Granville Sharp (1735–1813) was an English political reformer, slavery abolitionist, and Greek language scholar known for his contributions regarding the translation of New Testament Greek as it relates to the divinity of Christ. Sharp believed strongly in the deity of Christ and studied the New Testament in its original language to more ably prove Christ’s deity. The Granville Sharp Rule was first noted in 1798 in his book 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.
The actual rule of Granville Sharp is concerned with the use of definite articles and copulative conjunctions in the New Testament. Copulative conjunctions (also called additive conjunctions) are words that join other words and indicate the relation of additional information. In English, we have one definite article, the; some copulative conjunctions are and, moreover, and also.
The Granville Sharp Rule states, “When the copulative kai 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 ho, 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” (Remarks on the Uses of the Definitive Article, 3).
In simpler terms, the Granville Sharp Rule says that when two singular common nouns are used to describe a person, and those two nouns are joined by an additive conjunction, and the definite article precedes the first noun but not the second, then both nouns refer to the same person. This principle of semantics holds true in all languages. For example, consider this sentence:
We met with the owner and the curator of the museum, Mr. Holton.
In the preceding sentence, the definite article the is used twice, before both owner and curator. The curator is obviously Mr. Holton, but the owner could be a different person. Did we meet with one or two people? Is Mr. Holton the owner of the museum as well as the curator? The grammatical construction leaves the question open. However, the following sentence removes the ambiguity:
We met with the owner and curator of the museum, Mr. Holton.
In the second example, the definite article the is only used once, before the first noun. This means that the two nouns, joined by and, are both in apposition to the name of the person. In other words, Mr. Holton is both owner and curator. The Granville Sharp Rule makes it clear that we are referring to the same individual.
Two of the New Testament verses associated with the Granville Sharp Rule are Titus 2:13 and 2 Peter 1:1. The KJV translates Titus 2:13 as, “Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ.” In the original Greek, the words for “God” and “Savior” are joined by kai, and the definite article ho is only used once, preceding “God”; according to the Granville Sharp Rule, both God and Savior must refer to the same person, namely, Jesus Christ. The NASB 1977 renders the verse more literally: “Looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus.”
Similarly, 2 Peter 1:1 refers to “our God and Savior Jesus Christ.” Following Granville Sharp’s rule, Jesus Christ is clearly identified as both “God” and “Savior,” another example of the Bible’s teaching of the deity of Christ. The grammatical construction of the Greek makes it plain: definite article + singular nouncopulative conjunction + singular noun = the same person.
Though the Granville Sharp Rule may seem arcane, the concept has an important impact regarding Bible translation and our understanding of the nature of Christ. The New Testament passages where this rule applies highlight the deity of Jesus Christ. He is more than the Messiah; He is God. (i)
It is important when we consider the Granville Sharp Rule as it relates to the "divinity of Christ," and as argued by Trinitarians, that it has some measure of legitimacy. But the legitimacy exists in the form of the rule as it relates to grammar, not that in which it has been utilized by Trinitarians the world over, and that is . . . doctrine.
There are literally hundreds of rules of grammar. Perhaps one may think of the long-standing rule that it is grammatically incorrect to end one's sentence with a preposition. Many view this rule as a critical element as it regards appropriate grammar. It would not be an understatement to suggest that many the world over view many rules of grammar as not only proper grammar, but critical in conveying the correct message we desire to utter to another. There may even be those that view it almost as a "law" of grammar in its level of relative importance. Perhaps another may view more simplistic forms of grammar and syntax as just as critical an element in speech for the same reasons we just highlighted. But are these many rules of grammar really necessary? And are they as critical as believed by those who endorse them as something inherently evalulative in everyday speech? In regard to the above-mentioned rule of ending sentences with a preposition, as a rule - notice for example, the observation made by Grammarly.com: "Grammar snobs love to tell anyone who will listen: You should NEVER end a sentence with a preposition! Luckily for those poor, persecuted prepositions, that just isn’t true. It’s not an error to end a sentence with a preposition, but it is a little less formal. In emails, text messages, and notes to friends, it’s perfectly fine. But if you’re writing a research paper or submitting a business proposal and you want to sound very formal, avoid ending sentences with prepositions."
