Tuesday, October 14, 2014


“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.”

Once again, to get a sense of the importance of studying the original languages of Scripture and to look at the great benefits derived from such, I refer to the introductory paragraphs in my original article ‘ANOTHER LOOK AT CHRISTIANITY’S MOST CHERISHED PASSAGES (I)’.
I will quote from that article, however, for those who may not have access to that first article:
“Greek is the language of specificity.  Greek words are intended to convey a mental picture from the speaker to the hearer.  All language should have this innate ability, but as we can see, English is an agglomeration of languages with words whose meanings have been so obfuscated and diversified that clear communication is almost impossible.  The answer for the serious Bible student is to go to the numerous works available that elucidate the original words and their contextual meanings throughout Scripture.  There is even a better way – study and master the original languages.”
“Of course one might be accused of heresy if he were to alter revered translations.  Some might even consider it desecration of the highest order.  But I suggest that looking beyond the musty curtain of the ‘Authorized’ version(s) sometimes allows us to penetrate the limitations that these versions have proscribed to reconsider the intent of the author.”
“How much deeper our understanding of the Gospel might be if only we would lay aside the tradition of men (and the bias of the translators) and discover the intent of the true author of Scripture.  How much richer would be our appreciation for the heart and mind of the living God.”
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The first half of John 3:16 [For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son ] – probably THE most cherished portion of the New Testament – is the subject of this article.   The last half of John 3:16 [that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life] was addressed in the previous article (II).
To grasp the immediate context it is necessary to include verses 14 and 15:
14And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up;
15that whoever believes may in Him have eternal life.
16For 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
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To help in our study John 3:16 is given below in an interlinear style with the Greek text and the identical KJV and NAS translations:
Ou[twj      ga.r        hvga,phsen     o` qeo.j        to.n ko,smon(
 So           for          loved          God          the world
w[ste          to.n       ui`o.n        to.n       monogenh/              e;dwken(
that         the       son        the     only begotten       he gave
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In pursuit of a deeper understanding, a few Greek words need special attention:
It is generally agreed that the most important words in a Greek statement tend to appear toward the beginning of a sentence.  Not that the other words in the sentence are unimportant, but the words that are for special emphasis will normally move toward the front.  That could be said of our word Ou[twj, translated here as ‘so’.
When we hear the Bible teacher use the word ‘so’ in the context of John 3:16, we normally understand him to mean ‘so much’, implying a strong degree, as is the clear intent of the NIV translation.  But that is not its meaning.  It is an adverb describing the ‘how’ of an action verb.  Its meaning is: ‘in this way’, ‘thus’, ‘likewise’, ‘in the same way’, or ‘like this’.  It appears at least 199 times in the NT, depending on the Greek manuscript group.  When it is translated ‘so’ or ‘even so’, the actual meaning is ‘thus’ or ‘in this way’.   Interestingly in John 3:14, the first verse in the context cited above, the Greek word translated ‘even so’ is this same word Ou[twj.
A few other examples will suffice.
Matthew 19:8
KJV He saith unto them, Moses because of the hardness of your hearts suffered you to put away your wives: but from the beginning it was not so.
NAS Matthew 19:8 He said to them, "Because of your hardness of heart, Moses permitted you to divorce your wives; but from the beginning it has not been this way.
GNT Matthew 19:8 le,gei auvtoi/j o[ti Mwu?sh/j pro.j th.n sklhrokardi,an u`mw/n evpe,treyen u`mi/n avpolu/sai ta.j gunai/kaj u`mw/n( avpV avrch/j de. ouv ge,gonen ou[twjÅ
Matthew 24:33
KJV So likewise ye, when ye shall see all these things, know that it is near, even at the doors.
NAS Matthew 24:33 even so you too, when you see all these things, recognize that He is near, right at the door.
GNT Matthew 24:33 ou[twj kai. u`mei/j( o[tan i;dhte pa,nta tau/ta ginw,skete o[ti evggu,j evstin evpi. qu,raijÅ
Matthew 19:12
KJV For there are some eunuchs, which were so born from their mother's womb:
NAS Matthew 19:12 "For there are eunuchs who were born that way from their mother's womb;
GNT Matthew 19:12 eivsi.n ga.r euvnou/coi oi[tinej evk koili,aj mhtro.j evgennh,qhsan ou[twj(
If the translators had been consistent, the ou[twj in John 3:16 would have been translated the same as it was in verse 14, and at least the common misunderstanding mentioned above could have been partially avoided.  Even better, in both instances the word could have been translated with its basic meaning ‘thus’, or ‘in this way’, as it has been correctly done in some other less popular English translations, and the meaning would have been even clearer with further misinterpretations and misapplications reduced to a minimum.
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ga.r is used 1067 times in the NT, and over 96 percent of the time it is translated ‘for’.  It is also translated ‘because’ in John 3:19; 10:26; Romans 3:2; 4:15; and 3 John 1:7.  ga.r is a conjunction, a very common word that connects sentences, clauses, phrases and words. It is used to express:  ground or reason; an explanation; a confirmation or assurance. 
The context of the great statement in the first half of John 3:16 can be seen to be connected to verse 15 as the reason, or the explanatory cause of the statement in verse 15.  I believe it can be demonstrated that verse 16 is an explanation as much as a reason for the statement in verse 15.  The final translation offered in the ‘conclusion’ hopefully makes this clearer.
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hvga,phsen is from the verb avgapa,w, meaning ‘ to love’, or ‘show love’.  It is important to note that the tense here is aorist tense, not present tense.  Present tense would indicate an ongoing or continuous action, but the aorist tense gives the sense of action as punctilar – a point.  Such action may be regarded as a single whole, that is, in its entirety, or as a simple act taken place in history.
Of course God’s love is eternal and is the very essence of His nature, as John writes in 1 John 4:8 and 16, “God is love” KJV, but the aorist tense here in John 3:16 has a different focus – the demonstration of His love at a point in time.  So, this would be in perfect harmony with the statement in Revelation 13:8: “… the Lamb slain from the foundation of the worldKJV, where we understand that this demonstration of God’s love was eternally in the mind of God before time began and was a fait accompli before the creation of the world.  It is also in harmony with the statement in 1 Corinthians 15:3:  “…that Christ died for our sins according to the ScripturesKJV, where we understand this to be a focus on the historical crucifixion taken place at a point in history some 20 centuries ago.  It is possible that the writer would have us dwell on both aspects:  the eternal and the temporal.
It should be emphasized that the emotion of love is not the focal point in John 3:16.  The main focus is the fact of history in which God sent His Only Begotten to Calvary, and that fact is to be the hallmark demonstration, the singular grand declaration to all the world of his infinite love, goodness, and justice. 
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w[ste is a conjunction showing purpose or results and appears 83 times in the NT.  It is translated variously as: ‘so that’, ‘wherefore’, ‘insomuch that’, ‘therefore’, ‘that’, ‘so then’, ‘to’, ‘as’, and ‘insomuch as’.
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This word is from monogenh,j, meaning ‘unique’, ‘only one of its kind’.  It appears 9 times in the NT (Lk. 7:12; 8:42; 9:38; Jn. 1:14, 18; 3:16, 18; Heb. 11:17; 1 Jn. 4:9).    Inasmuch as Jesus alone completely reproduces the nature and character of God, the apostle John uses this word in reference only to Jesus.  
[Notice how the NAS, using more reliable texts than many earlier translations, translates John 1:18:
“No man has seen God at any time; the only begotten God, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has explained Him.” NAS
qeo.n ouvdei.j e`w,raken pw,pote\ monogenh.j qeo.j o` w'n eivj to.n ko,lpon tou/ patro.j evkei/noj evxhgh,satoÅ GNT]
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e;dwken is from the verb di,dwmi, meaning ‘to give’.  The verb is in aorist tense and has the same force of fact of history as the verb hvga,phsen above.  The translation is simply ‘he gave’.
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First it would be good to see John 3:16 in its immediate context:

