Friday, July 22, 2016

John 1:3-4 (PANTA, Etc.)

John 1:3-4 (Greek): πάντα δι' αὐτοῦ ἐγένετο, καὶ χωρὶς αὐτοῦ ἐγένετο οὐδὲ ἕν. ὃ γέγονεν ἐν αὐτῷ ζωὴ ἦν, καὶ ἡ ζωὴ ἦν τὸ φῶς τῶν ἀνθρώπων·

It is possible that John 1:3c-4 addresses the same time frame as 1:3b:

"4b ('this life was the light of men') seems to indicate that not all creation but only living creatures or, more likely, men are meant by 'that-which-had-come-to-be in 4a'" (Raymond E. Brown, Anchor Bible Commentary on John, Vol. 1:7).

Quoting from Brown again:

"following vs. 3, the clause represents a narrowing down of creation; v. 4 is not going to talk about the whole of creation but a special creation in the Word [i.e., men]" (Ibid.).

I partly concur with Brown's construal of ὃ γέγονεν, but I would not limit v. 4 to the creation of men. Instead it potentially refers to the entire material order and not only references humans. At any rate, Brown's comments show that πάντα in John 1 may be understood in a relative sense. Moreover, ὃ γέγονεν might elucidate "all things." Read in context, John 1:3-4b possibly does not refer to the earthly ministry of Jesus, but could deal with his preexistent activity as the Word, whereby he shares in creating the material universe as a whole.

To reiterate, I am saying that John 1:3-4 narrates the creation of the material order (including humans): the content of those verses potentially does not encompass the angels or the spiritual realm.


Matt13weedhacker said...

John 1:15, and John 1:30 both read ἔμπροσθέν μου γέγονεν ὅτι πρῶτός μου ἦν.

I've been discussing this sentence with a Uni{1}tarian lately, and to me at least, it speaks clearly of pre-existnce, or pre-human existence in the heavens, regardless of whether ἔμπροσθέν is referring to importance, or status, or rank, because of John the Baptist (John-TB from here on) explanation ὅτι πρῶτός μου ἦν.

Tri{3}nitarian commentators are extremely uncomfortable with this verse because of γέγονεν being applied to Jesus.

ἔμπροσθέν μου γέγονεν = "in-front/ahead of-me he-has-become" or "he-was-made"

It could be rendered: “ahead of me he was created”

ὅτι πρῶτός μου ἦν = "because first of-me he-was-existing”

Or: “because compared to me, he was in existence first”

I'm comfortable either way, whether γέγονεν is simply a "has come to be ahead of me" sense, or a "created" sense, ὅτι "because" John-TB explains that Jesus ἦν "was" (i.e. "was existing") πρῶτός μου before him.

Any thoughts on this clause Edgar?

Edgar Foster said...


here are some things I wrote previously on Jn 1:15, 30 (etc):

John testified about him and shouted out, "This one was the one about whom I said, 'He who comes after me is greater than I am, because he existed before me.'" (John 1:15-NET)

Part of the Greek: Ὁ ὀπίσω μου ἐρχόμενος ἔμπροσθέν μου γέγονεν, ὅτι πρῶτός μου ἦν.

πρῶτός seems to be used temporally in this verse.

Meyer's NT Commentary:

ὁ ὀπίσω μου ἐρχόμ. ἔμπροσθέν μου γέγονεν] “He who cometh after me is come before me;”—in how far is stated in the clause ὅτι πρῶτός μου ἦν, which assigns the reason. The meaning of the sentence and the point of the expression depend upon this,—namely, that Christ in His human manifestation appeared after John, but yet, as the pre-mundane Logos, preceded him, because He existed before John.

Edgar Foster said...

I quoted the commentary by Meyer to again show possibilities of understanding, not to dictate how "before" must be understood. In fact, there are three possibilities:

a) "before" is temporal
b) it denotes preeminence
c) it denotes temporal priority and priority of status

Howver, I favor temporal priority and merely quoted the commentary to show that others have arrived at that conclusion. But I did not limit the possibilities of the word.

John 1:30 (NASB): "This is He on behalf of whom I said, 'After me comes a Man who has a higher rank than I, for He existed before me.'

