John Chrysostom on John 3:14-16

For a discussion I’ve been having elsewhere on the internet, I translated Chrysostom’s discussion of John 3:14-16. Its powerful stuff and I thought I’d share it with you. The syntax here is pretty cool. Chrysostom is a great writer and what he’s done here is beautiful. I’ve treated quotations of scripture differently than other editions. I’ve treated them as intertextual. I think that Chrysostom has worked hard to maintain the flow of thought when he quote scripture and it seems evident here. And feel free to find and correct errors in my translation. This is a learning effort, as always.

Εἰ γὰρ πρὸς εἰκόνα χαλκῆν ὄφεως ἰδόντες Ἰουδαῖοι διέφυγον θάνατον· πολλῷ μᾶλλον οἱ εἰς τὸν ἐσταυρωμένον πιστεύοντες, εἰκότως καὶ πολλῷ μείζονος ἀπολαύσονται τῆς εὐεργεσίας. Οὐ γὰρ διὰ τὴν ἀσθένειαν τοῦ σταυρουμένου, οὐδὲ διὰ τὸ περιγενέσθαι Ἰουδαίους τοῦτο γίνεται, ἀλλ’ ἐπειδὴ Ἠγάπησεν Θεὸς τὸν κόσμον,

διὰ τοῦτο ὁ ἔμψυχος αὐτοῦ ναὸς σταυροῦται. Ἵνα πᾶς πιστεύων εἰς αὐτὸν, μὴ ἀπόληται, ἀλλἔχῃ ζωὴν αἰώνιον. Ὁρᾷς τὴν τοῦ σταυροῦ αἰτίαν, καὶ τὴν ἐξ αὐτοῦ σωτηρίαν; ὁρᾷς τοῦ τύπου πρὸς τὴν ἀλήθειαν τὴν συγγένειαν;

Ἐκεῖ θάνατον διέφυγον Ἰουδαῖοι, ἀλλὰ τὸν πρόσκαιρον· ἐνταῦθα τὸν αἰώνιον οἱ πιστεύοντες. Ἐκεῖ δήγματα ὄφεων ἰᾶτο ὁ κρεμάμενος ὄφις, ἐνταῦθα τοῦ νοητοῦ δράκοντος ἐθεράπευσε τὰς πληγὰς ὁ σταυρωθεὶς Ἰησοῦς· ἐκεῖ ὁ τοῖς ὀφθαλμοῖς τούτοις βλέπων ἐθεραπεύετο, ἐνταῦθα ὁ τοῖς τῆς διανοίας ὀφθαλμοῖς ὁρῶν, πάντα ἀποτίθεται τὰ ἁμαρτήματα· ἐκεῖ χαλκὸς τὸ κρεμάμενον ἦν εἰς σχῆμα ὄφεως διατυπωθεὶς, ἐνταῦθα σῶμα δεσποτικὸν ὑπὸ Πνεύματος κατασκευασθέν.

Ὄφις ἔδακνεν ἐκεῖ, καὶ ὄφις ἰᾶτο· οὕτω καὶ ἐνταῦθα θάνατος ἀπώλεσε, καὶ θάνατος ἔσωσεν. Ἀλλ’ ὁ μὲν ἀπολλὺς ὄφις, ἰὸν εἶχεν· ὁ δὲ σώζων, ἰοῦ καθαρὸς ἦν. Καὶ ἐνταῦθα τὸ αὐτὸ πάλιν· ὁ μὲν γὰρ ἀπολλὺς θάνατος ἁμαρτίαν εἶχεν, ὥσπερ τὸν ἰὸν ὁ ὄφις· ὁ δὲ τοῦ Δεσπότου, ἁμαρτίας πάσης ἀπήλλακτο, ὥσπερ οὖν ὁ χαλκοῦς ὄφις, ἰοῦ.

For if by looking toward the bronze snake, the Jews escaped death, to a greater degree will those who place their trust in he who was crucified–suitably, they will enjoy a much greater benefit, too!For this happened neither because of the weakness of the Cross, nor because the Jews prevailed over Christ. Rather it is because God loved the world.

Because of this, His living temple was crucified, so that anyone who puts his trust in him might not perish, but instead have live eternal. Don’t you see here the background behind the cross and the salvation that comes from it? Do you see the connection of the Type to the Reality.

There, the Jews escaped death but only temporarily. Here, the one who trusts has an eternal escape. There, the hanging serpent heals only snake bites. Here, to the wounds inflicted by the spiritual serpent, the Crucified Jesus brought healing. There those who looked with their physical eyes were healed, But here the person who looks with eyes that understand has all his sin put away. There, what hung was bronze shaped into a serpent. Here, the Master’s body built by the Spirit.

