1 John 5:7-8

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Leonard Jayawardena
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1 John 5:7-8

Post by Leonard Jayawardena »

1 John 5:7-8 reads:
7 ὅτι τρεῖς εἰσιν οἱ μαρτυροῦντες, 8 τὸ πνεῦμα καὶ τὸ ὕδωρ καὶ τὸ αἷμα, καὶ οἱ τρεῖς εἰς τὸ ἕν εἰσιν.
Expositor's Greek Testament has the following comment on τρεῖς εἰσιν οἱ μαρτυροῦντες in v. 7:
τρεῖς οἱ μαρτυροῦντες, masculine though Πνεῦμα, ὕδωρ, and αἷμα are all neuter, because agreeing κατὰ σύνεσιν with τὸ Πνεῦμα—a testimony, the more striking because involuntary, to the personality of the Spirit.
Constructio ad sensum is not uncommon in Greek, but are there parallel constructions in extant Greek literature to justify the above comment in the Expositor's Greek Testament? Or is there a possible confusion with what we observe in a passage like the following:
καὶ ποιήσας φραγέλλιον ἐκ σχοινίων πάντας ἐξέβαλεν ἐκ τοῦ ἱεροῦ τά τε πρόβατα καὶ τοὺς βόας (John 2:15)
where πάντας agrees with βόας?

My personal view is that πνεῦμα, ὕδωρ and αἷμα in v. 8 are described with masculine forms (τρεῖς οἱ μαρτυροῦντες) because they are treated as concrete witnesses (thus personified). The writer of 1 John probably had in mind the well-known legal rule of Deuteronomy 17:6; 19:15; Matthew 18:16, etc. when he brought out this triplicity of witnesses.
Barry Hofstetter
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Re: 1 John 5:7-8

Post by Barry Hofstetter »

I would simply say that the nouns are in apposition to οἱ μαρταροῦντες, which functions as the overall subject, "the witnesses" and so "concord" doesn't really apply.

I'm not sure what the Expositor's is actually trying to say without more context.
The Water (the Lord’s consecrated Life) and the Blood (His sacrificial Death) are testimonies to the Incarnation, but they are insufficient. A third testimony, that of the Spirit, is needed to reveal their significance to us and bring it home to our hearts. Without His enlightenment the wonder and glory of that amazing manifestation will be hidden from us. It will be as unintelligible to us as “mathematics to a Scythian boor, and music to a camel”. τρεῖς οἱ μαρτυροῦντες, masculine though Πνεῦμα, ὕδωρ, and αἷμα are all neuter, because agreeing κατὰ σύνεσιν with τὸ Πνεῦμα—a testimony, the more striking because involuntary, to the personality of the Spirit. εἰς τὸ ἕν, “for the one end,” i.e. to bring us to faith in the Incarnation (ὅτι Ἰησοῦς ἐστιν ὁ Υἱὸς τοῦ θεοῦ). This was the end for which St. John wrote his Gospel (John 20:31). There is no reference in the Water and the Blood either to the effusion of blood and water from the Lord’s pierced side (John 19:34) or to the two Sacraments.
Smith, D. (n.d.). The Epistles of John. In The Expositor’s Greek Testament: Commentary (Vol. 5, p. 195). New York: George H. Doran Company.

He seems to be saying that it picks up the idea of the personality of the Spirit and that as a result κατὰ σύνεσιν (according to the sense) it therefore refers to all three witnesses as masculine, but this is quite convoluted and unnecessary. The grammatical explanation I've offered above is quite a bit better (if I do say so myself).
N.E. Barry Hofstetter
Instructor of Latin
Jack M. Barrack Hebrew Academy
καὶ σὺ τὸ σὸν ποιήσεις κἀγὼ τὸ ἐμόν. ἆρον τὸ σὸν καὶ ὕπαγε.
Leonard Jayawardena
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Re: 1 John 5:7-8

Post by Leonard Jayawardena »

I would simply say that the nouns are in apposition to οἱ μαρταροῦντες, which functions as the overall subject, "the witnesses" and so "concord" doesn't really apply.
The three nouns are certainly in apposition to οἱ μαρταροῦντες, but what do you mean "'concord' doesn't really apply"? Do not the normal rules of concord require the participle for the "witnesses" to be in the neuter gender (ha marturounta) to agree with πνεῦμα, ὕδωρ and αἷμα in v. 8, all of which are neuter in gender?

