The Granville Sharp Rule EXPOSED

Summary

Many Trinitarians maintain that the Granville Sharp Rule makes Jesus “God” in Titus 2:13 and 2 Peter 1:1.  

Yet, there are some alarming facts behind this rule that most Christians know nothing about.

Granville Sharp created six rules on the Greek article but scholars reject rules 2-6. 


Granville Sharp claimed that eight verses were mistranslated in the KJV Bible and needed to be changed to make Jesus God (Ephesians 5:5, 2 Thessalonians 1:12, 1 Timothy 5:21, Titus 2:13, 2 Peter 1:1, Jude 4, Acts 20:28, 2 Timothy 4:1). 

However, most Trinitarian scholars reject six of these eight verses which leave Titus 2:13 and 2 Peter 1:1.

There is more. Dr. Daniel Wallace quietly re-defined Granville Sharp’s first rule, while claiming that Granville Sharp’s first rule is valid. Evidence will also be submitted that Wallace’s refinement of Sharp’s rule is also invalid.

Please continue reading as we expand this summary and much more.

Introduction

This study will primarily use three books. The first is, 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. This book, written by Granville Sharp, was published in 1803. It is his fourth and final edition, and therefore, essential when investigating his grammatical rules.


The next two books are Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics (1996), and Granville Sharp’s Canon and Its Kin (2009). Both books were written by Dr. Daniel Wallace, Senior Research Professor of New Testament Studies at Dallas Theological Seminary. 

The work and research of Dr. Daniel Wallace will be examined because it is widely cited today and has become influential to affirm that Jesus is God Himself in Titus 2:13 and 2 Peter 1:1.

Granville Sharp

Granville Sharp (1735-1813) was an English scholar, social activist, slave abolitionist, author, and much more. He left his mark on Christianity with six rules he created surrounding the Greek article. Based on the title of his book above, Granville Sharp maintained that he uncovered “many new proofs of the divinity of Jesus” and that these verses were “wrongly translated” in the KJV.

Rules of Grammar vs Principles of Grammar

A rule in grammar should not be confused with a general principle. A rule of grammar is more definitive than a principle of grammar. Because Granville Sharp’s first rule used the word “always” when the conditions were met, the rule (when applicable) applied 100% of the time. If this rule is not absolute, it should be discarded or reclassified into a general principle of Koine Greek grammar.

Before a rule in grammar is accepted and deployed it should be tested and verified. Just because someone creates ‘a rule’ does not automatically make it authoritative.

Before testing Granville Sharp’s first rule, it’s necessary to determine which elements are included.

The Original Granville Sharp Rule

In his book, Granville Sharp provides six rules with verses and explanations. What is known today as the Granville Sharp rule is a refinement of his first rule. Here is Granville Sharp’s first rule:

“When the copulative και connects two nouns of the same case, [viz. nouns (either substantive or adjective, or participles) of personal description, respecting office, dignity, affinity, or connexion, and attributes, properties, or qualities, good or ill], if the article ὁ, 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: i.e. it denotes a farther description of the first-named person . . . “ (3).

Unless you are already familiar with this rule, a quick conceptualization is unlikely. Because this rule is complicated, an investigation requires diligent study. Since influential Trinitarian scholars have affirmed its validity, Christians have rested on this validation.

A breakdown of Sharp’s First Rule

“When the copulative και connects two nouns of the same case”

Let’s stop here. The word “copulative” describes a connecting word. The Greek word “και” is usually translated into English as “and.”

This can be illustrated as noun (same case) και noun (same case).

In Biblical Greek, nouns contain one of five cases. 

Continuing on, “When the copulative και connects two nouns of the same case, [viz. nouns (either substantive or adjective, or participles) of personal description, respecting office, dignity, affinity, or connexion, and attributes, properties, or qualities, good or ill],”

Here Sharp narrows nouns that qualify. They must be “substantive, adjective, or participles” that are of “personal description.” Then he further illustrates these personal nouns by providing a description. Mr. Sharp went on to include several verses in his book to illustrate these personal qualities. 

