J.C. Thibodaux, “Does Granville-Sharp’s Rule Indicate That ‘Foreknowledge’ is Synonymous With ‘Determinate Counsel’?”

, posted by JC_Thibodaux

A claim made by many Calvinist authors concerns the terms used in Acts 2:23,

“Him, being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, ye have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain…”
Acts 2:23

The reasoning goes as follows, I quote from the web address http://www.smallings.com/english/Essays/Foreknowledge.html :

“Here, “determined purpose” and “foreknowledge” are linked by a greek grammatical form called the Granville-Sharp Rule. This makes the two nouns synonymous for emphasis, like saying “right and good” or “evil and wrong.””
Roger Smalling, D.Min, Does Foreknowledge Explain Election?

The claim made by several Calvinist theologians (including John MacArthur – see: The Progress of Salvation) is that the Granville-Sharp rule states that if two nouns, the first preceded by ‘ho’ (the) are connected by the Greek word ‘kai’ (and) with no articles in before the next noun, then the two nouns are synonymous. The wording of the first rule itself reads as follows:

“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 connection, 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: i.e. it denotes farther description of the first-named person, as –

Matthew 12:22 – The blind and dumb

2 Corinthians – 1:3 the God and Father

Ephesians 6:21 – the beloved brother and faithful minister

[lists several more examples]

And there is no exception or instance of the like mode of expression, that I know of, which necessarily requires a construction different from what is here laid down, EXCEPT the nouns be proper names, or in the plural number; in which cases there are many exceptions; though there are not wanting examples, even of plural nouns, which are expressed exactly agreeable to this rule.”

Many theologians just take this and run with it, not heeding the qualifiers that Granville-Sharp noted: for the rule to apply, the nouns must be:

* Personal (descriptive of a person, common epithets such as ‘Lord,’ ‘Christian’ or ‘Blind’ [as used to describe people in Matthew 12:22])

* Singular

* Non-proper name

* In the same case

If any of these conditions are violated, then the rule does not apply. As Daniel B. Wallace (one of the foremost authorities on the Granville-Sharp rule) wrote,

Almost without exception, those who seem to be acquainted with Sharp’s rule and agree with its validity misunderstand and abuse it. This widespread misunderstanding shows no partiality–grammarians, exegetes, and theologians alike are culpable. Typically the rule is perceived to extend to plural and impersonal constructions, in spite of the fact that Sharp restricted the rule to personal singular nouns. What are the reasons for such abuse? For one thing, as we have seen, the statement of Sharp’s rule is not clear. Only an examination of his monograph explicitly reveals his requirement of of personal singular nouns. Second, the last clear statement of the limitations of Sharp’s canon in any major work was published over one hundred and fifty years ago in Middleton’s Doctrine of the Greek Article.

“Granville Sharp: A Model of Evangelical Scholarship and Social Activity” (Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 41 [December 1998] p. 609)

A few valid counter-examples include,

But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees come to his baptism, he said unto them, “O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come?”
Matthew 3:7

(Correct construction, but the nouns ‘Pharisees’ and ‘Sadducees’ [two often opposing religious factions] are plural)

“May be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height…”
Ephesians 3:18

(Again, the construction is correct, but the nouns ‘breadth,’ ‘length,’ ‘depth’ and ‘height’ are not personal nouns)

It should be obvious by this point that trying to apply Granville-Sharp’s rule to Acts 2:23 in an effort to force synonymity on ‘foreknowledge’ (impersonal noun) and ‘determinate counsel’ (impersonal noun) is errant at best.

Bottom Line:

* Granville-Sharp’s rule only applies to personal, singular, non-proper names of the same case.

* Acts 2:23 does not meet the above conditions, and the rule is therefore not applicable.

* While God’s foreknowledge and His determinate will are undoubtedly related, there is nothing in scripture to indicate that they are synonymous.