« Main Search

More on Sharp's Rule, Trinitarianism and Rob Bowman
Part Three: Descriptive Phrases and Their Restrictive Force

By Greg Stafford

In this post we will consider Bowman's attempt to try and build a case against my point about sense and reference, and how certain nouns and noun phrases should be understood in reference to certain individuals. It is my opinion that Bowman has not only failed to prove anything in support of his position, but that his examples actually support what I have said on the matter of descriptive phrases and their restrictive force.


Posted by Rob Bowman on June 18, 1998 at 21:08:08:

Reply to Stafford on Sharp's Rule
Part Two: Proper Names and Semantic Units
By Robert M. Bowman, Jr.


Probably the greatest point of confusion in Greg's critique is focused on the matter of the use of nouns or noun phrases as "proper names" or as functional equivalents of proper names, and the relevance of this matter to Sharp's rule. Over and over again, Greg insists that the issue is whether a particular noun or noun phrase has a "restrictive force" that limits its referential application to one specific individual (Stafford, 5; 6-7a; 7c; 9d; 10b; 14a-b; 16-17; 30a following 18; 20d; 25b). Greg repeatedly points out that descriptive phrases can be just as restrictive, and even more restrictive, than proper names. The point is so central to Greg's case that I think I should allow him to speak for himself here at length.

Of course, there is no such confusion on my part, as we will see, by letting me "speak for myself":

BOWMAN (quoting Greg):
>>>It is true, of course, that proper names refer to unique individuals, but often descriptive phrases are more unique in terms of providing a definite reference to a particular individual. In fact, proper names are just as context-dependent as noun-phrases. John Lyons, Linguistic Semantics: An Introduction (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1995), page 301, gives the example of "Margaret Thatcher," a name that is not unique to one individual in Great Britain, but there is only one person who would have had the name "Margaret Thatcher" with the descriptive content of "the first woman Prime Minister of Great Britain." In fact, the descriptive phrase "the first woman Prime Minister of Great Britain" is more restrictive in its application than "Margaret Thatcher.">>> (Stafford, 5)

>>>It ["God"] need not be viewed as a proper name per se for a noun to have such a restrictive force (see below for more on the issue of "God" as a proper name). For example, the word "President" is not a proper name, but if I used it in the context of the current commander-in-chief of the United States, what person would come to mind? Thus, certain descriptive terms, depending on the context in which they are used, have the restrictive force of a proper name, in that they create concepts in the minds of those individuals who use such terms that can only be understood of a particular individual. . . .

For example, which is more restrictive in its application, "President," or "the President of the United States"? Of course, the context could grant each term basically the same restrictive force. That is to say, in certain contexts we might invariably understand "the President of the United States," even if the only term used is "President." In the same vein, "God," in the context of the Bible, can have one of several different referents, all with different senses. But if we read the term "God" in a context where, say, Abraham is praying, then we would likely understand the term to refer to Jehovah, Abraham's God. But in the same context we might read about "Jehovah God," or "Almighty God," or the "Most High God," and the same referent would come to mind, with the same sense.>>> (Stafford, 6-7a)

>>>If the terms involved are understood by the author and his readers/hearers to refer to specific persons, and if those terms are generally or always restricted to that person, then it is only natural to associate the terms with their commonly understood referent, just as you attempt to do with the example from The Martyrdom of Polycarp. You [Bowman] argue that "Holy Spirit" is used as a proper name because of its frequent use for one of the "divine persons." The same is true for any term that is restricted by its use to a particular person, context permitting.>>> (Stafford, 9d)

>>>When descriptive terms are used with modifying expressions that further restrict their application, they function as proper names more so than when used alone.>>> (Stafford, 14a)

>>>To what other being could the description "the true God" apply? According to Jesus, only one! (John 17:3) That is just as restrictive as a proper name. How about "the God of Abraham"? There is only one person to whom such a description could apply. Thus, both descriptions are used with the restrictive force of a proper name. From a (biblical) Jewish or Christian perspective, "the living God" and "the Almighty God" are just as restrictive. All of the above expressions are more restrictive than when "God" is used alone, even though in certain contexts "God" can function with roughly the same restrictive force as the more restrictive descriptions.>>> (Stafford, 14b)

