Monday, March 8, 2021

Facing Evil, Coming to Light

Below is a rough translation and some comments – too many, perhaps – on John 3:14-21. I find that the more familiar a passage is, the more questions I feel are warranted, because we tend to get sloppy with the familiar. I am captivated by the very first verse of this pericope and have an essay on it entitled “The Politics of Reckoning” found at 
I am also including a quasi-heretical rumination at the end on who Jesus is, who is both particular and larger than life.

14 καὶ καθὼς Μωϋσῆς ὕψωσεν τὸν ὄφιν ἐν τῇ ἐρήμῳ, οὕτως ὑψωθῆναι δεῖ τὸν υἱὸν τοῦ ἀνθρώπου,
And just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so it is necessary for the son of man to be lifted up.
ὕψωσεν: AAI 3s, ὑψόω, 1) to lift up on high, to exalt  2) metaph.  2a) to raise to the very summit of opulence and prosperity  2b) to exalt, to raise to dignity, honor and happiness
δεῖ: PAI 3s, δέω, 1) to bind tie, fasten  1a) to bind, fasten with chains, to throw into chains
ὑψωθῆναι: APInf, ὑψόω, 1) to lift up on high, to exalt 
1. The term “son of man” is often treated as a “synoptic” term (that is, a term used by Matthew, Mark, and Luke, but rarely by John), but a simple word count argues against that. Using the tool for a word search, I’m seeing “Son of man” used 83 times in the gospels: 30 times in Matthew; 14 times in Mark; 27 times in Luke; and 12 times in John. Certainly it is used less in John relative to the size of the gospel, but it is not absent or even rare.
2. The verb ψόω, could be a simple physical elevation or a metaphorical exaltation. The comparative “just as” is an indicator that the meaning here is determined by one’s reading of the story from Numbers 21. In the NRSV translation below, it simply says that Moses put the bronze serpent on a pole, indicating a physical elevation.
3. The verb δέω (“it is necessary for”) is used 9x in John. A customary translation is “must.” My problem with that – born of ignorance, I’m sure – is that when we translate it ‘must’ then the accusative case often takes the form of the subject of the verb (in this verse, “the son of man must …”). If we translate it as ‘it is necessary for,’ then the accusative keeps its normal place as the object of the verb (“it is necessary for the son of man …”) and the agency is left in question. The actual meaning of δέω – as one can see above – is a fastening, a binding of some sort. Maybe “It is binding that the son of man be lifted up.”  Below are instances of where δέω is used in John, using the translations found in the lexical tool (from Strong’s Lexicon) on
Joh 3:7            ...unto thee, Ye must be born again...
Joh 3:14          ...wilderness, even so must the Son of...
Joh 3:30          He must increase, but I...
Joh 4:4            And he must needs go through Samaria...
Joh 4:20          ...the place where men ought to worship.
Joh 4:24          ...that worship him must worship him in...
Joh 9:4            I must work the works...
Joh 10:16        ...them also I must bring, and they...
Joh 12:34        ...Son of man must be lifted up...
4. The reference to the Son of Man being “lifted up” here means that Jesus will be physically hung on a pole. One would not know that by jauntily singing the song “Lift Jesus Higher.”
5. The story to which Jesus is referring is in Numbers 21:4-9
From Mount Hor they set out by the way to the Red Sea, to go around the land of Edom; but the people became impatient on the way. The people spoke against God and against Moses, ‘Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? For there is no food and no water, and we detest this miserable food.’ Then the Lord sent poisonous serpents among the people, and they bit the people, so that many Israelites died. The people came to Moses and said, ‘We have sinned by speaking against the Lord and against you; pray to the Lord to take away the serpents from us.’ So Moses prayed for the people. And the Lord said to Moses, ‘Make a poisonous serpent, and set it on a pole; and everyone who is bitten shall look at it and live.’ So Moses made a serpent of bronze, and put it upon a pole; and whenever a serpent bit someone, that person would look at the serpent of bronze and live.
6. Here is my sentiment about this story, from Numbers: The people were cursed by God because they refused to accept God’s provision (e.g. They complained about the “miserable food” called manna). The snakes were the punishment. To be “saved” from the snakes they had to look at the bronze serpent – they had to reckon with their refusal to accept God’s provision. There is a coarse frankness in looking at one’s sin in order to be saved from it.

