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Sunday, January 02, 2011

John 20:28 ὁ κύριός μου καὶ ὁ θεός μου - Why two articles?

When two "words" (i.e. constituents), which occurring alone would access different scenarios, are joined by καὶ with a single article, the two "words" may function as a "doublet" and access a single scenario.

Eph. 1:3 Εὐλογητὸς ὁ θεὸς καὶ πατὴρ τοῦ κυρίου ἡμῶν Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ, ὁ εὐλογήσας ἡμᾶς ἐν πάσῃ εὐλογίᾳ πνευματικῇ ἐν τοῖς ἐπουρανίοις ἐν Χριστῷ

Here we see ὁ θεὸς and πατὴρ ... Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ joined with καὶ and having only one article. The whole construction   ὁ θεὸς ... Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ not only points to a single referent but it opens a single scenario: God as the Father of our Lord, Jesus Christ. I would also venture the suggestion that πατὴρ is more salient than ὁ θεὸς in this construction, not by virtue of being anarthrous, rather because it is given more elaborate encoding: πατὴρ τοῦ κυρίου ἡμῶν Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ.

John 20:27 εἶτα λέγει τῷ Θωμᾷ· φέρε τὸν δάκτυλόν σου ὧδε καὶ ἴδε τὰς χεῖράς μου καὶ φέρε τὴν χεῖρά σου καὶ βάλε εἰς τὴν πλευράν μου, καὶ μὴ γίνου ἄπιστος ἀλλὰ πιστός.  28 ἀπεκρίθη Θωμᾶς καὶ εἶπεν αὐτῷ· ὁ κύριός μου καὶ ὁ θεός μου.  29 λέγει αὐτῷ ὁ Ἰησοῦς· ὅτι ἑώρακάς με πεπίστευκας; μακάριοι οἱ μὴ ἰδόντες καὶ πιστεύσαντες.

In John 20:28 ὁ κύριός μου and ὁ θεός μου, while pointing to a single referent has the article with both ὁ κύριός μου and ὁ θεός μου. Richard Hoyle[1] argues that this is not a doublet, which would require a single article. However the repetition of the article does not indicate that Thomas is addressing two different persons. ὁ κύριός μου refers to one scenario Jesus as my Lord (master) and ὁ θεός μου to a different scenario Jesus as my God. Hoyle[1] offers this and another alternative, "restatement":

There are several examples cited where two conjoined arthrous nouns appear to be doublets. Carson (1984:84)920 notes Revelation 2:26, καὶ ὁ νικῶν καὶ ὁ τηρῶν as an example of a doublet, or in his words “a slightly cumbersome idiom to invest this obedient conqueror with a weighty label”:

καὶ ὁ νικῶν καὶ ὁ τηρῶν ἄχρι τέλους τὰ ἔργα μου,
and the[one] overcoming and the[one] keeping until end the works of-me
δώσω αὐτῷ ἐξουςίαν ἐπὶ τῶν ἐθνῶν
I-will-give to-him authority over the nations

However, I do not analyse these as conjoined nouns, but as restatement, with the second καί in the sense of “that is to say” (cf., Matthew 21:5 “on a donkey, even on a colt”). The two noun phrases cannot refer to two individuals or classes, as shown by the singular pronoun αὐτῷ. If they referred to a single generic category of everyone who both overcomes and does Jesus’s works to the end, on the basis of the above observations one would expect a single article. Moreover, the two events listed are coreferential “He who overcomes, i.e. he who keeps doing my will to the end”.

Another similar example is quoted by Moule (1953:116)[3]:

In John XX.28 Ὁ κύριός μου καὶ ὁ θεός μου, it is to be noted that a substantive in the Nominative case used in a vocative sense and followed by a possessive could not be anarthrous … the article before θεός may, therefore, not be significant..