>>>If "God" is not a proper name here, then where is it? Bowman earlier made a completely unsubstantiated qualification for recognizing when "God" is used a proper name: When it is not accompanied by adjectival modifiers like "great." But this, then, as stated above, would put 2 Peter 1:1 outside the pale of Sharp's rule. The fact is, since "God" is usually contextually limited in its application to the Father it can usually be understood as having the force of a proper name, without actually being one. The word "God" is, in fact, a title, not a name. But its application is so often restricted to one individual that it serves as a semantic signal for the Father, unless the context specifies otherwise. To refer to "the great God," as in Titus 2:13, only further restricts the application to the One to whom this title is elsewhere restricted, according to the LXX OT.>>> (Stafford, 25b)

I had written:

"Actually, Stafford is on to something about the expression 'the great God.' It is undeniably true that the Old Testament knows no other 'great God' than Jehovah. We may go further and agree that an informed reader encountering the reference to 'the great God' in Titus 2:13 would surely understand this as a reference to Jehovah. Again, this understanding of the reference of 'the great God' does not turn the expression into a proper name. (We must not confuse an expression's referential significance with its grammatical significance. For instance, the expression 'the sixteenth President of the United States' has the referential significance of identifying the subject as Abraham Lincoln; but this does not give the expression the grammatical significance of a proper name.)" (Bowman, 30)

Greg replied:

>>>This is a critical point. Bowman has terribly misunderstood my point. In stating, "In light of the OT description of Jehovah as `the great God' it is equally possible, if not more likely, that `the great God' was understood as the equivalent of a proper name," I was not suggesting anything other than that this description carried the restrictive force of a proper name! In Bowman's example, who else could be so described but Abraham Lincoln? Thus, it is restrictive and every time it is used in a sentence about the US Government, the only person that would come to mind is Lincoln. It is unfortunate that Bowman has so hastily attempted to respond to my book. He should have giving more thought to his arguments, or at least waited until he understood mine better. The result: Confusion.>>> (Stafford, 30a, following 18)

The preceding quotations show that this question is indeed critical to the entire debate at the exegetical level. And indeed confusion has resulted, but it is because Greg has misunderstood me, not the other way around. Furthermore, given the considerable length of time I spent working through Greg's arguments before issuing my paper (itself a revision of a paper I have been revising for years) and the quickness of Greg's lengthy critique, I would have to say that it was Greg who responded too hastily.

Let us investigate the facts and see if your conclusion is justified.

The issue with regard to the applicability of Sharp's rule to Titus 2:13 and 2 Peter 1:1 is this: Do either or both of the nouns or noun phrases connected by KAI have the character of a separate semantic unit which by its semantic nature must refer to a separate referent? I imagine this question may be unclear to some, so I will explain it.

Let's start with Greg's first example, taken from John Lyons. The noun phrase "Margaret Thatcher" is indisputably a proper name. The noun phrase "the first woman Prime Minister of Great Britain" is indisputably NOT a proper name. Still, the second noun phrase has the same REFERENT as the first. Indeed, one may well suppose that there are likely other women in history who have had the name "Margaret Thatcher," but only one woman in history ever has and ever could be designated using the noun phrase "the first woman Prime Minister of Great Britain." As Greg says, this second expression is possibly even more "restrictive" than the proper name. But this has NOTHING to do with the issue at hand. Remember, the question is whether the two nouns or noun phrases joined by KAI and governed by only one definite article refer to two objects or one. (In discussing examples in the English language such as this one, we are of course for the time being ignoring the differences between Greek and English. Fortunately, those differences do not significantly affect the point at hand.)

