Word Studies in the Gospel of John

Herschel H. Hobbs  |  Southwestern Journal of Theology Vol. 8 - Fall 1965

The Gospel of John is written in very simple Koine Greek, yet it expresses some of the profoundest truths found in the New Testament. However this article does not permit an exhaustive study of its language. It is hoped that even a brief glimpse of some words and phrases used in John’s Gospel will illuminate its great truths. For this reason we have selected some of the key words for examination.

Agapao and Phileo. Both of these verbs are translated “I love.” The latter appears in John thirteen times (5:20; 11:3, 36; 12:25; 15:19; 16:27; 20:2; 21:15-17). All other verb forms translated “love” (37) render the former. Of interest is the fact that while John is called “the beloved disciple,” the word “beloved” (agapetos) does not appear in this Gospel. But note I John 3:2, 21; 4:1, 7, 11 and III John 2, 5, 11 where John uses it in address to his readers. The substantive form, agape, appears in John seven times (5:42; 13:35; 15:9, 10, 13; 17:26). Philos is found six times (3:29; 11:11; 17:13-15; 19:12).

Agapao expresses the formal and highest form of love. It is the love that God has for the world (3:16). It expresses the very nature of God as love (agape, 1 Jn. 4:16; cf. v. 10 where both the substantive and verb are used). Dr. W. Hersey Davis once spoke of this love as expressing the state of absolute loyalty to its object. Phileo, on the other hand, expresses the warmer love of friendship. However, the two words at times seem to be used interchangeably. For instance, both words are used to express Jesus’ love for Lazarus. In 11:3, 36 the verb is phileo, as used by the sisters and the Jews. But when John speaks of it (v. 5) he used agapao. One could see the distinction here as seen in the persons speaking. However, in 19:26 and 21:7, the disciple “whom he (Jesus) loved,” agapao is used; whereas in 20:2 the same thought is expressed by phileo. But as a general rule one is justified in observing the finer shades of meaning found in these words.

A clear distinction is seen in 21:15-17. In the first two questions, “Lovest thou me?” Jesus used agapao; and Peter answered with phileo. The third time Jesus used phileo, and Peter answered likewise. The point of Peter’s grief (v. 17) probably was not that Jesus’ third question corresponded to his three denials, but that the third time Jesus used phileo. When Peter failed to come up to Jesus’ level of love Jesus came down to his. Indeed, in his third question Jesus did not ask Peter if he loved him with this highest or God-kind of love. Peter had been saying that he loved Jesus as a friend. So Jesus asked if he really loved him as such. It is little wonder that Peter was grieved.

Aletheia means “truth.” It is found twenty-five times in John, where in each case it is rendered “truth.” It is one of the key words in this Gospel. A clue to John’s use of this word is to note its composition. It comes from alpha privative (a) and letho, “to conceal.” Therefore, it means the unconcealed, or the opened. In this sense it corresponds to “revelation” or an unveiling.

Although John uses the word “true” (alethinos) in 1:9, he first uses aletheia in 1:14 and repeats it in 1:17. The “Word” made flesh was “full of grace and truth.” He was the full revelation or unconcealing of God and the complete expression of his grace. And then “grace and truth” are contrasted with law (v. 17). God gave the law through Moses. But “the grace and the truth,” which supplement one another, came into being through Jesus Christ. Neither Logos (“Word”) nor “grace” occurs again in the Gospel. But “truth” continues in use as the expression of the three ideas. So “truth” is the full unconcealing of the Father as Logos and “grace.”

Aletheia, then, is the content of the Christian revelation whether it be used of a person, a body of teaching, or a way of life. Jesus is the truth (14:6), and he speaks the truth (8:45). The truth shall make men free, and the Son of man shall make them free indeed (8:32, 36). The Paraclete is “the Spirit of truth,” arid he will guide the disciples into all truth (16:13). Satan, the opposite of Christ, is a liar (8:44). When John the Baptist witnessed unto the truth, it was a witness unto Christ (5:33). And Pilate’s cynical question, “What is truth?” showed that he knew neither Jesus nor God’s revelation through him (18:38).

