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Granville Sharp: A Model of Evangelical Scholarship and Social Activism

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Granville Sharp is widely known in evangelical circles for his famous Greek rule which has been used to defend the deity of Christ in various NT passages.1 Outside of evangelical circles, Sharp is better known as the man who did for England what Abraham Lincoln did for America. He was the prime mover in the abolition of slavery in England; one might even say that he was the force behind Wilberforce. But these two foci are only the tip of the iceberg in this man’s remarkable life. He launched a Bible society, saved a denomination from annihilation, and even founded a nation. Such activities were matched only by his literary efforts. His writings covered a vast array of topics—from philology and textual criticism to theology, music, and social causes, especially the cause of freedom for the black slave. At all times, Sharp’s views of human dignity and freedom were grounded in scripture. Consequently, his writings gave theological articulation to the causes of liberty in three American wars: the Revolutionary War, the War of 1812, and the Civil War.

Why is this paper needed? For three reasons: (1) Granville Sharp’s name is well known in our circles, yet little is known about the man. (2) Indeed, very little is known about his famous rule—a rule which has been almost universally abused and misunderstood by grammarians and exegetes alike. (3) Further, while many evangelicals who wish to have an impact on society have difficulty finding a role model, Granville Sharp readily supplies one. His story begs to be told afresh.

The essay will therefore attempt three things: (1) a brief biographical sketch of one of orthodoxy’s forgotten heroes; (2) a sketch of his writings (including almost seventy books and pamphlets); and (3) an overview and (brief) defense of his rule of Greek grammar.

A Short Life of Granville Sharp

Granville Sharp2 is one of the great forgotten “heroes”3 of history. His biographers sing his praises at every turn. His chief biographer, Prince Hoare (who penned a two-volume, 900-page work on Sharp’s life), goes so far as to say that at the outset of his investigations he intended, out of respect for the dead, to “draw a veil over some peculiarities of Mr. Sharp’s character.” When he finished his well-researched and comprehensive biography, he happily found Sharp’s “character to be of that high and dignified nature, to leave no necessity for such a precaution.…  I see nothing to veil … ”4 Granville Sharp was one of a rare breed of men whose life was characterized by a blend of piety, social conscience, scholarship, and Christian grace. Although that which has primarily concerned evangelicals—his Remarks on the Uses of the Definitive Article (and the famous rule found in that work)—is but a small chapter in his own life5 (as it is only one of scores of works published by the man), it may be helpful to see this slender tome in the broader context of Sharp’s life and achievements.

Granville Sharp was born on 10 November 1735 in Durham, England to a heritage of Christian piety and scholarship. He was the youngest of numerous children6 born to Dr. Thomas Sharp and Judith Sharp (née Wheler). Thomas Sharp, a prolific religious writer,7 the Archdeacon of Northumberland, was the youngest son born to Dr. John Sharp, Dean of Canterbury (1689-91) and Archbishop of York (1691-1714).8 Thomas’ eldest son, John, was to become the trustee of Bamburgh Castle in Northumberland9 and later take a part in the financial well-being of Granville. But the surgeon, William, and the engineer-inventor, James,10 both becoming quite affluent, were to figure most prominently in their younger sibling’s adult life.

As the youngest child, Granville received a negligible stipend for his education, the bulk of his father’s designated funds going to the training of the two eldest sons. He became an apprentice for a London linen-draper at the age of fourteen after receiving a minimal education which did not include even “the first rudiments of the learned languages … ”11 Over the next three years Sharp acquired some knowledge of both Greek and Hebrew, in response to the challenges of a Socinian and a Jew—both of whom claimed that his interpretations of scripture were faulty because they were not based on the original tongues. By 1758 both parents had died, leaving Sharp with a measure of freedom about his occupation. He obtained an appointment in the ordnance office, gaining the status of clerk seven years later. By 1765 Sharp had, without tutor or formal instruction,12 honed his skills in both Greek and Hebrew, though at the sacrifice of sleep and social life.13

In that same year he published what was thought to be his first book,14 a slender volume dealing with OT textual criticism.15 It was a critique of a paper written by Dr. Benjamin Kennicott who had outlined plans for introducing textual variants into the text of his forthcoming Hebrew Bible.16 Sharp’s critique, followed by correspondence and visits with Kennicott, persuaded the Oxford scholar to leave the text intact and place the variants culled from over six hundred MSS in an apparatus criticus at the bottom of each page.17 Sharp’s acumen in biblical studies was such that he assumed no pretense about the infallibility of the MT;18 but he thought it imprudent to bury the readings of the MT in the apparatus when the science of OT textual criticism was still in its infant stages. Thus, part of the reason that the Hebrew Bible has continued, even to the present, to be a diplomatic text (based on a single MS)—as opposed to an eclectic text—is due to the influence that an untrained clerk had on the great Hebraist of the day, Benjamin Kennicott.

In the same year the course of Sharp’s life took a dramatic turn that was to mark the rest of his days. A young African slave by the name of Jonathan Strong had been pistol-whipped by his master almost to the point of death. Abandoned, Strong somehow made his way to Dr. William Sharp’s house where he was nursed back to health. During this time Granville found out about the boy. Once Strong was healthy, the master demanded his return. What followed was a two-year legal battle in which Sharp prepared his case by studying English law,19 culminating in his third book, On the Injustice of tolerating Slavery in England.20 Without protracting this section beyond the purposes of our inquiry, suffice it to say here that Sharp’s antagonists were intimidated sufficiently never to bring the case to trial. Sharp had won: Jonathan Strong was a free man.21

Sharp’s brilliance in both biblical studies and English law, motivated by compassion and truth, prompted his uncle, the Rev. Granville Wheler, to encourage him to enter the ministry. Sharp turned down the offer, feeling both inadequate intellectually to take up the course of study required of a minister, and sensing that he could do the Church more good as a layman.22 This decision would come back to haunt him thirty-one years later, when his Remarks on the Uses of the Definitive Article was published.23

Over the next several years Sharp gained notoriety in the cause of abolition. He was called on to help in the cases of John Hylas (1768) and Thomas Lewis (1770-71), both of which came to the desired verdicts.24 But these were only individual victories; something on a larger scale needed to be accomplished. The case of James Somerset (1772) was carefully chosen by Sharp to set a precedent in England. Somerset had been a slave in Virginia. When brought to England on the business of his master, he was still a slave. Somerset’s lawyers argued that either none of the laws of Virginia applied in England or else all of them did.25 After a lengthy trial, the judgment was declared on 22 June 1772 by Lord Mansfield: “As soon as any slave sets his foot on English ground, he becomes free.”26 Ironically, since Sharp was not a lawyer, he was not openly involved in the proceedings: “although Granville directed the whole of the prosecution in behalf of Somerset, he did not profess, nor even acknowledge, his concern in it, to any but those who acted immediately with himself.”27

In spite of his largely low-key efforts, Sharp’s name became so strongly attached to the cause of abolition that his opinions were respected by important figures on both sides of the Atlantic. Over many years, he heavily influenced, through frequent correspondence and personal contact, Anthony Benezet (a major abolitionist in Philadelphia), Benjamin Rush, John Jay, Benjamin Franklin, and John Adams in America; John Wesley, William Wilberforce, the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Dukes of Richmond and Gloucester in England; General Lafayette of France, and many others.28

Sharp’s involvement with many influential people in the Colonies at this time contributed to their fight for freedom from the British Crown. He “became unintentionally, though not unconsciously, an instrument in the great work of American Independence.”29 As his political involvement was always on the side of liberty, in 1774 Sharp published A Declaration of the People’s natural Rights to a Share in the Legislature, which is the fundamental Principle of the British Constitution. When Benjamin Franklin was in England that summer, Sharp gave him 250 copies of the tract. Franklin dispatched them to America the same day. Once in America several presses throughout the Colonies immediately reprinted the book. A press in Boston alone turned out 7000 copies.30

Incidentally, there is some evidence that this slender volume may have influenced Thomas Jefferson, both verbally and conceptually. A cursory look at Sharp’s work suggests some remarkable similarities with the Declaration of Independence.31 Nevertheless, establishing literary dependence in a case such as this is notoriously difficult and quite beyond the scope of this paper.32

When news that war had broken out reached Sharp the next year, he took leave of his duties in the ordnance office, not wishing to have anything to do with the war. The letter to his employer reveals his reason: “I cannot return to my ordnance duty whilst a bloody war is carried on, unjustly as I conceive, against my fellow-subjects … ”33 When it became clear that the war would be protracted, Sharp resigned his post on 10 April 1777. Since he had no means of support, his brothers mutually agreed to take on the burden of his financial needs.34 Being now freed from the long and taxing hours at the ordnance office, Sharp began to devote himself more thoroughly to his studies and to religious and social causes.35

One such cause was taking shape because of America’s new independence. Up until America severed political ties with England, Episcopal clergy had sworn allegiance to the throne. Now that that was impossible, there was, de jure, no Episcopal church in America.36 Sharp began to work for an independent Episcopal church as soon as he realized the Colonies could not be brought back under England’s rule.37 As with the abolition issue, Sharp worked strenuously behind the scenes. He was the principal liaison between the Archbishop of Canterbury and the American church.38 On 4 August 1784, when the Archbishop had authorized the ordination of priests, Sharp was not satisfied; he wanted the ordination of bishops as well. He continued to argue with the Archbishop, in writing and in person, on the justice and necessity of such a measure. And he continued to encourage the Americans not to give up the fight. Finally, in 1787, “In consequence of the repeated assurances, which Mr. Sharp had been thus authorised to give to the Convention of the Episcopal clergy at Philadelphia, of the readiness on the part of the English Church to consecrate proper persons, two Bishops were elected, Dr. White for Pennsylvania, and Dr. Provost for New York … ”39 When they arrived in England Granville Sharp thus presented them to the Archbishop of Canterbury to be consecrated on 4 February 1787.40 His hoped-for satisfaction of “being the first mover and promoter”41 of an independent Episcopacy in America had come to fruition.