15 ἵνα πᾶς ὁ πιστεύων ἐν αὐτῷ ἔχῃ ζωὴν αἰώνιον.
In order that anyone who believes in him will have life eternal.
πιστεύων: PAPart nsm, πιστεύω, 1) to think to be true, to be persuaded of, to credit, place  confidence in  1a) of the thing believed  1a1) to credit, have confidence  1b) in a moral or religious reference 
ἔχῃ: PASubj 3s, ἔχω, 1) to have, i.e. to hold  1a) to have (hold) in the hand, in the sense of wearing, to have  (hold) possession of the mind (refers to alarm, agitating  emotions, etc.)
1. The qualification here is “life eternal,” as opposed to simply being healed of a life-threatening poison.

16 Οὕτως γὰρ ἠγάπησεν ὁ θεὸς τὸν κόσμον, ὥστε τὸν υἱὸν τὸν μονογενῆ ἔδωκεν, ἵνα πᾶς ὁ πιστεύων εἰς αὐτὸν μὴ ἀπόληται ἀλλ' ἔχῃ ζωὴν αἰώνιον.
For in this way God loved the world, that [God] gave the only generated son, in order that anyone who believes in him would not [be] destroyed but have life eternal.
ἠγάπησεν: AAI 3s, ἀγαπάω, 1) of persons  1a) to welcome, to entertain, to be fond of, to love dearly  2) of things  2a) to be well pleased, to be contented at or with a thing
ἔδωκεν: AAI 3s, δίδωμι, 1) to give  2) to give something to someone  2a) of one's own accord to give one something, to his advantage
πιστεύων: PAPart nsm, πιστεύω, 1) to think to be true, to be persuaded of, to credit, place  confidence in  1a) of the thing believed  1a1) to credit, have confidence  1b) in a moral or religious reference 
ἀπόληται: AMSubj 3s, ἀπόλλυμι, 1) to destroy  1a) to put out of the way entirely, abolish, put an end to ruin  1b) render useless  1c) to kill  1d) to declare that one must be put to death  1e) metaph. to devote or give over to eternal misery in hell  1f) to perish, to be lost, ruined, destroyed  2) to destroy  2a) to lose
ἔχῃ: PASubj 3s, ἔχω, 1) to have, i.e. to hold  1a) to have (hold) in the hand, in the sense of wearing, to have  (hold) possession of the mind (refers to alarm, agitating  emotions, etc.)
1. Some modern translations begin this verse, “God loved the world so much…” , but I think that is a bad paraphrase of oὕτως. Oὕτως can mean ‘so,’ as the KJV and NRSV translate it, but not ‘so’ in the sense of “so much.” It is “so” as in the sense of “in this way.”
2. The translator also has a decision to make here. The word oὕτως could be, “Here’s how God loved the world: …” followed by an expression of God’s love. That is the customary way that we hear this verse. Or, the word oὕτως could be a bridge to connect the reference to the wilderness story of the serpent to the story of God sending the only begotten son.
3. In addition, the conjunction ὥστε is identified in as “a consecutive conjunction, i.e. expressing consequence or result.” What that suggests is that the act of God sending the only begotten son is another, larger expression of God’s salvation, following the pattern of the serpent in the wilderness.
4. The word μονογενῆ would be transliterated mono-genes. The phrase “only begotten son” in the KJV is more accurate than the “only son” in the NRSV, because there is the reference to generation/begotten-ness in the term. It seems like the uniqueness of ‘only’ qualifies the ‘genes’ more than the ‘son.
5. There are two types of historical contexts at play in the phrase “only begotten son.” One is the Roman context of John’s day, when various Caesars – dead or alive – would be declared a “son of God.” (See John Dominic Crossan and Jonathan Reed’s In Search of Paul for a discussion of this issue.) The second historical context is the Christian theological tradition over this phrase. The exegete needs to be aware of this ongoing conversation when consulting lexicons and other tools. The “lexicon” in, for example, has an extended definition of this term which goes far beyond word study and argues for and against certain post-biblical interpretations. I have no problem with people commenting on the meaning of words (I’m doing it!), but I do have a problem with resources that claim to be giving historical data lapsing into ongoing theological arguments. [End of rant. End of blog claiming to be about Scripture and suddenly becoming commentary on commentaries.]
6. By the way, why does the NRSV treat this sentence as a paragraph? There is nothing grammatical that suggests that this verse should stand out from its context. Are they suggesting that John did not know how important this verse was, since for John its meaning is inherently connected to the previous verse (as indicated by the oὕτως)?
7. The verb πόλλυμι is in the middle voice. It is contrasted with having life eternal. If we think about it, ‘having’ is something of a middle voice also (although technically it is active). The customary use of a middle voice might suggest, “destroys himself”, but some lexicons insist Paul and John use this to mean the passive, “be destroyed.” I guess I will yield to them, but I wonder…
8. Unlike the verb δέω in v.14 above, the verbs γαπάω and δίδωμι have a subject – God. God loves, God sends, but does God require that Jesus be lifted up on the cross?

