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Mars Hill  Apologetic Discussions

 

 

A Dialog Between Robert Hommel and "Kevin"

on Qualitative-only Count Nouns in the GNT

 

This dialog took place on Robert Bowman's Evangelicals and JWs Yahoo discussion Board in 2003.  About 6 months prior to this exchange, a member named "Kevin" posted a challenge to me to defend my position regarding THEOS in John 1:1c as a qualitative noun.  Kevin, following the arguments of Greg Stafford, held that THEOS, as a count noun, could not be "qualitative," and asked me to prove that it was by providing a clear example of such a noun in the Greek New Testament.  At that time, I had limited time to engage Kevin in depth and did not provide sufficient proof to satisfy him.  I returned to Rob's board in April, 2003 and Kevin promptly asked if we could return to our discussion, challenging me to address certain points he felt I had left unanswered.  When I agreed, Kevin asked me to choose one of two issues to address.

 


 

Robert's Reply to Kevin's Renewed Challenge

Hi, Kevin,

 

You wrote:

 

K:  I'll give you a choice: 1) Please provide an example of a

qualitative only count noun in Greek; or 2) provide what you

consider Harner's strongest argument (from his JBL article) in favor

of such a noun. These are two of the more notable voids from our

last discussion. So let's start with whichever one you want.

 

OK, let's start with number 1.

 

First, let's establish some working definitions that we can agree upon:

 

Count Noun.

There are several ways I've found that linguists define the distinction between mass and count terms.  I prefer a grammatical definition, like this:  A count noun is a noun that can be gramatically pluralized and indefinitized.  A mass term cannot be grammatically pluralized or indefinitized.  In English, mass terms often take delimiters such as "a lot of," "some," "a little," etc.  Some common count nouns are" 'chair,' 'tree,' 'god,' 'apple,' 'car.'  Some common mass nouns are: 'water,' 'gold,' 'furniture,' 'flesh,' 'mail,' 'milk.'  Abstract nouns like 'beauty' and 'love' are semantically very much like mass terms, and at least one linguist (Nicolas) considers them to be identical.

 

Does this work for you, Kevin?  Or do you have another way of defining

mass / count terms that you think is better?

 

Semantic Conversion

Mass terms can, in certain contexts, convey the sense of a count noun and vice versa.  For example, 'water' is a mass noun (while "waters" is occasionally used, we do not usually say "a water;" whereas 'some water' is common).  However, in certain contexts, 'water' can convey the sense of a count noun ("Evian is a water of utmost distinction").  Bunt would say that the context of this sentence serves as a "universal sorter" to convert the mass term into a count term.  Since I prefer a grammatical definition, I don't see 'water' actually becoming a count term, but rather conveying the exact same semantic force as a count term.  A distinction without an appreciable difference, perhaps, but one I think we need to agree upon up front - otherwise, we may end up talking past each other further down the road.

 

Do you find this acceptable, or would you like to define differently the ways mass terms can "appear" as count terms (and vice versa) in some contexts?

 

Qualitative Noun

A qualitative noun is one that lays stress on the nature, character, or qualities of the noun, rather than upon it's membership in a class (indefinite) or identity (definite).  I realize you may not accept the existence of a noun that conveys qualitativeness to the exclusion of one of the other semantic forces, but we need to agree on a working definition.  I'm open to considering another definition, if you have one you prefer over this.

 

Thanks in advance for your take on these three definitions!  Once we get these out of the way, I'll provide the example you've asked for.

 

Best regards,

 

Robert

 

 

Kevinís First Reply

 

Hi, Robert!

 

Count Noun.

<snip> Does this work for you, Kevin?  Or do you have another way of defining mass / count terms that you think is better?

 

We can accept what you have provided in order to begin our

discussion anew, and if further clarification or explanation is

needed then it can be offered for analysis and acceptance.

 

 

Semantic Conversion

<snip>

Do you find this acceptable, or would you like to define differently the ways mass terms can "appear" as count terms (and vice versa) in some contexts?

