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Stafford's Response to Hartley

"Don Hartley's Misunderstanding of My View of Qualitative Nouns and P.B. Harner's JBL Article"

By Greg Stafford

Don Hartley of Dallas Theological Seminary has written an online article wherein he, among other things, attempts to discredit my use of P. B. Harner's JBL article on anarthrous predicate nominatives and Al Kidd's Appendix D in my book Jehovah's Witnesses Defended.

Recently Hartley felt it necessary to respond to a few remarks I made in passing to someone who had posted a reference to his article on a discussion board where I have spoken to several persons about my book, and issues relating to the trinity. Hartley apparently did not gather from my brief remarks that I am writing a response to his article, which, to be honest, contains a number of misunderstandings, particularly as they relate to the classification of count nouns, as well as his treatment of John 1:1. Here I will offer a brief explanation for what I am claiming, as my time is committed to other, more pressing concerns.

Of course, if you ask Hartley he does not need to read my reply, for he has already made up his mind and foretold the type of reply that I would give. He wrote:

"I am aware that this subsequent critique will be met with the often yet meaningless phrases, He has completely misunderstood . . . . or He is totally confused . . . . et al. But the truth of the matter is quite to the contrary. "

Obviously Hartley is not going to acknowledge his glaring shortcomings, but they are quite obvious, and I can assure you that the remarks I made, in passing, are far from meaningless (see below); rather, they are entirely accurate in terms of describing Hartley's treatment of the issues under consideration. But, again, Hartley's immature disposition is one that cannot be taken seriously, especially when he characterizes an eventual reply based on a few passing remarks, that were not even spoken to him. But, as you will see, there is little else for him to grasp onto in hopes of reading his view into the text, and when it comes to explaining his misrepresentation of my material.

I will preface Hartley's comments and excerpts from his article with HARTLEY, and I will preface my replies with RESPONSE.

Posted by Don Hartley on October 1, 1998 at 16:56:30:

Stafford writes a predictably feeble response to my article located at the Biblical Studies Foundation web site (www.bible.org). There are basically two issues that he addresses in criticism thus far.

This is truly amazing. Hartley actually considers my brief comments on his article, which I gave after a casual reading of key sections since people were, for some reason, excited to find such an article that they thought had caste some doubt on something I said in my book, a response. No wonder he calls it feeble! Hartley can feel free to wait until I actually give a response before he labels my response as feeble. But, then again, since he has only succeeded in demonstrating the very point I made in my feeble response it probably does not matter that he jumped the gun here.

I honestly cannot figure out how some of you trinitarians fail to understand the point so frequently and in so many respects. And then you marvel at and object to my highlighting of your careless handling of the material. At least this has proven true in the case of several others, and Hartley appears to be following suit. Let me show you what I mean:

First, the nature of a qualitative noun as understood from Harner's position and second, the issue of statistics. Regarding the former he states,

HARTLEY, QUOTING STAFFORD: Actually, the first reference to my book is in note 55. Here is what the author [Hartley] says: A recent book has clouded the point of Harner's article over the issue of the semantics of qualitative nouns. It is true that Harner opened up the possibility that a qualitative noun could include within it a semantic addition of indefiniteness, but this in no way made qualitativeness intrinsically or necessarily bound to this semantic tag [page 10 of article]. The author is totally confused about what I have said on this matter, which has nothing to do with Harner's analysis. His main criticism appears to be directed against Al Kidd's appendix, which he also misunderstands.

Now, notice that Hartley says, in what I assume we are to understand as a example of where I clouded the point over Harner's article, It is true that Harner opened up the possibility that a qualitative noun could include within it a semantic addition of indefiniteness, but this in no way made qualitativeness intrinsically or necessarily bound to this semantic tag.

Recall my objection to Hartley's comments: The author [Hartley] is totally confused about what I have said on this matter, which has nothing to do with Harner's analysis. So, you would think that Hartley's response would contain a section from my book that shows that I state or imply that Harner suggested or implied that qualitativeness [was] intrinsically or necessarily bound to this semantic tag. But here is what Hartley says in reply to my objection to his characterization of my position and my use of Harner.

The discussion surrounding Harner's study is the misuse Stafford makes of it as it is discussed in his book (JWD, 179-85) and practically worked out in his appendix by Al Kidd (341-43). I could have spent a lot of ink dealing with Stafford's misunderstanding of Colwell, Dixon and Harner to mention only a few but my purpose in discussing Harner was to appreciate the legitimate semantical perimeters that Harner's article would justifiably lead a reader to infer. In other words, Does Harner insist or suggest that Q = I-Q? The re-examination was necessary because Jehovah's Witnesses consistently cite him as confirming their understanding that qualitativeness (Q) = indefinite-qualitative (I-Q or Q-I).

