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John 16:8-10

Context
16:8 And when he 1  comes, he will prove the world wrong 2  concerning sin and 3  righteousness and 4  judgment – 16:9 concerning sin, because 5  they do not believe in me; 6  16:10 concerning righteousness, 7  because 8  I am going to the Father and you will see me no longer;

1 tn Grk “when that one.”

2 tn Or “will convict the world,” or “will expose the world.” The conjunction περί (peri) is used in 16:8-11 in the sense of “concerning” or “with respect to.” But what about the verb ἐλέγχω (elencw)? The basic meanings possible for this word are (1) “to convict or convince someone of something”; (2) “to bring to light or expose something; and (3) “to correct or punish someone.” The third possibility may be ruled out in these verses on contextual grounds since punishment is not implied. The meaning is often understood to be that the Paraclete will “convince” the world of its error, so that some at least will repent. But S. Mowinckel (“Die Vorstellungen des Spätjudentums vom heiligen Geist als Fürsprecher und der johanneische Paraklet,” ZNW 32 [1933]: 97-130) demonstrated that the verb ἐλέγχω did not necessarily imply the conversion or reform of the guilty party. This means it is far more likely that conviction in something of a legal sense is intended here (as in a trial). The only certainty is that the accused party is indeed proven guilty (not that they will acknowledge their guilt). Further confirmation of this interpretation is seen in John 14:17 where the world cannot receive the Paraclete and in John 3:20, where the evildoer deliberately refuses to come to the light, lest his deeds be exposed for what they really are (significantly, the verb in John 3:20 is also ἐλέγχω). However, if one wishes to adopt the meaning “prove guilty” for the use of ἐλέγχω in John 16:8 a difficulty still remains: While this meaning fits the first statement in 16:9 – the world is ‘proven guilty’ concerning its sin of refusing to believe in Jesus – it does not fit so well the second and third assertions in vv. 10-11. Thus R. E. Brown (John [AB], 2:705) suggests the more general meaning “prove wrong” which would fit in all three cases. This may be so, but there may also be a developmental aspect to the meaning, which would then shift from v. 9 to v. 10 to v. 11.

3 tn Grk “and concerning.”

4 tn Grk “and concerning.”

5 tn Or “that.” It is very difficult to determine whether ὅτι (Joti; 3 times in 16:9, 10, 11) should be understood as causal or appositional/explanatory: Brown and Bultmann favor appositional or explanatory, while Barrett and Morris prefer a causal sense. A causal idea is preferable here, since it also fits the parallel statements in vv. 10-11 better than an appositional or explanatory use would. In this case Jesus is stating in each instance the reason why the world is proven guilty or wrong by the Spirit-Paraclete.

6 sn Here (v. 9) the world is proven guilty concerning sin, and the reason given is their refusal to believe in Jesus. In 3:19 the effect of Jesus coming into the world as the Light of the world was to provoke judgment, by forcing people to choose up sides for or against him, and they chose darkness rather than light. In 12:37, at the very end of Jesus’ public ministry in John’s Gospel, people were still refusing to believe in him.

7 tn There are two questions that need to be answered: (1) what is the meaning of δικαιοσύνη (dikaiosunh) in this context, and (2) to whom does it pertain – to the world, or to someone else? (1) The word δικαιοσύνη occurs in the Gospel of John only here and in v. 8. It is often assumed that it refers to forensic justification, as it does so often in Paul’s writings. Thus the answer to question (2) would be that it refers to the world. L. Morris states, “The Spirit shows men (and no-one else can do this) that their righteousness before God depends not on their own efforts but on Christ’s atoning work for them” (John [NICNT], 699). Since the word occurs so infrequently in the Fourth Gospel, however, the context must be examined very carefully. The ὅτι (Joti) clause which follows provides an important clue: The righteousness in view here has to do with Jesus’ return to the Father and his absence from the disciples. It is true that in the Fourth Gospel part of what is involved in Jesus’ return to the Father is the cross, and it is through his substitutionary death that people are justified, so that Morris’ understanding of righteousness here is possible. But more basic than this is the idea that Jesus’ return to the Father constitutes his own δικαιοσύνη in the sense of vindication rather than forensic justification. Jesus had repeatedly claimed oneness with the Father, and his opponents had repeatedly rejected this and labeled him a deceiver, a sinner, and a blasphemer (John 5:18, 7:12, 9:24, 10:33, etc.). But Jesus, by his glorification through his return to the Father, is vindicated in his claims in spite of his opponents. In his vindication his followers are also vindicated as well, but their vindication derives from his. Thus one would answer question (1) by saying that in context δικαιοσύνης (dikaiosunh") refers not to forensic justification but vindication, and question (2) by referring this justification/vindication not to the world or even to Christians directly, but to Jesus himself. Finally, how does Jesus’ last statement in v. 10, that the disciples will see him no more, contribute to this? It is probably best taken as a reference to the presence of the Spirit-Paraclete, who cannot come until Jesus has departed (16:7). The meaning of v. 10 is thus: When the Spirit-Paraclete comes he will prove the world wrong concerning the subject of righteousness, namely, Jesus’ righteousness which is demonstrated when he is glorified in his return to the Father and the disciples see him no more (but they will have instead the presence of the Spirit-Paraclete, whom the world is not able to receive).

8 tn Or “that.”



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