 

I accept the above in the same context that I accept what you provided with respect to count nouns. I will add here, though, that we say a mass noun can be converted into a mass noun only because the term in question is most often used in a mass sense, and its count sense is infrequent. Otherwise, the idea of "conversion" is not necessary.

 

 

Qualitative Noun

<snip>  I realize you may not accept the existence of a noun that conveys qualitativeness to the exclusion of one of the other semantic forces, but we need to agree on a working definition.

 

Actually, we do not need to agree on such a thing. What I will agree upon is that this is how YOU and other Trinitarians define such a noun. I base my definitions on known instances of that which are defining. Therefore, as I have asked, I require an example of such a noun to which you would have me attack such a definition. Where is the example? For count nouns you gave examples. For mass nouns you gave examples. For qualitative nouns you give no examples.

 

Why would I have a preference for a definition to a noun that has not been shown to exist?

 

Okay, I'm ready! Can I have the example now?

 

Kevin

 

 

Robertís Second Post

 

Hi, Kevin,

 

Thanks for getting back to me on the definitions.

 

I'll post a verse and a defense of qualitativeness in the next few days.

 

Robert

 

 

Kevinís Second Reply

(Note:  I was receiving Kevinís posts via email, and for some reason the second paragraph, below, was missing.  Upon reading Kevinís next reply, I checked the website and realized I had missed much of what Kevin has actually said).

 

Thanks Robert!

 

But really all that is needed at this time is what was agreed to: 1)

Please provide an example of a qualitative only count noun in Greek.

 

I am not sure why you believe you need to provide a "defense" along with the example at this point. Unless, of course, the example is one of those provided in our previous discussions to which I did object. In that case, please do provide a defense. But if it's not one of those, then just give me the example and I'll tell you what I think and why, and then you can outline your objection. If you have an example as requested, the example, like the examples you gave for count nouns and mass nouns, should not be easy to dispute. Or at least there should be SOME (one?) such examples so that we can admit to the existence of the said category of nouns, like count, mass, and other nouns. Then, once we have at least found a basis for admitting the existence of the said category, we can discuss whether or not theos in John 1:1c is an example of the said category of nouns.

 

Thanks!

 

Kevin

 

 

Robertís Third Post

 

Hi, Kevin,

 

>Thanks Robert!

 

>But really all that is needed at this time is what was agreed to: 1)

>Please provide an example of a qualitative only count noun in Greek.

 

 

Oh, OK.  The second occurrence of PNEUMA in John 3:6

 

Best Regards,

 

Robert

 

 

Kevinís Third Reply

 

Hi Robert!

 

Robert, I really do not understand you. I wrote:

 

KEVIN-MESSAGE 2072

I am not sure why you believe you need to provide a "defense" along with the example at this point. Unless, of course, the example is one of those provided in our previous discussions to which I did object. In that case, please do provide a defense. But if it's not one of those, then just give me the example and I'll tell you what I think and why, and then you can outline your objection.

 

You then responded with:

 

HOMMEL-MESSAGE 2074

> Oh, OK.  The second occurrence of PNEUMA in John 3:6

>

> Best Regards,

>

> Robert

 

 

What happened? Do you not recall that we discussed this verse and the second occurrences of sarx and pneuma and that I did indeed object to your citation and use of them apart from supporting argumentation? In fact, our discussion ended almost immediately after my objection to your use of John 3:6, with you refusing to provide further argumentation in support of your view. Now you do the same thing as before, though I specifically (again) asked you to defend your use of examples previously objected to. Please note the following references on this point:

 

HOMMEL-MESSAGE 949

OK, I mentioned Mark 2:28 to Kaz. Here's another example off the top of

my head. Please tell me what semantic force SARX (mass term) and PNEUMA (count term) exude in their two occurrences in John 3:6?

 

RESPONSE BY ME IN MESSAGE 955:

No, Robert. First you must present your argument for these terms in this text. Then it's my turn to evaluate what you say and offer rebuttal or affirm.

