Lectionary Year B
May 14, 2000
I John 3:16-24

Step I: Initial Acquaintance

(LE) A. Comparisons of English Translations: Using The King James’ Version, the Knox translation, The Revised Standard Version, and The New International Version, the following differences were found that, I think, may impact on one’s understanding of the text.

verse 14 - Three versions start "we know," except the Knox translation which begins "remember" as if calling the hearers/readers back to something that might have been forgotten in their life at present. Is this historically conditioned -- by what Knox perceived to be going on at the time of the composition of 1 John or at the time that he was translating?

verse 16 - The KJV and Knox use "God" as the antecedent of "he," while the RSV has no immediate antecedent and the NIV uses "Jesus Christ" as the antecedent of "he." The "he" is in reference to whom laid down "his" life for us. Incarnational intent?

verse 17 - The Knox and the RSV are the two closest renderings of English translations I consulted; the former, "steels his heart," the latter, "closes his heart." The KJV is intriguing, "shutteth up his bowels of compassion." I faintly remember from Hebrew exegesis, in Hebrew thought the bowels were conceived as the source of emotions and I wonder if this were true also in Greek or Hellenistic thought of this time; to begin the inquiry (perhaps, a rabbit trail) I turned to The Random House Dictionary of the English Language, 2nd Edition, Unabridged which indicated that bowels can mean "feelings of pity or compassion" (248). The NIV simply states "has no pity."

verse 19 (and 20) - All but the Knox translation use "hearts;" however, Knox uses the word "conscience" and writes "God is above conscience." In a footnote the Knox translation indicates the meaning of this verse has been much disputed and his is the most probable rendering. Interestingly, though, Metzger nor the Nestle-Aland texts seem to agree with the assertion of this as a problematic verse.

verse 22 - Three versions -- KJV, RSV, and NIV -- correlate keeping the love commandment to pleasing God; Knox, though, renders this as an obedience issue only. Perhaps, this seems a trivial point as one may make the case our obedience is pleasing; however, the point the Knox’s translation is missing, in my opinion, is the emotionality of God. Why be obedient?

(LE) B. Textual Criticism

The Nestle-Aland text had no "daggers" indicating there were no verses presenting significant textual problems. I did, though, check A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament by Bruce Metzger. Metzger , reporting for the committee, indicates two variances that were "problematic" [Note] for the committee.

Verse 19 starts with kai (and). The committee decided external evidence and internal possibilities warranted putting this in brackets meaning this is probably a disputed word. Would this make any difference to the content of the pericope?

In verse 21 "he kardia [hemon] me kataginoske" (the heart [of us] not accuses). The question is whether "of us" is original? Metzger gives all eleven of the possible readings; however, he writes because "of the general excellence of codex Vaticanus, it was thought best to enclose the pronoun within square brackets" (712) meaning, this also is a disputed reading.

C. Rough Translation:
(LE) I have presented my rough translation without benefit of verse divisions.

by/in this we have known the love because/that that for us the soul of him laid down and we ought on behalf of the brothers (and sisters) the souls to lay down. whoever has the means of life of the material world and beholds the brother of him need having and shuts up the bowels of him from him, how the love of (the) God remains in him? little children of me, not let us love in word nor in tongue but (in) action and truth. [and] in this we shall know that of the truth we are and before him persuade the heart of us that if it condems us the heart that greater (he) is the God (than) the heart of us, and it discerns this confidence we have with/before (the) God and whatever we ask we receive from him because the commandment of him we keep and the things pleasing before him we do. and this is the commandment of him, that we should believe (in) the name of the son of him, Jesus (the) Christ and love one another even as he gave command to us. and he keeping the commands of him in him remains and he in him. and by this we know that he remains in us by the spirit which to us he gave.

Note: Problematic meaning that the committee could not arrive at a consensus.

(JEA) I John 3:16-24 (v. 16) In this thing we have known the love [of God? cf. v. 17] because that one on our behalf his soul [life?] has placed [at risk?]; and we ourselves are obligated on behalf of the brothered-ones the souls to place [at risk?]/ (v. 17) Now [the one] who might have the life (Gr. "bios") of the cosmos and might observe his brothered-one having a need and might close off his compassions from him, how so remains the love of God in him? (v. 18) Children, let us not love with respect to word nor to the tongue, but in deed and truth. (v. 19) And in this thing we shall know that we are from out of the truth and before him we shall persuade our heart (v. 20) because if our heart knows us utterly (Gr. "katagignosko" > condemns?), because (that?) God is greater than our heart and knows all things. (v. 21) Beloved-ones, if our heart does not utterly know [condemn?], we have boldness toward God (v. 22) and what thing if we might ask we receive from him because we keep his binding pronouncements and we practice the pleasing things before him. (v. 23) And this is his binding pronouncement in order that we might believe with respect to the name of his son Jesus Christ and we might love one another just as he gave binding pronouncement to us. (v. 24) And the one keeping his binding pronouncements in him remains and he himself in him; and in this thing we know that he remains in us, from out of the Spirit of whose [portion?] he gave to us.

| Return to gospel text listings | Return to epistle text listings |
| Return to Acts listings | Return to apocalypse listings |
| User response form |