John 4:24 God is a Spirit:

Spoken to: 

an individual

Context: 

To the Samaritan woman after she says her people worship on the mountain, not  in Jerusalem.

Greek : 

Literal Verse: 

Spirit [is] the Divine and [he has] the ones worshipping him in spirit and truth. There was a need to bow down.

My Takeaway: 

If you bow down to the Divine, has has you. But you need to bow to him.

KJV : 

John 4:24 God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.

NIV : 

John 4:24 God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.”

What is Lost in Translation: 

Jesus did not say that "God is spirit." He said "Spirit [is] the Divine." Since Jesus uses "spirit" most frequent to refer to the spiritual part of a human (see this article). So the sense might be that the "breath of life," which is part of all living things, is Divine. There is no "is" here between the word translated as "spirit" and "God." However, the feeling in Greek is that this comes from God, not that it defines God.

The words translated as "they that worship" and "worshipers" actually mean "the ones worshipping" or, more accurately, "the ones bowing down." These words is not the subject of any verb. It is in the form of an object, but it is not likely the object of the only verb (discussed next). Like a subject without a verb implies a verb "is," and object without a verb can be assumed to imply a "have." The subject here is God or "the Divine."  "He has the ones bowing down in spirit and truth."

The only active verb in this sentence is the one translated as "must."It means "to have a need." There is no subject matching the number of this verb (singular), so it is best translated as "it is needful" or "there is a need." It usually takes an infinitive verb as its object. Here, the infinitive is the verb "to worship. This final clause simple said, "It is necessary to bow down."

Related Verses: 

Greek Vocabulary: 

πνεῦμα [40 verses](noun sg neut nom) "Spirit" is pneuma, which means "blast," "wind," "breath," "the breath of life," "divine inspiration," "a spiritual or immaterial being," and "the spirit" of a man.

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

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

καὶ [1089 verses](conj/adv) "And" is kai, which is the conjunction joining phrases and clauses, "and," or "but."

τοὺς [821 verses](article sg masc acc)  "They that" is the Greek definite article, hos, ("the"). 

προσκυνοῦντας [7 verses] (part pl pres act masc acc) "Worship" is proskyneo, which means "make obeisance," "fall down and worship," and specifically means to prostrate yourself before authority, as we would use the Chinese term, "kowtow."

αὐτόν [720 verses](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."

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." 

πνεύματι [40 verses](noun sg neut dat) "Spirit" is pneuma, which means "blast," "wind," "breath," "the breath of life," "divine inspiration," "a spiritual or immaterial being," and "the spirit" of a man.

καὶ [1089 verses](conj/adv) "And" is 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."

ἀληθείᾳ, [19 verses] (noun sg fem dat) "Truth" is aletheia, which means literally "the state of not being hidden," means "truth" and "reality" as opposed to appearances. -- The literal meaning of the Greek word for "truth" is "not hidden," and it means what is real as opposed to how things seem. 

δεῖ [28 verses](verb 3rd sg imperf ind act) "Must" is dei, which means "needful," and "there is need."

προσκυνεῖν. [7 verses] (pres inf act) "Worship" is proskyneo, which means "make obeisance," "fall down and worship," and specifically means to prostrate yourself before authority, as we would use the Chinese term, "kowtow."

KJV Analysis: 

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. 

God -- The word translated as "God" means "God" and "deity." It is introduced with an article, so "the God," "the Divine" or "the divine one." Jesus often uses it this way perhaps to indicate the one God as opposed to the pagan gods.

is -- There is no verb "is" in the Greek source. It is implied by the equating of "Spirit" with "the Divine," both nouns are in the form of subjects.

a -- There is no indefinite article in Greek, but when a word doesn't have a definite article, the indefinite article can be added in English translation.

Spirit:  -- (WP) The word translated as "spirit" primarily means "breath," "wind," a "non-material being," and "blast." Like "spirit" in English, it can also mean "attitude" or "motivation.' It also means the "breath of life," from which we get to "spirit" and "spiritual." It also means the "breath of life," from which we get to "spirit" and "spiritual." Its meaning as "the breath of life" is brought out by the idea of creating life. Its meaning as "spiritual" is brought out by the contrast with "physical." Read more about this word in this article on the holy spirit. This word actually begins the verse.

and -- The Greek word translated as "and" is used as the conjunction "and," but it also is used to add emphasis ("also"). In a series, it is best translated as "not only...but also." After words implying sameness "as."

they -- (CW, WF) The word translated as "they" 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.  This word is not the word usually translated as pronoun and it is not the subject of the sentence, but its object.

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

worship - - (WF) "Worship" is a verb that means "make obeisance," "fall down and worship," and specifically means to prostrate yourself before authority, as we would use the Chinese term, "kowtow."

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

must -- The Greek verb translated as "must" is a special verb that means  "it is needful," and "there is a need." It is always singular, 3rd person. It can also mean "to lack." It works something like our word "must" but its form is fixed.

worship - - (WF) "Worship" is a verb that means "make obeisance," "fall down and worship," and specifically means to prostrate yourself before authority, as we would use the Chinese term, "kowtow." This is an infinitive verb "to worship."

him -- This English objective pronoun is added and not in the Greek source.   In Greek, pronoun objects are not repeated after each verb because they are implied by their first occurrence.

