"Of" in John 7:17-18

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"Of" in John 7:17-18

nikolai_42
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05 Dec 2017, 17:18 #1

 And the Jews marvelled, saying, How knoweth this man letters, having never learned?

 Jesus answered them, and said, My doctrine is not mine, but his that sent me.
 If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself.
 He that speaketh of himself seeketh his own glory: but he that seeketh his glory that sent him, the same is true, and no unrighteousness is in him.
  John 7:15-18

 This may be straining at a gnat, but I think (given the word) it requires someone who really knows Greek to clarify for me. In English, the word "of" can be synonymous with from or about - and quite possibly other terms or phrases that escape me at the moment. And in the passage above, the usage of the term in verse 18 strikes me as kind of interesting. To my mind, the recurring issue was of Jesus' authority. In Matthew 7:29, John 5:30-45 (especially vv30-35 and 43-45) and John 8:13-19, the matter of Jesus' authority is made prominent. Authority in the sense of justifying His message. It strikes me that the Jewish authorities were really struggling with the weight of what Jesus said - not just because of the undeniability of much of it, but because He didn't exalt Himself in any way. They were forced to either deal with what He said or get rid of Him. It wasn't just the argument itself that had them, it was the authority He had in giving the message.

 So in reading John 7:18 (primarily), there is a basic sense (as I read it) where Jesus is saying the obvious in a legal context - anyone who speaks about himself and comes in his own name doesn't have corroboration.  But He even addresses that in John 8:14. He is bearing testimony of Himself, but it isn't really testimony from Himself. The Father bears witness of Him. The Jews are simply blind and can't tell where He came from. That doesn't invalidate His testimony. However, since the testimony is actually from the Father through the Son, the usage of "of" in John 7:17,18 strikes me as far more nuanced. I will try to explain what I mean.

 I have already raised the question of about. One can talk about something utterly outside himself and that has no reference to him (other than that he spoke about it). Only the words describing the object of his utterance emanate from him. However, is there a distinction to be made between something that comes from (but is not of) him and something that is truly of him (i.e. originates from him)? The best analogy I can come up with is with the phrase "Nothing good can come of it". It (the way I understand it) implies nearness such that whatever emanates from "it" is a direct and reliable reflection of "it"s character. If you say, instead, "Nothing good can come from it", you recognize where "it" came from but leave the possibility that "it" may not be completely identified with what comes from "it". I suppose it is like the difference between being utterly identified with something and being identified by something. John said that Jesus spoke the words of God because He was given the Spirit completely (not by measure). Jesus said that what He said was what the Father told and taught Him - but also in terms of what He saw with the Father (John 8:26,28,38 and John 12:47-50). Given that the incarnation introduced some type and degree of separation (or maybe more accurately a visible distinction necessary for the Son to be manifested among men) between the Father and the Son that was not there previously, it is certainly understood that the Deity of Christ is not in question. But since there was a humanity presented to men in which all the fulness of the Godhead dwelt, there is a separation there that (if I read it correctly) corresponds somewhat with the needle I'm trying to thread at 100 yards. That of "of" and "from".

 So with all that in mind, my question is if there is any nuance in the Greek word for "of" in John 7:17-18 that isn't necessarily made clear by the English translation (my interpretation notwithstanding).
If God promises life, He slayeth first; when He builds, He casteth all down first. God is no patcher; He cannot build on another's foundation. - William Tyndale
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nikolai_42
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05 Dec 2017, 17:59 #2

I should make it clear that I'm not in any sense questioning the Deity of Christ or His unity with the Father. I do recognize it to be a difficult issue (the Incarnation) but never really even thought in those terms when I was forming the question. I always took it for granted that Jesus - as God - bore authority the Jews couldn't handle because of their antipathy to the Truth. But when Jesus made several statements "of" Himself and "of" bearing witness, I simply wondered at the level of nuance that the word "of" carried in the Greek. If there is no real nuance (at least not what I have considered), it doesn't change my interpretation - Jesus is still God and He still comes from the Father and has the full authority in his humanity. But what I am wondering is if there is anything subtler being said in the Greek.

 Of course, with that said, once the can of worms is opened it can't be ignored. If this does indeed inevitably lead to questioning the nature of God, I don't want to wave my hands and hope it conveniently disappears. I don't want to (unintentionally) import something that is problematic. I just hope I can express (and have expressed) my thoughts clearly enough to be somewhat understood so that it can be properly addressed.
If God promises life, He slayeth first; when He builds, He casteth all down first. God is no patcher; He cannot build on another's foundation. - William Tyndale
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Ask Mr. Religion
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06 Dec 2017, 06:26 #3

John 7:17 variously translated:
https://www.biblegateway.com/verse/en/John%207:17

"of the doctrine" = "whether the teaching" or ""concerning the doctrine"

Calvin:
Or if I speak from myself. We ought to observe in what manner Christ wishes that a judgment should be formed about any doctrine whatever. He wishes that what is from God should be received without controversy, but freely allows us to reject whatever is from man; for this is the only distinction that he lays down, by which we ought to distinguish between doctrines.

John 7:18 variously translated:
https://www.biblegateway.com/verse/en/John%207:18

"of himself" = "To speak on one's own authority" or "from himself"

Calvin:
"He who speaketh from himself. Hitherto he has showed that there is no other reason why men are blind, but because they are not governed by the fear of God. He now puts another mark on the doctrine itself, by which it may be known whether it is of God or of man. For every thing that displays the glory of God is holy and divine; but every thing that contributes to the ambition of men, and, by exalting them, obscures the glory of God, not only has no claim to be believed, but ought to be vehemently rejected. He who shall make the glory of God the object at which he aims will never go wrong; he who shall try and prove by this touchstone what is brought forward in the name of God will never be deceived by the semblance of right. We are also reminded by it that no man can faithfully discharge the office of teacher in the Church, unless he be void of ambition, and resolve to make it his sole object to promote, to the utmost of his power, the glory of God. When he says that there is no unrighteousness in him, he means that there is nothing wicked or hypocritical, but that he does what becomes an upright and sincere minister of God."

The of in the Greek, peri, is "in behalf of, concerning about", "about", "concerning", "on account of", "because of", "around", "near"

The preposition indicates a relationship to a noun or modification of a verb. The meaning of a preposition depends upon the case of its object.

To illustrate how important prepositions can be, in the Revised Standard Version John 13:8 reads, "If I do not wash you, you have no part in me." The Greek preposition translated "in" is meta, which should be translated "with." The King James Version and the New American Standard properly translate it thusly. The difference is important. "[I]n me" would indicate that Peter's salvation was in question, whereas "with me" speaks of Peter's fellowship with Christ; his joint participation with the Lord in the activities of life.
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nikolai_42
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07 Dec 2017, 17:28 #4

Thank you Patrick. If I am reading correctly, then, there is no warrant in the Greek for anything beyond a distinction between "of" as "about" and "from".
If God promises life, He slayeth first; when He builds, He casteth all down first. God is no patcher; He cannot build on another's foundation. - William Tyndale
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Ask Mr. Religion
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07 Dec 2017, 21:11 #5

For the passages in question you would be reading me correctly!
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