1 John 4:19 - αγαπωμεν

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Mark Lightman
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Re: 1 John 4:19 - αγαπωμεν

Post by Mark Lightman » August 26th, 2011, 10:27 pm

Carl lamented:
It's a pity nobody else has weighed in on this question.
I share Carl's pain. This is a good thread because there is actually a question of meaning, not just form, involved here. Admittedly, the difference in meaning is slight, because the indicative implies the hortatory subjunctive, and vice versa. The gospel is fact and task.

I found only one translation that agrees with David. Douay-Rheims has "Let us therefore love God, because God first hath loved us." Presumably this reflects the variant reading ἡμεῖς οὖν ἀγαπῶμεν. Would that particle made a subjunctive more likely?

The problem is that John goes back and forth between description and prescription. Is it a cop-out to say that he would refuse to recognize the distinction?

If you put a gun to my head, I would say that an injunction feels just a little out of place here, and I would say that it is indicative, but this is a very close call.

Today's Greek version has the indicative: ἐμείς ἀγαπάμε το Θεό.

I hope others will share their thoughts.
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David Lim
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Re: 1 John 4:19 - αγαπωμεν

Post by David Lim » August 26th, 2011, 10:51 pm

Mark Lightman wrote:Carl lamented:
It's a pity nobody else has weighed in on this question.
I share Carl's pain. This is a good thread because there is actually a question of meaning, not just form, involved here. Admittedly, the difference in meaning is slight, because the indicative implies the hortatory subjunctive, and vice versa. The gospel is fact and task.
Agreed! I had hoped for a discussion about which was the likely primary meaning, even though knowing that the alternative is almost surely implied.
Mark Lightman wrote:I found only one translation that agrees with David. Douay-Rheims has "Let us therefore love God, because God first hath loved us." Presumably this reflects the variant reading ἡμεῖς οὖν ἀγαπῶμεν. Would that particle made a subjunctive more likely?
Yes I believe so, but I had not been aware of the variant reading.
Mark Lightman wrote:The problem is that John goes back and forth between description and prescription. Is it a cop-out to say that he would refuse to recognize the distinction?
No I agree that there is a possibility the author did not bother too much about a clear distinction, although I would say that he usually exhorts those "beloved [ones]" concerning what they should do while stating what they already know and believe.
Mark Lightman wrote:If you put a gun to my head, I would say that an injunction feels just a little out of place here, and I would say that it is indicative, but this is a very close call.
Actually I would say that the extra conjunction in the variant joins verses 15-18 and 19-21 nicely, but ironically I do not think it should be there since it only appears in one manuscript, at least according to the listing at http://nttranscripts.uni-muenster.de/An ... +start.anv. However it may demonstrate that it is indeed a valid reading of the original, unless it is considered an intentional adulteration of the text.
Mark Lightman wrote:Today's Greek version has the indicative: ἐμείς ἀγαπάμε το Θεό.

I hope others will share their thoughts.
I do not know modern Greek but I guess it is indicative. (The subjunctive requires additional particles right?) Anyway thanks a lot for sharing your thoughts! :)
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Randall Tan
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Re: 1 John 4:19 - αγαπωμεν

Post by Randall Tan » August 27th, 2011, 1:41 pm

In terms of form, indicative or subjunctive are possible. Others, especially Carl, have already given abundant reasons for why the indicative is far more likely. So, I will not repeat the reasons already given (to which I concur) & will only concentrate on making some additional points.

First, the most relevant reading out of possible readings should usually be preferred. Second, careful attention to the flow of the discourse & to how a theme is developed in a book is one of the most natural ways to determine the most relevant reading. I think most interpreters (including most contributors to this forum) would naturally select the indicative as the most relevant reading, even if explaining all the reasons why may be difficult to do & would take a lot of time to communicate (whereas in natural reading the decision is made in a split second). Third, for 1 John in particular, it is important to notice (a) how the author interweaves assertions of reality, obligation, and exhortation; & (b) how the author cycles through various topics & exhortations, always with progression on some aspect while tying more themes together as the book progresses.

