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I've mused on this for a while now and asked around a bit, but haven't got an answer (that makes sense to me) as yet. I wonder what you all here think.

John 1:17:

NIV: For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.

KJV: For the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ.

Why was it necessary for Jesus to bring truth as well an grace? Was truth missing in the law? Was falsehood abounding before Jesus?

I'm interested in your take on why truth is mentioned in this verse.

  • To note, there is no corresponding Greek word for "but" in the Greek text (i.e., the KJV translators inserted "but" into their translation). – user862 Oct 21 '15 at 16:59
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  • Define "truth", "faith" and "grace". – Cynthia Avishegnath Oct 22 '15 at 4:10
  • @BlessedGeek do you have an opinion on why "truth" is used in this verse based on your understanding of the words "truth", "faith" and "grace"? (Not that "faith" is mentioned in the verse in any case). – Michael Vincent Oct 22 '15 at 8:45
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In John 1:17, the Greek text according to the Textus Receptus (Estienne, 1550) states,

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ὅτι ὁ νόμος διὰ Μωσέως ἐδόθη ἡ χάρις καὶ ἡ ἀλήθεια διὰ Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ ἐγένετο

which is translated as,

since the Law was given by Moses; grace and truth came by Jesus Christ.

It would seem as though the author is contrasting the Law with grace and truth and suggesting that the Law was void of grace and truth. But, this would contradict other scripture which explicitly states, "Your Law is truth."1 And yet, while scripture does say the Law is truth, it never states that the Law is grace.

In fact, the apostle Paul clearly contrasted the Law with grace when he wrote (Rom. 6:14),

For sin shall not be master over you, for you are not under the Law, but under grace.

ἁμαρτία γὰρ ὑμῶν οὐ κυριεύσει οὐ γάρ ἐστε ὑπὸ νόμον ἀλλ᾽ ὑπὸ χάριν

If indeed there was grace in the Law, how could the apostle Paul write so? Furthermore, the apostle Paul wrote (Rom. 11:6),

And if by grace, then is it no longer of works, otherwise grace is no longer grace. But if it is of works, then is it no longer grace, otherwise work is no longer work.

εἰ δὲ χάριτι οὐκέτι ἐξ ἔργων ἐπεὶ ἡ χάρις οὐκέτι γίνεται χάρις εἰ δὲ ἐξ ἔργων οὐκέτι ἐστὶν χάρις ἐπεὶ τὸ ἔργον οὐκέτι ἐστίν ἔργον

By the phrase "of works" (ἐξ ἔργων), the apostle Paul is clearly alluding to keeping the commandments of the Law of Moses, i.e. the "works of the Law."2

Therefore, it would suggest that, while the Law is truth, the Law was not grace, or rather, it lacked grace. After all, if one failed at keeping just one commandment of the Torah, they merited the curse of the Law (Gal. 3:10). How then could there be grace in the Law? Nay; rather, the Law works wrath (Rom. 4:15).

In summary, the Law given by Moses is truth, but not grace. Grace and truth, together, came by Jesus Christ.


Footnotes

1 Psa. 119:142 LXX (118:142): ὁ νόμος σου ἀλήθεια.

2 Rom. 9:32; Gal. 2:16, 3:2, 3:5, 3:10

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