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Re: 'The Word was toward God' question

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  • Gary
    With is within the semantic range of pros. You can find other places where pros is translated as with in standared ETs. Yesterday I ran across an example
    Message 1 of 15 , Dec 23, 2008
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      "With" is within the semantic range of pros. You can find other places
      where pros is translated as "with" in standared ETs. Yesterday I ran
      across an example in Gal 1:18, "I went up to Jerusalem to become
      acquainted with Kephas, and I remained with (pros) him 15 days."

      Several years ago I was wondering if there was any significance to its
      use in Jn 1:1, and did a quick survey of uses of pros in the LXX.
      Although I did not do a complete study, I found several examples where
      a connecting verb (such as eimi) was used with pros, and it usually
      meant "with" in those situations.
    • Gary Henecke
      It is impossible for English to carry the depth of pros in this line. The Logos was eternally oriented to God. He is toward God - which is very poor. Your
      Message 2 of 15 , Dec 24, 2008
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        It is impossible for English to carry the depth of pros in this line.
        The Logos was eternally "oriented to" God. He is "toward" God - which
        is very poor.

        Your brother
        Gary Allen Henecke

        -----Original Message-----
        From: johannine_literature@yahoogroups.com
        [mailto:johannine_literature@yahoogroups.com] On Behalf Of Marty
        Sent: Monday, December 22, 2008 2:46 PM
        To: johannine_literature@yahoogroups.com
        Subject: [John_Lit] 'The Word was toward God' question


        Dear fellows,

        This may sound very elementary, but I've never quite understood
        the rendering of 'pros' at the beginning of John as 'with.' I've never
        read 'pros' translated as 'with' anywhere but this particular passage.

        Could someone please explain this to me? Does the rendering of 'pros'
        as 'toward,' 'upon' or anything else alter the meaning of the text?

        Thank you.
      • Kevin Snapp
        May I suggest a different angle, that the Greek in this context can best be understood by way of Semitic idiom. When I first learned Greek a long time ago I
        Message 3 of 15 , Dec 24, 2008
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          May I suggest a different angle, that the Greek in this context can
          best be understood by way of Semitic idiom. When I first learned Greek
          a long time ago I had the exact same question -- the usual translation
          was "with God," but "with" was not the usual meaning of pros with
          accusative object. Many years later after a Jewish education I returned
          to John and have been reading it through Jewish eyes, beginning with the
          prologue. John's first language is Aramaic, he knows the Bible in
          Hebrew, and he is writing for a Jewish-Christian community, or at least
          a community with an insider group of Jewish Christians, as there are a
          number of things that only someone with Jewish background would be
          expected to notice. Please excuse the style of the following, which I
          cut and pasted from a draft paper I am working on. I slipped footnotes
          into the text, and the Greek font didn't quite translate, but it's
          readable.

          **********************

          A Jewish reader would understand “the Word” in
          John’s context as referring to Torah -- not the Torah read in
          synagogues, but God’s supernal Torah, the “King of
          King’s Authorized Version,” as it were. Jewish midrash
          portrays God as consulting His Torah as a blueprint, as it were, before
          creating the world, and for John’s Jewish readers this would have
          been the image in play. Midrash Rabbah - Genesis I:1 [Although Genesis
          Rabbah is a third to fourth century collection, it is plausible that
          this image, based upon Pr.8:22, “The Lord made me as the
          beginning of His way,” was commonly known among educated Jews in
          the first century.]

          Although the New Testament normally renders “Torah” as
          “νομος,” “law,” here John is speaking
          of God’s Torah, which for God is not “law,” but the
          divine reason, intelligence and design-- a concept appropriately
          rendered as “λόγος.”

          I contend that the accepted translation, “the Word was with
          God,” does not properly express the relationship between the
          Word/Torah and God that would have been conveyed to John’s Jewish
          readers. In the New Testament, as in classical Greek, the preposition
          πρὸς with an accusative object normally denotes motion
          towards the object, e.g., Jn. 1:42, “ἤγαγεν
          αὐτὸν πρὸς τὸν
          Ιησοῦν,” “he brought him to Jesus.” It
          does not mean “with” in the sense that something is
          together with something else, as demonstrated by Jn. 7:33,
          “Ετι χρόνον μικρὸν μεθ'
          á½`μῶν εἰμι καὶ á½`πάγω πρὸς
          τὸν πέμψαντά με,” “I will be
          with you (μεθ' á½`μῶν) a little while longer, and then I
          am going to him who sent me (πρὸς τὸν
          πέμψαντά με).”

          With a static verb, πρὸσ can mean “with respect
          to,” “in relation to,” as in Acts 24:16, a
          blameless conscience “before God and men,”
          “πρὸσ τὸν θεὸν καὶ τοὺσ
          ἀνθρώπουσ,” or in Rom. 5:1,
          “εἰρήνην á¼"χομεν πρὸσ τὸν
          θεὸν διὰ τοῦ κυρίου ἡμῶν
          Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ,” “we have peace
          with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.”

          But to translate “ὁ λόγοσ ἦν πρὸσ
          τὸν θεόν” as “the Word was in relation to
          God” doesn’t work. The indefinite expression
          “τὰ πρὸσ τὸν θεόν” can be
          rendered “things pertaining to God,” or “religious
          matters,” as in Rom. 15:17, “I have found reason for
          boasting in things pertaining to God,” but surely John did not
          intend readers to understand that the Word was a “religious
          object.”