The rule continues, “if the article ὁ, 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: i.e. it denotes a farther description of the first-named person . . . “ (3).

This rule must have the correct sequence to be valid. It is article, personal noun (or participle), followed by another personal noun (or participle). The article cannot be repeated before the second noun or participle.

Now, we move on to the outcome when the rule is triggered. There is one or two possible outcomes depending on interpretation.

If only one outcome is understood, both nouns describe the same person.

The second interpretation considers the word “or.” When the rule is active, it always relates to the same person that is expressed. In order words, they are not the same person but there is a relationship or connection between them. The second possible outcome is: “it always denotes a farther description of the first-named person.” This means that they are the same person.

If this is confusing, it will be discussed in more detail.

Dr. Daniel Wallace’s Refinement of Granville Sharp’s First Rule

Sharp did not discuss plural nouns in his first rule. In fact, after saying nothing about plural nouns in his rule, Sharp went on to strikingly write three pages later that some plural nouns where allowed: “there is no exception or instance of the like mode of expression, that I know of, which necessarily requires a construction different from what is here laid down, except that nouns be proper names, or in the plural number; in which case there are many exceptions; though there are not wanting examples, even of plural nouns, which are expressed exactly agreeable [sic] to this rule.” (G. Sharp, Remarks on the Uses of the Definitive Article in the Greek Text of the New Testament [3d ed.; London: Rivington, 1803] 6).

This quote seems to explain why Sharp did not restrict plural nouns to his rule.

While Granville Sharp did not say when plural nouns were admissible, he explicitly left the door open for exceptions agreeable to his rule. 

Because the allowance of plurals within the boundaries of Granville Sharp’s rule is theologically disastrous, Wallace excluded all plural nouns in his revision.

To demonstrate how theological disastrous plural nouns are, to follow are two examples.

In Matthew 3:7, the Pharisees and Sadducees would be one group of people, not two.

Similarly, in Ephesians 4:11, the shepherds and teachers should be understood as one group of people without distinction against the semantic force of the sentence.

In 2009, Dr. Daniel Wallace released the book, Granville Sharp’s Canon and Its Kin. After the publication of this book, Dr. Stanley E. Porter, a Trinitarian and distinguished professor at McMaster Divinity College, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada published a rebuking review of Wallace’s book. He writes, “In his attempt to prove Sharp’s rule at almost any cost, Wallace ends up becoming one of those who has misunderstood Sharp, like those he so sharply criticizes in chapters 2 and 3.”

Porter, S. E. (2010). Review of Granville Sharp’s Canon and Its Kin: Semantics and Significance by Daniel B. Wallace. Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society53(4), 831.

Dr. Porter further writes, “It is fine if Wallace wishes to modify or change or restrict Sharp’s rule, but he probably should then not make claims for the new rule as if it were Sharp’s rule, as indicated above” Porter, S. E. (2013). Granville Sharp’s Rule: A Response To Dan Wallace, Or Why A Critical Book Review Should Be Left Alone. Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 56, 56(1), 98.

This is a sad commentary on what I believe Stanley Porter interprets as dishonest scholarship. I have placed links for some exchange that occurred between Dr. Wallace and Dr. Porter. Some of this writing is a consequence of reading their exchange. 

The Wallace Revision and Proper Names

Granville Sharp’s first rule does not forbid proper names. But Wallace excluded them in his definition. Did Sharp intend to include or exclude proper names? 

When Sharp explained his first rule in the pages that followed, he said: “there is no exception or instance of the like mode of expression, that I know of, which necessarily requires a construction different from what is here laid down, except that nouns be proper names, or in the plural number; in which case there are many exceptions; though there are not wanting examples, even of plural nouns, which are expressed exactly agreeable [sic] to this rule.” (G. Sharp, Remarks on the Uses of the Definitive Article in the Greek Text of the New Testament [3d ed.; London: Rivington, 1803] 6).

While it is clear that some plural nouns were allowed (already discussed), there is some ambiguity here regarding proper names because of the word “or.” 