 

 

HOMMEL IN MESSAGE 959

With regard to John 3:6, I take the first occurrence of SARX and PNEUMA to be definite, and the second occurrence of each to be qualitative. I would paraphrase as follows:

 

"That which is born of the flesh has the qualities of flesh, that which is born of the Spirit has the qualities of spirit." There is clearly a parallel between the two anarthrous nouns Ė suggesting that each exude the same semantic force. I regard either a definite or indefinite sense to be out of the question.

 

 

RESPONSE BY ME IN MESSAGE 989:

Robert, I said: "First you must present your argument for these terms in this text. Then it's my turn to evaluate what you say and offer rebuttal or affirm." Note: I did not ask for your opinion.  Above you give your opinion and claim that something is "clearly" there and that based on this "clear" thing, which you only assert, something is suggested. Then you state that two other senses are "out of the question," but offer no explanation as to why such senses are not possible. If you have no arguments, then why are we talking? Just say that you have an opinion, and with no arguments informing your opinion we may surmise that your opinion comes from your beliefs.

 

There were no further comments by you on John 3:6.

 

For you to write that the second instances of sarx and pneuma in

John 3:6 mean essentially "has the qualities of flesh/spirit" tells us nothing that identifying sarx and pneuma as mass nouns does not already tell us! That which is the "stuff" of flesh has the qualities of flesh, and the same is true for that which is the "stuff" of spirit. There is no problem identifying either noun as mass or count in these instances, but if it's mass then it refers to the "stuff" of the noun, qualities included. If it's countable (ie., 'the thing born from flesh/spirit is a human/spirit') then it also comes with the qualities of the noun (or else it wouldn't be a human/a spirit)! To say that it only refers to "qualities" without reference to the "stuff" or countable instance of the noun in question is what's at issue, and you have yet to defend your position.

 

Can you please do so, now?

 

Kevin

 

 

Robertís Fourth Post

 

(Note:  At the time of our first discussion, my time was very limited, as I had tried to explain to Kevin, which is why I had not addressed Kevinís points to the detail he had wished.  Nevertheless, I had made one key point in my post #959, which Kevin omitted in his summary, and which is essential to my position on the mass/count distinction and QEOS in Jn 1:1c:  "Your comments that a count noun 'becomes' a mass noun in certain contexts is not in accord with a grammatical definition of mass and count terms.  Nevertheless, by your terminology, THEOS becomes a mass noun in John 1:1c."  I did not feel it necessary to remind Kevin of this comment, as it was where I was going in our present dialog anyway).

 

Hi, Kevin,

 

I understand your confusion.  I receive posts to this board via email.

For some reason, the second paragraph of your second-to-last post was truncated.  This has happened once or twice before.  From now on, I'll be sure to check the board to make sure I get all your post, if I don't see your signature at the end.

 

You wrote:

 

"That which is the "stuff" of flesh has the qualities of flesh, and the same is true for that which is the "stuff" of spirit. There is no problem identifying either noun as mass or count in these instances, but if it's mass then it refers to the "stuff" of the noun, qualities included. If it's countable (ie., 'the thing born from flesh/spirit is a human/spirit') then it also comes with the qualities of the noun (or else it wouldn't be a human/a spirit)! To say that it only refers to "qualities" without reference to the "stuff" or countable instance of the noun in question is what's at issue, and you have yet to defend your position."

 

By the definition of a count noun I offered earlier, I regard PNEUMA as a count noun (PNEUMA can be grammatically indefinitized and pluralized).  However, it exudes the semantic force of a mass term in Jn 3:6.  So, I agree - it refers to the "stuff" of spirit in this instance.  It is grammatically possible that PNEUMA is indefinite here - "That which is born of the Spirit is a spirit."  In that case, it would refer to a countable member of the spirit class.  It is also grammatically possible the PNEUMA is definite - "That which is born of the Spirit is the Spirit."  In that case, it would refer to the entity known as "the Spirit."  In these two latter cases, qualities may be inferred from the referent of PNEUMA, as you suggest; but this does not mean that qualities cannot be stressed grammatically apart from definteness or indefiniteness - particularly in contexts where neither semantic force adequately expresses the author's intended meaning.  In other words, simply because referents have qualities, this does not mean that qualities are necessarily included in equative phrases of identity or class membership, nor that qualities cannot be stressed apart from definiteness or indefiniteness.

