Lack of the Indicative in John 3:16

Discussion in 'Languages' started by Whitefield, Feb 5, 2009.

Thread Status:
Not open for further replies.
  1. Whitefield

    Whitefield Puritan Board Junior

    πας ὁ πιστευων

    John 3:15, 16; 11:26; 12:46; Acts 10:43; Rom 9:33 (without πας); Rom 10:11; 1 John 5:1

    The interesting thing for me is that this is not in the indicative, i.e. a subject does the act of believing. Rather the formula is (1) indefinite adjective, (2) definite article, (3) present active participle. My interest focuses on the use of the definite article + the present active participle. A participle is a verbal adjective denoting a quality of something more than telling us how that quality came to be. It is more of an “is” than it is a “does”.

    The reason I find this important is that so many read those listed passages as though they emphasized my doing something rather than my being something. If the emphasis was on something I did, wouldn't the verb be in the indicative? If this idea holds, then John 3:16 is not telling me that “if I do the act of believing, then I shall have eternal life”, rather that verse is saying that “if I am one of the believing ones, then I will have eternal life”, without committing itself to how I become “a believing one.” It is interesting to apply this thought to the other verses listed, especially when the tenses used are noted in 1 John 5:1.

    Any thoughts on the importance of the use of the participle and the lack of the indicative?
  2. Iakobos_1071

    Iakobos_1071 Puritan Board Freshman

    Yes you are right, Whosoever was a bad translation, (πας ο) would be "The All" and (πιστευων) "Believing" imparts ownership of the belief to "the "all.. so "The Believing All" would be the ones who have everlasting life and the correct translation.... right?
  3. Whitefield

    Whitefield Puritan Board Junior

    Literally it would be "all the believers", "all the believing ones", or "all the ones who are believing", depending on how you like to translate participles.
  4. CharlieJ

    CharlieJ Puritan Board Junior

    To your question, I would say "yes" and "no."

    Yes, you are right that the construction does not tell us how a person comes to be in that state.

    No, you are wrong to assume that the participle is different from the indicative in this way. It is true that participles can stress quality over action, but you yourself used an indicative (equitive, really) verb to indicate what you assume to be the correct reading of the passage. Both the indicative and the participle would be sufficient to tell us who has eternal life. Neither by itself would tell us anything about causation. There would have to be an ei clause (or something similar) for that. Note that both your wrong and right examples have an if, then clause. The passage does not contain such. The problem is equivocation on the meaning of "if." It can either refer to causality, or to a deductive inference. You used it in your examples as deductive inference, but your question talked about causality.

    The participle in this clause actually stresses the necessity of action. What kind of person has eternal life? The one (ho) who is believing (pisteuwn). The pas adds that the subject is not a specific person, but anyone who meets the criteria of the participle.

    -----Added 2/6/2009 at 08:05:49 EST-----

    Having had some time to reflect, let me make a comment about substantival participles. Their effect is similar to -er, -or words in English. When you say, "I need to see the doctor," you may be thinking of a specific person (i.e. Dr. Steve), or simply someone who acts in a certain capacity.

    The Greek substantival participle refers to someone or something particularly in terms of what he/she/it does. A parallel construction to the one found in John 3:16 is in Matthew 7:26:


    This phrase along with the next participle phrase following the KAI forms the subject of the sentence. The participles define who the subject is in terms of what they do, namely, hearing and not doing.
Thread Status:
Not open for further replies.

Share This Page