God so loved the world

Iver Larsen iver_larsen at sil.org
Wed May 1 02:45:14 EDT 2002

> Richard wrote:
> <<Just checking my understanding of the sense of Greek in Jn
> 3:16, which is somewhat different from my previous understanding.
> Until now I guess my assumption had been that "so loved" was an
> expression of the amount of love God has for the world.
> Now however it seems that the verse is better understood as "God
> loved the world in this way.">>
[Jonathan:] You might want to look at an article that deals with this exact
> Robert Gundry and Russell Howell, "The Sense and Syntax of John
> 3:14-17 with Special Reference to the Use of hOUTWS . . .
> hWSTE in John 3:16," _Novum Testamentum_ XLI, 1 (1999): 24-39.
> I won't reproduce their argumentation, but their lexical conclusions
> are the following (p. 35):
>    "Although hOUTWS, like hOUTOS, may occasionally refer
> forward, it usually refers backward, and does so in Johannine
> literature nearly always, if not absolutely always.  Furthermore, in
> combination with hWSTE, hOUTWS regularly refers to something
> expressed prior to the hWSTE-clause and itself expresses a
> manner other than one of high degree.  hWSTE, in turn, adds
> something more or less parallel to the earlier referent of hOUTWS."

Although I have not read the article, let me comment on their conclusion.

I would say one cannot draw statistical conclusions like this, and the
conclusions drawn here seems to me to be invalid. Both hOUTWS and hOUTOS can
refer backward and forward in John, and it depends on the context whether
they do one or the other. My rule of thumb is: First check if the context
allows it to refer backward (default, normal option). If that does not seem
to work, see if it makes sense for it to refer forward.

Concerning the other comment about hOUTWS occurring with hWSTE *regularly*
expressing a manner other than one of high degree, I would like to see the
evidence. I could find only once place in the GNT where the two occur
together in the same sentence, namely
He spoke in such an extraordinary/powerful way that a great number believed.

When hOUTWS relates to a preceding KAQWS it refers backward. Sometimes it
refers back into a situation in the real world (deixis). Sometimes it seems
to introduce a further description of the action indicated by the verb and
the meaning would then be "in such a way" or "in this way" as an answer to
How did he do the action of the main verb:

How did he recline/lie at table/lean back? He did it against the breast of
Jesus. So hOUTWS refers forward as well as indicating a further description
of the main verb.

Here hOUTWS must refer forward as well as describing the main verb. The way
he showed himself is described in the following context.

In the case of Jn 3:16, the context also indicates that hOUTWS refers
forward as well as describing the main verb HGAPHSEN. How did God love? He
did it by giving his only Son.

A further question is whether the statement is still part of Jesus' speech
to Nicodemus or it is John's background comment to his readers. There are
strong discourse and literary reasons for concluding that it is John's
comment, introduced by the background marker GAR. This is another reason why
hOUTWS probably refers forward in this case.

Another question is the function of hWSTE. In contrast to Classical Greek,
the normal result connector in John is hINA. (hINA is a general consequence
connector in John, also covering purpose and content.) hWSTE is used only
once by John, and based on other occurences in the GNT it seems to indicate
a surprising, unexpected or dramatic result, consequence or content.

In summary, I believe the hOUTWS indicates the manner of love as further
explained in the following clause and hWSTE supports the unexpected,
extraordinary degree of love.

Iver Larsen

More information about the B-Greek mailing list