[b-greek] RE: Jn.3:15,16 PISTEUW EN

From: Iver Larsen (iver_larsen@sil.org)
Date: Tue Oct 16 2001 - 04:45:09 EDT

> I decided to follow up on Metzger's suggestion and read some of 1John to
> see how many times I could spot and adverbial EN + Substantive
> placed before
> a verb. I was surprised how frequent this is. I ignored cases
> were the verb
> was EISTIN (there were several of these). Take a look at 1Jn
> 1:6, 1:7, 2:3,
> 2:5, 2:24, 3:6 . . . (I stopped at this point).

Yes, John is fond of the EN + substantive, both before and after the verb.
To get a feel for the significance of the placement of EN + ... in relation
to the verb, we need to compare both the constructions with a preposed EN
and those with a postposed EN. Actually, one should include similar
constructions like AP' AUTOU in 1Jn 1:5 and MET' AUTOU IN 1:6, etc. It is
also important to note the semantic strength of the verb. The copula ESTIN
usually comes very late in the sentence - if it occurs at all - because it
is inherently without much semantic content. If it is used as a verb of
existence or is stressed it may well come first in the clause.

If we look at 1Jn 1:5-7 - to run with your example - we can look at the
relative prominence:

The focus is on having heard the message and proclaiming it. It is
understood that we heard it from him and that it is being proclaimed to you.
That part is not in focus.

and there is no darkness in him.
The focus is on darkness. This is the topic for the next few clauses. EN
AUTWi is fronted before ESTIN, but this does not give it much prominence,
since ESTIN is low key already. EN AUTWi would have been prominent had it
come before SKOTIA. (Some one might want to suggest that the final word is
emphasized by its being last. I would say no, the focus is not on this word
at all. It is not a matter of whether there is SOME, a LITTLE or NO darkness
in Jesus. There is no DARKNESS at all.)
The focus is on having fellowship, not on who we have that fellowship with.
It is understood that it is with Jesus.
Here the focus is on what we walk in, not the fact that we walk in
something. The choice is between darkness and light. Because of the focus on
the contrast between darkness and light, it is to be expected that EN TWi
FWTI in the next sentence is also fronted.

The matter of relative prominence is not only a matter of how an item is
placed relative to the verb, but of how the various items which can move
around are relatively placed. If you look at the other examples you have
cited and study the context, I trust you'll find out why the EN +... is
fronted in each case.
> Look at the following examples from John and 1John:
> Note that the first three examples all appear with the same verb.
> Significant? Probably not. The last example is found with a participle
> MENOWN but I include it because it is semantically relevant to Jn 3:15.

Again, I cannot comment on these without looking at the immediate context.
(So I always look up the context before forming any opinion.) I trust you'll
look up the Greek text yourself. I'll just for the sake of time give a rough
5:39-40 You are searching the Scriptures because YOU think that it is IN
THEM that you have eternal life. And THOSE (Scriptures) are the ones
testifying about me. And you do not WANT to come to me in order to get
(eternal) life.

The focus of the discussion is not on eternal life but where to get it. They
are searching the Scriptures which would have been OK if only they had also
accepted Jesus as the Messiah. Once they have rejected HIM, then they will
not find eternal life in those scriptures, because they fail to see that
those very scriptures refer to him.

16:33 Notice again how the two phrases are contrasted: EN EMOI and EN TWi
KOSMWi. That is why both are fronted. At a secondary level EIRHNH and QLIYIS
are contrasted above the verb ECW which is semantically weak, almost like
ESTIN. It is probably a language universal that both "have" and "be" are
weak semantic verbs. Their main function is to link nominals together.

1 Jn 3:6 The focus is not on "abiding" just as the focus in 1:6-7 was not on
"walking". The focus is on WHO you abide in. That is why it is fronted.
> > Of course, one needs to look at the possibility that EN AUTWi might be
> > constructed with the following words rather than PISTEUW. But this would
> > give an emphasis on the fronted EN AUTWI that is not supported by the
> > immediate context, and therefore not very likely.
> Again, this fronting for emphasis is a matter of some dispute is
> it not? All
> the smoke hasn't cleared on this topic yet and probably will not
> in the near
> future. I think that the fronting = emphasis equation needs to be applied
> with discrimination. I suspect that you would agree.

Yes, I am trying to clear some of the smoke, but I am sure some people think
I produce the smoke instead. And yes, the general principle must be applied
with discrimination together in view of several other factors and any result
from it should be supported by the immediate context.

That is why I find it unconvincing that EN AUTWi in Jn 3:15 could be
fronted. If people by looking at the snake in the desert (3:14) were able to
get eternal life by doing so, then I would expect EN AUTWi to go with the
following words: "it is in HIM you get the eternal life". But there is no
mention of eternal life in 3:14 and there is no article on eternal life.
3:14 has the topic of "lifting up" and "turning to to get salvation". The
focus in 15-16 is on HOW to get eternal life, and that is obtained by
"believing in him." I am not saying the other interpretation is impossible.
I am saying it is unlikely when we consider the context of both v. 14 and v.
> >Therefore, I think that
> > the EN was a careless mistake introduced by either P75 or a
> parent of it.
> If forced to choose (no one is forcing me) I would lean toward
> this solution
> and read EIS rather than EN. P75 and B are not infallible. The strongest
> support for the reading EN comes from its ability to explain the other
> readings. Metzger in the first edition of his Textual Comm. doesn't sound
> very dogmatic about this reading. However, Metzger is typically very
> cautious.
> Clay

Well, I am forced to choose. At the moment I am working on a meaning-based
translation of John's Gospel, and that does not give me the option of not
And I think it is as easy to explain the EN as a mistake (remembering all
the other mistakes in P75) and the EP as a way of dealing with that mistake.
But this kind of argumentation is quite subjective and speculative. That is
why I am now putting more weight on internal evidence. What would the author
most likely have written? What fits best with the context?

Iver Larsen

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