The Expositors Greek Testament considers to πνεῦμα to be a person, so they think τρεῖς οἱ μαρτυροῦντες (masculine gender) is due to construction according to sense. Constructio ad sensum usually involves (at least to my knowledge) one noun and a pronoun, relative pronoun or parciciple whose gender reflects the meaning of the referent noun rather than its grammatical gender. In Revelation 17:16 we have two neuter nouns referred to by a masculine pronoun: καὶ τὰ δέκα κέρατα ἃ εἶδες καὶ τὸ θηρίον, οὗτοι μισήσουσι τὴν πόρνην. This is because τὰ δέκα κέρατα and τὸ θηρίον both symbolize persons. My question is, Is it possible to have a construction like this: καὶ τὰ δέκα κέρατα καὶ τὸ θηρίον kai ho lithos, οὗτοι pesountai ἐν ἐκείνῃ τῇ ἡμέρᾳ, where ho lithos is an inanimate noun? (Excuse my mixing up Greek and Latin characters.) That is, οὗτοι is used despite constructio ad sensum not being applicable to one of the three elements of the coordinated series.

I ask this question because that is the type of construction The Expositors Greek Testament assumes exists in 1 John 5:7-8 except that here there are two nouns to which constructio ad sensum is not applicable.
Barry Hofstetter
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Re: 1 John 5:7-8

Post by Barry Hofstetter »

Good observation on Rev 17:16. I quite understand the Expositor's argument, and it is certainly a popular take on the subject. However in 1 John 5:7, οἱ μαρτυροῦντες is practically οἱ μάρτυρες. I see the participle treated as a substantive, the only difference is that the participle emphasizes the action, whereas the noun would emphasize the fact of being witnesses. Substantives in apposition do not agree in number and gender, but each substantive retains its own qualities.
N.E. Barry Hofstetter
Instructor of Latin
Jack M. Barrack Hebrew Academy
καὶ σὺ τὸ σὸν ποιήσεις κἀγὼ τὸ ἐμόν. ἆρον τὸ σὸν καὶ ὕπαγε.
Leonard Jayawardena
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Re: 1 John 5:7-8

Post by Leonard Jayawardena »

Substantives in apposition do not agree in number and gender, but each substantive retains its own qualities.
That is true but it is beside the point. Let me explain again. I wrote in my last post
In Revelation 17:16 we have two neuter nouns referred to by a masculine pronoun: καὶ τὰ δέκα κέρατα ἃ εἶδες καὶ τὸ θηρίον, οὗτοι μισήσουσι τὴν πόρνην. This is because τὰ δέκα κέρατα and τὸ θηρίον both symbolize persons
What I want to know is, Is it possible to have a construction like this: καὶ τὰ δέκα κέρατα ἃ εἶδες καὶ τὸ θηρίον καὶ (another neuter noun but not representing a person), οὗτοι...," where there are two neuter nouns to which constructio ad sensum is applicable and one noun (the unnamed one within parenthesis above) to which it is not. That is the type of construction The Expositors Greek Testament assumes exists in 1 John 5:7-8 except that here there are two nouns to which constructio ad sensum is not applicable.

I have checked with Robertson and A Grammar of New Testament Greek by Moulton (Turner) and there is nothing in them covering my concern. Wallace has only the following relevant to my interest:
The masculine participle in τρεῖς εἰσιν οἱ μαρτυροῦντες refers to τὸ πνεῦμα καὶ τὸ ὕδωρ καὶ τὸ αἷμα (v 8), all neuter nouns. Some see this as an oblique reference to the Spirit's personality (so...) , but the fact that the author has personified water and blood, turning them into witnesses along with the Spirit, may be enough to account for the masculine gender. This interpretation also has in its behalf the allusion to Deut. 19:15....
Even Wallace offers no help to me because he does nolt comment on the validity of the construction that is assumed by those who see τρεῖς and οἱ μαρτυροῦντες as implying the personality of the holy spirit. I suspect that there are no parallels to such a construction in Greek literature and those who see constructio ad sensum in 1 John 5:7-8 simply assume it on the analogy of constructions like the following:
καὶ ποιήσας φραγέλλιον ἐκ σχοινίων πάντας ἐξέβαλεν ἐκ τοῦ ἱεροῦ τά τε πρόβατα καὶ τοὺς βόας (John 2:15)
where πάντας agrees with βόας, but not πρόβατα. This is because in a sentence like this the writer has to make a choice as to which gender he is going to use for the pronoun (or whatever) and Greek grammars mention various rules that govern such choices. The reader understands that it is only a matter of grammatical gender but with constructio ad sensum with a series of coordinated nouns how is the reader to be sure which noun or nouns is/are treated as persons if it was not the intention of the writer to treat all as persons? For example in a sentence like the following:
ὅτι τρεῖς εἰσιν οἱ μαρτυροῦντες, τὸ πνεῦμα καὶ τὸ ὕδωρ καὶ ho petros, καὶ οἱ τρεῖς εἰς τὸ ἕν εἰσιν.
is ho petros a person or a stone if the writer did not intend to treat all nouns as persons?

