John 5:35 He was a burning and a shining light:

Greek : 

Literal Verse: 

In that way, he [John the Baptist] was the [guiding] lamp, burning and shining. All of you, however, only wished to celebrate for a little while surrounded by his light.

KJV : 

Jhn 5:35 He was a burning and a shining light: and ye were willing for a season to rejoice in his light.

Interesting and Hidden Aspects: 

The first word here, ekeinos, is either ignored in the KJV or translated simply as "he." However, the pronoun is implicit in the Greek verb so this is unnecessary. This word is used to point out something. It can be a person, but also an idea previously discussed, which is what it seems to be doing here. That is, referring to how his listeners might be rescued by listening to the testimony of John from the previous verse.

The word translated as "light" actually means lamp, specifically a portable light used to guide someone. This concept is the key to what Christ is saying here: John's purpose was to guide them to something else.

The word joining the two main phrases, appearing in the KJV before "you," is translated as "and." This translation is wrong. It is not the positive conjunction, kai. Instead, it is a particle, de, that connects phrases in an adversarial way, indicating a conflict. It usually appears as the second word in the second phrase, in the same way we insert the word "however" after an introductory word.

By adding "de" here, Christ is indicating that his listeners misunderstood John. In the alternative translation, this idea is expressed by translating "de" as "however, only...", indicating the following reaction was incorrect.

What was that incorrect reaction and why? Instead of following John's guiding lamp, his followers just wanted to celebrate for a little while in the brightness of his light. The word translated as "rejoice" specifically means an excessive celebration.

From reading the English, you might think that the word translated as "season" refers to a long period of time. No, the word used, hora, is used to refer to a short period of time in the context of a larger period of time. It can mean "a season" in the context of many years, but it is usually translated as "an hour." It is the source of our word, "hour." In the several dozen times this word occurs in the NT, it is almost always translated as "hour." In the handful of times it isn't, it is still usually translated as a short time, "eveningtide" or "a day," though a couple of times it is translated simply as "time."

From reading the KJV English, you might also think that the same word translated as "light" in the first phrase is used in this second phrase. It isn't. This is part of the contrast here. The first word meant "lamp" and this word, phos, means "light" but is a common metaphor for "knowledge."


 The meaning of two different Greek words translated as "light" are contrasted, one meaning guiding lamp and the other meaning the light of knowledge. 

Related Verses: 

Greek Vocabulary: 

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

ἦν (3rd sg imperf ind act) "Is" is eimi, which means "to be", "to exist", "to be the case," and "is possible." It can also mean "must" with a dative.

λύχνος "Light" is from lychnos, which means "portable light," or "lamp."

καιόμενος (part sg pres mp masc nom) "A burning" is from kaio, which means "to kindle", "to set on fire", "to burn," and "to bake pottery."

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."

φαίνων (part sg pres act masc nom) "A shining" is from phaino , which means "to shine", "to give light," and "to appear." In its transitive form, not used here, it means "bring to light."

ὑμεῖς "Ye" is from hymeis, which are the singular nominative form of the second person, "you."

δὲ "And" is from de (de), which means "but" and "on the other hand." It is the particle that joins sentences in an adversarial way.

ἠθελήσατε (2nd pl aor ind act) "Were willing" is from thelô (thelo), which as a verb means "to be willing", "to wish", "to ordain", "to decree", "to be resolved to a purpose" and "to desire." As an adjective, it means "wished for" and "desired."

ἀγαλλιαθῆναι (aor inf pass) "To rejoice" is from agalliaô (agalliao) means "rejoice exceedingly" and is a later from of agallomai, which means to "glorify," and "exalt," especially the idea of "paying honor" to God.

πρὸς "For" is from pros (pros), which means "from (place)", "on the side of", "toward", "before", "in the presence of", "in the eyes of", "before (supplication)", "proceeding from (for effects)", "dependent on", "derivable from", "agreeable,""becoming", "like", "at the point of", "in addition to", "against," and "before."

ὥραν "A season" is from (hora), which means "any period", "season," (especially springtime), "year' (generally), "climate" (as determined by seasons), "duration", "the twelve equal parts into which the period of daylight was divided", "the fitting time" (for a task).

ἐν "In" is from en, which means "in", "on", "at", "by", "among", "within", "surrounded by", "in one's hands", "in one's power," and "with".

τῷ φωτὶ "Light" is phos, which means both "light" and is the metaphor for "knowledge."

αὐτοῦ "His" 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 one's own accord."