Here, whether or not Moule’s rationale is sound, both terms clearly refer to the same individual, Jesus. The article before θεός argues against Thomas’s words being a simple doublet, as does the repetition of μου. Either, then, Thomas identifies Jesus with two separate concepts, my Lord (whom I obey) and my God (whom I worship), or this is, like Revelation 2:26, a restatement “My Lord, that is to say my God”. I argue that the repetition of the article shows that it cannot be a doublet, two words referring to the same scenario, “my (Lord and God)”.
It seems hardly feasible that ὁ θεός μου would be a restatement of ὁ κύριός μου. The expression ὁ κύριός [μου] standing alone does not involve the notion of deity. Jesus is referenced as ὁ κύριός [μου] in John by persons who have not yet come to a relization that Jesus is ὁ θεός.

John 13:13 ὑμεῖς φωνεῖτέ με· ὁ διδάσκαλος, καί· ὁ κύριος, καὶ καλῶς λέγετε· εἰμὶ γάρ. 

John 20:13 καὶ λέγουσιν αὐτῇ ἐκεῖνοι· γύναι, τί κλαίεις; λέγει αὐτοῖς ὅτι ἦραν τὸν κύριόν μου, καὶ οὐκ οἶδα ποῦ ἔθηκαν αὐτόν.

Therefore, I would suggest that we see here one referent but two different scenarios; obedience-ownership, i.e. "master" ὁ κύριός μου and the recognition of divine identity by means of worship ὁ θεός μου.   

[1] Hoyle, Richard A. Scenarios, Discourse, and Translation  ©2008 SIL International, p.235-236.

[2] Carson, Donald A. 1984. Exegetical fallacies. Grand Rapids: Baker Book House.

[3] Moule, Charles Francis Digby. 1953. An idiom book of New Testament Greek.
Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.


Blogger The Apologetic Front said...

Would you view John 20:28 as an inclusion of Jesus into the unique identity in light of texts like 11Q13 where Melchizedek is identified as "your God?" In other words, do you see any parallel between the two texts and whether the early Christians would have viewed Jesus as "their god" in a similar way as another exalted angel was referred to as "their god?"

12:20 PM  
Blogger C. Stirling Bartholomew said...


11Q13 2:23 [ -- ]vmsft[y] ’l kh’sr khtwv ‘lyw[ ’wmr ltzy]wn mlkh ’lwhykh. [tzy]wn h[y’h

Well J.Fitzmyer[1] appears to read this an allusion to Isa 52:7 mlkh ’lhykh. What secondary sources are you finding mentioned in?

[1]The Semitic Background of the New Testament 1971 pp.250,266

3:01 PM  
Blogger The Apologetic Front said...


I'm reading from the DSS translation by Vermes where it says, "And your Elohim is [Melchizedek, who will save them from] the hand of Belial." And yes, its an allusion from Is. 52:7 and applies a text about YHWH to Melchizedek.

Its a text that some would use in arguing the point I made above in suggesting that John 20:28 doesn't prove Christ's deity anymore than in prove Melchizedek's.

Of course, I disagree, but i'd like to get your take on it :-)

3:25 PM  
Blogger C. Stirling Bartholomew said...


Melchizedekology is a rather specialized filed and the 11Q13 a.k.a 11QMelchizedek is a small fragmented text a large portion of which is made up of quotations from and or allusions to Ps82, Isa52, 61... . I did some googleing on this and discovered there is quite a "buzz" going on out there in the wasteland (a.k.a. WWW) about 11Q13 Melchizedek and Christology. I even manged to download an article (chapter from a recent book) by L. Hurdtado which I am looking at now. I will be first to admit that I have little understanding of why this hadfull of scraps called 11Q13 is worth all this discussion.

My impression is that Melchizedek has a lot more to do with Hebrews than it does the GspJohn. My not-a-mentor from the last 60s and early 70s was very preoccupied with Melchizedek. He is still alive, talked to him just a week ago at a memorial service. I would be tempted to ask him about this if I hadn't alienated by beating up (blogging) on his infamous son-in-law, whose name is known to millions of gen-x and wannabes.