          It should be kept in mind that the native language of both John and his
          “insider” audience was not Greek. In Semitic idiom,
          “in front of,” in Hebrew, “lifnei,”
          literally “to-the-face-of-” someone, in Aramaic,
          “kadam,” “before,” is used metaphorically to
          mean “in his presence” and at a higher remove,
          “mentally present,” i.e., in his awareness.

          When Paul says in Rom. 4:2, “if Abraham was justified by works,
          he has something to boast about, but not “πρὸσ
          θεόν,” he does not mean “but not [boasting] toward
          God,” but rather, not boasting “before God,” or
          “in God’s presence.”

          This is the sense in which the Word/Logos is said to be πρὸσ
          τὸν θεόν, reflecting a shift from the literal meaning
          of the Greek, “toward God,” through the literal Semitic
          “to God’s face,” “in front of God,”
          to the metaphorical Semitic, “in God’s presence,”
          “in God’s awareness.” When speaking of what was
          “in the beginning,” the temporal sense of
          “before” would render “the Word was before
          God” confusing; an appropriate translation might be “the
          Word was in God’s awareness,” or perhaps making God the
          subject, “God was conscious of the Word.”

          C.F. Burney, who argued that John’s Gospel is a translation of an
          Aramaic original, distinguished between New Testament
          “Hebraisms,” usages or idioms derived from biblical Hebrew
          via the Septuagint, and “Aramaisms,” which could be
          derived from Aramaic but not from Hebrew, although acknowledging
          “Semitisms” common to both languages. C.F. Burney, The
          Aramaic Origin of the Fourth Gospel (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1922),
          7-17. Burney states that “the phrase πρὸσ τὸν
          θεόν in the sense ‘with God' is remarkable,” id.
          28, noting that in the Synoptics it is only found in Mark or material
          taken from Mark, and is an Aramaism. He hypothesized that “[i]n
          Aramaic the common preposition לְוָת (possibly akin to the
          verb לְוִ×" ‘join’) denotes (i) connexion with,
          apud, παρα , (2) motion towards, ad, πρόσ. It may be
          suggested that feeling for the second meaning so commonly borne by
          לְוָת has moved the translator of an Aramaic original to
          represent the preposition by πρόσ even when used in the
          former sense.” Id. 29.

          The Peshitta (the Aramaic translation of the New Testament) also uses
          לְוָת. However, I suggest both Burney and the translator of
          the Peshitta passed over the possible alternative Semitic sense of
          πρόσ because, in accordance with traditional Christian
          understanding they assumed that “the Word” is a person of
          equal dignity with God and consequently that πρὸσ τὸν
          θεόν was intended to mean “[together] with God”
          and not “in God’s presence.” According to Burney,
          this usage of πρόσ occurs only this once in John’s
          Gospel. John (or his translator) elsewhere knew and used the usual
          Greek prepositions meaning “with.”

          The universal English translation, “the Word was with
          God,” inclines the reader toward understanding “the
          Word” as it has traditionally been understood in Christian
          theology, as a separate hypostasis. But this would not necessarily have
          been the sense of the original Greek, particularly to one whose native
          idiom was Aramaic. To give an English example, if we read, “when
          the builder constructed the house, X was before him,” without
          being told what X might be, we naturally infer that X is something like
          a plan or model, either literally in front of the builder, or at least
          figuratively in front of him, “in his mind’s eye.”
          If instead we read, “when the builder constructed the house, X
          was with him,” we infer that X is not a thing, but a person, even
          though X could be replaced with “a blueprint,” or even
          “a hammer.”

          So at the creation, the Word, God’s ineffable Torah, was present
          to God’s consciousness, and we are told “καὶ
          θεὸσ ἦν ὁ λόγοσ.” But Torah, even
          personified in Jewish lore as “Wisdom,” is not God. John
          omits the definite article, and does not say, “καὶ ὁ
          θεὸσ ἦν ὁ λόγοσ,” as might be
          expected after “καὶ ὁ λόγοσ ἦν
          πρὸσ τὸν θεόν,” but “καὶ
          θεὸσ ἦν ὁ λόγοσ,” permitting
          θεὸσ to be read adjectivally, “and divine/supernal was
          the Word/Torah,” as if to make clear that this is not
          God’s Word in the form of the Torah we know, but the wholly
          divine version in God’s own consciousness.

          So even in this first verse, John may not be saying what we are
          accustomed to understanding him to say. Verse 2, “οὗτοσ
          ἦν ἐν ἀρχῇ πρὸσ τὸν
          θεόν” “this was in the beginning in God’s
          awareness,” can be read as re-emphasizing the separation and
          distinction between Logos/Torah and God, so that verse 3,
          “πάντα δι? αὐτοῦ ἐγένετο,
          καὶ χωρὶσ αὐτοῦ ἐγένετο
          οὐδὲ ἕν ὃ γέγονεν,” should be
          read, “all things came to be through it (Logos/Torah), and apart
          from it nothing came to be that came to be,” rather than
          “all things came to be through him. A Jew would have no
          difficulty in affirming that all things came to be
          “through” or “by means of” (Greek δια,
          Hebrew ×`-) God’s primal Torah.
          *************************************
          Kevin Snapp
          Chicago
        • Gary
          I appreciate the efforts of Kevin and Gary. However, in order for their arguments to carry serious weight, they would have to show us why pros is translated as
          Message 4 of 15 , Dec 24, 2008
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            I appreciate the efforts of Kevin and Gary. However, in order for
            their arguments to carry serious weight, they would have to show us
            why pros is translated as "with" in other settings that will not
            carry the meanings that they suggest. Here are a few of the other
            texts where pros is usually translated as with:

