Tuesday, May 3, 2016

A Purpose-filled Prayer

Below is a rough translation and some initial comments regarding John 17:20-26, the gospel reading from the RCL for the 7th Sunday of Easter. This is a portion of what is usually called Jesus’ Prayer for his Disciples and it contains that compelling phrase, “that they may be one” (or, as you can see below, “in order that they may be one”). Your comments are welcomed.

A couple of notes to begin:
1. There is a repetitive use of the word ἵνα in this text. ἵνα is usually translated as “that” or “in order that.” I will use “in order that,” to distinguish this conjunction from another word that can be translated as “that”: ὅτι, which is found in vv. 21,24,25. Greattreasure.org describes ἵνα this way: “that, in order that, to the end that - with the emphasis on the purpose, design, and result. ...  It must also be distinguished from ὅτι, which is objective, and introduces the matter, while ἵνα specifies the purpose. Thus “hope” is followed by ὅτι, which presents the object of the hope, while “prayer” is followed by ἵνα, showing the purpose and design of the prayer.”
I will identify every ἵνα in red and every ὅτι in green. It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas in this text.
2. One method of thinking theologically that I learned along the way is that one can get to ultimate meaning by persistently asking, “For what purpose?” (This method arises from Paul Tillich’s definition of ‘religion’ as ‘ultimate meaning.’) An initial answer leads to a deeper answer, which leads to a deeper answer, and ultimately leads to a final answer. (That’s the theory at least. I’ve found this process to be better at identifying provisional answers than attaining final answers.) With that process in mind, one could follow the string of ἵνα clauses to try to get to the final purpose of the prayer.
3. I find v.21 below to be a verse that one could contemplate until the end of time and still have much to learn. To “be one” is defined in this verse as being “in” one another. God and Jesus are one because God is in Jesus; Jesus is in God. The petition is that those who believe may be in God and Jesus in the same way that God is in Jesus and Jesus in God. I take this to mean that one cannot separate the ecclesiology of John from his understanding of incarnation and deification. However, if I were to follow that line of thought, I would struggle hard to let John define his understanding of incarnation and deification, instead of imposing later developments of those doctrines onto this text.

20 Οὐ περὶ τούτων δὲ ἐρωτῶ μόνον, ἀλλὰ καὶ περὶ τῶν πιστευόντων διὰ τοῦ λόγου αὐτῶν εἰς ἐμέ,
Yet not concerning these only do I ask, but also concerning the ones who are believing through their word in me,
ἐρωτῶ: PAI 1s, ἐρωτάω, 1) to question  2) to ask  2a) to request, entreat, beg, beseech
πιστευόντων: PAPart gpm, πιστεύω, 1) to think to be true, to be persuaded of, to credit, place  confidence in  
1. Many translations make ἐρωτῶ into “pray.” That is accurate technically, since the word “pray” means ‘to ask’ or ‘to entreat’ and can be used commonly, such as one might find it in Shakespeare or The Hobbit. For many people, however, ‘to pray’ has become a religious term, meaning a specific kind of address to God. Jesus is indeed famously making a specific address to God in this chapter, but at the level of rough translation I think it is more accurate to remember the common use of this term.
2. By the way, the most common verb for ‘to pray’ in the NT is προσεύχομαι. It is not used in John’s gospel. The most common noun for ‘prayer’ is προσευχή, also not in John’s gospel.
3. The participle πιστευόντων (ones who are believing) is present and it is active. Quite a few translations make it a future tense, such as KJV, NIV, ESV, and NRSV, “those who will believe.”
4. Compare this verse to 17:9, “I am asking on their behalf; I am not asking on behalf of the world, but on behalf of those whom you gave me, because they are yours.” (NRSV)

21 ἵνα πάντες ἓν ὦσιν, καθὼς σύ, πάτερ, ἐν ἐμοὶ κἀγὼ ἐν σοί, ἵνα καὶ αὐτοὶ ἐν ἡμῖν ὦσιν, ἵνα ὁ κόσμος πιστεύῃ ὅτι σύ με ἀπέστειλας
In order that all may be one, just as you, Father, in me and I in you, in order that they also may be one in us, in order that the world may believe that you sent me.
ὦσιν: PASubj 3p, εἰμί, 1) to be, to exist, to happen, to be present 
πιστεύῃ: PASubj 3s, πιστεύω, 1) to think to be true, to be persuaded of, to credit, place  confidence in
ἀπέστειλας: AAI 2s, ἀποστέλλω, 1) to order (one) to go to a place appointed 
1. In this verse ἵνα points to the purpose of Jesus’ entreaty – the last of which is ‘in order that the world may believe’ – while ὅτι points to what it is that Jesus wants the world to believe – that God sent him.
2. If the ἵνα clauses intend to show the purpose and design of a prayer and this particular prayer has numerous ἵνα clauses in succession, it raises the question of whether the prayer works from the more general purpose to the final purpose.
3. The phrase “you, Father, in me and I in you” does not have a verb, so many translations provide “are.”
4. The pronoun κἀγώ is a contraction of καὶ (and, also, even) and ἐγώ (I). I usually translated it as “and I,” but at times it seems to mean simply “I”.

