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Amen amen I say to you: The NET Bible and Greek text of the Fourth Gospel

April 30, 2010

I am finishing up an exegetical course on the Greek text of the Fourth Gospel. It is a small class and we sit in a tiny air-conditioned room inside the Knott Library at St. Mary’s Seminary amidst the Johannine library of the late Raymond Brown. Teaching the course has been a blast and I have enjoyed the diversity of the students (a Monsignor, an evangelical pastor, a pastor from the Christian church who will be pursuing a Ph.D. at Edinburgh next year, and a very bright German-Australian student intent on pursuing a doctorate in OT in the near future).

I usually like to bring a diglot to class, just for an informed second opinion. Several years ago, probably at SBL, I purchased the NA-27 /NET Bible diglot. For the sake of full disclosure I should say that I know the editors well and generally speaking, I appreciate the philosophy behind the NET Bible. The translators have taken some bold moves (for instance, it is the only English translation to render pistis Christou as “faithfulness of Christ”) and the extensive notes are helpful to the novice and the specialist. I say all of this to say, I really like the NET Bible and generally find it helpful even when I disagree with how something is rendered.

An exception, however, is the consistent use of “I tell you the solemn truth” for the uniquely Johannine “amen amen lego hymin.” I’m not really sure why this drives me crazy but I like to think it is more than just a stylistic preference. The Johannine Jesus has a unique connection to the Father. He has been given the very name of the Father. Because of his special status, John’s Jesus speaks with a special authority throughout the gospel. The use of a single ‘amen‘ in the Synoptics is distinctive in itself but the double ‘amen‘ in John almost demands a formal equivalent translation: “Amen, amen I say to you.”  Consider this my plug (or my plea) for a change in the next edition!

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