Now notice, Bowman agrees that I am correct in saying that a descriptive phrase ("the first woman prime Minister of Great Britain") is more restrictive than a proper name ("Margaret Thatcher") in this instance. But he then says that this has "NOTHING to do with the issue at hand"! This is his way of trying to minimize the impact of his concession. Of course, the restrictive force or a particular noun of noun phrase has EVERYTHING to do with the present issue, and Bowman goes to great lengths to confuse everybody about the real issue, in my opinion. You'll see what I mean as we consider his examples:

Let me show why I say the "restrictive force" of a noun phrase has nothing to do with the applicability of Sharp's rule with a series of examples.

Suppose we read the following sentence:

S1. I'm waiting for my wife and Margaret Thatcher.

In (S1) there is very little reason to doubt that the speaker's wife is someone other than Margaret Thatcher. This is a good example of a proper name being linked with another noun phrase by "and" where it is clear that two persons are meant. Now consider this sentence:

In English this is true, and it is also true, to some degree, in Greek. But the English word for "and" has a much stronger tendency to separate two (or more) nouns than does the Greek word KAI. For example, if we were to put Bowman's example in Greek, it would be hE GUNE MOU KAI [proper name]. In Greek this example does not distinguish between "my wife" and the person denoted by the proper name as much as the English example does. KAI can imply apposition, and if in our Greek example it could be established that the person's "wife" is also known by the name that follows KAI, then there is nothing to keep us from taking the proper name in apposition to hE GUNE MOU ("my wife"). In English, however, the use of "and" in Bowman's example would almost always (probably always!) be understood as a reference to two persons, unless it could be shown that the speaker did in fact have the same person in mind, but simply chose a poorly worded sentence. So Bowman has not properly explained the differences between the English "and" and the Greek KAI, which gives the false impression that his example is somehow relevant to our discussion. Please keep in mind that proper names and proper name equivalents all have a certain degree of restrictive force. But the English "and" and the Greek KAI are not always used in the same way.

We recall, of course, that Bowman prefaced his examples by saying that he would `for the time being ignore the differences between Greek and English. Fortunately, those differences do not significantly affect the point at hand.' But they do "significantly affect the point at hand," at least with regard to S1. But, remember, Bowman is supposed to be showing us why the restrictive force of certain words and descriptive phrases "has NOTHING to do with the issue at hand." Now, let us consider his second example:

S2. I'm waiting for the first woman prime minister of England and my wife, Margaret Thatcher.

Given that the speaker is Denis Thatcher, both noun phrases "the first woman prime minister" and "my wife" are equally "restrictive." However, without question both refer to one person. This would be true, in fact, even if the proper name "Margaret Thatcher" were not added. The fact that the expression "the first woman prime minister of England" is just as restrictive, if not more so, than "Margaret Thatcher" DOES NOT HAVE ANYTHING TO DO WITH WHETHER THE SECOND NOUN PHRASE REFERS TO THE SAME PERSON.

Notice that Bowman has to appeal to elements OUTSIDE the grammar of the sentence, namely, the presupposition pool of Denis Thatcher and those familiar with him and family. Bowman also uses an example that one would most likely NEVER hear from the mouth of Denis Thatcher! Again, I cannot think of anyone, in any context, that would use the English "and" in the way Bowman has given in his example. Well, actually I can think of one: If Denis Thatcher were introducing his wife before a live audience he might say, "I present to you, the first woman prime minister of England and my wife, Margaret Thatcher." But I think that in most other contexts the more likely expression would be, "I am waiting for my wife, Margaret Thatcher, the first woman prime minister of England"; or, " I am waiting for the first woman prime minister of England, my wife, Margaret Thatcher"; or, "I am waiting for the first woman prime minister of England, Margaret Thatcher, my wife."