I will stop here since there are a number of mistakes in this one section of Hartley's post.

1.  Where in my book do I claim or imply that Harner suggested or implied that qualitativeness [was] intrinsically or necessarily bound to this semantic tag? Note: I am, at this point, merely concentrating on the specific charge that I used Harner in this way. You may read the pages to which Hartley refers, but nowhere in my book will you find such a use of Harner, neither by myself or by Al Kidd.

2.  Hartley claims he could have spent more time on this and that, and I have no doubt that he could have done so. But when you get it wrong who cares how much time you spend on it? Trinitarians need to back away from themselves and stop thinking that whenever they respond to something that their response is the final word, etc. Time and time again they write replies that really contain no substantive argumentation, and which are usually accompanied by terrible misunderstandings of basic Bible teachings, due to their fealty to the creeds. Additionally, what they do write often argues against the very point they seek to prove! More on this below.

3.  Hartley misleadingly claims that Jehovah's Witnesses consistently cite him as confirming their understanding that qualitativeness (Q) = indefinite-qualitative (I-Q or Q-I). Again, we do no such thing. We merely cite him in response to the claim that THEOS in John 1:1c is definite, which is a claim that trinitarians have abused for decades, and in support of what we see as a qualitative emphasis for THEOS in 1:1c. See below for more on this point.

HARTLEY continues:
"The fallacy we wished to expose is that while we acknowledge a semantic category of I-Q, we deny that this somehow infers that Q = I-Q or that there is no such thing as Q apart from I (indefiniteness)."

Could you please cite the examples you give in your article that you feel most strongly support the above assertion? Could you also point out where in my book there is a claim to the effect that there is no such thing as Q apart from I (indefiniteness)?

At this point my article dealt primarily with three questions in regards to this issue: (1) Does Harner's article warrant this formula Q = I-Q?

Nowhere do I claim that such is the case, though Harner does acknowledge the Q-I classification.

(2) Is there such thing as a purely qualitative noun?

This question will be dealt with by Al Kidd in his appendix to my second edition.

and (3) Does this semantic tag best describe the PN in the phrase in John 1:1c? In regards to the first question my study suggests that Harner's article could not be used as proof that Q = I-Q.

Nor was it so used by either myself or by Al Kidd.

Admittedly, Harner opened up the semantic domain to include such a category of which previous (Colwell) and later (Dixon) studies have not fully acknowledged. Our study grants the semantic tag as well as five other distinct domains (D, I, Q, D-Q, Q-d, I-Q).

None of the above has anything to do with my passing remarks on your article, so why are you repeating what we already know from reading what you have said? Please refocus.

Further, it is not clear in his article that Q does exist apart from I, but this is not explicitly stated. A fair reading of his study, then, should leave the matter outside the realm of certainty in regards to that insistence.

Can you give examples from Harner's article where he is somehow unclear about this? Also, again, you talking about something (namely, how Harner's analysis can be used) that does not deal with my approach to this subject. See below.

In other words, what can be known is that Harner understood that I and Q were not inimical to each other. At times a noun included both nuances with qualitativeness taking priority.

Is this a new point to anyone here?

It is illogical and absurd, however, to insist that whenever Q as a semantic category is invoked, indefiniteness must be by necessity a part of the semantic package.

Thank you for telling us that. Now, I have two requests: 1) Where do I make such a claim, and 2) please provide, for purposes of discussion and illustration, what you consider clear examples of purely qualitative count nouns, in an anarthrous precopulative position.

To cite Harner at this point is therefore illegitimate in regards to necessity, but completely legitimate in regards to possibility.

Again, where do I do the former?

My study dealt with its probability.

And my study illustrated its probability, in several areas, most of which you completely avoided. See pages 206-209 of my book, for example.

In regards to the second issue the nature of mass nouns were lexically identified and discussed. The purpose was actually twofold: First, the process of identifying lexically qualitative nouns ensured that the statistical pool would be untainted by a semantically biased group. In other words, this process was initially tangential to the process in eventually getting to an unbiased group of nouns from which to study. As it later turned out, this identification of mass nouns actually served to help establish what qualitativeness entails when discussing that nuance it was perhaps circular serendipity! The logical step was to ascertain whether this could be applied to nouns (count) which did not necessarily but could exude its semantic predilection. Second, the identifying of mass nouns established that qualitativeness could and did unequivocally exist independent of the additional quality of indefiniteness.

