[B-Greek] John 8:51 "never see death"

Iver Larsen iver_larsen at sil.org
Sat Jun 21 11:41:05 EDT 2003

> ===================================================================
> Another question :-)
> John 8::51-52
>  Verily, verily, I say unto you, If a man keep my saying, he
> shall never see death.
> Then said the Jews unto him, Now we know that thou hast a devil.
> Abraham is dead, and the prophets; and thou sayest,
>  If a man keep my saying, he shall never taste of death.
> In both these passage there are Greek words untranslated in most
> versions the- "eis aion"
>   never see death "for ever"
>   never taste of death "to the age"
> In your view..
> What is the significance of these two words, in this passage, and
> also John 11:26, in terms of ..
>    translation
>    doctrine
>    idiomatic usage
> It seems that the hearers were simply thinking in terms of
> physical death (disregarding any
> ideas of resurrection, ie. physical death not being permanent) as
> they immediately switched
> into discussing Abraham, who had died physically.  Ergo, I wonder
> if eis aion is basically idiomatic, not  changing the verse substantively

As a translator I would say that the literal Greek "certainly not... for
ever" is translated well enough by the English "never". "He shall never die"
is already emphatic and would probably be read with stress on "never".
Jesus is talking about spiritual death/life as he clarifies in 11:25 (the
believers shall live even if they die). The disbelieving Jewish leaders
misunderstand him as if he was talking about physical death. The woman at
the well had the same misunderstanding about never thirsting again,
Nicodemus had the same misunderstanding about spiritual versus physical
birth. Such spiritual/physical misunderstandings are common in John's Gospel
and part of John's theme.

I don't see a problem for translation, except that an idiomatic translation
would not talk about "seeing" or "tasting" death.

Iver Larsen

More information about the B-Greek mailing list