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1 John 3:9

22 Feb 2011

Friends,

1 John 3:9 has often been discussed in terms of Greek tense and its implication for understanding sin. The text also has the word σπέρμα SPERMA usually translated ‘seed’, and that’s often been discussed as well, at least in commentaries I’ve consulted.

I’d like to propose that the verse illustrates a chiasm, such as often appears in Hebrew poetry and in classical Greek literature as well, according to Smyth’s grammar.

Here’s the verse set out in chiastic form:

A. Πᾶς ὁ γεγεννημένος ἐκ τοῦ Θεοῦ Β. ἁμαρτίαν οὐ ποιεῖ, C. ὅτι σπέρμα αὐτοῦ ἐν αὐτοῦ μένει Β(1) καὶ οὐ δύναται ἁμαρτάνειν, Α(2) ὅτι ἐκ τοῦ Θεοῦ γεγέννηται.

A. PAS hO GEGENNHMENOS EK TOU QEOU B. hAMARTIAN OU POIEI C. hOTI SPERMA AUTOU EN AUTOU MENEI B(1) KAI OU DUNATAIN AMARTANEIN, A(2) hOTI EK TOU QEOU GEGENNHTAI.

Further, in A and A(1) the position of the prepositional phrase ἐκ τοῦ θεοῦ changes positions–that is, it follows the participle in A, but precedes the verb in A(2). I take the noun ἀμαρτίαν hAMARTIAN to be parallel to the infinitive ἁμαρτάνειν hAMARTANEIN in B and B(1). Then, in C, I wonder if the words σπέρμα SPERMA and μένει MENEI don’t envelope αὐτοῦ ἐν αὐτοῦ AUTOU EN AUTOU in a kind of intra-chiastic chiasm. (Or perhaps I’m going too far.)

My question: if there is a chiasm in 1 John 3:9, is it fair to say that, in the Greek text, this verse turns on, pivots around, or hinges upon the verb μένει MENEI? It seems to me that there is evidence in the Greek text of 1 John 3:9 of a carefully-wrought rhetorical structure that would be difficult to render in English prose.

I hope this is helpful to list members; disregard anything here that’s not.

Blessings, Jeremy Spencer Pastor The Odessa Baptist Church Odessa, NY

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