Do you now understand my problem?

(By the way, ha marturounta in my last post should correctly read as ta marturounta. In place of ho lithos in my example sentence, read "a neuter noun not representing a person.")
Leonard Jayawardena
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Re: 1 John 5:7-8

Post by Leonard Jayawardena »

(Note to Administrator/Moderator: This is the revised post.)
Substantives in apposition do not agree in number and gender, but each substantive retains its own qualities.
That is true but it is beside the point. Let me explain again. I wrote in my last post:
In Revelation 17:16 we have two neuter nouns referred to by a masculine pronoun: καὶ τὰ δέκα κέρατα ἃ εἶδες καὶ τὸ θηρίον, οὗτοι μισήσουσι τὴν πόρνην. This is because τὰ δέκα κέρατα and τὸ θηρίον both symbolize persons.
What I want to know is, Is it possible to have a construction like this: καὶ τὰ δέκα κέρατα ἃ εἶδες καὶ τὸ θηρίον καὶ (another neuter noun but not representing a person), οὗτοι...," where there are two neuter nouns to which constructio ad sensum is applicable and one noun (the unnamed one within parenthesis above) to which it is not. That is the type of construction The Expositors Greek Testament assumes exists in 1 John 5:7-8 except that here there are two nouns to which constructio ad sensum is not applicable.

I have checked with Robertson and A Grammar of New Testament Greek by Moulton (Turner) and there is nothing in them covering my concern. Wallace has only the following relevant to my interest:
The masculine participle in τρεῖς εἰσιν οἱ μαρτυροῦντες refers to τὸ πνεῦμα καὶ τὸ ὕδωρ καὶ τὸ αἷμα (v 8), all neuter nouns. Some see this as an oblique reference to the Spirit's personality (so...) , but the fact that the author has personified water and blood, turning them into witnesses along with the Spirit, may be enough to account for the masculine gender. This interpretation also has in its behalf the allusion to Deut. 19:15....
Even Wallace offers no help to me because he does nolt comment on the validity of the construction that is assumed by those who see τρεῖς and οἱ μαρτυροῦντες as implying the personality of the holy spirit. I suspect that there are no parallels to such a construction in Greek literature and those who see constructio ad sensum in 1 John 5:7-8 simply assume it on the analogy of constructions like the following:
καὶ ποιήσας φραγέλλιον ἐκ σχοινίων πάντας ἐξέβαλεν ἐκ τοῦ ἱεροῦ τά τε πρόβατα καὶ τοὺς βόας (John 2:15)
where πάντας agrees with βόας, but not πρόβατα. This is because in a sentence like this the writer has to make a choice as to which gender he is going to use for the pronoun (or whatever) and Greek grammars mention various rules that govern such choices. The reader understands that it is only a matter of grammatical gender but with constructio ad sensum with a series of coordinated nouns how is the reader to be sure which noun or nouns is/are treated as persons if it was not the intention of the writer to treat all as persons? For example in a sentence like the following:

ὅτι τρεῖς εἰσιν οἱ μαρτυροῦντες, τὸ πνεῦμα καὶ τὸ ὕδωρ καὶ to teknon, καὶ οἱ τρεῖς εἰς τὸ ἕν εἰσιν

is τὸ πνεῦμα a person or a non-personal entity if the writer did not intend to treat all nouns as persons?

Do you now understand my problem?

(By the way, ha marturounta in my last post should correctly read as ta marturounta. In place of ho lithos in my example sentence, read "a neuter noun not representing a person.")
Alex Hopkins
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Re: 1 John 5:7-8

Post by Alex Hopkins »

Leonard asks,
Do you now understand my problem?
Leonard, I'm not sure that I do.

