[b-greek] Re: John 4:17-18

From: B. Ward Powers (bwpowers@optusnet.com.au)
Date: Tue Jun 26 2001 - 22:04:33 EDT

B-greekers all:

At 03:18 PM 010625 -0400, J. Norfleete Day wrote:
> Does anyone know of grammatical documentation to support the notion
>that there is significance in the change of word order in John 17 when
>Jesus rephrases the Samaritan woman's confession that she has no husband?
> She says, oujk e[cw a[ndra and Jesus responds with
> a[ndra oujk e[cw

The current list discussion of this passage is concentrating its focus
primarily upon the question of word order. This issue of word order does
indeed merit careful discussion, and I am one of those who would agree that
the "fronting" of ANDRA is significant, focussing more specific attention
upon it. I conclude that the intended meaning is "a husband is [precisely
what] you do not have". As Jesus goes on to say, she now "has" another man
(and the sexual connotation of "has" is very clear), but this man is not a
husband to her. The placing of SOU in front of ANHR in this reply (verse
18), contrary to "normal" word order, has this effect: whatever else he is
for you, he is not a HUSBAND for you.

But let the consideration of factors of word order not divert our attention
from two very significant issues of meaning to be recognized in what Jesus
says here.

First, the woman is now living in a relationship with a man whom Jesus
states emphatically is not her husband. Those people who would assert that
a sexual relationship (or even a single act of sexual intercourse) brings a
marriage into existence should note this, because it completely negates
such a view.

Second, the woman asserts that she is currently unmarried ("I have no
husband"), and Jesus completely agrees with her ("You are right in saying
'I have no husband'"). Unless we are to read into the passage the idea that
Jesus is here commiserating with her because she has been widowed five
times in succession, it must be that at least some of these five marriage
relationships have been ended with divorce. Thus when Jesus confirms that
at that time she was indeed unmarried, it then follows that Jesus accepts
that the act of divorce terminates a marriage relationship. (Otherwise the
situation would be that she was still married to whichever of her previous
five husbands were still alive, and could not be described by Jesus as
"unmarried".) Paul cites the teaching of the Lord (1 Corinthians 7:10) for
saying that a wife should not break up (CWRIZW) from her husband but that
if she does she is then "unmarried" (AGAMOS, verse 11). Those people who
would assert that after a purported divorce a marriage relationship
actually continues in God's sight because marriage is for life, and can
only be terminated by death, should note this, because it completely
negates such a view.

In our consideration of John 4:16-18 we can note these further significant
aspects of its meaning.

Ward Powers

Rev Dr B. Ward Powers Phone (International): 61-2-8714-7255
259A Trafalgar Street Phone (Australia): (02) 8714-7255
PETERSHAM NSW 2049 email: bwpowers@optusnet.com.au
AUSTRALIA. Director, Tyndale College

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