Bill Mounce

For an Informed Love of God

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Monday, October 23, 2023

What’s Missing in John 15:25?

I would guess that in all languages, words are left out that the reader must assume. We do it in English, and the biblical writers do it as well. When you have two statements that are in some way parallel (or at least connected), words from the first part don't need to be repeated in the second part.

Somewhat word for word, John 15:25 reads, “but in order that be fulfilled the word which had been written in their law” (ἀλλ’ ἵνα πληρωθῇ ὁ λόγος ὁ  ἐν τῷ νόμῳ αὐτῶν γεγραμμένος). The previous verse reads, “They have … hated both me and my Father.”

Interestingly, the Greek, editors and most modern English translations end verse 24 with a period, even though verse 25 is a dependent clause introduced by ἵνα. So what is missing?

You can see the English translations adding in words to make a coherent sentence. “But this has happened so that” (NASB, note the italics). “It was to fulfill the word that” (NRSV). “But this happened so that” (CSB). “But this is to fulfill” (NIV). “Now this happened” (NET, with the footnote “The words “this happened” are not in the Greek text but are supplied to complete an ellipsis”). “This fulfills” (NLT).

Also interesting is the use of ἀλλα. Since v 25 gives the reason behind the actions in v 24, there really is no adversative sense, and the use of “but” seems inappropriate.

What is assumed as the main clause in v 25 prior to ἵνα is the previous statement, “they … have hated both me and my Father,” from which naturally flows the reason: this was to fulfill prophecy. Since v 24 starts a new sentence, there is no good reason (in my opinion) to separate the two verses.

As far as ἀλλα is concerned, the second meaning in BDAG is “when whole clauses are compared, ἀλλά can indicate a transition to someth. different or contrasted.” They give the glosses as “but, yet.” However, the “something different” in v 25 is that Jesus has moved from effect to cause, and so using but” introduces a foreign idea.

I would keep the two verses as one sentence and introduce v 25 with “because the word that is written in their law had to be fulfilled.”