "kai," with both of the substantives being in the same case (genitive), strongly indicates ONE person is BOTH "God and Lord," and that person is then identified as "Jesus Christ" (Jesus the anointed one). This really is more a doctrinal issue than a grammatical one, for the Greek is rather clear here. However, as we all know, when scholars differ on doctrine, they can be quite creative in how they manipulate the text to their benefit. The above mentioned Dr. Lenski stated it well: "The genitive 'tou theou hemon kai kuriou iesou christou' raises an interesting question: 'Is this one person or two?' Our versions translate it as being two by inserting 'the' ('the Lord'). Those who think that two persons are referred to, God and Christ, are sometimes governed by dogmatical interests, namely by their claim that Christ is never called God, at least not in such a direct way. For us no dogmatical interest is involved; it makes no difference whether Christ is here called God or not, for elsewhere He is called God and is shown to be God. We thus have only a linguistic interest, and this is strongly in favor of one person, for one article ('tou') unites both nouns" [Lenski, p. 398]. Indeed, "Moulton quotes examples from the papyri which show that the early Christians called Jesus 'our great God and Savior'" [ibid, p. 398-399].

There are some who claim that Paul would never have so boldly asserted the deity of Jesus Christ, yet there are a number of places where Paul has done just that. In speaking of the Jews, Paul wrote, "...from them is traced the human ancestry of Christ, who is God over all, forever praised" (Romans 9:5, NIV). Here he alludes to the great mystery of both the humanity and deity of our Lord Jesus, the anointed one, the Messiah. In Titus 2:13, Paul says we await that for which we hope: "the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ" (NIV). Has Jesus ever been specifically called both "Lord" and "God"? The answer is YES. When Jesus appeared to Thomas after the resurrection, and Thomas saw that this person was indeed Jesus, now risen from the dead, he declared, "My Lord and my God!" (John 20:28). Even Jesus Himself, on more than one occasion, assumed for Himself the divine designation "I AM," which so infuriated the Jews (who knew exactly who/what He was claiming to be) that they sought to kill Him on the spot (John 8:53-59). The apostle Peter referred to "the righteousness of our God and Savior, Jesus Christ" (2 Peter 1:1), and he spoke of our "entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ" (2 Peter 1:11). Certainly, the deity of Jesus the Messiah does not rest on any one passage alone, but is attested to by a great many inspired texts. Nevertheless, it always tends to draw our attention when any one (or all) of these texts is challenged or questioned or, worse, altered (as we find with 2 Thessalonians 1:12).

As one examines the various versions and translations of 2 Thessalonians 1:12, one will quickly notice that the vast majority have chosen to alter the text by adding the definite article "the" before the word "Lord." Some, like the NASB, are at least honest enough to state in a footnote that this word should be omitted. The NIV also, to its credit, states in a footnote: "Or: God and Lord, Jesus Christ." So do some other versions. There are some translations that have chosen not to follow the majority, however, and have translated the passage correctly. For example:

  1. Young's Literal Translation - "...the grace of our God and Lord Jesus Christ."
  2. New Living Translation - "...the grace of our God and Lord, Jesus Christ."
  3. New American Bible (Revised Edition) - "...the grace of our God and Lord Jesus Christ."
  4. Evangelical Heritage Version - "...the grace of our God and Lord Jesus Christ."
  5. GOD'S WORD Translation - "...the good will of Jesus Christ, our God and Lord."
  6. International Standard Version - "...the grace of our God and Lord, Jesus, the Messiah."

