Internal Evidence

on John (1976)

Review of: Nigel Turner, A Grammar of NT Greek,
Volume IV, Style (1976) pp. 64-78

Page Index

Last Updated: Feb 21, 2009

Prologue: - Introduction to Turner

Review: - The Style of John: the Johannine Writings: Gospel & letters

   I. Evidence for Sources: Turner on Bultmann's theories
    The Sayings-Source: Semitisms, Chain-Locking, Chiasm
    The Signs-Source: non-translational, particles, asyndeta
    The Evangelist's Additions: rabbinicisms, propositions, phrases
    Conclusion: Sources inseparable, the unity of John
    Possible Exceptions: John 7:53-8:11 and John ch. 21

    II-V. Semiticisms: the Jewishness of John
    II. Septuagint Influence:
    III. Other Hebraisms:
    IV. Aramaisms:
    V. Semitisms:

    VI-X. Other Stylisms: Peculiarities of John
    VI. Johannine Clause-Order:
    VII. Use of Particles:
    VIII. Use of Prepositions:
    IX. The Limited Vocabulary:
    X. Pointless Variety in Style:

    XI. Final Conclusion: John's Gospel is Jewish Greek,
      its uniqueness is not due to a lack of Greek skills

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I. Turner on Sources

The Style of John

I. The Main Sources

Although it is generally recognized that the style of the Gospel is fairly uniform throughout, two distinct written sources have been proposed, following R. Bultmann, Das Evangelium des Johannes, (Gottingen 1941), a speeches-source (Redenquelle) and a signs-source (Semeiaquelle).


Dr. Black is of the opinion that the distribution of Aramaisms, corresponding to Bultmann's sources, is such as to suggest that there was a sort of Johannine Q, an Aramaic document lying behind the Gospel, a sayings-source as distinct from the narrative part of the the Gospel (the signs-source or miracle stories collection), of the latter of which the Greei is normal and without "Aramaic colouring" (Black, p.150).

However it must be borne in mind that Bultmann himself declared the language ofof the signs-source to be Semitic Greek without being translation-Greek (e.g. Jn 9:1-4). He pointed to certain Semitisms: asyndeta, superfluous αυτου, and the tendency of the predicate to come as near as possible to the beginning of the clause.

Bultmann was right: we cannot say that any part of John is free from "Aramaic colouring", nor Hebraic colouring either.

Except for one critic, who has insisted on the normal character of the Greek, which he thought resembled the style of Epictetus, most scholars have found the style of the Fourth Gospel to be Semitic to some degree, without necessarily being a translation.

The idiom is the very simplest and the vocabulary the poorest in the NT, relatively to the size of the book. Dodd, Bultmann, and Barrett in their respective works on the Fourth Gospel, tended to the view that the author thought in Aramaic but actually wrote in Greek.

Bultmann suggested that the author lives in a bilingual environment and hence used a language which was full of Semitic idioms. John is more Semitic than the other gospels, without being a translation, for else some errors of rendering must appear in what he called the editorial sections. Bultmann would think it not impossible that one of his sources was Aramaic.

The Sayings Source

Bultmann's Redenquelle, which may have an Aramaic original, included the Prologue 1:1-5, 9-12, 14-16, which he held to be "a piece of cultic-liturgical poetry", half revelatory, half confession, in which each couplet has two short sentences, in synonymous or antithetic parallelism, like Semitic poetry.


The poetry has moreover, a chain-locking device which links the clauses together, e.g. him was LIFE:
and the LIFE was the LIGHT of men.
And the LIGHT in the DARKNESS shined:
and the DARKNESS did not comprehend it.

Subsequent links are world, his own, glory, and full. The same device appears in the epistle of James (cf. p. 116)

Chiastic Patterns

Moreover, there may be chiasmic patterns in the Johannine discourses: in 6:36-40 R. E. Brown sees an ABCBA pattern (The Gospel according to John, NY, 1966, 275f.):

A. Seeing and not believing
B. What the Father hs given shall not be cast out
  C. from heaven
B. What has been given shall not be lost
A. Seeing and believing

Leon-Dufour sees further examples of chiasmus: (1) 12:23-32:

   D. The hour has come
A. Fall INTO the ground
B. Hate one's life in this world
  C. The Father will honour him
   D. This present hour
  C. Father, glorify thy name
B. Judgement of this world
A. Raised FROM the ground

(and also (2) 5:19-30: [but] this fails to convince by its complexity (X. Leon-Dufour, Trois Chiasmes Johanniques, NTS 7 [1961] 249-255).

Other examples of the antithetical poetic style are 3:6 (flesh, flesh: spirit, spirit) 8:11-13,18, 20f, 4:13f (earthly water, thirst again: water from Christ, satisfied) 7:57f and 1st John.

Characteristic of the Sayings-source is the use of the artic. ptc.: 6:35,47 8:12 11:25 12:44 15:5. Also the use of πας with the ptc. ('everyone who...') : 3:8,20 4:13 6:45 15:2 18:37 1st Jn 2:29 2:4,6,9f al. But this construction occurs outside Bultmann's Sayings-source too: 3:15,16 8:34 11:26 16:2 19:12.

The Signs Source

Bultmann's other main source consists of stories which have a semitic tone throughout, including among its idiom the superfluous αυτου, the verb near the beginning of the clause, and nearlly all the clauses short and asyndetic (unless with a simple particle such as και, ουν, δε). Bultmann rejected translation, on the ground that the language was not impossible as Greek and that a translator would have corrected the asyndeta; he claimed it as a specimen of Semitic Greek, written by a Greek-speaking Jew.