Sharp’s connection with America was continuing to grow. Esteem for him had risen to the point that in the space of five years (1786-91) Sharp had been granted honorary membership in two abolition societies and had received three honorary doctorates.42 His affection for the United States was displayed by his numerous and substantial donations to college and public libraries, as well as to one black church.43 Further, not a few of his books and pamphlets were specifically directed to politics and religion in America.44

Sharp’s influence and magnanimity stretched both west and south. Before the chapter on American Episcopacy had been closed, Sharp’s attention turned toward Africa. After the American Revolution many former slaves who had fought on the side of the British were now homeless in the streets of London. A Mr. Smeathman suggested to them the possibility of establishing a colony of freed slaves on the west coast of Africa. Eager but cautious, they came to Sharp for advice. After careful investigation about the feasibility, Smeathman and Sharp together laid plans for a free colony in Sierra Leone. At the very inception of the undertaking, Smeathman died (c. 15 April 1786),45 leaving Sharp with the burden of adding flesh to the plan.46 Over a quarter million acres of land, including an excellent harbor (St. George’s Bay), were purchased from a native chief. Four hundred former slaves and about sixty Europeans, mostly women, took the maiden voyage to the new colony in April 1787. Sharp was able to procure both ships and funds from the British government for those who chose to relocate.47 Out of gratitude for “their original protector and friend” the colonists named their first settlement Granvilletown.48 The name was later changed to Freetown and “Granvilletown” was the name given to the second settlement.49 In spite of many struggles with slave-traders, the French, and disease, the little colony grew and became established.50 Throughout the nineteenth century Sierra Leone became “the center of Western intellectual life in … West Africa.”51 Its borders expanded through acquisitions from local chiefs. In 1961 it became an independent state; ten years later, a republic. The census of 1991 records over four million inhabitants.

Concurrent with the establishing of Sierra Leone and because of the high visibility of this colony and Sharp’s relationship to it, the fight for abolition was able to reach a new plane. Although Sharp had won the freedom of slaves in England, the British Empire still allowed the slave trade. A committee met on 22 May 1787 for the expressed purpose of abolishing this trade. The designation given to the group was the Committee for the Abolition of the Slave Trade. All members of the committee approved of this name except Sharp. He wanted “slavery” to be part of the title as his intention was to eradicate both the trade and its results from the British Empire.52 The majority won out for the time being; even though its name never changed, Sharp, the idealist, won out in the end (when slavery was abolished in 1833).

Granville Sharp was elected to chair the committee, being recognized as the “father of the cause in England”;53 William Wilberforce was its main spokesman. Beginning in 1789 Wilberforce addressed the Parliament with a series of bills which would ultimately ban slavery. The proposals were tabled until the following year; when renewed, they were defeated. Thus began a battle both within Parliament and among the populace over the slave-trade issue. Almost annually Wilberforce made his proposals. Though frequently passing in the House of Commons, they were always defeated in the House of Lords. While Wilberforce was eloquently arguing his case before the politicians, Sharp and the committee were disseminating information to the people of England.54 Finally, in March 1807 a bill banning the trade passed both houses.55

When the fight for abolition was drawing to a close, Sharp divided his attentions among other concerns. In 1804 he was unanimously elected (by about three hundred individuals) the first chairman of the newly formed British and Foreign Bible Society.56 He remained in this role until his death in 1813. From the first report of the Society one gains an insight into Sharp’s linguistic capacity. One of his first acts was to donate almost forty different versions of the Bible and NT from his own library in modern and ancient Greek, Hebrew, Arabic, Coptic, Latin, Ethiopic, Gothic, Syriac, French, German, Dutch, Irish, Scotch Gaelic, Mohawk, Hungarian, Italian, Polish, and Spanish, as well as another half dozen languages.57 Although it would be gratuitous to assume that Sharp was well accquainted with all of these languages, it would be equally gratuitous to assume that his knowledge of even some of them was nonexistent.58

Sharp also served on many other committees and societies in the last years of his life. Chief among them was the African Institution (founded in April 1807, one month after the slave-trade had been outlawed). The African Institution jointly owned, with his family, Sharp’s literary effects. Hoare’s Memoirs were commissioned under their auspices. Other groups of which Sharp was a member (and usually a director, sometimes chairman) included the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts, the London Society for promoting Christianity among the Jews, Protestant Union, African Association, Refuge for the Destitute, Hibernian Society, Society for the Protection of Young Women, etc.59

He thus remained true to his multifaceted calling of philanthropist, promoter of Christianity, and scholar. Though Sharp traveled extensively within England, he apparently never ventured outside his homeland (an interesting irony in light of his tremendous influence overseas). His life, which ended on 6 July 1813, was commemorated by many notable statesmen and churchmen. He was buried in the family vault in Fulham. A memorial was erected for him in the Poets’ Corner in Westminster Abbey. The Rev. John Owen, Rector of Paglesham in Essex, wrote his epitaph.60 In 1816 the African Institution added a monument, next to the epitaph, in which many of his accomplishments were declared. As if to anticipate a response of incredulity, a note was added to the monument: “IF, ON PERUSING THIS TRIBUTE TO A PRIVATE INDIVIDUAL, THOU SHOULDEST BE DISPOSED TO SUSPECT IT AS PARTIAL, OR TO CENSURE IT AS DIFFUSE, KNOW THAT IT IS NOT PANEGYRIC, BUT HISTORY.” The memorials did not stop at his graveside, however. In 1824 a bust of Sharp was erected in the Council Chamber at the Court of Common Council in Guildhall, London, inscribed with the following: “GRANVILLE SHARP, TO WHOM ENGLAND OWES THE GLORIOUS VERDICT OF HER HIGHEST COURT OF LAW, THAT THE SLAVE WHO SETS HIS FOOT ON BRITISH GROUND BECOMES AT THAT INSTANT FREE.”61

In sum, the man after whom a rule of Greek grammar was named was known more for his heart than his mind. Philanthropist, abolitionist, scholar62 and linguist, Sharp’s legacy was to live on in the lives he touched. Though a lifelong bachelor, Sharp was a father of many causes,63 the bulk of which he could claim no vested interest in. As one friend put it, Sharp was “a churchman in faith, in charity a universalist.”64

The Writings of Granville Sharp

By any account Granville Sharp’s literary fruits were as profound as they were versatile, as scholarly as they were passionate. In his close to seventy volumes,65 he addressed topics from abolition to the pronunciation of biblical Hebrew, from agriculture to lessons in reading music. Some works were mere pamphlets, comprising as few as two or three pages; others were substantial and scholarly pieces, involving several hundred pages. Most were written in English, though three were in French.66 He was productive even in his early years (1765-1777) while virtually enslaved (as he put it)67 to his job at the ordnance office, completing his first eighteen books and pamphlets in his rather limited spare time.68

A topical breakdown of Sharp’s works reveals something of his general interests.69

Social Concerns, Government, English Law—41


Against Duelling—2

Against Impressing Seamen70—2


Military Defense—7

Relief for the Poor—2

Right of Representation, Principles of Democracy—10


Religious Issues—22

Biblical Studies—(16)

Old Testament:

Textual Criticism—1


Exegesis and Theology—3

New Testament:

Translation Principles—1



Theology (especially on prophecy—5


Applied Ecclesiology
(Episcopalianism, Quakerism, Roman Catholicism)—(6)

English Language—3


Reading Primer for Children—1


In spite of his complete lack of formal training in biblical criticism, English law, linguistics, and philology, Sharp was regarded as an expert in them all. The accolades pronounced upon his works were not from generalists and laymen, but from some of the best scholars of the day. The response to his work in the law is documented in the courts of England: the slave-trade and ultimately slavery were abolished because of the catalyst Sharp provided. In biblical criticism71 and philology, we merely note the following. Christopher Wordsworth, who would later become Master of Trinity College, Cambridge University, extensively praised Sharp’s work on the Greek article, even penning a book defending the rule in patristic Greek. Thomas Fanshaw Middleton (whose grammar on the article in Greek is still regarded as the finest treatment ever done) devoted fifteen pages to a discussion and defense of Sharp’s rule.72 Dr. Henry Lloyd, Regius Professor of Hebrew at Cambridge, lauded Sharp for his insights into the pronunciation of Hebrew,73 as did Bishop Horsley on Sharp’s new insights on Hebrew syntax—especially on the waw-consecutive.74 A refrain seen in many reviews, regardless of the nature of the topic, was that Sharp’s treatment was the finest in print, the ablest defense of a view, a great insight which would stand the test of time.

Letters from those who knew him only through his writings frequently addressed him as “Rev[erend],”75 a designation that implied, in the least, a recognition of formal training in biblical and classical languages and biblical studies. When his Remarks on the Uses of the Definitive Article was published, Sharp’s Socinian adversaries, however, seized his Achilles’ heel in this matter. Their frequent ad hominem attacks often unmasked a lack of substance in argument.

Remarks on the Uses of the Definitive Article

Remarks and the Granville Sharp Rule

The only tome Sharp wrote on any aspect of NT grammar was a monograph on the Greek article, appearing in 1798 and bearing the title, 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.76 The slender volume (which, when originally published, contained less than sixty pages) had actually been written twenty years earlier,77 but remained dormant until a friend and scholar urged Sharp to get it published.78 Most likely an outgrowth of his extensive treatise on the Trinity published in 1777,79 this little book was destined to become the center of a linguistic and theological storm and the only piece in biblical studies for which Sharp is remembered.

The Remarks on the Uses of the Definitive Article went through four editions in ten years.80 What may be of interest to note here is that the second and subsequent editions include excerpts from a lengthy rebuttal of Sharp’s Remarks by one pseudonymously named Gregory Blunt.81 The pun was not missed by Sharp: his last edition (1807) adds a twenty-six page preface (ix-xxxiv) in which he interacts with Blunt. Several exchanges were more rhetorical than substantive, dealing with the word-play between Sharp and Blunt.

In this work Sharp articulated six principles of syntax involving the Greek article, though what has commonly become known as “Sharp’s rule” is the first of these. It is the only rule which directly impacts the christologically significant passages and hence, “it is of much more consequence than the rest … ”82 As the weapon by which Sharp made his theological jabs against Socinians, it is this rule which has been largely debated, misunderstood, and abused. Sharp’s definition of it is as follows.

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 , 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 … 83

In the statement of this rule, Sharp only discussed substantives (i.e., nouns, substantival adjectives, substantival participles) of personal description, not those which referred to things, and only in the singular, not the plural. But whether he intended the rule to apply to impersonal nouns and/or plurals can hardly be determined from this definition. As well, he did not clearly exclude proper names from the rule’s application. However, a perusal of his monograph reveals that he felt the rule could be applied absolutely only to personal, singular, non-proper nouns. For example, two pages later he points out that “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 the nouns be proper names, or in the plural number; in which case there are many exceptions … ”84 Later on he explicitly states that impersonal constructions are within the purview of his second, third, fifth, and sixth rules, but not the first.85 In an appendix Sharp refutes Blunt for bringing in impersonal constructions as exceptions to the rule.86

In other words, in the construction article-noun-καί-noun, Sharp delineated four requirements which he felt needed to be met if the two nouns were necessarily to be seen as having the same referent:87 both nouns must be (1) personal—i.e., they must refer to a person, not a thing; (2) common epithets—i.e., not proper names; (3) in the same case;88 and (4) singular in number.89 The significance of these requirements can hardly be overestimated, for those who have misunderstood Sharp’s rule have done so almost without exception because they were unaware of the restrictions that Sharp set forth.

