Constructio ad Sensum in the prologue of John

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Re: Constructio ad Sensum in the prologue of John

Postby Paul Thomson » July 29th, 2012, 12:58 am

by John milton » June 27th, 2012, 4:00 am

The true light ( τὸ φῶς) that gives light to everyone was coming into the world. 10 He was in the world, and though the world was made through him (αὐτοῦ), the world did not recognize

It seems obvious that the antecedent of αὐτόν ( verse 10) is τὸ φῶς (verse 9). Am I correct ? αὐτόν is a masculine pronoun but τὸ φῶς is a grammatically neuter noun. Is this an example of Constructio ad Sensum in the prologue of John ?

JM,John milton


5 καὶ τὸ φῶς ἐν τῇ σκοτίᾳ φαίνει, καὶ ἡ σκοτία αὐτὸ οὐ κατέλαβεν.

This seems to suggest to me that the author did not imagine (either consciously or subconsciously) τὸ φῶς to be personal at this time.

JM,John milton


Perhaps in v.5, John has in mind the life and light that emanates from the Word, not the Word Himself. And perhaps in v. 9-10 John has in mind the source of that emanating light, which he calls the true Light, The Word Himself.
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Re: Constructio ad Sensum in the prologue of John

Postby John Brainard » July 29th, 2012, 1:42 pm

Paul Thomson wrote:
by John milton » June 27th, 2012, 4:00 am

The true light ( τὸ φῶς) that gives light to everyone was coming into the world. 10 He was in the world, and though the world was made through him (αὐτοῦ), the world did not recognize

It seems obvious that the antecedent of αὐτόν ( verse 10) is τὸ φῶς (verse 9). Am I correct ? αὐτόν is a masculine pronoun but τὸ φῶς is a grammatically neuter noun. Is this an example of Constructio ad Sensum in the prologue of John ?

JM,John milton


5 καὶ τὸ φῶς ἐν τῇ σκοτίᾳ φαίνει, καὶ ἡ σκοτία αὐτὸ οὐ κατέλαβεν.

This seems to suggest to me that the author did not imagine (either consciously or subconsciously) τὸ φῶς to be personal at this time.

JM,John milton


Perhaps in v.5, John has in mind the life and light that emanates from the Word, not the Word Himself. And perhaps in v. 9-10 John has in mind the source of that emanating light, which he calls the true Light, The Word Himself.


Up to this point (verse 5) the imperfect tense is used to speak of the Logos. Then we see a shift. φαίνει is present tense. it is speaking of a present revelation not a past revelation. The imperfect normally portrays the action as going on for some extended period of time in the past. .

I think that it is possible here that there is an overlap in thought and John has the logos of John 1:10 in view.

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Re: Constructio ad Sensum in the prologue of John

Postby Paul Thomson » July 29th, 2012, 5:55 pm

4 ἐν αὐτῷ ζωὴ ἦν, καὶ ἡ ζωὴ (the life that was in him, so not "the true light himself") ἦν τὸ φῶς τῶν ἀνθρώπων· (The life originating in the Word is identified here as the light that guides men to what is good, not as the one in whom the light originates.) 5 καὶ τὸ φῶς (the light that emanates from the Word) ἐν τῇ σκοτίᾳ φαίνει (is even now shining), καὶ ἡ σκοτία αὐτὸ οὐ κατέλαβεν. At no point has the darkness ever taken it down)
6 Ἐγένετο ἄνθρωπος, ἀπεσταλμένος παρὰ θεοῦ, ὄνομα αὐτῷ Ἰωάννης·
7 οὗτος ἦλθεν εἰς μαρτυρίαν ἵνα μαρτυρήσῃ περὶ τοῦ φωτός (John came to bear witness to the light that had originated in the Word, i.e. to the promises in the Scriptures), ἵνα πάντες πιστεύσωσιν δι᾽ αὐτοῦ (that all might believe the scriptures through him).
8 οὐκ ἦν ἐκεῖνος τὸ φῶς (John per se was not that light emanating from the Word. John was a sinner), ἀλλ᾽ ἵνα μαρτυρήσῃ περὶ τοῦ φωτός (But John came to bear withness to the holy light of God given in scripture).
9 Ἦν τὸ φῶς τὸ ἀληθινόν, ὃ φωτίζει πάντα ἄνθρωπον, ἐρχόμενον εἰς τὸν κόσμον (The true Light [the Word], from whom the light that guides men came, was coming into the world. Jesus was about to reveal himself to the world as the Messiah, the one that John had been reminding people that the scriptures declared] .
10 ἐν τῷ κόσμῳ ἦν, καὶ ὁ κόσμος δι᾽ αὐτοῦ ἐγένετο, καὶ ὁ κόσμος αὐτὸν (the true Light, the Word) οὐκ ἔγνω.

This exegesis would account for the neuter impersonal pronoun in v. 5 and the masculine personal pronoun in v. 9.
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Re: Constructio ad Sensum in the prologue of John

Postby Stephen Carlson » July 29th, 2012, 6:57 pm

I'm going to have to repeat my earlier moderator's note, as the discussion is veering too close to the line:

Please keep your discussion on the grammar of the clause. This forum is not for theological speculation or argumentation.
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Re: Constructio ad Sensum in the prologue of John

Postby Paul Thomson » July 29th, 2012, 10:19 pm

Sorry if I said too much. :o

My point was that the light in v. 5 is said to be IN the Word, so it cannot be the Word itself, and as such is understandably neuter. But in v. 10 we read of "the true light" (i.e. the source of the light of v.5), and is therefore the Word himself, and is understandably therefore masculine. My apologies if it veered too much toward theology for this venue.
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Re: Constructio ad Sensum in the prologue of John

Postby Stephen Carlson » July 29th, 2012, 10:36 pm

Paul Thomson wrote:My point was that the light in v. 5 is said to be IN the Word, so it cannot be the Word itself, and as such is understandably neuter.