1:35-50 (the Call of the Disciples) is probably the introduction to the Signs-source (omit and in v.37,38 with S*al), which begins properly at 2;1-12 (Cana) and includes 4:5-9,16-18,28-30, 40 (Samaritan Woman), 6:1-26 (Feeding), 5:1-18 (Lame Man), 9:1-41 (Blind Man), 11:1-44 (Lazarus).

The Evangelist's Additions

The evangelist is held by Bultmann to have joined the Sayings-source and the Signs-source together and to have added his own work in a characteristic style which can be detected. It was very prosaic by contrast with the Sayings-source and modelled itself on OT style, sometimes borrowing rabbinic linguistic usage: e.g., to have the commandments 14:21, επισυναγογος ([Aram.] menudhah 9:22 12:42 16:2).

Instances of the evangelist's work are 1:6-8, 18-20 3:22-26 4:43-44 7:1-13, 45-52 10:19-21, 40-42 11:55-57 13:34-35 16:25-33 etc. Bultmann suggested that a marked characteristic of the evangelist was the use of the pronoun to resume a subject or object in the rabbinical antithetic style: e.g., 'he who sent me to baptize in water HE said to me...' 1:33, the resumptive being either εκεινος (1:33 5:11,43 9:37 10:1 12:48 14:21,26 15:26) or ουτος (3:26,32 5:38 6:46 7:18 8:28 15:5).

Other characteristic phrases are the rabbinical but in order that, with a suitable ellipse, e.g. 'he was not the light BUT (was sent) IN ORDER THAT...', for this evangelist loves to state the negative of a proposition: 1:8,31 ('I knew him not, but...') 3:17 9:3 11:52 12:9,47 13:18 14:31 17:15 1st Jn 2:19 (Mk 14:49, and ther is an occasional example in Soph. Oed. col. 156; Epictetus 1.12.17).

Another instance of the evangelist's own work is the phrase which he shares with the Johannine epistles: δια τουτο...οτι... 'for this cause...because...' which seems to be his substitute for διοτι (H. Pernot, Etudes sur la Langue des Evangiles, Paris 1927, 5) : 5:16,18 7:22 8:47 10:17 12:18,39 1st Jn 3:1 (without οτι 6:65 9:23 12:27 13:11 15:19 16:15 19:11 1st Jn 4:5 3rd Jn 10). Paul is fond of a similar phrase: 1st Cor 7:37 2nd Cor 2:1 13:9 1st Tim 1:9.

The evangelist favours the transitional phrase 'after this...' 2:12 11:7,11 19:28 and 'after these things...' 3:22 5:1,14 6:1 7:1 19:38 21:1, as well as the connecting particles ος δε and ος ουν: e.g. 2:23. He shares with 1st Jn the recurring phrases: 'not only...but also...' 11:52 12:9 17:20 1st Jn 2:2 5:6, and 'I know (you) that ...' 5:32 12:50 1st Jn 3:5,15. Indeed, οτι-clauses are typical of the evangelist 3:18 5:38 8:20 10:13 al.


It would appear that Bultmann has failed to make a convincing case stylistically (theology apart) for the presence of detectable source, inasmuch as the stylistic details to which he points are found everywhere, cutting across the divisions of the alleged sources, e.g., the resumptive "this" and "that" (demonstrative) occur several times in the Signs-source. E. Ruckstuhl has shown how arbitrary it is to escape from this dilemma by supposing that such examples are the evangelist's own editing of his sources. (Die literarische Einheit des Johannes Evangeliums, Freiburg 1951, 62 n.2).

Moreover the stylistic rhythms which Bultman claims for the Signs-source are easily shown to belong as much to what he ascribes to the evangelist (Ruckstuhl 43-54).

E. Schwiezer had already examined the language of John and found it impossible to isolate any sources, for the Gospel is stylistically a unity, e.g. εμος instead of the more regular NT μου occurs 40 times throughout the Gospel in more than one "source" (Ego Eimi..., Gottingen 1939, 82-112).

Ruckstuhl extended Schweizer's 33 stylistic tests to 50 and conclusively showed that they cut right across Bultmann's stylistic divisions (180-219). We must leave the question open, concluding that if the evangelist used written sources, their distinctive character is not discernable through the finishing work which he or a subsequent editor accomplished on his material.

Schweizer had nevertheless apprehended that in some parts of John the characteristic features of style, which were the subject of his tests, were less in evidence, viz., some narrative sections, 2:1-10, 13-19 4:46-53 7:53-8:11 12:1-8,12-15. He noted that the style of 1st John agreed not with these, but with the speeches (Bultmann's Redenquelle [Sayings-source]).

T. W. Manson, too, felt that the author of 1st John was the author of that part of the Gospel least influenced by Aramaic. Manson's divisions however, which he takes from Burney, do not correspond even broadly with those of Schweizer (BJRL 30 [1946] 322).

The only permissible course is to ignore these divisions and to comment on the style of the Gospel as a unity.

The Pericope de Adultera and John chapt. 21

Exceptions will be the Pericope de Adultera (7:53-8:11) which is generally agreed on textual grounds to be an interpolation, linguistically distinct from the Gospel style and vocabulary. One word is Lukan NT hapax: "early morning" (ορθρου, 8:2). Other words and phrases are mainly Lukan: "arrive" 8:2, "people" (λαος) 8:2, "sitting down he taught them" 8:2.

