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More on Sharp's Rule, Trinitarianism and Rob Bowman
Part One: Some Observations on Bowman's Attitude and Arguments

By Greg Stafford

In response to my recent, online review of Rob Bowman's article on Sharp's rule, Bowman has put forth a series of five posts to try and discredit my review, but he has also attacked my character. Ironically, Bowman has accused me of attacking him, repeating myself, and failing to understand certain issues relating to the proper understanding of the subjects we have considered thus far, which include Sharp's rule and the meaning of the term "God." We will examine his claims and see if his accusations are justified.

Since these posts are being sent to various boards for discussion, I have chosen a particular method of quoting and responding that will enable those reading these posts to follow the arguments as they are presented, in their proper order. It should be noted that Bowman has not addressed certain sections of my replies (he usually acknowledges this), for reasons that he believes are legitimate. However, several times it has been shown that his omission of a certain section of my reply is directly related to what I perceive to be a misunderstanding on his part, of the point(s) made. In order to avoid confusion, I will continue to follow my usual method of quoting (BOWMAN) and responding (STAFFORD). This way people can see the context of Bowman's replies, and determine if I have successfully addressed his claims. As explained in my introductory post, I am sending Parts One and Two now, and Parts Three through Six will be posted on the weekend. It is hoped that by separating my posts in this way, those who are reading them will not feel overwhelmed with material, and they will be able to understand the issues a little better.

I will be addressing all five of Bowman's posts, in the order in which they were presented. I will quote the title portion of each of Bowman's five posts, as he originally gave it, so that there is no doubt about the order of my response. I will also include Bowman's introductory comments so that others will understand Bowman's method of quotation.

Posted by Rob Bowman on June 18, 1998 at 20:59:41:

Reply to Stafford on Sharp's Rule
Part One: Preliminary Matters
By Robert M. Bowman, Jr.

Recently Greg Stafford wrote a critique of my paper on "Sharp's Rule and Antitrinitarian Theologies" (hereafter cited by page number as "Bowman") entitled "Trinitarian Apologetics." Greg's critique was posted to a Web page called DebateLog, which may be found at []. His reply was more or less a page by page, sometimes paragraph by paragraph, critique, with each of his comments keyed to a page of my paper. Since his critique has no pagination of its own, I will cite Greg's paper as "Stafford" followed by the page number(s) of my paper cited in his critique. Where he has multiple comments relating to the same page of my paper, I will add a letter after the page number. For example, "Stafford, 10b" would refer to Greg's second section ("b") commenting on page 10 of my paper. Hopefully this will allow for ease of consultation, since for sake of clarity, organization, and sheer space I will not be reproducing Greg's post here. My response to Greg will consist of a series of five posts under the following headings.

Part One. Preliminary Matters
Part Two. Proper Names and Semantic Units
Part Three. "The Great God" as a Proper Name
Part Four. "Savior Jesus Christ" as a Proper Name
Part Five. Proper Attribution of Divine Titles and Descriptions to Jesus

Although I will not be responding to every assertion in Stafford's critique, covering these ten points will provide a comprehensive and, I think, entirely adequate response.


I have two general comments to make about Greg's paper. The first is that it was extremely repetitive. Greg made many of his points three, four, or more times. I have had to spend a considerable amount of time simply trying to sort through his comments and organize them into a coherent order. While this criticism is rhetorical and not substantive, I present it because the casual reader may see the length of Greg's critique and suppose that he had a great deal of substance to offer. That proved not to be the case as I carefully studied it.

There is a simple explanation as to why I frequently repeat myself, Rob: You continue to make the same points, even after I have addressed them several times. Those reading our exchange will notice that my replies are directly beneath your comments, and are in direct response to what you have said. Therefore, unless you can provide an example of where my words are not in response to what you wrote, then it should be clear that my repetitions are the result of your repetitions.