Something else one may or may not have noticed above is that half of these versions and translations listed have also used a comma to separate the phrase "our God and Lord" from the name "Jesus" (compare the first two on the list, by way of example). This is more important than you may realize, as will be noted shortly. Although punctuation was not included in the original Greek text, the way punctuation is used in subsequent translation says much about one's understanding of textual meaning and authorial intent. Again, more about this later. When one allows the Greek text to remain unaltered (no definite article added before "Lord"), its meaning seems rather clear. This is further supported by the rules of Greek grammar. There is only one definite article in the phrase, and it appears before "God." The word "Lord" is then connected to "God" (both words being in the genitive case) by the conjunction "and" (Greek: "kai"). The personal pronoun in such a Greek construction ("of us" - Greek: "hemon" - translated "our") thus applies to both "God" and "Lord." Thus, we read: "our God and Lord" (the literal "the God of us and Lord" incorporating "the" and "of us" into "our" in translation). "There is but one Greek article to both, implying the inseparable unity of God and the Lord Jesus" [Drs. Jamieson, Fausset & Brown, Commentary Practical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible, p. 1343]. The Cambridge Greek Testament for Schools and Colleges declares that the most plausible rendering of this Greek text, "in view of the anarthrous 'kuriou' ('Lord') and the rule prescribing the reference of two coordinate nouns prefaced by a single article to the same subject, is 'our God and Lord, Jesus Christ'."

The "rule" of which the above source speaks is known as the "Granville Sharp Rule," named after the person who first discovered this pattern in the Greek text. "Granville Sharp, son of an archdeacon and grandson of an archbishop, was an English philanthropist and abolitionist (1735-1813). He is known to students of history as 'the Abraham Lincoln of England' for his key role in the abolition of slavery there. Though untrained theologically, he was a student of the Scriptures. His strong belief in Christ's deity led him to study the Bible in the original in order to defend more ably that belief. Through such motivation he became a relatively good linguist, able to handle both the Greek and Hebrew texts. As he studied the Scriptures in the original, he noticed a certain pattern, viz., when the construction article-substantive-kai-substantive (TSKS) involved personal nouns which were singular and not proper names, they always referred to the same person. He noticed further that such a rule applied, in several texts, to the deity of Jesus Christ" [Dr. Daniel B. Wallace, Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics: An Exegetical Syntax of the New Testament, p. 270-271].

Granville Sharp, during his intensive study of the NT Greek text, noticed some very interesting grammatical construction patterns, and from these he was able to discern certain interpretive rules for Greek scholars which have, for the most part, proved through repeated testing and examination by scholars to be true and reliable. Dr. Daniel B. Wallace, in his above mentioned reference work, defines this rule this way: "In Greek, when two nouns are connected by kai and the article precedes only the first noun, there is a close connection between the two. That connection always indicates at least some sort of unity. At a higher level, it may connote equality. At the highest level it may indicate identity. When the construction meets three specific demands, then the two nouns always refer to the same person. When the construction does not meet these requirements, the nouns may or may not refer to the same person(s)/object(s)" [ibid, p. 270]. Just for the record, although it may be harder for the lay person to follow, here is the rule as stated by Granville Sharp himself: "When the copulative kai connects two nouns of the same case (viz., nouns {either substantive or adjective, or participles} of personal description, respecting office, dignity, affinity, or connexion, and attributes, properties, or qualities, good or ill), if the article ho, or any of its cases, precedes the first of the said nouns or participles, and is not repeated before the second noun or participle, the latter always relates to the same person that is expressed or described by the first noun or participle: i.e., it denotes a farther description of the first-named person" [ibid, p. 271]. Dr. Wallace goes on to explain: "In other words, in the TSKS construction, the second noun refers to the same person mentioned with the first noun when: (1) neither is impersonal, (2) neither is plural, and (3) neither is a proper name. Therefore, according to Sharp, the rule applied absolutely only with personal, singular, and non-proper nouns" [ibid, p. 271-272].