Anothen is translated “again” in John 3:3, 7. Its basic meaning is “from above.” Ultimately it came to mean “again.” It is evident from John 3:4 that Nicodemus understood it (v. 3) to mean “again.” But all other uses of this word in John clearly mean “from above” (3:31; 19:11, 23). We may assume, therefore, that Jesus used it in this sense in 3:3 and 7. Being born anothen is a second birth, to be sure. But it is a birth “from above,” from heaven, and of the Spirit. The entire dialogue between Jesus and Nicodemus centers in the contrast between the earthly or natural birth and the heavenly or “from above” birth.

Artos means “bread.” It appears in John twenty-four times, all but three (13:18; 21:9, 13) in Chapter 6. In verses 6, 9, 11, 13, 26 it is translated “loaves.” It is used generically for food in verses 5, 7, 23. The other thirteen times it is used in a dialogue between Jesus and the Jews in contrasting manna in the wilderness with “the true bread from heaven” which God gives (v. 32). This “bread” Jesus identified with himself. “I am the bread of life,” which if one eats he will never hunger (v. 35). Physical bread gives temporary sustenance to the body, but Jesus gives eternal sustenance to the soul.

A picturesque word in this account is chortazo (“were filled,” v. 26). It comes from chortos, grass (Jn. 6:10). The verb may well be rendered “gorge” (Phil. 4:12; Rev. 19:21). It originally was used of feeding animals. One classical usage is of a cow filling her stomach with food, but never saying, “Thanks,” or asking whence it came or for what purpose it was given. All of these meanings add to its sense in John 6:26. Like animals the people gorged themselves on the loaves and fishes, but they did not say, “Thanks,” neither did they ask whence the food came, nor for what purpose it was given. More concerned about their stomachs than about their souls, they missed the entire point of Jesus’ sign. They sought him in Capernaum only because they were hungry again. They wanted Jesus, like Moses, to give them a new supply of victuals for the new day (6:30-31).

Eimi and Ginomai. Eimi, like our verb “to be,” signifies essential, eternal being. Ginomai, like our verb “to become,” means to come into being. The former means “being” with no primary reference to time. The latter speaks of someone or something which did not exist but which came into being. Of course, the one may simply express the general idea of the verb “to be,” as the other means that something happened. In each case the context will decide. But there are certain uses worthy of note in this study.

For instance, let us examine them as they appear in the prologue (1:1-18). In verses 1-2 “was” (en) appears four times. It is the imperfect form of eimi. It expresses the essential, eternal being of the Word. The word “always was”; He “always was equal with God” (pros ton Theon, “with God” means “face to face with” or “equal to God”); “and the Word always was” is repeated with emphasis in verse 2.

But in verse 3 John switches from eimi to ginom.ai. All things through him came into being (aorist tense, egeneto), and apart from him came into being (egeneto) not even one thing which has come into being” (perfect tense, gegonen). The aorist tense expresses the point of historical action when the creation took place; the perfect tense expresses the finished state of creation. The universe which at one time did not exist came into being through the eternal Word, and it stands created through him,

[Parenthetically, note the words “all things” (panta). When used without the definite article, as here, it means in this case the universe in its several parts. Paul uses it in Colossians 1:16-17 in the same sense (“all things”), except that he uses the definite article (ta panta). Here it means the universe as a whole. But note Colossians 1:17. “He is before all of the several parts of the universe, and the universe as a whole holds together in him.” Christ is before every single atom, and he is also the Center of the whole universe! John looks at the universe severally even down to “even one thing” or atom. Together Paul and John exalt Christ supremely as the Creator of the universe.]

Back to eimi and ginomai. In verse 4 John says that both life and light, which may be used interchangeably, always were in the Word (cf. v. 9). (In verse 6 John the Baptist “came into being” or “happened” [egeneto]. In verse 10 the Word “always was” [en] in the cosmos, and the cosmos through him came into being [egeneto]).