With love, note that in:
2:5 there is an assertion of reality: whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God has reached its goal (ὃς δʼ ἂν τηρῇ αὐτοῦ τὸν λόγον, ἀληθῶς ἐν τούτῳ ἡ ἀγάπη τοῦ θεοῦ τετελείωται)
2:10 there is an assertion of reality: the one who loves his brother/sister abides in the light (has fellowship with God) (ὁ ἀγαπῶν τὸν ἀδελφὸν αὐτοῦ ἐν τῷ φωτὶ μένει)
3:1 there is an assertion of reality: the great love God has given Christians that they should be called children of God (Ἴδετε ποταπὴν ἀγάπην δέδωκεν ἡμῖν ὁ πατήρ, ἵνα τέκνα θεοῦ κληθῶμεν, καὶ ἐσμέν.)
In the previous sustained treatment of love in 3:11-24, a summary may be:The author reminds his readers that they should love one another (3:11), unlike Cain (3:12), that they shouldn’t be surprised that the world hates them (3:13), & that they shouldn’t just claim to love, but truly love in practice (3:18), knowing that loving is a sure sign of having been transferred from death to life (3:14). He also reminds them that love shows itself in laying down our lives for our brothers & sisters (3:16) & showing compassion & meeting their needs (3:17). We know that we belong to the truth & can set our hearts at rest in God’s presence when our hearts don’t condemn us (3:19-20) & that we can have confidence before God & receive whatever we ask because we obey God’s commands (3:21-22) to believe in the name of his Son & to love one another (3:23). In this section, the nature of love as a command and its presence as giving knowledge of the reality of possessing eternal life are picked up from 2:5 & 2:10 & developed further in conjunction with other themes from the book. Note that love is a command (3:11), it is a reality already present in Christians, which allows them to know that they have eternal life (3:18), & it is also an ongoing obligation that sustains that reality of eternal life (3:23). (11 Ὅτι αὕτη ἐστὶν ἡ ἀγγελία ἣν ἠκούσατε ἀπʼ ἀρχῆς, ἵνα ἀγαπῶμεν ἀλλήλους, 12 οὐ καθὼς Κάϊν ἐκ τοῦ πονηροῦ ἦν καὶ ἔσφαξεν τὸν ἀδελφὸν αὐτοῦ· καὶ χάριν τίνος ἔσφαξεν αὐτόν; ὅτι τὰ ἔργα αὐτοῦ πονηρὰ ἦν τὰ δὲ τοῦ ἀδελφοῦ αὐτοῦ δίκαια. 