John 1:17 HUGE possible difference in interpretation

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PhillipLebsack
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John 1:17 HUGE possible difference in interpretation

Post by PhillipLebsack » January 23rd, 2018, 6:17 am

John 1:17 ὅτι ὁ νόμος διὰ Μωϋσέως ἐδόθη, ἡ χάρις καὶ ἡ ἀλήθεια διὰ Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ ἐγένετο.

Should this be read as creating a contrast between the Law of Moses and the grace and truth of Jesus Christ, where the ὅτι is following up what is said in the previous verse...

"For the law was given through Moses; but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ."

or, should the ὅτι be only read in the context of the verse it is in...

"Because the law was given through Moses, grace and truth came through Jesus Christ."

As you can see, there is a significant difference in meaning! The former makes the Law of Moses sound bad, but the latter makes the Law of Moses sound good.

I would like to see your thoughts on this.
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Robert Emil Berge
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Re: John 1:17 HUGE possible difference in interpretation

Post by Robert Emil Berge » January 23rd, 2018, 6:00 pm

Reading it together with 1:16, which says one grace is exchanged for another (most of the translations says grace upon grace, which I can't really see), it seems clear that the law given by Moses is what is exchanged for the grace and truth of Christ. None of them are bad, since they are graces, but it is certainly worth exchanging the one for the other.
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Jonathan Robie
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Re: John 1:17 HUGE possible difference in interpretation

Post by Jonathan Robie » January 23rd, 2018, 6:33 pm

I don't see that big a difference, definitely not a huge one, but translating this with a 'but' feels a bit strong to me. In the Greek text you just cited, this is simple apposition with no word to indicate the 'but'.

I just checked Alan's site to see if some of the translations were using a text with another word added, but the critical texts also seem to use simple apposition:

Screen Shot 2018-01-23 at 5.26.23 PM.png
Screen Shot 2018-01-23 at 5.26.23 PM.png (111.8 KiB) Viewed 1715 times
A few manuscripts have δε here, but the critical texts do not adopt that reading, and even with that reading the 'but' feels a bit strong to me.

You also ask about the scope of ὅτι. Here's how I would read it because of the simple apposition, since you need both halves to complete the thought:

ὅτι
ὁ νόμος διὰ Μωϋσέως ἐδόθη,
ἡ χάρις καὶ ἡ ἀλήθεια διὰ Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ ἐγένετο.
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ἐξίσταντο δὲ πάντες καὶ διηποροῦντο, ἄλλος πρὸς ἄλλον λέγοντες, τί θέλει τοῦτο εἶναι;
http://jonathanrobie.biblicalhumanities.org/

PhillipLebsack
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Re: John 1:17 HUGE possible difference in interpretation

Post by PhillipLebsack » January 23rd, 2018, 11:47 pm

Jonathan Robie wrote:
January 23rd, 2018, 6:33 pm
I don't see that big a difference, definitely not a huge one, but translating this with a 'but' feels a bit strong to me. In the Greek text you just cited, this is simple apposition with no word to indicate the 'but'.

I just checked Alan's site to see if some of the translations were using a text with another word added, but the critical texts also seem to use simple apposition:


Screen Shot 2018-01-23 at 5.26.23 PM.png

A few manuscripts have δε here, but the critical texts do not adopt that reading, and even with that reading the 'but' feels a bit strong to me.

You also ask about the scope of ὅτι. Here's how I would read it because of the simple apposition, since you need both halves to complete the thought:

ὅτι
ὁ νόμος διὰ Μωϋσέως ἐδόθη,
ἡ χάρις καὶ ἡ ἀλήθεια διὰ Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ ἐγένετο.
Thank you for your reply.

So, would you say that instead of a but there is like an implied "καὶ" there?

How do you not see the difference?

If the verse means something along the lines of "the grace and truth came through Jesus Christ because the Law was given to Moses", it is clearly making the Law of Moses the cause of why the grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.

If the verse instead means (like most translations today says it means) something along the lines of "Because (the "because" referring back to the previous verse only) the Law was given through Moses, [but in contrast to, "but" being implied] grace and truth came through Jesus", there is clearly a contrast being made. This would make the Law of Moses look like a bad thing in the eyes of the Apostle John.

Ultimately, this argument could be used by mainstream Christianity against the Law of Moses as being a bad thing, whereas 'Hebrew-roots' communities would use the former interpretation as an argument for keeping the Law (or certain laws) of Moses.