NET reads similarly. If prior existence is not being referenced in 1:30, then why does the writer use ἦν?

ὅτι πρῶτός μου ἦν

Duncan said...

Litteral - The one coming after me came into being before me
because he was prior to me.

Can't you see some redundancy here?

Edgar Foster said...

Firstly, I really posted this information to address a different part of the Johannine Prologue. :)

So while I don't want to do John 1:15, 30 again (now), two points concerning redundancy are 1) Redundancy doesn't automatically rule out a translation and 2) redundancy in English does not mean redundancy in Greek.

In other words, redundancy is a normal part of human language. But I also see antithesis in the translation you posted.

Philip Fletcher said...

It is good to know that redundancy in one language does not necessary mean in another language. Very educational thank Edgar.

omar meza solano said...

Hello edgar , this time I would like if I you could enable some link where you can access the Vatican codex and extract the literal translation of Revelation 1 : 11If had other manuscripts also less than Sinaiticus codex that I have it , thanks in advance .

Edgar Foster said...

Hello Omar,

I don't think that the Vatican Codex contains Rev. 1:11. Here is a link for Vaticanus:

But see the discussions below:

I hope these sources help to answer your question.

Duncan said...

I would not question that redundancy is seen in many languages but if this is a Hebraism then it coloures this in a different light. Especially if the first term uses your definition b. In Hebrew the redundancy would be expected.

Edgar Foster said...

I'll grant that Hebrew (and Greek) has/have some famous redundancies:

"for in the day of thine eating of it -- dying thou dost die" (Genesis 2:17 YLT)

Duncan said...

Duncan said...

Interesting point at the bottom of pg 133.

omar meza solano said...

Thanks Edgar 's what I needed , I wanted to ask a question about the subject you are presenting , how do we know that the Greek word day must be translated " through" in John 1 : 3?

Edgar Foster said...


I wouldn't say that DIA (John 1:3) has to be rendered "through," see Byington for example, but our translation of the Greek preposition should communicate agency somehow. See


The work by Dana-Mantey says that while "DIA is occasionally used to express agency, it does not approximate the full strength of hUPO."

This reference work continues:

"This distinction throws light on Jesus' relation to the creation,
implying that Jesus was not the absolute, independent creator, but
rather the intermediate agent in creation" (D-M Section 109).

I would also point to Louw-Nida Greek English Lexicon. On page 793 (volume I) under semantic domain 89.120, it makes this remark about XWRIS Jn 1:3:

"It would be wrong to restructure Jn 1:3 to read 'he made everything in all creation,' for in the Scriptures God is spoken of as the Creator, but the creation was done 'through the Word.' If one must restructure Jn 1:3, it may be possible to say 'he was involved in everything that was created' or 'he took part in creating everything.'"

Edgar Foster said...

Duncan, thanks for the links and I love Brill products, but they're also expensive. I go for the cheap on free route on most things although I'm going to take the plunge and get the new "BDAG" from them soon.

Duncan said...

Is that BDAG 4th ed.?

Do you have any links giving advance info?

Duncan said...

Duncan said...

Edgar Foster said...

I especially like the JSTOR link; that is something to ponder.

Allow me to clarify what I called "the new BDAG." People have given the book that nickname, but here is the specific work I mentioned. See

Title: The Brill Dictionary of Ancient Greek

Author: Montanari, Franco (ed.)

Duncan said...

Now this does look like one worth investing in. Thanks for the info :)

Duncan said...

pg 215

Duncan said...

Duncan said...

I have OCR'd from last Jstor review this paragraph which is relevant to previous discussion:-

Yet John's own 'incarnation' language - ‘became flesh' (Jn 1:14)-arguably relates to agency (*****) rather than identity, and his associated 'pitched his tent among us' (*****) probably echoes Sirach 24 which knows well how to speak of God's acting in the world, as does Wisdom 7. Complete identification loses the subtlety of John's use of language: 'Father', 'Son' sustain the language of subordination; 'Messiah', used more often than in the Synoptics (see especially John 20:31). remains a key term, however strongly reinterpreted in more spiritual directions.

So it looks like he sees the word as god but not necessarily Jesus as god.