John 1:3 - "by Him" or "through Him"?


#1

Or does it not really matter? :confused:

In the DR bible, it says:

3 All things were made by him: and without him was made nothing that was made.

While in the RSVCE:

3 all things were made **through **him, and without him was not anything made that was made.

The reason I’m confused is, reading the Haydock Commentary, it states the following:

… I have, therefore, in this third verse, translated, all things were made by him, with all English translations and paraphrases, whether made by Catholics or Protestants; and not all things were made through him, lest through should seem to carry with it a different and a diminishing signification; or as if, in the creation of the world, the eternal word, or the Son of God, produced things only ministerially, and, in a manner, inferior to the Father, as the Arians and Eunomians pretended; against whom, on this very account, wrote S. Basil, lib. de spiritu Sto. S. Chrysostom, and S. Cyril, on this very verse; where they expressly undertake to shew that the Greek text in this verse no ways favours these heretics. …

And also, doesn’t by and through actually have different meanings?

I apologize if this seems to be like a noob question :o and if it has been discuss elsewhere in the forum please point me to that direction since my search results came back with none.

Thank you!
~Theresia


#2

Here’s the verse as it appears in Greek:

πάντα δι’ αὐτοῦ ἐγένετο, καὶ χωρὶς αὐτοῦ ἐγένετο οὐδὲ ἕν. ὃ γέγονεν

The Greek word used here means “through” or “by means of.”

διά,p {dee-ah’}

  1. through 1a) of place 1a1) with 1a2) in 1b) of time 1b1) throughout 1b2) during 1c) of means 1c1) by 1c2) by the means of 2) through 2a) the ground or reason by which something is or is not done 2a1) by reason of 2a2) on account of 2a3) because of for this reason 2a4) therefore 2a5) on this account

I don’t think this diminishes the role of the Son, but rather emphasizes perichoresis–that is, the mutual indwelling of each person of the Trinity. Wherever the Father is operative, the Son and the Spirit are present as well, and so also for the Son and the Spirit. I actually disagree somewhat with the tack taken by the Haydock in this case, because it seems somewhat short-sighted with regards to this important theological principle. If all is created by the will of the Father, through the Son, and by the action of the Holy Spirit, then we shouldn’t take this as subordinationism, but rather the mutual indwelling of each of the persons of the Trinity in the one God.

It’s important as well to remember that the Haydock is a dated commentary dealing with issues that were coming up in its time in a language and usage particular to its time. The Douay as well is not the greatest translation (I realize that some here find such a though blasphemous, but it’s technically true–it’s a translation of a translation, or even a translation of a revision of a translation, depending on which Vulgate source material you’re talking about); there has been much to advance the field of Biblical studies and translation since its production (the end of the 16th century was the original, and then there was a significant revision made in the 18th century; the Haydock commentary was then produced in the 19th century). This is not to say that they don’t have value as a text and a commentary, but that there have been good developments since then.

All in all, this is a relatively minor point of language usage that the Haydock seems to overstress to the point of getting the translation wrong or at least less precise; “διά” is more accurately rendered as “through,” which can be another meaning of “by.”

-ACEGC


#3

The Greek preposition is dia, which can mean "through" both in reference to space ("through Samaria") and time ("through the night"). It can also mean, and here I'm paraphrasing from Thayer's Greek Lexicon of the New Testament, "the means or instrument by which anything is done, because what is done by means of person or thing seems to pass as it were through the same." So, from a translator's point of view, saying "all things were made by Him" would be pretty much the same as saying "all things were made through Him."

Hope this helps.


#4

Wow, you guys are awesome! :thumbsup:
Thanks so much for your explanations. And edward_george, thanks for providing some insight on the Haydock commentary! I’m starting my first attempt on bible study and so still have to figure out which resources would be best to use.

Thanks again, and God bless!
Theresia


#5

Likewise, in the Vulgate Bible (St. Jerome’s translation from the original texts), “Omnia per ipsum facta sunt” is used, “per” meaning “through.” Presumably the use of “by” is an archaism meaning “by way of.”

“Through” gets at the Catholic understanding of the Trinity a little better. The Father is the “creator,” i.e., the person to whom creation is primarily attributed, but the Son is the word by which God created. In creating God had to first form an image of what he would create, and to do that he needed to comprehend himself fully; so, contemplating himself, his thought (word) becomes God, because of his complete simplicity.