The other exception may be chapter 21, where there are some linguistic differences from the rest of the Gospel: e.g., a different word for "to be able" 21:6, partative and causative απο 21:6,10 (also found in all other gospels, but not Jn), επιστραφεις, 21:20 for στραφεις, but the great words (e.g. "verily verily, manifest") appear both here and in chapt 1-20, along with words of less significance too (e.g. ομου, ο απο, ο λεγομενος, and the weakened ουν, which appears in every part of the Gospel). Although ch. 21 presents 28 which do not otherwise occur in John, only a few of them matter very much, there being no call for most of them in chapters 1-20. C. K. Barrett examined this evidence and concluded that a separate authorship was not proven (The Gospel according to St. John, London 1955, 479f).

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II-V. Turner on Semitisms

II. Septuagint Influence

At first it looks as if the evangelist was unacquainted with the Greek Bible, as Burney argued, for he uses αιρειν την ψυχην in two quite different senses, neither of them that of the LXX, which is 'lift up my soul' (Ps 24[25]:1, 85[86]:4 142[143]:8). In Jn 10:18 the phrase must mean 'take back one's life after laying it down', and in spite of some ambiguity in 10:24 it htere seems to mean 'hold in suspence'.

A Jewish expression, 'to take the soul away', may be in the author's mind, as in the Testament of Abraham rec.A ch. XX, where the same expression is used of 'taking' Abraham's 'soul' to heaven.

Divergence of John from the LXX

The Johannine writings are very sparing in the use of artic. infin. after a preposition, an LXX construction.

The expression behind τηρεω λογον 8:51,52,55 14:23,24 15:20 17:6 1st Jn 2:5 Rev 3:8,10 22:7,9 is an OT phrase (Dt 33:9 Pr 7:1), but only at 1st Kms 15:11 do the LXX render it by John's verb, and then not if we follow the A-text. The Heb. phrase, 'full of grace and truth' is not rendered in quite the same way in the LXX: cp. Exod. 34:4 where 'full of grace' = πολυελεος.

As to citations, it is not quite the LXX version of Isa 40:3 that is quoted at Jn 1:23, nor that of Ps. 68(69)10 at 2:17, nor that of Ps. 77(78):24 or Exod. 16:3 at 6:31.

Moreover, the passage, 'they shall look upon him whom they pierced' 19:38, follows the Heb. of Zech. 12:10 rather than the LXX.

The Hosanna quotation 12:13 is not from LXX Ps. 117(118):28, and Zech 9:9 is not the LXX version, ISa 6:9-10 is not from the LXX at 12:40, nor is Ps. 41:10 at 13:18.

Knowledge of the LXX in John

On the other hand, some knowledge of the LXX must be assumed: Isa 53:1 at Jn 12:38 and Ps 22:19 at 19:24 appear to be accurately quoted, and there is some connection between 15:25 and the Psalms, for δωρεαν renders 'without a cause'.

There is no doubt about the expression τι εμοι και σοι; 2:4 which is a Hebraism and a Septuagintism: mah lli welak 2nd Sam 16:10; cf. Grammatical Insights 43-47 for full discussion.

There are many other Heb. phrases in the Gospel, some of which are given in the LXX wording: e.g. 'to do the Truth': 'asa emeth Jn 3:21 1st Jn 1:6 = LXX Gen 32:11 47:29 Isa. 26:19 Tob.4:6 13:6 T 12 P Reuben 6:9 Benjamin 10:3. Qumran 1 QS 1:5; 5-3; 8:2. (It was therefore an expression widely used in Judaism).

Although the Heb. phrase wayehi 'ish is not certainly rendered in the LXX by the Johannine εγενετο ανθρωπος (it is a v.l. in 1st Kms 1:1 9:1 al (as in Rev 6:8 9:11). The phrase 'unrighteousness is not in him' 7:18 is LXX, though with a different order of words, Ps. 91(92):15, and a very frequent phrase in the LXX Psalms is 'many waters' Jn 3:23 Ps 17(18):16 31(32):6 76(77):19 92(93):4 143(144):7.

'to give in(to) the hand' occurs twice in John and twice in the Greek OT, once with εν (Jn 3:35 Dan Th 2:38) and once with εις (Jn 13:3 Isa 47:6). It is remarkable that John shares with the LXX the unusual construction of εκ after τινες (e.g. Exod. 16:27).

John may have made his own Greek translation from the Hebrew, but more probably he used a version something like our own LXX, possibly in the form of a collection of proof-texts, or he quoted Aramaic or Greek targums.

III. Other Hebraisms

There are other phrases which Bultmann (Kommentar in loc.) claimed as Hebraic, Semitic, or at least as "not Greek", viz. 'to do the works' 5:36 7:3,21 8:39,41 10:25,37 14:10,12 15:24 3rd Jn 10, 'work the works' 6:28 9:4, 'to come as (εις) a witness' (rabbinical) ba leedhoth 1:6-8, 'receive the witness' 3:11,32f, qabhal 'edhuth, 'receive the words' 12:48 17:8, 'have the commandments' (rabbinical) 14:21, 'having 38 years in his weakness' 5:5, 'on that day was a Sabbath' 5:9.

As an example of colloquial Semitic speech Bultmann cited τι υμιν δοκει; 11:56. There is ιδε 11:3,36, which may be the Hebrew 'behold'; and 'come and see' 1:39,46 11:34, which is a rabbinical idiom (S.-B. II 371), but pobably also a paratactic condition: 'if you come, you will see'. There is the Hebrew OT phrase, 'send, saying' 11:3, using αποστελλειν absolutely, which is not normal for Greek.