The only other interpretation that could work (correct me if i'm wrong) would be something along the lines of "...The Law was given through Moses. Grace and truth came through Jesus Christ", where John is not contrasting or connecting the statements at all, but is instead just making statements...
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timothy_p_mcmahon
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Re: John 1:17 HUGE possible difference in interpretation

Post by timothy_p_mcmahon » January 24th, 2018, 1:58 am

According to BDAG, και sometimes (albeit rarely), can carry a contrastive sense.
BDAG wrote:So also, connecting what is unexpected or otherw. noteworthy with an attempt of some kind: but ζητεῖ κ. οὐχ εὑρίσκει but he does not find Mt 12:43. ἐπεθύμησαν ἰδεῖν κ. οὐχ εἶδαν but did not see (it) 13:17; cf. 26:60; Lk 13:7; 1 Th 2:18. Perhaps Mk 5:20. Introducing a contrasting response καὶ ποδώσεις μοι Hv 2, 1, 3.
I think the contrast is between Moses as the intermediary of the Torah and Messiah as the source of the חֶסֶד וֶאֱמֶֽת that the Torah embodies.
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RandallButh
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Re: John 1:17 HUGE possible difference in interpretation

Post by RandallButh » January 24th, 2018, 5:42 am

This verse illustrates the differences between lexemes, syntax, and what might be termed 'Relevance Theory'.

First, let's clear away a misinterpretation or two. δέ, if it occurred, would not signal "contrast." δέ connects a following clause/communication and adds a signal of (+change). The reader must interpret that signal for a "change." The change can be in terms of story flow, paragraphing, subject/agent of event [ὁ δὲ εἶπεν], argumentation, backgrounding, k.t.l.
Likewise, καί. καί does not rarely or ever mean "but" or "contrast," it simply connects the following material. Rarely, it may be used in a context where an English speaker feels the need to mark contrast or contraexpectation with "but." But (!) καί does not mean "but."

John 1:17 makes two statements that are starkly juxtaposed. Their relationship to each other and to the immediately surrounding context is to be perceived by the reader. Probably the worst reading of this was done in the Living Bible editions. (I do not have access to this at the moment, but suffice it to say that I consider that translator to have grossly misread the gospel writer.) It is clear in the context that grace on grace, grace on top of grace, grace in place of grace is the intended framework for reading John 1.17. νοείτω ὁ αναγινώσκων.
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PhillipLebsack
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Re: John 1:17 HUGE possible difference in interpretation

Post by PhillipLebsack » January 24th, 2018, 7:07 am

After giving this some more thought, I think what you said about the juxtaposition being created is the best way to interpret it.

Let me restate what you're saying in other words, and please correct my understanding if i'm wrong... You're saying that the text is saying "The Law being given to Moses" and the "grace and truth coming through Jesus Christ" are both viewed as good things by John (John likewise intended the reader to view them as both being good things), but at the same time, they are being juxtaposed to show how much greater the "grace and truth coming through Jesus Christ" is than "The Law being given to Moses"?
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Jonathan Robie
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Re: John 1:17 HUGE possible difference in interpretation

Post by Jonathan Robie » January 24th, 2018, 8:58 am

PhillipLebsack wrote:
January 24th, 2018, 7:07 am
You're saying that the text is saying "The Law being given to Moses" and the "grace and truth coming through Jesus Christ" are both viewed as good things by John (John likewise intended the reader to view them as both being good things), but at the same time, they are being juxtaposed to show how much greater the "grace and truth coming through Jesus Christ" is than "The Law being given to Moses"?
Let's step back and read the text together, in Greek. I highlighted four words in blue.

ὅτι
ὁ νόμος διὰ Μωϋσέως ἐδόθη,
ἡ χάρις καὶ ἡ ἀλήθεια διὰ Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ ἐγένετο.


What do you think the significance of διά is in each half of this? Do you understand the significance of the -θη ending in ἐδόθη? What difference do you see between:

1. ἐδόθη διὰ Μωϋσέως, and
2. ἐγένετο διὰ Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ
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ἐξίσταντο δὲ πάντες καὶ διηποροῦντο, ἄλλος πρὸς ἄλλον λέγοντες, τί θέλει τοῦτο εἶναι;
http://jonathanrobie.biblicalhumanities.org/

PhillipLebsack
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Re: John 1:17 HUGE possible difference in interpretation

Post by PhillipLebsack » January 24th, 2018, 9:19 am

I think I made a typo in my last reply. I meant "through" and not "to" where I said "The Law given through Moses."

διὰ should be translated as "through" because the following in both cases are genitives. It's just serving to tell us who gave the Law - Moses, and how grace and truth came - through Jesus Christ...

ἐδόθη is passive and ἐγένετο is middle (deponent, making it active), which I understand, but, is there something i'm missing here?
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Jonathan Robie
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Re: John 1:17 HUGE possible difference in interpretation

Post by Jonathan Robie » January 24th, 2018, 9:28 am

PhillipLebsack wrote:
January 24th, 2018, 9:19 am
διὰ should be translated as "through" because the following in both cases are genitives. It's just serving to tell us who gave the Law - Moses, and how grace and truth came - through Jesus Christ...

ἐδόθη is passive and ἐγένετο is middle (deponent, making it active), which I understand, but, is there something i'm missing here?
Yes, I think you are misinterpreting ἐδόθη when you say "Moses gave the law". It's a passive verb. Let's change it to an active verb and ask this question:

τίς ἔδωκεν τὸν νόμον διὰ Μωϋσέως;
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ἐξίσταντο δὲ πάντες καὶ διηποροῦντο, ἄλλος πρὸς ἄλλον λέγοντες, τί θέλει τοῦτο εἶναι;
http://jonathanrobie.biblicalhumanities.org/

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