Trinitarians have been taught to interpret the Bible a certain way, and to manipulate language to conform to creeds of later centuries. Because of this, it is easy for them to subconsciously (or consciously) employ these tactics throughout a discussion, or in a paper/book they are writing. This is not meant as an insult to trinitarians; it is a fact that has been demonstrated time and again, even in this very discussion. I am trying to draw everyone's attention to key issues that cannot be overlooked, and that are frequently assumed by trinitarians, but that are not legitimate.

My second general comment is that his characterization of my paper is wildly off-base. At one point he alleges that it was hastily written (Stafford, 30a, following 18). His claim that "Bowman completely ignores what Paul says" (Stafford, 23b), as well as his repeated assertions that I ignore the context of Titus 2:13 and 2 Peter 1:1 (Stafford, 8-9; 9-10; 13b; 20c), are absurd. Ironically, after saying that I completely ignore what Paul says, Stafford spent about a page discussing texts outside the writings of Paul, and did not refer to a single statement by Paul!

I believe I am entitled to my opinion as to whether or not your paper reflects careful thought, or an attempt to quickly put out some form of response to my book. The fact that you misread a rather simple section of my book that deals with compound proper names contributed to my characterization of your book as "hastily written." Just as you think you have reasons for characterizing my reply as "wildly off-base" and "absurd," I also have my reasons for viewing your work the way I do.

Now, on this matter of ignoring Paul, let's remind everyone what this is all about:


I find it rather strange that Bowman discounts the infrequent use of "the great God" in the LXX and NT as evidence against "the great God" functioning as a title recognizable only of Jehovah (though Bowman later hedged and agreed that such a concept would be created in the minds of Bible-believing persons when they heard or read about "the great God"), and yet he uses 5 occurrences of a term to allegedly establish that Paul could not have used this eschatological term for the appearance of the Son in the Father's glory, which is precisely what Mark 8:38 and Matthew 16:27 teach, and what the Paul is talking about in Titus 2:13. Abbot puts the matter succinctly:

The expression here is not "the appearing of the great God," but "the appearing of the glory of the great God," which is a very different thing. When our Saviour himself had said, "The Son of man shall come in the glory of his Father, with his angels" (Matt. xvi. 27, comp. Mark viii. 38), or as Luke expresses it, "in his own glory, and the glory of the Father, and of the holy angels" (ch. ix. 26), can we doubt that Paul, who had probably often heard Luke's report of these words, might speak of "the appearing of the glory" of the Father, as well as of Christ, at the second advent?--quoted in Jehovah's Witnesses Defended, page 243.

Bowman-Sharp, page 23
The question is not, what Paul could have said, or how Paul could have used the word epiphaneia. Of course, Paul could have spoken of the appearing of the Father's glory. But the question is what Paul did say and what he did mean. In the light of Paul's actual usage, especially in the parallel passage in 2 Timothy 1:9-10, we conclude that Paul used the word epiphaneia always with reference to the appearing of Jesus Christ.

No, the question is not what Paul could have said, but what he did say. Bowman completely ignores what Paul actually says. See Abbot's comments above and my book, page 242-244. The fact that "no man may see [Jehovah] and yet live" is strong testimony that the Father Himself will not appear. But, as was the case with Moses, His glory will be manifested, this time along with that of His Son.--Ex 33:20-22; Mt 16:27.

<<<<<END OF QUOTE>>>>>>>

Now, notice that Bowman did, in fact, completely ignore what Paul said. Bowman does not seem to understand that Paul speaks, not of the Father's appearance, but of the appearing of the GLORY of the "great God." This is in harmony with the Synoptic teaching that Jesus would appear in the glory of his Father. (Matt. 16:27; 8:38) Notice that I referred to Abbot's comments (see above) and my book. THEN I explained that what Paul actually said in Titus 2:13 is consistent with the biblical teaching that no one can see God, and that the Son will appear in the Father's glory. So my statement about Bowman ignoring what Paul said is quite accurate. Bowman is fond of making it look like he is the one who is being misrepresented, when in reality he is the one who continues to distort the facts. In saying this, I am merely pointing out what has happened. I am not attacking Bowman; I am attacking his methods, which are sometimes a reflection of the person employing them, and I can't help that!

