Wednesday, May 24, 2017
Calvin on the Text and Punctuation of John 1:3
I began a new sermon series last Sunday through the Gospel of John with a message on John 1:1-5. I had also decided to read John Calvin’s commentary on John as I preach through the book.
I was intrigued by Calvin’s remarks on the text of John 1:3. He argues that the last phrase “that was made [ho gegonen]” be taken with what comes before in v. 3, so that it read “and without him was not anything made that was made [kai choris autou egeneto oude en ho gegonen]” rather than with what follows in v. 4 (so that it would read: ho gegonen en auto zoe hen: “what was made was in him life”).
The Calvin Translation Society editors note here that “the difference in readings lies wholly in the punctuation.” Calvin makes appeal to the Greek witnesses, writing: “and in this almost all the Greek manuscripts, or at least those of them which are most approved, are found to agree; besides, the sense requires it.” One wonders if by “Greek manuscripts” he means hand copies or printed editions (or perhaps both). At any rate, we see here Calvin’s interest in examining external and internal evidence to affirm a traditional reading (or, in this case, interpretation of the traditional punctuation of the text). At the least, the reference illustrates his interest in establishing the proper text of the NT ultimately by appeal to the readings in “the divine original” (i.e., in the copies written in the immediately inspired Biblical languages).