John 11:5-6 DE...MEN

Iver Larsen iver_larsen at
Mon Mar 11 06:35:36 EST 2002

Glenn made some excellent comments which I would like to support, except for
the use of OUN by John. See below:

> >NIV "Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. Yet when he
> head that Lazarus was sick, he stayed where he was 2 more days."
> Actually, I would not say the NIV is overtranslating it so much as has it
> backwards.  Normally, in a MEN . . . DE combination, the MEN
> introduces the
> concessive and the DE introduces the rebuttal, ie, "granted that such and
> such . . . *yet* so and so is still true."
> e.g, John 16:22  NUN MEM LUPHN ECETE ("Granted, now you have sorrow")
> DE OYOMAI hUMAS, KAI CARHSETAI hUMWN hH KARDIA ("but/yet I will see you
> again, and your heart[s] will rejoice.")

Like most literal translations, NIV has not yet incorporated recent
discourse linguistic advances in the understanding of the Greek connectives
like MEN, DE, OUN, etc.
"Yet" seems to be a (misleading) translation of OUN, whereas neither DE nor
MEN were translated.

Another way of translating the MEN - DE in English with the same meaning as
Glenn suggests would be "although you now have sorrow, I will see you
This sense of MEN DE seems to apply when the two clauses are not coordinate,
but the MEN clause is subordinate to the DE clause. Other examples of this
in John are 10:41 (although John did not do any signs, everything he said
about Jesus was true), 20:30 (although Jesus did many other signs, these
have been selected and told to you to help you believe)
If the clauses are coordinate, the MEN - DE functions like "one one hand --
on the other hand" or "some ... others". Examples of this in John are 7:12
(some were saying this, others were saying that), John 16:9-11 (on the one
hand about sin, on the other hand about righteousness, on the other/third(?)
hand about judgment), 19:24-25 "While (on the one hand) the soldiers did
this, (on the other hand) something else happened)

> But in Jn 11:6, we have TOTE MEN EMEINEN EN hWi HN TOPWi DUO hHMERAS
> ("Granted, he was staying then in the same place two days," not "*yet, he
> was staying ...")

Or: "although he did stay for two more days there, he afterwards ...)

> BTW, although there is no correlation between the DE of verse 5
> and the MEN of verse 6, there is a correlation between verse 5 and 6
> expressed by OUN: "therefore."  Which leads me to your next question.
> >[snip] is the imperfect HGAPA being inserted as a paranthetical
> comment to explain that despite the delay Jesus still continued to love
> Martha and her sister and Lazarus?
> I would say yes, a parenthetical comment, not to explain that he
> "continued" to love them "despite" the delay, but simply as background
information to
> what is to follow.  It is background not to the delay, but to the mainline
> which resumes in verse 7 (more on that in a moment).  DE, occurring alone
> (without MEN) either signals the beginning of a new story-line,
> as in verse 1 of this chapter, or else signals the beginning of background
> information, as in verse 2 (really the same principle -- the beginning of
a new line of
> thought, whether a sideline or a new story entirely.)  The imperfect tense
> occurs in background information contemporaneous with the time of the
> mainline, and so HGAPA is imperfect here in that respect rather than to
> emphasize a continuing aspect.

Yes, I completely agree on DE, but not on OUN. One of the functions of DE is
to introduce a background descriptive comment like here, and it is normal to
use imperfect in such background statements. This is very different from
English "but", more like English "now" as Glenn also translates it below.
> I submit, then, that *both* verse 5 and the second half verse 6 are
> parenthetical, with the mainline resuming in verse 7 (EPEITE META TOUTO
> "afterwards, after this" signals a progression in time reference, which is
> characteristic of a return to mainline), and that the first half
> of verse 6 is subordinate to the main clause in verse 7 rather than being
tied to the
> second half of verse 6.  In other words, freely paraphrasing,
> "Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus.
> Therefore, when he heard that he was sick he said to his
> disciples, 'Let us go into Judea again.' (although, granted, MEN, he did
stay two days in the
> same place before he said anything to his disciples.)"
> The way the MEN clause, though interrupts between the main clause and its
> preceding subordinate time clause, intensifies its concessive nature:
> "Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus.  Therefore, when he
> heard that he was sick, (OK, granted, he was abiding in the same place for
> two days,) [but] afterwards, after that, he said to his disciples . . ."

Here I have a different understanding of OUN. John is famous for using OUN
much more than the other NT authors. OUN has basically three functions: 1)
to introduce a consequence or inference 2) to introduce a summary 3) to
resume the main line after a background comment. JOHN may also be using it
rhetorically to indicate a decisive moment or a surprising event, but this
is open for debate.

I would analyze the OUN in v. 6 as resumptive after the background comment
in v. 5. Such a resumption is not marked in English, and OUN need not be
translated here, and should not be translated by "therefore" which fits with
the other two senses.

My adjustment of Glenn's paraphrase, which is not necessarily the best
English, would therefore be:
"Now Jesus (really) loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. When he heard
that Lazarus was sick, although he stayed where he was for two more days, he
then (after that) said to the disciples: Let us go..."

Iver Larsen

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