ὅτι/Translation Question in John 1

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Gaius
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ὅτι/Translation Question in John 1

Post by Gaius » Wed Jul 29, 2015 6:26 pm

Hello,

I am a little unsure how to parse the different uses of ὅτι in John 1:15-18. I think the first use is causal and the others that follow indicate that the quotation is being continued, but I am not positive. I checked Smyth, which was not too illuminating, and I also checked an English translation (ESV), which did not include the subsequent ὅτι clauses in the quotation (they are pretty much ignored in the translation).

Here is the text: Ἰωάννης μαρτυρεῖ περὶ αὐτοῦ καὶ κέκραγεν λέγων· οὗτος ἦν ὃν εἶπον· ὁ ὀπίσω μου ἐρχόμενος ἔμπροσθέν μου γέγονεν, ὅτι πρῶτός μου ἦν. ὅτι ἐκ τοῦ πληρώματος αὐτοῦ ἡμεῖς πάντες ἐλάβομεν καὶ χάριν ἀντὶ χάριτος· ὅτι ὁ νόμος διὰ Μωϋσέως ἐδόθην, ἡ χάρις καὶ ἡ ἀλήθεια διὰ Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ ἐγένετο. Θεὸν οὐδεὶς ἑώρακεν πώποτε· μονογενὴς θεὸς ὁ ὢν εἰς τὸν κόλπον τοῦ πατρὸς ἐκεῖνος ἐξηγήσατο.

And my rough and dirty translation: John witnesses concerning this [λόγος] and cried out saying: “This was the one (of) whom I spoke. He comes after me and was before me because he was my first (i.e. he is superior to me?). We all have received grace for grace from his fulfillment. The law was given through Moses, and grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.” No one has ever seen god. That one being the only god told it to the breast of his father.

I thought to end the quote before Θεὸν because there is no ὅτι, signaling the end of the quotation. Is this how I should read it? The translation I checked did not include the ὅτι clauses in the quotation, as I mentioned, so should I read them as indirect speech? That doesn’t quite make sense to me though.

I also found the last sentence a little weird and difficult to translate. Should I take μονογενὴς θεὸς and ἐκεῖνος as subject complements of ὁ ὢν?

Any thoughts on these questions would be greatly appreciated.

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Re: ὅτι/Translation Question in John 1

Post by jeidsath » Wed Jul 29, 2015 8:28 pm

ὅτι ἐκ τοῦ πληρώματος...

The RP tradition has καὶ instead of ὄτι at the beginning of verse 16. I see that the RSV takes verse 15 as parenthetical, and translates the καὶ version of verse 16 as continuing from verse 14. It seems impossible from context that verse 16 was meant to be something said by John the Baptist.
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μὴ δ’ οὕτως ἀγαθός περ ἐὼν θεοείκελ’ Ἀχιλλεῦ
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Gaius
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Re: ὅτι/Translation Question in John 1

Post by Gaius » Wed Jul 29, 2015 9:25 pm

Hmmm... would you take ὅτι causally then? e.g.: "Because of his fulfillment we have received..."

Also, there is the possibility that ὅτι means something like "the fact that" (LSJ A.IV). I am just not sure how to discern the different nuances of ὅτι here and as I continue to go through the text.

Is there a a good commentary that I should turn to on the Greek of the New Testament or John specifically? I am more interested in the language than the theology since I am running through the NT before returning to some classical authors.

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Re: ὅτι/Translation Question in John 1

Post by mwh » Wed Jul 29, 2015 9:50 pm

You’re on very thorny ground here. There must have been hundreds of thousands of pages written about this (as jeidsath's post intimates).

But for what it’s worth, I would take all three οτι’s as meaning something like “because.”

Other points arising from your translation:
ὁ ὀπίσω μου ἐρχόμενος ἔμπροσθέν μου γέγονεν, ὅτι πρῶτός μου ἦν. The subject is ὁ ὀπίσω μου ἐρχόμενος, article + participle: “the one coming behind me,” “he who comes after me.”
ἔμπροσθέν μου γέγονεν “has come into being in front of (or before) me”—liable to various theological interpretations, but expressed as a paradox.
ὅτι πρῶτός μου ἦν “because (or in that) he was ahead of me” (but the use of πρωτος, “first,” with gen. of comparison, is not entirely normal)—intended as a clarification?
The main thrust of the quoted words are clear enough, but there's a degree of multivalence to them.

