η αγαπη του θεου in 1 John

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Mitch Tulloch
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η αγαπη του θεου in 1 John

Post by Mitch Tulloch » December 2nd, 2017, 9:57 am

I'm trying to understand how best to translate the phrase η αγαπη του θεου in its several instances in 1 John. The ESV translates it either as "the love of God" or "God's love" but I was wondering whether "love for God" could be a better translation as it makes more sense to me from the context of most of the below passages. My problem though is can a simple possessive construction like "the X of Y" be understood as "X for Y" in Koine Greek? Can that be grammatically correct?

Here are the passages and how I might translate them into English:

ος δ αν τηρη αυτου τον λογον αληθως εν τουτω η αγαπη του θεου τετελειωται εν τουτω γινωσκομεν οτι εν αυτω εσμεν (1 John 2:5)

"But whoever keeps his word, in him truly love for God has been perfected..."

ος δ αν εχη τον βιον του κοσμου και θεωρη τον αδελφον αυτου χρειαν εχοντα και κλειση τα σπλαγχνα αυτου απ αυτου πως η αγαπη του θεου μενει εν αυτω (1 John 3:17)

"...how does love for God abide in him?" i.e. "..how can he say that he loves God?"

εν τουτω εφανερωθη η αγαπη του θεου εν ημιν οτι τον υιον αυτου τον μονογενη απεσταλκεν ο θεος εις τον κοσμον ινα ζησωμεν δι αυτου (1 John 4:9)

"In this love for God was made manifest among us..." i.e. "In [what God did for us through his Son] we can see what it means to love God..."

I'm not sure about that one, maybe "In this love was made manifest" might be better here i.e. η αγαπη του θεου idiomatically might just mean η αγαπη in this instance (?) Or perhaps "In this God's love for us was made manifest..." might be better here as it seems to agree best with the context of the passage.

αυτη γαρ εστιν η αγαπη του θεου ινα τας εντολας αυτου τηρωμεν και αι εντολαι αυτου βαρειαι ουκ εισιν (1 John 5:3)

"For this is what love for God means..." or "For this is what it means to love God"

Finally there's this similar construction:

μη αγαπατε τον κοσμον μηδε τα εν τω κοσμω εαν τις αγαπα τον κοσμον ουκ εστιν η αγαπη του πατρος εν αυτω (1 John 2:15)

"If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in him"

Since this is a grammatical forum I don't want to debate what it means to have God's love "in" us, I'm just asking whether "love for God" can be a possible valid translation for η αγαπη του θεου in Koine Greek.

Thanks!
Mitch Tulloch

Robert Crowe
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Re: η αγαπη του θεου in 1 John

Post by Robert Crowe » December 2nd, 2017, 11:27 am

Either translation is grammatically valid.
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timothy_p_mcmahon
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Re: η αγαπη του θεου in 1 John

Post by timothy_p_mcmahon » December 2nd, 2017, 8:57 pm

Your proposal is certainly viable. A noun such as love carries an implicit verbal element, the action of loving. The grammars distinguish between the subjective genitive (where the genitive noun performs the implicit action) and the objective genitive (where the genitive noun receives the action).

A good example of αγαπη του θεου as an objective genitive is Luke 11:42, παρερχεσθε την κρισιν και την αγαπην του θεου.

As for the examples you cited from 1 John, each is in the eye of the interpreter.

Mitch Tulloch
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Re: η αγαπη του θεου in 1 John

Post by Mitch Tulloch » December 3rd, 2017, 4:29 am

timothy_p_mcmahon wrote:
December 2nd, 2017, 8:57 pm
Your proposal is certainly viable. A noun such as love carries an implicit verbal element, the action of loving. The grammars distinguish between the subjective genitive (where the genitive noun performs the implicit action) and the objective genitive (where the genitive noun receives the action).
Thanks Tim, I've been working through Croy's Primer but hadn't gotten that far yet :-)
timothy_p_mcmahon wrote:
December 2nd, 2017, 8:57 pm
A good example of αγαπη του θεου as an objective genitive is Luke 11:42, παρερχεσθε την κρισιν και την αγαπην του θεου.
So just to make sure I understand, translating that as an objective genitive would be something like "you disregard justice and love for God [or loving God]" correct?
timothy_p_mcmahon wrote:
December 2nd, 2017, 8:57 pm
As for the examples you cited from 1 John, each is in the eye of the interpreter.
Context is king! :-)

BTW this helps me better understand (I think) the unusual construction ἔχετε πίστιν θεοῦ in Mark 11:23 which could be translated as "believe God" if we interpret the Genitive as being objective, is that correct?

--Mitch

timothy_p_mcmahon
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Re: η αγαπη του θεου in 1 John

Post by timothy_p_mcmahon » December 3rd, 2017, 6:33 am

Mitch Tulloch wrote:
December 3rd, 2017, 4:29 am
So just to make sure I understand, translating that as an objective genitive would be something like "you disregard justice and love for God [or loving God]" correct?
I prefer 'love for God' here; 'loving God' sounds more like a rendering of a Greek infinitive. But either way captures the sense.
Mitch Tulloch wrote:
December 3rd, 2017, 4:29 am
BTW this helps me better understand (I think) the unusual construction ἔχετε πίστιν θεοῦ in Mark 11:23 which could be translated as "believe God" if we interpret the Genitive as being objective, is that correct?
This is an excellent example. πίστιν θεοῦ clearly means 'faith in God' here. The common phrase πιστις Χριστου, on the other hand, I believe is subjective (although many take it as objective).

Another example of the objective genitive with θεοῦ is φοβος θεοῦ.

Eeli Kaikkonen
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Re: η αγαπη του θεου in 1 John

Post by Eeli Kaikkonen » December 3rd, 2017, 9:06 am

There was some in-depth discussion about subjective and objective genitive here. I quote myself:
it really looks that all that can be said about subj./obj. genitive hasn't been said, outside or inside Koine or Bible. And in this phase it's actually too early to say that the problematic NT passages can't be solved by grammar alone. We can say that "what we now know about subj./obj. gen. can't alone solve the problem".

Barry Hofstetter
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Re: η αγαπη του θεου in 1 John

Post by Barry Hofstetter » December 3rd, 2017, 9:09 am

Hey, Mitch, you'v hit one of the cruces interpretum of the NT. Even the technical commentaries, written by authors with a fine command of the Greek, are all over the place on these. Both can be argued, and the local context is sufficiently broad thematically that either may fit.

1) More than one writer suggests that it is an intentional ambiguity. This is not a grammatical category (it can be represented by any number of constructions), but a literary device intended to make the writer "feel" both choices, that in fact both are in play. Reasonably common in poetry and oratory, there are several other places in the NT where this device seems to be used such as in Ephesians 1:4, and the placement of ἐν ἀγάπῃ. I somewhat favor this without being totally convinced.

2) One commentator quipped "But the believer’s love for God is never perfected in this life" which I thought puts an interesting spin on it.

Smith, D. (n.d.). The Epistles of John. In The Expositor’s Greek Testament: Commentary (Vol. 5, p. 174). New York: George H. Doran Company.
N.E. Barry Hofstetter
Instructor of Latin
Jack M. Barrack Hebrew Academy
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