If you are a student of NT Greek, you will almost immediately perceive that the above rule has a bit of "wriggle room" for those who might seek to diminish to some degree biblical claims to the deity of Jesus Christ. Dr. Wallace suggests such Greek constructions always denote a "close connection" of some sort, yet there may be higher and lower levels of connection which range from unity to equality to identity. Thus, one might say that Jesus and the Father are "one," but not necessarily the same person; they may, for example, be one "in essence" or "in purpose." Jesus could say, "If you've seen Me, you've seen the Father," yet was He declaring they were one and the same Being?! Most would suggest that He was not. The word for "God" in the Greek ("theos"), however, is not a proper name (like "Jesus"), but is rather a designation of deity. The same is true for the word "Lord." As noted earlier, both the Father and the Son are referred to in the NT writings by both these designations. Most disciples and biblical scholars have little problem with Jesus being called "Lord" and "God," but there are some who balk at the latter. To try and make their case, they declare the Greek word "theos" to be a "proper name," which, according to Sharp's Rule, would mean the construction in 2 Thess. 1:12 is speaking of two persons, not one (since neither noun used can be a proper name, and since "God," these critics assert, IS a "proper name"). The problem with this, however, is that "theos is not a proper name ... thus, when theos is in a TSKS construction in which both nouns are singular and personal, it fits Sharp's rule" [ibid, p. 272]. In fact, Dr. Wallace writes, "Not counting the Christologically significant passages, there are 80 constructions in the NT which fit the requirements for Sharp's rule. But do they all fit the semantics of the rule - that is, do the substantives always refer to one and the same person? In a word, yes. Even Sharp's opponents could not find any exceptions; all had to admit that the rule was valid in the NT" [ibid, p. 273]. Two of the most respected Greek scholars and grammarians, Drs. Dana & Mantey, concur: "The following rule by Granville Sharp of a century back still proves to be true" [A Manual Grammar of the Greek New Testament, p. 147].

Thus, there is simply no argument grammatically for the critics with respect to one of the substantives in 2 Thess. 1:12 being a proper name. Both "God" and "Lord" are personal nouns, but they are not proper names, thus the Granville Sharp rule is still valid in this passage, which indicates both terms are speaking of one being. Dr. Wallace concludes, "It has frequently been alleged that theos is a proper name and, hence, that Sharp's rule cannot apply to constructions in which it is employed. We have already argued that theos is not a proper name in Greek. We simply wish to point out here that in the TSKS construction theos is used over a dozen times in the NT and always in reference to one person" [ibid, p. 276]. Others have sought to negate this rule by saying that the name "Jesus" is used, therefore since this is a proper name, then the presence of the name "Jesus" in the passage means two persons, not one, are in view. The critics contend, "Only by detaching 'kuriou' (Lord) from 'iesou christou' (Jesus Christ) could one apply Sharp's rule to this construction" in 2 Thess. 1:12 [ibid]. Enter the comma!! -- "...our God and Lord, Jesus Christ." Still others argue that "since 'hemon' ("of us" = "our") is connected with 'theos,' two persons are in view" [ibid]. However, Dr. Wallace makes it clear that this has "no effect on breaking the construction" [ibid, p. 277]. The renowned Greek scholar Dr. A. T. Robertson agrees, saying that the genitive personal pronoun "'hemon' may occur with either substantive and apply to both" [A Grammar of the Greek NT in the Light of Historical Research, p. 785].

Dr. Robertson, in reviewing the text of 2 Thess. 1:12, writes, "Schmiedel says also that 'grammar demands that one person is meant'" [ibid, p. 786]. In his classic work titled "Word Pictures in the New Testament," Dr. Robertson further declares with respect to this passage by Paul to the brethren in Thessalonica, "Here strict syntax requires, since there is only one article with 'theou' and 'kuriou' that one person be meant, Jesus Christ" [e-Sword]. The apostle Paul has provided his readers, both then and now, with a very strong declaration of the deity of Jesus Christ, calling Him both our GOD and LORD. This has always bothered some, and they have gone to great lengths, including adding a definite article to the original text, to try and diminish this inspired apostolic assertion. I have personal friends within my own faith-heritage (Churches of Christ) who are speaking out against the deity of our Lord Jesus Christ. They will call Him "Lord," but they refuse to call Him "God." Paul had no such problem. Neither do I. May we dare to be as bold as the apostle Thomas, who, unlike the real doubters today, confidently confessed to the face of Jesus Himself, "My Lord and my God!" (John 20:28).


