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

Spoken to: 

an individual

Context: 

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

KJV : 

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.

Literal Verse: 

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.

What is Lost in Translation: 

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.

My Takeaway: 

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

Greek : 

Wordplay: 

 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." 

Greek Vocabulary: 

[821 verses](article sg masc nom)  "He that" is the Greek definite article, hos, ("the"). 

δὲ [446 verses](conj) "But" is de which means "but" and "on the other hand." It is the particle that joins sentences in an adversarial way but can also be an explanation of cause ("so") and a condition ("if").

ποιῶν  [168 verses](part sg pres act masc nom) "Doeth" is poieo, which means "to make," "to produce," "to create," "to bring into existence," "to bring about," "to cause," "to perform," "to render," "to consider," "to prepare," "to make ready," and "to do."

τὴν [821 verses](article sg neut dat)  "The" is the Greek definite article, hos, ("the"). 

ἀλήθειαν [19 verses] (noun sg fem acc) "Truth" is aletheia, which means literally "the state of not being hidden," means "truth" and "reality" as opposed to appearances.

ἔρχεται [198 verses](3rd sg pres ind mp) "Cometh" is  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. -- The word translated as "come" primarily means "to start out" but Christ usually uses it to mean "come" but not always. It indicates movement, especially its beginning, without indicating a direction toward or away from anything, so it works either as "come" or "go," but it is more like our phrase "being underway." Our English word "show up" captures both the "start" and "come" ideas. See this article for more.

πρὸς [92 verses](prep)  "To" is from 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."  It also means "dependent upon."

τὸ [821 verses](article sg neut acc)  Untranslated is the Greek definite article, hos, ("the")

φῶς [21 verses](noun sg neut acc)"The light" is phos, which means "light," "daylight [primarily], "illumination [of things and of the mind]," "light [of the eyes], "window," "opening," "public visibility," and "publicity." Christ uses it as a metaphor for "knowledge," but in Greek it is also a metaphor for "deliverance," "happiness," "victory," and "glory."

ἵνα [134 verses](adv/conj) "Lest" is hina, (with me below), which means "in that place," "there," "where," "when,"  but when beginning a phrase "that," "in order that," "when," and "because."

φανερωθῇ [4 verses](3rd sg aor subj pass) "May be made manifest" is phaneroo, which means "make manifest", "reveal", "make clear", "make known," and "make famous."  

αὐτοῦ [720 verses](adj sg masc gen) "His" (adj sg masc acc) "Him" is 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." In the adverbial form, it  means "just here" or "exactly there." -- The word translated as "his" is the Greek word commonly translated as third-person pronouns in English.  The word means "the same" when used as an adjective. In the adverbial form, it  means "just here" or "exactly there." This pronoun follows the noun so "of his."

τὰ [821 verses](article sg neut nom/acc)  Untranslated is the Greek definite article, hos, ("the"). 

ἔργα [31 verses] (noun pl neut nom/acc) "Deeds" is ergon, which means "works," "tasks," "deeds," "actions," "thing," and "matter."

ὅτι [332 verses](adv/conj) "That" is hoti, which introduces a statement of fact "with regard to the fact that," "seeing that," and acts as a causal adverb meaning "for what," "because," "since," and "wherefore."

ἐν [413 verses](prep) "In" is en, which means, with a dative object, "in," "on," "at," "by," "among," "within," "surrounded by," "in one's hands," "in one's power," "during,"  and "with." With the accusative, it means "into," "on," and "for." Referring to time, it means. "in the course of" or "during." 

θεῷ [144 verses](noun sg masc dat) "God" is theos, which means "God," "divine," and "Deity."

ἐστὶν  [614 verses](3rd sg pres ind act) "Is" is eimi, which means "to be," "to exist," "to be the case," of circumstance and events "to happen,"  and "is possible." With the genitive object, the sense is "belongs to."

