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Saturday, December 17, 2005

John 3:16 - How "so"?

The best known verse in the Bible is probably John 3:16. The new blog Lingamish discusses the translation of the Greek word outos of John 3:16. This Greek adverb more often refers to manner than to degree, so in John 3:16 it probably refers more to the manner of God's love than its intensity.

But the NET Bible, with its extensive translation footnotes, tells us that both ideas are probably present in this verse:
... The Greek adverb οὕτως (Joutws) can refer (1) to the degree to which God loved the world, that is, to such an extent or so much that he gave his own Son (see R. E. Brown, John [AB], 1:133-34; D. A. Carson, John, 204) or (2) simply to the manner in which God loved the world, i.e., by sending his own son (see R. H. Gundry and R. W. Howell, “The Sense and Syntax of John 3:14-17 with Special Reference to the Use of Οὕτως…ὥστε in John 3:16,” NovT 41 [1999]: 24-39). Though the term more frequently refers to the manner in which something is done (see BDAG 741-42 s.v. οὕτω/οὕτως), the following clause involving ὥστε (Jwste) plus the indicative (which stresses actual, but [usually] unexpected result) emphasizes the greatness of the gift God has given. With this in mind, then, it is likely (3) that John is emphasizing both the degree to which God loved the world as well as the manner in which He chose to express that love. This is in keeping with John’s style of using double entendre or double meaning. Thus, the focus of the Greek construction here is on the nature of God's love, addressing its mode, intensity, and extent.
If I thought about it, I guess I assumed, from the time I was a child reciting John 3:16, that 'so' referred to the degree of God's love. Indeed, it is the degree meaning that is emphasized in several recent English versions:
For God loved the world so much that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not die but have eternal life. (TEV)

God loved the people of this world so much that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who has faith in him will have eternal life and never really die. (CEV)

God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son so that whoever believes in him may not be lost, but have eternal life. (NCV)
It is unclear from traditional translations of outos as simply 'so' whether it is intended to refer to the degree or manner of God's love. Perhaps their translators intended both the manner and degree meanings.

Ann Nyland translates with 'so' in her new translation, The Source:
God loved the world so he gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes him will not die but would at that point have eternal life.
Ann clarifies the first 'so' with this footnote:
Not “loved the world so much that he gave…”, a common mistranslation in many English translations. The term refers to the manner in which something is done.
The following English Bible versions make clear the manner idea of outos:
For this is the way God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. (NET)

God loved the world this way: He gave his only Son so that everyone who believes in him will not die but will have eternal life. (GW)

For this is how God loved the world: he gave his unique son so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but have eternal life. (ISV)

For God loved the world in this way: He gave His One and Only Son,so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life. (HCSB)
I am thankful for translators who have shone new light for me on the meaning of outos in John 3:16. Most of all, I am thankful that God sent his son so that I could have eternal life. That is the real meaning of this Christmas season.

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4 Comments:

At Sun Dec 18, 05:13:00 AM, Blogger Ted Gossard said...

Thanks for sharing that Wayne. Even we who don't have the privilege of working on translating God's Word can get much benefit from these postings, as we seek to understand the intent of what is written.

 
At Sun Dec 18, 05:17:00 PM, Blogger Gerald said...

Thanks Wayne--something to think about.

 
At Fri Dec 23, 07:43:00 AM, Blogger lingamish said...

Wayne, I just posted some more work on this topic on my blog. I'd link to it but I haven't quite figured out how to put codes comments!

Cheers!

 
At Fri Dec 23, 11:38:00 AM, Blogger Wayne Leman said...

Lingamish, I tried to email you but it got bounced back to me. I guess you don't have an email address lined to your blog comments. Here is what I said in my email message:

Hi, I noticed that you put a link in your post to my post just fine. Are you referring to a Trackback link? If so, just click on one of the Trackback links in the right margin of my blog. That brings up a Trackback form. Right click on the Trackback link at the bottom of my post. Copy that link. Put it into the form for the Trackback url. Then add your blog and post info. You can get your post url by right clicking on the date at the bottom of your post, then copying it. You can copy however much of your post that you want to the Entry Excerpt window.

Let me know if something doesn't work. There are further instructions in my blog's Trackback post at url:

http://englishbibles.blogspot.com/2005/08/trackback-for-bible-users.html

 

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