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Readers' Reflections

From a Reader in Montana:

Hi there, Al. Long time since I've written. Somehow we have ended up living in Montana. God is good, although it is cold here! We're enjoying the people we know here, however, and also the new ones we are meeting. I just wanted to comment on what we, as Christians, can know (in light of your article "Cross Out and Cross Over in Christ: Is There a Coming 'Judgment Day' for Christ's Redeemed or a Present Day Transition Reality?" - Reflections #739). I spent my entire childhood, up until early adulthood, wondering if I was saved, and petrified that I wasn't. It really got to be such turmoil for me that I finally gave up and didn't attend church for a number of years. It was reading Max Lucado's "In the Grip of Grace" that started opening my head about knowing. Anyhow, mostly I wish that I would have heard guys like Al Maxey, Patrick Mead, and Rick Atchley as a youngster! Just think of how many wasted years could have been avoided!! Thank you, Al, for this most recent Reflections article. I trust you are well, and hope the new year is treating you well.

From One of Our Nation's Heroes:
(Staff Sergeant Timothy Payne - Chosen Leadership)

I have read some of your Reflections articles, and am amazed at your knowledge and your ability to put all this information together! I really appreciate your efforts. My own walk with the Lord just started as of July 17, 2014, and it's been mind-blowing. My testimony is truly a gift from God, and you can find it on my web site. It was the Vietnam movies, and the men of sacrifice during that era, that pointed me to serve my country. I have a lot of respect for Vietnam combat veterans like you, and I thank you for your service! I also want to thank you for your work and dedication to the Lord. May Jesus continue to bless you always. I'll be following more of your writings!!

From a Reader in Florida:
(A message he sent to his Facebook friends)

"Cross Out and Cross Over in Christ" (Reflections #739) is an excellent article! HIGHLY recommend you get on Al's email list for his Reflections articles. All of his previous articles are archived on his web site, which is a GREAT resource if you are looking for answers to questions, or need to do some research when teaching a Bible class, or if you're just looking for something interesting to read. Al Maxey's Reflections articles are enlightening, challenging, and thought-provoking!

From a Reader in Georgia:

Just had a chance to read "Cross Out and Cross Over in Christ." You're most definitely gonna get mentioned once again in the legalistic religious publications!! The apostle John said, "There is no fear in love!" The fear of being forever lost because of present imperfect performance must be difficult to live with, especially when one is forced to admit they can't be perfect. Being saved "by the skin of my teeth" is such a sad theology; one void of an understanding of GRACE. Blessings, my brother!

From a Minister in Panama:

You believe that God is one. You do well. The demons also believe, and shudder. It is in obeying commands and doing works prepared by God that one DOES God's will and is saved. He who believes and is baptized will be saved. The only salvation by grace through faith is IN BAPTISM ... at that moment, in that event.

From an Author in Arizona:

Brother Al, your article "Cross Out and Cross Over in Christ" is good -- REAL good -- and I'm inclined to go along with your understanding, because it harmonizes with Heaven's testimony. You and I were brought up and indoctrinated with the idea that, even as believers, we will face a future "Judgment Day." You hit this matter on the nail-head when you wrote: "For you (believers), the Day of Judgment has no real impact, other than to usher you into that fuller life in the new heavens and earth. For you, the day of Christ's return will be for the purpose of gathering you to His bosom, not for the purpose of judging. By grace through faith you have already been judged, just as those who reject His grace have already been judged. When Christ returns it will be to bring both eternal reward and punishment, not to have a huge trial." And, as you noted, too many of us live, or have lived, in FEAR of "Judgment Day." Rather, we should live in anticipation of this great day when we are ushered into Heavenly Glory! Soldier On, Brother!!

From a Reader in Texas:

Your new Reflections article is GREAT, Al. As you may remember, I grew up in the old, legalistic version of the Church of Christ. We were always taught how "bad" the Baptists were because they believed that "once saved, always saved." Now, we know that through Jesus, and God's grace, they were right! Keep up the good work, brother! I share your lessons every chance I get! God bless you!

From a Reader in Barbados:

I was a little behind in reading your Reflections, but I do not mind. I hold on to them until I can deal with them properly. I read all three of your last articles ("Grace and the Noah Narrative" ... "A Stunning Self-Disclosure" ... "Cross Out and Cross Over in Christ") on the same day, and was I ever glad that I did. They really go together. Every so often some niggling doubts creep into our theology concerning the issues raised in these three Reflections. However, a careful reading of these Reflections should put the mind of the born-again believer at rest. Now I see why I had fallen behind in my reading of your latest articles! It was so that I could read these three Reflections one right after the other! Thanks again, Al.