If the focus of your question is 1 John 5:7-8,
7 ὅτι τρεῖς εἰσιν οἱ μαρτυροῦντες, 8 τὸ πνεῦμα καὶ τὸ ὕδωρ καὶ τὸ αἷμα, καὶ οἱ τρεῖς εἰς τὸ ἕν εἰσιν.
then Barry's response is relevant. Despite the EGT comment, the natural understanding of the words takes οἱ μαρτυροῦντες as a substantival participle to which τὸ πνεῦμα καὶ τὸ ὕδωρ καὶ τὸ αἷμα stand in apposition.

There is no need to invoke "constructio ad sensum" here.

But if for some reason οἱ μαρτυροῦντες were to be taken as an example of "constructio ad sensum", then by definition at least one of the elements must show a disjunction between grammatical usage and ad sensum usage. If the question then becomes, can it be only one element or must it be all, then the perhaps frustrating answer must be, that that depends on the author.

To illustrate what I mean, I'll give just one example from John's gospel:
John 2:2 ἐκλήθη δὲ καὶ ὁ Ἰησοῦς καὶ οἱ μαθηταὶ αὐτοῦ εἰς τὸν γάμον.
What is determinative of the choice of the singular verb is (surely) the prominence, in the author's mind, of Jesus. There are many similar examples.

By definition (again), constructio ad sensum is a breach of the 'grammatical rules'. Although we speak of the "grammar of a language", we also speak of an individual's "personal grammar" (ie their own individual conception of the rules of their language, of the degree to which rules are inviolable, and of the circumstances which allow one to depart from standard rules). It is quite possible, then, that an author may give one element of a construction sufficient prominence to depart from usual grammar, as the John 2:2 example illustrates.

That said, I reiterate that I agree with Barry that 1 John 5:7-8 is simply an instance of τὸ πνεῦμα καὶ τὸ ὕδωρ καὶ τὸ αἷμα standing in apposition to οἱ μαρτυροῦντες. That being so, the grammar of these verses is not determinative of the question of the personhood of the spirit; but the theological question is in any case beyond the scope of B-Greek discussion.

Alex Hopkins
Melbourne, Australia
Leonard Jayawardena
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Re: 1 John 5:7-8

Post by Leonard Jayawardena »

Alex Hopkins wrote:
That said, I reiterate that I agree with Barry that 1 John 5:7-8 is simply an instance of τὸ πνεῦμα καὶ τὸ ὕδωρ καὶ τὸ αἷμα standing in apposition to οἱ μαρτυροῦντες.
In an earlier post I have already agreed with Barry Hofstetter that πνεῦμα καὶ τὸ ὕδωρ καὶ τὸ αἷμα stands in apposition to οἱ μαρτυροῦντες. Normal rules of grammar requires tria and ta marturounta, not τρεῖς and οἱ μαρτυροῦντες, to agree with the three neuter nouns. I believe you will not dispute at least that?

Now the question is, Why did the writer use masculine forms instead of neuter? Two explanations are offered by exegetes of the Bible:

1. τὸ πνεῦμα, τὸ ὕδωρ καὶ τὸ αἷμα are treated as concrete witnesses (personified) in allusion to Deuteronomy 19:15 et al. That is my view too. Compare with John 14:26, where παράκλητος is personified in a similar manner:
ὁ δὲ παράκλητος, τὸ πνεῦμα τὸ ἅγιον ὃ πέμψει ὁ πατὴρ ἐν τῷ ὀνόματί μου, ἐκεῖνος ὑμᾶς διδάξει πάντα ....
Note that τὸ πνεῦμα τὸ ἅγιον is in apposition to ὁ παράκλητος, to which ἐκεῖνος refers.

2. τρεῖς and οἱ μαρτυροῦντες are due to τὸ πνεῦμα in 1 John 5:8 being treated as an actual person (not just personified) despite the other two nouns, viz., τὸ ὕδωρ and τὸ αἷμα, being inanimate neuter nouns. This is the interpretation adopted in the Expositors' Greek Testament. I have already explained the difficulty I have with such a construction in the earlier post and asked if any one was aware of a similar construction in Greek literature, where construction ad sensum is used in relation to only one element or some elements of a series of coordinated neuter nouns, not all.

With regard to your example from John 2:2:
ἐκλήθη δὲ καὶ ὁ Ἰησοῦς καὶ οἱ μαθηταὶ αὐτοῦ εἰς τὸν γάμον
I think this amounts to comparing apples and pears.

