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John 1:7 b αὐτοῦ Jesus or John the Baptist?

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John 1:7 b αὐτοῦ Jesus or John the Baptist?

Postby Markos » Tue Mar 05, 2013 6:02 pm

John 1:7: οὗτος ἦλθεν εἰς μαρτυρίαν, ἵνα μαρτυρήσῃ περὶ τοῦ φωτός, ἵνα πάντες πιστεύσωσιν δι' αὐτοῦ.


Everytime I have read this, without really thinking about it, I assumed that the αὐτοῦ refers to the light=Jesus.

"...so that everyone might believe through it/him (i.e. the light, that is Jesus.")

But I note that Nonnus' paraphrase has

Nonnus 1:7b: ἵνα πάντες ἑνὸς κήρυκος ἰωῇ ὀρθὴν πίστιν ἔχοιεν...
...so that all might through the voice of one preacher have faith...


The κήρυξ presumably being John the Baptist, not Jesus. Since this is of course a loose paraphrase, this does not mean that Nonnus took the αὐτοῦ to mean John, but I think that is the implication. I know that if this were meant, John would have more properly written ἐαυτοῦ, but I also know that Johannine grammar can be rather loose.

Every translation I looked at can be read either way, so I am not even sure how this verse is contrued by the translators. Todays Greek Version is also ambiguous, though I think it implies John is meant

TGV John 1:7b: ...ώστε με τα λόγια του να πιστέψουν όλοι.
"so that through his words all might believe."


Presumably the words of John, not Jesus.

It probably does not matter. Faith is normally construed as IN (εἰς or ἐν) Jesus and THROUGH (διά) some remoter agency like a preacher, John being the first and one of the best.

I'm now curious though, whether people think Jesus or John is the referent of αὐτοῦ.
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Re: John 1:7 b αὐτοῦ Jesus or John the Baptist?

Postby chalimac » Tue Mar 05, 2013 7:29 pm

I think it refers to John. John shines by reflected light, all believe (in the light) through him.

Dummelow commentary frames these verses as:

6-8. Parenthesis: The mission of Christ's forerunner, John the Baptist. Perhaps this section is directed against those followers of the Baptist who maintained that he was the Messiah. The evangelist makes it clear, (1) that the Baptist had a true mission from God, and (2) that he was not the Light. His mission was to bear witness to it, and to reflect it.


And Henry Alford digs deep in the Greek syntax:

John 1:7
7.] The purpose of John’s coming was to bear witness to a fact, which fact (Joh_1:33) was made known to him by divine revelation.
εἰς μαρτυρίαν, not as E. V., ‘for a witness,’ but for witness, for the purpose of bearing witness: so A.V.R.
ἵνα μαρτ. κ.τ.λ. is an expansion of εἰς μαρτ.:—the subject of his testimony was to be the Light,—and the aim of it, that all might believe (εἰς τὸ φῶς, see ch. Joh_12:36) through him (i.e. John: not τοῦ φωτός (Grot.), which confuses the whole, for then we must understand εἰς θεόν after πιστ. which is here out of place).
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Re: John 1:7 b αὐτοῦ Jesus or John the Baptist?

Postby arthad » Sun Mar 10, 2013 10:19 pm

Since the subject of πιστεύσωσαν is πάντες, not John, why would ἑαυτοῦ be expected in ἵνα πάντες πιστεύσωσιν δι' αὐτοῦ?
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Re: John 1:7 b αὐτοῦ Jesus or John the Baptist?

Postby Markos » Mon Mar 11, 2013 3:51 pm

arthad: Since the subject of πιστεύσωσαν is πάντες, not John, why would ἑαυτοῦ be expected in ἵνα πάντες πιστεύσωσιν δι' αὐτοῦ?


Yes, I guess you are correct. I was thinking that οὗτος or μαρτυρήσῃ with John as the subject would carry over to produce ἑαυτοῦ referring to John, but I guess Greek does not work that way.

Regardless, I assume that you take αὐτοῦ as referring to John?

For what it is worth, I had my sons read the passage in English and they also on the first reading took it as referring to Jesus, and then when they read it again they said it could go either way.
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Re: John 1:7 b αὐτοῦ Jesus or John the Baptist?

Postby Isaac Newton » Fri May 31, 2013 7:06 am

The two possible antecedents here are τοῦ φωτός or Ἰωάννης... My "gut" reading of the context tells me that the antecedent is Ἰωάννης because he continues to be in the writer's mind in verse 8 :

οὐκ ἦν ἐκεῖνος τὸ φῶς ἀλλ’ ἵνα μαρτυρήσῃ περὶ τοῦ φωτός.


ἐκεῖνος = Ἰωάννης

Also, "all" (πάντες) do not believe "through" (δι') Jesus but "in" (εἰς) him, -- John 11:26 etc..

My two cents..
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Re: John 1:7 b αὐτοῦ Jesus or John the Baptist?

Postby Markos » Fri May 31, 2013 7:18 pm

Thanks for your thoughts, Isaac. Both of your points are persuasive.

One thing arguing against John as the antecedent is the fact that not "everyone" believes through him (he is presumably dead by the time the text is written,) but I seem to recall something about a Semitic use of πᾶς where πᾶς just refers to a class of things, but not necessary ALL within the class.
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Re: John 1:7 b αὐτοῦ Jesus or John the Baptist?

Postby Isaac Newton » Fri May 31, 2013 9:06 pm

Markos wrote:Thanks for your thoughts, Isaac. Both of your points are persuasive.


Thanks, and you're welcome Marcos..

One thing arguing against John as the antecedent is the fact that not "everyone" believes through him (he is presumably dead by the time the text is written,) but I seem to recall something about a Semitic use of πᾶς where πᾶς just refers to a class of things, but not necessary ALL within the class.


Yep, that's the sense of πᾶς (πάντες) being invoked here IMHO -- "all" as in "all [of] the elect."
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