Up to this point John has used en to refer to the Word. But in 1:14 he says, “And the Word came into being (egeneto) as flesh.” What the Word had not been before, he became. It is true that Jesus was divine. But a more exciting thought is that the divine became Jesus of Nazareth!

In verse 17 John contrasts the old revelation with the new. “The law was given through Moses, but grace and truth through Jesus Christ came into being” (egeneto). These attributes, which had existed in God’s nature eternally, “came into being” as flesh in Jesus Christ. As verse 18 has it, “God no one has seen (with the eyes) at any time; God only begotten (best texts, P66, P75, Aleph BCL), the one being eternal (on) in the bosom of the Father, he exegeted or brought forth.”

Space does not permit an exhaustive study of eimi and ginomai in John. But two further examples call for a brief word. In John 8:5 Jesus said, “Before Abraham was, I am.” Literally, “Before Abraham came into being (existence), I always am (always exist).” Thus, in keeping with John 1:1, Jesus himself claimed pre-existence.

In John 10:30 Jesus said, “I and the Father are one.” “I and the Father eternally are (esmen, first person plural present indicative of eimi) one.” There never was a time when they were not one. Some scholars insist that Jesus never claimed deity for himself. But here he clearly did so (Cf. “I AM,” Exodus 3:14). The Jews so understood him. They were so enraged that they picked up stones and bore them from a distance (literal meaning of “took up,” ebastasan, v. 31) to stone him. For said they, “thou, being a man, makest thyself God” (v. 33). In John 5:18 they began to seek to kill him, accusing him of “making himself equal with God.” But when he said, “I and the Father are one,” they understood him to make himself God.

Gune. This word is translated “woman,” and appears two hundred and twenty-one times in the New Testament; twenty­ three times in John. But our interest in it for this study is its use in John 2:4; 19:26, where Jesus uses it in direct address to his mother. Some see in these usages a note of disrespect, especially in the former. But an analysis of the word proves otherwise.

It was used of any adult female, a wife, or even the “bride, the Lamb’s wife” (gunaika, Rev. 2:19). In the papyri it appears in the prayer of a woman that her lover may be devoted to her. Marcus Dads calls attention to its use in Greek tragedies to address queens or persons of distinction. Thus Augustus addresses Cleopatra as a gune.

Therefore, as used by Jesus with regard to his mother, it carries the dual idea of endearment and respectful separation. It might well be rendered “dear woman.” But it also reminded Mary that the relationship between her and Jesus was no longer that of mother and son. He was her Saviour. Doubtless in Nazareth he had called her “mother.” Of interest is the fact, however, that after his baptism the Gospels only record two statements where Jesus addressed Mary directly (Jn. 2:4; 19:26). And both times he calls her gune. Endearment and respect, but also separation.

Hudor. This word means “water.” Sometimes it is used in the natural sense. But at others it involves a mystical meaning. In John 3:5 Jesus speaks of being “born of water and of the Spirit.” Some see “water” as referring to baptismal regeneration, despite the weight of New Testament teaching to the contrary. A more likely meaning is that of the cleansing of regeneration. Could it refer to Christ himself (cf. 4:10, 7, 37)? Others see it as referring to the natural birth. Whatever the meaning, the play in this interview centers upon the natural and spiritual birth.

In John 4 the play upon “water” contrasts the natural water in Jacob’s well with the “living water” which Jesus would give to the woman of Samaria (vv. 7-15). And in John 7:37-38 Jesus identifies this water as the salvation which men may receive from him.

On each of the first seven days of the Feast of Tabernacles priests brought water from the pool of Siloam in golden pitchers. This was to commemorate God’s giving water in the wilderness. It also was a reminder of God’s promise of salvation and the giving of the Holy Spirit. In the temple as the water was poured out, the singers chanted Isaiah 12:3. “With joy shall ye draw water out of the wells of salvation.” On the eighth day the same procedure was repeated, except with empty pitchers. This signified that the promises had not been fulfilled.

