John 4:34… ἵνα ποιῶ …καὶ τελειώσω

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Alanpaul
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John 4:34… ἵνα ποιῶ …καὶ τελειώσω

Post by Alanpaul » January 5th, 2019, 6:53 pm

Dear All

My enquiry relates to the meaning of ἵνα followed by the subjunctive aorist present in the following verse:
John 4:34 reads: “….Ἐμὸν βρῶμά ἐστιν ἵνα ποιῶ τὸ θέλημα τοῦ πέμψαντός με καὶ τελειώσω αὐτοῦ τὸ ἔργον.

I would translate this literally as follows:
“My food is in order that I may do the will of the one who sent me and finish his work.”
This treats ἵνα in the usual way as a conjunction denoting purpose or end result, as expressed in the verbs ποιῶ and τελειώσω.

This seems to me to fit the context well: the disciples have been away getting food to satisfy their bodily needs, but Jesus is telling them he possesses a different kind of (spiritual) food resource that they do not understand, and which sustains and strengthens him to carry out and complete his divine mission on earth, culminating in his crucifixion, which is surely foreshadowed here.

But the English and other translations of the verse translate ἵνα in a sense that does not denote purpose or result, but rather definition:
“My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work.” (NIV)

This approach means that Jesus is sustained and strengthened by what he does (“man lives out of what he lives for” – Haenscher). Or as the NLT puts it: "My nourishment comes from doing the will of God, who sent me, and from finishing his work”. As far as I can see, only the Douay-Rheims Bible translation succeeds in finding a way to convey the purpose-result sense of ἵνα:
“My meat is to do the will of him that sent me, that I may perfect his work.”

Would forum members advise on whether the purpose-result interpretation of John 4:34 is viable? Are there any other examples in Greek of substantive + ἐστιν + ἵνα + subjunctive for comparison?

Thanks
Alan Paul
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MAubrey
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Re: John 4:34… ἵνα ποιῶ …καὶ τελειώσω

Post by MAubrey » January 5th, 2019, 7:54 pm

Alanpaul wrote:
January 5th, 2019, 6:53 pm
But the English and other translations of the verse translate ἵνα in a sense that does not denote purpose or result, but rather definition:
“My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work.” (NIV)
Hi Alan,

English infinitive constructions readily take purpose meaning. Indeed, the original of the English to-infinitive is from the preposition to, indicating direction toward a goal. That spatial meaning was then reconstrued as a purpose expression before being grammaticalized as the infinitive. But purpose continued to be a function of the infinitive, particularly in contexts (such as this one) where the infinitive is not grammatically obligatory for the main clause's verb (i.e. be doesn't need an infinitive to be grammatical). The Greek preposition εἰς functions similarly for purpose expressions, but it hasn't (and doesn't in the future) become an infinitive marker.

So the English translation is perfectly fine. It might be useful for you pick up an English grammar for your evaluations of contemporary translations.
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Barry Hofstetter
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Re: John 4:34… ἵνα ποιῶ …καὶ τελειώσω

Post by Barry Hofstetter » January 5th, 2019, 8:39 pm

Alan, purpose is normally expressed in English using the infinitive: "I went to the grocery store to buy lettuce." "To buy" expresses the purpose in going to the store. Mike is right -- the English translations capture well the Greek at this point. Let me also point out that your interpretation based on the English is not consistent with the English.
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Alanpaul
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Re: John 4:34… ἵνα ποιῶ …καὶ τελειώσω

Post by Alanpaul » January 5th, 2019, 9:03 pm

Hi Mike, Hi Barry

Thank you. I fully agree with both of you that the English infinitive constructions can take a purpose meaning. But this rule seems to apply particularly to a verb + to + infinitive construction (eg “I opened the window to get some fresh air). In such cases the purpose meaning is clear and unambiguous.

I am thinking that things may not be so clear cut when we have (as in John 4:34) a noun + is + to + infinitive, where the reader might be forgiven for assuming that definition rather than purpose is the intended meaning. For example:

My role is to listen (definition)
My aim is to please (definition, even though what is being defined is a purpose)
My joy is to serve (definition)

In the third example, however, it is also true that “my joy” is derived from the act of serving, and in this sense the example may be analogous with John 4:34, where “my food is to do (God’s will) and finish (his work) would probably be understood by most English readers (and most biblical commentators) as meaning “My food (nourishment) is derived from doing… and finishing...”

So I would suggest that the English translations of John 4:34 may not be perfectly fine if the translators of NIV etc really intended to convey purpose, as distinct from the definition sense. But I’m not at all sure that they did, though I am more than happy to be corrected on this point, not least because it would affirm my preferred reading of the Greek! Judging from the commentaries I have consulted, including those dating back several centuries but particularly contemporary ones, the three of us are in a small minority in seeing purpose here.

Alan
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Stirling Bartholomew
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Re: John 4:34… ἵνα ποιῶ …καὶ τελειώσω

Post by Stirling Bartholomew » January 5th, 2019, 9:38 pm

John 4:34 reads: “….Ἐμὸν βρῶμά ἐστιν ἵνα ποιῶ τὸ θέλημα τοῦ πέμψαντός με καὶ τελειώσω αὐτοῦ τὸ ἔργον.

Are you certain ἐστιν ἵνα + finite verb is always a purpose clause?