In your article, under the section, What is a Qualitative Noun? you claim:

Thus count nouns by definition are nouns which can be semantically indefinitized and semantically pluralized. Therefore, in contrast to mass nouns, which cannot be indefinite in any sense, count nouns proffer the possibility of being purely qualitative like mass nouns.

Yet, NOWHERE do you interact with the examples that allegedly support your view of such a possibility (see my reference to your Appendix below)!

Thus to insist that Q = I-Q (Q-I) is shown to be wrong headed.

And some of you wonder why I am always claiming that you misrepresent me. Well, its because you do. I think this is about the tenth time you have intimated or directly stated that I have insisted that Q = I-Q (Q-I). I will no longer take you seriously until you explain from where you are getting this wrong-headed view.

You also make this claim in your article (same section as above):

The contribution to understanding the semantics of mass nouns, then, regards the fact that there are nouns which exhibit purely/exclusively qualitative features without the possibility of indefiniteness within its semantic.  Demonstrating this opens up the feasibility of the transferal of that semantic category to other nouns (count) which do have the prospect of indefiniteness without necessarily latching the latter semantic tag with it.

Explain to us all, please, how demonstrating something as true for a mass noun, opens up the feasibility of the transferal of that semantic category to other nouns (count) which do have the prospect of indefiniteness without necessarily latching the latter semantic tag with it?

Also, please give and interact with examples that support the following statements, from your article:

Indefinite-Qualitative (I-Q). This category indicates an indefinite noun that also retains the semantics of a qualitative noun. The member as well as the characteristics of that member are equally stressed.

I know you list I-Q examples in your Appendix, but I want you to explain how the member as well as the characteristics of that member are equally stressed. Just giving examples and failing to interact with them hardly proves your point.

Indefinite (I). This is the unmarked referent whose semantic associates the subject within a larger group, i.e., it lacks referential identity. The characteristics can be implied based upon the membership within this group but the qualities are not important and not stressed.

I agree with you when you say, The characteristics can be implied based upon the membership within this group, and this is why an I classification, apart from Q, is nonsense. There is always some stress on the qualities of the subject which is why they are included in the group! Thus, I-Q is proper for an example where membership is stressed, and Q-I for those examples where the context shows emphasis on the qualities of the subject. Still, please explain and illustrate how the qualities are not important and not stressed in your I classifications.

The real problem you have is that when it comes to evaluating my position you assume I have claimed something which I do not.

Qualitative (Q). The qualities, nature or essence of concepts, beings or things are stressed. It is usually associated with one member and usually without reference to class. Only singular count nouns that are qualitative will fall within this category.

Again, no examples are given. Also, when an example is presented, which I am sure you will be able to do, clearly explain to us how the essence is stressed, and how the count noun in the example is excluded from membership in the class.

Definite (D). This clearly marks an individual or thing apart from the others. It has unique referential identity without reference to quality or nature.

Examples proving it has unique referential identity without reference to quality or nature would be helpful. Please explain and illustrate your examples.

In your concluding remarks to your article you state:

Second it establishes that qualitativeness (Q) can exist independent of any other semantic tag. This is proven by the lexical identification of the mass noun. Since this type of noun is categorically unable in any sense to be indefinite, and because Q is indisputably a semantic category for mass nouns, this alone preempts the assertion that qualitativeness cannot be applied to count nouns in particular or that this semantic tag always entails, to some extent and sense, indefiniteness thus we hold that Q != I-Q (Q-I). The possibility must be open to the idea that qualitativeness can be applied in an exclusive fashion to count nouns and not a priori rejected outright.

1) Provide examples of anarthrous, singular count nouns preceding the verb EIMI, which are purely qualitative.

2) Who outright rejects the possibility that such exist?

In Hartley's note 111 he quotes Al Kidd's Appendix D as follows: The compiler [Al Kidd] does not see for those predicates a context that makes them to be count-noun predicates . . . I also do not see a count-noun classification for them, either (see Stafford, Jehovah Witnesses Defended, 342, emphasis added).

I THINK Hartley believes the I in the above quote is me. But he is wrong. The only words that I added to Als appendix are those that are italicized and in brackets. Al compiled the list and added the paragraphs that follow. In my second edition there will be an expanded discussion that will illustrate the importance of the context in classifying such nouns, though I have already illustrated this in my Chapter 7.