Glory (1:14 and 16 times elsewhere) is one of those terms which radically changed meaning through Hebrew influence: originally δοξα was 'good repute', but it became also visible splendour because in the LXX it rendered kabhodh (honour, glory) and such words as hodh (splendour).

By the same influence εροταν comes to mean 'ask a request' 4:31 12:21, and εκ becomes moral 'walk' (= halak): 8:12 11:9 12:35 1st Jn 1:6,7 2:6,11 2nd Jn 4,6 3rd Jn 3,4 Rev 21:24 LXX 4 Kms 20:3 Pr 8:20. 'to believe in (εις) ' is quite characteristic of this Gospel (33 times), a term shared with 1st Jn 5:10,13 derived from he'emin be: also Mt 18:6 Ac 10:43 14:23 19:4 Rom 10:14 Gal 2:16 Phil 1:29 1st Pet 1:8.

The Noun

1. The Hebrew idiom 'son of' 17:12

2. The Hebrew infinitive absolute 'rejoice with joy' (dative) 3:29 is rare in normal Greek, where in any event the cognate noun usually has the accusative; dative of the cognate noun belongs to Biblical Greek; LXX Isa. 66:10 1st Thes. 3:9.

3. The Hebrew noun, if indefinite, may stand alone without the numeral 'one' or the adjunct 'man' or other form of indefinite article, whereas in non-Biblical Greek the absence of an indefinite pronoun would be unusual: Bultmann notes that in Jn 3:25 μετα Ιουδαιου would be improved by the addition of τινος.

4. The influence of the construct state is sometimes seen in the omission of the article: 1:49 'thou art [the] king of Israel', 4:5 'there was there [the] well of Jacob', 5:27 '[the] Son of Man', 9:5 '[the] Light of the world'.


The strong negatve ου μη with aorist subjunctive or future indicative is found in the NT outside Revelation mainly in LXX quotations or in sayings of Jesus. There are papyri instances (although it is rare in literary Hellenistic: Grammar vol. III 96), and they are sufficient to show that this negative occurred in popular speech; but it was doubtless LXX or Hebrew influence which made it a very prominent feature in John and Revelation: Jn 4:14,48 6:35,37 8:12,51,52 10:5,28 11:26,56 13:8 18:11 20:25.

Other Syntax

1. In a variety of forms, 'answered and said' (wayya'an wayyomer) 1:26,39,51 2:18,19 3:3,9,10,27 4:10,13,17 5:19 6:26,29,43 7:16,21,52 8:14,39,48 9:20,30,34,36 12:23,30 13:7 14:23 18:30 20:28. Jn rings the changes with 'answered saying, answered and said' (aorist and impf.), and 'answered'.

2. Under the influence of waw, και seems sometimes to be adversative, as 1:5 17:11.

3. The Heb. liphne probably extended the use of ενωπιον in our Greek: Jn 20:30 1st Jn 3:22 3rd Jn 6 and Rev. 34 times.

Sentence Construction

1. Prolepsis of the subject of a subordinate clause occurs frequently in John (as in Mt 25:24, Mark, Luke-Acts, 1st/2nd Cor 1st/2nd Thes. Rev; cf. pp. 16, 33, 36, 93, 151) : e.g. 'look on the fields that they are white already' 4:35 5:42 7:27 8:54 11:31, and this is due to the influence of a Hebrew idiom, e.g. Gen 1:4.

2. In Hebrew, the anarthrous partitive expression (cf. pp. 15,46) may stand alone as subject or object of a verb 7:40 16:14,15,17 (εκ ), 21:10 (απο ).

3. Commonly in the LXX, especially 1st Mac, is εις used predicatively: 16:20 'your grief shall be unto INTO joy' (so Rom 5:18 1st Jn 5:8 Rev 8:11 16:19).

IV. Aramaisms

Although Dr. Beyer's estimate is that Hebraisms predominated over Aramaisms in the Fourth Gospel (Syntax 17f), we suspect that the Gospel may have had a large Aramaic element, perhaps because of the dominating influence of Jesus' own language.


This is an important element in Johannine Greek: scores of verses are asyndetic, even when verbs of speaking are left out of the count. An Aramaic original is not to be assumed from the presence of this Aramaism, for "the construction is one which would tend to predominate in Jewish or Syrian Greek" ( Black p56). Dr. Black instances the Shepherd of Hermas as the same kind of Greek, influenced by Jewish idiom and marked by an over-use of asyndeton, though to a less extent than John. Because the asyndetic 'he says/they say' is particularly frequent in the teaching of Jesus, Black has modified Burney's theory, to the extent that only for the teaching of Jesus did John edit and rewrite Greek translations of Aramaic traditions (Black p 61).

The Verb

(1) The passive voice is rare in Aramaic (in Hebrew too), and the impersonal plural takes its place: 15:6 20:2 (cf. p 12).

(2) It is undeniable that the use of the historic present and imperfect tenses characterizes good secular Greek and the vernacular, but it may be under the influence of the Aramaic participle that the historic present occurs as frequently as it does in Mark (151 times) and John (164), together with the imperfect: Mark (222 times), John (165).

The Pronoun

1. The idiom 'one', for 'one ...another', occurs in 20:12 and elsewhere in the Gospels, Acts, and Paul (1st Cor 4:6 Gal 4:22 1st Thes.5:11): (see Grammar III 187).

2. A redundant pronoun is used proleptically to strengthen a following noun in a well-known Aramaic idiom (Black, p96): 9:18 'his parents, his that had received his sight, they bring him to the Pharisees, him that once was blind' (cf. p 12).