1Cor. 4:3 ἐμοὶ δὲ εἰς ἐλάχιστόν ἐστιν ἵνα ὑφ᾿ ὑμῶν ἀνακριθῶ ἢ ὑπὸ ἀνθρωπίνης ἡμέρας· ἀλλ᾿ οὐδὲ ἐμαυτὸν ἀνακρίνω.

But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged by you or by any human court

The syntax isn't identical. I will find another example.
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Alanpaul
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Re: John 4:34… ἵνα ποιῶ …καὶ τελειώσω

Post by Alanpaul » January 5th, 2019, 10:54 pm

Hi Sterling

Yes, indeed. Thayer (Section 2d) identifies a number of examples of ἵνα clauses after substantives that have no sense of purpose (I guess we all feel like that from time to time). See https://biblehub.com/greek/2443.htm But he does not mention John 4:34. I am hoping to find examples that are to some extent analogous with 4:34, but this could be a tall order, as 4:34 is perhaps sui generis.

Alan
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Matthew Longhorn
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Re: John 4:34… ἵνα ποιῶ …καὶ τελειώσω

Post by Matthew Longhorn » January 6th, 2019, 11:44 am

If it is any help, Margaret Sim's book on the use of hina clauses in the New Testament Greek argues that Hina introduces an author's representation of their thoughts / desires / interpretation of things. So basically hina is not necessarily a content word but a marker directing us to process the following words in a certain way
One way to translate it from this view that maintains the contingency element of the subjunctive would be to see it as "My food is this - that I should / ought to do the will of the one who sent me"

In a section dealing with hina clauses after nouns she notes John 6:29 ἀπεκρίθη o[ὁ] Ἰησοῦς καὶ εἶπεν αὐτοῖς· τοῦτό ἐστιν τὸ ἔργον τοῦ θεοῦ, ἵνα ⸀πιστεύητε εἰς ὃν ἀπέστειλεν ἐκεῖνος.
Also she has referenced Matthew 18:14 οὕτως οὐκ ἔστιν θέλημα oἔμπροσθεν τοῦ πατρὸς ⸀ὑμῶν τοῦ ἐν οὐρανοῖς ἵνα ἀπόληται ⸁ἓν τῶν μικρῶν τούτων.
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Alanpaul
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Re: John 4:34… ἵνα ποιῶ …καὶ τελειώσω

Post by Alanpaul » January 7th, 2019, 12:18 am

Many thanks, Matthew, for directing me to Margaret Sim. It’s helpful to see ἵνα as a marker word in this context, and John 6:29 is particularly interesting since it echoes phrases that are also found in 4:34, albeit switched around a bit. It’s amazing how one thing leads to another, because your post prompted me to do a bit of googling, which led me back to a B Greek forum discussion of 2016 here: https://www.ibiblio.org/bgreek/forum/vi ... =10&t=3904

That discussion, which includes pages from the Sim book, and which provides much βρῶμά to chew on, is all about how ἵνα + subjunctive can function as an infinitive, which is essentially what we have in John 4:34. All things considered, it seems to me that, in addition to the marker function, a key element in the use of ἵνα in 4:34 is that of indicating Jesus’ ultimate purpose, ie defining βρῶμα in terms of its end result, rather than what it is. (If the author did not have that meaning, ie if he was describing a present state, rather than a future orientated process, he could have used ὅτι + indicative rather than ἵνα.)

Alan
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Stirling Bartholomew
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Re: John 4:34… ἵνα ποιῶ …καὶ τελειώσω

Post by Stirling Bartholomew » January 7th, 2019, 2:49 pm

Alanpaul wrote:
January 7th, 2019, 12:18 am
Many thanks, Matthew, for directing me to Margaret Sim.
I took another brief look at Margaret Sim's thesis which I haven't thought about recently. What I took away from struggling with her presentation most likely isn't what she intended.

The traditional exegetical evaluation of ἵνα clauses in the New Testament often (not always) results in over specification. The particle ἵνα introduces a unit of discourse, sets it off for independent consideration. It is possible IMO to read John 4:34 in light of this. Jesus' metaphor has a "this is that" structure where ἵνα introduces that.

This doesn't rule out purpose or final clauses. It shifts the focus to the function of ἵνα, independent of the semantics of the introduced clause.

Again, this isn't a commentary on Sim's thesis.
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Alanpaul
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Re: John 4:34… ἵνα ποιῶ …καὶ τελειώσω

Post by Alanpaul » January 7th, 2019, 6:37 pm

This doesn't rule out purpose or final clauses. It shifts the focus to the function of ἵνα, independent of the semantics of the introduced clause.
David R Palmer, the author of a modern (1998) translation John’s Gospel comes, I think, to a similar conclusion to yours in the way he renders 4:34. Extracts from his footnote:

The hína in this passage is usually translated like an infinitive, "to do," and rightly enough, see BDF §393 and BAG p. 377, II. This is very much like the hína in I Corinthians 4:3– ἐμοὶ δὲ εἰς ἐλάχιστόν ἐστιν ἵνα ὑφ’ ὑμῶν ἀνακριθῶ ἢ ὑπὸ ἀνθρωπίνης ἡμέρας· ἀλλ’ οὐδὲ ἐμαυτὸν ἀνακρίνω· - "It is a very small thing to me that I might be judged by you..." See also I Cor. 9:18, "My reward is that I may make the gospel free of charge..."

…I think that considering the context, "I have food you do not know about," and the pre-position of ἐμὸς here (emphasis), that this means something like, "For me, that I can do the will of him who sent me, is food, and that I can finish his work." You think I have no food, but for me, this is food:..." (DRP)
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