142 Janus 1John 3;19

Prof. Bill Mounce (http://zondervanacademic.com/blog/whats-a-janus-1-john-319-mondays-with-mounce/) acquainted me to another interesting concept in the New Testament. He writes: “Every once in a while we come across a phrase that can either look back to the previous or forward to the next.

Sometimes the phrase or verse is truly a Janus, looking both directions. But other times it only goes one way or another.

Bruce Waltke introduced me to the expression ‘Janus’. It refers to a mythical god with two heads, one looking forward and the other looking back. Wikipedia comments, ‘In ancient Roman religion and myth, Janus is the god of beginnings, gates, transitions, time, doorways, passages, and endings. He is usually depicted as having two faces, since he looks to the future and to the past.’

A common example is 1 Timothy 4:11. ‘Command and teach these things.’ ‘These things’ could be the previous instructions to avoid the false teachers in Ephesus, and it could just as easily point forward to Paul’s personal instructions to Timothy. Or, it could be a transitional statement, functioning as a Janus.

A more difficult passage is 1 John 3:19. Here is the 2011 NIV of vv 18-20. ‘Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth. This is how (ἐν τούτῳ) we know that we belong to the truth and how we set our hearts at rest in his presence: If our hearts condemn us, we know that God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything.’ The NIV has taken the exegetical position that ἐν τούτῳ points forward; we know we belong to God because when we feel condemned, we know that God is greater than our feelings. The period and the colon make this clear. See also the HCSB and I suspect the NRSV. The ESV seems to agree, but it is a tad ambiguous (by design no doubt).

This seems to be a reversal from the 1984, which reads, ‘This then is how we know that we belong to the truth, and how we set our hearts at rest in his presence whenever our hearts condemn us.’ The argument for this interpretation is that the topic of the passage is assurance. V 19 is teaching that the actions prescribed in v 18 are the evidence that we belong to the truth. See the NET and its note.’And by this we will know that we are of the truth and will convince our conscience in his presence.’ The NLT makes this clear. ‘Our actions will show that we belong to the truth, so we will be confident when we stand before God’ (see also the KJV).

One thing you may want to do is see how a writer uses ἐν τούτῳ and see if there is a pattern. But whatever side you come down exegetically, it makes for a interesting bit of Greek grammar.”

Thus far prof. Mounce.

No matter how we look at 1 John 3 18 – 20, verse 19 gives us the assurance that if we do the things mentioned in verse 18, it will be a proof that we belong to God. And if we belong to God, we have no reason to fear his judgement. “These things” (ἐν τούτῳ)function in this verse as a true Janus, looking both at the previous and the following statement.

Let us look at another example:

In Titus 3:6-8 the words “The saying is trustworthy” either refer to the preceding statement, or to the following. But it could also refer to both, acting like a Janus.

…whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior,7 so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life. 8 The saying is trustworthy, and I want you to insist on these things, so that those who have believed in God may be careful to devote themselves to good works. These things are excellent and profitable for people.”

It is a real challenge to the translator of the Bible to translate a statement containing a Janus in such a way that the reader will be able to see the applications of the Janus – statement or word in its full application.

God bless,


Comments are welcome at the bottom of this page or via email to bibledifferences@gmail.com

About Herman of bibledifferences.net

The reasons for the differences between older Bibles like the King James Version and newer Bibles like the New International Version have fascinated me ever since my studies in Theology at the University of Pretoria in the seventies. I have great respect for scribes through the ages as well as Bible translators, so there must be good reasons for the differences. With more than 5600 Greek manuscripts and more than 19000 manuscripts of ancient translations to our disposal, the original autographs of the New Testament can be established without doubt. I investigate the reasons behind the differences and publish the facts in a post on my blogs www.bibledifferences.net (Afrikaans: www.bybelverskille.wordpress.com) to enable my readers to judge for themselves. Personally I love to make an informed decision based of facts. That is why I endeavor to provide that same privilege to the readers of my blogs. Since 1973 I am married to my dear wife and greatest friend, Leah Page, founder director of Act-Up Support (www.actup.co.za) a prayer ministry for families struggling with drug-, occult- and other dependencies. We are blessed with two daughters and two sons, four grand sons and two grand daughters. God is alive and omnipotent! Glory to His Name! Herman Grobler.
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