At the moment when the empty pitchers were presented, Jesus made the cry which is recorded in John 7:37-38. Thus he is the fulfilment of that which God had promised. As with “living bread” so with “living water.” Jesus is the sustenance for all of man’s spiritual needs.

This is suggestive of many such figures which Jesus used in the spiritual sense to describe his relation to men. He is the “way” (hodos) or “road” to the Father (14:6), the “door” (thura) into the fold of God (10:7). And he is the “good shepherd” (poimen) or the “beautiful” (kalos) shepherd, beautiful in character and work. He was not a hireling or time-server, but the true shepherd of his sheep. And this suggests another great word in John.

Huper (for). Literally, “over” and “above.” In the sacrificial sense it carries the idea of substitution. The picture is that of one placing his body over that of another to receive the blows intended for the one underneath. Jesus said, “I lay down my life for (huper) the sheep” (10: 15). The bread which he gives is his “flesh” “which I give for (huper) the life of the world” (6:51). Unknowingly Caiaphas prophesied that Jesus “should die for (huper) the people, and that the whole nation perish not” (11:50-52; cf. 10:11; 13:37-38; 15:13; 17:19; 18:14).

As the shepherd “over” the sheep, they “shall never (double negative, au me, “not never”) be destroyed,” since no one is able to snatch them from either his or the Father’s hand (10:28- 29). This is one of the great passages on the security of the believer.

Krino and Katakrino. The verb krino means to decide, in the sense of considering two or more things and reaching a decision. It may be used in the sense of discernment or in the legal sense. Katakrino is the most intensive form, meaning to decide down or to reach a final decision. In the papyri it is used to express the idea of finding guilty and pronouncing sentence. This verb always carries the legal flavor, even when used in the religious sense. The former is found in John nineteen times (3:17-18; 5:22-30; 7:24, 51; 8:15-16, 26, 50; 12:47-48; 16:11; 18:31). The latter is used only twice (8:10-11). Krisis is the substantive corresponding to krino. It may refer to the act of judging or to the result of judging. This word appears eleven times in John (3:19; 5:22, 24, 27, 29, 30; 7:24; 8:16; 12:31; 16:8, 11).

Krino is used of judging in legal courts (7:51; 18:31). In 8:50 the Father shall decide whether Jesus or the Jews are right concerning his person and work. In 8:15-16 note both krino and krisis in the sense of forming an opinion on the part of both the Pharisees and Jesus. In 12:31 krisis means just that, crisis. When Jesus went to the cross, the world faced a crisis. When he has dethroned Satan, the world must either receive or reject him. Krisis has no article, so it is a crisis which will test the world. All other uses of krino and krisis (listed above) are used in the sense of a legal judgment exercised by God in Christ. Note that in 5:24 “condemnation” should read “judgment.” In 5:29 “damnation” should read the same. In 3:19 “condemnation” (krisis) means the process of judging. It helps to clarify John 8:10-11 if “condemn” is read according to the papyri usage of katakrino, to find guilty and pronounce sentence.

One further word in this family merits consideration (krima). It carries largely the sense of a process of judging or the result of judging in a condemnatory sense. In the papyri it is never used of a trial which ended in acquittal. This word is found one time in John (9:39). Those who claim to see in a spiritual sense, but who refuse Christ, will receive his condemnatory sentence.

Logos (Word). This is one of the key words of John. It appears forty times in this Gospel. Thirty-six times it simply means word or saying as a spoken word. Its peculiar significance is seen in the other four uses (1:1, 14; cf. also 1 Jn. 1:1; 5:7; Rev. 19: 13) where it is translated “Word.” In these passages it refers to the eternal Christ.

Logos itself means the spoken word. Thus it is an open manifestation of the speaker. It was commonly used for “reason” or “speech.” On what basis did John choose logos to refer to Christ?