#6

The apostle Paul confirms the gospel of St. John and adds that all things were not only created through the Word, but also for the Word, the Son of God.

For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. (Col.1:16) ESV


#7

Thank you guys for those explanations. I’m learning so much already from you all, and I’m just starting!
Once again, awesome! :thumbsup:


#8

Actually the Douay-Rheims is right on by using "by him", because if we really want to know the sense of the Greek that is used we should consult someone who spoke the language and not rely totally upon lexicons made by Protestants who learned Greek in a classroom. Let us look at what the Greek Church Father St. John Chrysostom says in his homily on John 1:3,

And if the expression “by Him” is here used, it is put for no other reason but to prevent any one from supposing the Son to be Unbegotten. For that in respect of the title of Creator He is nothing inferior to the Father; hear from Himself, where He says, “As the Father raises up the dead and quickens them, even so the Son quickens whom He will.” (John 5:21) If now in the Old Testament it is said of the Son, “You, Lord, in the beginning hast laid the foundation of the earth,” His title of Creator is plain.

To show that the Douay-Rheims Bible follows the same thought, let us look at the footnote on this passage from the Douay-Rheims Bible of 1609

3. By him. Again, by this he signifies the eternity, divinity, omnipotence, and equality of the Word or Son, with God the Father, because by him all things were created. All things, he said, both visible of this world, and invisible, as angels and all spiritual creatures. Whereupon it is evident also, that himself is no creature, being the Creator of all; neither is sin of his creation, being a defect of a thing, rather than a thing itself, and therefore neither of nor by him.


#9

[quote="COPLAND_3, post:8, topic:339509"]
Actually the Douay-Rheims is right on by using "by him", because if we really want to know the sense of the Greek that is used we should consult someone who spoke the language and not rely totally upon lexicons made by Protestants who learned Greek in a classroom. Let us look at what the Greek Church Father St. John Chrysostom says in his homily on John 1:3,

To show that the Douay-Rheims Bible follows the same thought, let us look at the footnote on this passage from the Douay-Rheims Bible of 1609

[/quote]

What the early church fathers intended in using the preposition 'by' rather than 'through' is sometimes open to conjecture. Here is a source which quotes early Christian writers on John 1:3....the NIV and NAB are given as scriptural translations.

earlychristianwritings.com/e-catena/john1.html


#10

[quote="JMJ91, post:9, topic:339509"]
What the early church fathers intended in using the preposition 'by' rather than 'through' is sometimes open to conjecture. Here is a source which quotes early Christian writers on John 1:3....the NIV and NAB are given as scriptural translations.

earlychristianwritings.com/e-catena/john1.html

[/quote]

This evening I will consult the Greek Fathers on this passage, I have many on hand. As for the preposition, no doubt it generally has a dual sense that depends upon context, but I will specifically focus on the Greek Fathers on John 1:3, but I am quite confident that Chrysostom has the primary thought on it since he is as orthodox as they come.


#11

[quote="COPLAND_3, post:10, topic:339509"]
This evening I will consult the Greek Fathers on this passage, I have many on hand. As for the preposition, no doubt it generally has a dual sense that depends upon context, but I will specifically focus on the Greek Fathers on John 1:3, but I am quite confident that Chrysostom has the primary thought on it since he is as orthodox as they come.

[/quote]

This is good of you. As you have put forth an effort in collating the writings of these church fathers. Whether an early church father spoke Greek is not necessarily the deciding factor in authoritative interpretation. What did the 1st-2nd century church fathers learn from the apostles regarding John 1:3?

The citations of John 1:3 should be taken within their context. There are scriptural indexes to the early Christian writers found at the end of each of the citation sources. There must be close to 40 references to John 1:3 and each one must be read within the context of each citation, including to whom the early Christian writer is addressing.


#12

Since Chrysostom understood the preposition to indicate that Jesus is Creator, as well as the very traditional theologians who put the first footnotes in the Doauy-Rheims, and since that is what Catholic teachings teach is that the Word is God, then "by him" is not only theologically correct but makes it likely that its a preferable translation as well.

Seeking a Greek Father is preferable to seek the sense of the preposition. No doubt that there are tons of quotes of that verse since the first few verses are loaded with so much doctrine, but I will be narrowing my search down for the sense of the preposition.