The bulk of Sharp’s Remarks was a discussion of eight christologically significant texts (Acts 20:28; Eph 5:5; 2 Thess 1:12; 1 Tim 5:21; 2 Tim 4:1; Titus 2:13; 2 Pet 1:1; Jude 4), encompassing more than two-thirds of the body of the work.90 Thus, for example, Sharp regarded τοῦ μεγάλου θεοῦ καὶ σωτῆρος ἡμῶν ᾿Ιησοῦ Χριστοῦ in Titus 2:13 to refer to one person: “of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ.” Sharp backed up the validity of his arguments with twenty-five non-christologically significant examples which he believed were undisputed in their semantic force.91 Included in his disquisition are the following illustrations.92

2 Cor 1:3 (bis)

Εὐλογητὸς ὁ θεὸς καὶ πατὴρ τοῦ κυρίου ἡμῶν ᾿Ιησοῦ Χριστοῦ, ὁ πατὴρ τῶν οἰκτιρμῶν καὶ θεός

Blessed is the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and God

Eph 6:21

Τυχικὸς ἀγαπητὸς ἀδελφὸς καὶ πιστὸς διάκονος

Tychicus, the beloved brother and faithful servant

Heb 3:1

τὸν ἀπόστολον καὶ ἀρχιερέα τῆς ὁμολογίας ἡμῶν ᾿Ιησοῦν

the apostle and high priest of our confession, Jesus

Jas 3:9

ἐν αὐτῇ εὐλογοῦμεν τὸν κύριον καὶ πατέρα

in him we confess the Lord and Father

2 Pet 2:20

ἐν ἐπιγνώσει τοῦ κυρίου ἡμῶν καὶ σωτῆρος ᾿Ιησοῦ Χριστοῦ

in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ

Rev 16:15

μακάριος ὁ γρηγορῶν καὶ τηρῶν τὰ ἱμάτια αὐτοῦ

blessed is the one who is awake and who keeps his garments …

Sharp’s judgment was that in these texts “the sense is so plain that there can be no controversy.”93 As is evident even without a context, his assessment was correct. None of the rest of Sharp’s examples required any discussion either, as is obvious from the reactions to his work: no one disputed the validity of these examples. A number of other things were disputed, however, especially the validity of such texts for the christologically pregnant passages.

Nearly Two Centuries of Abuse

The reactions to Sharp’s rule over the next two centuries cannot be easily summarized.94 Our discussion will be necessarily truncated. Not one of Sharp’s critics ever demonstrated an invalid example within the pages of the New Testament. Calvin Winstanley, however, was able to produce four classes of exceptions to Sharp’s rule in Greek literature outside the NT.95 Nevertheless, none of these exceptions impacted in any way the christologically pregnant texts that Sharp’s rule was aimed at.96

Three years after Winstanley’s book appeared, a volume dedicated to the usage of the Greek article was published. The Doctrine of the Greek Article Applied to the Criticism and Illustration of the New Testament, written by the first Bishop of Calcutta, Thomas Fanshaw Middleton,97—a work still highly regarded among NT grammarians today98—gave an extensive treatment on the use of the article in classical Greek, followed by hundreds of pages of exegetical discussions of the article in the NT. Middleton clearly felt the force of Sharp’s rule and lent it credibility from the circle of philology. He believed that Sharp’s canon was valid both for the NT and classical Greek. In addition, he understood the restrictions of the rule to personal, singular, non-proper names.

After Middleton, the next major player was Georg Benedict Winer, the great Greek grammarian of the nineteenth century. Winer’s assessment of Titus 2:13 is as follows:

In Tit. ii. 13… considerations derived from Paul’s system of doctrine lead me to believe that σωτῆρος is not a second predicate, co-ordinate with θεοῦ

… … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … …

[In n 2 at the bottom of the same page] In the above remarks it was not my intention to deny that, in point of grammar, σωτῆρος ἡμῶν may be regarded as a second predicate, jointly depending on the article τοῦ; but the dogmatic conviction derived from Paul’s writings that this apostle cannot have called Christ the great God induced me to show that there is no grammatical obstacle to our taking the clause καὶ σωτ.… Χριστοῦ by itself, as referring to a second subject.99

What is most interesting about Winer’s comments on this text is that though he advances no real grammatical arguments, because he was a highly regarded grammarian he was apparently able to cancel out, by the intimidation of his own opinion, the use of Sharp’s rule in these passages. This statement virtually sounded the death knell to Sharp’s rule. Ironically, what Winstanley could not do in a tightly argued, compact book of fifty-five pages (all in eight-point type), Winer did in a single footnote!

Proof of this is readily available. For example, J. H. Moulton is strongly influenced by Winer’s comment on Titus 2:13, reading it as though borne from a sober grammatical judgment. In his Prolegomena he writes: “We cannot discuss here the problem of Tit 213, for we must, as grammarians, leave the matter open: see WM 162, 156n.”100 Other scholars have followed suit. Some scholars explicitly cite Winer as their authority for doubting the grammatical perspicuity of the construction;101 others, though not mentioning Winer by name, consider the grammar to be vague.102

Winer’s influence, then, seems sufficiently to account for the neglect of Sharp’s rule in discussions of christologically significant passages where it would otherwise be applied. But what about the abuse of the rule? Almost without exception, those who seem to be acquainted with Sharp’s rule and agree with its validity misunderstand it and abuse it. This widespread misunderstanding shows no partiality—grammarians, exegetes, and theologians alike are culpable. Typically, the rule is usually perceived to extend to plural and impersonal constructions—in spite of the fact that Sharp restricted the rule to personal singular nouns. What are the reasons for such abuse? For one thing, as we have seen, the statement of Sharp’s rule is not clear—only an examination of his monograph explicitly reveals his requirement of personal singular nouns. Secondly, the last clear statement of the limitations of Sharp’s canon in any major work was published over one hundred and fifty years ago—in Thomas Fanshaw Middleton’s Doctrine of the Greek Article.103

For whatever reason, modern grammarians have perpetuated the ambiguity of the original statement, bypassing Middleton’s clear articulation of the rule altogether. To take but three examples: A. T. Robertson, in his large grammar, discusses the article-noun-καί-noun construction quite extensively. He was well acquainted with Sharp’s rule—in fact, he was an adamant defender of its validity.104 However, without interacting with either Sharp or Middleton on the point, he felt that the rule applied to impersonal nouns as well as personal.105 Second, Dana and Mantey—on whose grammar many American students have been weaned—actually reproduce (almost) verbatim Sharp’s rule, but neglect to specify more clearly the limitations.106 And third, in his recent intermediate grammar, Stanley Porter states, “Unfortunately, this rule has been widely misunderstood.”107 But Porter both misstates the rule (ignoring the restriction to personal substantives) and, consequently, applies Sharp's canon to an impersonal construction (Eph 3:18).108 Robertson, Dana and Mantey, and Porter are simply the tip of the iceberg of grammarians’ misunderstanding of Sharp’s canon.109

The reason, therefore, for the abuse of the rule seems to be that few have taken the time to read Sharp’s Remarks or Middleton’s Doctrine of the Greek Article—in spite of the fact that “Sharp’s rule” is still, here and there, mentioned with approbation. And the reason that few have actually read Sharp or Middleton,110 it seems, is either inaccessibility or the natural tendency in biblical studies to think that only the most recent literature makes much of a contribution.111

The upshot of the present-day imprecise knowledge of Sharp’s limitations is that those who invoke his canon on behalf of the argument for Christ’s deity in Titus 2:13, etc., since they include plurals and impersonals in the rule, are unable to regard the rule as absolute. Since these same scholars find exceptions to what they perceive to be the rule, they can only regard it as a general principle. For example, Murray J. Harris, in his otherwise excellent and detailed article, “Titus 2:13 and the Deity of Christ” (in F. F. Bruce’s second Festschrift), makes much of the argument that “two co-ordinate nouns referring to the same person are customarily linked by a single article.”112 Yet he gives in defense of this proposition three proof texts—two of which involve nouns in the plural (which even he concedes do not speak of identity and thus they contradict his version of Sharp’s rule)!113 Harris is hardly alone in his misunderstanding of Sharp’s rule; indeed, he simply follows in a long train of exegetes who have been unaware of the restrictions laid down by Sharp.114

To sum up, the validity of Sharp’s canon was called into question, on theological grounds, by the great grammarian of the nineteenth century, Georg Benedict Winer. His stature as a grammarian, even though he spoke in this instance outside his realm, has apparently brought about the neglect of the rule in the vast majority of studies of these passages in this century. Consequently, and certainly related to this, the rule has been abused even by those who agree with its validity,115 because the limitations which Sharp laid down are almost never observed (in large measure because they have not been printed in any major work in the last one hundred and fifty years).

Nevertheless, when properly understood, Sharp’s canon is clearly valid for the NT. And the exceptions to the rule that Winstanley articulated in no way impinge on the christologically significant texts.116 As Robertson quipped, “Winer did not make out a sound case against Sharp’s principle as applied to 2 Peter i. 1 and Titus ii. 13. Sharp stands vindicated after all the dust has settled.”117


If this essay were to lack a conclusion, the inattentive might think that we have been discussing three different men. Indeed, it is perhaps most surprising to find that Sharp, the thoroughly orthodox NT scholar, was a layman, and was far better known for abolishing slavery than for his rule of Greek grammar.

If I may be permitted a pastoral reflection: there is a temptation for those in academia to think that to excel—to make a real contribution in our field—we must never venture outside this realm. Further, evangelical scholars often question the doctrinal convictions of those who are social activists. Granville Sharp shows that that is a false dichotomy. But lest we think that the world has changed, that no Granville Sharps could be found in today’s society, it may be helpful to note some similarities between his age and ours.