εἰργασμένα [8 verses](part pl perf mp neut nom) "Wrought" is ergazomai, which means to "work at," "make," "do," "perform," "work [a material]," "earn by working," or "work at a trade or business," "traffic," and "trade."

KJV Analysis: 

But -- The Greek word translated as "but" means "but," "however," and "on the other hand." It joins phrases in an adversarial way. Since it always falls in the second position, translating it as "however" often captures its feeling better.  It can also be an explanation of cause ("so") and a condition ("if").

he   -- (CW)The word translated as "he" is the Greek definite article, without a noun, it has the sense of "the one." The Greek article is much closer to our demonstrative pronouns ("this," "that," "these," "those") than the English "the." See this article for more. 

that -- (IW) There is nothing that can be translated as "that" in the Greek source. It was added because the next verb was translated as active rather than a participle.

doeth -- (WF)The Greek word translated as "doeth" has the primary meaning of "making" or producing" something or "causing" or "performing" as service. It describes a productive action.  It is not as broad a word as the English "do," which covers all actions, productive or not. It is not an active verb but a particle.

missing "the"  -- (MW) The untranslated word is the Greek definite article, which usually precedes a noun and, without a noun, takes the meaning of "the one." The Greek article is much closer to our demonstrative pronouns ("this," "that," "these," "those"). See this article for more. 

truth -- The literal meaning of the Greek word for "truth" is "not hidden," and it means what is real as opposed to how things seem.

cometh -- The word translated as "come" primarily means "to start out" but Christ usually uses it to mean "come" but not always. It indicates movement, especially its beginning, without indicating a direction toward or away from anything, so it works either as "come" or "go," but it is more like our phrase "being underway." Our English word "show up" captures both the "start" and "come" ideas. See this article for more.

to -- The word translated as "to" means "towards," "by reason of (for)," "before" both in time and place, "in the presence of," "against," and several other types of "before."

the -- The word translated as "the" is the Greek definite article, without a noun, it has the sense of "the one." The Greek article is much closer to our demonstrative pronouns ("this," "that," "these," "those") than the English "the." See this article for more. 

light, -- The Greek word translated as "the light" means "light," "daylight [primarily], "opening," and "public visibility." Jesus uses it as a metaphor for "knowledge."

that  - - The word translated as "that" is an adverb "in that place," "there," "where," "when," or as a conjunction that starts a subordinate clause  "that," "in order that" or "because." 

his -- The word translated as "his" is the Greek word commonly translated as third-person pronouns in English.

missing "the"  -- (MW) The untranslated word is the Greek definite article, which usually precedes a noun and, without a noun, takes the meaning of "the one." The Greek article is much closer to our demonstrative pronouns ("this," "that," "these," "those"). See this article for more. 

deeds -- The Greek word translated as "works" means "deeds," "actions," and "things" in the sense of "everything."

may -- This helping verb "may" indicates that the verb indicates a possibility. Helping or auxiliary verbs are needed to translate the Greek verb forms into English.

be -- This helping verb "be" indicates that the verb is passive. Helping or auxiliary verbs are needed to translate the Greek verb forms into English.

made manifest, - "Made manifest" is a Greek word that means means "make manifest", "reveal", "make clear", and "make known or famous".  Today, we would usually say "might be revealed."

that -- The word translated as "that" introduces a statement of fact or cause, "for what," "because," "since," and "wherefore."

they -- This indicates a third-person plural verb, but the verb is actually singular. However, the reference is to the plural "deeds," which as a plural neuter noun, takes a singular verb. A group of things is treated like a conglomeration, not many subjects, but one.

are -- (CW) The verb "are" here is the common form of "to be" in Greek. It means to have a certain characteristic or remain in a certain condition. It also equates terms or assigns characteristics. When the verb "to be" appears early in the clause before the subject, the sense is more like "it is" or, in the plural, "there are." This does NOT indicate the passive voice, though the following participle is passive. The verb "to be" is not used as a helping verb in Greek. For that reason, it might be clearer to translate it as "exists."