#13

[quote="COPLAND_3, post:12, topic:339509"]
Since Chrysostom understood the preposition to indicate that Jesus is Creator, as well as the very traditional theologians who put the first footnotes in the Doauy-Rheims, and since that is what Catholic teachings teach is that the Word is God, then "by him" is not only theologically correct but makes it likely that its a preferable translation as well.

Seeking a Greek Father is preferable to seek the sense of the preposition. No doubt that there are tons of quotes of that verse since the first few verses are loaded with so much doctrine, but I will be narrowing my search down for the sense of the preposition.

[/quote]

No doubt the Word of God, the only-begotten Son of God is co-creator with his Father.
As several of the early church fathers refer to the Word, the Son of God in Proverbs 8:30:
"then I was beside him, like a master workman, and I was daily his delight, rejoicing before him always,"

It is in the context of this scripture from the Tanach that we might presume that St. John and St. Paul received their inspiration.


#14

John’s Gospel, when referring to Father, Son, Spirit emphasized the Divinity of Jesus throughout.

Thanks for the Greek translation way above this (my) innocuous thread.


#15

I just did a search on some of the Greek Fathers and their understanding of "by him", and first of all Cornelius a Lapide (not a Greek Father by the way, but great commentator) gave a great explanation about it. Here is what he said

Observe that when it is said by Him, the preposition by does not signify an instrumental cause, or a minister, as though the Word were the instrument, or minister of God, by which He created all things, as Origen supposed, and also the Arians, but it signifies an original, or chief (principalem) cause, as in Prov. viii. 15, “By me kings reign,” and 1 Cor. i. 9, “Faithful is God, by whom ye have been called” (Vulg.) The preposition by in this and other places is referred to God the Father, who is the First Cause of all things. And by here means that the Word with the Father is the original Cause of the creation of all things. So S. Chrysostom, Theophylact, and Euthymius on this passage, and SS. Athanasius, Basil, and others against the Arians. Wherefore also S. Paul (Heb. i. 10) interprets Psalm cii. 26, “Thou Lord in the beginning hast laid the foundation of the earth, and the heavens are the work of Thy hands,” of the Word, or Son. “Never, certainly, would he have said this,” says S. Chrysostom, “unless he had believed the Son to be the Founder, not a minister, and that the Father and the Son were equal in dignity.”

You will ask, Why then does S. John use the preposition διὰ (per, or through) instead of ύπὸ by, when he says that all things were made through (διὰ) Him? 1. That he might signify that the Word proceeds from the Father, and is begotten of Him. “Lest any one should suppose,” says S. Chrysostom, “that the Word was unbegotten.”

  1. That he might signify that the Word is the Idea of created things, according to which the Father with the Son created all things. For an artificer makes all the works of his art by an ideal, or conception, or mental word, or plan. All these similitudes are transferred to the Divine Word, who is the Begotten but Uncreated Wisdom.

As for ancient Greek commentators

Oecumenius says

By calling the saints ‘slaves’ of Christ, he safeguarded his divine nature. For to whom would human beings belong, other than to the creator and maker of humankind? And who is the maker of humankind and of all creation? Nobody except the only Word and Son of God. For “all things were made by him,” says the present writer in the Gospel. (Oecumenius 6th century Com. on Rev. 1:2)

St. Cyril of Alexandria

For if all things were made by Him, He will be Other than they all. For in this, All things, there is nothing which is not seen among all things. As the blessed Paul too is found to have understood the all things: for when in one of his Epistles he was discoursing of our Saviour and said that all things were put in subjection under His feet, excellently does he subjoin, For in that he saith all, he left nothing that is not put under Him. Therefore since we believe that all things were made by the Son, we will not think that He is one of all, but will conclude that He is external to all, and severing Him from the nature and kin of things originate, will at length confess that He is none else save God of God by Nature. (St. Cyril of Alexandria On Jn. 1:3)


#16

Why then does S. John use the preposition διὰ (per, or through) instead of ύπὸ by, when he says that all things were made through (διὰ) Him?

As should be noted, explanations of this preposition were explained in a way as to counteract the suppositions of Arians. Regardless, we should adhere to the intention of
the original Greek, which means ‘per,’ or ‘through’.


#17

Thank you all for taking the time to give explanations. It’s been very interesting to read through all the responses. The intricacy of bible translations is just starting to hit me, and though at first I thought I’d still come away confused about the use of both “by” and “through”, your explanations have helped give a much better understanding as to why both have been used in the different translations.
:thumbsup:


#18

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