However, this ambiguity is lifted because Sharp, when covering his first rule, lists several Christological verses that include personal names. 

Wallace confessed: “Granville Sharp believed that several Christologically significant texts involved the TSKS construction. However, several of these involved dubious textual variants (e.g., Acts 20:28; Jude 4), and others had proper names (Eph 5:5; 2 Thess 1:12; 1 Tim 5:21; 2 Tim 4:1).” Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics: An Exegetical Syntax of the New Testament (p. 276).

We are going to cover these four verses later. I just wanted to demonstrate that Wallace admits that Sharp included proper names within the scope of his first rule. But Wallace backflips by claiming that Sharp excluded them: 

“However, a perusal of his monograph reveals that he felt the rule could be applied absolutely ONLY to personal, singular, non-proper nouns” Wallace, D. B. (1996). Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics: An Exegetical Syntax of the New Testament (p. 271). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

And

“Therefore, according to Sharp, the rule applied absolutely only with personal, singular, and non-proper nouns.” Wallace, D. B. (1996). Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics: An Exegetical Syntax of the New Testament (p. 272). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

Wallace contradicts himself. He admits that Sharp allowed plural names and yet sadly claims that he forbids them.

Here are some examples from the New Testament that demonstrate the fallacy of Sharp’s original rule with proper names:

In Matthew 17:1, Peter, James, and John would be the same person.

In Matthew 27:56, James and Joseph would be the same person.

Sharp imposed a double standard by allowing proper names under his rule for select Christological verses while not applying this standard to non-Christological verses, thereby averting a disaster. Wallace, in contrast, reconfigures Sharp as someone who prohibited all proper names.

Did Wallace Revise the Outcome to Always be the Same Referent?

According to Sharp’s first rule, when activated, there are one or two outcomes, depending on how one understands his first rule. Here is the phrase that contains ambiguity: “…the latter always relates to the same person that is expressed or described by the first noun or participle: i.e. it denotes a farther description of the first-named person . . . “ (3).

Dr. Wallace’s understanding is that this entire phrase results in one outcome when the rule is active: “a farther description of the first-named person.” As stated earlier, Wallace compressed this entire statement in his refinement to say: “they always referred to the same person.”

A second understanding that I think is more probable contains two possible outcomes when the rule is triggered. The first outcome considers that the word “relates“ indicates a connection between two persons, who are not the same person. Please notice it does not say “the latter always is the same person that is expressed, but relates.

This understanding is consistent with the word “or” which separates a second outcome that we discussed where both nouns describe the same person. 

This second understanding (which contains two possible outcomes) is supported by Dr. Porter. He writes, “Wallace further stresses that Sharp means that the substantives must have an “identical referent” (p. 52 n. 95; cf. p. 91); however, that is not what the rule says. It is only when Sharp is discussing Christologically significant examples that he uses such terms as “identity of person(s)” (Sharp, Remarks 28, 30). Wallace seems to have a narrower view of the rule than did Sharp himself” ( Porter, S. E. (2010). Review of Granville Sharp’s Canon and Its Kin: Semantics and Significance by Daniel B. Wallace. Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society53(4), 828–832).

Finally, if two possible outcomes are understood, and had Sharp’s original rule been valid, it did not automatically make Jesus “God” in Titus 2:13 and 2 Peter 1:1.

Wallace’s Subjective definition of Proper Names

Wallace’s refinement of Sharp to forbid all proper nouns faced another hurdle. Titus 2:13 and 2 Peter 1:1 contain proper nouns that Wallace disallows. So Wallace may have redefined proper nouns expressly for these verses. He writes:

“A proper noun is defined as a noun which cannot be “pluralized” (272). Let’s stop here. This fabricated rule communicates that since the word “God” can also be pluralized (gods: John 10:34), it is not a proper noun. Because the word “God” in the context is a proper noun, Wallace apparently diminished Almighty God to a common noun. In contrast, translations correctly capitalized this word here because it is a proper name for God. In fact, it is the most cited name for God in the Bible.

