Part One

by Frank Neil Pohorlak

"OUR DRUDGERY is perfecting tools of precision for the greatest of all sciences--the knowledge of God. Compiling concordances and new editions [of the Version], not to speak of the labor on the Hebrew...most of it is patient plodding drudgery. May those who must toil at their daily work for a livelihood, or at His Word, or both, find comfort and encouragement in the promise (2 Cor.9:9): 'He gives to the drudges!' It tells us what God does for those who work at tedious and tiresome tasks. We can count on God's gifts for this kind of drudgery above all others. His gifts do not come because of our drudging but through it."

Some years ago, a drudge's bonus was discovered while working on 1 Corinthians 9:10,11. In the 1930 Complete Edition of the Concordant Version we read: "for it was written that he who is plowing ought to be plowing in expectation, and he who is threshing, in his expectation of partaking in the expectation. If we sow the spiritual in you, is it a great thing if we shall be reaping of your fleshly things?"

     Ever since 1611, the same problem was apparent in the Authorized Version, where we read: "Or saith he it altogether for our sakes? For our sakes, no doubt, this is written: that he that ploweth should plow in hope; and that he that thresheth in hope should be partaker of his hope. If we have sown unto you spiritual things, is it a great thing if we shall reap of your carnal things?"

     Here is where the excellency of Concordant principles served to flush out an undetected problem in much the same way as a good bird dog flushes out a cove of concealed quail.

     The problem which had to be faced was that of an extra expectation whose presence was a source of embarrassment.


     Why did the one plowing have one expectation, and the one threshing have two expectations, while Paul the sower had no expectation? Why shouldn't each have one expectation apiece? The problem was pressing; what was the solution?


     The CONCORDANT GREEK TEXT goes to the limits of fidelity in supplying the student of the Scriptures with a text that reflects the Original not only in content, but approximates it also in appearance. Besides Weymouth's Resultant Greek Text as a base, we used the fourth and fifth century manuscripts known as Sinaiticus (s), Alexandrinus (A), and Vaticanus (B).

     In these there are no conventional marks of punctuation, no spaces between the words, no capitals or small letters. Rather it is all in capitals, much like the following.

[Illustration not yet available]
[Illustration not yet available]

     Note the three occurrences of "expectation," one each at the end of the first, the third, and the fourth lines: elpidi, elpidos, and elpidi; or, even more literally, epelpidi, ON EXPECTATION, tes elpidos, OF-THE EXPECTATION, and epelpidi, ON EXPECTATION.

     Since there are three occurrences of "expectation," and also because there are three activities seen in the words "plowing," and "threshing," and "sow," why shouldn't each activity have its own expectation?

     The solution in retrospect seems absurdly simple. By punctuating the statements differently, we may let the plower have one expectation, take away one from the thresher who has two expectations, and give the second one to the sower who had none.

     Since there is, as has been pointed out, no punctuation at all in the original text, there is no reason why this cannot be done.

     So the CONCORDANT LITERAL NEW TESTAMENT reads: "for it was written that the plower ought to be plowing in expectation, and the thresher to partake of his expectation. If, in expectation, we sow the spiritual in you, is it a great thing if we shall reap of your fleshly things?" Is it not true that "He gives to the drudges"?


     Hebrew nouns do not admit inflections in the oblique cases. This being true, John, when representing certain Hebrew epithets in Greek dress, exhibits them without inflection, as in Revelation 1:5, in the nominative case: ho martus ho pistos, the Faithful Witness. This fact is a valuable clue to a better understanding of this book which some scholars suppose to be marred by barbarous Greek. Whenever we meet with the nominative, where we ought to find a genitive, a dative, or an accusative, we should suspect John of expressing some Hebrew noun.


     If John is writing words from the mouth of some speaker, it will sometimes be found that John explains parenthetically in Greek what is implied. For example, take Revelation 3:14, where the last words quoted, ho martus ho pistos..., the Faithful... Witness, are introduced after "the Amen." But are these the words of the One Who calls Himself The Amen, or the words of John, defining the meaning of Hebrews indefinable noun Amen, when used as a name or title?

