Bill Mounce

For an Informed Love of God

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Thursday, July 22, 2021

Did Jesus Affirm or Question Thomas? (John 20:29)

Sometimes in Greek you can't tell the difference between an indicative and an interrogative, a statement and a question. After Thomas says, “My Lord and My God,” does Jesus affirm him, or question him?


Given the question mark in the Greek, it seems to make sense if Jesus was asking Thomas not if he believed, but why he believed? "Do you believe because you have seen? (or do you believe because you've been learning from me the last couple years?)"

Your given is faulty. There were no question marks or any punctuation in the original manuscripts. Any punctuation we now see in our modern GNT is because of interpretative decisions, such as the one Bill is asking about here.

Hi! I happened to be coming to John's Gospel today, immediately after hearing your lesson yesterday. What happens if we consider this question/statement of Jesus's compared to the whole book? I never noticed before, but with this blog in mind I realized that this pattern - Jesus asking the very thing He was just told, if the translations are correct - repeats throughout the book. Does this impact the translation of 20:29, do you think? The Thomas passage: 21:29 Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Λέγει αὐτῷ ὁ Ἰησοῦς Ὅτι ἑώρακάς με,πεπίστευκας; There is no difference grammatically. But Bill Mounce chooses the indicative instead of the interrogative because it makes more sense, asking, Would Jesus ask, Do you believe, the moment Thomas said that he did? Perhaps He would, as He often does in this Gospel. This statement could even be a bit of a bookend with the Nathaniel story. In John 1 Nathaniel says he believes and Jesus asks, do you believe because I said I saw you under the tree? 1:49 Nathanael answered him, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!” 50 Jesus answered him, “Because I said to you, ‘I saw you under the fig tree,’ do you believe? Ἰησοῦς καὶ εἶπεν αὐτῷ Ὅτι …. πιστεύεις; When Peter says he will die for Jesus, Jesus immediately asks, will you lay down your life for Me? 13:38 Jesus answered, “Will you lay down your life for me? Ἀποκρίνεται Ἰησοῦς Τὴν ψυχήν σου ὑπὲρ ἐμοῦ θήσεις; In John 16 the Disciples say, now we believe. Jesus next says, Do you now believe? 16: 31 Jesus answered them, “Do you now believe?" Ἀπεκρίθη αὐτοῖς Ἰησοῦς Ἄρτι πιστεύετε; This rhetorical follow up questioning seems to be the way John represents Jesus’s speech. Thanks for your work! Daron

This may reveal, somewhat, my theological lenses, but I have generally interpreted this as a question having to do with the actual cause of belief. That is, that it wasn't the seeing, itself, which resulted in belief (as Thomas asserted it would be in 20:25) but the word of "peace" from Jesus ("faith comes by hearing"). This might be part of why we don't then read of Thomas taking Jesus up on the invitation to place his hands in the wounds (again, as Thomas had said in 20:25). It wasn't enough to simply hear from the others that Jesus was raised, but he had to hear from Jesus that Jesus was "graciously disposed," so to speak, towards him (after he, along with everybody, had run off, etc).