            Mk 14:49 "Every day I was _with_ you in the temple..."
            Lk 9:41 "You unbelieving and wicked generation, how long shall I be
            _with_ you...?"
            1 Cor 2:3 "I was _with_ you in weakness and much fear..."
            1 Cor 16:10 "If Timothy comes, see to it that he is _with_ you
            without cause to be afraid... "
            2 Thess 2:5 "Don't you remember that when I was still _with_ you, I
            was telling you these things?"
            2 Thes 3:10 "Even when we were _with_ you, we used to order..."
            1 Jn 1:2 "... we proclaim to you the eternal life which was _with_
            the father..."

            Note that all of these combine eimi or ginomai with pros (although
            not every such combination should be translated as "to be with").

            Since all of these examples (and I am sure there are others) have the
            very simple meaning of being present with someone, it does not seem
            that there is good evidence to see any special meaning for pros in Jn
            1:1-2.

            It is risky to base any interpretation too strongly on the use of
            prepositions, because prepositions in most languages are so flexible
            and idiomatic. Any argument of the sort "this preposition always
            means x" is suspect, since context is so important for determining
            the meaning of a preposition (or any word, for that matter).

            We could make a similar error in English by saying that the word "at"
            always implies direction or orientation - and then be confused by the
            idiomatic expression "someone is at the door." Clearly, in that
            case, "at" means "next to," and even implies "waiting for someone."

            With the examples from elsewhere in the NT that I gave above, I think
            it is pretty clear that pros is being used here in a fairly ordinary
            way. In order for someone to make the case that pros implies
            orientation or "in God's awareness," we would need a number of other
            examples from Hellenistic Greek to prove the case. To claim a
            semitism does not really help here, unless we can find other examples
            of unusual and relevant uses of pros by an author who was influenced
            by a semitic language.
          • Kevin Snapp
            Postscript to my comment of 12/24 When I saw my own comment as delivered by e-mail, the Greek was illegible, and attempting to change the encoding settings in
            Message 5 of 15 , Dec 25, 2008
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              Postscript to my comment of 12/24

              When I saw my own comment as delivered by e-mail, the Greek was
              illegible, and attempting to change the encoding settings in my
              browser wouldn't fix it. It was readable, however, although not
              perfect, on the Yahoo Groups website when I sent it, and still is. (My
              browser is set to Unicode UTF-8). If others can't read it from the
              website, I'll see what I can do. Sorry for any inconvenience.

              Kevin Snapp
              Chicago
            • bill ace
              Thank you every one who has responded to my query. It appears that there is actually a diversity of opinion on this matter, or at least a group of ways to
              Message 6 of 15 , Dec 27, 2008
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                Thank you every one who has responded to my query. It appears that there is actually a diversity of opinion on this matter, or at least a group of ways to understand 'pros' as 'with'.

                I think this shows either how much we know about the Bible, or how little, or somehow both.

                Martin C. Arno





















                [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
              • Gary Henecke
                A lot of assumptions her as fact: assumptions on the language of the first readers, and the community of the first readers, and John s intent or understanding
                Message 7 of 15 , Dec 27, 2008
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                  A lot of assumptions her as fact: assumptions on the language of the first readers, and the community of the first readers, and John's intent or understanding from the Midrash writings - even John's knowledge of the Hebrew scriptures versus the LXX.

                  Your brother
                  Gary Allen Henecke
                  -----Original Message-----
                  From: johannine_literature@yahoogroups.com [mailto:johannine_literature@yahoogroups.com] On Behalf Of Kevin Snapp
                  Sent: Wednesday, December 24, 2008 3:39 PM
                  To: johannine_literature@yahoogroups.com
                  Subject: [John_Lit] Re: 'The Word was toward God' question

                  May I suggest a different angle, that the Greek in this context can
                  best be understood by way of Semitic idiom. When I first learned Greek
                  a long time ago I had the exact same question -- the usual translation
                  was "with God," but "with" was not the usual meaning of pros with
                  accusative object. Many years later after a Jewish education I returned
                  to John and have been reading it through Jewish eyes, beginning with the
                  prologue. John's first language is Aramaic, he knows the Bible in
                  Hebrew, and he is writing for a Jewish-Christian community, or at least
                  a community with an insider group of Jewish Christians, as there are a
                  number of things that only someone with Jewish background would be
                  expected to notice. Please excuse the style of the following, which I
                  cut and pasted from a draft paper I am working on. I slipped footnotes
                  into the text, and the Greek font didn't quite translate, but it's
                  readable.

                  **********************

                  A Jewish reader would understand “the Word” in
                  John’s context as referring to Torah -- not the Torah read in
                  synagogues, but God’s supernal Torah, the “King of
                  King’s Authorized Version,” as it were. Jewish midrash
                  portrays God as consulting His Torah as a blueprint, as it were, before
                  creating the world, and for John’s Jewish readers this would have
                  been the image in play. Midrash Rabbah - Genesis I:1 [Although Genesis
                  Rabbah is a third to fourth century collection, it is plausible that
                  this image, based upon Pr.8:22, “The Lord made me as the
                  beginning of His way,” was commonly known among educated Jews in
                  the first century.]