13 [Καὶ] μὴ θαυμάζετε, ἀδελφοί, εἰ μισεῖ ὑμᾶς ὁ κόσμος. 14 ἡμεῖς οἴδαμεν ὅτι μεταβεβήκαμεν ἐκ τοῦ θανάτου εἰς τὴν ζωήν, ὅτι ἀγαπῶμεν τοὺς ἀδελφούς· ὁ μὴ ἀγαπῶν μένει ἐν τῷ θανάτῳ. 15 πᾶς ὁ μισῶν τὸν ἀδελφὸν αὐτοῦ ἀνθρωποκτόνος ἐστίν, καὶ οἴδατε ὅτι πᾶς ἀνθρωποκτόνος οὐκ ἔχει ζωὴν αἰώνιον ἐν αὐτῷ μένουσαν. 16 ἐν τούτῳ ἐγνώκαμεν τὴν ἀγάπην, ὅτι ἐκεῖνος ὑπὲρ ἡμῶν τὴν ψυχὴν αὐτοῦ ἔθηκεν· καὶ ἡμεῖς ὀφείλομεν ὑπὲρ τῶν ἀδελφῶν τὰς ψυχὰς θεῖναι. 17 ὃς δʼ ἂν ἔχῃ τὸν βίον τοῦ κόσμου καὶ θεωρῇ τὸν ἀδελφὸν αὐτοῦ χρείαν ἔχοντα καὶ κλείσῃ τὰ σπλάγχνα αὐτοῦ ἀπʼ αὐτοῦ, πῶς ἡ ἀγάπη τοῦ θεοῦ μένει ἐν αὐτῷ; 18 Τεκνία, μὴ ἀγαπῶμεν λόγῳ μηδὲ τῇ γλώσσῃ ἀλλὰ ἐν ἔργῳ καὶ ἀληθείᾳ. 19 [Καὶ] ἐν τούτῳ γνωσόμεθα ὅτι ἐκ τῆς ἀληθείας ἐσμέν, καὶ ἔμπροσθεν αὐτοῦ πείσομεν τὴν καρδίαν ἡμῶν, 20 ὅτι ἐὰν καταγινώσκῃ ἡμῶν ἡ καρδία, ὅτι μείζων ἐστὶν ὁ θεὸς τῆς καρδίας ἡμῶν καὶ γινώσκει πάντα. 21 Ἀγαπητοί, ἐὰν ἡ καρδία [ἡμῶν] μὴ καταγινώσκῃ, παρρησίαν ἔχομεν πρὸς τὸν θεὸν 22 καὶ ὃ ἐὰν αἰτῶμεν λαμβάνομεν ἀπʼ αὐτοῦ, ὅτι τὰς ἐντολὰς αὐτοῦ τηροῦμεν καὶ τὰ ἀρεστὰ ἐνώπιον αὐτοῦ ποιοῦμεν. 23 Καὶ αὕτη ἐστὶν ἡ ἐντολὴ αὐτοῦ, ἵνα πιστεύσωμεν τῷ ὀνόματι τοῦ υἱοῦ αὐτοῦ Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ καὶ ἀγαπῶμεν ἀλλήλους, καθὼς ἔδωκεν ἐντολὴν ἡμῖν. 24 καὶ ὁ τηρῶν τὰς ἐντολὰς αὐτοῦ ἐν αὐτῷ μένει καὶ αὐτὸς ἐν αὐτῷ· καὶ ἐν τούτῳ γινώσκομεν ὅτι μένει ἐν ἡμῖν, ἐκ τοῦ πνεύματος οὗ ἡμῖν ἔδωκεν.)
The reason I went into this survey of how the theme of love is developed earlier in 1 John is to show that the author develops his theme more subtly than simply repeating exhortations. As we shall see below, the next major treatment of love in 4:7-21 fits this pattern.