J. C. D. Clark, perhaps the leading authority on eighteenth-century English history, wrote: “The correlation between theological heterodoxy and a preference for political reform was strong, but not exclusive. Exceptions stood out, however. One was Granville Sharp … a Trinitarian … ”118

And John Adams, when he was American ambassador in London, in a letter to the Marquis de Lafayette (31 January 1786), stated that Granville Sharp was “very amiable & benevolent in his dispositions, and a voluminous writer, but as Zealously attached to the Episcopacy & and the Athanasian Creed as he is to civil and religious Liberty—a mixture which in this country is not common.”119

Even in his day, Sharp stood against the tide. Precisely because of this, he is a model for us today as well.

1 Quite coincidentally, this draft was completed on 10 November 1995, the 260th anniversary of Granville Sharp’s birth. It is equally coincidental that this paper was originally delivered in Philadelphia, the American city with which Sharp had the strongest connections.

2There are numerous secondary sources for Sharp’s life, although with many discrepancies and errors of fact—cf., e.g., Cyclopaedia of Biblical, Theological, and Ecclesiastical Literature, ed. by J. McClintock and J. Strong (New York: Harper and Brothers, 1880) 9.620-21; Encyclopedia Britannica, 11th ed. (Cambridge: University Press, 1911) 24. 809-810; Encyclopedia Americana (Danbury, CN: Grolier, 1988) 24.673. (Surprisingly, Collier’s Encyclopedia has no entry on Sharp, either in the 1974 edition [New York: Macmillan] or in the 1921 edition [New York: P. F. Collier & Son]).

The primary materials, however, are few and not readily available. The most accurate sources are the following: (1) Two authoritative biographies: Prince Hoare, Memoirs of Granville Sharp, Esq. composed from his own Manuscripts and other Authentic Documents in the Possession of his Family and of the African Institution, 2d ed. (London: Henry Colburn, 1828) 2 vols. (consisting of 438 and 482 pages respectively); and Charles Stuart, A Memoir of Granville Sharp (New York: American Anti-Slavery Society, 1836). Stuart’s biography is substantially briefer (only 156 pages, 67 of which are two of Sharp’s own writings included as an appendix) and is highly selective, dealing almost exclusively with Sharp’s role in the abolition of slavery. (2) Sharp’s own published writings which are quite extensive. See the following section on Sharp’s writings for a brief discussion. (3) Correspondence between Sharp and others, journal entries, and memoranda. These include “twelve large boxes of MSS” (Hoare, Memoirs, 1.258), only a small fraction of which are accessible in the United States (and hence have been at least cursorily examined for this paper). (4) Thomas Clarkson, History of the Abolition of the Slave Trade (London: J. W. Parker, 1839). (5) A collection of materials by and about Sharp belonging to the British and Foreign Bible Societies, now housed in the Bradshaw Room of the Cambridge University Library, Cambridge, England. The brief sketch that follows is based for the most part on Hoare’s Memoirs (as the Stuart memoir was derived almost in its entirety from Hoare [Stuart, Memoir, 70], published to incite the cause of abolition in the United States), supplemented occasionally by a few of Sharp’s letters, manuscripts, and books, as well as some materials authored by others.

3Hoare, Memoirs, 1.xxvii: “although the Memoirs of Granville Sharp do not furnish the history of a hero, in the ordinary acceptation of that name, I am persuaded, by my own feelings, that there are few who will not find him to have been one … ” In particular, William Wilberforce referred to him as such.

4Ibid., 1.xxix.

5Stuart gives it only half a sentence, and then only implicitly (“Collision with a Socinian, who boasted that the original language of the New Testament favored his views, led Sharp to study the Greek … ” [Memoir, 1]) while Hoare devotes eight pages to this topic (Memoirs, 2.360-67), less than one percent of the two-volume biography.

6Eight of whom reached adulthood (Hoare, Memoirs, 1.24, 41).

7Among other works, he wrote Concio ad Clerum for his doctor’s degree at Trinity College, Cambridge (1729), The Rubric in the Book of Common Prayer (1753), and Two Dissertations on the Hebrew Words Elohim and Berith (1751). Cf. Cyclopedia, 9.621; Hoare, Memoirs, 1.23-24.

8Sharp was Archbishop till his death, though there is some doubt as to its date: 2 February 1713 or 2 February 1714 (see Hoare, Memoirs, 1.19). He was the last Archbishop of York to be buried at Yorkminster.

9Ibid., 1.26.

10James is the man to whom England “is indebted for the first establishment of its inland navigation” (Hoare, Memoirs, 1.34).

11Ibid., 1.41.

12Ibid., 2.234.

13Ibid., 1.45-46, 192-93. After several years of working for the government, Sharp explained his inconsistent and tardy correspondences. To Dr. Rutherford (24 August 1774) he wrote: “We keep no holidays in the Ordnance, as in other public offices, and I am stationed in the most laborious post in the whole office; so that, as my time is not my own, I profess myself entirely incapable of holding a literary correspondence. What little time I have been able to save from sleep at night, and early in a morning, has been necessarily employed in the examination of some points of law …” And to Anthony Benezet (7 July 1773) he penned, “I am really a sort of slave myself,” a somber and telltale note which by this time revealed the empathetic motives that were to characterize his life.

14Although Hoare calls this his first book (Memoirs, 1.194), in Sharp’s handwritten catalog of his published works he lists A short Account of that Part of Africa inhabited by Negroes, stating that it was “first printed at Philadelphia in 1762” (catalog transcribed by Hoare, Memoirs, 2.343). This work stands fifth in the list of his published works because its first British publication date was 1768.

15Remarks on a printed Paper lately handed about, intituled, “A Catalogue of the Sacred Vessels restored by Cyrus, and of the Chief Jews who returned at first from the Captivity; together with the Names of the returning Families, and the Number of the Persons at that Time in each Family: Disposed in such a Manner, as to shew most clearly the great Corruption of Proper Names and Numbers in the present Text of the Old-Testament” (London: B. White, 1765). A second edition appeared in 1775.

16This became a two-volume work, published in Oxford 1776-80, based on the MT of E. van der Hooght, Vetus Testamentum Hebraicum cum variis lectionibus (1705). Kennicott’s work is still valuable today.

17Hoare, Memoirs, 1.194-203, 2. 341-42. Cf. also E. Würthwein, Text of the Old Testament, 4th ed. (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1979) 38. Hoare effervesces over the David vs. Goliath proportions of Sharp’s accomplishment (Memoirs, 1.195): “The singularity of the subject, the confidence with which his enterprise was supported, and the success with which it was finally attended, form one of the most remarkable incidents in literary annals.”

18Hoare, Memoirs, 1.200, quoting Sharp’s letter to the Rev. Mr. Percy (23 March 1768): “I never contended for the absolute integrity of the printed Hebrew Bibles … ”

19Some secondary sources state that Sharp had been educated for the bar (e.g., Cyclopaedia 9.620). This was not the case. This false belief was promoted even by those who worked closely with Sharp. In the collection of papers belonging to the British and Foreign Bible Societies, now housed in the Bradshaw Room of the Cambridge University Library, Cambridge, England, is a beautifully handwritten MS entitled “Granville Sharp (Philanthropist).” Apparently this document is a eulogy commissioned by the General Committee of the BFBS on August 6, 1813. In this short piece we are told that Sharp was “educated for the bar, but never practised.”

Sharp’s interest in the law was borne out of the sufferings of the black man, Jonathan Strong. As Hoare remarks, “his extraordinary action in behalf of the African race did not take its rise in theory, but was elicited by the occurrence of natural circumstances” (Memoirs, 1.51-52). Sharp himself admits that he “had never once opened a law book, to consult it, till on occasion of the present cause” (Hoare, Memoirs, 1.55, quoting an unspecified MS from Sharp’s remains). His biographer adds that “In his difficult task of legal inquiry, he had no instructor; no assistant, except his own diligence; no encourager, except his own conscience” (ibid., 59). This is the more remarkable since his adversary, the master of the slave, was himself a lawyer, David Lisle.

20Sharp had circulated a MS to Lisle and his attorneys. This MS was to become the book two years later (1769).

21The tenacity and genius of Sharp with reference to this case are well documented in Hoare, Memoirs, 1.47-68. Sharp’s accomplishment was celebrated early on in orthodox circles: among the collection of papers in the Bradshaw Room of Cambridge University is an illustrated gospel tract that uses this story to promote the gospel.

22Letter to Granville Wheler, 26 November 1767 (recorded in Hoare, Memoirs, 1.69-70).

23In particular he felt that one advantage he had over a minister in the areas of apologetics and interpretation was that he would not be expected to have studied an issue thoroughly. It was precisely because of his lack of formal training and partial preparation that his Remarks on the Uses of the Definitive Article would be ridiculed.

24Hoare, Memoirs, 1.71-92.

25Part of the defense’s argument was that the American colonies were not under Parliamentary law because “no Parliament can have a just right to enact laws for places which it does not represent” (Hoare, Memoirs, 1.118). It was this firm conviction that led Sharp to another major turning point in his life two years later.

26Cf. ibid., 1.93-141. Sharp’s handwritten minutes of the verdict record his own convictions well, for he underlined the refrain constantly used, viz. “that England was too pure an Air for Slaves to breathe in … ” (Granville Sharp, minutes of the case involving James Somerset, [c. 22 June 1772 or later]).

27Hoare, Memoirs, 1.108.

28Hoare notes that “His reputation stood high in America, in consequence of his extraordinary acts of philanthropy; and the esteem of his general character had there become established on a far more extensive scale than in his own country” (Memoirs, 1.256). Besides Hoare, Memoirs passim, cf. especially correspondence from Anthony Benezet to Sharp (14 May 1772, 8 November 1772 et al.); correspondence between Benjamin Franklin and Granville Sharp in the Library of Congress’ Miscellaneous Manuscripts collection, and in Collections of the Massachusetts Historical Society, Series 1, vol. 3 (New York: Johnson Reprint Corp., 1968) 162-66; correspondence from John Adams to Sharp (8 March 1786); M. D. Kennedy, Lafayette and Slavery: From his Letters to Thomas Clarkson and Granville Sharp (Easton, PA: American Friends of Lafayette, 1950); G. Sharp, Letter from Granville Sharp Esq., of London, to the Maryland Society for Promoting the Abolition of Slavery, and the Relief of Free Negroes and others, unlawfully held in Bondage (Baltimore: Graham, Lundt, and Patton, 1793); G. Sharp, Extract of a Letter to a Gentleman in Maryland; wherein is Demonstrated the extreme Wickedness of Tolerating the Slave Trade, 4th ed. (London: Phillips and Fardon, 1806).

