Re: 1 John 4:13 translation questioned

Date: Sat Mar 06 1999 - 22:01:22 EST

Jonathan ~

After my referring to some 25 English versions that render EK TOU PNEUMATOS in
1 John 4:13 in a partitive manner (e.g., "because he has given us some of his
Spirit" [Goodspeed]), you wrote

>There's nothing wrong with translating it this way from a pure language
perspective, I just can't quite figure out what it means. How do you
understand this interpretation?<

I don't fully understand why, but I believe that this translation approach is
influenced by a particular theological understanding of John 3:34. This verse
from John‚s Gospel is understood to be saying that only Christ has received
from the Father the Spirit without measure. For 1 John 4:13 to refer to our
receiving the Spirit is somehow seen as a contradiction of John 3:34. I have
heard sermons and read commentaries that took this position (Cf. Donald
Burdick‚s comments in the „The Epistles of Johnš volume [pgs. 75-76] in the
Everyman‚s Bible Commentary series), and I have participated in discussions
where this view was adopted.

> I guess I have a hard time visualizing this - did he give us each 0.0000001%
of his spirit, or 25 milliliters of his spirit, or...

What does a portion of his spirit mean? <

I agree with you on this point. To render the phrase EK TOU PNEUMATOS as a
"portion of" or "some measure of" His Spirit does indeed raise the question:
"How much of the Spirit do we actually get?" If I understand correctly what's
happening here, eisegesis rather than exegesis is being practiced by the
partitive interpreters. And the result is a rather baffling translation,
IMHO. For this reason I favor a less interpretive, more literal rendering,
such as Robert Young's "because of His Spirit He hath given us."

I appreciate your taking the time to discuss this with me. It was good to get
someone else's reading of the text. I guess I'll go back to my lurking now,
until something else strikes a chord (or a nerve) in me. Thanks again.

Larry G. Overton

In a message dated 3/5/99 12:34:14 PM CST, writes:

<< At 06:42 PM 2/28/99 EST, wrote:

>Well, thanks for the words of welcome, Jonathan, and thanks for the prompt
>response to my post. If you don't mind, I would like to continue discussing
>the passage in question.
 Sure thing!
>Most translators seem to view the use of EK in 1 John 4:13 to be partitive.
>Robertson cites this passage as an illustration of the partitive use (p.
>Furthermore, when I stated that the implication of most translations of this
>phrase was that we have been given a „measured portionš of His Spirit, I was
>not simply expressing my own impressions. Quite a few English versions of
>this passage reflect a partitive understanding of this prepositional phrase,
>even to the point of using such terms as „some,š „measure,š „share,š and
>„portionš in their translations. In fact, 25 out of the 36 English versions
>that I consulted render this phrase in a partitive manner.
 There's nothing wrong with translating it this way from a pure language
 perspective, I just can't quite figure out what it means.
 How do you understand this interpretation? I guess I have a hard time
 visualizing this - did he give us each 0.0000001% of his spirit, or 25
 milliliters of his spirit, or...
 What does a portion of his spirit mean?
>As for your reading of this phrase, I do understand that the preposition EK
>can indeed be translated „from,š carrying the idea of source or origin (BAGD
>and Robertson). Your rendering "from his spirit he has given to us"
 leaves me
>with some questions, though.
>1) Assuming that „fromš is your translation of EK, what about the
>hOTI? I did not see an English counterpart to hOTI in your rendering "from
>his spirit he has given to us".
 I started translating with the next word. "for from his spirit he has given
 to us".
>2) If the Spirit „is the source of what he has given to us,š then what has
>actually given to us, in your view, that serves to provide us the assurance
>that we abide in Him and He in us?
 Without the spirit, we are blind, and do not see that Jesus is the savior
 of the world. Jesus has given us from his spirit so that we can see and
 testify to that fact.
>Maybe I‚m just dense, but I still don‚t see a reason for the two different
>renderings of EK TOU PNEUMATOS. If I am missing something here, can you
>it out to me? Thanks.
 It's common for a phrase to be rendered in different ways depending on the
 context. Consider the phrase "from here" in these contexts:
         "You can't get there from here."
         "You aren't from here, are you?"
         "From here on out, it only gets better."
 The meaning is different in each of these phrases, and a translation into
 another language might well reflect that fact.
 I think you understand the language of the Greek you are looking at, so my
 understanding is not based on a rejection of the validity of your
 interpretation. It just seems to read that way to me.
 Texcel Research

B-Greek home page:
You are currently subscribed to b-greek as: []
To unsubscribe, forward this message to
To subscribe, send a message to

This archive was generated by hypermail 2.1.4 : Sat Apr 20 2002 - 15:40:19 EDT