17 οὐ γὰρ ἀπέστειλεν ὁ θεὸς τὸν υἱὸν εἰς τὸν κόσμον ἵνα κρίνῃ τὸν κόσμον, ἀλλ' ἵνα σωθῇ ὁ κόσμος δι' αὐτοῦ.
For God did not send the son into the world in order that he might judge the world, but in order that the world might be rescued through him.
ἀπέστειλεν: AAI 3s, ἀποστέλλω, 1) to order (one) to go to a place appointed  2) to send away, dismiss  2a) to allow one to depart, that he may be in a state of  liberty  2b) to order one to depart, send off  2c) to drive away
κρίνῃ: AASubj 3s, κρίνω, 1) to separate, put asunder, to pick out, select, choose  2) to approve, esteem, to prefer  3) to be of opinion, deem, think, to be of opinion  4) to determine, resolve, decree  5) to judge 
σωθῇ: APSubj 3s, σῴζω, 1) to save, keep safe and sound, to rescue from danger or destruction  1a) one (from injury or peril)  1a1) to save a suffering one (from perishing), i.e. one  suffering from disease, to make well, heal, restore to health  1b1) to preserve one who is in danger of destruction,  to save or rescue
1. My phraseology is a bit wooden here, but it is an attempt to pick up on the subjunctive verbs, which often follows “in order that” (ἵνα). The subjunctive mood speaks of possibilities, rather than declarations of fact (like this indicative mood).
2. Personally, I find this verse to be as important as the previous one.
3. The word I translate as “judge” (κρίνω) is often translated ‘condemned.’ That is a valid choice, but pay attention to the fact that κρίνω does not necessarily have a negative connotation. “Condemn” is a good choice if one is making a contrast between κρίνω and σζω (to rescue).
4. There are two pronouns that arise in this verse. In the phrase “he might judge” the “he” is implied as the subject of the verb because the verb is in the 3rd person singular form. Does it refer to God, the subject of the first clause? Or, does it refer to the son, the object of the first clause? The “him” of “might be saved through him” is the translation of the 3rd person masculine pronoun αὐτοῦ, which is the object of the preposition “through.” That one seems to refer to the son, since the point of the verse is to explain the manner for which God has sent the son. 

18 ὁ πιστεύων εἰς αὐτὸν οὐ κρίνεται: ὁ δὲ μὴ πιστεύων ἤδη κέκριται, ὅτι μὴ πεπίστευκεν εἰς τὸ ὄνομα τοῦ μονογενοῦς υἱοῦ τοῦ θεοῦ.
The one who believes in him is not judged; but the one who does not believe has already been judged, because that one has not believed in the name of the only generated son of God.
πιστεύων: PAPart nsm, πιστεύω, 1) to think to be true, to be persuaded of, to credit, place 
κρίνεται: PPI 3s, κρίνω, 1) to separate, put asunder, to pick out, select, choose  2) to approve, esteem, to prefer  3) to be of opinion, deem, think, to be of opinion  4) to determine, resolve, decree  5) to judge 
πιστεύων: PAPart nsm, πιστεύω, 1) to think to be true, to be persuaded of, to credit, place 
κέκριται: PerfPI 3s, κρίνω, 1) to separate, put asunder, to pick out, select, choose  2) to approve, esteem, to prefer  3) to be of opinion, deem, think, to be of opinion  4) to determine, resolve, decree  5) to judge 
πεπίστευκεν: PerfAI 3s, πιστεύω, 1) to think to be true, to be persuaded of, to credit, place 
1. The verb and participles translated “believe” (πιστεύω) here and in v.16 are compelling. But, does this text tell us what, exactly, one is to believe when believing ‘in him’, or, in believing ‘in his name’?
2. The language of these verses makes it hard to imagine that they are being said in Jesus’ time. With the use of the 3rd person, John seems to be commenting on Jesus, via the mouth of Jesus. I would suggest that is the case for this entire pericope, beginning with v.11.
3. The word κρίνω, as I noted in v.17, does not necessarily mean ‘condemn,’ as most translations have it. It can mean something good, like to honor. But, in this text it is contrasted with ‘rescue,’ so it would mean something perilous. I am using “judge” because that English word has the ambiguity of the Greek word, whereas ‘condemn’ is solely negative.
4. This is a curious argument, isn’t it? Strictly speaking the form of the argument is circular. The circularity is especially evident if we tried to apply this form to any other subject: “If you believe in hobgoblins you are not judged, but if you do not believe you are judged because God sent hobgoblins.” Nobody would respond to such an argument with, “Oh my, you’re right!”
But, I think there is a book-in-waiting here on the possibility that this argument is not circular when it pertains to ‘the Word made flesh,’ which is “full of grace and truth” (John 1:14). If Jesus is an expression of ‘truth itself,’ the ground of belief itself, then to reject the very basis of truth would be – in itself – one’s judgment.