While grammatical rules may not be as critical as some of their strongest advocates believe them to be, we must conclude that there is merit to the Granville Sharp Rule, as noted earlier. But it is of equal importance that we remember this important rule . . . it is just a RULE. It would be fair to say that Granville Sharp may have been the Trinitarian of his generation. Biblical Unitarian observes: ". . . this “rule” has been properly analyzed and shown to be invalid for proving the Trinity. Granville Sharp was an English philanthropist, who began to study the grammar of the New Testament in order to demonstrate that his Trinitarian beliefs were correct and that Christ was God." Therefore, to suggest that the Granville Sharp Rule was designed in bias of the Trinity doctrine would be a major understatement. It is clear, through Granville Sharp's works, that his intent was to establish a means by which to support the Trinity doctrine, and the rule was the Segway. The above article in Biblical Unitarian continues with this statement: "There are problems with the Granville Sharp “Rule.” First, it is impossible to prove that it was a rule of grammar at the time of the Apostle Paul. Nigel Turner, a Trinitarian, writes: Unfortunately, at this period of Greek we cannot be sure that such a rule is really decisive. Sometimes the definite article is not repeated even when there is a clear separation of an idea. (ii)
Wise & Learned
In addition to the broad spectrum of grammatical refutations by biblical exegete's on this subject, this article's focus is built more on the preservation of the sanctity of the received text of God's Word as opposed to the grammatical structure relating to rebuttal's of the Granville Sharp Rule. Matthew 15:9 states, "They worship me in vain, teaching as doctrines human commands." The very thing Jesus speaks of here is associated with a warning found elsewhere in God's Word the bible at 1 Corinthians 4:6: "Now, brothers and sisters, I have applied these things to myself and Apollos for your benefit, so that you may learn from us the meaning of the saying, "Do not go beyond what is written." The Greek rendering for the word "commands" found in Matthew 15:9 is "entalmata," or ἐντάλματα (Strong's Greek 1778). The word translated means, "precepts." Other synonyms are "rules," "tenets," guidelines," and so forth. Interesting is that the words "doctrines" and "working principles" are named as foremost synonyms of the word "entalmata."
When considering the Granville Sharp Rule and the emphasis placed on it by Trinitarians, and renowned theologians - whether he be James R. White or another through their written articles, debates, etc., we cannot - and must not ignore that the Granville Sharp construction does the very thing God warns about in His written word the bible when utilized by Trinitarian apologetics. Unfortunately, Trinitarian apologists have ignored one of the foremost warnings found in God's inspired Word by exalting and defending such rules of man and using them to support a doctrine that God's Word otherwise does not support. But it also works to obscure the direction God intends us to understand - namely, the truth. And we are loathe to ignore that such design are actually works of Satan, who works around the clock to promote apostate thinking, yes, even through the eyes of the wise and learned, God-fearing though they may be.
Other than ignoring the very foundation of truthful teaching of God's inspired Word, such rules as the Granville Sharp construction promotes the thinking and working of those who are "wise and learned," instead of working to understand the scriptures from the mind of a "babe" (or, "humble one"). Jesus thanked His heavenly Father for His Spirit in revealing the truth of the gospel to the humble-hearted (Matthew 11:25). Really . . . why must one stop with such rules? Is not the sky the limit in attempting to understand the revealed Word of God by the wise and learned, or intellectual? For example, why not consider taking a sample from each of the thousands of biblical manuscripts and submitting to labs for spectrometer analysis? Perhaps understanding the molecular structure of the ink may give sincere Trinitarian apologists an argument as to whether the writer who penned a certain verse was truly guided by the spirit of our Father by determining the pressure of the ink on the papyri, or skin, and based upon such analysis - attempt to discern if the hand of the writer was "shaky," thus revealing he was unsure of what he was writing, and thus conclude that God's spirit did not direct him. And the opposite argument posed for the ink applied to papyri that was profoundly imbedded in the material, thus concluding he was guided by the spirit?
The question is . . . if the wise and learned intends on utilizing the works of imperfect man through their use of "rules" in effort to establish doctrine, such as in the case with the Trinity and the Granville Sharp Rule, why not utilize every avenue possible to further our understanding of the sacred text, whether through science, grammar, or anything else? It is this argument I work for the unfolding of the truth of God's inspired Word. After all, there may be a few thousand the world over who understand such things as the Granville Sharp Rule, and the deep grammatical arguments as it pertains to the defense of Trinitarian belief. Are we to thus conclude that the truth of God's Word the bible was meant to be observable and understood through the lens of only a few thousand? Cannot one, as Jesus highlighted, understand the truth's of God's written Word through the lens of the spirit, accompanied by an individual's motivation to be led by it as they read God's inspired Word?
Yes . . . the humble-hearted are the ones that may read a scripture, such as that found in Revelation 3:21 where it states: "The one who conquers, I will grant him to sit with me on my throne, as I also conquered and sat down with my Father on his throne," and conclude with themselves, "I get it! The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are separate. The Father has His throne, the Son has His (the earth, as is where the earthly kingdom is established - with Christ as King), and there is no throne for the Spirit - thus, they are not a Trinity." Or perhaps the humble-hearted will read an account such as that found in 1 Corinthians 15: 27,28 where it states: ""For “God has put all things in subjection under his feet.” But when it says, “all things are put in subjection,” it is plain that he is excepted who put all things in subjection under him. When all things are subjected to him, then the Son himself will also be subjected to him who put all things in subjection under him, that God may be all in all,"" and think to themselves, "indeed, the Father (Yahweh) is the Almighty, Jesus has been given authority to rule by Yahweh, and later Jesus will hand it back to his Father, Yahweh and subject himself to Yahweh. I think I have it!"
