How to Sound Intelligent: Granville Sharp’s Rule

One of the best ways to dominate people theologically is to bust out your Greek knowledge.

“Wow,” your intellectual opponent thinks, “he knows Greek. I barely speaks English. I must concede the point.”

Actually, that has never happened in the history of doctrinal debates, but it’s a nice thought.

Anyway, pastors go to seminary, and in seminary they learn Greek. Greek is very hard. It costs a lot of money, time, and effort to learn Greek. You can’t fault us pastors for wanting to feel like we’re getting our money’s worth.

Humor us, let us be all Greeky at ya.

No, actually, some Greek knowledge is actually quite helpful. Let me give you some inside information about Greek that you can bust out into theological conversation from time to time and really impress people.

Allow me to introduce you to Granville Sharp. He was by all estimation a genius. He was instrumental in England to bring about the end of slavery there. He was often referred to as “the force behind Wilberforce.” He really was an incredible guy and you should know more about him. He was once encouraged to go into the ministry, but declined saying he was inadequate intellectually. Let that sink in.

Anyway, among many things he did besides starting a Bible society, rescuing a nation, and ending slavery, he also studied Greek. He came up with a rule about definite articles that goes something like this:

Granville Sharp’s rule states that when you have two nouns, which are not proper names (such as Cephas, or Paul, or Timothy), which are describing a person, and the two nouns are connected by the word “and,” and the first noun has the article (“the”) while the second does not, *both nouns are referring to the same person.

Basically, in Greek if there are two nouns and one definite article, the nouns go together as one. This plays into verses such as:

Titus 2:13–“Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ.” Jesus Christ is both God and Savior, only one definite article for God and Savior, meaning He is both.

2 Peter 1:1–“to them that have obtained like precious faith with us through the righteousness of God and our Saviour Jesus Christ.” Same deal, Christ is God and Savior.

Many times the English skips definite articles when the Greek uses them, so you wouldn’t know this rule as an English reader. Greek puts definite articles in all over the place, to the extent that English would sound really bad.

Greek typically says things like “The ball was hit by the Jeff.” That just sounds dumb. So in English we would say, “The ball was hit by Jeff.” The excessive use of the definite article (which also agrees with its noun in gender making it easier to see what noun the article refers to more easily) makes Greek much more precise than English.

Another instance is in Ephesians 4:11–And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers.”

How many gifts are listed? Four or five?

The correct answer is four: 1) apostles, 2) prophets, 3) evangelists, and 4) pastor teachers. Pastor teachers only has one definite article, therefore they refer to the same person.

So, next time you pontificate upon these verses, or hear someone else pontificate on them, you can smoothly say, “Ah yes, the Granville Sharps rule” and casually sip your coffee.

You are so cool.

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