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John 3:21 But he that doeth truth cometh to the light

Nicodemus comes to Jesus by night. They discuss the nature of man's origin and trusting in the light.

Spoken to:
an individual
Greek Verse:

John 3:21  δὲ ποιῶν τὴν ἀλήθειαν ἔρχεται πρὸς τὸ φῶς, ἵνα φανερωθῇ αὐτοῦ τὰ ἔργα ὅτι ἐν θεῷ ἐστὶν εἰργασμένα.

KJV Verse:

John 3:21 But he that doeth truth cometh to the light, that his deeds may be made manifest, that they are wrought in God.

NIV Verse:

John 3:21 But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God.

Literal Alternative:

The one, however, producing the truth starts toward the light so that it might be revealed his, those activities, because in Divinity it exists having been earned.

Hidden Meaning:

The play on words here is that the Greek word translated as "truth" literally means "not hidden." "Light" is what reveals what is true. The word translated as "light" is used as an analogy for "knowledge."

The contrast between this verse and the previous verse is between activities that have little value and those that are "true." What is the same in both verses is the word translated as "deeds." Though the KJV of both of these verses have words translated as "doing," two different Greek verbs are used. This verb here is the common word usually translated as "do," used here as the subject in the form of a present participle, means "making" or "producing." The verb in the last verse has more of a sense of achieving. The contrast in the two verses is specifically between "achieving little" and "making what is true".

The uncommon words here are translated as "made manifest" and "wrought." The first word has the meaning of "revealed," which goes with the "not hidden" truth. And the "wrought" means "earn by working" but from the same root as "deeds" so, "doing deeds."  The sense is that truth is revealed by working. However, both words have a humorous feel. The word for "revealed" gives us the word for our current geological era, the phanerozoic era, starting with the Cambrian period animals began leaving shells and fossils in the ground.


 The word translated as "light" is the base for the verb translated as "may be made manifest." The word translated as "deeds" is the base for the verb translated as "are wrought." 

My Takeaway:

Truth is revealed only with work. The creative impulse is the divine ability within each of us.

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About this Site

I started this site fifteen years ago.  My original award-winning work as a "techno-linguist" was in ancient Chinese. I wanted to bring the same computer search and analysis techniques to explore something more important: the original Greek of Jesus's words. To understand why this was important to me, you may want to read this article on how Jesus's meaning is lost.

This site does not promote any religious point of view. On the contrary, it seeks to avoid the competing and evolving religious dogmas that have shaped Biblical translation for centuries.  I purposely use "nonreligious" sources for Greek word meaning, rejoining the study of Biblical Greek with the broader study of ancient Greek. My goal is simply to identify how listeners of Jesus's time would have heard him.

Jesus' words are unique for three reasons.

  1. His words were spoken, not written. Spoken language is inherently different than written language.
  2. His words changed the meaning of words, determining even how later NT authors' used the Greek.
  3. His words were the basis of a unique historical revolution in the way people think.

Most of the on-line material on "Biblical Greek" is largely tautological. It explains the Greek only in terms of how it has been translated into English in the Bible. It flows from the ways that the  Gospel was taught from the Latin Vulgate. I respect this work and use it daily. However,  most of my work takes place outside of this tradition, researching the use of the Greek closer to the time of Jesus, especially the Greek OT, the Septuagint.

The Bible has been such a powerful force in history that it has changed the meaning of many words in English, Latin, and Greek. However, the Greek of Jesus's words has been faithfully preserved for centuries despite the changing religious fashions. These fashions, unfortunately, affect each successive English translation of the Bible, moving it further and further from the Greek.  I stopped analyzing the NLT version because so much of it fails to connect to anything in Jesus's Greek. It is not a translation but how a group of people today feel about the ideas in other English translations. The Message Bible version is even worse.

This site is offered for those who care about fidelity to Scripture as passed down for two thousand years.

Most Recent Question

Does John 6:37 mean that once I’m saved, no matter what sin I do, if I come to Jesus and ask for forgiveness and repent from that sin, I will not be cast out?

I don't see anything about asking forgiveness and repenting nor anything about "being saved." All of these are Christian concepts invented after Jesus. He doesn't use these ideas at all. What is translated as "forgive" means "let go" as in dropping something. What is translated as "repent" means "change your mind" as in thinking differently. What gets translated as "being saved" is the idea of being "rescued" not from "evil" but from "worthlessness."

None of this is in the verses. Or in its context. His ideas in John 6:37 are simpler.  You are either returning to Jesus or moving away from him. Those who the Father has given him...