Re: 1 John 4:13ff

From: Carl W. Conrad (
Date: Sat Apr 05 1997 - 08:23:23 EST

Jonathan has already responded to these questions; I'd like to offer a
slightly different slant on the first and a clarification regarding the

At 6:06 PM -0600 4/4/97, Tom Launder wrote:
>Hello all,
>I have a couple questions on 1 John 4:13;15
>1. Can someone explain what the significance of EK TOU PNEUMATOS AUTOU?
>The preposition EK is referred to as being partitive and I am not sure
>what that would mean. Is it something like "He has given to us a part
>from the His Holy Spirit?"

First, I think that the most significant parallel to 1 Jn 4:13 is probably
in the prologue of the gospel, Jn 1:16 hOTI EK TOU PLHRWMATOS AUTOU hHMEIS
PANTES ELABOMEN KAI CARIN ANTI CARITOS. It is moreover, a recurrent major
theme in the gospel and one could point in particular to chapters 3
(dialogue with Nicodemus on spiritual rebirth), 4 (dialogue with the
Samaritan woman over living water (3:14) TO hUDWR hO DWSW AUTWi, OU MH
hUDATOS ALLOMENOU EIS ZWHN AIWNION) and 6 (dialogue on bread of life).

Secondly, while it is certainly true, as Jonathan has said and as Micheal
Palmer has said in a different way, that PNEUMATOS is genitive because EK
must be construed with a genitive, I think it should be added that EK +
genitive may function in Koine in the same way that a partitive genitive
itself functioned as a complement to a verb in earlier phases of Greek. Let
me use a simplistic but not unuseful (I think) example: PINW TOU OINOU is
classical Greek expressing the sense "I'm sipping some wine" while PINW TON
OINON (which one is far less likely to see) would mean something like "I'm
gulping down (whatever) wine (is available). Now it seems to me that the
gospel and the first letter of John in the passage you have cited are
indicating that PNEUMA or the PLHRWMA or the hUDWR ZWON provided to
believers by Jesus are inexhaustible sources from which the believer draws
to sustain ZWHN AIWNION. One partakes of it, i.e, one takes part of it--one
does not take it all nor could one possibly do so. In that sense, then, I
think it is valid to understand the expression EK TOU PNEUMATOS AUTOU in 1
Jn 4:13 as a partitive one.

>2. Is the hOS EAN in v.15 a conditional clause dependent on v.15b? Some
>translations say "whomever confesses" and others "if anyone." Are they
>saying the same thing?

What Jonathan has said about this ("Yes") is correct, but he made one point
that I think needs clarification, inasmuch as Hellenistic Greek
generalizing clauses tend to appear in a standardized format which a reader
automatically converts and which a translater automatically rephrases into
what fits the idiomatic flow of the remainder of the conditional

At 5:24 AM -0600 4/5/97, Jonathan Robie wrote:
>Yes. I believe the most literal translation would be: if anyone should

That's not quite true; the most literal translation would have to be
"whoever confesses ..." Yet the traditional generalizing subjunctive clause
with AN in Hellenistic Greek appears to have standardized what were once
three distinct alternative formulations (simple: EAN TIS {or any subject) +
subjunctive; temporal: hOTE AN + subject + subjunctive; relative hOSTIS AN
+ subjunctive) into a more or less uniform formula, hOS(TIS) AN +
subjunctive, which could be translated into English in any of the three
older types: simple: "If ever anyone ..."; temporal: "Whenever anyone ...";
and relative: "Whoever ..." They are equivalent, and this equivalency of
the three was already beginning to be established even in Attic.
Nevertheless, it seems to me that it is important for the reader of NT
Greek to be aware of this equivalency and realize that if one compares the
Greek of such a generalizing subjunctive construction with any of the
standarad English versions, one may not find the literal format of the
Greek reproduced there but rather what best fits the idiomatic flow of the

I wouldn't be surprised if what I've just written sounds muddled, but the
point I'm trying to make is that the Greek of 1 Jn 4:15 literally DOES
convert to English as "Whoever confesses that Jesus is the son of God, God
abides in him and he in God," BUT the better English idiom for conversion
of it is "If anyone confesses, etc. ..., God abides in him etc."

Carl W. Conrad
Department of Classics, Washington University
One Brookings Drive, St. Louis, MO, USA 63130
(314) 935-4018 OR

This archive was generated by hypermail 2.1.4 : Sat Apr 20 2002 - 15:38:11 EDT