Of course, Hartley's point #4 in his note 111 repeats the familiar error about how I allegedly treat Harners analysis: (4)

Finally, his whole semantic treatment proceeds on a misunderstanding of Harner that Q = I-Q. Near the end of his article Hartley says, In other words, the clear semantic of the mass or plural count noun, is meant to disambiguate the semantics of the singular count noun to which it is related in the discourse. We believe the best example of this occurs in John 1:1 with John 1:14. Therefore we add, tentatively, a final argument for the purely qualitative aspect to the PN in the phrase kai\ qeo\s h)=n o( lo/gos. Thus, Jesus is God in every sense that the Father is.

How the use of a count noun in 1:1c and a mass noun in 1:14 supports his view of a purely qualitative classification for the count noun in 1:1c is not stated, but assumed. Of course, when Hartley says that Jesus is God in every sense that the Father is he imports a post-biblical understanding for the term THEOS into the NT text, along with the distinctions between person and being that are essential to his view, but not articulated in Scripture. Indeed, as we have discussed many times, what the Bible does say and how it uses the terms person and being are in direct contradiction to trinitarianism.

Hartley also fails to recognize that while SARX is, lexically speaking, a mass noun, it is a semantic signal for a count noun, namely, a human being! A lot of what Hartley says and the distinctions he makes relates to his failure to appreciate the need to carefully consider the context of the words under consideration. Again, we will present an extended discussion of this point in my second edition and further reveal the shortcomings of Hartley's nonsensical rejection of the context. Recall his note 111:

We categorically reject this idea, i.e., that context determines whether or not a noun is a count noun. Context does not determine mass/count distinction. On the contrary, count/mass distinction is determined on lexemic/grammatical criteria outlined above. Context and syntax comes into play only when one has already determined that he is dealing with a count noun, and singular at that. It does not come into play, however, in the determination of whether a noun is in fact count or mass.

Hartley has no legitimate basis upon which to make such a statement. But, again, the fact that he cannot see through the lexical tagging of SARX in John 1:14 as a mass noun, to its semantic signaling of a count noun, shows that his statistically-driven study leaves much to be desired.

Hartley's Appendix lists the following, D and E class, pre- and post-copulative Q nouns:
D and E class, pre-and post-copulative Q nouns: (Hartley)

1 v 1:1 E C-Const. Q
4 v 1:39 E C-Const. Q
10 v 3:6b E C-Const. Q
15 v 5:9 E Post-copulative Q
16 v 5:10 E C-Const. Q
21 v 6:63b E C-Const. Q
32 v 8:48 E C-Const. Q
36 v 9:8 D C-Const. Q
37 v 9:14 E Post-copulative Q
39 v 9:24 E C-Const. Q
40 v 9:25 E C-Const. Q
41 v 9:28a E C-Const. Q
67 v 19:31 D C-Const. Q

I would like Hartley to explain where in the above list we find an example of a qualitative noun that does not at the same time involve membership in a class. Again, I am not, nor have I ever said that such is not possible, but I want Hartley to at least try and make a case for his claim, even though he has badly misunderstood what I have said on this issue.

There are a couple other points I would like to address in this brief reply. Hartley quotes me as saying:

Of course, he does admit: The problem with these statistics is when exegetically significant passages are determined from them. For example, John 1:1 uses ei)mi/ with a singular count noun. Using the above statistics alone would mean the text would support the Jehovah Witnesses and their interpretation of that passage.

Hartley then concludes:

The citation from my article is a good and typical example of Stafford's misuse of the research of others and misquotation for purposes hardly commensurate with a pursuit of truth. The out of context quote is demonstrated by the nature of the very next sentence in the article, which he conveniently fails to call any readers attention to. It reads as follows ....

Again, Hartley fails to appreciate a rather obvious point, namely, I am merely making reference to his article and conveying points, in passing, to an Observer, relating to things I would be considering in my reply, and which he should also consider. Hartley seizes upon this in order to make some point, I guess, but it only serves to underscore his desperation.

Hartley should stop taking me out of context and claiming that I am somehow using his research inappropriately. I assume he knew that I was not going to quote his entire article, or even any qualifying paragraphs, in my passing remarks, since they were merely intended to highlight points that I believe he ultimately fails to properly appreciate. Hartley, feel free to assume that I do not believe YOUR qualifying statements necessarily make the point you want them to.

