Monday, September 29, 2014


By Ed Cardwell

“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life.” NAS JOHN 3:16

To get a sense of the importance of studying the original languages of Scripture and to understand the great benefits derived from such, I refer the reader to the introductory paragraphs in my previous article ‘ANOTHER LOOK AT CHRISTIANITY’S MOST CHERISHED PASSAGES(I)’.

In this article we take a look at John 3:16 – probably THE most cherished passage of the New Testament. We will begin by first examining the second half of that verse. “…that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life.” In a subsequent article we intend to examine the first half.

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Whosoever/whoever vs Everyone Who

‘Whoever/Whosoever’ implies an unknown or unspecified person or persons. It refers to someone whose identity is not necessarily known. It is non-inclusive.

Everyone’ is inclusive; it refers to All the people in a group. It counts noses! 

To illustrate the specificity of God’s inclusiveness please note the words of Jesus:

"All that the Father gives Me shall come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will certainly not cast out.  NAS John 6:37

"I am the good shepherd; and I know My own, and My own know Me.  NAS John 10:14

"My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; and I give eternal life to them, and they shall never perish; and no one shall snatch them out of My hand. My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father's hand.”   NAS John 10:27-29

Both the KJV and the NAS use ‘whosoever’ and ‘whoever’ respectively here in both John 3:15 and 16. Checking a total of 21 translations, 13 out of those 21 use ‘whosoever’ or ‘whoever’.  But 8 out of those 21 translations use ‘everyone who’ or ‘every person who’. So which would be the better translation?  A closer look at the original text reveals that the majority translations are imprecise, or simply inaccurate. No surprise there. Again tradition apparently has won the day for John 3:15 and 16.

To illustrate, let’s take a look at the Greek text:

i[na pa/j o` pisteu,wn eivj auvto.n mh. avpo,lhtai avllV e;ch| zwh.n aivw,nionÅ

The phrase pa/j o` pisteu,wn is the phrase in question. pa/j  means ‘all’;  o  means ‘the one who’; and  pisteu,wn is a participle of the verb ‘to believe’ and means ‘believes’ or ‘believing’. This exact wording in Greek appears six times in the NT:  Jn. 3:15,16; 12:46; Acts 13:39; Rom. 10:11; and 1 Jn. 5:1. To show the inconsistency of the KJV, the NAS, the NAU, and the ESV we look at how each has translated that phrase in those verses.

Jn 3:15                
KJV          whosoever believeth
NAS         whoever believes
NAU         whoever believ
ESV          whoever believes

Jn 3:16 
KJV           whosoever believeth
NAS          whoever believes
NAU         whoever believes
ESV          whoever believes

Jn 12:46              
KJV           whosoever believeth
NAS          whoever believes
NAU          everyone who believes
ESV           whoever believes

Acts 13:39          
KJV            all that believe
NAS           everyone who believes
NAU          everyone who believes
ESV           everyone who believes

Rom 10:11         
KJV            Whosoever believeth
NAS            Whoever believes
NAU            whoever believes
ESV             Everyone who believes

1 Jn 5:1               
KJV            Whosoever believeth
NAS           Whoever believes
NAU           Whoever believes
ESV            Everyone who believes

[It should be noted that the NAU is a 1995 update version of the NAS of 1977.]

One might wonder whether it really matters – ‘whoever’ or ‘everyone/all who’. The inconsistencies beg the question. Yes, it does matter. ‘Whosoever’ implies that the identities are not specified, even unknown. And there are many Bible teachers, pastors included, who affirm that God doesn’t know who will be saved – that it is a universal struggle between God and Satan tugging at the souls of men to see who will win, and God is clueless as to the final outcome. This gives the erroneous impression that God is not omniscient, totally contrary to the revelation about His nature, and further it implies that He and Satan are equal in power and influence. And that leads to all kinds of heresies. The nebulous language of the translators may encourage this line of thinking. But a detailed study of the Word of God clearly shows such theology is a perversion of this precious truth:

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before Him.”   NAS Ephesians 1:3-

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Wishing to continue the illustration of inconsistencies of translations of this phrase we take a look at ALL the verses throughout the NT where pa/j o  is followed by any verb with the same form where it is translated as ‘whosoever’ or ‘everyone who’. For example,  pisteu,wn in John 3:15 and 16 is a present active nominative masculine singular verb participle and should be translated ‘believe’ or ‘believing’. That’s a mouthful, but serious students of Greek will understand this. There are 30 appearances in 28 verses in the NT of a verb with this exact condition. Notice how the KJV and the NAS translate them, especially the inconsistencies (the GNT, Greek New Testament, is included):

Matthew 5:28
KJV    whosoever looketh
NAS    everyone who looks
GNT   pa/j o` ble,pwn