wrought -- (WT, WV, WF))"Wrought" is a word Christ uses humorously. It means "work," "do," "earn by working," or "make," but it is not the common word Christ uses frequently, but a more sophisticated word he uses less commonly. It is a noun form of the word translated as "deeds." The verb is either a passive, having been earned"  or the middle voice, "having made a living for yourself." The form is a particle in the past perfect (completed in the past) tense.

in -- The word translated as "in" means "in," "within," "with" (an instrument), "during" (time),  or "among"  with a dative object as the one here.  With the accusative, it means "into," "on," and "for." When referring to time, it means "during." It can mean "on," "at," or "by" in the sense of "near."

God. -- The word translated as "God" means "God" and "deity." It is usually introduced with an article so "the Divine" or "the divine one." Jesus often uses it this way perhaps to indicate the one God as opposed to the pagan gods. However, it doesn't appear that way here but without "the."

KJV Translation Issues: 

9
  • CW - Confusing Word -- The "he" does not capture the specific meaning of the word.
  • IW - Inserted Word -- The word "that" doesn't exist in the source.
  • WF - Wrong Form -  The "doeth" is not an active verb but a participle, "producing."
  • MW - Missing Word -- The word "the" before "truth" is not shown in the English translation.
  • MW - Missing Word -- The word "the" before "deeds" is not shown in the English translation.
  • CW - Confusing Word -- The "are" does not capture the specific meaning of the word.
  • WT - Wrong Tense - The English verb  "wrought" is the past tense, but Greek is in the past perfect, a completed action, "having been revealed."
  • WV - Wrong Voice - The verb here is translated as active but either it is passive.
  • WF - Wrong Form -  The "wrought" is not an active verb but a participle, "having been earned."

NIV : 

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.

NIV Analysis: 

But -- The Greek word translated as "but" means "but," "however," and "on the other hand." It joins phrases in an adversarial way. Since it always falls in the second position, translating it as "however" often captures its feeling better.  It can also be an explanation of cause ("so") and a condition ("if").

whoever -- (CW) The word translated as "whoever " is the Greek definite article, without a noun, it has the sense of "the one." The Greek article is much closer to our demonstrative pronouns ("this," "that," "these," "those") than the English "the." See this article for more.

lives -- (WW, WF)The Greek word translated as "lives " has the primary meaning of "making" or producing" something or "causing" or "performing" as service. It describes a productive action.  It is not as broad a word as the English "do," which covers all actions, productive or not. It is not an active verb but a particle.

by -- (IW) There is nothing that can be translated as "by" in the Greek source.

the -- The word translated as "the" is the Greek definite article, without a noun, it has the sense of "the one." The Greek article is much closer to our demonstrative pronouns ("this," "that," "these," "those") than the English "the." See this article for more. 

truth -- The literal meaning of the Greek word for "truth" is "not hidden," and it means what is real as opposed to how things seem.

comes -- The word translated as "comes" primarily means "to start out" but Christ usually uses it to mean "come" but not always. It indicates movement, especially its beginning, without indicating a direction toward or away from anything, so it works either as "come" or "go," but it is more like our phrase "being underway." Our English word "show up" captures both the "start" and "come" ideas. See this article for more.

into --  (CW) The word translated as "into" means "towards," "by reason of (for)," "before" both in time and place, "in the presence of," "against," and several other types of "before."

the -- The word translated as "the" is the Greek definite article, without a noun, it has the sense of "the one." The Greek article is much closer to our demonstrative pronouns ("this," "that," "these," "those") than the English "the." See this article for more. 

light, -- The Greek word translated as "the light" means "light," "daylight [primarily], "opening," and "public visibility." Jesus uses it as a metaphor for "knowledge."

it - This is from the third-person, singular form of the verb.

may -- This helping verb "may" indicates that the verb indicates a possibility. Helping or auxiliary verbs are needed to translate the Greek verb forms into English.