     In Revelation 9:14 where, after "the sixth messenger," the Greek reads ho echon ten salpinga, the one having the trumpet, are these words added by John to prevent the words "sixth messenger" from being applied to any other than the messenger intended?

     We find the same at Revelation 1:8? where we read: "I am the Alpha and the Omega, saith the Lord God." does there then fallow John's explanation of Hebrew sacred Tetragrammaton IEUE: "which is, and which was. and which is to come," ho on kai ho en kai ho erchomenos, and the Hebrew title ALUEIM as ho pantokrator, "the Almighty"?

     Is John explaining Hebrew concepts in Greek garb? If we take the words ho on kai ho en kai ho erchomenos ho pantokrator and reconvert them to Hebrew would we have to write IEUE ALUEIM, commonly spelled Jehovah Elohim?

     There is much of this in Revelation, which is worth hours of study and discussion. To reassess and recapitulate Revelation 1:8 may be read: "'I am the Alpha and the Omega,' is saying the Lord God Who is and was and who is coming, the Almighty." Thus we take the last clause (beginning after "God" and ending with "almighty") as John explanation of the term" Lord God" rather than as a part of the divine declaration. Revelation 3:14 may be read: "This is saying the Amen (the Faithful and True Witness), and God's creative original:"--that is, the Greek explanation of the Hebrew Amen in parentheses.

     Revelation 3:14 may be read: "saying to the sixth messenger (who had trumpet), 'Loose the four messengers...'"--that is, let John's word be in parentheses to prevent these words from being attributed to any other angel.

     These suggested renderings are submitted for the prayerful consideration of our fellow drudges.


     We next propose to suggest for the consideration of our readers a simple, satisfactory, scholarly and Scriptural solution to the problem in John 3:13, namely: How can Jesus be talking to Nicodemus on earth, and, at the same time be the Son of Man Who is in heaven?


     In our study we shall consider five factors: (1) That a problem does exist, as may be inferred from the lack of unanimity among expositors who have written commentaries on this particular problem. (2) The way in which versions using quotation marks set off the conversation taking place between Jesus and Nicodemus. (3) The attempt on the part of some to translate the Greek text so as to conform it to the commonly accepted interpretation instead of translating the text with fidelity, thus letting the translation modify the interpretation. (4) To consider the interpretation offered by most expositors and accepted by most students of the Scriptures. (5) To offer for consideration a simple and satisfactory solution to this hitherto perplexing problem.


     From the following list of comments made by good and godly men it should not be inferred that we quote them merely to show that these explanations are at variance with each other. The quotations are solely for the purpose of showing that a problem does exist now, in fact has existed for some time, and that an attempt at a solution is long overdue.

Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown[1]

     No man hath ascended, etc. -- There is something paradoxical in this language. "No man has gone up but He that came down, even He who is at once both up and down." Doubtless it was intended to startle and constrain His auditor to think that there must be mysterious elements in His Person. The old Socinians, to subvert the doctrine of the preexistence of Christ, seized upon this passage as teaching that the man Jesus was secretly caught up to heaven to receive His instructions, and then "came down from heaven" to deliver them. But the sense manifestly is this: "The perfect knowledge of God is not obtained by any man's going up from earth to heaven to receive it -- no man hath so ascended -- but He whose proper habitation, in His essential and eternal nature, is heaven, hath, by taking human flesh, descended as the 'Son of Man' to disclose the Father, whom He knows by immediate gaze alike in the flesh as before He assumed it, being essentially and unchangeably 'in the bosom of the Father"' (ch.1:18).

Archibald Thomas Robertson[2]

     13...Which is in heaven (ho on en to ourano). This phrase is added by some manuscripts, not by Aleph, B L W33, and, if genuine, would merely emphasize the timeless existence of God's Son who is in heaven even while on earth. Probably a gloss. But "the Son of Man" is genuine. He is the one who has come down from heaven.

W. Robertson Nicoll[3]

     In the comments made on verse 13, it is asserted that the words added in the Textus Receptus ("which is in heaven") affirm that although He had come out of heaven He was still in it, and they show that a condition of being, not a locality, was meant by "heaven."