I am interested in your ideas about this. Is there something I should read about it, some author, book title, page number. I am not too old to learn and Melchizedekology has a mysterious esoteric aspect to it that i find appealing.

8:42 PM  
Blogger C. Stirling Bartholomew said...


This guy seems to be talking about your topic

He is very critical of R. Bauckham, some of his criticism about of evidence I suspect I would agree with. Bauckham and also Dunn dump mountains of citations on you but don't do any exegesis of them to prove their point.

9:47 PM  
Blogger The Apologetic Front said...

I think 11Q13 is causing all this "buzz" because it provides a reason for some people to deny the deity of Christ or at least see Christ as another exalted angel similar to Melchizedek. Arians and Socinians have definitely picked up on this, since they see it as supporting their theology that exalted angles can be what they are without actually being YHWH.

As far as books, pretty much any modern work on Christology and monotheism will cover this text. Bauckham has a lengthy discussion of it in "Jesus and the God of Israel." Hurtado does as well in "Lord Jesus Christ." And i'm willing to bet that McGrath and Dunn do too.

The difficulty is in seeing this text as the norm by which all 2nd temple Jews would have identified Jesus with when he came on the scene. But even so, divine agents did not receive cultic devotion and worship. That fact alone breaks the parallel right in half.

Nonetheless, it is a very interesting text that I don't think can be avoided in serious Christological scholarship today.

9:19 AM  
Blogger C. Stirling Bartholomew said...


I am working on a post about angelology and christology. Not anything definitive, just a place to talk about it. Bauckham, Hurtado, Dunn have talked about it. Dunn's treatment is very subtle and detailed. But it makes more sense to me now than it did a decade ago when I picked up his Christology in the Making, a 30 year old book.

3:00 PM  
Blogger C. Stirling Bartholomew said...


RE: 11Q13 where Melchizedek John 20:28

I have spent some time reviewing the literature on 11QMelchizedek and Melchizedek. Two sources which might be of value to you are the DDD 2nd. ed. article on Melchizedek J. Relling pp. 560-563 and JEROME H. NEYREY, SJ. "I SAID: YOU ARE GODS": PSALM 82:6 AND JOHN 10 which can be found here

I not convinced that 11Q13 is relevant to John 20:28. To deal with this we would have to get embroiled in the lexical semantics of Elohim which is outside of my field. It has been discussed ad nauseum on the b-hebrew forum. You might be able to pull some of that up from the archives with google.

A brief quote with regard to 11QMelch from J. Relling is pertinent: "The many lacunae make a conclusive interpretation virtually impossible." In other words, if you get down to actually working with the text while ignoring all the nonsense that has been made of it, you find there is less there than meets the eye. You should look at Fitzmyer's translation and commentary if you can find it. Fitzmyer's takes a very cautious and sane approach to dealing with DSS texts and New Testament. The popular literature on 11QMelch is aimed at the same audience who read Elaine Pagels on Gnosticism. I haven't looked at Vermes translation, but I have a copy of M. Wise, M. Abegg & E. Cook which makes 11QMelch easy reading by filling in all lacunae with their speculations about how the text should read. This is not the way to read a text like this, you need to confront it in the raw with all the holes in MS.

There is a principle at work here. In biblical studies the volume of the speculative verbiage is inversely and exponentially related to the quantity and quality of the hard data, i.e. the textual evidence. As the textual evidence approaches zero the speculative verbiage approaches infinity. You can see this at work in the literature on Judas and Mary Magdalene.

Thank you for your comments.

1:49 PM  
Blogger C. Stirling Bartholomew said...


I was able pull up Fitzmyer's article in google books with the search string "the thread which apparently runs". A page or two are missing but most of the article, text and translation are there.

2:12 PM  

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