From a Reader in Colorado:

Thank you, Al, for your latest: "Cross Out and Cross Over in Christ." GREAT article! A "friend" of mine from my former church recently said that because I now attend a congregation that has instrumental music, that I am "worshipping Satan!" Of course, I know that is false, but your article came as a timely reminder to me of the truth you speak! Praise God! I don't have to HOPE I'm saved; rather, I KNOW of my salvation! Thank you, Al, for persevering with God's TRUTH.

From a Reader in California:

Thank you, Al Maxey, for your Reflections ministry. I can no longer see to read them, but my husband prints them out and then reads them to me as often as we get one. We feel immensely blessed to have you as our brother-in-Christ. I was wondering if you have written anything on the sin that leads to death, as our Bible class was studying in 1st John 5 tonight. If so, I would sure like to have a copy. Thank you.

From a Reader in Kansas:

Very little has ever moved me as much as your account of serving as the chaplain at an execution in New Mexico (Reflections #554 - "Chaplain at an Execution: Reflecting on a Difficult Choice"). You had the privilege of ministering to many people through this event, and that opportunity and privilege was brought to you by the God who works in wondrous and mysterious ways to effect His will.

From a Minister in North Carolina:

Al, your article "Chaplain at an Execution" is a must-read!! Such a touching and valuable story. You should tell it to as many as you can. What are the odds that Terry Clark would have an uncle that was a Church of Christ preacher, and that the New Mexico state prison would have a Church of Christ chaplain?! Thank you for being there for Terry; I suspect it was surreal. It would have been easy for you to say, at any point really, that you were just too busy. That is a very interesting point about Terry sharing the gospel with others prior to his execution. That had to be powerful for the guards and others, and there's no telling what kind of influence this had. Thanks for sharing this Reflections with us!

From an Elder in Texas:

"Cross Out and Cross Over in Christ" is Excellent!! Biblical Truth!! I will be sharing it!!

From a Reader in Texas:

"Judgment Day" was always confusing to me until I read a comment from N.T. Wright using our view of a judge. He said that our justification is a declaration today of what WILL happen in the future ... case over! Our Judge has already justified us, declaring us righteous, based on His righteousness and not our own. Thus, we have already received the verdict of "Not Guilty" ... Case Closed!!

From a Minister in New Zealand:

Hi Al, I just walked in the door (after having just finished walking around Mt. Maunganui), and was plugging my phone in when it went "beep." It was your Reflections article "Cross Out and Cross Over in Christ." I will communicate later (after reading it). --- It is now in the afternoon here, and I have read your study. All I can really say is: Yes, Yes and YES!! To some people, however, this article will be "too positive and assuring." They'll be thinking, "Can't we mix in a bit of doubt, a bit of patternistic theology; and can't I participate in and contribute to my own salvation ... just to be sure?!" Yet, as I heard Pastor Creflo Dollar say one time, "When confronted with the gift of God's grace, all we can really say is, 'I believe and Thank You!'" Thank you again, brother, for your tireless research! It will not go unrewarded.

From a Reader in Mississippi:

Hello Brother Al, I hope you and your family had a wonderful Christmas, and that you are doing well. I never fail to read your Reflections, and I really appreciated Issue #739 (as I do them all). But, I have a question: What about the "judgment" verses? The Bible says that we will all appear before the judgment seat of Christ and receive the things done in the body, whether good or bad. What do you believe will happen to those who believe in Christ, but who, like me, can look back and see so much sin and failure in their lives? Sooo much BAD ... although repented of. Some believe all sins are forgotten for those in Christ Jesus, but 2 Cor. 5:10 doesn't say that. I am just wondering what you believe about this. For those of us raised in legalism (with maybe only a sprinkling of grace), such verses as this and Hebrews 6:4-6 make it really hard for us to know that we CAN KNOW (with regard to salvation). Thank you very much. We are praying for you and your family to have a healthy and safe 2018.

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