29Hoare, Memoirs, 1.257.

30Ibid., 1.182-83, 257.

31Only the first 46 pages of text dealt with America; the second half of the book is concerned with Ireland (the 40-page preface is essentially theological in nature). But even here there are many verbal and conceptual similarities with the American document. Note, for example, the following excerpts from Sharp’s volume (all italics in the original): “natural rights … plain conclusions … common sense” (1); “there can be no legal appearance of Assent without some degree of Representation” (4); “inequality … corrupt … natural Liberty … Tyrants, Traitors … ” (6); “It is manifest, therefore, that the constitutional government of England, even with all its defects, is infinitely better than any other form of government whereby the people are deprived of their just share in the legislature” (7); “Law, to bind all, must be assented to by all” (9); “no Tax can be levied, without manifest Robbery and Injustice, where this legal and constitutional Representation is wanting” (10); “contrary to the eternalLaws of God, which are supreme” (11); “without their participation and assent … ” (11); “taxing the American Subjects without their Consent” (24); “Equity, Justice, and Liberty” (27); “their [Americans’] unalienable right to the same happy privileges by which the liberties of the mother-country have hitherto been maintained … by the people” (35); “disunion” (40); “treasonable” (41 and passim). There are hints here and there as well of impact on the Constitution, including the Bill of Rights (cf. especially 2-3, 4-5, 7-8, 10-15).

32Still, four points are worth pondering: (1) Sharp’s tract reached America almost eighteen months before Thomas Paine’s Common Sense was published; (2) Jefferson admitted that his ideas were not original, but borrowed heavily from previous written sources (in a letter from Jefferson to James Madison, 30 August 1823); (3) Sharp’s volume circulated widely in the Colonies and was known by influential dignitaries such as Benjamin Franklin and John Adams, both of whom were originally assigned to help write the Declaration; (3) Sharp was an Englishman on the side of the Americans, a fact which would enhance the credibility of their cause, and almost certainly impact the wording and thinking of several American statesmen.

33Quoted in Hoare, Memoirs, 1.185.

34“He had expended the remains of his paternal inheritance and the fruits of his employment in acts of bounty; and the protector of the helpless stood himself without the means of sustenance. But the cordial attachment of his brothers (all now prosperous) brought them instantly around him” (ibid., 1.188-89).

35Among other works produced at this time was a tract decrying the practice of impressing seamen entitled, An Address to the People of England, being the Protest of a private Person against every Suspension of Law that is liable to injure or endanger Personal Security. Though not listed in the catalog of works that he acknowledged writing, Remarks on Impressing Seamen (1777) was generally attributed to Sharp as well (Hoare, Memoirs, 1.247). This little pamphlet was reprinted in 1810 (n.p., n.p.) on the verge of the War of 1812. (Sharp thus twice became a catalyst on the side of the Americans—once with reference to the American Revolution and now with reference to the War of 1812.)

36Cf. Hoare, Memoirs, 1.313; C. E. Olmstead, History of Religion in the United States (Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1960) 221-24.

37In his journal entry for 31 August 1779 he wrote that he had taken steps “for more than two years past, to persuade the Americans here in London of the necessity of adopting and introducing Episcopacy into America … ” (quoted in Hoare, Memoirs, 1.310).

38Remarkably, as thorough as Olmstead’s History of Religion in the United States is, he fails to mention Sharp at all for the part he played. The account in Hoare is not to be discounted, for many of the very details of the story, including dates, principals, and motivations are identical. Further, Hoare’s account is far more comprehensive than Olmstead’s and the latter’s is slow to mention any of the English principals, including the Archbishop himself! Cf. Hoare, 1.314-342 with Olmstead, 221-24. (It is no less remarkable that Sharp does not merit the attention of Charles J. Abbey, The English Church and Its Bishops 1700-1800, 2 vols. [LondonL Longmans, Green, & Co., 1887] 2.184-90, in his discussion of the consecration of White and Provost [spelled “Provoost” in Abbey] or other incidents leading up to this event.)

39Hoare, Memoirs, 1.331-32. Olmstead spells the second delegate’s name “Provoost.”

40Hoare, Memoirs, 1.342. Once this was accomplished, Sharp then began to persuade the Archbishop about the Episcopacy in Canada (ibid., 1.347).

41Letter to his brother, Dr. John Sharp, c. 1779 (mentioned in Hoare, Memoirs, 1.310-11).

42The Pennsylvania Society for promoting the Abolition of Slavery and the Relief of free Negroes (Sharp’s membership was conveyed in a letter by Benjamin Franklin, 9 June 1787); The New York Society for Abolition of Slavery (communicated to Sharp by John Jay, 1 September 1788); Doctor of Laws conferred by the College of Providence, Rhode Island (September 1786), University of Cambridge, Massachusetts (9 November 1790); University of Williamsburg, Virginia (c. 1791). Cf. Hoare, Memoirs, 1.374-81.

43Sharp contributed to public libraries in New York, Philadelphia, and Virginia; college libraries at Harvard, Dartmouth, Yale, Princeton as well as several others (Hoare, Memoirs, 1.348-51). I have possession of a copy of one of Sharp’s letters (one that is not mentioned in Hoare) to the public library in Philadelphia (7 February 1785). In it he catalogs the titles which were donated by himself and his brother William. On this occasion William donated twenty-three books, all written by relatives (especially his grandfather and father); Granville donated eighteen books, all of which were versions of or aids for the Bible (such as concordances, Latin Vulgate, Stephanus text, etc.) and patristic works. The nature of the gift to the black church is unknown, as Sharp kept no record of his own letter. But a grateful reply for his recent “humane donation to our church” is mentioned (letter from the African Church of Philadelphia to Granville Sharp, 25 November 1793, mentioned in Hoare, Memoirs, 1.380-81).

44See next section for a discussion.

45Hoare, Memoirs, 2.16.

46It is important to note that although Sharp did not initiate the plans for this colony he had contemplated such a colony three years before he and Smeathman were in contact (as noted in his journal entry of 1 August 1783, given in Hoare, Memoirs, 2.11-15). And once he collaborated with Smeathman, Sharp apparently authored the constitution by which the colony would govern itself (ibid., 2.15). He is thus justly considered as the father of Sierra Leone (ibid., 2.269).

47Sharp’s principal contact was William Wilberforce. The friendly association of these two would play a large role in the annals of British abolition over the next three decades.

48Hoare, Memoirs, 2.25. The name is variously spelled in Hoare: Granville Town, Granville-town, Granville Town, etc. Stuart spells it as we have it above (Memoir, 42).

49Hoare, Memoirs, 2.131.

50See a detailed history up until 1828 in Hoare, Memoirs, 2.1-182. The growth of the colony got its greatest momentum from the abolition of slavery in England in 1807.

51Collier's Encyclopedia (1974 ed.) 21.14, s.v. “Sierra Leone.”

52Hoare, Memoirs, 2.233-36; cf. also Stuart, Memoir, 54-56, for insights on the committee’s debate.

53Hoare, Memoirs, 2.230. In over seven hundred meetings of the committee, Sharp never sat in the chairman’s seat, but rather preferred the least conspicuous chair at the opposite end of the table (Hoare, Memoirs, 2.231).

54One pamphlet, written by John Newton, had a rather significant impact. Since Newton had been a slave-trader himself (Thoughts upon the African Slave Trade [London: Buckland, 1788] 40), there was immediate credibility to his opinions. As a sidenote, one of the interesting comments in the treatise was Newton’s preference for the designation “Black” as opposed to “Negroe,” for those enslaved, calling the latter a “contemptuous” designation (ibid., 8).

55For a detailed account of the committee’s work, cf. Hoare, Memoirs, 2.183-254.

56Ibid., 2.256-60; John Owen, The History of the Origins and First Ten Years of the British and Foreign Bible Society (New York: James Easburn, 1817), 22. Elsewhere Owen gives the reasons why Sharp was chosen (83): “Perhaps it would not have been possible to find, throughout the British dominions, a man in whom the qualities requisite for the first Chairman of the British and Foreign Bible Society were so completely united as they were in this venerable philanthropist. A churchman in faith, in charity a universalist, he stamped upon the institution, while it was yet tender, those characters which suited its constitution and its end … ”

57Hoare, Memoirs, 2.260-63. A letter of thanks on behalf of the Committee of the Bible Society, dated 9 January 1805, was penned by Lord Teignmouth (unpublished, in the possession of the BFBS Collection). Upon Sharp’s death, the Society noted that he was “the earliest and largest benefactor to their library” (resolution quoted in Hoare, Memoirs, 2.317). Alan F. Jesson, now curator of the “British and Foreign Bible Society’s Collection,” located in the Bradshaw Room of Cambridge University Library, has ably documented the early history of the Society in his “The Libraries of the British and Foreign Bible Society and the American Bible Society, New York: A Comparison” (M. L. S. dissertation, Loughborough University of Technology, 1977). He notes that not only was Sharp the first to respond to a public appeal for Bibles, but that Sharp also contributed in the second round of donations. This second round included a total of thirty-six books by twenty-two donors, showing how remarkable was Sharp’s first gift (Jesson, “Libraries,” 15).

58In Sharp’s own hand is the list of Bibles he donated to the BFBS, recorded in the manuscript British & Foreign Bible Society Miscellaneous Book Commencing 1804, 1-4 (unpublished document in the British and Foreign Bible Society’s Collection). A look at this annotated list, together with a firsthand examination of the Bibles, did not reveal as much as I had hoped. But four points deserve mention: (1) A few of the Bibles were given to Sharp, but most were apparently gained by purchase. Not once does the name of his father or grandfather appear in them, suggesting that he bought them himself (thus, indicating that they were not kept as mere heirlooms, but probably served some utilitarian purpose). (2) He made few marks in the Bibles, even in the bilingual and trilingual Bibles and those which involve languages that Sharp had demonstrated a knowledge of (e.g., French, English, Latin, Greek). Thus, the absence of markings is no proof of a linguistic handicap. (3) Most of the Bibles were handsome folio or quarto editions, rendering them probably too expensive both to mark in and to have purchased on impulse. (The only Bible with extensive markings is the smallest in the collection, an octavo Spanish Testament from 1556). (4) A few of the Bibles do, however, have notes in Sharp’s handwriting, usually concerning the morphology and syntax of the language (e.g., Syriac, Gothic, Malaya, Hungarian/Magyar, Caledonian/Scotch Ga[e]lic, modern Greek, and Italian).