A summary of 4:7:21 may be: The author calls his readers to love one another (4:7, 11) because God is love (4:8, 16) & the source of love (4:7) & showed his love by sending his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins (4:9-10) & God’s love is made complete in them when they love one another (4:12). He reminds them that they know that they live in God & he in them by the Spirit he gave them (4:13) & that they know & rely on the love God has for them (4:16), & that God has given them this command: Whoever loves God must also love his brother/sister (4:21). Having this love made complete in them, in fact, drives out fear (4:17-18) & gives confidence on the day of judgment. (7 Ἀγαπητοί, ἀγαπῶμεν ἀλλήλους, ὅτι ἡ ἀγάπη ἐκ τοῦ θεοῦ ἐστιν, καὶ πᾶς ὁ ἀγαπῶν ἐκ τοῦ θεοῦ γεγέννηται καὶ γινώσκει τὸν θεόν. 8 ὁ μὴ ἀγαπῶν οὐκ ἔγνω τὸν θεόν, ὅτι ὁ θεὸς ἀγάπη ἐστίν. 9 ἐν τούτῳ ἐφανερώθη ἡ ἀγάπη τοῦ θεοῦ ἐν ἡμῖν, ὅτι τὸν υἱὸν αὐτοῦ τὸν μονογενῆ ἀπέσταλκεν ὁ θεὸς εἰς τὸν κόσμον ἵνα ζήσωμεν διʼ αὐτοῦ. 10 ἐν τούτῳ ἐστὶν ἡ ἀγάπη, οὐχ ὅτι ἡμεῖς ἠγαπήκαμεν τὸν θεὸν ἀλλʼ ὅτι αὐτὸς ἠγάπησεν ἡμᾶς καὶ ἀπέστειλεν τὸν υἱὸν αὐτοῦ ἱλασμὸν περὶ τῶν ἁμαρτιῶν ἡμῶν. 11 Ἀγαπητοί, εἰ οὕτως ὁ θεὸς ἠγάπησεν ἡμᾶς, καὶ ἡμεῖς ὀφείλομεν ἀλλήλους ἀγαπᾶν. 12 θεὸν οὐδεὶς πώποτε τεθέαται. ἐὰν ἀγαπῶμεν ἀλλήλους, ὁ θεὸς ἐν ἡμῖν μένει καὶ ἡ ἀγάπη αὐτοῦ ἐν ἡμῖν τετελειωμένη ἐστίν. 13 Ἐν τούτῳ γινώσκομεν ὅτι ἐν αὐτῷ μένομεν καὶ αὐτὸς ἐν ἡμῖν, ὅτι ἐκ τοῦ πνεύματος αὐτοῦ δέδωκεν ἡμῖν. 14 καὶ ἡμεῖς τεθεάμεθα καὶ μαρτυροῦμεν ὅτι ὁ πατὴρ ἀπέσταλκεν τὸν υἱὸν σωτῆρα τοῦ κόσμου. 15 Ὃς ἐὰν ὁμολογήσῃ ὅτι Ἰησοῦς ἐστιν ὁ υἱὸς τοῦ θεοῦ, ὁ θεὸς ἐν αὐτῷ μένει καὶ αὐτὸς ἐν τῷ θεῷ. 16 καὶ ἡμεῖς ἐγνώκαμεν καὶ πεπιστεύκαμεν τὴν ἀγάπην ἣν ἔχει ὁ θεὸς ἐν ἡμῖν. Ὁ θεὸς ἀγάπη ἐστίν, καὶ ὁ μένων ἐν τῇ ἀγάπῃ ἐν τῷ θεῷ μένει καὶ ὁ θεὸς ἐν αὐτῷ μένει. 17 Ἐν τούτῳ τετελείωται ἡ ἀγάπη μεθʼ ἡμῶν, ἵνα παρρησίαν ἔχωμεν ἐν τῇ ἡμέρᾳ τῆς κρίσεως, ὅτι καθὼς ἐκεῖνός ἐστιν καὶ ἡμεῖς ἐσμεν ἐν τῷ κόσμῳ τούτῳ. 18 φόβος οὐκ ἔστιν ἐν τῇ ἀγάπῃ ἀλλʼ ἡ τελεία ἀγάπη ἔξω βάλλει τὸν φόβον, ὅτι ὁ φόβος κόλασιν ἔχει, ὁ δὲ φοβούμενος οὐ τετελείωται ἐν τῇ ἀγάπῃ. 19 ἡμεῖς ἀγαπῶμεν, ὅτι αὐτὸς πρῶτος ἠγάπησεν ἡμᾶς. 20 ἐάν τις εἴπῃ ὅτι ἀγαπῶ τὸν θεὸν καὶ τὸν ἀδελφὸν αὐτοῦ μισῇ, ψεύστης ἐστίν· ὁ γὰρ μὴ ἀγαπῶν τὸν ἀδελφὸν αὐτοῦ ὃν ἑώρακεν, τὸν θεὸν ὃν οὐχ ἑώρακεν οὐ δύναται ἀγαπᾶν. 21 καὶ ταύτην τὴν ἐντολὴν ἔχομεν ἀπʼ αὐτοῦ, ἵνα ὁ ἀγαπῶν τὸν θεὸν ἀγαπᾷ καὶ τὸν ἀδελφὸν αὐτοῦ.)
The assertions of reality in 2:5, 2:10, & 3:1 are all taken up & tied together in this section. Note again that love is exhorted (4:7, 11) & at the same time it is a present reality that represents the completion of the goal of God's love for Christians (4:12, 17-18), leading to continued fellowship with God & the absence of fear of punishment. 4:19 fits in naturally as an assertion that we love because [God] first loved us.
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David Lim
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Re: 1 John 4:19 - αγαπωμεν