The quotation (the Baptist’s words) apparently ends there. It must be the evangelist himself beyond that point, as jeidsath says. But NT scholars already in antiquity disagreed about how far the "quotation" extended. *

The following οτι looks (to me) as if it’s elliptical: “(I mention JB’s prophecy) because …” It’s a common use of οτι, grammatically very loose. The entire passage is not very coherent; interpreters try to impose at least a semblance of coherence upon it.

In the last sentence, εἰς τὸν κόλπον τοῦ πατρὸς will go not with ἐξηγήσατο but with ὁ ὢν (again art.+pple like ὁ … ἐρχόμενος above): “the one who is in his (or the) father’s lap.” (In this period εἰς is often used where earlier and more literary Greek would use ἐν.)
But I think you’re right to find the sentence “a little weird and difficult to translate.” μονογενὴς θεὸς is a theologically fraught phrase, and there are textual variants in the manuscript tradition. Some have ὁ μον. θ. (making it rather the ὁ ὤν phrase the subject), some have ὁ μον. υἱός; these variants appear to be attempts to make the phrase simpler and more precise than it is.
εκεινος picks all this up: “he explained.” Just what he explained is not specified, but bible expositors like to try to pin it down (God whom no-one has ever seen?, the import of 16-17?, etc. etc.)—which seems to me a perfectly futile exercise.

Hope this helps!

PS There are no end of commentaries, none I would recommend, for reasons I've hinted at.

Edit. On the Greek of the NT generally, I’d advise you to steer clear of works on NT Greek, which tend to lump it all together and behave as if “NT Greek” were a unitary entity, whereas in fact of course there’s John’s Greek, Paul’s Greek, Apocalypse Greek, etc etc. You’d do better with treatments more conscious of the wider context of koine Greek. There are competing Companions to the Ancient Greek Language from Blackwell and Wiley, with separate authoritative chapters on different aspects or periods, there’s Horrocks’ “Greek,” recently revised, which pays due attention to Koine, and more. I’m failing to come up with the name of one particular essay that I’d recommend if I could only remember what it was.

For John’s in particular, I don’t know. I’ve seen some daft things said about it, but I’m sure there are good things too.

* οτι or no οτι, it seems quite clear that JB’s words don’t extend beyond v.15. But what is clear to the ordinary reader was not enough for early Christian and paraChristian theologians. Origen took the “quotation” to extend all the way to the end of verse 18, in opposition to Heracleon who took them down to the end of 17. Heracleon wrote an extremely detailed commentary on some of the John gospel, and his interpretations would seem utterly bizarre to Christians today (though his exegetical procedures are still practised). It’s fascinating to see how the gospels were interpreted before orthodoxy established itself.

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Re: ὅτι/Translation Question in John 1

Post by Gaius » Fri Jul 31, 2015 12:38 am

Dear jeidsath and mwh,

Thank you both for your responses. That makes sense to me to read the ὅτιs as causal and those clauses as a break from John's quotation. Since you called the structure "grammatically loose" it sounds very much to me now like the narrator's voice. I will have to look out for that as I read the rest of John.

mwh, it's very interesting that this text was already being misread and was up to interpretation by Origen and Heracleon.

Thanks again!

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Re: ὅτι/Translation Question in John 1

Post by C. S. Bartholomew » Fri Jul 31, 2015 9:26 pm

mwh wrote:You’re on very thorny ground here. There must have been hundreds of thousands of pages written about this …"

It is good idea to not get bogged down struggling with a crux interpretum if your goal is to read NT in greek. Keep moving through the text and Ignore all the loose talk about "going deeper into the text" you will see in the bible study forums. Words like ὅτι are learned by seeing thousands of examples. You can get an overview by studying the lexicon but you will not really understand the lexicon entry until you have seen many samples in context. Commentaries from the late 19th century are generally more useful for greek students than later works. However, Henry Alford, H. A. W. Meyer … commonly cited on sites like BibleHub are difficult to understand since they assume a significant level of linguistic competence.

