John 5:39 Search the scriptures;

Spoken to: 

challengers

Context: 

Jesus is accused of breaking the Sabbath and making himself a god by calling God his Father. The current topic is who or what testifies for him.

KJV : 

John 5:39 Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me.

Literal Verse: 

You inquire into the writings because you yourselves imagine in them a life perpetual to have. And those there are the ones testifying about me.

What is Lost in Translation: 

The Greek word "think" but it means "imagine" or "expect." In English, when we say something like "You think you know something," we are expressing the same idea. The use of it indicates they are mistaken.

This is the third recent verse in which "this/at person/thing there" has been used and somewhat ignored. Previously, it was used to refer to "the father" but here, it refers to "the writings."  The word translated as "scripture" was much more general, referring to anything written."

This verse raises interesting questions about what Jesus's opponents thought about "eternal life," a phrase which has more the sense of "continued life" since the people of his day had no real idea of "eternal," at least not using these words. To learn more read this article on life eternal,  It may be they saw this as coming from following the law or that there was some secret in the ancient texts about it, perhaps coming from Egypt.

My Takeaway: 

Much of what has been written is that which echoes the story of Jesus.

Greek : 

Greek Vocabulary: 

ἐραυνᾶτε ἐρευνάω [1 verse] (2nd pl pres ind act) "Search" comes from eraunao, which means "search," "search after," "track," "examine a place," and "inquire into."

τὰς [821 verses](article pl fem acc)  "The" is the Greek definite article, hos, ("the").

γραφάς [13 verses](noun pl fem acc) "Scriptures" is graphe, which means "representing by means of lines," "a drawing," "writing," "the art of writing," and "that which is written."

ὅτι [332 verses](adv/conj) "For" 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."

ὑμεῖς [92 verses](pron 2nd pl nom) "You" is hymeis (humeis), which are the singular nominative form of the second person, "you."

δοκεῖτε [17 verses](2nd pl pres ind act) "Think" is dokeo, which means "expect," "suppose," "imagine," "have an opinion," "seem," "seem good," and "to be reputed."

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." 

αὐταῖς [720 verses](adj pl fem dat) "Them" 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."

ζωήν,[42 verses] (noun sg fem acc) "Life" is zoe, which means "living," "substance," "property," "existence," and, incidentally, "the scum on milk." It has the sense of how we say "make a living" to mean property. Homer used it more to mean the opposite of death.

αἰώνιον. [23 verses](adj sg neut acc) "Everlasting" is aionios, which means "lasting for an age," "perpetual," and "eternal." From "aion" which is used in the bible to mean an "age." -

ἔχειν [181 verses] (pres inf act) "Ye have" i[ is echo, which means "to have," "to hold," "to possess," "to keep," "to have charge of," "to have due to one," "to maintain," "to hold fast," "to bear," "to carry," "to keep close," "to keep safe," and "to have means to do." In aorist, "acquire," "get,"

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

ἐκεῖναί [107 verses](adj pl fem nom) "They" " is ekeinos, which means "the person there," "that person," "that thing," and, in the form of an adverb, "in that case," "in that way," "at that place," and "in that manner."

εἰσιν [614 verses] (3rd pl pres ind act) "Are" 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." It can also mean "must" with a dative. -

αἱ [821 verses](article pl fem nom)  "Which" is the Greek definite article, hos, ("the"). 

μαρτυροῦσαι[16 verses] (part pl pres act fem nom "Testify" is martyreo, which means "to bear witness," "to give evidence," "give a good report," "testify to," and "acknowledge the value of." It is the basis for our word "martyr."

περὶ [73 verses](prep)  "As touching" is peri, which means "round about (Place)," "around," "about," "concerning," "on account of," "in regard to," "before," "above," "beyond," and "all around."

ἐμοῦ [239 verses](adj sg masc gen) "Me" is from mou (emou), which means "me," and "mine." As a genitive object means movement away from something or a position away from something else.

KJV Analysis: 

Search  -  - "Search" comes is a verb that means "search," "search after," "track," "examine a place," and "inquire into." This verb is only used by Jesus here.

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. 

scriptures; -- - (CW) "Scriptures" is a noun that means "writing", "the art of writing," and "that which is written," so, the "writings." It doesn't have the specific sense of religious writing that "scriptures" does. It might also be worth noting that the Greek word translated as "scriptures" literally means "a drawing." For the Greeks, both drawings and words created a "picture" or a man-made, artificial representation of reality.

for -- The word translated as "for" 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."

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

ye -- The pronoun "you" is used explicitly as the subject of the sentence. Since it is already part of the verb, its use here creates emphasis on the "you" as we might say "you yourselves." It is plural.

missing "yourselves" -- (MW)  The subjective pronoun repeats the information in the verb so it should be repeated in English like "you yourselves."

think -- (CW) The word translated as "think" doesn't mean think as much as it means "expect" or "imagine."

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

have  -- (WF) The word translated as "have" means to "have," "possess," "bear," "keep close," "have means to do,"  "to have due to one," or "keep" and many specific uses. This verb isn't used to form past tenses as it is in English. It is in the form of an infinitive, "to have."

eternal - "Everlasting" is an adjective based on the word that means "age" or "eon." It has the sense of "perpetual" or "ageless."

life:  -- The word translated as "life" means "living" but it also means "substance," "existence," and "property."Jesus uses it to mean the "existence" of physical life, spirit plus body. To learn more read this article on life eternal, For more on how Christ uses this word with other words about human existence (soul, heart, spirit, body, etc.), read this article.