 

I have said that qualitative nouns lay stress on nature, qualities, or characteristics.  While it is not grammatically impossible that Jesus is stressing that "That which is born" is "the Spirit" or that "That which is born" belongs to the "spirit class," the context suggests that He is stressing a distinction between the *nature* of those who are "born of the flesh" and those who are "born of the Spirit."  Like generates like.  To use your terms: "That which is born of the flesh is flesh-stuff; that which is born of the Spirit is spirit-stuff."  "Stuff" is what something is made out of, what it consists of, its substance, its qualities, its nature.  Predication attributes that "stuff" - that nature - to the subject.  The distinction is between human nature and the Spirit's (God's) nature (not a human in the flesh class and a spirit in the spirit class). Jesus says that humans must experience the new birth to become children of God and (to use Peter's words) "partake of the divine nature."

 

So, Kevin, I agree that mass terms (or count terms that exhibit the same semantic force as mass terms) do refer to "stuff" - to qualities, substance, nature; the context of a piece of discourse will determine whether qualities are stressed or not.  When the author wishes to emphasize qualities apart from definiteness or indefiniteness - as Jesus does here - we have a qualitative noun, as I have defined it:

 

"That what is born of the flesh is [by nature] flesh; that which is born of the Spirit is [by nature] spirit."

 

Best regards,

 

Robert

 

 

Kevinís Fourth Reply

 

Robert Hommel wrote:

 

By the definition of a count noun I offered earlier, I regard

PNEUMA as a count noun (PNEUMA can be grammatically indefinitized and pluralized).  However, it exudes the semantic force of a mass term in Jn 3:6.

 

 

Okay, but then it's not a count noun in John 3:6 if it has the

semantic force of a mass noun; it cannot be indefinitized or

pluralized, for example, as you claim. If it exudes the force of a

mass noun then it's a mass noun in that particular instance,

referring to the stuff of "spirit," that which makes spirit SPIRIT.

As you write:

 

So, I agree - it refers to the "stuff" of spirit in this instance.  It is grammatically possible that PNEUMA is indefinite here - "That which is born of the Spirit is a spirit."  In that case, it would refer to a countable member of the spirit class.  It is also grammatically possible the PNEUMA is definite - "That which is born of the Spirit is the Spirit."  In that case, it would refer to the entity known as "the Spirit."  In these two latter cases, qualities may be inferred from the referent of PNEUMA, as you suggest; but this does not mean that qualities cannot be stressed grammatically apart from definteness or indefiniteness - particularly in contexts where neither semantic force adequately expresses the author's intended meaning.

 

There are a couple of things here: 1) You have admitted that this is not by any means a clear instance of the Q-only count noun you claim exists. So, again, we have no clear instance of such a noun, yet. 2) Saying that it is possible to stress the qualities of a noun apart from definiteness or indefinitensss is what you are supposed to be trying to prove. Here you only, again, suggest that it is possible with no supporting evidence. You have given your view of how things might work, but it's not evidence showing the existence of the noun in question. 3) I don't fully understand what you mean when you say, "this does not mean that qualities cannot be stressed grammatically apart from definiteness or indefiniteness." This idea of "stress" implies that qualities are not all that is in view, but that is exactly what you are claiming: qualities with no indefinite or definite semantic involved, and this for a count noun. So I am not sure why you use the word "stress" since all that can be in view when using the type of noun that has not been shown to exist is qualities. If that is all that can be in view, then there is no stress -- the qualities are all there is with such a noun, per your definition.

 

In other words, simply because referents have qualities, this does not mean that qualities are necessarily included in equative phrases of identity or class membership, nor that qualities cannot be stressed apart from definiteness or indefiniteness.