Later he [Stafford] refers to Harner stating, The Witnesses cite Harner because he argues that theos in John 1:1c is qualitative, not definite (184). He concludes, We will argue that the context of John 1:1 not only fits better with a qualitative emphasis for theos in John 1:1c, but also demands an indefinite sense, and thus the use of the English indefinite article a is most appropriate (184 emphasis added). What demands it? He argues, illogically and fallaciously, that personal (or some sense of) distinction between God (the Father) and the Word necessitates the additional indefinite sense. This necessity isn't grammatically determined, but it is rather a theologically motivated construal of context that is determinate for his particular semantic nuance for John 1:1c. It is his Arian horizon that sees this as the only option, not grammar.

If you are looking for a meaningless reply, look no further than the above. Listen to what he is saying! The fact that the Word is THEOS and distinct from hO THEOS isn't grammatically determined, but it is rather a theologically motivated construal of context? Actually, I state the grammatical reasons for my view quite clearly, as they relate the clear distinction made in the text through the use of the article and the preposition PROS. Hartley has absolutely no basis for his view, which is unabashedly read back into the text even though it contradicts it.

At any rate, Stafford returns to Harner with a vengeance arguing that Jehovah's Witnesses do not agree with Harner, however, if he would use his analysis as a basis for concluding what the Words possessing the nature of God means that the Word shares a Godhead beingness with the Father (183). Again, the question is why not?

That you would ask this question once again shows that you have no idea what you are talking about when it comes to my position, and you did not read my book very carefully at all. You ask:

What grammatical reason is there for such a flippant dismissal of evidence to the contrary of his presuppositions?

(!) You mean what grammatical reason do I have for saying that Jesus is not the God whom he is with? Is that really your question?

Hartley, like other trinitarians, particularly, it seems, those from DTS, are frantically trying to secure something in Scripture that they can use to support their post-biblical view. Unfortunately, they have not figured out that square blocks do not fit into round holes unless you manipulate and disfigure the hole. Thus, their scriptural manipulation is scattered throughout their attempts to legitimize trinitarian theology. This is evident from Hartley's words:

Here, however, he confuses the linguistic structure of the phrase regarding the relation of hyponyms (Father and Word) with the superordinate or overarching category (God). It is quite reasonable, as the propositional structure bears out, that the superordinate is God of which at least two hyponyms simultaneously occupy it (Father and Word). My article discusses this relationship between the hyponyms as one of contiguity. Thus linguistically speaking, these hyponyms maintain a distinction to each other while united at the higher level of superordinate in an unequivocal sense.

God is not a category, but a person, the Father. (1 Cor. 8:6) There is absolutely no justification for Hartley's view, and his attempt to redefine the term God so that at least two hyponyms simultaneously occupy it (Father and Word) is merely the result of his circular reasoning and a priori assumptions about the Father and the Word. He manipulates the term God so that the two may simultaneously occupy it, though he seems confused about the fact that John does not say the Word was with God the Father, but with God.

So, at most, even if we allowed Hartley to read later theology into the text, he would have to say that the God with whom Jesus existed is simultaneously occupied by the Father and the Holy Spirit, but not the Word, since, according to them, there is only one God in a positive sense, and Jesus is with that God. Instead they pull a fast one and substitute the personal term Father for hO THEOS and proceed to interpret the text according to post-biblical distinctions. It is evident that Hartley will say whatever he has to in an attempt to fit the square block into the round hole. Again, trinitarians are forced to create distinctions and definitions that are foreign to Scripture in order to support their preferred theology.

Like Hartley, I have much more to say about his article and his post, but I will wait until I get some answers to the above, before commenting further.

Greg Stafford


1.  "Revisiting the Colwell Construction in Light of Mass/Count Nouns" by Donald E. Hartley Th.M, Ph.D (student), Dallas Theological Seminary.
2.  Don Hartley's Misunderstanding of My View of Qualitative Nouns and P. B. Harner's JBL Article By Greg Stafford
3.  Hartley responds with "Hartley's Second Response To Stafford" on May 25, 1999.
4.  Partial Response to Hartley, By Stafford: 5/25/99
5.  Another Response to Stafford - 5/25/99 (third)
6.  Greg Stafford on 5/26/99 says: "Hartley's theory, regardless of what he tells you, is hopelessly without substantiation, as I will explain shortly."
7.  Greg Stafford to Hartley on 5/26/99: "Please cite an example of a singular count noun in the precopulative position, that CANNOT be indefinitized." in Clarity, Please...
8.  Specifically...I would like Hartley to list the 19 Q-class nouns to which he refers on page 65 of his thesis (par. 2, line 5), for our consideration.
9.  Greg Stafford on 6/3/99: Surrejoinder to Don Hartley: Q-Class Count Nouns , John 1:1c, and Other Related Matters

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