“God and our Saviour” or “Our… God and Saviour” in Titus 2:13, 2 Peter 1:1 & Jude 1:4?
KJV: "Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ;"
ESV: "waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ,"
2 Peter 1:1:
KJV: "Simon Peter, a servant and an apostle of Jesus Christ, to them that have obtained like precious faith with us through the righteousness of God and our Saviour Jesus Christ:"
ESV: "Simeon Peter, a servant and apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who have obtained a faith of equal standing with ours by the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ:"
KJV: "For there are certain men crept in unawares, who were before of old ordained to this condemnation, ungodly men, turning the grace of our God into lasciviousness, and denying the only Lord God, and our Lord Jesus Christ."
ESV: "For certain people have crept in unnoticed who long ago were designated for this condemnation, ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into sensuality and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ."
Granville Sharp Rule
Modern translations apply the Granville Sharp Rule in an attempt to convey more clearly in several verses that Jesus Christ is God. The KJV does not apply the rule. This rule states that when two nouns are connected by και and the article precedes only the first noun, the two nouns always refer to the same person when neither noun is impersonal, plural nor a proper name (Daniel Wallace, Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics at 270-272). These conditions are met in passages such as Titus 2:13, 2 Peter 1:1 and Jude 1:4. Although the Granville Sharp Rule was formulated by an 18th century scholar, the principle underlying it was already known in the time of the KJV translators. Theodore Beza wrote the following annotation to 2 Peter 1:1 in his 1598 edition of the Textus Receptus:
"Dei nostri & salvatoris, etc. του θεου ημων και σωτηρος, etc. We need to read this conjunctively because there is only one article; as more fully stated in Tit. 2.13, this place also contains a clear testimony of the divinity of Christ." (Translation by KJV Today)
Since this principle was known in the 16th century, the KJV translators could have translated these verses as in the modern translations if they wished to. Although Granville Sharp refined this principle with other parameters, there was already enough insight in the 16th century that "God" and "Saviour" were to be "read conjunctively". There is no basis to the criticism that the KJV translators were ignorant of the principle given that this annotation appears in the very Greek text from which the KJV translators translated into English. As Beza demonstrates, the rule may be valuable for hermeneutic purposes. However, incorporating the rule into the translation itself may lead to some undesirable consequences.
Distinction of Definiteness
The KJV translates “του μεγαλου θεου και σωτηρος ημων ιησου χριστου” in Titus 2:13 literally as "the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ." Some translations incorporate Granville Sharp's rule in the translation, joining “God” and “Saviour” together and applying the possessive pronoun to both nouns, supposing that this conveys more clearly that the two refer to the same person. These translations say, "our great God and Savior Jesus Christ" (e.g. ESV). However, these translations miss an important truth. The Greek says that God is “the great God”. It is likely that "του (the)" is functioning here as either a monadic article or an article par excellence. The purpose of a monadic article is to point out the object as something unique whereas the purpose of an article par excellence is to point out the object as being the one deserving the name more than any other (Daniel Wallace, Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics at 223-224). Whichever purpose is intended, the article is used here to identify God as either the only God or the greatest God. While the Saviour is described as "our Saviour" (as he is not a saviour to the unbeliever), God is "the" God - the supreme ruler over believers as well as non-believers. The supremacy of God is weakened in a translation of Titus 2:13 that incorporates Granville Sharp's rule. Jesus Christ is not just "our" great God. He is "the" great God. Although incorporating the rule may sharpen the Christological implication, an important theological truth is lost.
