John 17:15 I pray not that thou shouldest take them

KJV Verse: 

Jhn 17:15 I pray not that thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that thou shouldest keep them from the evil.

Greek Verse: 

Literal Alternative: 

I don't ask that you might lift them up from the world of men, but that you might guard them from worthlessness.

Hidden Meaning: 

This verse is an opportunity to compare a "Biblical" translation with a straight forward translation of the Greek. Each key word in it is translated differently this Biblical verse than it is usually translated elsewhere in Greek (and often in the Bible itself).

Let us go through the list:

  • The word that KJV translates as "pray" primarily means "ask."
  • The word translated as "take" primarily means "to lift up."
  • The word translated as "keep" primarily means "to guard."
  • And the word translated as "evil" means "worthless" but since it is an adjective used as singular noun, "worthlessness".

If we use the primary meanings, as in the alternative above, nothing is lost and perhaps something is gained. We certainly come closer to what John records Christ as saying.

What is interesting is that most Bible translations follow the KJV closely in most of these word uses. A few use "ask" or "demand" instead of "pray." The NIV uses "protect" instead of "keep" (but it is completely misleading as far as the introductory phrase, making "pray" into a noun, "prayer"). All translations use "take" and, of course, all also use "evil" or "evil one."

While we might see a religious purpose to using "pray" and "evil," most of this (mis?)translation seem to be a case of "that is just the way it has always been done," probably going back to the Latin Vulgate.

Of course, my biggest personal issue is with the word translated as "evil," but "evil one" is even worse. this is discussed extensively in this article.

Wordplay: 

 A parallel of "out of the world" with "out of evil." 

Vocabulary: 

οὐκ "Not" is from οὐ ou which is the negative adverb for facts and statements, negating both single words and sentences. The other negative adverb, class="greek">μήapplies to will and thought; class="greek">οὐ denies, class="greek">μή rejects; class="greek">οὐ is absolute, class="greek">μή relative;class="greek">οὐ objective, class="greek">μή subjective.

ἐρωτῶ (1st sg pres ind act) "I pray" is from (erotao), which means "to ask" or "to question."

ἵνα "That" is from hina (hina), which means "in that place", "there", "where", "when", "that", "in order that", "when," and "because."

ἄρῃς (2nd sg aor subj act) "Thou should take" is from ἆραι aeirô (airo), which means "to lift up", "to take up", "to raise", "to raise up", "to exalt", "to lift and take away," and "to remove."

αὐτοὺς "Them" is from autos (autos), which means "the same," and the reflexive pronouns, "myself", "yourself", "himself", "herself", "itself," or the oblique case of the pronouns, "him", "her," and "it." It also means "one's true self," that is, "the soul" as opposed to the body and "of ones own accord."

ἐκ "Out" is from ek, which means "out of", "from", "by," and "away from."

τοῦ κόσμου "The 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.

ἀλλ᾽ "But" is from alla (alla), which means "otherwise", "but", "still", "at least", "except", "yet," nevertheless", "rather", "moreover," and "nay." It denotes an exception or a simple opposition.

ἵνα "That" is from hina (hina), which means "in that place", "there", "where", "when", "that", "in order that", "when," and "because."

τηρήσῃς (2nd sg aor subj act) "Thou shouldest keep" is from têreô (tereo), which means "to watch over", "to guard", "to take care of", "to give heed to", "to keep," and "to observe."

αὐτοὺς "Them" is from autos (autos), which means "the same," and the reflexive pronouns, "myself", "yourself", "himself", "herself", "itself," or the oblique case of the pronouns, "him", "her," and "it." It also means "one's true self," that is, "the soul" as opposed to the body and "of ones own accord."

ἐκ "From" is from ek, which means "out of", "from", "by," and "away from."

τοῦ πονηροῦ "Evil" is from ponêros (poneros), which we discuss extensively in this page. In a moral sense, it means "worthless", "base," and "cowardly."

Related Verses: