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Granville Sharp's Rule
Titus 2:13 and 2 Peter 1:1

 


by James White

This information sheet is divided into two sections. The first is a brief, basic discussion of what is known as "Granville Sharp's Rule." This rule is very important in translating and understanding Titus 2:13 and 2 Peter 1:1 (as well as other passages), and as these passages bear directly on the discussion of the Deity of the Lord Jesus Christ, we feel Christians should be informed on the subject. The second section of this paper is a much more in-depth discussion of the same subject, providing references for those familiar with the Greek language and the translation of the New Testament.

Section 1

Basically, Granville Sharp's rule states that when you have two nouns, which are not proper names (such as Cephas, or Paul, or Timothy), which are describing a person, and the two nouns are connected by the word "and," and the first noun has the article ("the") while the second does not, *both nouns are referring to the same person*. In our texts, this is demonstrated by the words "God" and "Savior" at Titus 2:13 and 2 Peter 1:1. "God" has the article, it is followed by the word for "and," and the word "Savior" does not have the article. Hence, both nouns are being applied to the same person, Jesus Christ. This rule is exceptionless. One must argue solely on theological grounds against these passages. There is truly no real grammatical objection that can be raised. Not that many have not attempted to do so, and are still trying. However, the evidence is overwhelming in favor of the above interpretation. Lets look at some of the evidence from the text itself.

In Titus 2:13, we first see that Paul is referring to the "epiphaneia" of the Lord, His "appearing." Every other instance of this word is reserved for Christ and Him alone.(1) It is immediately followed by verse 14, which says, "who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself a people for His own possession, zealous for good deeds." The obvious reference here is to Christ who "gave Himself for us" on the cross of Calvary. There is no hint here of a plural antecedent for the "who" of verse 14 either. It might also be mentioned that verse 14, while directly referring to Christ, is a paraphrase of some Old Testament passages that refer to Yahweh God. (Psalm 130:8, Deuteronomy 7:6, etc). One can hardly object to the identification of Christ as God when the Apostle goes on to describe His works as the works of God!

The passage found at 2 Peter 1:1 is even more compelling. Some have simply by-passed grammatical rules and considerations, and have decided for an inferior translation on the basis of verse 2, which, they say, "clearly distinguishes" between God and Christ.(2) Such translation on the basis of theological prejudices is hardly commendable. The little book of 2 Peter contains a total of five "Granville Sharp" constructions. They are 1:1, 1:11, 2:20, 3:2, and 3:18. No one would argue that the other four instances are exceptions to the rule. For example, in 2:20, it is obvious that both "Lord" and "Savior" are in reference to Christ. Such is the case in 3:2, as well as 3:18. No problem there, for the proper translation does not step on anyone's theological toes. 1:11 is even more striking. The construction here is *identical* to the construction found in 1:1, with only one word being different. Here are the passages as they are transliterated into English:

1:1: tou theou hemon kai sotaros Iesou Christou

1:11: tou kuriou hemon kai sotaros Iesou Christou

Notice the exact one-to-one correspondence between these passages! The only difference is the substitution of "kuriou" for "theou". No one would question the translation of "our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ" at 1:11; why question the translation of "our God and Savior, Jesus Christ" at 1:1? Consistency in translation demands that we not allow our personal prejudices to interfere with our rendering of God's Word.

Dr. A. T. Robertson examined this very subject, and in conclusion said,

Sharp stands vindicated after all the dust has settled. We must let these passages mean what they want to mean regardless of our theories about the theology of the writers.

There is no solid grammatical reason for one to hesitate to translate 2 Pet. 1:1, "our God and Saviour Jesus Christ," and Tit. 2:13, "our great God and Saviour Christ Jesus."... Scholarship, real scholarship, seeks to find the truth. That is its reward. The Christian scholar finds the same joy in truth and he is not uneasy that the foundations will be destroyed.(3)

Hopefully all involved can echo Dr. Robertson's words. We need not think that God's Word is our enemy, or that we must twist it around to suit our needs. God's truth will stand firm, despite all of mankind's attempts to hide it, or twist it. Christians are looking for that blessed hope; the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ. In the meantime, let us do good deeds to others, living in the righteousness of our God and Savior, Jesus Christ.