14And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up

15that whoever believes may in Him have eternal life.

16For 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

And now we can look at an improved translation using colors matching the English words with the Greek words that we have briefly studied:

14"And (just) as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, Likewise(in the same way) the Son of Man must be lifted up;

15 in order that everyone believing in Him may have eternal life.

16 "Because God likewise(in the same way) loved(showed His love for, acted in love for) the world, insomuch that He gave His only begotten Son, in order that everyone believing in Him should not perish, but have eternal life.

14 “ kai. kaqw.j Mwu?sh/j u[ywsen to.n o;fin evn th/| evrh,mw|( ou[twj u`ywqh/nai dei/ to.n ui`o.n tou/ avnqrw,pou(

15  i[na pa/j o` pisteu,wn evn auvtw/| e;ch| zwh.n aivw,nionÅ

16  Ou[twj ga.r hvga,phsen o` qeo.j to.n ko,smon( w[ste to.n ui`o.n to.n monogenh/ e;dwken( i[na pa/j o` pisteu,wn eivj auvto.n mh. avpo,lhtai avllV e;ch| zwh.n aivw,nionÅ GNT

It seems clear that in verse 16 John has given us an explanation, or reason for why the Son of God is to be offered up.   In the divine plan, God’s eternal answer for man’s great need of redemption could only be that God Himself would bear the full brunt of the penalty for sin – His own death – that He might righteously offer His forgiveness to all those who would only look in faith to that wonderful Savior.  And the context here is introduced by the Old Testament type whereby Moses lifted up the serpent for salvation for all those who would look upon it.

Had the many translations been more accurate and consistent in attending to detail, the miscommunications that have arisen over the years could have been minimized, or even eliminated.

Praise Him for His marvelous works!  Amen.

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[Note:  A similar translation of John 3:16 comes from Dr. Kenneth Wuest, a noted Greek scholar who was a professor of New Testament Greek at the Moody Bible Institute in Chicago during the mid-20th century and one of the translators of original New American Standard Bible (NASB).  This translation comes from his ‘New Testament Expanded Translation’:

“For in such a manner did God love the world, insomuch that His Son, the uniquely-begotten One, He gave, in order that everyone who places his trust in Him may not perish but may be having life eternal.”]


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