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What's the Proper Way to Translate John 3:16?
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I could really use your help on this. I am trying to come up with a translation of John 3:16 that accurately translates οὕτως but yet sounds enough like the traditional translation that it wouldn’t be too difficult for people to memorize.
The problem, if you are unaware, is that when the KJV says “For God so loved the world,” everyone I have ever asked what “so” meant responded “so much.” If you check BDAG, you will see that this is a rare and not possible meaning of οὕτως in this context. But you'd better be careful if you change people’s favorite Bible verse.
Here are BDAG’s first three definitions of οὕτως.
1. “referring to what precedes, in this manner, thus, so.”
2. “pert. to what follows in discourse material, in this way, as follows” (which is where BDAG places John 3:16)
3. “marker of a relatively high degree, so, before adj. and adv.” At first glance this seems to support the KJV, except that in v 16 οὕτως is not followed by an adjective or adverb (οὕτως γὰρ ἠγάπησεν ὁ θεὸς τὸν κόσμον). BDAG lists these as illustrations of this meaning.
- σεισμὸς οὕτως μέγας, “so tremendous was the quake” (Rev 16:18)
- οὕτως ἀνόητοί ἐστε, “Are you so foolish?” (Gal 3:3)
- οὕτως φοβερὸν ἦν τὸ φανταζόμενον, “The sight was so terrifying” (Heb 12:21)
- Θαυμάζω ὅτι°οὕτως ταχέως μετατίθεσθε, “I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting” (Gal 1:6)
οὕτως in John 3:16 clearly has the meaning conveyed by the NLT (“For this is how God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son”), the CSB (“For God loved the world in this way: He gave his one and only Son”), and the NET (“For this is the way God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son,”).
The problem with the colon is that it is difficult to read out-loud, although in the CSB the difficulty is somewhat mitigated.
I am playing with this as an option: “For God loved the world so he gave.” What do you think?
There actually is another issue, and that is the initial γάρ. It can have the meaning “marker of cause or reason, for.” However, it is a little difficult to see vv 16ff. as the reason for the previous verses (but not impossible).
γάρ also has the meaning “marker of clarification, for, you see,” and this is where BDAG properly places John 3:16. To my ears, it is hard to hear “for” in our verse in any way other than #1, which excludes using “for.” So the options are to say “for” or omit it, letting the paragraph marker carry it’s meaning.
Please take my poll. I am curious what the consensus is. Thanks.