John 16:8 And when he is come,

KJV Verse: 

Jhn 16:8 And when he is come, he will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment:

Greek Verse: 

Literal Alternative: 

And, arriving, he will expose the world order concerning mistakes, not only about justice but also about judgment.

Hidden Meaning: 

This verse is one that seems (to a fool like myself, anyway) particularly poorly translated in all popular versions. Notice how much more sense the alternative makes compared to the KJV, which is the pattern used in most other translations.

The mistake is in handling all three of its nouns following "peri" (sin, justice, judgment) in parallel because they are connected by the preposition "kai", which is usually translated as "and." When you look at the list, sin-justice-judgment, it is clear that one of these things is not like the other. However, in ancient Greek, kai can, and when it appears like this, usually does mean "not only...but also". The separating "kai" are meant to clarify the distinction between "sin", on one hand, and "justice" and "judgment" on the other.

Notice, however, that the alternative is not as "condemning" as the original. It suggests simply that this "spirit of truth" will expose the mistake that we commonly make in judging what is right and just. By showing us what real justice and good judgment look like, we will realize the mistakes made by the world of men.

We will see how this view hold up in light of the next three verses, which handle each of these concepts independently, but in ways that don't seem very illuminating in the common translation.

Vocabulary: 

καὶ "And" is from kai, which is the conjunction joining phrases and clauses, "and," or "but." After words implying sameness, "as" (the same opinion as you). Used in series, joins positive with negative "Not only...but also." Also used to give emphasis, "even", "also," and "just."

ἐλθὼν (part sg aor act masc nom) "Is come" is from erchomai (erchomai), which means "to start," "to set out", "to come", "to go," and any kind of motion. It means both "to go" on a journey and "to arrive" at a place.

ἐκεῖνος "He" is from ekeinos (kakeinos), which means "the person there", "that person", "that thing", "in that case", "in that way", "at that place," and "in that manner."

ἐλέγξει (3rd sg fut ind act) "Will reprove" is from elenchô (elegcho), which "to disgrace", "to put to shame", "to cross-examine", "to question", "to test", "to prove", "to refute", "to put right", "to get the better of", "to expose," and "to decide a dispute."

κόσμον "World" is from kosmos, which mean "order", "good order", "ruler", "world order", "universe," and "the world of men." Matthew uses it when Christ is talking about the order in the universe, specifically the order of the world of men, as it is designed to be.

περὶ "Of" is from peri (peri), which means "round about (Place)", "about", "concerning", "on account of", "in regard to", "before", "above", "beyond", "around," and "all around."

ἁμαρτίαν "Sin" is from the Greek hamartia, which means "to miss the mark", "failure", "fault," and "error." Only in religious uses does it become "guilt" and "sin."

καὶ "And" is from kai, which is the conjunction joining phrases and clauses, "and," or "but." After words implying sameness, "as" (the same opinion as you). Used in series, joins positive with negative "Not only...but also." Also used to give emphasis, "even", "also," and "just."

περὶ "Of" is from peri (peri), which means "round about (Place)", "about", "concerning", "on account of", "in regard to", "before", "above", "beyond", "around," and "all around."

δικαιοσύνης "Righteousness" is from dikaiosune, which means "righteousness", "justice", "fulfillment", "being in an ideal state."

καὶ "And" is from kai, which is the conjunction joining phrases and clauses, "and," or "but." After words implying sameness, "as" (the same opinion as you). Used in series, joins positive with negative "Not only...but also." Also used to give emphasis, "even", "also," and "just."

περὶ "Of" is from peri (peri), which means "round about (Place)", "about", "concerning", "on account of", "in regard to", "before", "above", "beyond", "around," and "all around."

κρίσεως "Judgment" is from krisis (krisis), which means "separating", "distinguishing", "judgment", "choice", "election", "trial", "dispute", "event," and "issue."