 

And your examples are? Again, we have undisputed examples of definite nouns. We have undisputed examples of indefinite nouns. Both of these nouns express the qualities of the particular noun when the noun is predicated of a person or thing.

 

I have said that qualitative nouns lay stress on nature, qualities, or characteristics.  While it is not grammatically impossible that Jesus is stressing that "That which is born" is "the Spirit" or that "That which is born" belongs to the "spirit class," the context suggests that He is stressing a distinction between the *nature* of those who are "born of the flesh" and those who are "born of the Spirit."  Like generates like.  To use your terms: "That which is born of the flesh is flesh-stuff; that which is born of the Spirit is spirit-stuff."  "Stuff" is what something is made out of, what it consists of, its substance, its qualities, its nature.

 

Yes I know. So if that is true we have a mass noun not a count noun, and in view of the substantivized TO we have instantiations of the stuff of spirit and flesh in view. I say the indefinite semantic is quite noticeable, grammatically and contextually. But either way you have not shown what you claim exists.

 

Predication attributes that "stuff" - that nature - to the subject.  The distinction is between human nature and the Spirit's (God's) nature (not a human in the flesh class and a spirit in the spirit class).

 

That is precisely what appears to be in view, as I said. But even granting that it is not, we have a mass noun not a count noun if we go the way of "stuff."

 

Jesus says that humans must experience the new birth to become children of God and (to use Peter's words) "partake of the divine nature."

 

Going from John 3 to 2 Peter does not help us out much here, especially since I have already granted this possible reference which does not give us a Q-only **count** noun.

 

So, Kevin, I agree that mass terms (or count terms that exhibit the same semantic force as mass terms) do refer to "stuff" - to qualities, substance, nature; the context of a piece of discourse will determine whether qualities are stressed or not.  When the author wishes to emphasize qualities apart from definiteness or indefiniteness - as Jesus does here - we have a qualitative noun, as I have defined it:

 

No, we have a mass noun. If you wish to equate mass nouns with

qualitative nouns then that's fine. But this notion of a qualitative-

only count noun is as yet unfounded.

 

"That what is born of the flesh is [by nature] flesh; that which is born of the Spirit is [by nature] spirit."

 

If we accept the non-count sense (which sense is quite defensible as noted above), then the above translation and meaning is fine, but your bracketed additions are not needed. "IS spirit" or "is flesh" are just fine and make the same point that the instantiation(s) in view are flesh or spirit respectively. You cannot indefinitize or pluralize either noun with such a sense, so neither are count nouns.

However, TO gives solid footing to viewing spirit and flesh as count nouns: "That which is born of the flesh is a man and that which is born of the spirit is a spirit." The notion of birth clearly expressed together with TO shows that we are talking about

instantiations of the kind described.

 

Do you have an example of a qualitative-only count noun in the GNT,

or in any other body of Greek literature?

 

Kevin  

 

Robertís Fifth Post

 

Hi, Kevin,

 

You wrote:

 

"Okay, but then it's not a count noun in John 3:6 if it has the semantic force of a mass noun; it cannot be indefinitized or pluralized, for example, as you claim. If it exudes the force of a mass noun then it's a mass noun in that particular instance, referring to the stuff of "spirit," that which makes spirit SPIRIT."

 

This is precisely why I wanted to make sure we agreed on the definition of a count noun right up front.  My definition is based on the grammar or lexical form of the noun (so Bloomfield, Palmer).  If the noun in its lexical form can be pluralized or indefinitized - regardless of context - it is a count noun.  So, PNEUMA is a count noun in all cases.  This does not preclude it from exuding the exact same semantic force as a mass term, as I've suggested.

 

You are now arguing for a contextual definition of mass / count terms (so Pelletier, Ware, Bunt).  That is, if a noun is "countable" in a given context, it is a count noun.  Otherwise, it's a mass noun.  I have some problems with this definition (not all contexts determine

massivness/amassiveness; not all nouns can be both count and mass; does not explain why most nouns "favor" one form over another), but for the sake of our discussion, I'll forgo my previous definition and accept yours.