22 κἀγὼ τὴν δόξαν ἣν δέδωκάς μοι δέδωκα αὐτοῖς, ἵνα ὦσιν ἓν καθὼς ἡμεῖς ἕν, 
And I the glory which you have given to me have given to them, in order that they may be one just as we one,
δέδωκάς: PerfAI 2s, δίδωμι, 1) to give  2) to give something to someone
δέδωκα: PerfAI 1s, δίδωμι, 1) to give  2) to give something to someone
ὦσιν: PASubj 3p, εἰμί, 1) to be, to exist, to happen, to be present 
1. This initial translation is very awkward and needs refining to read sensibly. The “And I” that begins the sentence goes with the “have given to them” at the end of the first clause. One would need to add a comma or change the word order a lot to make it read well, such as, “And the glory which you have given to me, I have given to them ...”
2. The last phrase lacks a verb, so most translations add “just as we are one.”

23 ἐγὼ ἐν αὐτοῖς καὶ σὺ ἐν ἐμοί, ἵνα ὦσιν τετελειωμένοι εἰς ἕν, ἵνα γινώσκῃ ὁ κόσμος ὅτι σύ με ἀπέστειλας καὶ ἠγάπησας αὐτοὺς καθὼς ἐμὲ ἠγάπησας.
I in them and you in me, in order that they may be having been perfected into one, in order that the world may know that you sent me and you loved them just as you loved me.
ὦσιν: PASubj 3p, εἰμί, 1) to be, to exist, to happen, to be present 
τετελειωμένοι: PerfM/PPart npm, τελειόω, 1) to make perfect, complete
γινώσκῃ: PASubj 3s, γινώσκω, 1) to learn to know, come to know, get a knowledge of perceive, feel 
ἀπέστειλας: AAI 2s, ἀποστέλλω, 1) to order (one) to go to a place appointed
ἠγάπησας: AAI 2s, ἀγαπάω, 1) of persons  1a) to welcome, to entertain, to be fond of, to love dearly
1. The phrase “in order that they may be one” is amplified in this verse by a perfect middle/passive participle, τετελειωμένοι, serving as an adverb, “in order that they may be having been perfected into one.” At this point in my process I see the effect of this adverb to be to distinguish the oneness of those who believe in Jesus from the oneness between Jesus and God. The unity of Jesus and God is, while the unity of those who believe – with one another and with Jesus – is in process.
2. It is curious that “you loved them just as you loved me” is past tense (aorist).

24 Πάτερ, ὃ δέδωκάς μοι, θέλω ἵνα ὅπου εἰμὶ ἐγὼ κἀκεῖνοι ὦσιν μετ' ἐμοῦ, ἵνα θεωρῶσιν τὴν δόξαν τὴν ἐμὴν ἣν δέδωκάς μοι, ὅτι ἠγάπησάς με πρὸ καταβολῆς κόσμου. 
Father, whoever you have given to me, I will in order that where I am they also may be with me, in order that they might behold my glory which you have given to me, because you loved me before [the] world’s foundation.
δέδωκάς: PerfAI 2s, δίδωμι, 1) to give  2) to give something to someone
θέλω: PAI 1s, θέλω, 1) to will, have in mind, intend 
εἰμὶ: PAI 1s, εἰμί, 1) to be, to exist, to happen, to be present
ὦσιν: PASubj 3p, εἰμί, 1) to be, to exist, to happen, to be present 
θεωρῶσιν: PASubj 3p, θεωρέω, 1) to be a spectator, look at, behold
δέδωκάς: PerfAI 2s, δίδωμι, 1) to give  2) to give something to someone
ἠγάπησας: AAI 2s, ἀγαπάω, 1) of persons  1a) to welcome, to entertain, to be fond of, to love dearly
1. Just as κἀγὼ is a contraction of καὶ and ἐγώ (and + I, see note v.21 above), κἀκεῖνοι is a contraction of καὶ and εῖνοι (and + they).
2. “I will” indicates the verb θέλω (to will, to wish) and not the future tense of ‘to be.’
3. Here the ὅτι seems to indicate ‘because’ more than ‘that.’ However, it could be ‘that’ signifying that the ‘glory’ that God has given to Jesus is that God loved Jesus before the world’s foundation.

