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Who is speaking in John 3:16? Jesus or John? John 3 begins with Jesus speaking in the first person but in v. 13 there's a shift to the third person which continues until a change of scene at 3:22.

10 “You are Israel’s teacher,” said Jesus, “and do you not understand these things? 11 Very truly I tell you, we speak of what we know, and we testify to what we have seen, but still you people do not accept our testimony. 12 I have spoken to you of earthly things and you do not believe; how then will you believe if I speak of heavenly things? 13 No one has ever gone into heaven except the one who came from heaven—the Son of Man. 14 Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, 15 that everyone who believes may have eternal life in him.”

There are no punctuations marks in the original Greek.

The NIV stops quoting Jesus at 3:15 but the ESV continues the quotation till the end of the monologue. Which translation is right?

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Short Answer: Though it's difficult to say, the NIV is probably correct. It's the narrator, not Jesus, who is most likely speaking in John 3:13-21.

Here's why.

John appears to be establishing a chiasm between the first and second miracles at Cana. This third-person monologue (3:13-21) is paralleled with a similar monologue after the testimony of John the Baptist (3:31-36).

A - First Cana Miracle (2:1-12)

B - Temple Cleansing and events in Jerusalem (2:13-25)

C - Conversation with Jesus (3:1-12)

D - Third Person Monologue (3:13-21)

E - John the Baptist's Testimony (3:22-30)

D' - Third Person Monologue (3:31-36)

C' - Conversation with Jesus (4:1-19)

B' - Replaced Temples and events in Jerusalem (4:20-45)

A' - Second Cana Miracle (4:46-54)

Explanation of the Chiasm

A - A' First and Second Cana Miracles: More than simply linked by location and number, there's a common subject and sequence that ties these two stories together. (1) A mother implores Jesus, her son and a father implores Jesus concerning his son (2:3; 4:47). (2) Jesus rebuffs the request (2:4; 4:48). (3) Both mother and father continue to press (2:5;4:49). (3) Jesus commands action without evidence (2:8; 4:50). (4) The servants and the father obey the command (2:8; 4:50). (5) The miracle is revealed (2:9; 4:51). (6) The result is belief in Jesus (2:11; 4:53).

B - B' Events at the Temple in Jerusalem: In speaking to the authorities in John 2 Jesus refers not to the actual temple but rather His own body and to the woman Jesus declares all such earthly temples now superseded. Both conversations end with a brief summary of the crowds' response to Jesus' actions. The later also ends with a reminder of the formers events (4:45).

C - C' Conversations with Jesus: These are the only two sections in John where Jesus has a conversation with a single individual alone. Both conversations turn on the issue of water but antithetical parallels also abound: Time of Day (Night - Noon), Conversation starter (Nicodimus - Jesus), Gender (man - woman), Ethnicity (Jew - Samaritan), Identity (named - unnamed)... The list goes on.

D - D' The Third-Person Monologues: Both these monologues begin as narrative speeches in the first person and jump suddenly into the third person, making it difficult to tell weather or not the characters are still speaking or if the author has simply stepped in. In addition, these two discourses share a number of parallel phrases and related themes.

  • "No one has ever gone into heaven except the one who came from heaven-the Son of Man. (3:13)." "The one who comes from above is above all (Jesus); the one who is from the earth belongs to the earth, and speaks as one from the earth (John the Baptist). The one who comes from heaven is above all (3:31-32)."
  • "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God's one and only Son. (3:16-18)." "Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God's wrath remains on him." (3:36).

E John the Baptist's Testimony: Confined on either side by the third person monologues, John's testimony appears to represent this chiasm's pivot.

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Interesting, I wouldn't have thought of a literary/structural approach. –  Soldarnal Jun 5 '13 at 23:22
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