This rule, which appears inspired by theological necessity is only a rule in disguise. There are exceptions. In his book, Granville Sharp’s Canon and Its Kin: Semantics and Significance, Wallace states, “On the other hand, it is possible on a rare occasion for even a proper name to be pluralized” (160). He then goes on to provide exceptions.

Earlier, a quote was provided by Wallace admitting that Sharp allowed proper names in his rule; notice these verses [read only verse references]: “Granville Sharp believed that several Christologically significant texts involved the TSKS construction. However, several of these involved dubious textual variants (e.g., Acts 20:28; Jude 4), and others had proper names (Eph 5:5; 2 Thess 1:12; 1 Tim 5:21; 2 Tim 4:1).” Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics: An Exegetical Syntax of the New Testament (p. 276).

Let’s consider these four verses. Proper names applicable to the original Granville Sharp Rule are noted.

“5For you may be sure of this, that everyone who is sexually immoral or impure, or who is covetous (that is, an idolater), has no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God” (Ephesians 5:5).

“12so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Th 1:12).

“21In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus and of the elect angels I charge you to keep these rules without prejudging, doing nothing from partiality” (1 Ti 5:21).

“1 I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom” (2 Ti 4:1).

Granville Sharp applied his rule to these four verses because he allowed proper names. But Wallace, on the other hand, based on his refinement of Sharp, forbids proper names. 

The two verses that Wallace has influenced Trinitarians to believe that make Jesus God, also also includes proper names. This is a colossal double standard.

13 Waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ” (Titus 2:13).

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” (2 Peter 1:1).

The Trinitarian NET Bible writes the following note for Titus 2:13:

“The only issue is whether terms such as “God” and “Savior” could be considered common nouns as opposed to proper names. Sharp and others who followed (such as T. F. Middleton in his masterful The Doctrine of the Greek Article) demonstrated that a proper name in Greek was one that could not be pluralized. Since both “God” (θεός, theos) and “savior” (σωτήρ, sōtēr) were occasionally found in the plural, they did not constitute proper names, and hence, do fit Sharp’s rule” Biblical Studies Press. (2005). The NET Bible First Edition; Bible. English. NET Bible.; The NET Bible. Biblical Studies Press.

In my reading of both Middleton and Sharp, I don’t recall any mention that proper names in Greek could not be pluralized. While I could have missed this; if you find this, please let me know.

Secondly, Jesus is used in the New Testament as a proper name over 900 times. But Wallace won’t allow this here because he wants the Apostle Paul and Peter to call Jesus God in the New Testament which they don’t. 

Flattery and Revised History

Wallace embellishes, “Even Sharp’s opponents could not find any exceptions; all had to admit that the rule was valid in the NT.” Wallace, D. B. (1996). Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics: An Exegetical Syntax of the New Testament (p. 273).

Many Christians hear and believe such flattery. Why does Wallace even call them “Sharp’s opponents” since they all admitted the validity of his rule?

Dr. Wallace is not the only scholar to exaggerate. The NET Bible boasts, “Although there have been 200 years of attempts to dislodge Sharp’s rule, all attempts have been futile. Sharp’s rule stands vindicated after all the dust has settled” Biblical Studies Press. (2005). The NET Bible First Edition; Bible. English. NET Bible.; The NET Bible. Biblical Studies Press.

Such exaggerations I suspect come from the deeply held Trinitarian presupposition that because Jesus is God Himself —no objective counter examinations are even considered.

But under the cover of lies and deceit, is the truth. Some opponents provided solid objections. 

One of Sharp’s contemporaries and critics was Trinitarian scholar Calvin Winstanley. His refutation of Sharp’s canon should have forever dismissed Sharp’s rules. But because some theologians force Trinitarian presuppositions into God’s Word, Sharp’s rule (at least in a revised form) lives on.

