Sunday, July 22, 2007

Bentley Layton on John 1:1c

In his new grammar book, Coptic in 20 Lessons (Peeters Leuven, 2007) Bentley Layton has a valuable comment on Coptic John 1:1c, which says auw ne.u.noute pe p.Saje. He shows it can be diagrammed in this manner:

auw = and
ne = past tense marker, "was"
u.noute = a god
pe = is
p.Saje = the Word

Thus, literally, the Coptic sentence says "and a god was the Word."

True, Layton includes the traditional English "and the Word was God." But it can be noted that the traditional translation is inconsistent with his own grammatical exposition on page 7. "A god" does not equal "God." And elsewhere, in other examples in his grammar, Layton translates the Coptic construction of indefinite article + common noun into English as "a" + noun.

So clearly, the literal translation of Coptic John 1:1c's indefinite construction is "and the Word was a god." This is especially so since John's context of the Word is that of an entity, not just an abstract idea. (Cf. Layton, page 34)

The Coptic indefinite syntactical pattern at John 1:1c does not support the traditional definite reading, "the Word was God."

It is now confirmed by yet another reputable Coptic grammatical resource that the literal translation of Coptic John 1:1c is "and the Word was a god." This is what the Coptic text actually says.

Anything beyond that is commentary and paraphrase.