1. ως ('when') is frequent in John (16 times) and Luke-Acts (19+29) and may correspond to the Aramaic kadh (Black 89f). Elsewhere it is rare: in the NT only in Paul and Mark (3 x each).

2. "when" is sometimes a not unreasonable meaning for οτι enlarging its sphere in imitation of (Aram.) de: 9:8 'when he was a beggar', 12:41 'when he saw'. However, a loose temporal use in Greek, as in English, may be enough to account for the extension "without any appeal to Aramaic" (Black 79).


1. λαμβανω, bearing the meaning of παραλαμβανω, Jn 1:12 is not secular Greek (Bultmann 35 n.4) but is influenced by the Aramaic qbl.

2. A manifest Aramaic phrase is 'everyone who does sin' Jn 8:34 1st Jn 3:4 (Black 171, where it is effectively rendered back into Aramaic).

3. οτι c. accusative meaning 'with', Jn 1:1, 1st Jn 1:2, is a Semitism and it may be due to the Aramaic lewath. If used in this sense in the papyri, it has the dative: (cf. pp. 13, 93, W. F. Howard, The Fourth Gospel in Recent Criticism, London 4th ed. 1955, 285l).

V. Semitisms


Brief clauses linked by 'and' are common to Hebrew and Aramaic. Biblical Greek will often disguise the partaxis by making one of the verbs a participle, e.g., 'answering said', but John prefers the co-ordination ('answered and said' ), avoiding some of the redundant participles appearing in Biblical Greek (e.g. 'coming, rising' ) and prefering 'they came and saw' 1:39, he rose and went out 11:31.

The ptc. λεγων may be an exception, but even here Jn more commonly co-ordinates:

(1) '...and said' 1:29,45 2:10 4:28 5:19 7:31 10:24,41 12:22 18:38 19:4 20:22.

(2) '...saying' 1:15,26,32 7:15,28,37 8:12 9:2 11:3 12:21.

Parataxis may be

(a) conditional: 1:39 'if you come you will see', 16:24 'if you ask you will receive'.

(b) temporal: 2:13 'when the Passover was near, Jesus went up...', 4:35 'when it is the fourth month the harvest comes', 7:33 'when I have been without a little while I go away'.

(c) consecutive: 5:10 'it is the Sabbath, so that it is not lawful' 6:57 'I live by the Father, so that he who eats me...', 11:48 'all will believe in him, so that the Romans will come', 14:16 'I will ask the Father, so that he will send another Paraclete.'

There are many such examples.

Casus pendens

The construction is very frequent in John compared with the Synoptists (Burney, Aramaic Origin, 34, 64f). Matthew has 11 examples, Mark four, Luke six, but John has 28 (Black 52). The pendens construction, 'as many as them' and 'every ..., he...', was recognized by Lagrange as a Semitism (Black). Casus pendens occurs mainly in the speech of Jesus, at least 6/11ths of the time, always in direct speech, thus favouring, according to Black, a translation-hypothesis. Nevertheless, it occurs in 1st Jn 2:24 where words of Jesus are not in question: "what you have heard from the beginning, let it abide in you". As it is found, moreover, in vernacular Greek, it may not necessarily be a sign of translation.

Word Order

Dr. Black faces "the difficulty of determining what order is un-Greek." It is largely a matter of determining the frequency over a fairly large piece of writing; it is indeed a question of style, whether the concentration has become "such that no native Greek writer, uninformed by Semitic sources or a Semitic language, would have written it" (Black 51). The place of the verb is important: in Luke and John it is so often in primary position that it is no longer secular Greek. W. F. Howard was prepared to concede that it was "remarkable".

The Verb

1. Co-ordination of a participle with a finite verb "is a common custom with Hebrew writers" (Driver, Tenses, para 117) and it occurs in the Aramaic of Dan 4:22. Jn 1:32 'the Spirit descending...and he abode', 5:44 'receiving glory from each other, and you do not seek...'

2. Superfluous auxiliary verbs are Semitic: 9:7 'go wash' 6:11 13:4,25 19:1,6,23,40 21:13 'took and..', 12:11 15:16 'went and..'.

3. Semitic also is the periphrastic imperfect 1:9,28, 2:6 3:23 10:40 11:1 13:23 18:18,25,30 (cf. p 20, Grammar II 451-452).


1. Ellipse occurs 5:36 'I have a witness greater than [that of] John', and it is Semitic (Black 118).

2. The cardinal numeral replaces the ordinal 20:1,19 (=first). "There is no need to ransack the papyri to explain the Hebrew or Aramaic phrase...It is Jewish Greek" (Black 124). This particular phrase is common also to Matthew, Luke-Acts, and Paul.


1. As in Mk, resumptive pers. pronoun is found after a relative (Aram. de, Heb. 'asher...lo ) 1:27,33 9:36? 13:26 18:9? (cf. pp 21,36). E.g. 'of whom...his sandal'. That similar constructions occur in the secular Koine makes direct translation from Aramaic less likely.

2. Often the oblique cases of αυτος are unemphatic and superfluous, as widely through the NT, too widely to detail each example. The redundancy may be explained partly by the tendencies of popular speech. By this rough test the NT books are seen arranged in order of non-literary, or else Semitic, quality and compared with some other texts:

Incidence of αυτος per number of lines
Book instance / per # of lines
Mk Mt Jn 1 / 2 (= 1 in 2 lines)
Lk-Act 1 / 2.5
LXX: Gen, T Abr 1 / 3
Johann.Epp, Rev 1 / 3
Hebrews 1 / 5
Jas 2Pet Jude 1 / 6
Josephus 1 / 6
1st Pet 1 / 8
Philostratus 1 / 8
Paul 1 / 9
Pastorals 1 / 13
Papyri 1 / 13
Plato 1 / 19
. .