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Section 2:

Anyone familiar with the koine Greek, the language of the common people in Jesus' day, knows that it is a very expressive and full language. It is indeed complicated, and it rarely follows its own rules all the time. A common joke amongst Greek students is the foolishness of using the word "always" when asking a question of the professor. There is seemingly always an exception to the rule.

One would expect, then, to find a number of exceptions to the rule here under consideration, that of Granville Sharp. But before that can be determined, we need first to define the rule itself. That sounds simple, but it has been my discovery that it is not. Take, for example, the definition given by Curtis Vaughn and Virtus Gideon:

"If two nouns of the same case are connected by a "kai" and the article is used with both nouns, they refer to different persons or things. If only the first noun has the article, the second noun refers to the same person or thing referred to in the first."(1)

Kenneth Wuest, in his _Word Studies in the Greek New Testament_ defines it this way:

"We have Granville Sharp's rule here, which says that when there are two nouns in the same case connected by a kai (and), the first noun having the article, the second noun not having the article, the second noun refers to the same thing the first noun does and is a further description of it."(2)

Note the absence of the second part of Vaughn and Gideon's definition, that of the two nouns both with articles. Dana and Mantey give probably the most accurate definition when they write:

"The following rule by Granville Sharp of a century back still proves to be true: "When the copulative kai connects two nouns of the same case, 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 further description of the first-named person."(3)

However, much to my surprise, I have found that none of these definitions, even the one by Dana and Mantey, accurately reflect what Granville Sharp actually said or meant. It has been due to these less- than-accurate definitions that Sharp's rule has come in for a lot of the criticism that it has. One of the longest and best discussions that I have been able to find is found in A. T. Robertson's fine work, _The Minister and His Greek New Testament,_ pages 61 through 68, under the title, "The Greek Article and the Deity of Christ." It was here that I first found an accurate rendering of Granville Sharp's actual rule. Since that time I have been fortunate enough to track down an 1807 edition of Granville Sharp's actual work entitled, _Remarks on the Uses of the Definitive Article in the Greek Text of the New Testament, Containing Many New Proofs of the Divinity of Christ, From Passages Which are Wrongly Translated in the Common English Version._ This work actually puts forth six rules, the other five being corollaries of the first.

Granville Sharp's rule, according to Granville Sharp, is:

"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."(4)

The vital point that is available to the reader of Sharp's work is this: *Sharp's rule is valid only for singulars, not plurals; and it is not intended to be applied to proper names*. His rule only applies to persons, not things. As you can see, Granville Sharp's rule is much more limited in its scope than the more modern definitions reveal.

Does this more accurate and definite definition make a big difference? Indeed it does! There are 79 occurrences of "Granville Sharp" constructions in the writings of Paul, using Vaughn and Gideon's definition. Hence, here we have constructions that mix singulars and plurals, descriptions of places and things, and constructions that reflect both nouns as having the article. A quick glance over the list reveals a maximum of 15 exceptions, and a minimum of five. Even this ratio would be considered very good for a general rule of grammar. However, Sharp claimed that the rule *always* held true. Obviously, if the modern versions of his rule are accurate, Sharp was not. But when the constructions in the New Testament that truly follow Granville Sharp's rule are examined, a very unusual thing happens: *it is found to be entirely exceptionless!* As Robertson quotes from Sharp's work, "But, though Sharp's principle was attacked, he held to it and affirms (p. 115) that though he had examined several thousand examples of this type, "the apostle and high priest of our confession Jesus" (Heb. 3:1), he had never found an exception."(5) From my own research, I concur with Sharp. The rule, in its pure form, is exceptionless.