In any event, Bowman has simply created an English sentence using terms that could only be understood of one person, not because of the grammar, but because they are restricted to but one individual in the context of this statement, in view of Denis Thatcher's habitual use of language. Of course, in the long run Bowman wants us to see this sentence (S2) as a grammatical parallel to Titus 2:13. Remarkably, Bowman claims, "The fact that the expression `the first woman prime minister of England is just as restrictive, if not more so, than `Margaret Thatcher' DOES NOT HAVE ANYTHING TO DO WITH WHETHER THE SECOND NOUN PHRASE REFERS TO THE SAME PERSON." It is hard to take Rob seriously when he uses reasoning like this, but I'll try! Of course, the fact that the first descriptive phrase "the first woman prime minister of England" could ONLY apply to the same person denoted in the second part of the sentence is the key. Bowman's statement is completely unfounded, however. Suppose Denis Thatcher had said: "I am waiting for the first woman President of the United States and my wife, Margaret Thatcher." The woman so described in the first part of the sentence would never be considered the same woman in the second part of the sentence, because the concepts created by the descriptive phrase in the first instance are not the same as those created by the proper name "Margaret Thatcher," in reference to the Denis Thatcher's wife.

Now, let's consider Greg's second example, the use of the title "President" to refer to a specific individual (currently Bill Clinton). What Greg says about this title is quite correct, but not to the point. For example, he is quite right in saying that the title "President" in certain contexts would refer unambiguously to Bill Clinton even though the word may be used in other contexts with other referents (e.g., Boris Yeltsin is the President of Russia). He is also correct in saying that the title may be made more "restrictive" with further modifiers. For example, we could speak of "the President of the United States" (which must refer to one of the U.S. presidents, though context must still tell us which one) or even "the sixteenth President of the United States" (which must refer to Abraham Lincoln). But any of these descriptive noun phrases might be used in a construction in which it is joined with the word "and" to another noun or noun phrase, with the whole expression referring to one person. For example:

S3. Bill Clinton is the President and Commander-in-Chief.

What Bowman says is true, "but not to the point." The construction of the above sentence is such that anyone would understand it to be an assertion about one person. In other words, the nouns used would in NO WAY change the fact that they are both restricted to Bill Clinton. So, if I said, "Bill Clinton is the President and the prime minister of England," anyone remotely familiar with English would realize that what I said is not true. Of course, the above example is not at all parallel to Titus 2:13, which has a descriptive phrase followed by KAI, followed by a noun, followed by a proper name. This brings us to Bowman's next example:

Or this:

S4. We're waiting for the President and Commander-in-Chief, Bill Clinton.

I suppose we might imagine a situation in which the speaker of (S4) is a company executive and he is referring to the immanent arrival of the company CEO along with Bill Clinton. However, anyone who tried to communicate this idea using (S4) would have expressed himself very poorly. That the two nouns both refer to Bill Clinton is confirmed not only by the fact that both titles commonly refer to him (or to anyone holding the office) but that they are governed by the single definite article "the." Indeed, I have trouble conceiving of a context in which someone might say (S4) and be reasonably construed as referring to two persons. Again, that one person is meant would be clear with or without the addition of the proper name "Bill Clinton."

I don't think such a sentence is as awkward as S1 or S2 above, and it is certainly more grammatically acceptable than either of Bowman's first two examples. Bowman's statement "That the two nouns both refer to Bill Clinton is confirmed not only by the fact that both titles commonly refer to him (or to anyone holding the office) but that they are governed by the single definite article `the,'" is begging the question. The context would have to reveal just whom the speaker/writer is talking about. Grammatically, the English "and" is quite capable of distinguishing the two nouns.

Now, to more closely parallel Titus 2:13 Bowman should have said, "the Commander-in-chief and President Bill Clinton." But we would, of course, understand this as a reference to Bill Clinton, because the nouns used, at this time, are restricted to Mr. Clinton. But if we were to say, "the California Governor and President Bill Clinton" we would rightly recognize a reference to Pete Wilson and Bill Clinton, because the concepts associated with these two descriptions are, at this time, only properly to be understood of these two persons. Or if, in response to a person's inquiry about the speakers at today's corporate meeting, I said the speakers would include "the President of the United States and coach Pat Riley," who would doubt that two persons are in view, and that the proper name "Pat Riley" was in apposition only to "coach"? Consider Bowman's next example:

Here's another example:

S5. We're waiting for the sixteenth President of the United States and author of the Emancipation Proclamation, Abraham Lincoln.