Dr. Wallace who claimed, “Even Sharp’s opponents could not find any exceptions” performed an about-face and infers that Winstanley found exceptions to Sharp’s rule. He writes, “In fact, he produced numerous examples outside the NT that fit these requirements [when writing of Sharp’s first rule] but which bore a different semantic force, viz., referring to two individuals rather than one.” (63) Granville Sharp’s Canon and Its Kin.

Let’s stop there. Today’s Sharp’s rule states that when the conditions are present, it always describes one person without exceptions. So Wallace’s “semantic force” exception is an implicit admission that the rule is invalid because semantic forces in sentences exist. But of course, no semantic force considerations are allowed in Titus 2:13 and 2 Peter 1:1 where one person is in view.

Wallace continues, “The second edition of A Vindication of Certain Passages in the Common English Version of the New Testament, published six years after Sharp’s death (1819), constitutes to this day the latest and most complete list of exceptions to Sharp’s rule. We can enlarge on the categories of exceptions that he found. Winstanley is to be regarded as the most formidable adversary of Sharp’s rule, but not the most influential.” (63). Granville Sharp’s Canon and Its Kin.

Again, Wallace has it both ways. Now there are so many exceptions to Sharp’s rule that they can be categorized, wow!

Sharp’s Six Rules

As mentioned in the introduction, Sharp did not construct one rule, but six. But today, no credible Christian Greek grammarian, Christian college, or university to my knowledge uses rules two through six.

Sharp unbelievably claimed that rules 2-6 demonstrate how the first rule was valid: “The rules which follow [2-6] are intended only to illustrate the particularity of the several sentences which fall under the first rule, by showing, in other sentences, the different senses that are occasioned by adding, omitting, or repeating, the article, as well with the copulative as without it.” (51).

He also wrote, “The Various uses of the article and copulative, expressed in the five last rules and their exceptions, must amply illustrate, to every attentive reader, the difference and particularity of those sentences, which fall under the first and principal rule; and therefore, I may now proceed, with more confidence to point out several important corrections that ought to be made in our common translation of the New Testament ….” (19-20).

Sharp is saying that rules 2-6 illustrate the qualities or particulars of several sentences that illustrate the first rule. But sadly, this is untrue. These additional rules are contradictory. 

His second rule states: “A repetition of the article before the second noun, if the copulative be omitted, will have the same effect and power: [Lets pause here. This is a different construction altogether than the first rule. It involves article-noun-article-noun. He is saying that this construction will have the same effect and power. But this is illogical. How can a strikingly different construction demonstrate the first rule’s construction? But it gets more bazaar. He continues, “for, it donates a further description of the same person, property or thing, that is expressed by the first noun; as in the following examples:”

The first rule was not about properties or things. It dealt with personal nouns that related to each other or described the same person. When non-personal nouns are introduced into Sharp’s rule it brings additional contradictions. 

Some of the verses that Sharp provided to illustrate his second rule even included nouns with different cases. This further broadens the scope and introducing more contradictions. 

Conclusion

Granville Sharp’s rule has no place in righteous, exegetical scholarship. It’s objectionable that this fabricated rule lives on and has made its way into exegetical commentaries, Christian universities, the mouth of scholars, pastors, and laymen alike.

In his book, Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics: An Exegetical Syntax of the New Testament, Wallace brilliantly writes, “The nature of language is such that grammar cannot be isolated from other elements such as context, lexeme, or other grammatical features” Wallace, D. B. (1996). (p. xiii). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan. This accurate statement is incompatible with Granville Sharp’s first rule. Granville Sharp’s rule is a mechanical construction that brings meaning to a sentence independent of “other elements such as context, lexeme, or other grammatical features.”

I believe that most who advance Sharp’s rule are sincere and don’t doubt its applicability. Because Trinitarians already believe that Jesus is God incarnate, it’s easy to contend for a rule without verification.

A consultation with the Ante-Nicene Fathers, Post Nicene Fathers, and other early Greek writings provide no evidence that such a rule existed. This omission coincides with Sharp’s formulation of this rule.

May the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ bless you, beloved, as you follow Christ’s footsteps to the Father’s house.

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