The snake bit there and the snake healed. So also here, death destroyed and death saved. But the destroy snake had venom, while the saving one was free of venom. and here it is the same again. For the death that destroyed had sin, exactly like the serpent had venom. But the Lord was free of all sin, just as the bronze serpent was of venom.

10 thoughts on “John Chrysostom on John 3:14-16

  1. Perhaps you could use rows in your table to put the verses in order as well.

    Otherwise, the Greek script looks really nice.🙂
    I’m considering learning it even with the rest of the language learning I currently have to do.

  2. Hi Mike,

    I have reformatted the last part just to be overly obvious, and made “the snake that destroyed” parallel to “the death that destroyed.”

    Ὄφις ἔδακνεν ἐκεῖ, καὶ ὄφις ἰᾶτο·
    The snake bit there and the snake healed.

    οὕτω καὶ ἐνταῦθα
    θάνατος ἀπώλεσε, καὶ θάνατος ἔσωσεν.
    Similarly also here,
    death destroyed and death saved.

    Ἀλλ’ ὁ μὲν ἀπολλὺς ὄφις, ἰὸν εἶχεν·
    But the snake that destroyed had venom,

    ὁ δὲ σώζων, ἰοῦ καθαρὸς ἦν.
    while the saving one was free of venom.

    Καὶ ἐνταῦθα τὸ αὐτὸ πάλιν·
    So here it is the same again.

    ὁ μὲν γὰρ ἀπολλὺς θάνατος ἁμαρτίαν εἶχεν,
    For the death that destroyed had sin,

    ὥσπερ τὸν ἰὸν ὁ ὄφις·
    exactly like the serpent had venom.

    ὁ δὲ τοῦ Δεσπότου, ἁμαρτίας πάσης ἀπήλλακτο,
    While the Lord was free of all sin,

    ὥσπερ οὖν ὁ χαλκοῦς ὄφις, ἰοῦ.
    just like the bronze serpent was of venom.

  3. Wow Mike (and not “bow wow” at all). You bring across the “powerful,” “cool” “syntax” beautifully. And just to illustrate, here’s Philip Schaff’s translation in comparison with yours on the bit Sue’s reformatted. You show the play in phrasal variations on the syntax theme:

    You have θάνατος ἀπώλεσε “death destroyed” / θάνατος ἔσωσεν “death saved” (which Schaff unnecessarily disambiguates by his adding the indefinite article plus the capital letter “D” to mark the latter). And you have (with Sue’s parallelism added) ὁ μὲν ἀπολλὺς ὄφις “the snake that destroyed” / ὁ μὲν ἀπολλὺς θάνατος “the death that destroyed” (while Schaff commits what Robert Alter calls the translator’s “heresy of explanation,” again, with “the death which slew us”). And your “exactly like” then “just like” are just as beautiful (reminding me of that USA cigarette jingle so long ago: “Winston tastes good like a cigarette should”): the wordplay is so much more compelling in Chrysostom’s text than Schaff’s bald “as” for ὥσπερ. So here’s Schaff bit per Sue’s reformatting for comparisons (though I could go on with longer and more contrasts on the first part too – thanks for translating!) :

    “there a serpent bit and a serpent healed,
    here death destroyed and a Death saved.
    But the snake which destroyed had venom,
    that which saved was free from venom;
    and so again was it here,
    for the death which slew us had sin with it,
    as the serpent had venom;
    but the Lord’s Death was free from all sin,
    as the brazen serpent from venom.”

  4. I apologize that my keyboard situation prevents me from actually commenting on the translation, but I wanted to thank you for this!

    Ἡ τοῦ στόματός σου καθάπερ πυρσὸς ἐκλάμψασα χάρις, τὴν οἰκουμένην ἐφώτισεν, ἀφιλαργυρίας τῷ κόσμῳ θησαυροὺς ἐναπέθετο, τὸ ὕψος ἡμῖν τῆς ταπεινοφροσύνης ὑπέδειξεν· Ἀλλὰ σοῖς λόγοις παιδεύων, Πάτερ Ἰωάννη Χρυσόστομε, πρέσβευε τῷ Λόγῳ Χριστῷ τῷ Θεῷ, σωθῆναι τὰς ψυχὰς ἡμῶν.

  5. The Ἐκεῖ and ἐνταῦθα parallels should also be maintained throughout the entire passage to give it shape and make the ideas and contrasts easier to understand.

    Do you want to use “previously” “but now,” or “there” and “here?” It doesn’t matter, but keeping the parallels translates the discourse structure into English.

    I think you also means snakebites for snake bits.😉

    And perhaps there should be a contrast between the two kinds of healing in English.

    Its a very interesting passage but tempting me to waste my day. Thanks for posting this. Its fun to discuss a passage one hasn’t seen before.

    1. I debated for a bit about how much concordance I wanted. You’re probably right. I’ll change it.

      And thanks for pointing out my snake bits – kind of like bacon bits?

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