                  Although the New Testament normally renders “Torah” as
                  “νομος,” “law,” here John is speaking
                  of God’s Torah, which for God is not “law,” but the
                  divine reason, intelligence and design-- a concept appropriately
                  rendered as “λόγος.”

                  I contend that the accepted translation, “the Word was with
                  God,” does not properly express the relationship between the
                  Word/Torah and God that would have been conveyed to John’s Jewish
                  readers. In the New Testament, as in classical Greek, the preposition
                  πρὸς with an accusative object normally denotes motion
                  towards the object, e.g., Jn. 1:42, “ἤγαγεν
                  αὐτὸν πρὸς τὸν
                  Ιησοῦν,” “he brought him to Jesus.” It
                  does not mean “with” in the sense that something is
                  together with something else, as demonstrated by Jn. 7:33,
                  “Ετι χρόνον μικρὸν μεθ'
                  á½`μῶν εἰμι καὶ á½`πάγω πρὸς
                  τὸν πέμψαντά με,” “I will be
                  with you (μεθ' á½`μῶν) a little while longer, and then I
                  am going to him who sent me (πρὸς τὸν
                  πέμψαντά με).”

                  With a static verb, πρὸσ can mean “with respect
                  to,” “in relation to,” as in Acts 24:16, a
                  blameless conscience “before God and men,”
                  “πρὸσ τὸν θεὸν καὶ τοὺσ
                  ἀνθρώπουσ,” or in Rom. 5:1,
                  “εἰρήνην á¼"χομεν πρὸσ τὸν
                  θεὸν διὰ τοῦ κυρίου ἡμῶν
                  Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ,” “we have peace
                  with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.”

                  But to translate “ὁ λόγοσ ἦν πρὸσ
                  τὸν θεόν” as “the Word was in relation to
                  God” doesn’t work. The indefinite expression
                  “τὰ πρὸσ τὸν θεόν” can be
                  rendered “things pertaining to God,” or “religious
                  matters,” as in Rom. 15:17, “I have found reason for
                  boasting in things pertaining to God,” but surely John did not
                  intend readers to understand that the Word was a “religious
                  object.”

                  It should be kept in mind that the native language of both John and his
                  “insider” audience was not Greek. In Semitic idiom,
                  “in front of,” in Hebrew, “lifnei,”
                  literally “to-the-face-of-” someone, in Aramaic,
                  “kadam,” “before,” is used metaphorically to
                  mean “in his presence” and at a higher remove,
                  “mentally present,” i.e., in his awareness.

                  When Paul says in Rom. 4:2, “if Abraham was justified by works,
                  he has something to boast about, but not “πρὸσ
                  θεόν,” he does not mean “but not [boasting] toward
                  God,” but rather, not boasting “before God,” or
                  “in God’s presence.”

                  This is the sense in which the Word/Logos is said to be πρὸσ
                  τὸν θεόν, reflecting a shift from the literal meaning
                  of the Greek, “toward God,” through the literal Semitic
                  “to God’s face,” “in front of God,”
                  to the metaphorical Semitic, “in God’s presence,”
                  “in God’s awareness.” When speaking of what was
                  “in the beginning,” the temporal sense of
                  “before” would render “the Word was before
                  God” confusing; an appropriate translation might be “the
                  Word was in God’s awareness,” or perhaps making God the
                  subject, “God was conscious of the Word.”

                  C.F. Burney, who argued that John’s Gospel is a translation of an
                  Aramaic original, distinguished between New Testament
                  “Hebraisms,” usages or idioms derived from biblical Hebrew
                  via the Septuagint, and “Aramaisms,” which could be
                  derived from Aramaic but not from Hebrew, although acknowledging
                  “Semitisms” common to both languages. C.F. Burney, The
                  Aramaic Origin of the Fourth Gospel (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1922),
                  7-17. Burney states that “the phrase πρὸσ τὸν
                  θεόν in the sense ‘with God' is remarkable,” id.
                  28, noting that in the Synoptics it is only found in Mark or material
                  taken from Mark, and is an Aramaism. He hypothesized that “[i]n
                  Aramaic the common preposition לְוָת (possibly akin to the
                  verb לְוִ×" ‘join’) denotes (i) connexion with,
                  apud, παρα , (2) motion towards, ad, πρόσ. It may be
                  suggested that feeling for the second meaning so commonly borne by
                  לְוָת has moved the translator of an Aramaic original to
                  represent the preposition by πρόσ even when used in the
                  former sense.” Id. 29.

                  The Peshitta (the Aramaic translation of the New Testament) also uses
                  לְוָת. However, I suggest both Burney and the translator of
                  the Peshitta passed over the possible alternative Semitic sense of
                  πρόσ because, in accordance with traditional Christian
                  understanding they assumed that “the Word” is a person of
                  equal dignity with God and consequently that πρὸσ τὸν
                  θεόν was intended to mean “[together] with God”
                  and not “in God’s presence.” According to Burney,
                  this usage of πρόσ occurs only this once in John’s
                  Gospel. John (or his translator) elsewhere knew and used the usual
                  Greek prepositions meaning “with.”

