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John 20:28

20:28 Thomas replied to him, 1  “My Lord and my God!” 2 

John 20:31

20:31 But these 3  are recorded 4  so that you may believe 5  that Jesus is the Christ, 6  the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name. 7 

1 tn Grk “answered and said to him.”

2 sn Should Thomas’ exclamation be understood as two subjects with the rest of the sentence omitted (“My Lord and my God has truly risen from the dead”), as predicate nominatives (“You are my Lord and my God”), or as vocatives (“My Lord and my God!”)? Probably the most likely is something between the second and third alternatives. It seems that the second is slightly more likely here, because the context appears confessional. Thomas’ statement, while it may have been an exclamation, does in fact confess the faith which he had previously lacked, and Jesus responds to Thomas’ statement in the following verse as if it were a confession. With the proclamation by Thomas here, it is difficult to see how any more profound analysis of Jesus’ person could be given. It echoes 1:1 and 1:14 together: The Word was God, and the Word became flesh (Jesus of Nazareth). The Fourth Gospel opened with many other titles for Jesus: the Lamb of God (1:29, 36); the Son of God (1:34, 49); Rabbi (1:38); Messiah (1:41); the King of Israel (1:49); the Son of Man (1:51). Now the climax is reached with the proclamation by Thomas, “My Lord and my God,” and the reader has come full circle from 1:1, where the author had introduced him to who Jesus was, to 20:28, where the last of the disciples has come to the full realization of who Jesus was. What Jesus had predicted in John 8:28 had come to pass: “When you lift up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am he” (Grk “I am”). By being lifted up in crucifixion (which led in turn to his death, resurrection, and exaltation with the Father) Jesus has revealed his true identity as both Lord (κύριος [kurios], used by the LXX to translate Yahweh) and God (θεός [qeos], used by the LXX to translate Elohim).

3 tn Grk “these things.”

4 tn Grk “are written.”

5 tc ‡ A difficult textual variant is present at this point in the Greek text. Some mss (Ì66vid א* B Θ 0250 pc) read the present subjunctive πιστεύητε (pisteuhte) after ἵνα (Jina; thus NEB text, “that you may hold the faith”) while others (א2 A C D L W Ψ Ë1,13 33 Ï) read the aorist subjunctive πιστεύσητε (pisteushte) after ἵνα (cf. NEB margin, “that you may come to believe”). As reflected by the renderings of the NEB text and margin, it is often assumed that the present tense would suggest ongoing belief (i.e., the Fourth Gospel primarily addressed those who already believed, and was intended to strengthen their faith), while the aorist tense would speak of coming to faith (i.e., John’s Gospel was primarily evangelistic in nature). Both textual variants enjoy significant ms support, although the present subjunctive has somewhat superior witnesses on its behalf. On internal grounds it is hard to decide which is more likely the original. Many resolve this issue on the basis of a reconstruction of the overall purpose of the Gospel, viz., whether it is addressed to unbelievers or believers. However, since elsewhere in the Gospel of John (1) the present tense can refer to both initial faith and continuation in the faith and (2) the aorist tense simply refrains from commenting on the issue, it is highly unlikely that the distinction here would be determinative for the purpose of the Fourth Gospel. The question of purpose cannot be resolved by choosing one textual variant over the other in 20:31, but must be decided on other factors. Nevertheless, if a choice has to be made, the present subjunctive is the preferred reading. NA27 puts the aorist’s sigma in brackets, thus representing both readings virtually equally (so TCGNT 220).

6 tn Or “Jesus is the Messiah” (Both Greek “Christ” and Hebrew and Aramaic “Messiah” mean “one who has been anointed”).

sn See the note on Christ in 1:20.

7 sn John 20:31. A major question concerning this verse, the purpose statement of the Gospel of John, is whether the author is writing primarily for an audience of unbelievers, with purely evangelistic emphasis, or whether he envisions an audience of believers, whom he wants to strengthen in their faith. Several points are important in this discussion: (1) in the immediate context (20:30), the other signs spoken of by the author were performed in the presence of disciples; (2) in the case of the first of the signs, at Cana, the author makes a point of the effect the miracle had on the disciples (2:11); (3) if the primary thrust of the Gospel is toward unbelievers, it is difficult to see why so much material in chaps. 13-17 (the last meal and Farewell Discourse, concluding with Jesus’ prayer for the disciples), which deals almost exclusively with the disciples, is included; (4) the disciples themselves were repeatedly said to have believed in Jesus throughout the Gospel, beginning with 2:11, yet they still needed to believe after the resurrection (if Thomas’ experience in 20:27-28 is any indication); and (5) the Gospel appears to be written with the assumption that the readers are familiar with the basic story (or perhaps with one or more of the synoptic gospel accounts, although this is less clear). Thus no account of the birth of Jesus is given at all, and although he is identified as being from Nazareth, the words of the Pharisees and chief priests to Nicodemus (7:52) are almost certainly to be taken as ironic, assuming the reader knows where Jesus was really from. Likewise, when Mary is identified in 11:2 as the one who anointed Jesus’ feet with oil, it is apparently assumed that the readers are familiar with the story, since the incident involved is not mentioned in the Fourth Gospel until 12:3. These observations must be set over against the clear statement of purpose in the present verse, 20:31, which seems to have significant evangelistic emphasis. In addition to this there is the repeated emphasis on witness throughout the Fourth Gospel (cf. the witness of John the Baptist in 1:7, 8, 15, 32, and 34, along with 5:33; the Samaritan woman in 4:39; Jesus’ own witness, along with that of the Father who sent him, in 8:14, 18, and 18:37; the disciples themselves in 15:27; and finally the testimony of the author himself in 19:35 and 21:24). In light of all this evidence it seems best to say that the author wrote with a dual purpose: (1) to witness to unbelievers concerning Jesus, in order that they come to believe in him and have eternal life; and (2) to strengthen the faith of believers, by deepening and expanding their understanding of who Jesus is.

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