Can “our God and Savior, Jesus” mean two persons? (Titus 2:13, 2 Pet 1:1)
About this question
When the New Testament speaks of “our God and Savior, Jesus” (Titus 2:13 and 2 Pet 1:1), rather than implying that Jesus is God, couldn't “God” simply refer to one person, and “Savior” to another (namely Jesus)?
Unlike secular insitutions, some religious groups (notably Jehovah's Witnesses and Muslims) have tried to argue that this can refer to two persons.
That would violate the Granville-Sharp Rule
Rending “our God and Savior, Jesus” as referring to two persons violates the Granville-Sharp Rule. (What is the Greek grammar rule?)1 This is relevant because the Granville-Sharp rule is well established.2
But wait …
- …these verses use “god”/“savior” as a proper name, and so isn't it exempt from Sharp's rule?2
- What is the Granville-Sharp rule? In Greek, when you have two nouns, as long as (i) they cannot be proper names (like “Jesus”) describing a person, (ii) they are connected by the word “and”, and (iii) only the first noun is prefaced by "the", then both nouns are referring to the same person. To elaborate:
• Granville Sharp: “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 ...” [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 (Vernor and Hood, 1803), 8.]
• Daniel Wallace: “In native Greek (i.e., not translation Greek), when a single article modifies two substantives connected by kaiv (thus, article-substantive-kaiv-substantive), when both substantives are (1) singular (both grammatically and semantically), (2) personal, (3) and common nouns (not proper names or ordinals), they have the same referent.” [“The Article with Multiple Substantives Connected by Kaiv in the New Testament: Semantics and Significance” (Ph.D. dissertation, Dallas Theological Seminary, 1995) 134-35.]
- This is inaccurate; God and Savior are not being used as proper names:
• NET Bible Translator notes (Dallas Theological Seminary): “Sharp and others who followed… demonstrated that a proper name in Greek was one that could not be pluralized. Since both “God” (θεός, qeos) and “savior” (σωτήρ, swthr) were occasionally found in the plural, they did not constitute proper names, and hence, do fit Sharp's rule.”
Regarding Mt 21:12:
“Despite the fact that prestigious sources say things like “Although there have been 200 years of attempts to dislodge Sharp's rule, all attempts have been futile.” ([here]). Still, Jehovah's Witnesses sometimes cite Abbot's attack on the rule, where he allegedly finds two exceptions in Mt 21:12 and 2 Thes 1:2. Regarding both of these however, proper names are used and therefore the rule does not apply to them.
• Daniel Wallace: “Even a scholar the stature of Ezra Abbot, though interacting explicitly with Sharp and Middleton ('Titus 2:13'), failed on two counts in his understanding of Sharp's rule: (1) he suggests that touV" pwlou'nta" kaiV ajgoravzonta" in Matt 21:12 proves Sharp's rule wrong ('No one can reasonably suppose that the same persons are here described as both selling and buying,' 452), even though plural substantives are involved; and (2) he argues that English syntax is wholly analogous to Greek with reference to Sharp's rule (451-52). Yet, as we have seen, in his appendix, Sharp rightly takes G. Blunt to task for just such a supposition (Remarks on the Uses of the Definitive Article, 126, 147) [Granville Sharp's Canon and Its Kin: Semantics and Significance (Peter Lang, 2009), 74.]Regarding 2 Thes 1:12:
• Ed Komoszewski: “Of course, Abbot's theory encounters a slight problem here, since neither of his supposed parallels fall within the scope of Granville Sharp's rule.... Abbot's second example in 2 Thessalonians 1:12 of a distinction between the Father and Jesus Christ also falls outside the scope of Sharp's rule, since kurivou =Ihsou' Cristou' is a common title possessing the qualities of a proper name." [“The New World Translation and Christologically Significant Article-Substantive-Kai-Substantive Constructions in the New Testament” [online at bible.org]