This is best translated as "Jesus also was invited, and his disciples, to the marriage." Where is the difficulty or ambiguity in this? I think there must exist dozens of examples exactly like this in Greek literature, but can you find even one like the one which the Expositors' Greek Testament assumes exists in 1 John 5:7-8? That is the question I have asked from the beginning and to which I still await a response.
Barry Hofstetter
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Re: 1 John 5:7-8

Post by Barry Hofstetter »

Leonard Jayawardena wrote: April 19th, 2021, 12:43 pm Alex Hopkins wrote:
That said, I reiterate that I agree with Barry that 1 John 5:7-8 is simply an instance of τὸ πνεῦμα καὶ τὸ ὕδωρ καὶ τὸ αἷμα standing in apposition to οἱ μαρτυροῦντες.
In an earlier post I have already agreed with Barry Hofstetter that πνεῦμα καὶ τὸ ὕδωρ καὶ τὸ αἷμα stands in apposition to οἱ μαρτυροῦντες. Normal rules of grammar requires tria and ta marturounta, not τρεῖς and οἱ μαρτυροῦντες, to agree with the three neuter nouns. I believe you will not dispute at least that?question I have asked from the beginning and to which I still await a response.
No. You don't get how apposition works, and you keep going back to the same tired refrain as though nothing was actually said on the subject. Substantives in apposition do not have to agree with each other in number and gender. Masculines can be in apposition to feminines or neuters, but each substantive retains its own gender. That's what you are looking at in 1 John 5:7. As for τρεῖς it refers back to the original substantive, οἱ μαρταροῦντες.

Now do you understand? You're wrestling with the Greek is admirable, but you clearly also have a theological agenda. You appear to want to make the Spirit a person (and of course he is) but the grammar really doesn't help at this point. Plenty of biblical witness to the personhood of the Spirit throughout the Bible, however.
N.E. Barry Hofstetter
Instructor of Latin
Jack M. Barrack Hebrew Academy
καὶ σὺ τὸ σὸν ποιήσεις κἀγὼ τὸ ἐμόν. ἆρον τὸ σὸν καὶ ὕπαγε.
Leonard Jayawardena
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Joined: April 14th, 2021, 3:30 am
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Re: 1 John 5:7-8

Post by Leonard Jayawardena »

Barry Hofstetter wrote:
Substantives in apposition do not have to agree with each other in number and gender. Masculines can be in apposition to feminines or neuters, but each substantive retains its own gender. That's what you are looking at in 1 John 5:7.
What you say would be true in a sentence like this
ὅτι τρεῖς εἰσιν οἱ μαρτυροῦντες, HO ANHR, hH GUNH KAI τὸ ὕδωρ, καὶ οἱ τρεῖς εἰς τὸ ἕν εἰσιν
where the writer has to make a decision as to which gender he is going to use for the participle and in the above example sentence he has chosen the masculine with the adjective τρεῖς also being put in the same gender. The reader knows that this is purely a matter of grammatical concord and that the personhood of τὸ ὕδωρ is not implied by the use of the masculine participle (that is, no constructio ad sensum). But in 1 John 5:8 all three nouns in apposition to the participle are neuter and thus the normal rules of grammar require a neuter participle and adjective (ta marturounta and tria). Isn't this basic Greek? Daniel Wallace considers the interpretation given in the Expositors Greek Testament for the masculine participle (that is constructio ad sensum) and rejects it in favour of the explanation that the mas. participle is due to the personification of the three witnesses (spirit, water and blood) and I agree with Wallace.
You're wrestling with the Greek is admirable, but you clearly also have a theological agenda. You appear to want to make the Spirit a person (and of course he is) but the grammar really doesn't help at this point. Plenty of biblical witness to the personhood of the Spirit throughout the Bible, however.
Throughout my posts I stuck entirely to grammatical issues and all I wanted to know was whether there are parallels to the sort of structure the Expositors' Greek Testament assumes exists in 1 John 5:7-8. In an earlier post I also asked in relation Revelation 17:16 (τὰ δέκα κέρατα ἃ εἶδες καὶ τὸ θηρίον, οὗτοι μισήσουσι τὴν πόρνην), where τὰ δέκα κέρατα and τὸ θηρίον both symbolize persons:
Is it possible to have a construction like this: καὶ τὰ δέκα κέρατα ἃ εἶδες καὶ τὸ θηρίον καὶ (another neuter noun but not representing a person), οὗτοι...," where there are two neuter nouns to which constructio ad sensum is applicable and one noun (the unnamed one within parenthesis above) to which it is not?
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