Post by David Lim » August 28th, 2011, 2:41 am

Randall Tan wrote:[...]

First, the most relevant reading out of possible readings should usually be preferred. Second, careful attention to the flow of the discourse & to how a theme is developed in a book is one of the most natural ways to determine the most relevant reading. I think most interpreters (including most contributors to this forum) would naturally select the indicative as the most relevant reading, even if explaining all the reasons why may be difficult to do & would take a lot of time to communicate (whereas in natural reading the decision is made in a split second). Third, for 1 John in particular, it is important to notice (a) how the author interweaves assertions of reality, obligation, and exhortation; & (b) how the author cycles through various topics & exhortations, always with progression on some aspect while tying more themes together as the book progresses.

[...]

The reason I went into this survey of how the theme of love is developed earlier in 1 John is to show that the author develops his theme more subtly than simply repeating exhortations. As we shall see below, the next major treatment of love in 4:7-21 fits this pattern.

[...]

The assertions of reality in 2:5, 2:10, & 3:1 are all taken up & tied together in this section. Note again that love is exhorted (4:7, 11) & at the same time it is a present reality that represents the completion of the goal of God's love for Christians (4:12, 17-18), leading to continued fellowship with God & the absence of fear of punishment. 4:19 fits in naturally as an assertion that we love because [God] first loved us.
Actually, I agree with almost everything you have said above. But the reason I asked is that when I first read it, my immediate understanding in that split-second decision is that it meant "may we love him". Also, I understood that it did not imply "may we now love him" (as if we did not before), but rather I understood it to imply "may we love him even as we have already been loving him", because, after all, "he was the first one who loved us", and it is most natural for us to love him. So I conclude that either my natural reading was faulty, or it is truly a natural reading, especially since the next two sentences confirmed my reading. As you mentioned, there is both the reality and an exhortation to remain in that reality, and that is why I read 1 John 4:19 to imply "may we remain in the love of God", which includes "may we love our brother whom we have seen" because if not, "how can we love God whom we have not seen?" We cannot say, "we love God," if we do not love our brother. Therefore "may we love God by loving also our brother, because God first loved all of us". This is what I understood 1 John 4:19-21 to mean.

Anyway thanks for giving your viewpoints! :) It is a pity there are no native speakers of Koine Greek otherwise we could just give the text to someone unfamiliar with it and ask him haha.. ;)
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Randall Tan
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Re: 1 John 4:19 - αγαπωμεν

Post by Randall Tan » August 28th, 2011, 12:31 pm

To clarify, I appreciate how you could have come to your understanding & I am not denying that it is possible. In my previous post, my main purpose was to show that no contextual dissonance is caused by reading the form as indicative. I also assumed that Carl's previous syntactic arguments are correct & would naturally lead a reader to presumptively favor the indicative, unless it just fails to make sense of the text and discourse context. To quote Carl's main arguments again for your convenience: "I really think that it ought to be assumed that ἀγαπῶμεν here is indicative unless there's some contextual indication that it might as well or better be read as a subjunctive. You refer to 1 Jn 4:17 Ἀγαπητοί, ἀγαπῶμεν ἀλλήλους, ὅτι ἡ ἀγάπη ἐκ τοῦ θεοῦ ἐστιν, καὶ πᾶς ὁ ἀγαπῶν ἐκ τοῦ θεοῦ γεγέννηται καὶ γινώσκει τὸν θεόν. It seems to me that in this latter instance, the vocative clearly points to the likelihood that ἀγαπῶμεν is hortatory subjunctive. in 4:19, however, there's a clear contrast between the pronouns of the two clauses: ἡμεῖς and αὐτὸς: "WE do it, the reason being that HE did it" or "OUR loving is grounded in HIS having loved us.""