3. The indef. pronoun in John takes the form of the indef. pronoun in Semitic speech, viz. εις (Heb. , Aram. ) 6:8,70 12:2 18:22?,26 19:34 20:24 or ανθρωπος (Heb. , Aram. ) 1:6 3:1,4,27 4:29 5:5D, 7,34 7:22,23,46,51 8:40 9:1,16 LXX Gen 41:33 (Black 106f).

4. 'a man cannot...' is Semitic for 'no one can...' 3:27 (Bultmann, contra E. C. Colwell, The Greek of the Fourth Gospel 1931 p74) and 'never man...' 7:46 (Burney 99, but Colwell declared not, 74). Likewise, 'not...all' and 'all ... not' (lo...kol ) has equivalent of 'none' 6:39 11:26 12:46 1st Jn 2:21 (Mk 13:20=Mt 24:22, Lk 1:37 Act 10:14 Eph 4:29 5:5 2nd Pet 1:20 Rev 7:16 18:22 21:27 22:3 Didache 2:7: Grammar vol.II 434).


1. ποιειν with 'ινα is the Semitic causative: 11:37 (Col 4:16 Rev 3:9 13:12,13,15f).

2. According to Bultmann, Burney's view that 'ινα often literally translated Aram. de ( 'who' ) is arbitrary, because Colwell had pointed out that it may = who also in normal Hellenistic Greek. It is, however, the frequency of the occurance that affords its significance. As Black 76 says, the excessive use of 'ινα in John is unparalleled, and is not that of the Koine. (It is frequent in the LXX, and increasingly so in the Koine, until at last the infinitive disappears to make way for it. Grammar III 103f; Pernot 53-69.)

Within the Fourth Gospel there is a wide range of usage - epexegetic, ecbatic, completing the action of verbs of will, command, beseech, agree, allow, etc. 1:27 2:25 4:34,47 5:7 6:7,29,40 8:56 9:2,22 11:50,53,57 12:7,10,23 13:1,2,29,34 15:8,12,13,17 16:2,7,30,32 17:3,4,15,21,24 18:39. Some of these may be imperatival 'ινα: 13:34 15:17 (love one another ), more doubtfully imperatival: 1:8 6:39 9:3 12:7 13:18 14:31 15:25 18:9,32 19:24.

Dr. W. G. Morrice notes with approval the opinion in Grammatical Insights that the Fourth Gospel is less "fatalistic" if the imperatival 'ινα is recognized (Bible Translator 23 [1972] 327).

As time went on, the less "literary" writers tended not to resist the encroachments of this conjunction: thus we have a rough guide to the "literary" quality of the NT authors. (Besides the test in the following table, and that concerning αυτου above, we may test the frequency of the pure nominal phrase, both for Semitic influence and lack of literary standards: Mk and Jn resort more often to the copula than any NT author, cf. Grammar III 294-310).

Incidence of 'ινα per # of lines of Nestle
Book instance / per # of lines
Johnn. Epp., Jn 1 / 12, 1/13 (= 1 in 12 lines)
Eph, Pastorals 1 / 15
1st Peter 1 / 17
Phil Col Phm 1 / 21
Mk 1 / 23
1,2 Thess 1 / 24
Rom Cor Gal 1 / 24
Rev 1 / 31
Heb 1 / 46
Mt 1 / 60
Lk Act 1 / 87
  Infancy 1 / 269
  I Acts 1 / 268
  II Acts 1 / 138
  'We' sect. 1 / 253
Jud 2Pet Jas 1 / 136
. .

Thus the Johannine writings in this respect are the least literary, or perhaps the most Semitic, of all NT books. The Semitic influence on Jn cannot be doubted, and yet Bultmann (on 5:7) has correctly observed that this need not imply an Aramaic translation: so also E. Ullendorff, "A Mistranslation from Aramaic?" NTS 2 (1955) 50-52. Already in Jewish forms of Greek, 'ινα may have come to embrace the same diversity of meanings as de, di, and in a few instances it will probably still have the final force (Jn uses 'ινα for a final conjunction once only, at 11:57): e.g. Jn 6:39, cf. Black, 78, Pernot 55.

That 'ινα has also the temporal sense (that too included in de ) seems probable from 12:23 13:1 16:2,32 ('the hour comes WHEN' ).

However, Hebraic is as likely as Aramaic, as an examination of the LXX will reveal: Gen 18:21 44:34 47:19 Num 11:15 21:27 Deut 5:14 Josh 22:24 1st Chro 21:3 Tob B 8:12 Ps 38:5 Ezek 37:23 2 Macc 1:9 Job 32:13. Grammar III 95: "virtually a Semitism" There are also many LXX examples of non-final 'ινα in the various other senses, Grammar III 104. In many LXX books, 'ινα is as often non-final as final.


The use of 'city' (πολις) where village is meant (Jn 4 of Sychar, Mt 2:23 of Nazareth) is a Semitism deriving from the Palestinian use of 'ir and qirya for a place of any size (Bultmann). So perhaps is 'sea' for 'lake'. Believe c. εις (over 30 times) reflects the Hebrew he'emin be or Aramaic hemin be.