As it concerns the previous paragraph, it generally is not good enough for the wise and learned. For in their sight, they are saying, "There must be more. There has got to be more. We need to dig deeper! There must be more to the story."
Parliamentary vs Simplicity
Those advocating for specific doctrine(s) through human history have been those who are generally situated in the highest levels of office, albeit government, religious, or both. More often than not, it is the religious ruling parliament of a particular nation, people or empire that have had the pronounced and comprehensive influence of religious atmosphere and belief. And it has been this very thing that has been used as a fulcrum by Satan to work at infiltrating his apostate-woven lies and deceit to the benefit of himself.
The fact is, is that the entire concept of the Trinity doctrine has its roots in religious belief and ceremony long before Christianity. The ancient Egyptians had their triune god Horus, Osiris, and Isis. The Sumerians had theirs. The Babylonians had Anu, Ea and Enlil. The Greeks had Athena, Apollos and Zeus. Later, India had theirs. Before long, the triune concept had infiltrated a system of belief that the people found popular and inviting in many cultures around the world. It is through this early triune framework that Satan has been able to weave his false teachings through the fabric of religious beliefs down to today. And in every instance, Satan has proven his success through the utilization of those who aspire to be the most prominent in all of the centuries.
Like their predecessor's of early ancient civilizations, Christianity fell victim to the whiles of Satan not longer after the last of the apostles died off. It was in 325 A.D. that once again Satan found a convenient tool to weave his triune concept right into the fabric of the Christian congregation. After Constantine had summoned the hierarchy of the church from all the jurisdictional lands, he literally locked them up until they could decide on the final appraisal of the divinity of Christ. Was he the highest Supreme God? This was the primary objective of the First Council of Nicaea. There were a number of religious proponents of the Trinity doctrine, whereas there were those who were adamantly opposed to the concept of the divinity of Jesus, as well as the God, Father, Holy Spirit as one - doctrine. In the end, the outcome of the council hinged on a vote. Those who favored the Trinity doctrine outnumbered those who proclaimed to the end that the Trinity doctrine was scripturally unfounded. Satan had once again woven his demonic fabric successfully, just as he had done in the centuries before.
Not much has changed. While the vast sum of Christian churches around the world still hold fast to the Trinity doctrine, and the divinity of Christ Jesus, it is fact that more and more scholars and theologians are reconsidering their stand on the issue. It is also fact that many more are familiarizing themselves with the "deep things of God," and throwing away the "deep things of Satan," such as the Trinity doctrine. To see a gentle turn of the tide on this subject has taken literally many hundreds of years, but it is gaining steam as many peer in to the word of God as foretold by the prophet Daniel. And these ones have rid themselves and their way of thinking from the seeds sown by Satan. But there are still those of which we spoke earlier who occasionally present themselves as advocates for something that the scriptures do not support. It is likely that ones such as Granville Sharp, though perhaps unwittingly, made himself an object of use by Satan to weave more apostate fabric into the minds of Christians. And those who delve in to Trinitarian apologetics likewise make themselves available to be utilized by Satan by promoting the "teaching of demons," as something they honestly believe to be holy.
There was a time when Satan was able to use king David to sin against Jehovah by taking the census against Jehovah's order not to do so (1 Chronicles 21:1). The account tells us that Satan influenced David into following through with the task, which resulted in seventy thousand losing their lives. Can we not believe that Satan is likewise able to use any one of us if we continue to promote something that the spirit does not?
Earlier we spoke of the simplicity of the gospel. We highlighted how Jesus thanked his heavenly Father for hiding the truth of the gospel from the wise and learned. Our heavenly Father revealed these truths to "babes," or the humble ones. They got the sense of it. Jesus set the foremost example for us in understanding the word of God, yes, even the deep things of God. Jesus often spoke in single-syllable words. He used simple illustrations that the common people could understand and relate to. And this method proved the most reliable method, both then and now. For the message of the gospel has spread around the world . . . proof that Jesus' method is the RIGHT method. And it is this in which we want to imitate, yes, not just in helping others to come to an accurate knowledge of our Lord Jesus, and our heavenly Father, including such apostate teachings as the Trinity, but also, to present ourselves as humble "hearer's" of the message - not turning our ears toward the wise and learned, or think that we have now become wise in our eyes. We want to continue to let the simplicity of the word of God, accompanied by prayer for the spirit to understand it, as well as working to be sharpened by other trustworthy Christians - to be the catalyst to our understanding the word of God. And in that way, we present ourselves to our Master as a "babe," - lowly and teachable!
(i) What is The Granville Sharp Rule? - From "Got Questions" (ii) Moulton-Howard-Turner, Grammar, Vol. 3, p. 181.