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

Date: Sat Aug 29 1998 - 02:48:57 EDT

Dear Carl:

Here are a few additional thoughts in view of your last post:

><< >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
> >larger.
> >
> >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; >>
>How so, Carl? It looks quite similar to 1 John 5:20, in that hOUTOS, being
>preceded by "Jesus Christ," is followed by an equative verb and an

<<Sorry. MEA CULPA! I wasn't looking at 2 Jn 7! I was looking at 1 John 5:20
in comparison with Jn 11:4. I agree that 2 Jn 7 is a parallel to 1 John
5:20. Somehow I got sidetracked; what I'm meaning to say is evidently
something that you're not arguing at all--I was saying that I think 1 John
5:20 is very different from Jn 11:4. And that is what I still think.>>

Well, they are different in some grammatical respects, but in terms of
anaphoricity, the point I was trying to make by citing John 11:4 is simply
this: The anaphoric reference in both John 11:4 and 1 John 5:20 is such that
there can be no mistaking the referent. In John 11:4 we know that the sickness
is related to the cognate verb in the previous verse, and in 1 John 5:20 we
both agree that hOUTOS refers back to TWi ALHQINWi, and that is quite simply
because hO ALHQINOS is predicated of hOUTOS. (The question you raise below is
whether or not TWi ALHQINWi is the same as TWI hUIWi.) So, too, in John 11:4
the use of hH ASQENEIA after hAUTH makes it clear that this "sickness" is the
same one referred to in verses 1, 2 and 3.

><<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.
>They may not share the exact same grammatical function, but hAUTH, with or
>without ASTHENEIA, in this text, refers back to the use of the cognate verb
>mentioned earlier. In this case we have what appears to be a middle position
>between deixis and anaphoric reference.


True. But, again, my point regarding John 11:4 has to do with anaphoricity,
and I used this example because there is a semantic relation between ASQENEIA
and the cognate verbs in the earlier verses that is unmistakable. hAUTH
together with ASQENEIA refer back to the sickness afflicting Lazarus, and
hOUTOS, together with the predicate hO ALHQINOS, has a semantic relationship
with TWi ALHQINWi. Now we must answer the key question:

> >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
> >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. >>
>Again, how so? In both texts we have hOUTOS preceded by "Jesus Christ,
>followed by an equative verb with an articulated subject. Is there any
>grammatical reason which causes you to view "Jesus Christ" as the antecedent
>in one text, but not in the other?

<<If I understand you rightly, you're saying that we should understand the
construction of 1 John 5:20 as




i.e. Are you understanding hOUTOS hO ALHQINOS QEOS KAI ZWH AIWNIOS as the
subject of ESTIN? >>


<< I would have said that hOUTOS is the subject and that hO
ALHQINOS QEOS KAI ZWH AIWNIOS is the predicate nominative equated with the
subject hOUTOS by ESTIN.>>

That is my position, also.

<<As for the other sentence, I don't think that ESTIN in Jn 11:4 is equative;
I rather think it is existential. >>

My above comments are not in reference to a grammatical comparison between
John 11:4 and 1 John 5:20, but regarding a grammatical comparison between 1
John 5:20 and 2 John 7.

><<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. >>

>Thank you for your personal view, Carl. My point is that grammar is not
>decisive in this instance, even though in your initial comments you seemed to
>think it was (see below).

<<Well, I agree that it's not decisive. And I certainly didn't intend to
argue that John's theology dictates what the grammar must be. >>

I appreciate the clarification. I believe you originally took that position
that John's grammar, not his theology, was decisive on this point.

><<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. >>

>If you want to take the theological view that Jesus is equated with the
>Father, then that is your prerogative. Again, I was merely commenting on the
>grammar, explaining that the use of hOUTOS must be considered carefully, and
>pointing out that dogmatic judgments about what it "must" refer to,
>grammatically speaking, should be avoided.

><< 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. >>

>Kyle asked whom hOUTOS referred to, and the fact is, grammatically, it can
>refer to either "the true God" or "Jesus Christ." My intent was to avoid
>theology, and give a balanced response to his grammatical question. I believe
>your initial comment was that "grammatically hOUTOS here can only refer to
>IHSOU CRISTWi which immediately precedes it at the end of the preceding
>While I respect your views on these matters, I don't think that is a very
>balanced reply, do you?

<<Well, I have to say that I can see (theoretically) the plausibility of
construing TWi ALHQINWi as the antecedent of hOUTOS. But it seems to me
somewhat unnatural to draw a differentiation between TWi ALHQINWi and TWi
hUIWi AUTOU IHSOU CRISTWi: It seems to me most natural to read the sequence
CRISTWi) as "We know that God's son has come and has given us understanding to
know the true one, and we are in the true one, in his son,
Jesus Christ." >>

If you equate TWi ALHQINWi with TWi hUIWi then you do indeed view TWi ALHQINWi
as either the direct or indirect antecedent to hOUTOS. But here I have a
question: Jesus came to tell us about TON ALHQINON, and it seems most natural
to take TWi ALHQINWi as a reference to TON ALHQINON. But if TWi hUIWi is a
further description of TWi ALHQINWi, then to whom does AUTOU refer?

To me, it seems natural enough to take TON ALHQINON, TWi ALHQINWi and hO
ALHQINOS THEOS as references to the same being, and IHSOU CHRISTWi as TWi
hUIWi AUTOU. Otherwise I am left wondering to whom AUTOU refers.


I see no reason why the repetition of EN needs to be viewed as an expansion
and clarification of the first, in terms of identity. If AUTOU were not used
then you might have a point, but I believe the clarification has to do with
how we are EN TWi ALHQINWi, that is, by being EN TWi hUIWi AUTOU.

<<So, to recapitulate, I can see your reading of the relationship of 5:19 and
5:20 as theoretically plausible, but I can only say think it's a less
natural way of understanding the word-order. I do agree that 2 Jn 7 is
comparable to 1 Jn 5:20, but I think the construction in Jn 11:4 is quite
different. Finally, I will confess I agree with you that the grammar alone
is not sufficient to assure us that IHSOU CRISTOU is the only possible
antecedent of hOUTOS. And it would indeed seem that our theological slants
are what incline us to preference of one way of construing the text over
another. Is that better balanced? Ultimately, it is the grammar we're
discussing here, not theology, of course. >>

I appreciate your clarification, Carl, and I respect your view on this matter.
However, I see nothing more natural about your view. In fact, I believe it is
less natural in view of what I consider a natural correlation between TON
significant in that it seems to clearly refer back to TON ALHQINON. Thus, I
take TWi ALHQINWi in reference to TON ALHQINON, with AUTOU referring back to
this being, of whom Jesus is the Son.

Indeed, the grammar is and should be our focus on this forum, but when it
comes to ambiguous passages, where the grammar is not certain, it sure helps
to have clear statements of faith that assist us in interpreting semantically
related passages. -John 17:3.

Greg Stafford

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