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VI-X. Turner on Other Stylisms

VI. Johannine Clause Order

One or two points of interest in the order of clauses within the sentence:

(1) The καθως-clause has both pre- and post-position. In the pre-position it is usually taken up in the second half by και or ουτος or ταυτα: 3:14 5:30 6:57 8:28 12:50 13:15,34 14:27,31 15:4,9 17:18 20:21. In post-position : 1:23 5:23 6:58 10:15,26v.l. 13:34 15:10,12 17:2,11,14,16,21,23 19:40.; They include the two instances 6:31 12:14 which introduce quotations, and that probably means that we must punctuate differently at 7:38 and count the clause as post-position (Grammar vol. III 320).

(2) The οταν-clause usually has pre-position: 2:10 4:25 5:7 7:27,31 8:28,44 9:5 10:4 15:26 16:4,13,21 21:18. Occasionally has post-position: 13:19 14:29 1st Jn 5:2.

(3) The ος (when)-clause always has pre-position: 2:9,23 4:1,46 6:12,16 7:10 11:6,20,29,32,33 18:6 19:33 20:11 21:9 (as also in Acts, and very nearly always in Luke). Pre- : Mt 28:9v.1. Post- : Mk 9:21 v.1

VII. Use of Particles

John makes no use of αρα or διο; only once uses καιτοι γε 4:2, and δη only once as a variant 5:4. Other connectives which he uses very rarely are ομος 12:42 (a NT hapax, except for Gal 3:15 1st Cor 14:7 v.1). Another particle which is almost a NT hapax is μεντοι 4:27 7:13 12:42 20:5 21:4 (elsewhere only 2nd Tim 2:19 and Jas 2:8 Jud 8). But most characteristic of John are αλλα (once in 15 lines of Nestle, along with 1st Peter and Paul the most frequent in the NT), and ουν (one in seven, quite the most frequent in the NT, followed next by Mark, less than half as often).

Fairly frequent is δε, but it is more excessive in the other gospels and Acts, Paul and the General Epistles. In this respect, the Johannine Epistles differ, making much less use of the particle. Except for Revelation and the Johannine Epistles, which do not use it at all, John makes least use of μεν ... δε (one in 264 lines, even less than Mark). He uses γαρ with about the same frequency as Luke-Acts and 1st Peter (once in 24 lines). He shares τι ουν with the other gospels, Acts and Paul: more frequently than Luke-Acts, but not so much as Matthew-Mark and Paul, 1:21,25 6:30. On the whole his use of particles is not strong.

Eliminating και, there is only one connective particle for 31 lines, compared to Matthew's 25 and (even allowing for the longer sentences and therefore less need of connectives) Luke-Acts 29.

VIII. Use of Prepositions

John uses his full share of ordinary Greek prepositions, with all cases. Thus the use of επι corresponds to closely with that of Polybius: ratios of gen. dat. accus. = 1.5 : 1 : 3 (John's 1.7 : 1 : 3.5), in line with Matthew and the LXX, but not with the NT as a whole.

The proportion of εν : επι in the Ptolemaic papyri is 1 : 0.45, in the whole NT is 1: 0.32, but in John it is 1:0.18 (the same as James, Paul, and 1st Peter), which marks a considerable increase in the use of εν.

As Mayser observes, (II 2, 461), the use of accusative with υπερ is very rare in the papyri (gen : accus. = 20 : 1) ; Johannine practice bears this out, John: 13 : 0, Epistles 3 : 0. But Matthew is a notable exception in the NT ( 0.25 : 1 ).

With περι accusative is very rare in the NT, much more so than in the papyri (Mayser II 2, 446), and John is here at great variance with the papyri (gen : accus = papyri 1.5 : 1, NT 7.6 : 1, John 67 : 1 ).

Another general departure from NT standards is marked by the use of cases with δια, where the meaning can be almost the same, 'through' (gen) and 'because of' (accus). The proportions are are Matthew 1 : 1, Mark 0.61 : 1, Luke-Acts 1.7 : 1 Paul 2 : 1, Hebrews 2.3 : 1, 1st Peter 4 : 1. Against these figures, those for John ( 0.12 : 1 ) and Revelation ( 0.12 : 1 ) stand out conspicuously.

In the Ptolemic papyri εν is the most frequent proposition, with εις next in order, which is broadly the position of the NT, including John (200 : 180 ), to which Mark and Hebrews are exceptions.

But perhaps it is in the use of παρα with its cases that we find the widest cleavage between NT and secular use (Grammar III 272f), where there is enormous use of the genitive. We do not find this in John, though perhaps he is nearest to the papyri in this respect of any NT author.

Like the LXX, the NT also differs from secular Greek in having completely renounced the dative case with υπο, now a two-case preposition. John and the NT authors have much the same proportion of gen : accus as the LXX, and nothing like the secular writers (NT gen:accus= 3.3 : 1, John = 3 : 1).

But John is more fond of εγγυς than any NT author (11 times), yet always probably as an adjective rather than a prepositional adverb, reflecting as in the LXX the Hebrew qarobh 'el (gen) or le (dat) or pronominal suffix (gen).

The Christian Use of εν

THis is a slight extension of the local and spatial sense of 'in' in a special direction to denote 'in the sphere of', especially of God, Christ, and the Gospel. This is the εν of spiritual union, very common in Paul, and important in John, as when he refers to walking 'in' the light, or 'in' darkness. 'I in you and you in me' is the beginning of the doctrine of co-inherence.