 

So, by your definition, the second PNEUMA in Jn 3:6 is a mass term.  I concede that by your definition, there is no such thing as a qualitative "count noun."  Nouns that stress qualities or nature are not countable.

 

You wrote:

 

"There are a couple of things here: 1) You have admitted that this is not by any means a clear instance of the Q-only count noun you claim exists. So, again, we have no clear instance of such a noun"

 

I claimed that PNEUMA is a qualitative count noun - according to the definitions I laid out at the beginning of our renewed discussion.  I have never claimed that there is a Q-only count noun based on *your* definition of a count noun.

 

You continue:

 

"2)  Saying that it is possible to stress the qualities of a noun apart from definiteness or indefinitensss is what you are supposed to be trying to prove. Here you only, again, suggest that it is possible with no supporting evidence. You have given your view of how things might work, but it's not evidence showing the existence of the noun in question."

 

I was pointing out that from the standpoint of logic, your assertion about the referents of definite and indefinite nouns having qualities does not disprove my claim that nouns can stress qualities in certain contexts.  Yes, I know its my burden to "prove" the existence of a qualitative noun, as I've defined it.  How does one "prove"  a certain semantic force exists?  I would argue the only way, really, is by context.  Can you "prove" that hO QEOS in Jn 1:1b is a definite noun of identity?  Why not a generic noun?  I'll bet your argument will be based on context - not on some axiomatic principle of grammar.  Thus, my argument regarding PNEUMA is one based on context.  Can you dispute it?  Perhaps you can.  The issue will then turn on who has made the most cogent argument in favor of his interpretation.

 

You continue:

 

"3) I don't fully understand what you mean when you say, "this does not mean that qualities cannot be stressed grammatically apart from definiteness or indefiniteness." This idea of "stress" implies that qualities are not all that is in view, but that is exactly what you are claiming: qualities with no indefinite or definite semantic involved, and this for a count noun. So I am not sure why you use the word "stress" since all that can be in view when using the type of noun that has not been shown to exist is qualities. If that is all that can be in view, then there is no stress -- the qualities are all there is with such a noun, per your definition."

 

The definition I have offered is derived from Wallace and Harner.  Such a noun, they say, "lays stress" on qualities, character, or nature.  Wallace similarly defines definite nouns as those that "lay stress" on identity. Now, frankly, I'm not saavy enough in linguistics to say whether nouns exist in a continuum (from I to Q to D) or whether they inhabit discreet 'slots' of meaning.  I think the latter is most likely, because it seems to me that this is the way lexical semantics works.  That is, in any given context, a word is going to carry one of its possible meanings, not two or more.  We don't assume that LOGOS, for example, is fraught with all the meaning John is packing into it in every context in which it occurs.  Similarly, it seems to me that semantic force works the same way.  But even if it doesn't, the mere fact that qualities can be expressed AT ALL suggests that, in theory, authors can emphasize them, if they wish.  This discussion centers on whether I can defend such a view in practice.

 

You go on to say:

 

"And your examples are?"

 

Well, let's see if I can make some headway with you on PNEUMA in Jn 3:6.

 

"Again, we have undisputed examples of definite nouns. We have undisputed examples of indefinite nouns.  Both of these nouns express the qualities of the particular noun when the noun is predicated of a person or thing."

 

The latter statement is an assertion yet to be proved.  In your view, then, is there really no such thing as a D-only or I-only noun in equative phrases?

 

I had said:

 

"'Stuff' is what something is made out of, what it consists of, its substance, its qualities, its nature."

 

To which you responded:

 

"Yes I know. So if that is true we have a mass noun not a count noun..."

 

Right.  By your definition, that's what we have - a noun that refers to the "stuff" of spirit, which you agree means "its substance, its qualities, its nature."

 

You continue:

 

"...and in view of the substantivized TO we have instantiations of the stuff of spirit and flesh in view. I say the indefinite semantic is quite noticeable, grammatically and contextually. But either way you have not shown what you claim exists."

