Re: John 1:43ab -- Who is the Subject?

From: clayton stirling bartholomew (
Date: Tue Mar 14 2000 - 15:55:07 EST

> on 03/10/00 2:29 PM, John Barach wrote:
>> There is some ambiguity about the subject of the first two clauses in
>> Many commentators (e.g., Morris, Ridderbos) and translations (e.g., NIV)
>> take the subject of all three verbs to be Jesus. Jesus wanted to leave
>> for Galilee, Jesus finds Philip, and then Jesus calls him to follow him.
>> Others, however, point to the syntax of the sentence(s). Jesus is
>> mentioned only at the end. It is clearly Jesus who calls Philip to
>> follow, but the syntax suggests that someone else wanted to go to
>> Galilee and found Philip. Carson thinks that someone was Andrew. Van
>> Houwelingen suggests rather that it was Peter, the last person mentioned
>> in the preceding verses.
>> Van Houwelingen's argument is grounded (1) on the unusual syntax, (2) on
>> the pattern in the chapter (people are brought to Jesus by someone
>> else), (3) on Philip's declaration ("*We* have found..." not "*He* found
>> us..."), and (4) on the explanation in 1:44. If Peter (or Andrew)
>> brought Philip into contact with Jesus, it makes John's explanation more
>> understandable: Peter was introducing Jesus to someone he knew, someone
>> from his old town.
>> I'm particularly interested in the argument from syntax. Is this syntax
>> -- Jesus' name mentioned as the subject only after all three verbs --
>> really all that unusual? Ridderbos says, "The best evidence argues for
>> thinking immediately of Jesus in vs. 43a." Does it?
>> Any help you can provide is greatly appreciated.
>> Regards,
>> John
>> %%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%
>> John Barach (403) 317-1950
>> Pastor, Trinity Reformed Church (URCNA)
>> 113 Stafford Blvd. N.
>> Lethbridge, AB
>> T1H 6E3

on 03/10/00 11:04 PM, clayton stirling bartholomew wrote:
> John,
> Let us ignore the paragraphs and headings in USB3 and read Jn 1:35-51 all
> at once. The syntax of 43-44 is slightly difficult, note the problem of the
> punctuation after FILIPPON. However, the lack of an explicit subject for
> EXELQEIN and EURISKEI causes little grief since Jesus is the explicit
> subject of EIPEN in verse 42 and the last agent to perform any action (a
> speech act). For this reason I can see why a number of scholars think that
> Jesus is the obvious subject EXELQEIN and EURISKEI. However, I think they
> are wrong.
> Why? Based on an analysis of the kinds of actions performed by the different
> people in this story, I think Jesus is an unlikely subject of EURISKW in
> verse 43. Jesus is not very active here, he speaks and responds and moves
> from place to place but the main action is being carried by the other men in
> the story. It is this overall pattern of the disciples taking the initiative
> and Jesus responding to them which convinces me more than anything else.
> EURISKW is used several times and in no other place within this story is
> Jesus is the subject of EURISKW.
> This point is similar to one made by Carson (and Van Houwelingen), but I am
> laying more stress on an analysis of the action in the story and the types of
> agent roles played by the participants. The disciples are the initiators in
> this story and Jesus is one who responds. This is a somewhat more abstract
> point than just talking about who is seeking and who is being found.

John and Hellenistic Greek Aficionados,

After receiving some flak off list on my previous post (quoted above) I
have been mulling this over for several days now and have some more musings
and speculations on this topic.

In my recent reading on discourse analysis of the Greek NT, I have seen it
suggested that speech acts might be segregated from actions which involve
some sort of material process. I will call this second type of verb "action
verbs" which is an imprecise label but will do for the present discussion.

Just for the sake of argument, let us assume that speech acts constitute a
different band or layer of a narrative than action verbs. In Jn 1:42 HGAGEN
is an action verb where the agent is ANDREAS. The next action verb is
hEURISKEI in 1:43. Between these verbs we see verbs of perception and verbs
of speech. If we assume that verbs of action are the backbone of a narrative
and that verbs of perception and verbs of speech are on different bands or
layers of the narrative. Then we might find some (rather weak) justification
for seeing ANDREAS as the subject of hEURISKEI in 1:43.

What I am suggesting is that speech of Jesus to SIMWN in 1:42 is on a
different (lower) layer of the narrative and that what happens in 1:43 is
that we return back to the top level of the narrative structure and pick up
the main story line which is carried by action verbs.

There are a few details which raise problems with this scheme. What are we
to do with the first clause of 1:43?


I would suggest that this entire clause is functioning adverbially to limit
hEURISKEI and for this reason I would see hEURISKEI as the point where we
once again pick up the top level story line.

All of this is somewhat far fetched I will be the first to admit.


Now for an about face. Looking at all the evidence I have at my disposal it
seems that the best solution to this is to see Jesus as the subject of all
three verbs in 1:43. The discussion above is just an exploration of the
implications of discourse layers which is a highly speculative business.

Clayton Stirling Bartholomew
Three Tree Point
P.O. Box 255 Seahurst WA 98062

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