Questions From Readers
● Why do some Bible versions render Titus 2:13 as if it were referring only to one person, Jesus, calling him God and Savior?
In the New World Translation Titus 2:13 reads: “While we wait for the happy hope and glorious manifestation of the great God and of [the] Savior of us, Christ Jesus.”
However, many Bible translators have rendered the last part of the verse as if it meant only one person, Jesus. For example, An American Translation says: “. . . the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Christ Jesus.” Such translators often claim that this sort of rendering conforms to a “rule” of Greek grammar. Yet the Trinity doctrine also inclines them toward such a translation.
A literal translation of the Greek phrase is, “glory of the great God and Saviour of us Christ Jesus.” (The Interlinear Greek-English New Testament, by Dr. Alfred Marshall) Observe that there is a single article (the) preceding two nouns (God, Savior) that are joined by the conjunction “and.”
Over a century ago, Granville Sharp formulated what is supposed to be a “rule” applying in such constructions. It asserts that, since the article (the) is not repeated before the second noun (Savior), the two nouns refer to the same person or subject. This would mean that “great God” and “Savior” would both be descriptive of Jesus, as if the meaning were ‘of Jesus Christ, the great God and our Savior.’
Persons inclined to believe in the deity of Jesus sometimes give the impression that the above position is demanded by proper Greek grammar. But that is not so. In fact, the validity of the “rule” being applied in Titus has been much debated by scholars.
For example, Dr. Henry Alford (The Greek Testament, Vol. III) says: “No one disputes that it may mean that which they have interpreted it” as meaning, but he adds that one needs rather to determine ‘what the words do mean.’ And that cannot be settled by grammatical rules.
A Grammar of New Testament Greek (Moulton-Turner, 1963) states about Titus 2:13: “The repetition of the art[icle] was not strictly necessary to ensure that the items be considered separately.” What, though, about ‘Sharp’s rule’? Dr. Nigel Turner admits: “Unfortunately, at this period of Greek we cannot be sure that such a rule is really decisive.” (Grammatical Insights into the New Testament, 1965) As to the Greek construction used, Professor Alexander Buttmann points out: “It will probably never be possible, either in reference to profane literature or to the N[ew] T[estament], to bring down to rigid rules which have no exception, . . .”—A Grammar of the New Testament Greek.
In The Expositor’s Greek Testament, Dr. N. J. D. White observes: “The grammatical argument . . . is too slender to bear much weight, especially when we take into consideration not only the general neglect of the article in these epistles but the omission of it before” ‘Savior’ in 1 Timothy 1:1; 4:10. And Dr. Alford stresses that in other passages where Paul uses expressions like “God our Savior” he definitely does not mean Jesus, for “the Father and the Son are most plainly distinguished from one another.” (1 Tim. 1:1; 2:3-5) This agrees with the overall teaching of the Bible that Jesus is a created Son who is not equal to his Father.—John 14:28; 1 Cor. 11:3.
Thus, Dr. White concludes: ‘On the whole, then, we decide in favour of the rendering of this passage, appearing of the glory of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ.’ A number of modern translations agree. In the main text or in footnotes they render Titus 2:13 as speaking of two distinct persons, “the great God” who is Jehovah, and his Son, “our Savior, Christ Jesus,” both of whom have glory. (Luke 9:26; 2 Tim. 1:10) See The New American Bible, The Authentic New Testament, The Jerusalem Bible (footnote) and the translations by J. B. Phillips, James Moffatt and Charles K. Williams.