Here the two designations "sixteenth President of the United States" and "author of the Emancipation Proclamation" are equally "restrictive," that is, each designation can refer to one and only one referent, Abraham Lincoln. Yet, obviously, both designations refer to the same referent. Thus, the fact that "sixteenth President of the United States" is rigidly descriptive of one person does not have anything to do with whether the subsequent designation "author of the Emancipation Proclamation" refers to the same individual.

I almost cannot believe that Bowman is employing this kind of reasoning to try and refute my arguments. In the above example the first descriptive phrase is limited in reference to the same individual referred to in the second part of the sentence, who is also identified by the proper name "Abraham Lincoln." As I stated earlier, I don't think Bowman understands my objection, or he is simply unable to produce any semblance of a worthy rejoinder. If the first descriptive phrase were "the Supreme Court chief justice" then we would naturally understand two persons to be in view because Abraham Lincoln was not a Supreme Court chief justice. The descriptive phrase would apply to the person who occupied that position at the time indicated by the statement. Again, context and habitual use of language are more important in terms of identifying the referent in these examples.

Now, let's mix things up a bit. Suppose we read the following sentence:

S6. We're waiting for the President and First Lady to arrive.

Here, even though the noun "President" and noun phrase "First Lady" are governed by one definite article and are joined with "and," the two nouns refer unambiguously to two persons. Why? NOT because one or the other expression has a "restrictive force" equivalent to that of a proper name, as the preceding examples prove.

Whoops…Let's stop here for a moment. Bowman's examples did not prove anything in support of his point, so let's not proceed with the false impression that they did. Actually, his examples only served to further strengthen what I have been saying all along.

Rather, the two expressions unambiguously refer to two distinct referents because the two expressions are "paired" terms, i.e., two expressions that are commonly used to refer to a pair that belong together but are two distinct objects. We have lots of such expressions in English: salt and pepper, sun and moon, father and son, husband and wife, mother and daughter, President and Vice-President, king and queen, and many more. In Greek, as in English, the use of such paired expressions would indicate unambiguously that two terms are meant even in a Sharp's rule type of construction. Such paired terms should always be taken as denoting two referents unless explicitly stated otherwise.

There are examples where certain nouns or noun phrases are understood as distinct from one another because they are usually seen as pairs. But, again, the restrictive force of each noun is still very much a part of our shared presuppositions about such expressions, which we naturally associate with the semantic signs (words) that we hear or read.

Greg objected to this exception as question-begging since it would supposedly preclude an author applying both terms in such a noun pair to a single referent (for example, if someone held to the monarchian doctrine that Jesus was both the Father and the Son). But this is no problem at all. Any author who wants to make this idea clear can do so in a number of ways. For example:

S7. Jesus is the Father and Son.
S8. Jesus is the Father and the Son.
S9. The Father is the Son.

Any of these sentences unambiguously communicates the idea that the Father and the Son are two different designations for the same referent.

And if Clement held to such a view then what he said would also unambiguously communicate his ideas concerning the Father and Son! Because we know that such views DID exist it is begging the question to appeal to what we SHOULD recognize as true, namely, that the terms are ALWAYS "paired" terms! Does everybody see the circle? It goes like this:

Clement uses the two terms in a construction that often refers to one person.
But the words "Father" and "Son" are always used as "paired" terms for two different persons.
Therefore, Clement's use of the words "Father" and "Son" is in reference to two different persons.

Bowman uses reasoning like this all the time, and I usually assume that most of you who are reading our discussion can detect it, but I had to make sure you understood the problem with this one.

Of course, we should not forget to remind everyone of the context of what I said respecting the passage from Clement of Alexandria:


Bowman-Sharp, page 9
Clement of Alexandria, Paedagogus 3:12 . . . Here we would frankly suggest that one as yet unstated qualification to Sharp's rule be recognized. Where the two nouns are semantically related as normally descriptive of two persons in an immediately recognizable relationship, Sharp's rule does not apply.