                  The universal English translation, “the Word was with
                  God,” inclines the reader toward understanding “the
                  Word” as it has traditionally been understood in Christian
                  theology, as a separate hypostasis. But this would not necessarily have
                  been the sense of the original Greek, particularly to one whose native
                  idiom was Aramaic. To give an English example, if we read, “when
                  the builder constructed the house, X was before him,” without
                  being told what X might be, we naturally infer that X is something like
                  a plan or model, either literally in front of the builder, or at least
                  figuratively in front of him, “in his mind’s eye.”
                  If instead we read, “when the builder constructed the house, X
                  was with him,” we infer that X is not a thing, but a person, even
                  though X could be replaced with “a blueprint,” or even
                  “a hammer.”

                  So at the creation, the Word, God’s ineffable Torah, was present
                  to God’s consciousness, and we are told “καὶ
                  θεὸσ ἦν ὁ λόγοσ.” But Torah, even
                  personified in Jewish lore as “Wisdom,” is not God. John
                  omits the definite article, and does not say, “καὶ ὁ
                  θεὸσ ἦν ὁ λόγοσ,” as might be
                  expected after “καὶ ὁ λόγοσ ἦν
                  πρὸσ τὸν θεόν,” but “καὶ
                  θεὸσ ἦν ὁ λόγοσ,” permitting
                  θεὸσ to be read adjectivally, “and divine/supernal was
                  the Word/Torah,” as if to make clear that this is not
                  God’s Word in the form of the Torah we know, but the wholly
                  divine version in God’s own consciousness.

                  So even in this first verse, John may not be saying what we are
                  accustomed to understanding him to say. Verse 2, “οὗτοσ
                  ἦν ἐν ἀρχῇ πρὸσ τὸν
                  θεόν” “this was in the beginning in God’s
                  awareness,” can be read as re-emphasizing the separation and
                  distinction between Logos/Torah and God, so that verse 3,
                  “πάντα δι? αὐτοῦ ἐγένετο,
                  καὶ χωρὶσ αὐτοῦ ἐγένετο
                  οὐδὲ ἕν ὃ γέγονεν,” should be
                  read, “all things came to be through it (Logos/Torah), and apart
                  from it nothing came to be that came to be,” rather than
                  “all things came to be through him. A Jew would have no
                  difficulty in affirming that all things came to be
                  “through” or “by means of” (Greek δια,
                  Hebrew ×`-) God’s primal Torah.
                  *************************************
                  Kevin Snapp
                  Chicago
                • Kym Smith
                  Dear Marty, It was not long ago that I heard someone say that pros ton theon could be understood - and probably should in this case - as face to face with
                  Message 8 of 15 , Dec 28, 2008
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                    Dear Marty,

                    It was not long ago that I heard someone say that 'pros ton theon'
                    could be understood - and probably should in this case - as 'face to
                    face with God'. I can't remember his source and I'd rather not have to
                    find it. This would seem to be a difficult way to read it each time
                    'pros ton theon' is used, though perhaps not impossible. A couple of
                    interesting instances where it would make wonderful sense relate to
                    Jesus in his high priestly ministry (Heb 2:17) and our confidence in
                    our relationship with God (1 Jn 3:21).

                    Hope this is helpful,

                    Kym Smith
                    All Saints Anglican Church
                    Seacliff
                    South Australia




                    --- In johannine_literature@yahoogroups.com, "Marty" <zilabon@...> wrote:
                    >
                    >
                    > Dear fellows,
                    >
                    > This may sound very elementary, but I've never quite understood
                    > the rendering of 'pros' at the beginning of John as 'with.' I've never
                    > read 'pros' translated as 'with' anywhere but this particular passage.
                    >
                    > Could someone please explain this to me? Does the rendering of 'pros'
                    > as 'toward,' 'upon' or anything else alter the meaning of the text?
                    >
                    > Thank you.
                    >
                  • Jack Kilmon
                    In front of. Jack ... From: Marty To: Sent: Monday, December 22, 2008 2:46 PM Subject:
                    Message 9 of 15 , Dec 29, 2008
                    • 0 Attachment
                      "In front of."

                      Jack


                      ----- Original Message -----
                      From: "Marty" <zilabon@...>
                      To: <johannine_literature@yahoogroups.com>
                      Sent: Monday, December 22, 2008 2:46 PM
                      Subject: [John_Lit] 'The Word was toward God' question


                      >
                      > Dear fellows,
                      >
                      > This may sound very elementary, but I've never quite understood
                      > the rendering of 'pros' at the beginning of John as 'with.' I've never
                      > read 'pros' translated as 'with' anywhere but this particular passage.
                      >
                      > Could someone please explain this to me? Does the rendering of 'pros'
                      > as 'toward,' 'upon' or anything else alter the meaning of the text?
                      >
                      > Thank you.
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                    • Matson, Mark (Academic)
                      Exactly, Gary. Both your posts on this are spot on . But who are you? I don t see any identification on your posts? Mark A. Matson Academic Dean Milligan
                      Message 10 of 15 , Dec 30, 2008
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                        Exactly, Gary. Both your posts on this are "spot on".

                        But who are you? I don't see any identification on your posts?