19 αὕτη δέ ἐστιν ἡ κρίσις, ὅτι τὸ φῶς ἐλήλυθεν εἰς τὸν κόσμον καὶ ἠγάπησαν οἱ ἄνθρωποι μᾶλλον τὸ σκότος ἢ τὸ φῶς, ἦν γὰρ αὐτῶν πονηρὰ τὰ ἔργα.
Yet this is the judgment, that the light has come into the world and the people loved the darkness more than the light, for their works were evil.
ἐστιν: PAI 3s, εἰμί, 1) to be, to exist, to happen, to be present
ἐλήλυθεν: PerfAI 3s, ἔρχομαι, 1) to come  1a) of persons  1a1) to come from one place to another, and used both of  persons arriving and of those returning
ἠγάπησαν: AAI 3p, ἀγαπάω, 1) of persons  1a) to welcome, to entertain, to be fond of, to love dearly  2) of things  2a) to be well pleased, to be contented at or with a thing
ἦν: IAI 3s, εἰμί, 1) to be, to exist, to happen, to be present
1. The word “judgment” (κρίσις) has the same root as the verb for ‘judge’ in verses 17 and 18. This verse clarifies what it means to say that those who do not believe are already judged.
2. Having seen how God loves, v.16, now we see how those who reject Jesus love – they love darkness more than light.  
3. Does the “for” (γρ), indicate that the evil works are the evidence or the reason that the people loved darkness more than light?
4. I’m trying to find new terms that can keep the metaphorical meaning of “darkness and light” but overcome the connotations that those terms have gathered throughout a history of racism. Perhaps “cloudy and clear”? Your suggestions?

20 πᾶς γὰρ ὁ φαῦλα πράσσων μισεῖ τὸ φῶς καὶ οὐκ ἔρχεται πρὸς τὸ φῶς, ἵνα μὴ ἐλεγχθῇ τὰ ἔργα αὐτοῦ:
For the one who practices evil acts hates the light and does not come to the light, in order that his works may not be exposed.
φαῦλα: APN, φαῦλος, 1) easy, slight, ordinary, mean, worthless, of no account   2) ethically, bad, base, wicked
μισεῖ: PAI 3s, μισέω, 1) to hate, pursue with hatred, detest  2) to be hated, detested
πράσσων: PAPart nsm, πράσσω, 1) to exercise, practise, to be busy with, carry on  1a) to undertake, to do  2) to accomplish, perform  2a) to commit, perpetrate  3) to manage public affairs, transact public business  3a) to exact tribute, revenue, debts  4) to act
ἔρχεται: PMI 3s, ἔρχομαι, 1) to come  1a) of persons  1a1) to come from one place to another, and used both of  persons arriving and of those returning
ἐλεγχθῇ: APSubj 3s, ἐλέγχω, 1) to convict, refute, confute  1a) generally with a suggestion of shame of the person convicted  1b) by conviction to bring to the light, to expose  2) to find fault with, correct  2a) by word  2a1) to reprehend severely, chide, admonish, reprove  2a2) to call to account, show one his fault, demand an explanation  2b) by deed  2b1) to chasten, to punish
1. The hatred of evil doer toward the light/clarity is because the clarity reveals one’s evil deeds. It refers to more a matter of shame and hiding than something like an inborn hatred of divinity.  
2. A translation challenge with this verse and the next is that ‘the works’ (τ ργα) is a plural noun but the verb λέγχω is singular.