First, the use of "only" together with Father could hardly be more restrictive! Second, Bowman begs the question as to whether or not one personality used the different modes of "Father" and "Son" in order to accomplish His purpose. Bowman would have to appeal to Clement's larger theological context to negate such a view, for as it stands his suggestion is circular: He assumes that Clement does not believe the same person that is the Father is also the Son, and thereby creates a qualification for Sharp's rule in order to support his conclusion. In order to dispose of this argument Bowman would have to appeal to the theology of the author, which is what I did with his approval:

Bowman-Sharp, page 9
Stafford rightly objects to this theory, since there is no other evidence of modalistic language in either writing.


Bowman begged the question then, and he continues to do so now. If you are wondering why he has to argue this way, it's because there is no other recourse, except to acknowledge that the two terms "Father" and "Son" were understood in the writings of Clement to refer to distinct persons. This seems simple enough, right? Of course, if Bowman employs this reasoning then he exposes himself to the arguments that I have been putting forth, all of which are quite legitimate, and have yet to be seriously challenged by Bowman. In fact, he has done a good job supporting what I have said! He will deny this, of course, but does that surprise you?

Let's go back to the example of the title "President." Consider the following sentence:

S10. We're waiting for the President and Secretary of State Madeline Albright.

In this sentence, there is no doubt that two persons are meant. This is in part because "Secretary of State Madeline Albright" is such a standard way of referring to Albright that it functions as a proper name equivalent. But there is also no doubt that two persons are meant because the nouns "President" and "Secretary of State" refer by Constitutional fiat to two distinct individuals. It is impossible for one individual to hold both offices at the same time.

Of course, this is PRECISELY the point I have been making! Regardless of WHY the descriptive phrases are restricted in their application, THEY ARE RESTRICTED. We have the job of finding out WHY they are restricted, and to whom they are restricted. In the above example we have two persons because the descriptive phrases create concepts in the minds of the hearer/reader that will not permit them to identify the two as the same person.

Regarding the passages from NT that our the focus of our discussion, both the context and the author's habitual use of language restrict the phrase "the great God" and even "God" to the Father. I agree that the case is not certain either way, but the evidence points heavily in favor of a two-person translation. In Titus 2:13 the manifestation referred to is that of the great God's glory. The description "great God" is restricted in the OT to the Father, Jehovah, who is the God of Jesus. (Micah 5:4) The Synoptic teaching on the matter of Christ's appearing in the glory of his Father is also clear. (Matt 16:27; Mark 8:38) In 2 Peter 1:1 the author's habitual use of language is not in doubt (see my book, page 245, for details), and the sentence is in a location where we typically find a reference to both God and Christ. The Bible also makes it clear that Jesus is not God in the same sense as the Father. (John 17:3; 1 Cor. 8:6) So even if we allowed these verses to apply THEOS to Christ it would be with the understanding that he has One who is God to him. (1 Pet. 1:3) There is no way around this, and there is also no way to obtain a trinitarian understanding of THEOS from ANY verse in the Bible, for no such articulation of their understanding exists, but it is everywhere contradicted by the Bible.

Thus, two separate referents would be semantically certain even if the description "Secretary of State" did not function as part of a proper name equivalent. This may be seen in the following sentence:

S11. We're waiting for the president and our foreman, John Woods.

Here there is no question that the titles "president" and "foreman" refer to separate individuals, and that John Woods is not being given the title of president. In this sentence there may be some referential ambiguity as to whether "the president" is the president of the company (which is made explicit here by not capitalizing "president"), but there is no semantic ambiguity about the fact that "our foreman" is not a further description of "the president."

And, of course, the reason the two nouns would likely not refer to the same individual is because the nouns used are restricted in their application to certain individuals. Bowman is using terms that are much more distinct, as if this somehow parallels Titus 2:13 or 2 Peter 1:1. Now, if we said, "We are waiting for the president and our executive of the year, John Woods," then we would have to determine from the context or share the same presupposition pool as the speaker to know how many persons are meant. It could be one or two. The same is true of Titus 2:13 and 2 Peter 1:1, but when you analyze the context and the author's habitual use of language, then the evidence points away from one-person translations of each passage. Bowman's examples have yet to contradict anything I have said, and I honestly don't know why he even bothered sending such an ineffectual reply. I THINK he is simply trying to defend his view at all costs, like a loyal trinitarian, but there comes a time when you simply hit the wall, and I think Bowman reached that point a long time ago. But, he continues:

Now consider the following sentence:

S12. I'm waiting for my husband and President Bill Clinton.