59Cf. Hoare, Memoirs, 2.255-82.

60Three years later Owen wrote to Hoare about Sharp’s character and accomplishments. Among other things he noted that “He had, in a measure, the spirit and power of Elijah” and that he had acquired, on his own, a good grasp of “French, Latin, Greek, Hebrew, and the Syriac and Chaldee dialects” (25 March 1816, cited in Hoare, Memoirs, 2.333-35, quotations from 334).

61Cited in Hoare, Memoirs, 1.xxxix.

62Though almost universally regarded as a scholar—most notably by the scholars of the day, Sharp adopted the opinion of some of his Socinian adversaries. When he was requested to peruse a biographical sketch of himself written up for a periodical, he objected to the glowing expressions of his academic prowess. In the margin he wrote the comment, “G. S. is by no means entitled to the character of ‘a good scholar, well read, &c.’ for he never read or studied more than what was unavoidably necessary on those few subjects which from time to time seemed to demand his unexperienced endeavors, on each particular occasion which excited his attention” (cited in Hoare, Memoirs, 2.355). His biographer poignantly noted, “Under the influence of this principle [of humility], he seems almost to have trespassed on veracity.”

63He almost surely considered himself a father of the many he helped. The men and women of Sierra Leone, for example, he called “his ‘orphans’ and showed all a father’s spirit towards them” (Stuart, Memoir, 35).

64Owen, British and Foreign Bible Society, 83.

65Among Sharp’s remains was a catalog in his own hand of his published works, comprising sixty-three books or pamphlets (for a transcript of the catalog see Hoare, Memoirs, 2.341-54.) This catalog includes sixty-one numbered items. The discrepancy between these two numbers is to be accounted for as follows. Two of the items were each a seven-part series of pamphlets, later bound in one volume. Two items were counted twice, one for each edition. Eight items were documents written by others in reponse to Sharp’s works. This brings the total to sixty-three.

This does not account for all of his writings, however. It is believed that he wrote at least one more book anonymously (Hoare, Memoirs, 1.247). Further, even Sharp’s own records are not exhaustive. Not listed are An Essay on Slavery, Proving from Scripture its Inconsistency with Humanity and Religion (Burlington: Isaac Collins, 1772), and An Account of the Ancient Division of the English Nation into Hundreds and Tithings (London: Galabin and Baker, 1784). There may be others that could be added to this list, but which are unknown in the United States. In addition, he wrote a few other treatises which were not published because his adversaries recanted of their views before such tomes went to press, thus satisfying Sharp.

Hence, we have firm evidence of at least sixty-five published works from Sharp, a probable suspicion of at least one more work, knowledge of a few manuscripts which Sharp refrained from publishing, and a suspicion that some works though published are not catalogued in the libraries of the United States. The number seventy is thus a conservative figure.

66E.g., Necessité et Moyens d’etablir la Force publique sur la Rotation continuelle du Service militaire, et la Representation nationale sur la Proportion exacte du Nombre des Citoyens (Paris: n.p., 1792), the most substantial of the three, dealt with the right of the populace to be organized according to frankpledge as a means of self-defense against a despotic government.

67Correspondence to Anthony Benezet, 7 July 1773.

68Some of these works were rather substantial (e.g., A Tract on the Law of Nature, and Principles of Action in Man [London: B. White, 1777], principally an exegetical-theological work which argued for evidence of the Trinity in the OT, comprising almost 450 pages). Sharp took a leave of absence from his duties in 1775, and although he did not resign his post until two years later, his time was his own beginning in 1775. Still, his first eleven works were published before he took his leave (1765-1774).

69Many of his works overlap in their themes. Such works are listed by their main emphasis. Although we believe that Sharp wrote at least seventy published volumes, only sixty-six are listed here (for explanation, see note 65).

70 The number for this category includes an anonymous work attributed to Sharp.

71One of the best evidences that Sharp had far more than a layman’s understanding of biblical studies can be seen in his views on textual criticism. As we have already noted, he recognized early on that the Masoretic Text did not always replicate the original (cf. above discussion of his first work, a book on OT textual criticism). And although he did not write any work on NT textual criticism per se, he was well acquainted with the apparatus critici of various editions, as well as with several MSS first-hand. Most remarkably in this regard, Sharp felt neither allegiance to the King James Bible nor to the Textus Receptus. And although his text-critical views were hardly as sophisticated as those of a Griesbach or Lachmann (he defends, for example, the authenticity of θεός in 1 Tim 3:16 [A Tract on the Law of Nature, 252-53]), Sharp’s treatments give further testimony that although the TR was the only printed text until 1831, this situation was hardly due to consensus of its authority.

72See discussion below.

73Correspondence from Lloyd to Sharp, 15 January 1798, cited in Hoare, Memoirs, 2.374.

74Correspondence from Horsley to Sharp, 5 July 1805, cited in ibid., 2.373-4. Horsley’s praise was in reference to some refinements on the use of waw that Sharp had introduced in his Three Tracts on the Syntax and Pronunciation of the Hebrew Tongue, with an Appendix, addressed to the Hebrew Nation (4 vols. in one; London: Vernor and Hood, 1804). Horsley was sufficiently impressed with Sharp’s insights that he began translating Sharp’s comments into Latin in order that they might thereby gain recognition in the rest of Europe. Horsley’s untimely death prevented the completion of the translation (Hoare, Memoirs, 2.367-71).

75Hoare, Memoirs, 2.376.

76This is the title of the first American edition. There are slight differences in earlier editions. Unless otherwise noted, the edition used in this paper is the latest, the first American edition (a clone of the third British edition), published in Philadelphia by B. B. Hopkins in 1807.

77The first twenty-four pages (twenty-six in the 2d edition) of his Remarks on the Uses of the Definitive Article are, in fact, a duplication of that letter to an unnamed minister friend (dated 10 June 1778). All six rules are laid down, with several examples. Sharp’s usual practice was to make an ἀντίγραφον of his letters. On this occasion, however, Sharp “had not leisure to copy the original letter” and, after repeated attempts to retrieve it over a span of several years, was able to obtain only a part of it (Remarks on the Uses of the Definitive Article, 24).

78T. Burgess, Lord Bishop of St. David’s, editor of the first and second editions of Sharp’s work, apparently examined many of Sharp’s unpublished MSS, selecting this one for publication. He saw it apparently for the first time in 1792 (correspondence from Burgess to Sharp, 15 December 1792 [quoted in Hoare, Memoirs, 2.372]). The essay was not originally intended by Sharp for publication (cf. Sharp, Remarks, iv; Hoare, Memoirs, 2.300-301, citing a memorandum by Sharp on this work).

79A Tract on the Law of Nature. One might note the cautious stance that Sharp took on his own work. In the scripture index to this tract, there is no mention of Eph 5:5; 1 Tim 5:21; 2 Tim 4:1; Titus 2:13; or 2 Pet 1:1—all passages which Sharp would later argue fit his rule and thus bore testimony to Christ’s deity. A year after it was published, however, Sharp wrote to a friend about his rule on the article (which letter is reproduced at the beginning of his Remarks on the Uses of the Definitive Article). There he alludes to his having worked on the article-noun-καί-noun construction for some time and that he had, in fact, sent a preliminary draft of his views to “a very learned friend” who found several exceptions to Sharp’s first rule as he had at the time stated it (Remarks 1-2). Although the many time references are not precise (e.g., “I have so long neglected” to write; “I had written,” “I was willing to wait”), it is possible, even likely, that Sharp had worked up a rough sketch of his rule while writing his Tract on the Law of Nature. If so, he most likely would have hesitated to include the rule in the tract because it had not yet been processed through sober reflection by himself or judicious examination by others. Hence, he does not mention the christologically significant texts involving the construction in his Tract on the Law of Nature.

80The first and second editions were published in Durham by L. Pennington in 1798 and 1802. The third edition was published in London by Vernor and Hood in 1803. The fourth, known as the first American edition, was merely a reprint of the third with a few typographical and spelling changes; it was published in Philadelphia by B. B. Hopkins in 1807.

81Blunt’s work was originally published as a 218 page book entitled, Six More Letters to Granville Sharp, Esq., on his Remarks upon the Uses of the Article in the Greek Testament. London: J. Johnston, 1803. Blunt’s real name was apparently Thomas Pearne.

82Sharp, Remarks on the Uses of the Definitive Article 2. The rest of the rules were intended “to illustrate the particularity of the several sentences which fall under the first rule … ” (ibid., 7).

83Sharp, Remarks on the Uses of the Definitive Article 3 (italics in the original).

84Ibid., 5-6.

85Ibid., 120. Sharp also notes that the fourth rule embraces impersonal substantives exclusively (ibid., 121).

86Ibid., 140-42.

87It is not enough to say that both nouns have equal referents (as some have misunderstood Sharp to mean), nor that the single article simply unites them somehow: the point of Sharp’s rule is that both noun A and noun B refer to the same person (thus an identical referent).

88Sharp did not specify that it must have complete grammatical concord, e.g., by also having the same gender. Thus whether Sharp would have applied his rule to 1 John 5:20 is not known.

89These criteria can also be seen from Sharp’s examples. He produces twenty-five undisputed examples (i.e., those which do not impact the deity of Christ) from the NT. Every one involves singular, non-proper, personal substantives, in grammatical concord with the article.

90Ibid., 25-62. He also discussed Phil 3:3 as a pneumatologically significant text, according to the reading of Alexandrinus and other ancient authorities (29-31).

91Ibid., 3-7. He further recognized that these twenty-five examples were not all the passages that came under the rubric of his rule (“There are several other texts wherein the mode of expression is exactly similar, and which therefore do necessarily require a construction agreeable to the same rule … ” (ibid.). On the other hand, Sharp did not know explicitly of any other texts (cf. his response to one Calvin Winstanley, A Dissertation on the Supreme Divine Dignity of the Messiah: in reply to a Tract, entitled, “A Vindication of certain Passages in the common English Version of the New Testament” [London: B. Edwards, 1806] 4).

92Some of his examples involved readings found in the TR which have little claim to authenticity (e.g., τὸν τύφλον καὶ κώφον in Matt 12:22, Sharp’s lone example from the Gospels).

93Ibid., 6.

94For a detailed treatment, see D. B. Wallace, “The Article with Multiple Substantives Connected by Καί in the New Testament: Semantics and Significance” (Ph.D. dissertation, Dallas Theological Seminary, 1995) 50-80. This dissertation is to be published (under a different title) by Peter Lang. This article is, in fact, essentially an expansion of a part of the dissertation and contraction of another.