One of the points I made is ridiculed by Stafford as a "lame argument," supposedly one of many that can be seen by consulting Stafford's book (Stafford, 18a). Later I will comment on this supposedly "lame argument." Here I will just observe that such rhetorical excesses do not live up to the standard Greg's supporters have lauded him for meeting. Is this the same Greg Stafford of whom Marley Cole wrote, "Greg Stafford is polite and respectful" (back cover of Jehovah's Witnesses Defended)? And it isn't just this one post. Greg has been consistently vitriolic, condescending, and smug in his posts over the past couple of months since I began participating in The Watchtower Review. I believe any fair-minded person reading my paper, even if he disagrees with my position, will have to admit that Greg's characterization of my work is both uncharitable and undeserved.

The term "lame" is frequently used of something "ineffectual." I personally believe that Bowman's arguments frequently fail to support his point. There is nothing "vitriolic," "condescending" or "smug" about it. I give reasons for what I say, and I feel the same way about his argument as I did before, and I will explain why (again) in Parts Three through Six of my reply. But Bowman seems to have a short, or should I say, selective, memory. He gives an example of where he thinks I have been "vitriolic," "condescending" and "smug." I regret that he has misunderstood my use of the term "lame." However, I would like Bowman to please explain the following "smug," "condescending," and downright immature statements:

Posted by Rob Bowman (via LSI) on May 28, 1998 at 16:19:14:

Re: Stafford's Reply
Date: Wed, 27 May 1998 23:53:30 -0400
From: "Robert M. Bowman, Jr."

Mike, instead of depending on your champion to defeat the trinitarian
dragons, I'd like to see what stuff you've got. Perhaps you'd care to take
a crack at responding to one of the chapters in my book _Understanding
Jehovah's Witnesses_ (Baker, 1991). The book has been out there for over
six years, and so far I haven't seen even one serious effort to respond to
any of it from a Jehovah's Witness. Let's see . . . "Day 2,400 and still
no response from any Jehovah's Witness." Kind of makes the last 24 days or
so look like no big deal to me!

--Rob Bowman >>

Does that sound like someone who should be criticizing others for being "smug" or "condescending"? I have never made any such challenges to what "stuff" a person has, and, of course, we all recall how Bowman first criticized Mike, but then lowered himself to the same level of behavior.

Posted by R. Bowman (via lsi) on June 02, 1998 at 19:47:06:

A Guide to the Debate:
Stafford, the Bible, and Trinitarianism: An Introduction
By Rob Bowman

I didn't have your book when I wrote my previous response to you
(I have it now). But if you do have my books, you know if and where these
specific texts are discussed. Do I have to tell you where to find them? Now
that I have your book, shall I post a query asking you to tell me where
in your book you discuss John 1:1? Come on, now.

Of course, Bowman did not understand the difference between my request and his attempt at a parallel question, but he sure seemed "smug" about it.

Posted by R. Bowman (via lsi) on June 02, 1998 at 19:51:55:

What God Does, the Son Does:
Stafford, the Bible, and Trinitarianism, Part I
Robert M. Bowman, Jr.

Greg really has no rational basis on which to dispute the
validity of the arguments.

Is that any worse than calling one's argument "lame"?

Posted by Rob Bowman (via lsi) on May 31, 1998 at 16:48:06:


Please forward this to your list. You might entitle it "Putting things in
perspective." Thanks!

--Rob Bowman

Good grief, Greg, get a grip!


Do the words "straining at a gnat and
swallowing a camel" mean anything to you?

>>>>END OF QUOTES>>>>>>>>>

These are just a sample of the attitude Bowman has displayed over the past couple of months. I could list others, but I hate listing any since we are supposed to be discussing the meaning of Scripture, not wasting time with these petty things. However, in my experience it is not at all uncommon for someone to attack their opponent when they feel their position weakening. It reminds me of an old saying, "He who strikes first admits that his ideas have given out."