As written, (S12) should be construed to denote two references, the speaker's husband being clearly distinguished from Clinton. Moreover, if we heard this sentence spoken aloud we would rightly draw the same conclusion. This is because "President Bill Clinton" is such a standard way of referring to Clinton that it has become a proper name equivalent. That is, "President Bill Clinton" functions as a distinct semantic unit that is immediately construed by the reader or listener as such and separated from surrounding noun expressions unless the grammar or semantics of the sentence demands otherwise. For example, in writing this same sentence can be made to indicate that both designations refer to Bill Clinton by the simple addition of a comma:

And, again, that is my point. There are many nouns and noun phrases that function in the same way as "President Bill Clinton" in English, Greek, Hebrew, and other languages. Now, you wanted to show us a few other examples:

S13. I'm waiting for my husband and President, Bill Clinton.

A writer who did not have commas available (e.g., Paul and Peter) would not be writing clearly if he wrote (S12) but meant (S13).

(S12) may be "clearer" grammatically than (S13), but if those reading or listening to the writer/speaker KNOW that the person's husband is not Bill Clinton, then both sentences are equally clear, in view of the terms used.

Again, other locutions could be used to communicate the idea expressed in (S13), such as the following:

S14. I'm waiting for my husband, who is President Bill Clinton.

Although "President Bill Clinton" functions as a discrete semantic unit, the addition of modifiers can undo this semantic unity. Consider this sentence:

S15. I'm waiting for my husband and our President, Bill Clinton.

If this sentence were spoken, there would be no doubt that "our President" was in apposition to "Bill Clinton" and not functioning as part of a separate semantic unit, "our President Bill Clinton." "Apposition," for those who might not know what this means, consists in a noun or noun phrase set alongside another noun or noun phrase and functioning as a further identification of the first. For example, "President Bill Clinton" is a proper name equivalent; by contrast, "our President, Bill Clinton," which means the same thing as "our President, who is Bill Clinton," sets "Bill Clinton" in apposition to "our President." Although the comma makes this construction explicit, it is not always strictly necessary. In English there is some ambiguity here as to whether the speaker is waiting for two persons or one (an ambiguity that would be eliminated simply by saying "our President" after "Bill Clinton").

Of course, as I have stated time and time again, it does not matter if the proper name is part of a compound expression or if it is in apposition to another noun, in both instances the term is restricted by the proper name. As for the first noun, the one preceding "and," we must consider the context and the author's habitual use of language in order to determine if the person referred to in the second instance is the same person referred to in the first instance.

The semantic unity of "President Bill Clinton" can also be broken up if the first designation is commonly linked with the designation "President," as in the following sentence:

S16. We're waiting for the Commander-in-Chief and President Bill Clinton.

Whether this sentence is spoken or written, with or without a comma, the whole description "the Commander-in-Chief and President" is clearly set in apposition to "Bill Clinton."

Yes, and that is because the semantic signals create concepts in the mind of the hearer/reader that can only be applied to one person.

It should be observed that a separate semantic unit is not created by the insertion of just any title in front of the proper name. Compare (S12) to this sentence:

S17. I'm waiting for my husband and Commander-in-Chief Bill Clinton.

Even though this sentence is verbally parallel to (S12) in every respect except for the title in front of "Bill Clinton," it is evident that someone hearing this sentence aloud would most likely understand the speaker's husband to be the same person called Commander-in-Chief. (A comma before "Bill" would make this explicit, but the same idea comes through even without a comma.)

Bowman here assumes that which he cannot prove. Again, if the speaker of this sentence were Hillary Clinton, then anyone who heard her speak these words, and who knows who her husband is, would understand both expressions to apply to one person.