If one grants the further assumptions that the author of 1 John is competent (i.e., he did not botch his attempt at communicating with his readers) & intended to communicate clearly (i.e., giving as much information as is necessary or adequate for the reader to disambiguate), then the path of least effort that a typical reader would choose to come to an interpretation of 1 John 4:19 would lead to reading the form as indicative. If a reader should find some contextual dissonance with reading the form as indicative, then he or she may look for alternative possibilities (including possibly suspecting the author's competence or looking for hidden agendas/meanings). In your case, you did not have to go far--the form can be subjunctive (because we have a contract verb where the indicative & subjunctive forms are identical, whereas form alone would clearly disambiguate indicative or subjunctive for most verbs) & a subjunctive reading could fit the context. However, in my opinion, the issue is not what the writer could have said or what are possible interpretations of what the writer said--the writer definitely could have issued an exhortation at 1 John 4:19 within the current discourse context & what he actually wrote could possibly be interpreted as an exhortation. The issue is what is the most relevant (or what is the most natural/likely) interpretation of what the author actually wrote--this would seem to be an indicative reading. If the author wanted his readers to understand him as giving an exhortation, he could have written something like: Ἀγαπητοί, ἀγαπῶμεν, ὅτι αὐτὸς πρῶτος ἠγάπησεν ἡμᾶς in 4:19, in analogy to what he did in 4:7. Even this could be read as an indicative; however, I think a subjunctive reading may with justification be taken as the presumptive first option in this revised text. Seeing that the text actually reads ἡμεῖς ἀγαπῶμεν, ὅτι αὐτὸς πρῶτος ἠγάπησεν ἡμᾶς, the most relevant (natural/likely) interpretation is: We love because [God] first loved us.
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David Lim
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Re: 1 John 4:19 - αγαπωμεν

Post by David Lim » August 30th, 2011, 3:46 am

Randall Tan wrote:To clarify, I appreciate how you could have come to your understanding & I am not denying that it is possible. In my previous post, my main purpose was to show that no contextual dissonance is caused by reading the form as indicative. [...]
Agreed; there is no dissonance in reading it as an indicative. Though I would not have expected an indicative in light of the preceding and succeeding { exhorting / encouraging / reminding } sentences.
Randall Tan wrote:[...]If the author wanted his readers to understand him as giving an exhortation, he could have written something like: Ἀγαπητοί, ἀγαπῶμεν, ὅτι αὐτὸς πρῶτος ἠγάπησεν ἡμᾶς in 4:19, in analogy to what he did in 4:7. Even this could be read as an indicative; however, I think a subjunctive reading may with justification be taken as the presumptive first option in this revised text. Seeing that the text actually reads ἡμεῖς ἀγαπῶμεν, ὅτι αὐτὸς πρῶτος ἠγάπησεν ἡμᾶς, the most relevant (natural/likely) interpretation is: We love because [God] first loved us.
I am not sure about this. It still seems that the probability of a subjunctive to an indicative is something like 70% to 30% to me.. although definitely it is lower than if there were other clues like a vocative. But you are all making me think twice about whether my initial reading is problematic... ;) Is the hortatory subjunctive rare in John and 1 John?
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Re: 1 John 4:19 - αγαπωμεν

Post by cwconrad » August 30th, 2011, 9:06 am

David Lim wrote: Is the hortatory subjunctive rare in John and 1 John?
For what it's worth: I don't want to take the time to analyze all the instances in John's gospel (nor am I confident that doing so would have much bearing on the question being raised in the present discussion), but I did a search for all 1 pl. subjunctive forms (of all verbs) in 1 John. I got 25 hits; these fell into the following categories (I've indicated the verses in which these are found -- frequently two or three instances in the same verse):

ἐὰν-clauses: 11x: 1:6-10 (6x); 2:3 (1x); 3:22 (1x):; 4:12 (1x):; 5:14-15 (2x);
ἵνα-clauses: 10x: 2:28 (2x):; 3:1 (1x); 3:11 (1x); 3:23 (2x); 4:9 (1x); 4:17 (1x); 5:3 (1x):; 5:21 (1x)
ὅταν-clauses: 2x: 5:2 (2x)
hortatory: 2x: 3:18 (1x); 4:7 (1x)
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οὔτοι ἀπ’ ἀρχῆς πάντα θεοὶ θνητοῖς ὑπέδειξαν,
ἀλλὰ χρόνῳ ζητέοντες ἐφευρίσκουσιν ἄμεινον. (Xenophanes, Fragment 16)

Carl W. Conrad
Department of Classics, Washington University (Retired)

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