Distinction of Person
At other times, the Granville Sharp rule should not be applied because the author could be making a distinction between God the Father and God the Son. Such is the case with Jude 1:4. The ESV incorporates the rule at Jude 1:4 and translates "τον μονον δεσποτην και κυριον ημων ιησουν χριστον" as "our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ" (ESV). The KJV translates ""τον μονον δεσποτην θεον και κυριον ημων ιησουν χριστον" as "the only Lord God, and our Lord Jesus Christ" (KJV). Notice that there is a textual variant which further complicates the matter. The KJV has "θεον (God)" following P, Ψ, Majority Text, and Syriac (Nestle-Aland: Novum Testamentum Graece, 27th revised edition (2006)). Going back to the translation issue, the ESV rendering portrays the "only Master (μονον δεσποτην)" and Christ as being the same person. No Trinitarian would dispute the truth conveyed by this rendering. However, such a construction might not have been intended in the context of Jude. Just a few verses earlier, Jude 1:1 distinguishes between the two persons of the Trinity, saying, "Jude, the servant of Jesus Christ, and brother of James, to them that are sanctified by God the Father, and preserved in Jesus Christ, and called:" Jude says that God the Father sanctifies and Jesus Christ preserves. There is a distinction in role for each person, at least in this context. Jude 1:4 may well be a continuation of this distinction between the two persons of the Trinity. Incorporating the Granville Sharp rule in a given passage may boost the Christology, but it may cause another person of the Trinity to be disregarded. This is unfortunate because true Trinitarianism recognizes God as being three in one - no person of the Trinity should be disregarded for the sake of boosting the Christology.
The same principle applies to 2 Peter 1:1. The KJV says, "the righteousness of God and our Saviour Jesus Christ". There is no reason to incorporate the Granville Sharp rule as the very next verse seems to make a distinction between the two persons of the Trinity. 2 Peter 1:2 says, "the knowledge of God, and of Jesus our Lord", which seems to make a distinction between "God" and "Jesus our Lord". Whenever "God" appears in 2 Peter it appears to refer to God the Father. 2 Peter 1:17 refers to "God the Father". Verses 1:21, 2:4 and 3:5 refer to God as revealed in the Old Testament, which is as God the Father. What complicates the rendering of 2 Peter 1:1 in the KJV is the textual variant issue. The KJV followed an authority that is supported by manuscript 621 (11th century) and the Old Latin text-type of L:T (Novum Testamentum Graecum: Editio Critica Maior: IV Catholic Letters, Text, 2nd Ed. (Stuttgart: Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft, 2013), p. 204). This Old Latin text-type L:T is "attested in the 5th/6th cent. in Africa, Spain, Gaul (and Ireland), Italy: 32 55 64; readings in the Vulgate tradition, particularly CΣ; AU, QU, FU, FAC; SALV; CAr, EP-SC" (Novum Testamentum Graecum: Editio Critica Maior: IV Catholic Letters, Supplementary Material, 2nd Ed. (Stuttgart: Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft, 2013), p. 65). The KJV rendering is simply a straightforward translation of "δικαιοσυνη του θεου και σωτηρος ημων ιησου χριστου" (Literally: righteousness of the God and Saviour [of] our[s] Jesus Christ). Although the KJV follows a minority reading, this portion of 2 Peter 1:1 might well in fact be preserved in the minority. This portion has undergone some early tampering as demonstrated by Codex Sinaiticus (4th century) and several subsequent witnesses having "κυριου" instead of "θεου" (Nestle-Aland: Novum Testamentum Graece, 27th revised edition (2006)). Switching the identify of the being in question at an early stage could reasonably invite a change in the possessive adjective attached to it. Another alternative reading, "δικαιοσυνη του θεου ημων και σωτηρος ημων ιησου χριστου", supports the KJV reading insofar that it has ημων after σωτηρος. This is supported by manuscript 915 (13th century) and Armenian and Ethiopic manuscripts (Novum Testamentum Graecum: Editio Critica Maior: IV Catholic Letters, Text, 2nd Ed. (Stuttgart: Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft, 2013), p. 204).
With respect to verses such as 2 Peter 1:11 and 3:18, the KJV is not incorporating the Granville Sharp rule at all but simply translating them literally in accordance with the Greek word order (with the possessive pronoun brought to the front of the linked noun). I.e. "βασιλειαν του κυριου ημων και σωτηρος ιησου χριστου" is "kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ" and "γνωσει του κυριου ημων και σωτηρος ιησου χριστου" is "knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ".
The conclusion is that the Granville Sharp rule is very tricky to apply in a Trinitarian context. The rule states that if conditions are met "the two nouns always refer to the same person". However, it is not always clear whether "God" in a given context is used in reference to the Father, to the Son or to both. Thus it is not always clear whether "God" is the "same person (of the Trinity)" as Jesus Christ in a given context. The Trinity is indeed a great mystery. The KJV avoids any potential theological problem by avoiding the use of the rule and allowing the reader to interpret.
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