be -- This helping verb "be" indicates that the verb is passive. Helping or auxiliary verbs are needed to translate the Greek verb forms into English.

seen plainly, - "Seen plainly, -" is a Greek word that means means "make manifest", "reveal", "make clear", and "make known or famous".  Today, we would usually say "might be revealed."

that - - The word translated as "that" is an adverb "in that place," "there," "where," "when," or as a conjunction that starts a subordinate clause  "that," "in order that" or "because." 

they -- This indicates a third-person plural verb, but the verb is actually singular. However, the reference is to the plural "deeds," which as a plural neuter noun, takes a singular verb. A group of things is treated like a conglomeration, not many subjects, but one.

have -- (WW, WT) The verb "are" here is the common form of "to be" in Greek. It means to have a certain characteristic or remain in a certain condition. It also equates terms or assigns characteristics. When the verb "to be" appears early in the clause before the subject, the sense is more like "it is" or, in the plural, "there are." This does NOT indicate the passive voice, though the following participle is passive. The verb "to be" is not used as a helping verb in Greek. For that reason, it might be clearer to translate it as "exists."

done -- (CW, WV, WF) "Done" is a word Christ uses humorously. It means "work," "do," "earn by working," or "make," but it is not the common word Christ uses frequently, but a more sophisticated word he uses less commonly. It is a noun form of the word translated as "deeds." The verb is either a passive, having been earned"  or the middle voice, "having made a living for yourself." The form is a particle in the past perfect (completed in the past) tense.

has been  -- (IW) There is nothing that can be translated as "has been done" in the Greek source.

missing "the"  -- (MW) The untranslated word is the Greek definite article, which usually precedes a noun and, without a noun, takes the meaning of "the one." The Greek article is much closer to our demonstrative pronouns ("this," "that," "these," "those"). See this article for more. 

done -- (WF) The Greek word translated as "done" means "deeds," "actions," and "things" in the sense of "everything." It is not a verb,  but a noun

missing "because"  -- (MW) The untranslated word "because" introduces a statement of fact or cause, "for what," "because," "since," and "wherefore."

in -- The word translated as "in" means "in," "within," "with" (an instrument), "during" (time),  or "among"  with a dative object as the one here.  With the accusative, it means "into," "on," and "for." When referring to time, it means "during." It can mean "on," "at," or "by" in the sense of "near."

the sight of  -- (IP) There is nothing that can be translated as "in the sight of" in the Greek source.

God. -- The word translated as "God" means "God" and "deity." It is usually introduced with an article so "the Divine" or "the divine one." Jesus often uses it this way perhaps to indicate the one God as opposed to the pagan gods. However, it doesn't appear that way here but without "the."

NIV Translation Issues: 

13
  • CW - Confusing Word -- The "whoever" does not capture the specific meaning of the word.
  • WW - Wrong Word -- The word translated as "lives" should be something more like "producing."
  • WF - Wrong Form -  The "doeth" is not an active verb but a participle, "producing."
  • IW - Inserted Word -- The word "by" doesn't exist in the source.
  • CW - Confusing Word -- The "into" is not the common word usually translated as "into."
  • WW - Wrong Word -- The word translated as "have" should be something more like "exists."
  • WT - Wrong Tense - The verb "have" indicates the past perfect tense, but the tense is the present.
  • CW - Confusing Word -- The "done" is not the common word usually translated as "done."
  • IW - Inserted Word -- The word "has been" doesn't exist in the source.
  • MW - Missing Word -- The word "the" before "deeds" is not shown in the English translation.
  • WF - Wrong Form -  The "done" is not an active verb but a noun, "deeds."
  • MW - Missing Word -- The word "because" is not shown in the English translation.
  • IP - Inserted Phrase-- The phrase "in the sight of" doesn't exist in the source.

Related Verses: 

Front Page Date: 

Jan 27 2022