21 ὁ δὲ ποιῶν τὴν ἀλήθειαν ἔρχεται πρὸς τὸ φῶς, ἵνα φανερωθῇ αὐτοῦ τὰ ἔργα ὅτι ἐν θεῷ ἐστιν εἰργασμένα.
Yet the one who does the truth comes to the light, in order that his works will be revealed, because it is in God they are worked.
ποιῶν: PAPart nsm, ποιέω, 1) to make  1a) with the names of things made, to produce, construct,  form, fashion, etc.  1b) to be the authors of, the cause  1c) to make ready, to prepare
ἔρχεται: PMI 3s, ἔρχομαι, 1) to come  1a) of persons  1a1) to come from one place to another, and used both of  persons arriving and of those returning
φανερωθῇ: APSubj 3s, φανερόω, 1) to make manifest or visible or known what has been hidden or unknown,   to manifest, whether by words, or deeds, or in any other way   1a) make actual and visible, realised   1b) to make known by teaching
ἐστιν: PAI 3s, εἰμί, 1) to be, to exist, to happen, to be present
εἰργασμένα: PPPart npm, ἐργάζομαι, 1) to work, labour, do work  2) to trade, to make gains by trading, "do business"  3) to do, work out  3a) exercise, perform, commit  3b) to cause to exist, produce  4) to work for, earn by working, to acquire
1. John speaks of one who “does the truth” as opposed to “knows the truth.” And “truth” seems to be in contrast with “evil” from v.20, where one “practices evil acts (plural)” and the other “does the truth (singular).”
2. The phrase “they are worked” is awkward, but I want to show the connection between the noun “works” (τ ργα) and the verb “are worked” (ργάζομαι).
3. I like the contrast in vv.20-21 between evil acts which are “exposed” (λέγχω) by the light/clarity and good works which are “revealed” (φανερόω) by the light/clarity.

Comment: There is an interesting difference in tone and emphasis in vv.14-18 and vv.19-21. In vv.16-18, the point is that God’s only generated son is the one whom God has sent, not the judge the world, but to save it – in the same way that God saved people from the poisonous snakes in the wilderness. In these verses, Jesus is defined by his particularity. Salvation, here, comes by believing in him as the one whom God has sent. In vv.19-21, it is less a matter of believing in a particular person – the only generated son sent from God – as in the ‘light/clarity.’ The ‘light/clarity’ is – using a felicitous phrase – “larger than life.” In these verses, one can imagine any number of persons in any number of places either following the light/clarity or following deeds of darkness/clouds. So, in a distant place, far, far away, where one has never had a chance of hearing about the historic figure of Jesus, one can still practice deeds of light/clarity or darkness/clouds and thereby be judged. One hears in these verses less about the particularity of Jesus and more about the general principle of loving light/clarity, truth, goodness, etc.

I am not trying to fully separate ‘Jesus’ from ‘the light/clarity,’ because in John’s gospel they are surely one and the same – just as Jesus and ‘the Word’ are one and the same in John’s prologue. But, just as ‘the Word’ referred to something real, creative, and inseparable from God before the Word “become flesh and dwelt among us,” so too “the light/clarity” is a description of Jesus as larger than life, larger than the historical presence of Jesus who was sent.

I am not being particularly creative here. I am merely giving my understanding of “Logos theology,” in which Jesus is both limited, as the real and fleshly presence as the historic person of Jesus; and, at the same time, unlimited, as ‘the Word’ or ‘the light/clarity’ which point beyond historical particularity.

If that is who Jesus is in John’s gospel, then imagine what that can mean when we get to places like John 14:6, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the father, except through me.” Does that verse demand belief in the historical particularity of the person of Jesus? Or, is it about the greater presence of Truth, Light, Life, the Word, etc. – which may present itself historically in more than just the person of Jesus?


  1. Thank you so much for the work you put into this each week!
    You made me do a double take on verse 18 and your discussion of krino. If "to judge" is the fifth definition, then it made me think that what John/Jesus is saying that to pick/choose the world (the first meaning of krino) is to accept or declare its values and ways as "right". To save/rescue it, though, is to say that its values and ways are not "right". God did not pick the world but he did choose to save it (from itself certainly) by sending the Only Generated Son. I don't know if I'm making sense, but it was something somewhat revelational for me.

  2. Excellent. I think paying attention to other-than-usual nuances of a term - and in this case it is the more normative use of the term generally - gives us a new way of hearing the text. Thanks for the response.

