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Friday, August 9, 2013

Sharp's Rule (Titus 2:13, 2 Pet. 1:1, 2 Thess. 1:12, 1 Tim. 5:21, Eph. 5:5)

In an attempt to prove the trinity doctrine, Granville Sharp made up a rule in 1798. It is often called "Sharp's Rule" by trinitarians. It says, in effect, that when two or more words (nouns) are joined by the word "and" they all refer to the same person if the word "the" (the article) comes before the first noun and not before the other noun(s): "THE king AND _master of the castle."

Sharp invented this rule after he noticed this particular construction (sometimes called a "Sharp's construction") was used with "God" and "Christ" in 5 places in the NT. IF he could convince others that his "rule" was true, then they would think there was finally (after 1400 years of a "trinity" tradition) absolute grammatical Bible proof that God and Jesus are the same "person"!

Probably the most telling blow against this 200-year-old controversial rule is the rejection of it by so many of the most respected trinitarian Bible language experts. Even Trinitarian Daniel B. Wallace (who desperately tries for some kind of "absolute" scriptural proof for a trinity idea) complains that

"so many grammarians and exegetes objected to the validity of Granville Sharp's Rule with reference to texts dealing with the Deity of Christ"!

He specifically mentions "the great Greek grammarian," G. B. Winer (trinitarian) and "one of the greatest grammarians of this century," J. H. Moulton[1] (trinitarian) as rejecting this "rule"!

I have also seen that the Roman Catholic scholar Karl Rahner[2] rejects this rule as do C. F. D. Moule[3] and Henry Alford[4]. Even famed trinitarian scholar Dr. James Moffatt ("probably the greatest biblical scholar of our day") showed his rejection of the "absoluteness" of this rule by his rendering of Titus 2:13.[5]

In fact, even very trinitarian Daniel B. Wallace complains that the common translation of Titus 2:13 as found in the KJV ("the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ") treats "`God' and `Savior' separately"! - Emphasis mine; Compare 2 Peter 1:1, 2 KJV). The same separation can be seen in the ASV (Titus 2:13), the Douay Version, and the NEB (footnote).

Additionally, at Titus 2:13 the Sahidic Coptic text reads noute. mn penswthr ihsous pecristos, "God, and our Savior Jesus Christ." Thus, two Persons are in view, not one and the same. The Coptic translators did not know of a "Granville Sharp Rule.

And even stranger, perhaps, is the fact that, even though Wallace's examples show Paul using "Sharp's rule" many times, John (who most trinitarians consider the Bible writer who most frequently and most clearly "declares Jesus' deity" and who, undeniably, is the only Gospel writer who ever actually applied the term theos ["God" or "god"] directly to Jesus) never uses Sharp's "Rule" to show Jesus' alleged equality with god!

And we can see John's understanding of Jesus' relationship to God at John 17:1, 3; John 20:17; Rev. 1:6 (RSV - Compare Rev. 5:9, 10); Rev. 3:12.

There are many places where (if the trinity doctrine were really true, and if Sharp's rule really worked "absolutely") John should have used the "Rule." For example, see Rev. 14:4 - "the firstfruits to the God and to the Lamb." (Compare Rev. 7:10 and examine Revelation chapters 4 and 5.)

If Sharp's "Rule" is the only way (as even Wallace admits) that one can find even four passages which show with "absolute grammatical certainty" that "Jesus Christ is God," then the "Jesus = God" concept is actually grammatically uncertain in all of the Bible. Certainly this would not be the case in God's inspired word if Jesus were really equally God! - 2 Tim. 3:16-17.


1.       J. H. Moulton's  A  Grammar of New Testament Greek, p. 84, Vol. 1, says:  "We cannot discuss here the problem of Titus 2:13, for we must, as grammarians, leave the matter open ...."  As a trinitarian, however, he later tried to justify a trinitarian interpretation of Titus 2:13 "historically" (rather than grammatically) by citing certain 7th century A. D. manuscripts.  This certainly shows that Moulton ("one of the greatest grammarians of this century" according to Wallace himself) did not reject Sharp's "Rule" because of a "theological bias" as Wallace claims (p. 102), but, in spite of a strong trinitarian "theological bias" rejected Sharp's "Rule" on grammatical grounds even though he preferred (for inadequate "historical" reasons and a theological trinitarian bias) a trinitarian interpretation of Titus 2:13.

2.        The Roman Catholic scholar, Karl Rahner, commenting on 2 Peter 1:1, says that `God' "here is clearly separated from `Christ'." - Theological Investigations, Karl Rahner, pp. 136, 137, Vol.1, 3rd printing: 1965.

3.        According to An Idiom-Book of New Testament Greek, by C. F. D. Moule, Cambridge, England, 1971, p. 109, at Titus 2:13, the sense "of the Great God, and of our Saviour Jesus Christ ... is possible in [New Testament] Greek even without the repetition [of the definite article before the second noun]."

4.       Famed British NT scholar and trinitarian clergyman Henry Alford wrote: "I would submit that [a translation which clearly differentiates God from Christ at Titus 2:13] satisfies all the grammatical requirements of the sentence: that it is both structurally and contextually more probable, and more agreeable to the Apostle's [Paul's] way of writing." - The Greek Testament, p. 421, Vol. 3.  And,

“I have fully discussed the question in the note on [Titus 2:13], to which I would refer the reader as my justification for interpreting here [2 Peter 1:1], as there, [‘the god of us’] of the Father, and [‘savior jesus christ’] of the Son.” - p. 390, Vol. 4.

5. "Of the Glory of the great God and of our Saviour Christ Jesus" - Titus 2:13,The Bible,  A New Translation by Dr. James Moffatt, Professor of New Testament Greek at Oxford University.


For much more concerning 'Sharp's Rule', see:

'Sharp's Rule' Primer (Examining the Trinity)

SHARP'S Rule (Examining the Trinity)

SHARP'S Rule (Endnotes) (Examining the Trinity)

Sharp's Rule (A response to a major accusation made by Robert H. Countess) (Defending the NWT)

Titus 2:13 (rs p. 405-p. 426; Watchtower Online Library)


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