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 can be translated as "not only...but also." After words implying sameness "as."

they -- This is from the third-person, plural form of the verb.

are - The verb "is" 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. With the genitive object, the sense is "belongs to."-- 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."

they -- (CW) The word translated as "they" is an adjective that highlights its noun as being in a specific place or time from a word that means "there." Used a pronoun, the sense is "that one there."

which  -- (CW) The word translated as "which" 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. 

testify -- "Testify" is the Greek verb that means "to give testimony" and "to bear witness." It has the sense of being true testimony. It is the verb form of the Greek word for "testimony" and "proof," which is the source of our word "martyr," and its funny spelling.

of -- (CW) The Greek word translated as "of" means "around" when referring to a place, but in referring to a subject, it means "about," "concerning," "on account of," and "in regard to." This is the way Jesus usually uses it.

me. -- "Me" is the first-person possessive singular pronoun.

KJV Translation Issues: 

8
  • CW - Confusing Word -- The "scripture" does not capture the general meaning of the word.
  • MW - Missing Word -- The word "yourselves" is not shown in the English translation, but it is needed to capture the pronoun as well as the form of the verb.
  • CW - Confusing Word -- The "think" does not capture the specific meaning of the word.
  • IW - Inserted Word -- The word "ye" doesn't exist in the source.
  • WF - Wrong Form -  The "have" is not an active verb but an infinitive, "to have."
  • CW - Confusing Word -- The "they" does not capture the specific meaning of the word.
  • CW - Confusing Word -- The "which" does not capture the specific meaning of the word.
  • CW - Confusing Word -- The "of" does not capture the specific meaning of the word.

NIV : 

John 5:39 You study the Scriptures diligently because you think that in them you have eternal life. These are the very Scriptures that testify about me,

NIV Analysis: 

You -- This is from the second-person, plural form of the verb.

study -  - (CW) "Study" comes is a verb that means "search," "search after," "track," "examine a place," and "inquire into." This verb is only used by Jesus here.

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. 

Scriptures; -- - (CW) "Scriptures" is a noun that means "writing", "the art of writing," and "that which is written," so, the "writings." It doesn't have the specific sense of religious writing that "scriptures" does. It might also be worth noting that the Greek word translated as "scriptures" literally means "a drawing." For the Greeks, both drawings and words created a "picture" or a man-made, artificial representation of reality.

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

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

you -- The pronoun "you" is used explicitly as the subject of the sentence. Since it is already part of the verb, its use here creates emphasis on the "you" as we might say "you yourselves." It is plural.

missing "yourselves" -- (MW)  The subjective pronoun repeats the information in the verb so it should be repeated in English like "you yourselves."

think -- (CW) The word translated as "think" doesn't mean think as much as it means "expect" or "imagine."

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

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."

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

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

have  -- (WF) The word translated as "have" means to "have," "possess," "bear," "keep close," "have means to do,"  "to have due to one," or "keep" and many specific uses. This verb isn't used to form past tenses as it is in English. It is in the form of an infinitive, "to have."

eternal - "Everlasting" is an adjective based on the word that means "age" or "eon." It has the sense of "perpetual" or "ageless."

life:  -- The word translated as "life" means "living" but it also means "substance," "existence," and "property."Jesus uses it to mean the "existence" of physical life, spirit plus body. To learn more read this article on life eternal, For more on how Christ uses this word with other words about human existence (soul, heart, spirit, body, etc.), read this article.

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

These --  The word translated as "these" is an adjective that highlights its noun as being in a specific place or time from a word that means "there." Used a pronoun, the sense is "that one there."

are - The verb "is" 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. With the genitive object, the sense is "belongs to."-- 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."

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. 

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

testify -- "Testify" is the Greek verb that means "to give testimony" and "to bear witness." It has the sense of being true testimony. It is the verb form of the Greek word for "testimony" and "proof," which is the source of our word "martyr," and its funny spelling.

about -- The Greek word translated as "about" means "around" when referring to a place, but in referring to a subject, it means "about," "concerning," "on account of," and "in regard to." This is the way Jesus usually uses it.

me. -- "Me" is the first-person possessive singular pronoun.

NIV Translation Issues: 

10
  • CW - Confusing Word -- The "study" does not capture the general meaning of the word.
  • CW - Confusing Word -- The "Scripture" does not capture the general meaning of the word.
  • IW - Inserted Word -- The word "diligently" doesn't exist in the source.
  • MW - Missing Word -- The word "yourselves" is not shown in the English translation, but it is needed to capture the pronoun as well as the form of the verb.
  • CW - Confusing Word -- The "think" does not capture the specific meaning of the word.
  • IW - Inserted Word -- The word "that" doesn't exist in the source.
  • IW - Inserted Word -- The word "you" doesn't exist in the source.
  • WF - Wrong Form -  The "have" is not an active verb but an infinitive, "to have."
  • MW - Missing Word -- The word "and" is not shown in the English translation.
  • IP - Inserted Phrase-- The phrase "very Scriptures that" doesn't exist in the source.

Front Page Date: 

Mar 7 2022