John 1:15 Ἰωάννης μαρτυρεῖ περὶ αὐτοῦ καὶ κέκραγεν λέγων· οὗτος ἦν ὃν εἶπον· ὁ ὀπίσω μου ἐρχόμενος ἔμπροσθέν μου γέγονεν, ὅτι πρῶτός μου ἦν. 16 ὅτι ἐκ τοῦ πληρώματος αὐτοῦ ἡμεῖς πάντες ἐλάβομεν καὶ χάριν ἀντὶ χάριτος· 17 ὅτι ὁ νόμος διὰ Μωϋσέως ἐδόθη, ἡ χάρις καὶ ἡ ἀλήθεια διὰ Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ ἐγένετο. 18 Θεὸν οὐδεὶς ἑώρακεν πώποτε· μονογενὴς θεὸς ὁ ὢν εἰς τὸν κόλπον τοῦ πατρὸς ἐκεῖνος ἐξηγήσατο.

It seems that ὅτι could be understood here as fitting in more than one of Louw&Nida semantic domains. Certainly 89.33 but also 91.15. Semantic domains often overlap so they should not be treated as strictly either/or choices.

Louw&Nida Lexicon

89.33 ὅτι; καθότι: markers of cause or reason, based on an evident fact — ‘because, since, for, in view of the fact that.’

90.21 ὅτι; διότι; ὡς: markers of discourse content, whether direct or indirect — ‘that, the fact that.’

91.15 ὅτι; ἵνα: markers of identificational and explanatory clauses — ‘that, namely, that is, namely that.’
Last edited by C. S. Bartholomew on Fri Jul 31, 2015 9:58 pm, edited 4 times in total.
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Re: ὅτι/Translation Question in John 1

Post by calvinist » Fri Jul 31, 2015 9:54 pm

C. S. Bartholomew wrote: Words like ὅτι are learned by seeing thousands of examples. You can get an overview by studying the lexicon but you will not really understand the lexicon entry until you have seen many samples in context.
I think this is the best advice that can be given. One thing that I sometimes think about when analyzing these ancient texts is: ''Would the original author find such 'deep' analysis of his words odd?'' I think John would scratch his head at a discussion like this. The question about the end of John the Baptist's quote is a valid one of course, but as Joel said above the context makes it clear that beginning with ''οτι εκ του πληρωματος αυτου'' it is the narrator's voice and he's expounding on the quote from John the Baptist.

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Re: ὅτι/Translation Question in John 1

Post by Markos » Sun Aug 02, 2015 2:34 am

John 1:15 Ἰωάννης μαρτυρεῖ περὶ αὐτοῦ καὶ κέκραγεν λέγων· οὗτος ἦν ὃν εἶπον· ὁ ὀπίσω μου ἐρχόμενος ἔμπροσθέν μου γέγονεν, ὅτι πρῶτός μου ἦν. 16 ὅτι ἐκ τοῦ πληρώματος αὐτοῦ ἡμεῖς πάντες ἐλάβομεν καὶ χάριν ἀντὶ χάριτος· 17 ὅτι ὁ νόμος διὰ Μωϋσέως ἐδόθη, ἡ χάρις καὶ ἡ ἀλήθεια διὰ Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ ἐγένετο. 18 Θεὸν οὐδεὶς ἑώρακεν πώποτε· μονογενὴς θεὸς ὁ ὢν εἰς τὸν κόλπον τοῦ πατρὸς ἐκεῖνος ἐξηγήσατο.
Gaius wrote:I am a little unsure how to parse the different uses of ὅτι in John 1:15-18. I think the first use is causal and the others that follow indicate that the quotation is being continued, but I am not positive...
Bambas renders the ὅτι in v. 15 and v. 17 with διότι. (In v. 16 he follows the majority text with καί not ὅτι.)
calvinist wrote:...as Joel said above the context makes it clear that beginning with ''οτι εκ του πληρωματος αυτου'' it is the narrator's voice and he's expounding on the quote from John the Baptist.

I agree with this so much that, while I think the καί is original in v. 16, I think the force of that καί is essentially διότι or γάρ anyway. GNT connectives do this all the time, where the context often trumps the formal semantic distinctions.
Gaius wrote:Is there a a good commentary that I should turn to on the Greek of the New Testament or John specifically? I am more interested in the language than the theology since I am running through the NT before returning to some classical authors.

I always liked Zerwick's book because his comments are so brief, allowing you to get back to reading the text quickly.

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/887653 ... e=UTF8&me=

The notes to the NET diglot are also concise and helpful.

https://books.google.com/books?id=C5jjR ... &q&f=false
C. S. Bartholomew wrote: Commentaries from the late 19th century are generally more useful for greek students than later works.
That has been my experience as well.

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