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."

spirit -- The word translated as "spirit" primarily means "breath," "wind," a "non-material being," and "blast." Like "spirit" in English, it can also mean "attitude" or "motivation.' It also means the "breath of life," from which we get to "spirit" and "spiritual." It also means the "breath of life," from which we get to "spirit" and "spiritual." Its meaning as "the breath of life" is brought out by the idea of creating life. Its meaning as "spiritual" is brought out by the contrast with "physical." Read more about this word in this article on the holy spirit.

and -- The Greek word translated as "and" is used as the conjunction "and," but it also is used to add emphasis ("also").

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

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.

KJV Translation Issues: 

8
  • MW - Missing Word -- The word "the" before "God" is not shown in the English translation.
  • WP -- Wrongly Placed -- The word "spirit" doesn't appear here but at the start of the sentence.
  • IW - Inserted Word -- The word "that" doesn't exist in the source.
  • CW - Confusing Word -- The "they" is not the common word usually translated as "they."
  • WF - Wrong Form -  The "they" is not the subject but the object, "those."
  • WF - Wrong Form -  The "worship" is not an active verb but a participle, "worshipping."
  • WF - Wrong Form -  The second "worship" is not an active verb but a participle, "to worship."
  • IW - Inserted Word -- The word "in" doesn't exist in the source.

NIV Analysis: 

God is spirit, and his must worship in the Spirit and in truth.”

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. 

God -- The word translated as "God" means "God" and "deity." It is introduced with an article, so "the God," "the Divine" or "the divine one." Jesus often uses it this way perhaps to indicate the one God as opposed to the pagan gods.

is -- There is no verb "is" in the Greek source. It is implied by the equating of "Spirit" with "the Divine," both nouns are in the form of subjects.

a -- There is no indefinite article in Greek, but when a word doesn't have a definite article, the indefinite article can be added in English translation.

Spirit:  -- (WP) The word translated as "spirit" primarily means "breath," "wind," a "non-material being," and "blast." Like "spirit" in English, it can also mean "attitude" or "motivation.' It also means the "breath of life," from which we get to "spirit" and "spiritual." It also means the "breath of life," from which we get to "spirit" and "spiritual." Its meaning as "the breath of life" is brought out by the idea of creating life. Its meaning as "spiritual" is brought out by the contrast with "physical." Read more about this word in this article on the holy spirit. This word actually begins the verse.

and -- The Greek word translated as "and" is used as the conjunction "and," but it also is used to add emphasis ("also"). In a series, it is best translated as "not only...but also." After words implying sameness "as."

his  -- (WF) . - -- The word translated as "his" is the Greek word commonly translated as third-person pronouns in English. However, it is not a possessive form, but that of an indicated object, "to him" following the verb.

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. 

worshipers - - (WF) "Worship" is a verb that means "make obeisance," "fall down and worship," and specifically means to prostrate yourself before authority, as we would use the Chinese term, "kowtow." This word is a plural participle preceded by an article, so it should be "those bowing," It is not the noun form used above and it is no the subject but an object but not of the verb.

must -- The Greek verb translated as "must" is a special verb that means  "it is needful," and "there is a need." It is always singular, 3rd person. It can also mean "to lack." It works something like our word "must" but its form is fixed. It means "it is necessary" or "it is needed." It usually takes an infinitive verb as its object.

worship - - (WF) "Worship" is a verb that means "make obeisance," "fall down and worship," and specifically means to prostrate yourself before authority, as we would use the Chinese term, "kowtow." This is an infinitive verb "to worship."

him -- This English objective pronoun is added and not in the Greek source.   In Greek, pronoun objects are not repeated after each verb because they are implied by their first occurrence.

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."

spirit -- The word translated as "spirit" primarily means "breath," "wind," a "non-material being," and "blast." Like "spirit" in English, it can also mean "attitude" or "motivation.' It also means the "breath of life," from which we get to "spirit" and "spiritual." It also means the "breath of life," from which we get to "spirit" and "spiritual." Its meaning as "the breath of life" is brought out by the idea of creating life. Its meaning as "spiritual" is brought out by the contrast with "physical." Read more about this word in this article on the holy spirit.

and -- The Greek word translated as "and" is used as the conjunction "and," but it also is used to add emphasis ("also").

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

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.

  • MW - Missing Word -- The word "the" before "God" is not shown in the English translation.
  • WP -- Wrongly Placed -- The word "spirit" doesn't appear here but at the start of the sentence.
  • IW - Inserted Word -- The word "that" doesn't exist in the source.
  • CW - Confusing Word -- The "they" is not the common word usually translated as "they."
  • WF - Wrong Form -  The "they" is not the subject but the object, "those."
  • WF - Wrong Form -  The "worship" is not an active verb but a participle, "worshipping."
  • WF - Wrong Form -  The "worship" is not an active verb but a participle, "to worship."
  • IW - Inserted Word -- The word "in" doesn't exist in the source.

Front Page Date: 

Feb 6 2022