Matthew 5:32
KJV    whosoever shall put
NAS    everyone who divorces
GNT   pa/j o` avpolu,wn

Matthew 7:21
KJV    every one that saith
NAS    everyone who says
GNT   pa/j o` le,gwn

Matthew 7:26
KJV    every one that heareth
NAS    everyone who hears
GNT   pa/j o` avkou,wn

Luke 14:11
KJV    whosoever exalteth
NAS    everyone who exalts
GNT   pa/j o` u`yw/n

Luke 16:18
KJV    Whosoever putteth away
NAS    Everyone who divorces
GNT   Pa/j o` avpolu,wn

Luke 18:14
KJV    every one that exalteth
NAS    everyone who exalts
GNT   pa/j o` u`yw/n

Luke 20:18
KJV    Whosoever shall fall
NAS    Everyone who falls
GNT   pa/j o` pesw.n

John 3:15
KJV    whosoever believeth
NAS    whoever believes
GNT   pa/j o` pisteu,wn

John 3:16
KJV    whosoever believeth
NAS    whoever believes
GNT   pa/j o` pisteu,wn

John 4:13
KJV    Whosoever drinketh
NAS    Everyone who drinks
GNT   Pa/j o` pi,nwn

John 6:40
KJV    every one which seeth
NAS    everyone who beholds
GNT   pa/j o` qewrw/n

John 8:34
KJV    Whosoever committeth
NAS    everyone who commits
GNT   pa/j o` poiw/n

John 11:26
KJV    whosoever liveth
NAS    everyone who lives
GNT   pa/j o` zw/n

John 12:46
KJV    whosoever believeth
NAS    everyone who believes
GNT   pa/j o` pisteu,wn

John 18:37
KJV    Every one that is
NAS    Everyone who is
GNT   pa/j o` w'n

Acts 13:39
KJV    all that believe
NAS    everyone who believes
GNT   pa/j o` pisteu,wn

Romans 2:1
KJV    whosoever thou art that judgest
NAS    every man of you who passes judgment
GNT   pa/j o` kri,nwn

Romans 10:11
KJV    Whosoever believeth
NAS    Whoever believes
GNT   Pa/j o` pisteu,wn

2 Timothy 2:19
KJV    every one that nameth
NAS    everyone who names
GNT   pa/j o` ovnoma,zwn

1 John 2:29
KJV    every one that doeth
NAS    everyone also who practices
GNT   pa/j o` poiw/n

1 John 3:3
KJV    every man that hath
NAS    everyone who has
GNT   pa/j o` e;cwn

1 John 3:4
KJV    Whosoever committeth
NAS    Everyone who practices
GNT   Pa/j o` poiw/n

1 John 3:6
KJV    Whosoever abideth; whosoever sinneth
NAS    No one who abides; no one who sins
GNT   pa/j o` me,nwn; pa/j o` a`marta,nwn  [The phrase ‘in him’ (evn auvtw/|) appears here between pa/j o` and me,nwn.]

1 John 3:15
KJV    Whosoever hateth
NAS    Everyone who hates
GNT   pa/j o` misw/n

1 John 4:7
KJV    every one that loveth
NAS    everyone who loves
GNT   pa/j o` avgapw/n

1 John 5:1
KJV    Whosoever believeth; every one that loveth
NAS    Whoever believes; whoever loves
GNT   Pa/j o` pisteu,wn; pa/j o` avgapw/n

2 John 1:9
KJV    Whosoever transgresseth
NAS    Anyone who goes too far
GNT   pa/j o` proa,gwn

One could easily conclude that the inconsistencies in the various translations are simply an arbitrary matter. But arbitrariness has no place when ‘dividing rightly’ the word of God. Suspicion arises, however, that here in one of Christianity’s favorite passages, namely John 3:15 and 16, one’s theology has had a great part in determining the choice of wording.

In our passage in John 3:16 no other translation than that everyone who believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal lifeseems justifiable.

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Notes:  1. There is a Greek phrase which is appropriate to translate ‘whosoever’ or ‘whoever’. It is oj a'n, and its variations  o]j eva.n and  o]j dV a'n appearing some 52 times in 49 verses. It is always* used with the main verb in the subjunctive mood. Students of grammar will recall that the subjunctive is the mood of possibility/uncertainty. That is not the condition nor tenor of the participial verbs in the phrases in question in John 3:15,16.

*The singular apparent exception is in Mark 8:35 where the indicative mood is used, but in closer inspection we find there is a textual variation among manuscripts where the Koine class of Greek manuscripts use the subjunctive.

2. It will be observed that the main verbs in the 2nd half of John 3:16 are in the subjunctive, but that is because the clause is introduced by the conjunction i[na, meaning ‘in order that’. i[na always introduces a purpose clause and requires the subjunctive (or the optative in a very few cases) for the main verb/s in that clause.]

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