John 5:47 But if ye believe not his writings,

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 Moses.

KJV : 

John 5:47 But if ye believe not his writings, how shall ye believe my words?

Literal Verse: 

If, however, those, that one there's letters, you didn't trust, how these sayings of mine could you trust?

What is Lost in Translation: 

Unusual parallel phrases contrast "those, that one there's letters" (almost as clumsy in Greek as it is in English) with "these, my sayings." And two uncommon words are used in both phrases. The word translated as "writings" and "what he wrote" is the word for "letters" both in the sense of the individual letters in the alphabet and letters of correspondence. The word translated as "words" and "what I say" is a special noun referring to spoken words that is the source of our English word, "remarks." A special pronoun is translated as "his," meaning "that one there," is a word that highlights a person previously used for the Father, as we discussed in the last post.

In translation, it seems as if the first mention of "believe" is in the present tense while the second use is in the future tense, but both are the same tense, one indicating something happening at some point in time. However, the second "believe" is in the form of probability, something that "could" or "should" happen. The KJV often confuses the future tense with "shall" but the "going to believe" seems to intentionally confuse the NIV. Many other translations use the equally confusing "will."

My Takeaway: 

Moses wrote, but Jesus only speaks.

Greek : 

Wordplay: 

 Parallel phrases contrasting the writings of Moses and the sayings of Christ. 

Greek Vocabulary: 

εἰ [90 verses](conj) "If" is ei, which is the particle used to express conditions "if" (implying nothing about its fulfillment) or indirect questions, "whether." It also means "if ever," "in case," and "whenever." It is combined with various conjunctions to create derivative conditions.

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").

τοῖς [821 verses](article pl neut dat)  Untranslated is the Greek definite article, hos, ("the"). 

ἐκείνου [107 verses](adj sg masc gen) "His" 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."

γράμμασιν [3 verses](noun pl neut dat) "Writings" is from gramma which is Greek for "drawings", "a letter," (as in an alphabet)"diagrams," and "letters" (as in correspondence).

οὐ [269 verses](partic) "Not" is ou , the negative adverb for facts and statements, negating both single words and sentences.  The other negative adverb, μή applies to will and thought; οὐ denies, μή rejects; οὐ is absolute, μή relative; οὐ objective, μή subjective.

πιστεύετε [69 verses] (verb 2nd pl pres/imperf ind act) "Ye believe" is pisteuo, which means "to trust, put faith in, or rely on a person," "to believe in someone's words," "to comply," "to feel confident in a thing," and "to entrust in a thing."

πῶς [36 verses](pron indecl form) "How" is pos, which means "how," "how in the world," "how then," "in any way," "at all," "by any mean," "in a certain way,"and "I suppose."

τοῖς [821 verses](article pl neut dat) Untranslated is the Greek definite article, hos, ("the"). 

ἐμοῖς [28 verses](adj pl masc/neut dat) "My" is emos, which means "mine," "of me," "my," "relating to me," and "against me."

ῥήμασιν [10 verses](noun pl neut dat) "Word" is rhema, which means "that which is spoken," "word," "saying," "word for word," "subject of speech," and "matter."

πιστεύσετε [69 verses](2nd pl aor subj act) "Shall ye believe"is pisteuo, which means "to trust, put faith in, or rely on a person," "to believe in someone's words," "to comply," "to feel confident in a thing," and "to entrust in a thing."

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").

if -- The "if" here expresses a condition but it means nothing regarding whether that condition is met or not. It also means "if ever" and "whenever."

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

believe --  The Greek word translated as "believe" does not apply to religious belief as much as it does trusting in other people, especially their word. Christ usually uses it in contexts, as the one here, that apply to trusting words. The negation of "belief" with the objective, instead of subjective, negative, equates trust with a fact. someone's words", "to comply", "to feel confident in a thing," and "to entrust in a thing."

not -- The Greek word translated as "not" is the Greek negative used to deny objective facts, not opinions. It means "no," "not," or"no truly." It makes a negative statement of fact. Adding "really" to the sentence captures the same idea. When a negative precedes the verb, it affects the whole clause. When it precedes other words, its force is limited to those words.

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. 

his --  (CW) The word translated as "those" 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." It is not the normal pronoun.

writings, - - "Writings" is not from the common word that means "writings" that is usually translated as "scripture. This is Greek for "drawings", "a letter," (as in an alphabet) "diagrams," and "letters" (as in correspondence).

how -- "How" is the adverb that means "how," "by any means," and "I suppose." This is a common interrogatory pronoun used by Jesus.

shall -- (CW) This helping verb "shall" does not indicate the future tense, but that the verb describes a possibility, the subjunctive voice. A "might" or "should" in English is more appropriate, but is assumed in an "if" or "when" clause. Helping verbs are not needed in Greek since the main verb carries this information in its form.