For years John was called by many a Hellenistic gospel, or one which reflected primarily Greek modes of thought. These holding this view found the key in the language of philosophy. For instance, the Stoics used logos for the soul of the world. Heraclitus employed it for the principle which controls the universe. And Marcus Aurelius related it to the generative principle in nature (Robertson, Word Pictures, 1:1). But none of these personified it. Philo, the Jewish-Alexandrian philosopher who sought to harmonize Greek philosophy and Hebrew theology, uses logos about thirteen hundred times. At times he almost personifies it, but not quite.

In the meantime, others have insisted that John employed Hebrew modes of thought. The discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls reveals its thought to be akin to that in Palestine around A.D. 70. Many who hold to this Hebrew view have looked for John’s use of logos either in the Hebrew “word” or else in Proverbs 8, where “wisdom” seemingly is personified. But it should be noted that the Old Testament never presents wisdom as eternal.

Holding to the Hebraic character of John, one other possibility presents itself. A comparison of the opening verses of John 1 with the same in Genesis 1 suggests that by deliberate design John parallels Genesis (cf. “In the beginning”). Christ is presented as eternal God, the Creator of the universe, and the source of life and light. In Genesis 1 each phase of God’s creative work is introduced with the words “And God said.” Here then is God’s spoken “word” or “open manifestation,” his logos. So John used logos to refer to the open manifestation or revelation of the eternal God, the One who came into being as flesh and dwelt among us.

Louo and Nipto. Louo means to bathe the body. Nipto means to bathe or rinse any part of the body. It is used in John 9:7, 11, 15 where the blind man washed or rinsed only his eyes, not the entire body. Its only papyri use refers to washing the hands.

Louo appears only one time in John (13:10). Here we have an interesting play upon this word and nipto. Jesus took a towel and a nipter, a wash basin (from nipto), and began to rinse the disciples’ feet. All went well until he came to Peter. He said, “Lord, dost thou rinse my feet?” And then he protested, “Thou shalt never rinse my feet.” Jesus replied, “If I rinse thee not, thou hast no part with me.” Then in characteristic fashion Peter said, “Lord, not my feet only, but also my hands, and my head.” While he did not use the word, this implied louo, a bath. In effect, “Lord, wash me all over! Give me a bath!” Perhaps with a twinkle in his eyes, Jesus took up the thought. “The one having taken a bath (leloumenos, perfect passive participle, suggesting a scrubbing or thorough bathing) has no need except to rinse (nipto) the feet.”

Guests were supposed to take a bath before coming to a feast. On the way, however, dust gathered on their feet through the open sandals. They invariably arrived with dirty feet in need of rinsing. Arndt and Gingrich, following certain classic Greek writers, render leloumenos as “newly bathed, after the bath.” So, in effect, Jesus told Peter that if he took a bath before he came, he only needed to have his feet rinsed.

Meta tauta. This phrase “after these things” appears of ten in John. The singular meta touto, “after this,” is also found repeatedly. The latter seems to be a transitional phrase from one incident in the Gospel to another (cf. 2:12; 11:7, 11; 19:28). But the former appears to be a phrase adopted by John to indicate that he is breaking into the Synoptic record to give additional material not found in them. One of John’s purposes was to supplement their accounts.

In 3:22 he shows that the events in his Gospel up to that time came prior to the arrest of John the Baptist. But in 5:1 (plural in Greek text); 6:1; 7:1 he definitely seems to imply that he is passing over large bodies of Synoptic material in order to relate new material. In 6:1-21 he parallels the Synoptics (the only time prior to the last week) to give the background of 6:22-71 not found in the Synoptics. The reference in 19:38 is not so clear. But this could also refer to Synoptic material known to his readers (cf. Matt. 27:51-56) or to an identification of Joseph of Arimathea found in the Synoptic account. In 21:1 the author introduces his “appendix” (Chapter 21), which supplements his own account as well as the Synoptics. An examination of the above-mentioned passages in Robertson’s A Harmony of the Gospels will prove to be helpful.