An examination of a few key texts is in order. The two that have most triggered the controversy over the rule are Titus 2:13 and 2 Peter 1:1. Both passages exhibit what might be called "classical" Sharp constructions. Titus 2:13: ten makarian elpida kai epiphaneian tes doxes tou megalou theou kai soteros hemon Iesou Christou, and 2 Peter 1:1: tou theou hemon kai soteros Iesou Christou. Titus 2:13 is correctly translated as "the blessed hope and the appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ," and 2 Peter 1:1, "our God and Savior, Jesus Christ." The reason for the controversy is, of course, quite obvious. Should these texts stand, the Arian theological position becomes untenable. Hence Greek grammarians of the rank even of George B. Winer have taken their best shot at these passages, all to no avail. The 2 Peter passage seems to be the strongest of all the passages, especially due to its context. Four other Sharp constructions occur in 2 Peter, a rather high occurrence in a letter that is only three chapters long. The other examples occur in 1:11, 2:20, 3:2, and 3:18. For brevity's sake, I will examine only 1:11, as it is almost identical with 1:1 in wording (exchange kuriou for theou), and it *is* identical in form: tou kuriou hemon kai soteros Iesou Christou, "our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ." No one has any problem seeing that both "Lord" and "Savior" refer to the same person, Jesus Christ, and that both nouns are to be taken under the one article. Why, then, balk at correctly translating 1:1?? It is an identical construction. Titus 2:13 also occurs in a context that strongly supports the contention of Sharp's rule. First, the term epiphaneian is never used of the Father anywhere in the New Testament (2 Thess. 2:8, 1 Tim. 6:14, 2 Tim. 1:10, 4:1, Tit. 2:13).(6) Hence, the anti-trinitarian argument is in trouble from the start. Verse 14 continues, "who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself a people for His own possession, zealous for good deeds." It is interesting to note also that Psalm 130:8 says that it is Yahweh that redeems from all iniquities. There is no contextual, syntactical, or grammatical argument that can be urged against either of these passages. Only a theological prejudice could interfere with translation. Why, then, does the AV, the ASV, and a few other older versions incorrectly translate these passages? Robertson maintains that it is mainly due to the influence of George B. Winer and his grammatical work. For three generations his work was supreme, and many scholars did not feel inclined to "fly in his face" and insist on the correct translation of these passages. However, Winer himself, being an anti-trinitarian, admitted that it was not grammatical grounds that led him to reject the correct rendering of Titus 2:13, but theological ones. In the Winer-Moulton Grammar (as cited by Robertson), page 162, Winer said, "Considerations derived from Paul's system of doctrine lead me to believe that soteros is not a second predicate, co-ordinate with theou, Christ being first called megas theos, and then soter." However, Robertson put it well when he said, "Sharp stands vindicated after all the dust has settled. We must let these passages mean what they want to mean regardless of our theories about the theology of the writers."(7)

Kenneth Wuest in his _Expanded Translation_ brings out the Sharp constructions in a number of other instances. For example, 2 Thessalonians 1:12 reads, "in accordance with the grace of our God, even the Lord Jesus Christ." 1 Timothy 5:21: "I solemnly charge you in the presence of our God, even Jesus Christ,..." and 2 Timothy 4:1: "I solemnly charge you as one who is living in the presence of our God, even Christ Jesus,..." All these demonstrate further examples of Sharp's rule. Not all examples, of course, deal with the fact of the Deity of the Lord Jesus Christ. 1 Thessalonians 3:2 reads, ton adelphon hemon kai sunergon, "our brother and fellow-worker," in reference to Timothy. Philemon 1 contains a similar reference, and Hebrews 3:1 is yet another example. One of the most often repeated examples has to do with the idiom, "God and Father." Pure Sharp constructions occur at 2 Corinthians 1:3, Ephesians 1:3, Ephesians 5:20, Philippians 4:20, and 1 Thessalonians 3:11. Finally, other examples of Sharp constructions occur at 1 Corinthians 5:10, 7:8, 7:34, Ephesians 5:5, Philippians 2:25, and Colossians 4:7. There are, of course, others outside the writings of the Apostle Paul.