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

believe -- The Greek word translated as "believe" does not apply to religious belief as much as it does trusting in other people, especially their word. Christ usually uses it in contexts, as the one here, that apply to trusting words. The negation of "belief" with the objective, instead of subjective, negative, equates trust with a fact.

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. 

my -- "My" is the regular first-person adjective in Greek indicating possession, so  "mine," "of me," "my," "relating to me," and "against me."

words? -- (CW)  The Greek word translated as "words" is not logos, the Greek word that is almost always translated as "word(s)" in the Gospels, but another word which specifically means spoken words, that is,  "sayings." The English word "remarks" is from the same root and captures this idea well.

KJV Translation Issues: 

5
  • MW - Missing Word -- The word "the" before "writings" is not shown in the English translation.
  • CW - Confusing Word -- The "his" is not the common word usually translated as "his."
  • CW - Confusing Word -- The "shall" does not mean the future tense.
  • MW - Missing Word -- The word "the" before "writings" is not shown in the English translation.
  • CW - Confusing Word -- The "words" is not the common word usually translated as "words."

NIV : 

John 5:47 But since you do not believe what he wrote, how are you going to believe what I say?”

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").

since -- (WW) The "since " here expresses a condition but it means nothing regarding whether that condition is met or not. It also means "if ever" and "whenever." It does not mean "since."

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

do -- This helping verb is used to create questions, commands, negative statements, and smooth word flow in English, but the Greek could be either a question or a statement.

not -- The Greek word translated as "not" is the Greek negative used to deny objective facts, not opinions. It means "no," "not," or"no truly." It makes a negative statement of fact. Adding "really" to the sentence captures the same idea. When a negative precedes the verb, it affects the whole clause. When it precedes other words, its force is limited to those words.

believe --  The Greek word translated as "believe" does not apply to religious belief as much as it does trusting in other people, especially their word. Christ usually uses it in contexts, as the one here, that apply to trusting words. The negation of "belief" with the objective, instead of subjective, negative, equates trust with a fact. someone's words", "to comply", "to feel confident in a thing," and "to entrust in a thing."

what  -- (WW) This word should be the Greek definite article, "the," 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.  It

he --  (WW) The word translated as "his" 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." It is not the normal pronoun. It is not in the form of a subject, but a possessive.

wrote, - - (WW) "Wrote" is not from the common verb that means "wrote" but it is a noun that is Greek for "drawings", "a letter," (as in an alphabet) "diagrams," and "letters" (as in correspondence).

how -- "How" is the adverb that means "how," "by any means," and "I suppose." This is a common interrogatory pronoun used by Jesus.

are - This word is a helper verb to make a progressive form of the future tense.

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

going to -- (WW) This helping verb "going to" should not indicate the future tense, but that the verb describes a possibility, the subjunctive voice of the verb. A "might" or "should" in English is more appropriate, but is assumed in an "if" or "when" clause. Helping verbs are not needed in Greek since the main verb carries this information in its form.

believe -- The Greek word translated as "believe" does not apply to religious belief as much as it does trusting in other people, especially their word. Christ usually uses it in contexts, as the one here, that apply to trusting words. The negation of "belief" with the objective, instead of subjective, negative, equates trust with a fact.

 what -- (WW) This word should be the Greek definite article, "the," 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. 

I -- (WF) "I" is the regular first-person adjective in Greek indicating possession, so  "mine," "of me," "my," "relating to me," and "against me." It is not the subject "I."

say?  -- (WW)  The Greek word translated as "words" is not logos, the Greek word that is almost always translated as "word(s)" in the Gospels, but another word which specifically means spoken words, that the English word "remarks" come from, and it captures this idea well. It is not a verb and has no relation to any of the verbs meaning "to say,"

NIV Translation Issues: 

8
  • WW - Wrong Word -- The word translated as "since" should be something more like "but" or "however."
  • WW - Wrong Word -- The word translated as "what" should be something more like "the" or "those."
  • WW - Wrong Word -- The word translated as "he" should be something more like "that one there's."
  • WW - Wrong Word -- The word translated as "wrote" should be something more like "letters."
  • WW - Wrong Word -- The word translated as "going to" should be something more like "should" or "might."
  • WW - Wrong Word -- The word translated as "what" should be something more like "the" or "these."
  • WF - Wrong Form -  The "I" is not a subject but a genitive, "my."
  • WW - Wrong Word -- The word translated as "say" should be something more like "remarks."
  •  

Related Verses: 

Front Page Date: 

Mar 15 2022