Parakletos. This word Paraclete is found in the New Testament only in John’s writings (Jn. 14:16, 26; 15:26; 17:7; 1 Jn. 2:1). From parakaleo, to call alongside, it means the one being called alongside. It was used of a lawyer, especially one for the defense. 1 John 2:1 renders it with the Latin derivative “advocate,” which means the same thing. Here it refers to Jesus Christ, our Advocate before or “face to face with the Father” (pros ton patera, cf. Jn. 1:1b).

In John’s Gospel it is translated “Comforter,” and is identified as the Holy Spirit (14:26). So the Holy Spirit is the one being called alongside the Christian. The word paraklesis, not found in John’s writings, elsewhere in the New Testament is rendered variously as “consolation,” “exhortation,” “comfort” and “entreaty.” These words, along with specific functions ascribed to the “Comforter” in John, describe the work of the Holy Spirit.

Note that in John 14:16 Jesus said, “I will pray the Father (Jesus, not the Christian, prays for the Holy Spirit to come), and he will give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you forever.” “Another” (allos) means another of the same kind, like Jesus. Macus Dods calls the Holy Spirit “Jesus’ alter ego.” B. H. Carroll calls him “the other Jesus.” Jesus worked with the disciples for a few years; and went away. The Holy Spirit works in the Christian (Jn. 14:17), and abides forever.

Phos and Skotia. Phos is “light,” and skotia is “darkness.” The former is used in John twenty-three times, and the latter eight times. With the exception of 11:9-10 (phos) and 6:17; 20:1 (skotia) the uses are in the spiritual sense of “good” and “evil,” or of Christ and the power of Satan. The Dead Sea Scrolls show that this is not based upon Greek thought, but upon Hebrew thought in Palestine during the latter half of the first century A.D. In 1:4b “life” and “light” both have the definite article, and so are interchangeable. Verse 5 pictures darkness chasing light, as night follows or chases day (cf. Gen. 1:5), but being unable to overtake and extinguish it. This depicts the cosmic struggle between good (Christ) and evil (Satan).

John 8:12 pictures Jesus as “the light of the world.” Those following him have “the light of the life,” and shall not walk in “the darkness” (note definite articles as in 1:4-5). The definite articles serve to personify these elements.

During the Feast of Tabernacles at night candelabra burned in the Court of the Women, commemorating the pillar of fire in the wilderness. The day after the feast these were not burning. Jesus, as in the case of “water” on the previous day (7:37f), claims to be the ever-burning light. “I am the light of the world” (author’s italics).

John 13:30 suggests the mystical nature of light and darkness. When Judas left the upper room, “It was night.” Did John refer to physical night, or to the darkness in Judas’ soul? Probably the latter. To come to Jesus is to come to the light. To go away from him is to go into darkness or night.

Pisteuo. This verb means “I believe.” It is one of the great words in John’s Gospel. He uses it ninety-nine times out of the two hundred and forty-eight times that it appears in the New Testament (also ten times in 1 John). Yet this Gospel does not use the word pistis, faith. He uses pistos, faithful, only once (20:27). His only use of apistos, faithless, is also in this verse.

It is impossible with one word to translate pisteuo into intelligible English. It would read, “Whosoever faiths in him” (Jn. 3:16). It may mean to believe intellectually only, or to believe volitionally. In 6:64 Jesus distinguishes between those who truly believe and those who merely render lip service (cf. 2:24; 8:31). The Jews believed the “signs” which they saw, intellectual belief, but did not believe in Jesus himself (2:23).

Perhaps the best renderings of pisteuo in the sense of the will would be “commit” or “trust.” In 2:24 it is rendered as “commit” but either of these words would make sense. In each case the context must decide between superficial and true faith. John’s stated purpose in writing his Gospel is ‘that ye might believe (present active subjunctive, “that you may keep on believing,” committing or trusting) that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing (present participle, continuing to believe, etc.) ye might have life through his name” (20:31).