     It may be seen from the three commentaries quoted that there is little agreement among them. So far we have been told: that the phrase "which is in heaven" means the Son Whose proper habitation is in heaven came down to this earth; that it merely emphasizes His timeless existence Who is in heaven even while He is on earth; and that by "heaven" we are to understand a condition of being, not a locality.

     Thus we have the following explanations for the phrase, which is in heaven: proper habitation, timeless existence, and condition of being, not locality.


     It is generally known to most of our readers that the original Greek manuscripts were written in uncial characters much in the following manner:


     There were no word, verse, or paragraph divisions; no breath marks, no accents; no conventional punctuation marks of any kind. All these human additions are accretions which, like barnacles, have fastened themselves to the ship of Scripture during the centuries while she plowed her way through stormy theological seas. Hence we may disregard them and start afresh. That the quotation marks help is not open to question; but since they are not part of the original manuscripts, they are a matter of human and hence fallible judgment and, as such, may be called into question.

     All available versions which set off the conversation in quotation marks were examined. Those versions using quotation marks indicate that Nicodemus asked a question at verse 9 and that Jesus began His answer at verse 10. Where these versions disagreed was concerning the point at which Jesus ended His remarks to Nicodemus.

     Moffatt begins the answer of Jesus at verse 10 and ends it at verse 36, but omits verses 22-30. Thus he makes the reply a unit beginning at verse 10 and running to the end of the chapter.

     Three versions put verses 10 through 21 in quotation marks. These are Spencer's THE NEW TESTAMENT, THE EMPHATIC DIAGLOTT, and the CONCORDANT LITERAL NEW TESTAMENT.

     Six versions put verses 10 through 15 in quotation marks. They are: AN AMERICAN TRANSLATION by Edgar Goodspeed, THE MODERN READER'S BIBLE by Richard G. Moulton, THE MEW TESTAMENT IN BASIC ENGLISH, THE REVISED STANDARD VERSION by the American Standard Bible Committee, THE TWENTIETH CENTURY NEW TESTAMENT, and the NEW TESTAMENT IN MODERN SPEECH by Richard F. Weymouth.

     So we have one version placing verses 10 through 36 in quotes, three versions placing verses 10 through 21 in quotes, and six versions placing 10 through 15 in quotes. We shall now examine the third of our five viewpoints.


     In the attempt to surmount the difficulty of accounting for Jesus being on earth while speaking to Nicodemus and at the same time being the Son of Man Who is in heaven, several translators have allowed themselves a dubious luxury and an unwarranted liberty, namely, adding to the Word of God.

     Weymouth's running commentary attempts to skirt this problem by saying "the Son of Man whose home is in heaven." The People's New Covenant reads, "the Son of Man whose abode is in heaven."

     By translating in this manner these two versions eliminate His being on earth and in heaven at the same time. But they have committed a serious crime (cf Rev.22:18,19) by adding to the Word. The word for "home" is oikia. It is not in the Greek text of John 3:13. The word for "abode" is monˆ. It is not in the Greek text of John 3:13 either.

     Some of the other versions examined do not add the words "home" or "abode." Rather they subtract from the Word. They drop the embarrassing words "which is in heaven." Let us see how they read.

     Spencer has, "Yet no one ascended to heaven, except the One who descended from heaven--the Son of Man."

     Wilson has, "And no one has ascended into Heaven, except the Son of Man who descended from heaven."

     Goodspeed has, "Yet no one has gone up into heaven except the Son of Man who came down from heaven."

     Fenton has, "No one has ascended to the heaven, except the One who descended from heaven--the Son of Man."

     The Twentieth Century has, "No one has ascended to Heaven, except him who descended from heaven--the Son of Man himself."

     The Westminster version has, "No one hath gone up into heaven but He who hath come down from heaven, the Son of Man."

     They had, however, what may have seemed to them to be at least two good reasons: the manuscripts Sinaiticus and Vaticanus. In each of these the words "which is in heaven" are omitted. Yet the possibility remains that these words were omitted by early editors or correctors or both because they were seemingly so difficult to harmonize with His being on earth and in heaven at the same time. Therefore they were assumed to be an unwarranted interpolation, and hence were eluded. Thus the absence of these words from s and B seems to lend support to those translators who did not include them in their versions.