IX. The Limited Vocabulary

The Gospel vocabulary is limited to 1011 different words, only 112 of which are NT hapax. Many of these words are repeated, so that the vocabulary is only 6.5% of total word-use, almost the lowest in the NT (cf. p.44). God the Father is mainly 'living, holy' or 'righteous', and the characteristic words of revelation ('know, bear witness, glorify, manifest') are much overworked. Other characteristic words are 'true, truly, Truth, life, light, love, abide'. Quite insignificant words are given theological overtones: 'from above, whence, whither, now, not yet'. We have noticed the over-worked ινα.

πνευμα serves for 'spirit' and 'wind'; lifted up' means both exaltation and death; 'water' has a hidden meaning, so has 'blindness, sleep, departure, crossing over' and 'resurrection'. Even at a more trivial level, terms occasionally bear stereotyped meanings: 'go up' = go to Jerusalem, 'go down' = go to Capernaum.

X. Pointless Variety in Style

On the other hand, John will occasionally use a needless synonym; there are two words each for 'love, send, heal, ask, speak, do, feed sheep, know' (references in Howard Fourth Gospel, 278f). There is no apparent point in these synonyms beyond avoiding of monotony, however hard one looks for a subtle distinction. Very occasionally, doubtless, he can be subtle in his distinctions; e.g. 'hear a voice' (gen) seems to mean obey 5:25,28 10:3,16 whereas 'hear a voice (accus) is confined to perception 3:8 5:37. But on the whole the distinctions are pointless.

The author of 1st John has the same pointless variation in syntax; e.g., 'a sin not (μη) unto death' and a sin not (ου) unto death' can have no difference in meaning. (Similarly 1st Peter 1:8).

John shows this characteristic in the use of prepositions: when Jesus sees Nathanael he is υπο the fig tree 1:49, but υποκατω the fig-tree in 1:50. (Revelation always has the latter), and Philip is απο Bethsaida but εκ the city of Andrew 1:44. Lazarus was απο Bethany, but εκ the village of Mary 11:1.

For some reason John is conspicuous among NT authors as being four times more prone to use εκ than απο and the Johannine epistles are nearly twice as prone. The NT authors range from Luke-Acts, Matthew and the author of Thessalonians, who prefer απο to John and Revelation at the other extreme, with the remainder having no particular preference.

The Johannine writings, together with Revelation and Hebrews shun the preposition συν ; there are three examples in John, only one of which is not a variant reading. Acts definitely prefers συν, to μετα with the genitive, but Paul and Luke have no preference. Matthew avoids συν (which he uses four times compared with μετα 5 : 45).

There is yet another exception to John's tendency to variety in the use of similar words, and that is his use of the negative, for he only once uses ου with the participle (10:12), but whenever he negatives the participle he uses μη; this was a Hellenistic tendency, but here John has advanced further than Hellenistic usage would permit: 3:18 5:23 6:64 7:15,49 9:39 10:1 12:48 14:24 15:2 20:29.

Desire to avoid monotony explains John's varying the tense according to the particular verb, but he varies it often enough with the same verb, e.g. 11:36f 'were saying (imperfect)...said' (aorist).

The perfect of ερχεθαι is a favourite tense with John: 3:2,19 5:43 6:17 7:28 8:20,42 11:19,30 12:23,46 16:28,32 17 :1 18:37. What is the difference between 'I HAVE (perfect) come into the world as light' 12:46, and ' I DID (aorist) not come to judge the world' 12:47? Why the perfect tense of send 5:33,36 20:21 and the aorist everywhere else? Why the perfect 'have known' 5:42 6:69 8:52,55 14:9 17:7, alongside the regular aorists? Perhaps something theological enters here: the stress on the abiding significance of the Christian revelation. If so, the evangelist has not made his theology consistent always with his syntax.

Eccentricity is remarkable again when the choice is between a normal and a periphrastic imperfect: each may occur within two verses, e.g. 3:22f 'was baptising' with no apparent significance in the choice. Is there any real difference between the periphrastic perfect of 20:30 and the normal perfect of 20:31 'have been written'? The author of 1st John has the same habit: 2:5 normal perfect, 4:12 periphrastic.

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XI. Turner on John:

The Style of John (cont.)


These instances of Hebraisms, Aramaisms, and Semitisms occur not only nor even mainly in the words of Jesus, as is sometimes assumed.

We conclude that John's language throughout is characteristic of Jewish Greek, syntactically very simple, dignified but without the flexibility of the secular language, pointlessly varied in syntax and vocabulary, but without the solecisms and without the linguistic energy of Revelation. It moves within well-defined Semitic limits of style and vocabulary. Perhaps it was based on an underlying Mischsprache of Hebrew and Aramaic (Black3 16); certainly the Greek itself is a mingling of Hebrew and Aramaic constructions with other constructions that may be either Hebrew or Aramaic.

It cannot be, as some have urged, that the Semitic Greek is simply due to the earliest Christian preachers being Jews who were using a second language, without complete mastery over it. If that were so, this kind of Greek would be a more clumsy language, inclined to mistakes, instead of which, even in Revelation, it obeys rules of its own syntax and style.

Semitic features lend it solemnity, and they are not makeshifts filling the gaps left by ignorance of Greek. Moreover, Jewish Greek is not in fact restricted to early Christian preachers, but is found on the pens of men well accomplished in Greek, able to use it effectively, such as the authors of James, Hebrews, and 1st Peter. It appears in some free-Greek books of the LXX (e.g. Tobit), and some Jewish works as far away in time as the Testament of Abraham and the Testament of Solomon, which cannot be shown to be translations of Semitic originals.

Ignorance of Greek as a cause of Jewish Greek, is altogether less probable than the influence of the Greek Bible through widely scattered synagogues, forming a new community language.

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