The Johannine Purpose Statement (John 20:31) Part 3 – Jesus is the Messiah?

It is grammatically possible to translate Iesous estin ho christos as ‘the Messiah is Jesus’ rather than ‘Jesus is the Messiah’. Colwell’s rule, though a grammatical generalization determines that where two Greek substantive nouns stand in grammatical concord, the subject of the verb is normally the noun with the article.[1] D.A. Carson argues that an articular noun takes priority over a proper name as the subjective of a clause, so the phrase should be rendered, ‘that you may believe that the Christ, the Son of God, is Jesus.’[2] Such a construct would carry weight primarily as an answer to the question, ‘Who is the Messiah?’ that Jews would ask rather than Gentiles.[3] The way the purpose clause is put, then, might indicate a possible Jewish audience intended for the Fourth Gospel.[4] Yet Dan Wallace objects because in a clause with two substantive nouns either the first noun is the subject or else the proper name is the subject. He points to 1 John where the same construction occurs with ‘Jesus’, ‘Son of God’, and ‘Messiah’ as the substantive nouns but ‘Jesus’ is always the subject in these clauses (1 John 2:22; 4:15; 5:1, 5).[5]

[1] Cf. Stanley E. Porter, Idioms of the Greek New Testament (2nd ed.; Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 1999), 109-10.

[2] Cf. D.A. Carson, ‘The Purpose of the Fourth Gospel: John 20:30-31 Reconsidered,’ JBL 108 (1987): 639-51.

[3] Carson, Gospel According to John, 662.

[4] Carson, Gospel According to John, 90, 662.

[5] Daniel B. Wallace, Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1996), 46-47.


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