25 πάτερ δίκαιε, καὶ ὁ κόσμος σε οὐκ ἔγνω, ἐγὼ δέ σε ἔγνων, καὶ οὗτοι ἔγνωσαν ὅτι σύ με ἀπέστειλας
Righteous father, the world also did not know you, but I knew you, and these knew that you sent me,
ἔγνω: AAI 3s, γινώσκω, 1) to learn to know, come to know, get a knowledge of perceive, feel 
ἔγνων: AAI 1s, γινώσκω,
ἔγνωσαν: AAI 3p, γινώσκω,
ἀπέστειλας: AAI 2s, ἀποστέλλω, 1) to order (one) to go to a place appointed 
1. This verse could start “O righteous father,” since the adjective “righteous” is in the vocative case.
2. Each verb here is past tense (aorist). The NIV, ESV, and NRSV make them present.
3. There is a distinction between ‘the world’ and ‘these.’

26 καὶ ἐγνώρισα αὐτοῖς τὸ ὄνομά σου καὶ γνωρίσωἵνα ἡ ἀγάπη ἣν ἠγάπησάς με ἐν αὐτοῖς  κἀγὼ ἐν αὐτοῖς. 
And I made known to them your name and shall make known, in order that the love with which you loved me might be in them and I in them.
ἐγνώρισα: AAI 1s, γνωρίζω, 1) to make known  1a) to become known, be recognised 
γνωρίσω: FAI 1s, γνωρίζω, 1) to make known  1a) to become known, be recognised 
ἠγάπησας: AAI 2s, ἀγαπάω, 1) of persons  1a) to welcome, to entertain, to be fond of, to love dearly
ᾖ : PASubj 3s εἰμί, 1) to be, to exist, to happen, to be present
1. Here we have the final ἵνα clause of this pericope and of this prayer/chapter. The hope is two-fold: That God’s love may be in them and that Christ might be in them. (The verb for ‘to be,’ ᾖ, is subjunctive, indicating possibility.


4 comments:

  1. Here's a question.
    In v23, Jesus prays that when the disciples are one in heart and mind, "Then the world will know that you sent me and that you have loved THEM just as you loved me."

    The surrounding context would lead me to believe that "THEM" refers to the disciples. Then the world will see that the Father loves the disciples. How does that draw people from the world into belief (v21)?

    Or--is "THEM" the world? As in John 3.16--"God loved the world this way: that he gave his only Son." In other words, is Jesus praying that the loving oneness of the church will show the world the love of God, and hence draw them to Jesus?

    ReplyDelete
  2. Here's a question.
    In v23, Jesus prays that when the disciples are one in heart and mind, "Then the world will know that you sent me and that you have loved THEM just as you loved me."

    The surrounding context would lead me to believe that "THEM" refers to the disciples. Then the world will see that the Father loves the disciples. How does that draw people from the world into belief (v21)?

    Or--is "THEM" the world? As in John 3.16--"God loved the world this way: that he gave his only Son." In other words, is Jesus praying that the loving oneness of the church will show the world the love of God, and hence draw them to Jesus?

    ReplyDelete
  3. Jeremy, I think your last paragraph is right - along the lines of Paul's expression that "you will know they are Christians by their love." We're supposed to make God attractive to the rest of the world - something we've failed at so badly that it's a wonder Christianity survives!

    ReplyDelete
  4. Hi Jeremy and Caryn,
    It is a bit tricky to try to nail down the antecedent for "they" throughout this prayer. In v.23 you can (and do!) make the case for the antecedent to be either 'the disciples' or 'the world.' That's where I think following the ἵνα shows a pattern of movement from 'Jesus' and God's' essential unity' to 'the disciples' unity' to 'the world's unity.' I think that is the direction that the whole prayer takes as well, with vv. 1-5 being about Jesus and God (though not exclusive of other unities); vv. 6-19 being about the disciples; and vv. 20-26 being about the world.

    ReplyDelete

If you want to leave a comment using only your name, please click the name/url option. I don't believe you have to sign in or anything like that by using that option. You may also use the 'anonymous' option if you want. Just be nice.

Blog Archive