Re: 1 John 5:20 - who is hOUTOS?

From: Carl W. Conrad (
Date: Fri Aug 28 1998 - 11:48:43 EDT

At 9:42 AM -0500 8/28/98, wrote:
>hOUTOS may have an anaphoric, deictic, contrastive or cataphoric reference. I
>don't know that hOUTOS *normally* refers to an immediate antecedent. Each
>instance must be analyzed in view of its own context, both immediate and
>In 2 John 7 we have a case where hOUTOS does not refer to the immediate
>antecedent. In John 11:4 hAUTH hH ASTHENEIA refers to the cognate verb in
>verses 1, 2, and 3. In this case the noun that follows hAUTH points out the
>natural antecedent.

2 John 7 is different; in hAUTH hH ASQENEIA, hAUTH is a demonstrative
pronoun used predicatively with the article--I guess we'd call this the
"deictic" function; it is not itself the subject of the sentence; if I had
to translate it hyperliterally (as Will Wagers once sought), I'd make it:
"The sickness, this one, ... " But we normally use this adjectivally and
render it "This sickness." So that is not really comparable to a situation
where the demonstrative pronoun functions as a subject referring to an
antecedent noun (whether or not the antecedent precedes or follows). I
don't think it's proper to refer to ASQENEIA as the "antecedent" of hAUTH.

>I believe the same is true in 1 John 5:20, where hO ALHTHINOS, following
>hOUTOS, refers to the TON ALHTHINON . . . TWi ALHTHINWi of the previous verse.
>Others take a different view and consider IHSOU CHRISTOU as the reference.

Whether one deems hOUTOS to refer back to TON ALHQINON of the previous
sentence or to IHSOU CRISTOU, I don't think it's comparable to 2 John 7 in
any case. And personally I think it DOES refer back to IHSOU CRISTOU
precisely in order to go ahead and equate IHSOUS CRISTOS with hO ALHQINOS
QEOS. This, however, does indeed involve interpretation. Larry Kruper has
just argued that hO ALHQINOS QEOS is only used of the Father, but I rather
think the two are being equated here. This, of course, is precisely a
disputed point of interpretation, and I don't think that the theological
issue is one that can be resolved by a "correct" construction of this
text--it is precisely what the "correct" construction of this text is that
is in dispute.

Carl W. Conrad
Department of Classics/Washington University
One Brookings Drive/St. Louis, MO, USA 63130/(314) 935-4018
Home: 7222 Colgate Ave./St. Louis, MO 63130/(314) 726-5649 OR

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