     Yet is this procedure the ideal way of solving this problem in translation? Wherever possible, should not the text be allowed to stand as it is, unless there is almost incontestable evidence that the text contains words which are an unwarranted interpolation, such as was found to have been the case with 1 John 5:7b,8a? Conjectural emendation may be considered, but only as a last resort. The attempts to correct the Masoretic text by emendation is now being approached with much caution and reserve for this very reason. It is sometimes easier to try to find a manuscript which omits troublesome words than it is to find a solution which permits the text to stand as it is.

     We also find three versions which retain the words "which is in heaven. "They are: The SYRIAC NEW TESTAMENT, "And no one hath ascended to heaven, but he that descended from heaven, the Son of man who is in heaven"; the AUTHORIZED VERSION, "And no one hath ascended up to heaven, but he that came down from heaven, even the Son of man which is in heaven;" and the CONCORDANT LITERAL NEW TESTAMENT, "And no one has ascended into heaven except He Who descends out of heaven, the Son of Mankind Who is in heaven."

     We are now ready for the fourth of our five viewpoints; namely, to present the interpretation commonly accepted by most students of the Scriptures.


     If Jesus was speaking from verses 10 through 15, or 10 through 21, then He must have spoken the words found in verse 13. The inference drawn from this supposition influences the interpretation because it is assumed that while He speaks to Nicodemus on earth He is the Son of Man Who is in heaven. The attempt to explain this is somewhat as follows:

     Jesus is not only the Son of Man but also the Son of God. This makes Him omnipresent. Since He is omnipresent He can be on earth and in heaven at the same time.

     While we may be willing to concede His omnipresence while in the "form of God" (Philippians 2:6) before He came to be in the likeness of man, we cannot say that, in flesh, as the Son of Man, He was still omnipresent. Even if we wished to make this concession for the sake of discussion, one very important reason should serve to deter us. HE has nowhere claimed that, in the days of His flesh, He was ever in two different places at the same time.


     Our problem is not solved by adding the word "abode" or "home." Our problem is not settled by subtracting the words "which is in heaven." Nor can we accept the explanation that His omnipresence made it possible for Him to be on earth with Nicodemus, and at the same time to be in heaven as the Son of Man.

     In view of all this, we should like to offer a suggested solution which does no violence to the text either by adding to it or subtracting from it.

     Nicodemus asks a question in verse 9. Jesus begins His answer in verse 10 and ends it at verse 12. This makes verse 13 easy to accept just as it stands, for, at the time the apostle John recorded these words, the Son of Man IS (ho on, the One- BEING) in heaven.

     Thus verses 13 through 21 become John's commentary on what Nicodemus should have been in a position to understand and accept the night he talked with Jesus. But the Lord, seeing that so great a teacher in Israel was not capable at that time of accepting what He had to offer, closed His answer begun in verse 10 with the words found in verse 12, namely: "If I told you of the terrestrial [in verses 3, 5-8] and you are not believing, how shall you be believing if I should be telling you of the celestial?"

     Knowing that Nicodemus was not understanding the things terrestrial to which He was alluding, He also knew that Nicodemus was not in a position at that time to receive nor to understand things celestial. Therefore Jesus terminated His answer to him at verse 12.

     The apostle John, writing his account later, explains in verses 13 through 21 what Nicodemus was not able to understand that night, but which, evidently, he did understand later, as may be inferred from his actions in accompanying Joseph of Arimathea when he went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus, so that he might prepare it for entombment. After Pilate had dispatched a centurion and was satisfied that Jesus was truly dead, he gave them permission to remove the body of the Son of God (John 19:38-42).

     So we may conclude that, at the time the apostle John wrote his Gospel, he added the fact that the Son of Man is [now] in heaven.

[1]Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown, BIBLE COMMENTARY (Chicago: Fleming H. Revell, 1929. Vol.III, "Matt--Cor"), p. 363.

[2]A. T. Robertson, WORD PICTURES IN THE NEW TESTAMENT (New York: Harper and Brothers, 1932). Vol. V, p. 49.

[3]W. Robertson Nicoll, editor, THE EXPOSITOR'S GREEK TESTAMENT (New York: Dodd, Mead and Company, 1897), Vol. 1, p. 716.

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