                        Mark A. Matson
                        Academic Dean
                        Milligan College
                        http://www.milligan.edu/administrative/mmatson/personal.htm

                        ________________________________

                        From: johannine_literature@yahoogroups.com on behalf of Gary
                        Sent: Wed 12/24/2008 6:56 PM
                        To: johannine_literature@yahoogroups.com
                        Subject: [John_Lit] Re: 'The Word was toward God' question



                        I appreciate the efforts of Kevin and Gary. However, in order for
                        their arguments to carry serious weight, they would have to show us
                        why pros is translated as "with" in other settings that will not
                        carry the meanings that they suggest. Here are a few of the other
                        texts where pros is usually translated as with:

                        Mk 14:49 "Every day I was _with_ you in the temple..."
                        Lk 9:41 "You unbelieving and wicked generation, how long shall I be
                        _with_ you...?"
                        1 Cor 2:3 "I was _with_ you in weakness and much fear..."
                        1 Cor 16:10 "If Timothy comes, see to it that he is _with_ you
                        without cause to be afraid... "
                        2 Thess 2:5 "Don't you remember that when I was still _with_ you, I
                        was telling you these things?"
                        2 Thes 3:10 "Even when we were _with_ you, we used to order..."
                        1 Jn 1:2 "... we proclaim to you the eternal life which was _with_
                        the father..."

                        Note that all of these combine eimi or ginomai with pros (although
                        not every such combination should be translated as "to be with").

                        Since all of these examples (and I am sure there are others) have the
                        very simple meaning of being present with someone, it does not seem
                        that there is good evidence to see any special meaning for pros in Jn
                        1:1-2.

                        It is risky to base any interpretation too strongly on the use of
                        prepositions, because prepositions in most languages are so flexible
                        and idiomatic. Any argument of the sort "this preposition always
                        means x" is suspect, since context is so important for determining
                        the meaning of a preposition (or any word, for that matter).

                        We could make a similar error in English by saying that the word "at"
                        always implies direction or orientation - and then be confused by the
                        idiomatic expression "someone is at the door." Clearly, in that
                        case, "at" means "next to," and even implies "waiting for someone."

                        With the examples from elsewhere in the NT that I gave above, I think
                        it is pretty clear that pros is being used here in a fairly ordinary
                        way. In order for someone to make the case that pros implies
                        orientation or "in God's awareness," we would need a number of other
                        examples from Hellenistic Greek to prove the case. To claim a
                        semitism does not really help here, unless we can find other examples
                        of unusual and relevant uses of pros by an author who was influenced
                        by a semitic language.


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                      • Gary
                        Hi Mark, Thanks for the encouraging comment. Sorry about the unintentional anonymity on the earlier posts (perhaps like John? :). Here s my normal email
                        Message 11 of 15 , Dec 30, 2008
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                          Hi Mark,

                          Thanks for the encouraging comment. Sorry about the unintentional
                          anonymity on the earlier posts (perhaps like John? :). Here's my normal
                          email signature:
                          _________________________________________
                          Gary Manning, Ph.D.
                          http://eutychusnerd.blogspot.com/
                          Interim Academic Dean
                          Associate Professor of Bible and Biblical Languages
                          Pacific Rim Bible College
                        • Kevin Snapp
                          Gary and Mark, Let me try to respond to Gary’s objection, and I ask Mark not to brush me off quite yet. There is a serious question here, even if you
                          Message 12 of 15 , Dec 31, 2008
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                            Gary and Mark,

                            Let me try to respond to Gary’s objection, and I ask Mark not to brush
                            me off quite yet. There is a serious question here, even if you don’t
                            agree with my approach or answer to it.

                            I put in my two cents’ worth because Marty’s exact question was what
                            prompted me to look closely at John’s Gospel through a Jewish lens,
                            leading, I think, to a whole new perspective that I am trying to nail
                            down. My thesis, which I can hardly lay out here, is that John’s
                            Gospel was written for two separate audiences. “Outsiders” would read
                            John as consistent with the Synoptics, while Jewish “insiders” who
                            knew to look for clues would find a different picture of Jesus. I'm
                            not asking anyone to take something so radical seriously here, only to
                            consider the possibility that there may be subtleties.

                            I see two separate issues. The first is whether the use of “pros”
                            with accusative object to mean “with” or something similar -- an
                            important qualification -- is a semitism or whether this is using the
                            preposition “in a fairly ordinary way.” Second, if it is a semitism,
                            what difference might it make.

                            I am not a Greek scholar, so my primary reference is my large Liddell
                            and Scott, and I see no comparable usage listed outside the NT. Peter
                            Philips, in his monograph on the prologue doesn’t either. The
                            Prologue of the Fourth Gospel, London, T&T Clark (2006) 150 n. 30.
                            Philips takes the problem seriously -- that normally “pros” with
                            accusative means “toward,” static relationships are normally indicated
                            by the dative, and that the author of John uses “pros” with static
                            verb and dative object to express a locative relationship on four
                            occasions, making the doubled usage in Jn. 1:1 with accusative unique
                            in the Gospel, ibid. 151.

                            Philips cites 27 examples in Strong’s concordance of “pros” with
                            accusative object and a stative verb used “in a locative sense” in the
                            NT, 4.3% of the occurrences of the preposition, ibid. 151 n.34.
                            Philips offers a catalog of commentators’ understandings of “pros ton
                            theon” in Jn. 1:1, but although mentioning in passing (151 n. 32) that
                            it has been suggested that “pros” in Jn. 1:1 reflects Aramaic “lwat,”
                            Philips offers no discussion of a possible Semitic idiom.