95C. Winstanley, A Vindication of Certain Passages in the Common English Version of the New Testament. Addressed to Granvile Sharp, Esq. (Cambridge: University Press—Hilliard and Metcalf, 1819). The first edition was published in 1805, still during Sharp’s lifetime (Liverpool: W. Jones).

96For a detailed discussion, see Wallace, “The Article with Multiple Substantives,” 56-57, 59-61, 64-66, 122-32, 258-59, 267-71.

97Originally published in 1808. The edition (“new edition”) used in this essay was published in 1841, incorporating notes by H. J. Rose (London: J. G. F. & J. Rivington, 1841). The latest edition (1855) is merely a reprint of the 1841 edition.

98Note especially C. F. D. Moule, An Idiom Book of New Testament Greek, 2d ed. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1959) 94, 94 (n. 1), 109 (n. 3), 113 (n. 2), 114, 115, 116, 117, 122. S. E. Porter, Idioms of the Greek New Testament (Sheffield: JSOT, 1992) 103, n. 1, acknowledges that Middleton’s tome is the “most thorough treatment of the Greek article to date …”

99 G. B. Winer, A Treatise on the Grammar of New Testament Greek, trans. and rev. W. F. Moulton, 3d ed., rev. (Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1882) 162.

100J. H. Moulton, A Grammar of New Testament Greek, vol. 1: Prolegomena, 3d ed. (Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1908) 84 (italics added).

101Cf., e.g., C. J. Ellicott, A Critical and Grammatical Commentary on the Pastoral Epistles (Andover: Draper, 1897) 207; H. Alford, “The Epistle to Titus,” in The Greek Testament with a Critically Revised Text, a Digest of Various Readings, Marginal References to Verbal and Idiomatic Usage, Prolegomena, and a Critical and Exegetical Commentary, rev. E. F. Harrison (Chicago: Moody, 1958) 421; R. M. Pope, The Epistles of Paul the Apostle to Timothy and Titus (London: C. H. Kelly. 1901) 157; H. Windisch, “Zur Christologie der Pastoralbriefe,” ZNW 34 [1935] 226; Taylor, The Person of Christ, 132; R. W. Funk, “The Syntax of the Greek Article: Its Importance for Critical Pauline Problems” (Ph.D. dissertation, Vanderbilt University, 1953) 68. In passing, it should be noted that Funk’s appeal to Winer-Moulton for ambiguity contradicts his earlier (on the same page) approbation of Blass-Debrunner’s citing of Titus 2:13 as an example of identical referent.

102Cf., e.g., N. J. D. White, “The Epistle to Titus” in The Expositor’s Greek Testament (New York: Dodd, Mead & Co., 1897) 195; J. H. Bernard, The Pastoral Epistles in the Cambridge Greek Testament (Cambridge: University Press, 1899) 171; A. Plummer, “The Pastoral Epistles” in The Expositor’s Bible, ed. W. R. Nicoll (London: Hodder & Stoughton, 1894) 269; E. F. Scott, The Pastoral Epistles (New York: Harper and Brothers, n.d.) 169-70; N. Brox, Die Pastoralbriefe, in the Regensburger Neues Testament (4th ed.; Regensburg: Friedrich Pustet, 1969) 300; M. Dibelius and H. Conzelmann, The Pastoral Letters (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1972) 143; C. Spain, The Letters of Paul to Timothy and Titus (Austin, TX: R. B. Sweet, 1970) 183; E. Stock, Plain Talks on the Pastoral Epistles (London: Robert Scott, 1914) 89.

Among grammarians, note W. H. Simcox (The Language of the New Testament [London: Hodder & Stoughton, 1890]): “… in Tit. ii. 13, 2 Peter i. 1, we regard θεοῦ and σωτῆρος as indicating two Persons, though only the former word has the article” (50); A. Buttmann (A Grammar of the New Testament Greek [Andover: Warren F. Draper, 1873]), who heavily relies on Winer throughout his grammar, argues that “it is very hazardous in particular cases to draw important inferences, affecting the sense or even of a doctrinal nature, from the single circumstance of the use or the omission of the article; see e.g. Tit. ii. 13; Jude 4; 2 Pet. i. 1 … ” (97); and M. Zerwick (Biblical Greek Illustrated by Examples [Rome: Pontificii Instituti Biblici, 1963]) states that the rule is only suggestive, “since the unity of article would be sufficiently accounted for by any conjunction, in the writer’s mind, of the notions expressed” (60).

103The 1841 edition. The 1855 edition was merely a reprint.

104“The Greek Article and the Deity of Christ,” The Expositor, 8th series, 21 (1921) 182-88. He concludes his discussion of Winer’s influence by saying that “Winer did not make out a sound case against Sharp’s principle as applied to 2 Peter i. 1 and Titus ii. 13. Sharp stands vindicated after all the dust has settled” (187).

105A. T. Robertson, A Grammar of the Greek New Testament in the Light of Historical Research, 4th ed. (New York: Hodder & Stoughton, 1923) 785-89. The title of the first section is “Several Epithets Applied to the Same Person or Thing” (785-86).

106H. E. Dana and J. R. Mantey, A Manual Grammar of the Greek New Testament (New York: Macmillan, 1927) 147 (as well, they give but three examples, two of which are among the exegetical cruces which concern this paper!). Dana-Mantey modify the statement of the rule in several minor points, however.

107S. E. Porter, Idioms of the Greek New Testament (Sheffield: JSOT, 1992) 110. The error is repeated in the second edition (1994).


109For example, K. Wuest (“The Greek Article in New Testament Interpretation,” BSac 118 [1961]) alleges that “Another function of the Greek article is in the construction called Granville Sharp’s rule, where two nouns in the same case are connected by kai, the first noun, articular, the second, anarthrous, the second referring to the same person or thing expressed by the first noun and being further description of it” (29). Here, he assumes that impersonal nouns fit the rule and further argues that “Sharp’s rule makes the words [in Titus 2:13] ‘the hope’ and ‘the appearing’ refer to the same thing, and ‘God’ and ‘Saviour’ to be the same individual” (ibid.). Wuest also thinks that plural nouns fit the rule: “The same rule identifies the ‘pastors and teachers’ of Ephesians 4:11 (AV) as one individual” (ibid.). L. Radermacher (Neutestamentliche Grammatik, 2d ed. [Tübingen: J. C. B. Mohr, 1925]), though not mentioning Sharp, seems to imply that a single article uniting two substantives joined by καί speaks of an identical referent: “Wenn mehrere Substantiva [sic] in der Aufzählung miteinander verbunden werden, genügt oft der Artikel beim ersten Wort und zwar nicht allein bei gleichem Genus” (115). He lists τὰ ἐντάλματα καὶ διδασκαλίας (Col 2:22) as evidence. He goes on to say that the same phenomenon occurs in hellenistic Greek, citing ὁ ἥλιος καὶ σελήνη as an example (ibid.). His two examples are both impersonal, one being singular and the other plural. A case could almost be made for the first example expressing identity, but certainly not the second. Similarly, S. G. Green (Handbook to the Grammar of the Greek Testament, rev. ed. [London: Religious Tract Society, 1912]) has both impersonal and plural constructions and speaks of such constructions “as forming one object of thought” (198; 232), a comment which equals Radermacher’s in its ambiguity. W. D. Chamberlain (An Exegetical Grammar of the Greek New Testament [New York: Macmillan, 1941]) apparently has a clear understanding as to when the rule applies and when it does not, but he does not clearly articulate this to the reader (55). BDF seem to support the rule in Titus 2:13 and 2 Pet 1:1 (they enlist the support of Robertson’s essay, “The Greek Article and the Deity of Christ”), but also apply it to proper, impersonal (geographical) names (145; §276.3), citing Acts 19:21 (τὴν Μακεδονίαν καὶ ᾿Αχαί>αν)! They make no comment about the plural. C. F. D. Moule (Idiom Book) has a sober treatment of the rule, seeing its application in the singular and questioning it in the plural (109-110). But he sides with Radermacher by allowing it with impersonal nouns. N. Turner (A Grammar of New Testament Greek, vol. 3: Syntax, by N. Turner [Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1963] and Grammatical Insights into the New Testament [Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1965]) seems to vacillate in his discussion, for he apparently allows the rule to stand with the singular nouns (Syntax, 181; Insights, 15-16), but also applies it to the plural at his discretion (Syntax, 181). Thus he speaks of a “unified whole” with reference to Eph 2:20; Luke 22:4, and Acts 15:2, but then declares that this same construction may “indeed indicate that two distinct subjects are involved [italics mine]” (ibid.), citing the common phrase οἱ Φαρισαῖοι καὶ Σαδδουκαῖοι as an illustration. It is doubtful that the construction indicates two antithetical ideas/groups; it is rather better to say that it allows for it. Nevertheless, Turner has not shown an understanding of Sharp’s rule in his discussions. J. H. Greenlee (A Concise Exegetical Grammar of New Testament Greek, 3d ed. [Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1963]) is very unclear when he applies the rule to impersonal constructions (Eph 3:18) and plurals (John 7:45) (50). C. Vaughan and V. E. Gideon (A Greek Grammar of the New Testament [Nashville: Broadman, 1979]) apply the rule to both impersonal and personal constructions, making no comment about the plurals (83). They do note, however, that there are exceptions with the impersonal constructions (ibid., n. 8). J. A. Brooks and C. L. Winbery (Syntax of New Testament Greek [Washington: University Press of America, 1979]) apply the rule to personal, impersonal, and plural constructions explicitly (70-71). B. W. Blackwelder (Light from the Greek New Testament [Anderson, IN: Warner, 1958]), after quoting Sharp’s rule via Robertson, argues that “there are many illustrations of this rule in the New Testament” (146). He then lists four passages, including one which involves plural nouns (Eph 4:11) and two of the christologically significant—and, hence, debatable—texts (Titus 2:13; 2 Pet 1:1) (ibid.). Finally, and most curiously, D. A. Carson (Exegetical Fallacies [Grand Rapids: Baker, 1984]) quotes Sharp’s rule as given in Brooks and Winbery’s Syntax, then argues that “The fallacy is in taking this rule too absolutely … ” (84). He then gives several illustrations of impersonal and plural constructions which do not fit the rule (85). Yet nowhere does Carson evidence a clear understanding of the rule; he is simply dissatisfied with the form of it he cites, justifiably arguing that in such a form the rule only suggests unity, not identity.

