The references to "the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ" and "God and our Saviour Jesus Christ" are assumed to teach that Jesus is God. Trinitarians quote the supposed Granville Sharp rule in support of this; they explain this as meaning 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".
1. This reasoning proves too much; if those verses are to be interpretted as claimed, then Jesus and God are directly equal; the great God was our Saviour, was Jesus in person. Yet clearly Jesus was the Saviour whom God the Father sent; "The Father sent the Son to be the Saviour of the world" (1 Jn. 4:14; Jn. 15:21; 16:5); and he who is sent is inferior to the one who sent him: "He that is sent is not greater than He that sent him" (Jn. 13:16). To argue that God the Father is one and the same person as God the Son is [to use Trinitarian jargon] to 'confuse the persons' of the Trinity.
2. 'Jesus', in Hebrew 'Yehoshua', means 'The salvation of Yah'. He is the means of God's salvation. It's no surprise, therefore, to read of "God" and Jesus, His Son, our Saviour, in close proximity. We could even say that God was our Saviour- through Christ. But this doesn't make God equal to Jesus or Jesus one and the same person as God. The close connection between Father and Son can be explained in far better ways than to suppose that they are one and the same being.
3. Granville Sharp's rule has been criticized even by Trinitarians as being an over-zealous attempt to prove the Trinity, and some Trinitarians have warned that it shouldn't be used to attack the Unitarian position because it simply isn't true (1). Examples have been given from other classical Greek writings of where this 'rule' simply doesn't hold up. Middleton draws attention to Herodotus’ Histories 4.71: “the cup-bearer and cook and groom and servant and messenger” (toVn oijnocovon kaiV mavgeiron kaiV iJppokovmon kaiV dihvkonon kaiV ajggelihfovron) (2). The Greek translation of the Old Testament [the Septuagint] clearly doesn't follow this rule. Prov. 24:21 LXX: “Fear God, O son, and the king” (fobou' toVn qeovn, uiJev, kaiV basileva). Granville Sharp was far better known as a political activist and campaigner against slavery than for his abilities in Greek grammar.
4. Even if the supposed "rule" is valid, we are left with Jesus being called 'God', theos. I have shown elsewhere in these studies that this word was commonly used in the first century as a term of exaltation and didn't necessarily mean that the person addressed as 'God' was in fact understood as God Almighty; hence Jewish writings could refer to Moses as 'God' whilst very clearly advocating a Unitarian view of God Himself. The identity of God's Son is surely to be determined by our interpretation of Scripture, rather than according to our acceptance or otherwise of a fine point of Ancient Greek grammar- a language which is no longer spoken and therefore the actual validity of rules of this nature is impossible to verify.
5. It is misleading to speak of Granville Sharp's "rule". It's an observation, a hypothesis, and it is not to be found in any grammar of Ancient Greek written before his time. The fact there are exceptions to it surely demonstrates it isn't a "rule" at all. My personal submission is that in his zeal to 'prove the Trinity', he confused idiom with the concept of grammatical rules. What he observes in his supposed "rule" is indeed often although not always the case; but this is a function of idiom rather than grammatical construction.
(1) See amongst others: Daniel B Wallace, Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics: An Exegetical Syntax of the New Testament (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1997) p. 273, note 50; Calvin Winstanley, A Vindication of Certain Passages in the Common English Version of the New Testament: Addressed to Granville Sharp, Esq. (London: Longman, 1819 ed.) pp. 39–40- available on Google Books.
(2) T.F. Middleton, The Doctrine of the Greek Article (London: Cadell & Davies, 1808), available on Google books.
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