                            Craig Keener’s two-volume commentary, which I bought because it is
                            recent and thick, is disappointing. Keener states in a footnote that
                            “[t]he construction here represents neither movement toward God
                            [citations] nor an Aramaism [no citation]; by this period prepositions
                            were becoming more ambiguous (cf., e.g., μετ’ αλληλων in 6:43 and προς
                            αλληλους in 6:52).” Craig S. Keener, The Gospel of John: A Commentary
                            (Hendrickson, 2003) 370 n. 48. These examples are meaningless, as
                            they represent different prepositions used with different verbs.

                            I don’t believe many would say John is sloppy with prepositions.
                            Zerwick notes that unlike some NT authors, John scrupulously
                            distinguishes between “en” with dative denoting position and “eis”
                            with accusative denoting motion. Maximilian Zerwick, Biblical Greek,
                            4th English ed. (Rome: Pont. Bib. Inst. 2005) 33-34. (The sole
                            exception, in Jn. 1:18, is explained by my thesis.)

                            Looking at NT scholarship as an outsider, this is surprising. Here
                            is a Greek usage that is apparently found only in the NT, yet hardly
                            anyone asks whether this might point to some common element in the
                            backgrounds of a majority of NT authors that influenced their use of
                            Greek, something not shared with other ancient authors. Put that way,
                            the answer is obvious: a majority of the NT authors were Jews, who
                            either spoke Aramaic as their first language or had been raised in
                            communities where the Greek spoken was strongly influenced by Aramaic
                            and/or Hebrew. It needn't have had any effect on the meaning, but
                            it's possible.

                            Christianity has always been a religion in translation, since it was
                            understood that the Gospel was for all nations. But while the author
                            of John was a Christian believer, he was also an educated Jew. Jews
                            had a different attitude toward their scriptures, which were written
                            for one people only. In particular, the Torah, believed to have been
                            dictated by God to Moses, surely contained endless mysteries yet
                            undiscovered, making real translation impossible and endowing every
                            textual quirk with potential meaning. Essential for salvation, of
                            course not. But essential for understanding.

                            Paul and Mark are well known for their Semitic usages. I don’t think
                            that today it is debated that the author of John’s Gospel was a
                            Palestinian Jew, and he quite possibly also wrote 1John. C.F. Burney
                            in The Aramaic Origin of the Fourth Gospel (Oxford: Clarendon Press,
                            1922), was so impressed with John’s semitic idiom that he tried to
                            prove John’s Gospel was originally written in Aramaic.

                            Luke’s native tongue was Greek, although he affects Semitic diction
                            when imitating the Septuagint, the Bible known to most Gentiles and to
                            western diaspora Jews, and the Septuagint is full of semitisms. But
                            when Luke quotes Mark, as in your example, Lk 9:41, he is quoting Mk
                            9:19, Mark’s Semitic idiom comes along for the ride.

                            So I think my assertion that this is a semitism holds up. The next
                            question is what difference it makes, which is harder.

                            It’s necessary to frame the question properly. It is tempting to say,
                            “since a stative verb + pros + accusative object means ‘with’ at a, b
                            and c in Mark and Luke, its usage in Jn 1:1 isn’t anything special.”
                            But that would be a form of circular reasoning, essentially concluding
                            that if “with” works as a translation, that’s good enough.

                            Obviously, if something is off in left field it won’t work at all, but
                            there is a difference between, e.g., “I don’t want you with me,” and
                            “I don’t want you in my presence.” Although at a crude level they
                            mean the same thing, the difference says a great deal about the
                            relationship between the persons involved. I believe John is saying,
                            to those aware of the Semitic idiom, that the Word was in God’s
                            presence, implying that the Word is not a person, while allowing those
                            who are unaware of that idiom to believe that “pros ton theon” is just
                            an odd way of saying “with God” as one Person is with another.

                            Starting with Philips' 27 occurrences of “pros” with accusative and
                            stative verb in a locative sense, taking away the two we are trying to
                            interpret in Jn. 1:1 and the two in 1 Jn. dependent on them, we have
                            23: Mt. 13.56; Mk. 6.3, 9.10, 9.19, 14.49; Lk. 9.41, 18.11; 1 Cor.
                            2.3, 16.7, 16.10; 2 Cor. 6.14, 6.15, 11.9, 12.21; Gal. 1.18, 2.5,
                            4.18, 4.20; 1Thess. 3.4; 2 Thess. 2.5, 3.10; Phil. 1.3; and Heb. 4.13.

                            Removing Lk. 9:41 and Mt. 13:56, both of which copy Mark, leaves 21.
                            Luke 18:11 is out, because the direction of speech is a conventional
                            use of “pros” with accusative; the Pharisee, standing, “to himself
                            prayed thus, ‘O God ...’” “προς εαυτον ταυτα προσηυχετο ο θεος ...”
                            Note that since the similar usages in Matthew and Luke were copied
                            directly from Mark, all of those in the Gospels originate with Mark
                            except for our problematic John 1:1.