  3. Good observations on verse 21. I like your three points - they are helpful. I hadn't caught the contrast or comparing of "exposed" vs. "revealed/manifestations". Good work

  4. Thanks for your hard work!

    You said of verse 20: "A translation challenge with this verse and the next is that ‘the works’ (τὰ ἔργα) is a plural but the verb ἐλέγχω is singular."

    The answer is that in Greek, neuter plurals always act as a collective group, and therefore they always take a singular verb. So, for example, the probata always estin, not eisin.

    Hope this helps!

  5. Thank you for this disciplined work. It encourages me.
    Btw, I really, really miss your preaching. (Really!)
    Any chance that St. Mark's would stream worship? (I do realize that podcasts of previous weeks are available.)

    1. Hi Priscilla,

      St. Mark has audio podcasts, but we also have video captures of the sermons each week. They usually get posted by around Tuesday, once the video guy gets it to the Admin Assistant and she posts it. Except for some dim lighting issues, the video captures come out quite well.

      We have not gone to live streaming at this point and I'm not sure if we're heading in that direction. We'll see.

      Good to hear from you. And thanks for your kind words. I hope all is well in the Heartland.

  6. Hope you're still fielding questions on this.
    John 3:14 also points to 2 Kings 18:4, doesn't it?
    Nehustan complicates things, doesn't it?

    1. Hi David,
      I'm always ready to learn new things and, frankly, if I had ever seen the Hezekiah reference to Nehustan, I'd forgotten all about it until I saw your note.
      Thank you for that.
      It seems to confirm Paul Tillich's argument that symbols can lose their meaning. What was once an instrument of salvation had become a fetish of a sort, at least in Hezekiah's (and the chronicler's) mind. That alone should be a caution to us.
      At the same time, I'm not sure if the author of John has the II Kings text in mind. It does not appear so to me.
      That does not say that we shouldn't consider it, even as we read John's words. I suspect that the image of Jesus on the cross could become as much as a power-less fetish for many of us as the bronze serpent was for Hezekiah's people. Wouldn't that be a very, very difficult thing to swallow.

    2. Thanks for coming back at that. It's a puzzle. I'll be working at awhile. I'll come back to you when I find another piece that seems to fit.

  7. Thank you for your thoughtful, concise and outside the box interp. I appreciate the ideas of having to "look at our sin to be saved from it," the comments on "judge" versus "condemn," evil exposed versus good revealed, and especially the larger "Life" as greater presence. Amen, brother, and Thanks

  8. Mark: Sooooo appreciate your thoughtful translations and comments. Always learn something new when I read your blog. Thank you for your dedication to this effort.

    I also LOVED your article so rich, and the message about individual salvation vs in community.

    I have a question. In different translations John 3:16 reads

    "For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.

    MAY NOT perish and MAY have eternal life. I preached on this on Sunday and one of my congregants asked "Why may?" it seems like it is not certain, why not shall or will? I answered that John emphasized that God's grace is given freely but there is still the human action of accepting it or not. I am not sure that was entirely satisfying even as I said it (though I believe it) and I sense that it may have to do with the verb in context "not perish" or where the NRSV translators taking liberty with the translation. In my interlinear, in him may not perish but but have life eternal. (there is no "may" on the second part but in the NRSV, there is.

    Can you shed some light on this? Thanks so much.

    1. I don't know how much light I have to share, but the reason for the "may" is that the verbs ἀπόληται (perish) and ἔχῃ (have) are in the subjunctive mood. The subjunctive mood points to something that is conditional and "may" or "might" are often very good ways to capture it. However, it strikes me that the condition here is "whoever believes," so that it could read "whoever believes will/would/shall ..." and still be a conditional statement. By no means do I think the "may" in any translation means to put the conditionality on God, as if when one "believes" God might (or might not) give eternal life.
      Having said that, I feel like this verse is cited far more than it deserves as a kind of rationale for making the whole enterprise of salvation rest on the human decision. The verse itself is pointing to God's act of love as the primary point. That's why I appreciate your emphasis on grace.
      I hope that's a little helpful, at least.
      Thanks for your note and your kind words.

    2. VERY helpful. Knew it had to do with the verb form. Thanks for taking the time. I agree with you about the over-emphasis on "whole enterprise of salvation rest on the the human decision." And never would I put the conditionality on God.

  9. Mark, the lifting up is always about execution for the crime of political sedition/insurrection. Dominant cultures seem to glide over that quicker than those caught in oppressive situations. The truth is Jesus disarms the punishment that the empire terrorizes with. This context, more than medieval doctrines of sin, must inform us.


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