Re: John's use of synonyms

From: Michael Holmes (
Date: Tue May 14 1996 - 14:05:39 EDT

Re the following query:
Though others have no doubt treated the issue more recently, Leon Morris,
"Variation--A Feature of the Johannine Style," in _Studies in the Fourth
Gospel (Eerdmans, 1969) 293-319, treats many of the following passages
(along with a great many others) in arguing that such variation is indeed a
matter of style.

Mike Holmes
Bethel College

At 08:47 AM 5/14/96 EDT, you wrote:
>I've noticed that the author of John's gospel seems to like to interchange
>words that are closely related semantically, but not necessarily because he
>means something different by the different words -- it seems to be stylistic.
>E.g.'s include ESQIW (EPHAGON--aor.) / TRWGW in chapter 6; AGAPAW / PHILEW
>and OIDA / GINWSKW in chapter 21. At least I've interpreted these to be more
>stylistic than denoting a real change in authorial meaning after reading some
>commentaries on this.
>I likewise viewed the switch from PARALAMBANO in 1:11 to LAMBANW in 1:12 as
>another example of a simple stylistic word switch. But my study of lexicons
>seems to indicate that the semantic overlap of the two words isn't that
>great, and hence I wonder if there really is a change in meaning here, or if
>instead the author is using LAMBANW to segue, so to speak, from rejecting
>Jesus to believing in Jesus. I.e.:
>1:11 unto his own [things / nation] he came, and those [people] who were his
>own did not give him a welcome / take him as their own [PARALAMBANW]
>1:12 but to whoever received him / took him as their authority [LAMBANW] =
>to those who believe in his name, he gave to them authority to become
>children of God [switching the second and third part of the verse more
>clearly shows the possible epexegetical relation of 1:12c to 1:12a]
>1:13 who not from blood(s) and not from the will of the flesh and not from
>the will of man (or: a husband) but from God were born.
>I guess what I'm saying or asking is that it seems that in making his
>transition/comparison/contrast from or between those who "rejected" Jesus
>(1:11) -- and "reject" seems to be a legitimate translation of OU PARELABON --
>with those who "believed" in him, the author deliberately chose to use
>LAMBANW (1:12) because it is lexically linked to the preceding PARALAMBANW,
>and then he epexegetically relates it to the following PISTEUW.
>Any comments/thoughts? (I'd also welcome any comments on the issue of
>whether the author in his switching of closely-related words really does
>indicate a change of meaning or emphasis, or whether it is mostly stylistic.)

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