                            It is late and this is already a long post. I expect to return in a
                            day or two and go down the list of the remaining twenty. Although
                            many can be translated by “with,” I believe none corresponds to the
                            situation assumed in Jn. 1:1, where one person is “with” another, and
                            I think I can make a case that that “the Word was in God’s presence”
                            is a preferable translation. And if I’m not back before 2009, Happy
                            New Year to all.


                            --- In johannine_literature@yahoogroups.com, "Gary"
                            <gary.t.manning@...> wrote:
                            >
                            > I appreciate the efforts of Kevin and Gary. However, in order for
                            > their arguments to carry serious weight, they would have to show us
                            > why pros is translated as "with" in other settings that will not
                            > carry the meanings that they suggest. Here are a few of the other
                            > texts where pros is usually translated as with:
                            >
                            > Mk 14:49 "Every day I was _with_ you in the temple..."
                            > Lk 9:41 "You unbelieving and wicked generation, how long shall I be
                            > _with_ you...?"
                            > 1 Cor 2:3 "I was _with_ you in weakness and much fear..."
                            > 1 Cor 16:10 "If Timothy comes, see to it that he is _with_ you
                            > without cause to be afraid... "
                            > 2 Thess 2:5 "Don't you remember that when I was still _with_ you, I
                            > was telling you these things?"
                            > 2 Thes 3:10 "Even when we were _with_ you, we used to order..."
                            > 1 Jn 1:2 "... we proclaim to you the eternal life which was _with_
                            > the father..."
                            >
                            > Note that all of these combine eimi or ginomai with pros (although
                            > not every such combination should be translated as "to be with").
                            >
                            > Since all of these examples (and I am sure there are others) have the
                            > very simple meaning of being present with someone, it does not seem
                            > that there is good evidence to see any special meaning for pros in Jn
                            > 1:1-2.
                            >
                            > It is risky to base any interpretation too strongly on the use of
                            > prepositions, because prepositions in most languages are so flexible
                            > and idiomatic. Any argument of the sort "this preposition always
                            > means x" is suspect, since context is so important for determining
                            > the meaning of a preposition (or any word, for that matter).
                            >
                            > We could make a similar error in English by saying that the word "at"
                            > always implies direction or orientation - and then be confused by the
                            > idiomatic expression "someone is at the door." Clearly, in that
                            > case, "at" means "next to," and even implies "waiting for someone."
                            >
                            > With the examples from elsewhere in the NT that I gave above, I think
                            > it is pretty clear that pros is being used here in a fairly ordinary
                            > way. In order for someone to make the case that pros implies
                            > orientation or "in God's awareness," we would need a number of other
                            > examples from Hellenistic Greek to prove the case. To claim a
                            > semitism does not really help here, unless we can find other examples
                            > of unusual and relevant uses of pros by an author who was influenced
                            > by a semitic language.
                            >
                          • Kevin Snapp
                            Hello, Gary, If the purpose of your post was to warn someone without background in NT scholarship that what I suggested should not be taken as authoritative,
                            Message 13 of 15 , Jan 1, 2009
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                              Hello, Gary,

                              If the purpose of your post was to warn someone without background in
                              NT scholarship that what I suggested should not be taken as
                              authoritative, fine, but I doubt that anyone could make that mistake.
                              If you want to teach me or advance the discussion, you will need to
                              be specific.

                              "Fact" and "assumption" are a false dichotomy. We have no "facts"
                              in the sense of generally undisputed historical truths concerning the
                              author of the Fourth Gospel and his community; there is debate even
                              as to who the author was. There are only inferences, more or less
                              supported (or supportable) and more or less accepted among scholars.
                              In calling into question the accepted understanding of "pros ton
                              theon" I was proposing something outside the scholarly "mainstream,"
                              but in proposing it I don't believe I was assuming anything outside
                              the mainstream with respect to the matters you cryptically mention.

                              I did assert (or "assume") certain things without giving reasons, but
                              I believe they are reasonably well-supported in the literature. I
                              accept that the author of John's Gospel -- the first author, not
                              necessarily the last contributor -- was a Palestinian Jew, that
                              his own community was Jewish, that he knew Jewish laws and customs,
                              that he was familiar with much of the Bible in Hebrew as well as in
                              Greek, and that the prologue reflects familiarity with Jewish
                              extra-canonical oral and written traditions relating the "Wisdom"
                              figure of Proverbs, the Torah and God. The author wrote the Gospel
                              intending both that it would be preserved within his own
                              Jewish-Christian community and be disseminated among other Christian
                              communities, Jewish, Gentile and mixed.

                              I am aware that some highly-respected scholars have taken the position
                              that the prologue was originally a separate composition, but my
                              assumption (I have reasons, but assume it here) that it is an integral
                              part of the Gospel is, if anything, a conservative one.

                              I think this is all mainstream, even if not all undisputed. What
                              assumptions do you believe I am making that are unsupported and/or
                              outside the mainstream of Johannine scholarship?

                              Kevin

                              --- In johannine_literature@yahoogroups.com, "Gary Henecke"
                              <ghenecke@...> wrote:
                              >
                              > A lot of assumptions her as fact: assumptions on the language of the
                              first readers, and the community of the first readers, and John's
                              intent or understanding from the Midrash writings - even John's
                              knowledge of the Hebrew scriptures versus the LXX.
                              >
                              > Your brother
                              > Gary Allen Henecke
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