Of course, I have made several well-meaning comments toward Rob, such as:

By Greg Stafford

"I appreciate your commitment to finding the truth. All of us should have
the same attitude."


I have also publicly asked two professing JWs to refrain from taunting Bowman. I even stood up for him on the issue of whether or not he was going to reply to my posts. But Bowman has NEVER, to my knowledge, asked any one on this list to stop their childish antics.

So, Rob, please don't paint a false picture of you as some peaceful, respectful "good guy," and of me as some heartless person who is making personal attacks against you. I have done no such thing. Now, let's get back to the real issues.


I have already acknowledged in an earlier post that I had misconstrued a sentence in Greg's book regarding whether "Jesus Christ" was epexegetical to "our Savior." In his critique of my paper Greg continues to misrepresent that earlier acknowledgment as an apology for supposedly misrepresenting him (Stafford, introduction; 18e-f). A thorough discussion of this falsehood may be found in a separate message to be posted tomorrow. Nevertheless, I did make a mistake, and it will be corrected in the next edition of my paper.

I have said all I care to on this matter, and you seem unable to let it go. It was a horrible error, it misled others into thinking that I taught something that is really foolish, and yet you don't even apologize. Oh well… But, still, even though it was a serious error, I am not saying you are the only one who makes such errors. We all do. But you tried to pass this one off on me, without shouldering the blame yourself.

Somewhat surprising to me is the fact that after reading Greg's critique, I learned of only one other mistake in my paper. I say "surprising to me" because I sincerely believe a paper of such length and complexity is bound to have room for improvement.

You are right, Rob, we can always improve our essays, but misrepresenting someone's view is not the kind of improvement one likes to make. Of course, there are many other errors in your paper, but you refuse to acknowledge them. See Parts Three through Six of my reply.

Funny enough, this other mistake is only indirectly revealed in Greg's critique. Greg took issue with my discussion of the expression HO THEOS KAI PAT R in Martyrdom of Polycarp 22.1. Greg wrote:

>>>Greg---In the phrase "God the Father" (Greek: ho theos kai pater), how can it be said that neither of these two nouns carry the restrictive force of a proper name in NT, in the particular contexts in which it is used? Yet this phrase constitutes the bulk of examples in NT that are supposed to validate Sharp's rule! In fact, see page 6(B.), par. 1 in Bowman's article, where he highlights this expression as validating Sharp's rule.>>>

I don't think Greg understood me, because I was not denying that the nouns THEOS and PAT R can be used in the NT as proper name equivalents. Nor is there any question that "God the Father" was used in the NT as a proper name equivalent.

No, Rob, you misunderstood me, again. Let's put the context of the above before everyone, so the facts are clear:


Bowman-Sharp, page 8
Martyrdom of Polycarp 22:1. . . . For Sharp's rule to be inapplicable it is necessary only that one of the two nouns joined by kai be a proper name. Thus, even if "God the Father" was not being used in Polycarp as a proper name, Sharp's rule would not apply because of the use of "Holy Spirit" as such.

This qualification is not accurate at all. In the phrase "God the Father" (Greek: ho theos kai pater), how can it be said that neither of these two nouns carry the restrictive force of a proper name in NT, in the particular contexts in which they are used? Yet this phrase constitutes the bulk of examples in NT that are supposed to validate Sharp's rule! In fact, see page 6(B.), par. 1 in Bowman's article, where he highlights this expression as validating Sharp's rule. What we are concerned with is this: Why is the second noun anarthrous (= without the article) in an article-noun-kai-noun construction? Is there something about the noun that allows for it to be used without the article, but not as a further description of the individual or entity denoted by the first noun? This is where all the exceptions to Sharp's rule come in, because there is something about plural nouns, generic nouns, numerals, etc., that accounts for the missing article. If the anarthrous noun is part of a compound proper name, or is a noun that has the restrictive force of a proper name, then we can similarly account for the missing article. We must also consider the context, the habitual use of language of the author in question, as well as other significant factors relating to the proper understanding of the passage.