 

I'm a bit unclear on this point.  Did you mean "but" instead of "and" at the beginning of this quote?  You seem here to be arguing that PNEUMA is a mass term, but because it is predicated to TO, it is indefinite.  Later, you say, "However, TO gives solid footing to viewing spirit and flesh as count nouns: "That which is born of the flesh is a man and that which is born of the spirit is a spirit."  Are you saying that it is possible to view SARX and PNEUMA as either mass or count terms in this context?  You seemed earlier to be taking me to task for claiming PNEUMA is a count noun when its really mass, but here you're saying you think the indefinite semantic force is "noticeable."  If the mass / count distinction you propose (contextual definition) is so inexact, I'm not sure how valuable it is in determining the meaning of any given PN in the first place.

 

In any event, I have never heard that "instantiations" of mass terms by way of predication is one of the "sorters" that convert them to count terms.  SARX is a mass term in most (all?) contexts, so if you have a linguistic reference showing how it becomes a count noun (even in English) when predicated to a subject like TO, I'd appreciate it.

 

I had said:

 

"Predication attributes that "stuff" - that nature - to the subject.  The distinction is between human nature and the Spirit's (God's) nature (not a human in the flesh class and a spirit in the spirit class)."

 

To which you replied:

 

"That is precisely what appears to be in view, as I said. But even granting that it is not, we have a mass noun not a count noun if we go the way of "stuff."

 

Yes, that's the direction I'm going.  So we have "stuff" predicated to TO.  As you agree, that means that the "substance, qualities, or nature" of PNEUMA is predicated to TO - i.e, a qualitative noun, as I've defined it. Again, I'd be grateful for any linguistic evidence supporting your case for indefiniteness.

 

You wrote:

 

"If you wish to equate mass nouns with qualitative nouns then that's fine.  But this notion of a qualitative-only count noun is as yet unfounded."

 

Yes, I wish to equate mass nouns with qualitative nouns.  I agree that by your definition of count nouns, there are no qualitative count nouns.  Nouns that predicate nature or qualities are not countable in their contexts.

 

I had paraphrased Jn 3:6 as follows:

 

"That what is born of the flesh is [by nature] flesh; that which is born of the Spirit is [by nature] spirit."

 

To which you replied:

 

"If we accept the non-count sense (which sense is quite defensible as noted above), then the above translation and meaning is fine, but your bracketed additions are not needed."

 

Agreed. [by nature] is simply a gloss to emphasize the semantic force.

 

You continued:

 

"IS spirit" or "is flesh" are just fine and make the same point that the instantiation(s) in view are flesh or spirit respectively. You cannot indefinitize or pluralize either noun with such a sense, so neither are count nouns."

 

Right.  By your definition, you cannot indefinitize mass terms, regardless of the nature of their instantiations.

 

You concluded:

 

"However, TO gives solid footing to viewing spirit and flesh as count nouns: "That which is born of the flesh is a man and that which is born of the spirit is a spirit." The notion of birth clearly expressed together with TO shows that we are talking about instantiations of the kind described."

 

Again, I don't understand how the nature of the subject of the sentence provides "solid footing" for understanding the PN as a count noun.  I agree that "we're talking about" instantiations - but this meaning is carried by the subject - not the PN.  The instantiations in question are instantiations of the PN - "the stuff" of flesh and spirit.  It is the 'stuff' that is being predicated.  If PNEUMA may be rightly rendered "a spirit," it is not 'stuff' that is predicated - in fact, there is no predication going on at all here (if one follows Russell's model of predication).  Instead, TO is being *identified* as a member of the PNEUMA class ("is" of predication vs "is" of identity).

 

Now, perhaps you've done much more research into this topic that I have.  I certainly still have much to learn, and am grateful for this opportunity to 'test' my understanding (such as it is).  I'd be very open to reading whatever references you can point me to that support your understanding of predication.

 

Best regards,

 

Robert

 

 

It has now been two months since this post, and Kevin has not replied, nor posted anything further on this discussion board.