Sarx. Sarx is “flesh.” It appears thirteen times in John. In 1:13 it probably is related to sexual desire, “will of flesh.” In 3:6; 17:2 the thought is that of humanity or human nature. In 6:63; 8:15 it is related to material standards. In 6:52 it means “meat.” But in 6:51, 53, 55-56 Jesus used it to refer to the sum total of his being of which men must partake in spiritual union with him in order to receive eternal life.

In 1:14 “flesh” refers to the incarnation of the eternal Christ in a flesh and blood body. He took man’s body, and nature, apart from sin. This is John’s answer to the Docetic Gnostics who claimed that Christ only seemed to have a flesh and blood body, and to the Corinthian Gnostics who said that Christ was neither born nor did he die. They insisted that the aeon Christ came upon Jesus at his baptism, and left him on the cross. But John conclusively answers them in 1:14 and in his account of the crucifixion.

Semeion. This substantive means “sign.” Out of seventy-seven appearances in the New Testament, John uses it seventeen times. It means a distinguishing mark, or at times a miraculous work (Jn. 2:18; 4:48; 6:30; 20:30). The word “miracle” in John is used to translate this word. In this usage “signs” were evidences of Jesus’ deity. In one sense John’s Gospel is built around certain “signs” (cf. 2:11; 4:54).

Skenoo. This verb means to live or dwell. Basically it means to pitch a tent or a tabernacle. It appears in Revelation four times (7:15; 12: 12; 13:6; 21:3), where also the word skene (tent or tabernacle) is found three times (13:6; 15:5; 21:3). Skene does not appear in John’s Gospel. And skenoo is found only once (1:14). “The Word came into being as flesh, and pitched his tent (tented or tabernacled) among us.” This suggests temporary dwelling for thirty-three years. But in the light of the word “glory” the emphasis is upon “tabernacled.” God dwelt in Israel’s tabernacle as the shekinah glory. So Jesus Christ was the shekinah glory of God tabernacled in flesh.

Teleo and Teleioo. These two verbs belong to the same family of words stemming from telos, an aim, end, or goal. It is difficult to distinguish between these words, so closely are they related. But teleioo carries the idea of completing or accomplishing a work by carrying it through to its intended goal or purpose (Jn. 4:34; 5:36; 17:4; 19:28). In 17:23 it suggests the state of completion or perfection. Teleo. suggests the completion of a process in the final act of accomplishment. This word appears in John 19:28, 30. A clear distinction between these words is drawn in 19:28. “After this, Jesus knowing that all things were now accomplished (teleo, brought to a final end), that the scripture might be fulfilled (teleioo, be completed in fulfillment), saith, I thirst.” One of the great words in John is tetelestai (19:28, 30). It is the perfect passive indicative of teleo. In 19:30 it was Jesus word expressing that his redemptive act had been brought to a full and final end or goal. The perfect tense expresses the permanency of the act.

In the papyri this family of words is used m commercial transactions. Teleioo is employed in the legal sense of executing a deed in the proper way, especially of dating and signing it. The very word uttered by Jesus on the cross, tetelestai, was used to introduce receipt for payment; “It has been paid, payment is still in force, and never again can be demanded.” These are highly suggestive meanings when related to 19:28, 30.

In one papyri example a father sends his son on a mission. He is not to return “until you accomplish (teleo) this for me,” or bring it to its final act of completion. In like fashion did the Father send the Son on his redemptive mission, “until you accomplish this for me.” Just before the Son handed over his spirit to the Father, he said, “Tetelestai.” The final act of his mission has been completed and stands completed.

And this is a fitting place “to finish” (telein) this article.

Category: Journal Article
Tags: ,

Share This Article:  

Southwestern Journal of Theology
To download full issues and find more information on the Southwestern Journal of Theology, go to swbts.edu/journal.