Imperative or Indicative in John 14:1

Carl W. Conrad cwconrad at
Sat May 25 12:40:32 EDT 2002

At 10:39 AM -0500 5/25/02, Douglas B Barnes wrote:
>Good day, all! Just working my way through the latter chapters of John,
>and I come across these interesting constructions in the early part of
>ch. 14, with identical verbs (PISTEUETE, to be precise) that could be
>translted either in the indicative or the imperative. I have several
>questions on the matter, if anyone is up for it:
>1. Most English translations seem to opt for indicative in the first
>instance and imperative in the second, which is all fine and good -- but
>I don't understand why. Was this simply a judgment call based on
>preconceived notions? Or are there grammatical reasons for this
>indicative/imperative duo?
>2. Since the same word would necessarily seem, by the context, to be
>translated in the imperative in verse 11. Should this have any bearing on
>the two instances of 1?
>3. To further complicate matters, the NIV departs from the flow and
>renders PISTEUETE as "trust," rather than believe. Judgment call? Being
>different for the sake of being different? Or would there be a legitimate
>reason not to render this word, in this usage, as "believe"?
>Any aid is greatly appreciated!!

I don't think there's any way to be fully confident that the first verb is
not an imperative. The NET "translator's note" is about as honest as one is
likely to find anywhere in a version:

"tn Or "Believe in God." The translation of the two uses of PISTEUETE is
difficult. Both may be either indicative or imperative, and as L. Morris
points out (John [NICNT], 637), this results in a bewildering variety of
possibilities. To complicate matters further, the first may be understood
as a question: "Do you believe in God? Believe also in me." Morris argues
against the KJV translation which renders the first PISTEUETE as indicative
and the second as imperative on the grounds that for the writer of the
Fourth Gospel, faith in Jesus is inseparable from faith in God. But this is
precisely the point that Jesus is addressing in context. He is about to
undergo rejection by his own people as their Messiah. The disciples' faith
in him as Messiah and Lord would be cast into extreme doubt by these
events, which the author makes clear were not at this time foreseen by the
disciples. After the resurrection it is this identification between Jesus
and the Father which needs to be reaffirmed (cf. John 20:24-29). Thus it
seems best to take the first PISTEUETE as indicative and the second as
imperative, producing the translation 'You believe in God; believe also in

Carl W. Conrad
Department of Classics, Washington University (Emeritus)
Most months:: 1647 Grindstaff Road/Burnsville, NC 28714/(828) 675-4243
cwconrad at OR cwconrad at

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