110Even a scholar the stature of Ezra Abbot, though interacting explicitly with Sharp and Middleton (“Titus II. 13”), failed on two counts in his understanding of Sharp’s rule: (1) he suggests that τοὺς πωλοῦντας καὶ ἀγοράζοντας 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). We might also note that Longenecker, whose scholarship is unquestionably of the highest caliber, quotes Sharp’s rule in exactly the same form as is found in Dana-Mantey’s grammar (except for changing “farther” to “further” to conform with modern practice). Longenecker remarks that the rule is “usually attributed to Granville Sharp” (The Christology of Early Jewish Christianity, 138). Similarly, P. S. Berge only quotes Dana-Mantey’s definition of Sharp’s canon (with credit given) in his dissertation, “‘Our Great God and Savior’: A Study of Soter as a Christological Title in Titus 2:11-14” (Th.D. dissertation, Union Theological Seminary, Richmond, Virginia, 1973) 49. Perhaps most remarkably, in R. W. Funk’s dissertation on the article in Paul (“The Syntax of the Greek Article”), Sharp’s monograph is not only not listed in the bibliography, but Sharp’s rule is nowhere mentioned by name.

111I am reminded here of C. S. Lewis’ delightful essay, “On the Reading of Old Books,” in God in the Dock: Essays on Theology and Ethics (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1970) 200-207, in which he quips, “if the average student wants to find out something about Platonism, the very last thing he thinks of doing is to take a translation of Plato off the library shelf and read the Symposium” (200). Much of what he has to say in this essay, it seems, is applicable to our present concern.

112In Pauline Studies: Essays presented to Professor F. F. Bruce on his 70th Birthday, ed. D. A. Hagner and M. J. Harris (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1980) 267. This particular argument is given more space than any other in Harris’ article (267-69).

113The passages he cites are Acts 15:2 (τοὺς ἀποστόλους καὶ πρεσβυτέρους); 16:4 (τῶν ἀποστόλων καὶ πρεσβυτέρων); and 2 Cor 1:3 (ὁ θεὸς καὶ πατὴρ). Harris himself admits that elsewhere in Acts “the repeated article in the phrase οἱ ἀπόστολοι καὶ πρεσβύτεροι (Acts 15:4, 6, 22) shows that the apostles of the Jerusalem church were a group distinct from the elders” (ibid.). He sees the single article constructions of Acts 15:2 and 16:4 as indicating “a single administrative unit … ” But if true, even this does not conform to his statement of the rule, for though elder + apostle might = a unit, that is much different from saying that elder = apostle, which is the very point of Sharp’s rule, even as Harris has expressed it. Elsewhere in his essay Harris indicates that he views impersonal nouns also to fall within the purview of the rule: “If the parallelism is intentional, ὁ μέγας θεός is the σωτήρ, just as ἡ μακαρία ἐλπίς is the ἐπιφάνεια” (270).

114This can be illustrated by reference to two passages: Eph 4:11 and Titus 2:13. In Eph 4:11 the plural construction is used (τοὺς δὲ ποιμένας καὶ διδασκάλους) while in Titus 2:13 there are two constructions, one impersonal (τὴν μακαρίαν ἐλπίδα καὶ ἐπιφάνειαν) and one which Sharp believed fit his rule (τοῦ μεγάλου θεοῦ καὶ σωτῆρος ἡμῶν). As we have mentioned earlier, Sharp restricted the rule to personal singular nouns. Yet the plural construction in Eph 4:11 and the impersonal construction in Titus 2:13 are usually, or at least frequently, seen as fitting the rule, though with no proof that the rule could be expanded to include either construction.

With reference to Eph 4:11, most commentators are agreed that one group is in view in this construction (but cf. G. H. P. Thompson, The Letters of Paul to the Ephesians, to the Colossians and to Philemon [CBC; Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1969] 69; and C. J. Ellicott, A Critical and Grammatical Commentary on St. Paul’s Epistle to the Ephesians [Andover: Warren F. Draper, 1885] 94. Thompson simply asserts that “teachers were holders of another office” without giving any evidence. Ellicott argues solely from scanty lexical evidence.) Yet those who affirm that one group is identified by the phrase have little syntactical evidence on their side as well. H. Alford (The Epistle to the Ephesians) argues that “from these latter not being distinguished from the pastors by the τοὺς δέ, it would seem that the offices were held by the same persons” (117). But he gives no cross-references nor does he demonstrate that this is the normal usage of the plural construction. B. F. Westcott (Saint Paul’s Epistle to the Ephesians [New York: Macmillan, 1906]) argues for one class “not from a necessary combination of the two functions but from their connexion with a congregation” (62). C. Hodge (A Commentary on the Epistle to the Ephesians [New York: Robert Carter and Brothers, 1856]) boldly states that “The absence of the article before διδασκάλους proves that the apostle intended to designate the same persons as at once pastors and teachers [italics added]” (226). But then he curiously backs off from such grammatical dogma by adding that “It is true the article is at times omitted between two substantives referring to different classes … ” (227), citing Mark 15:1 as evidence. Finally, he reverts to his initial certitude by concluding, “But in such an enumeration as that contained in this verse … the laws of language require τοὺς δὲ διδασκάλους, had the apostle intended to distinguish the διδάσκαλοι from the ποιμένες [italics added]” (ibid.). No evidence is given to support this contention. It is significant, in fact, that of the commentaries surveyed, only Hodge mentioned any other text in which the plural construction occurred—a text which would not support his conclusions! Eadie, Abbott, Salmond, Lenski, Hendriksen, Erdman, Kent, Barclay, Wuest, and Barth (to name but a few) also see the two terms referring to one group, though their arguments are either not based on syntax or make unwarranted and faulty assumptions about the syntax. Some would insist that the article-noun-καί-noun plural construction requires that the second group is to be identified with the first. Wuest articulates this assumption most clearly: “The words ‘pastors’ and ‘teachers’ are in a construction called Granvill [sic] Sharp’s rule which indicates that they refer to one individual” (K. Wuest, Wuest’s Word Studies from the Greek New Testament: Ephesians and Colossians [Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1953] 101).

With reference to Titus 2:13, several scholars see the rule applying to “the blessed hope and appearing,” an impersonal construction. E.g., R. St. John Parry (The Pastoral Epistles [Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1920]) argues that τὴν μακαρίαν ἐλπίδα καὶ ἐπιφάνειαν means “that manifestation which is our hope” (81). Some scholars explicitly invoke Sharp’s name when they discuss “the blessed hope and appearing” (e.g., E. K. Simpson, The Pastoral Epistles [London: Tyndale, 1954] 108); others do so implicitly (e.g., W. Hendriksen, Exposition of the Pastoral Epistles in New Testament Commentary [Grand Rapids: Baker, 1957] 372-73; R. C. H. Lenski, The Interpretation of St. Paul’s Epistle to Titus [Minneapolis: Augsburg, 1961] 922-23; F. F. Bruce, “‘Our God and Saviour’: A Recurring Biblical Pattern” [in The Saviour God: Comparative Studies in the Concept of Salvation Presented to Edwin Oliver James, ed. by S. G. F. Brandon; New York: Barnes & Noble, 1963] 51-52; R. O. Yeager, “Titus 1:1-3:15” in The Renaissance New Testament [Gretna: Pelican, 1985] 35-36).

Some scholars regard (without further comment on the syntactical principle they are invoking), that the single article with “God and Savior” is sufficient evidence that only one person is in view. Note, e.g., P. Schepens, “De demonstratione divinitatis Christi ex epistula ad Titum II. 13,” Greg 7 (1926) 243; F. Ogara, “Apparuit gratia Dei Salvatoris nostri,” VD 15 (1935) 365- 66; C. Spicq, Les Epitres Pastorales (Paris: Lecoffre, 1947) 264-65; P. Dornier, Les Epitres Pastorales (Paris: Lecoffre, 1969) 144; R. Schnackenburg in R. Schnackenburg and P. Smulders, La christologie dans le Nouveau Testament et le dogme (Paris: Les Éditions du Cerf, 1974) 190. Finally, we should mention R. H. Countess (The Jehovah’s Witnesses’ New Testament: A Critical Analysis of the New World Translation of the Christian Greek Scriptures [Philipsburg, NJ: Presbyterian and Reformed, 1982]) who, after quoting Sharp’s canon via Dana-Mantey, cautions that “Granville Sharp’s dogmatic ‘always’ certainly invites a search for exceptions and Matthew 17:1 may be one” (69). But this lone “exception” which Countess gives involves proper names (τὸν Πέτρον καὶΙάκωβον καὶΙωάννην)!

These few examples of scholars’ misunderstanding of Sharp’s principle could be reproduced manifold. These are given to show that it is hardly an exaggeration to say that almost without exception, those who seem to be acquainted with Sharp’s rule and agree with its validity, misunderstand it and abuse it.

115In passing, three other studies should be mentioned. R. D. Durham, “Granville Sharp’s Rule” (unpublished doctoral paper, Grace Theological Seminary, Winona Lake, Indiana, 1972), acknowledges that Sharp’s canon did not cover plural nouns or proper names, but he thinks that Sharp meant to include impersonal nouns as meeting the requirements (7). M. L. Johnson, “A Reconsideration of the Role of Sharp’s Rule in Interpreting the Greek New Testament” (M.A. thesis, University of Mississippi, 1986), assumes that Sharp’s rule only dealt with conceptual unity, even going so far as to say that Sharp’s “principle gained general acceptance by both Classical and New Testament grammarians” (54). He lists among the article-noun-καί-noun constructions which fit Sharp’s canon plurals, impersonals, and abstracts (70-71, 73). G. W. Rider, “An Investigation of the Granville Sharp Phenomenon and Plurals” (Th.M. thesis, Grace Theological Seminary, Winona Lake, Indiana, 1980), sides with Durham in treating plurals and proper nouns as exceptions, but impersonal nouns as fitting the rule (23-25). It may be fairly said that in each of these studies there was a confusion between unity of referents and identity of referents.

116For a comprehensive treatment of the semantics of both Sharp’s rule and the article-noun-καί-noun construction in the NT, see Wallace, “The Article with Multiple Substantives.”

117“The Greek Article,” 187.

118J. C. D. Clark, The Language of Liberty 1660-1832 (Cambridge: CUP, 1994) 37.

119The letter is quoted in Colin Bonwick, English Radicals and the American Revolution (Chapel Hill, 1977) 7.

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