Now, notice that Bowman makes a self-serving qualification that only one of the two nouns joined by KAI ("and") in a Granville Sharp (GS) construction need be a proper name in order for the rule to be invalid. Since Bowman elsewhere refers to "God," without accompanying, modifying expressions, as the equivalent to a proper name, and since "Father," when used of God, has the restrictive force of a proper name, AND since "God" (in HO THEOS KAI PATER) is used without any modifying terms, then how is it that the most frequently cited example of Sharp's rule, namely, HO THEOS KAI PATER, is considered valid, according to Bowman's reasoning? Bowman states, "I was not denying that the nouns THEOS and PAT R can be used in the NT as proper name equivalents." Who said that you did, Rob? I honestly cannot figure out how you so frequently fail to understand the point I am making.

However, there is a mistake in my paper here that Stafford did not catch, and I will point it out.

We all appreciate that, Rob; it's not my job to keep tract of all your errors. But it almost sounds like you're trying score points against me for not detecting your error! Believe me, I am not out to get you, or to "catch" every little error you make.

I followed the translation I was using, which rendered the expression HO THEOS KAI PAT R as "God the Father" instead of the more literal "the God and Father." I then listed NT references using the actual expression "God the Father" (THEOS HO PAT R) instead of references for HO THEOS KAI PAT R. Texts using HO THEOS KAI PAT R had already been listed on page 6 of my paper. Of the 13 NT occurrences of the expression, four of them are part of the larger expression, "the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ" (Rom. 15:6; 2 Cor. 1:3; Eph. 1:3; 1 Pet. 1:3). The other nine occurrences, five of which are in openings or (as in Martyrdom of Polycarp 22:1) closings of NT epistles, appear stylized enough that the expression may indeed have had the force of a proper name. (What exactly is and is not meant by that will be discussed in the second post of this series.) But the comparatively few occurrences should make us cautious about drawing that conclusion with any dogmatism.

You're not making any sense here, Rob. Please explain what you mean by "appear stylized enough that the expression may indeed have had the force of a proper name." Also, you did not understand the point I was making regarding your claim that Sharp's rule would be inapplicable if but "one of the two nouns joined by kai be a proper name." Remember, you had also claimed:


Bowman-Sharp, page 14
II. Sharp's Rule and Proper Names . . . A. When Is "God" a Proper Name? In general, there are no inflexible rules for determining when "God" is being used as a proper name rather than as a personal noun. However, there is a rule of thumb that can be used frequently to determine that it is not being used as a proper name. Whenever "God" is qualified by some adjectival word or phrase, it is being used as a personal noun, not as a proper name.


Well, "Father" is not an adjectival modifier for "God" in the expression HO THEOS KAI PATER, so now what? This issue involving Sharp's rule and proper names (and some other, related matters) will be the focus of Parts Three through Six of my reply, and they will be posted this weekend.

On the other hand, as I pointed out in the paper, there really is no doubt that "Holy Spirit" was used as a proper name (even if some of the church fathers were less than clear or consistent about the personhood of the Holy Spirit). Thus, my main point, that this text is not a true exception to Sharp's rule, is still correct. But the paragraph dealing with the expression "the God and Father" will be revised in the next edition of my paper.

Bowman here reveals a defective understanding of my argument, in relation to the text from the Martydom of Polycarp. Just as "holy spirit" was a fixed expression in the NT and thereafter, so, too, were the nouns "Father," "Lord" "God," "Christ," and possibly "Savior." The three titles "Lord," "Christ" "Savior" are unquestionably restricted in their reference when they are used with the proper name "Jesus Christ." Who else could they apply to when they are so used? "God" can be construed as a proper name when it is used of the Father, since this title is almost always restricted to Him. When "God" is used with accompanying modifiers that make the reference even more specific as a reference to the Father (or someone else for that matter), then it can surely be considered the equivalent to a proper name.

I will discuss the shortcomings in Bowman's attempts to neutralize this point in Parts Three through Six of my reply.



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