There's no constructio ad sensum in v.5, so the expected grammatical agreement with the neuter φῶς is sufficient by itself to explain the neuter pronoun. Anything more is speculation or argumentation that goes beyond the charter of this forum.
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Re: Constructio ad Sensum in the prologue of John

Postby Paul Thomson » July 30th, 2012, 4:38 am

I think the OP was partly assuming that there was a change between a neuter pronoun in v. 5 (αυτο) and a masculine pronoun (αυτον) for the same entity. I agree that there is no constructio ad sensum in 5, since neuter is what φως is grammatically. I don't see anything superfluous to a commentary on the Greek grammar in pointing out that the OP is falsely assuming that το φως is the same entity as το φως το αληθινον in v.9. Clearly, if the life was in Him, and the life was the light of men, then the light of men was in Him, and the light of men cannot actually be Him. However, the true light of v. 9 is him, the him (masculine) whom the world did not recognise of v.10.

Is that not a legitimate point of grammar and syntax to note?
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Re: Constructio ad Sensum in the prologue of John

Postby David Lim » July 31st, 2012, 5:41 am

Paul Thomson wrote:Clearly, if the life was in Him, and the life was the light of men, then the light of men was in Him, and the light of men cannot actually be Him.


This part is not grammar but interpretation. How it is that "life was in/by him" is not grammatically constrained, so it cannot be claimed on grammar alone that your interpretation is necessarily the only possible one. Your last claim, that "the light of men cannot actually be him", is thus not grammatically necessary, and some will disagree with it, also not on grammatical grounds. Hope you understand why Stephen is saying that the gender of "φως" is the only grammatical reason for the neuter pronoun.
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Re: Constructio ad Sensum in the prologue of John

Postby Paul Thomson » August 1st, 2012, 6:10 pm

by David Lim » July 31st, 2012, 5:41 am

Paul Thomson wrote:
Clearly, if the life was in Him, and the life was the light of men, then the light of men was in Him, and the light of men cannot actually be Him.


This part is not grammar but interpretation. How it is that "life was in/by him" is not grammatically constrained, so it cannot be claimed on grammar alone that your interpretation is necessarily the only possible one. Your last claim, that "the light of men cannot actually be him", is thus not grammatically necessary, and some will disagree with it, also not on grammatical grounds. Hope you understand why Stephen is saying that the gender of "φως" is the only grammatical reason for the neuter pronoun.


Thanks for your attempt to clarify, David.

I'm not trying to be awkward, but I don't understand how the grammar saying that the life was "εν" him does not imply that the grammar precludes him being "the life", and therefore "the light of men".

Maybe if you or someone else could give one other example in Greek where A is aid to be εν B and yet A also is B, then I could see that the grammar does not preclude "the life/the light of men" being "the word". :?
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Re: Constructio ad Sensum in the prologue of John

Postby David Lim » August 2nd, 2012, 11:58 pm

Paul Thomson wrote:I'm not trying to be awkward, but I don't understand how the grammar saying that the life was "εν" him does not imply that the grammar precludes him being "the life", and therefore "the light of men".

Maybe if you or someone else could give one other example in Greek where A is aid to be εν B and yet A also is B, then I could see that the grammar does not preclude "the life/the light of men" being "the word". :?


I was being vague because it easily goes off into interpretation.
(1) "εν" does not necessarily mean "in a place" or "inside/within something" but can also mean "by an agent"
(2) "η ζωη ην το φως των ανθρωπων" does not necessarily mean "η ζωη = το φως των ανθωρπων". The specific relationship can only be determined from the context. John 1:6-8 says "εγενετο ανθρωπος απεσταλμενος παρα θεου ονομα αυτω ιωαννης ουτος ηλθεν εις μαρτυριαν ινα μαρτυρηση περι του φωτος ινα παντες πιστευσωσιν δι αυτου ουκ ην εκεινος το φως αλλ ινα μαρτυρηση περι του φωτος", where "ιωαννης ουκ ην το φως αλλα μαρτυρει περι του φωτος των ανθρωπων". Elsewhere we see statements like "ο θεος φως εστιν και σκοτια εν αυτω ουκ εστιν ουδεμια" and "οιδα οτι η εντολη αυτου ζωη αιωνιος εστιν" and "αυτη δε εστιν η αιωνιος ζωη ινα γινωσκωσιν σε τον μονον αληθινον θεον και ον απεστειλας ιησουν χριστον", and in the last one "αυτη" refers to "ινα γινωσκωσιν ..." and it is said to be "η αιωνιος ζωη", but clearly it implies "that they know you ... is to have η αιωνιος ζωη".
Likewise a possible interpretation of John 1:4 is "to have him was to have life, and this was the light to all men." (John 1:9, 1 John 5:12), but as I said this is only one interpretation, and whether it is the only one cannot be discussed on B-Greek.
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