Having seen that Granville Sharp correctly identified a rule of grammar that the ancient koine Greek writers faithfully followed, next we will examine whether the more modern and far less accurate definitions of Sharp's rule can be used effectively. Some examples that follow Sharp's principle (but are not actually Sharp constructions) include Romans 3:21, "by the law and the prophets," demonstrating the use of the article with both nouns. Others are Romans 15:4, "through the grace and through the exhortation," 2 Corinthians 8:4, "the gift and the fellowship," and 1 Thessalonians 3:6, "your faith and your love." Some that have only the one article are Philippians 1:20, "according to my eager expectation and hope," 2:17, "upon the sacrifice and sacrificial offering of your faith," and Colossians 2:8, "through philosophy and empty deception." There are, however, a number of exceptions, such as Philippians 1:19, "through your entreaty and the support of the Spirit," and 2 Corinthians 1:6, "your encouragement and salvation." Robertson(8) demonstrates that when both nouns have the article, they are to be distinguished. He lists Mt. 23:2, Mk. 2:18, 6:21, 11:9, 11:18, 12:13, Lk. 11:39, 15:6, 23:4, Jn. 4:37, 1 Cor. 3:8, Jas. 3:11, Acts 26:30, Rev. 18:20, adding that the list can be extended indefinitely. He also mentions that at times, the use of one article with two nouns can demonstrate that the author was viewing the two things as one, even though they might be numerically or generically distinct. Also noted is the fact that differences in number and gender tend to bring the article into play.

On the basis of the foregoing, unless the context demands otherwise, the interpreter would do well to consider the possibility that the author, when using a construction that utilizes two nouns, the first having the article, and the second not, had in mind one object for both nouns (participles or adjectives). Also, when both nouns have the article, it is quite likely that the writer meant to keep them quite distinct. Though these suggestions do lend themselves to exceptions, they can be generally quite helpful. When discussing the real Granville Sharp rule, however, totally different considerations need be applied. A real Sharp construction will hold to what Sharp actually said, and will hold true in all cases. Hence, Sharp's rule is an invaluable instrument in the interpreter's bag. Unlike so many rules, one does not have to worry about the many exceptions to the rule. It is amusing to imagine the Apostle Paul listening in on a discussion amongst modern grammarians, and being very confused as to just what "Granville Sharp's rule" is. He certainly would acknowledge the fact of what he wrote and what it meant, but we must remember that all Granville Sharp did was accurately observe a principle that had been around for over 1700 years. Paul never kept Granville Sharp's rule: Granville Sharp correctly followed Paul's rule (and Peter's and James' and so on). Sharp's rule has stood the test of time, and will continue to be a strong force to be reckoned with in the future.

Footnotes:

(On Section 1:)

1. 2 Thess. 2:8, 1 Tim. 6:14, 2 Tim. 1:10, 4:1, 4:8, Tit. 2:13. W. F. Moulton, A. S. Geden, H. K. Moulton, Concordance to the Greek Testament, 5th edition, (Edinburgh: T & T Clark, 1980) p. 374. 2. Alford, New Testament for English Readers, p. 1671. 3. A. T. Robertson, The Minister and his Greek New Testament, pp. 66-67.

(On Section 2:)

1. Curtis Vaughn, and Virtus Gideon, A Greek Grammar of the New Testament, (Nashville: Broadman Press, 1979), p. 83. 2. Wuest, Wuest's Word Studies In the Greek New Testament, 2:195. 3. Dana and Mantey, A Manual Grammar of the Greek New Testament, p. 147. 4. Granville Sharp, Remarks on the Uses of the Definitive Article in the Greek Text of the New Testament: Containing Many New Proofs of the Divinity of Christ, From Passages Which are Wrongly Translated in the Common English Version, (Philadelphia: B. B. Hopkins and Co., 1807), p. 3. 5. Robertson, The Minister and His Greek New Testament, p. 62. 6. W. F. Moulton, and A. S. Geden, Concordance to the Greek Testament, p. 374. 7. Robertson, The Minister and His Greek New Testament, p. 66. Further scholarly corroboration of this interpretation of these passages can be found in A. T. Robertson's Word Pictures in the Greek New Testament, vol. 6, pages 147-148, in Nicoll's Expositor's Greek Testament, vol. 5, p. 123, and in B. B. Warfield, Biblical and Theological Studies, pp. 68-71. Grundmann, in Kittel's Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, vol. 4, p. 540 says, "Hence we have to take Jesus Christ as the megas theos. This is demanded by the position of the article, by the term epiphaneia ..., and by the stereotyped nature of the expression...Hence the best rendering is: "We wait for the blessed hope and manifestation of the glory of our great God and Saviour Jesus Christ." 8. A. T. Robertson, A Grammar of the Greek New Testament in the Light of Historical Research, pp. 786-787.


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