From: Benjamin Raymond (
Date: Mon Feb 23 1998 - 16:47:36 EST

At 07:49 PM 2/22/98 -0600, Carl Conrad wrote:
>At 5:12 PM -0600 2/22/98, Benjamin Raymond wrote:
>>Rereading John 1:9 again while reviewing for class, I stumbled over another
>>If TO FWS is the subject of this periphrastic imperfect, why does the
>>author use the masculine object AUTON in 10c? Is the author ascribing some
>>masculine sense to TO FWS, or does this refer back to hO LOGOS somehow?
>This is perhaps a bigger question than it appears.
>It does indeed (refer back to hO LOGOS). Your question takes me back many
>years to when I first read the Johannine Prologue and makes me remember
>that it really is full of things that are not immediately self-evident--and
>also that are not self-evident to one who is reading it a verse at a time
>with significant intervals between verses.

Hey... you been reading my mail? :-)

>If, however, you'll look back, you'll notice a chain of identifications of
>hO LOGOS: 1-2: existence initially in the presence of God and essential
>identity (the meaning of which essential identity is, it appears, a
>perpetually recurring question on our list); 3: role of the Logos in
>creation of the world; 4: Life in the Logos as the Light of humanity; 5:
>the unquenchability of that Light. Then 6-8, which some consider a sort of
>prosaic interlude in the midst of a poem inserted in order to clarify the
>relationship of the Baptist to the incarnate Logos, interrupt the sequence
>to say that the Baptist is not to be identified with the Light. Now 9
>resumes the sequence of 1-5: Light on the way into the world; then 10:

>Light IN the world, but unrecognized by it as its creator. The key to 10 is
>the earlier verses 3-5, the progressive clarification of the identity and
>functions of the Logos--and the declarations of those verses are implicit
>in how 10 must be understood, so that yes, the masculine pronoun of 10 must
>refer back to the LOGOS.

Okay. This seems plausible. It was my first inclination to ascribe hO
LOGOS to the pronouns in 10, but the whole issue with the subject of HN in
verse 9 threw me off completely.

>To be sure, some might want to say that the
>masculine pronoun in 10 depends upon the masculine proper noun IHSOUS which
>we all understand to be the name of the incarnate Logos, but in fact the
>name IHSOUS appears nowhere in the prologue, and I really think that the
>reader is meant to make that identification for himself or herself and that
>the masculine pronouns in 10 refer strictly to the LOGOS.

I couldn't agree more. My prof answered my question about HN by saying
that IHSOUS was the subject (and thus also the antecedent of the pronouns
in 10), but that didn't fly well with me at all. Before John even
*mentions* Jesus? I think not. I can understand where this view comes
from theologically, but it just doesn't make any literary sense. I don't
think the author assumed his first-time readers would immediately associate
hO LOGOS with IHSOUS, especially before verse 14.

>Strictly speaking, this should imply that unless we regularly refer to the
>noun "word" in English with a masculine pronoun, we might more accurately
>translate that masculine pronoun in 10 with "it." But I think that most
>readers really want to jump the gun and make the identification with Jesus
>before the evangelist has done so

"Jumping the gun" is a most appropriate expression here.

>and therefore use the masculine pronoun
>in translation also. This is one of those little conundrums confronting the
>English speaker who wants to translate the Greek text both accurately and
>with some sensitivity to where the masculine grammatical gender really has
>nothing to do with the gender of a person. Would we squeal in protest at a
>KOSMOS AUTON OUK EGNW as "It was in the world, and the world came into
>existence through its agency, and the world did not recognize it"?

Well, this is a bit thornier than I'm willing to get into this point. As
long as I understand the references in the Greek, I'll save the
translational problems for later. It's a good observation, though.
Sometimes I wonder how the English language would have turned out had there
been more more emphasis on noun/pronoun gender.

In a related post, Paul Dixon wrote:
>Though TO QWS is the subject of the periphrastic participle in v. 9, this
>does not mean it TO FWS cannot refer to hO LOGOS. It clearly does. The
>gender of FWS is not determined by its referent, but by the word itself.
>Hence, AUTON refers back to the masculine LOGOS.

Gotcha. I think all those years of English teachers hammering rules about
the nearest antecedent have taken deep root. Apparently the Greek is not
so stringent.

Are there any general rules of thumb when it comes to determining antecedents?


Benjamin Raymond
senior, Harding University School of Biblical Studies
HU Box 11871, 900 E Center
Searcy, AR 72149-0001

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