The reason why this is likely be the speaker's meaning is that "Commander-in-Chief Bill Clinton" is not a proper name equivalent. That is, this expression does not function in ordinary usage as a separate semantic unit, as does "President Bill Clinton." I do not deny that someone could use the expression "Commander-in-Chief Bill Clinton," and of course it has the same referent, and the same "restrictive force," as "President Bill Clinton." But it does not have what we might call the same semantic "coherence": that is, the expression "Commander-in-Chief Bill Clinton" does not function so regularly as a fixed designation that its use in an otherwise grammatically ambiguous context would be immediately recognized as a semantic unit.

This is simply an unproven assumption, but whether it is true or not makes no difference in terms of our discussion. The fact is, as Bowman states, both expressions have the same restrictive force, and that is because the use of the proper name makes them specific to one individual. "Commander-in-chief Bill Clinton" could certainly stand alone as a separate semantic unit, but even if we took "Bill Clinton" in apposition to "Commander-in-chief" there is no difference in terms of the referent, and the restrictive force of the proper name is just as strong when used in apposition, as it is when used as part of a compound expression.

In short, if the woman speaking this hypothetical sentence is not Hillary Clinton, the speaker has expressed herself in a very unclear manner. Thus, when grammatically possible, "Commander-in-Chief" will generally be taken to be in apposition to "Bill Clinton," not as part of a proper name equivalent as is "President Bill Clinton."

Again, Bowman's statement concerning the use of "Commander-in-chief" is completely unfounded. Also, it is nonsense to claim that "if the woman speaking this hypothetical sentence is not Hillary Clinton, the speaker has expressed herself in a very unclear manner." If the speaker knows that those listening to her share the same knowledge concerning the identity of her husband and Bill Clinton, then she has expressed herself just fine.

One other point needs to be illustrated here. The use of adjectival modifiers to a noun or noun phrase that in some cases can be treated as a proper name equivalent changes the semantic character of that noun or noun phrase so that it functions as a common personal noun. Recall the following sentence:

S15. I'm waiting for my husband and our President, Bill Clinton.

The modifier "our" in front of "President" alters the semantics of the whole expression so that "President" is no longer part of a single semantic unit, "President Bill Clinton," but is now part of a descriptive expression, "our President," that is to be construed in apposition to "Bill Clinton." This will commonly occur where a title is modified adjectivally. Again, in both cases the referent is the same, but that is not the issue. The difference is how the noun or noun phrase is related to the other noun or noun phrase to which it is linked by "and." My point here is that adjectival modifiers can make a difference in THIS regard by indicating how the noun it modifies is functioning semantically in the sentence. Thus, in (S15) the sentence appears to be referring to one person with both designations "my husband" and "our President," whereas in (S12) the sentence is clearly referring to two persons, one of whom is called "my husband" and the other of whom is called "President Bill Clinton."

Notice that even in this example Bowman cannot be too dogmatic. He says, "in (S15) the sentence appears to be referring to one person with both designations." As we discussed above, there is absolutely nothing to prevent us from taking the first noun in reference to one person, and the second noun in reference to another person, if the habitual use of language and the context of the speaker's discussion make it clear that two persons are in view. If there is some ambiguity, then we cannot be too dogmatic either way. There is nothing preventing us from taking "Bill Clinton" in apposition to "President" and understanding "my husband" as a reference to another individual, if in fact the speaker/writer's husband is NOT Bill Clinton. The grammar, however, in this instance, does not tell us if this is the case.

In my Part 4 of my reply we will discuss how all this relates to Titus 2:13, and consider Bowman's confusion about referential and semantic significance, as well as other matters.



    Previous Top
1999 - 2007 Jehovah's Witnesses United. All rights reserved. Terms of Service
home-icon.gif (1K) Home:
General News
Human Rights
Study Tools
Site Search
Web Search
genexe-icon.gif (1K) EXEGESIS:
Study Links
genexe-icon.gif (1K) GENERAL:
resources-icon.gif (1K) Resources: