In a post on Christianity.SE, a member made a comment concerning John 17:3 that “knowing God...is a consequence of eternal life.”

In John 17:3, the Greek text states,

Γʹ αὕτη δέ ἐστιν ἡ αἰώνιος ζωή ἵνα γινώσκωσιν σὲ τὸν μόνον ἀληθινὸν θεὸν καὶ ὃν ἀπέστειλας Ἰησοῦν Χριστόν TR, 1550

Is that the correct interpretation of John 17:3? If not, how is John 17:3 to be interpreted?

4 Answers 4


The author of the fourth canonical gospel (commonly referred to as "John") like all authors is wont to employ turns of phrases in a way that other authors are not inclined to do. This doesn't make the usage "wrong" but rather "stylistic". John's use of ἵνα as an explanatory infinitive (as in John 17:3) is example of his use of ἵνα that you would less likely encounter in another author and one might be inclined to misread the passage if one is not familiar with the particular author's idiosyncratic usage.

ἵνα can also take the place of the explanatory inf. after a demonstrative (B-D-F §394; Rdm.2 192.—Wsd 13:9; Just., D. 14, 2 τοῦτο γάρ ἐστι τὸ σύμβολον τῶν ἀζύμων, ἵνα μὴ …) Mk 11:28. πόθεν μοι τοῦτο ἵνα ἔλθῃ (for τὸ ἐλθεῖν τὴν κτλ.) Lk 1:43 (cp. GJs 12:2). τοῦτο προσεύχομαι ἵνα Phil 1:9. cp. 1 Cor 9:18. This is a favorite usage in J: τοῦτό ἐστιν τὸ ἔργον τοῦ θεοῦ ἵνα πιστεύητε (for τὸ πιστεύειν ὑμᾶς) 6:29; cp. vs. 50. μείζονα ταύτης ἀγάπην οὐδεὶς ἔχει ἵνα … θῇ (for τοῦ θεῖναι) 15:13; cp. 3J 4.—J 6:39; 17:3; 1J 3:11, 23; 4:21; 5:3; 2J 6a. ἐν τούτῳ: ἐν τούτῳ ἐδοξάσθη ὁ πατήρ μου ἵνα … φέρητε (for ἐν τῷ φέρειν ὑμᾶς ἐδοξάσθη) J 15:8; cp. 1J 4:17.—S. also Hs 9, 28, 4, and ποταπὴν ἀγάπην ἵνα 1J 3:1.

Arndt, W., Danker, F. W., & Bauer, W. (2000). A Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament and other early Christian literature (3rd ed., p. 476). Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Parallel usages are:

Joh 6:29 Jesus answered and said unto them, This is [what it means to do] the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent.

Joh 15:13 Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.

So the idea seems to be something like this:

"This is what everlasting life consists of... it is to know you, the one true God and also to know Jesus Christ who you have sent."

Or it could possibly be saying something like this:

"This is what brings everlasting life... to know you, the one true God and also to know Jesus Christ who you have sent."


The subjunctive suggests that the proper understanding is probably "This is what everlasting life is all about: that one might know You the one true God, and [know] Jesus Christ whom thou hast sent".

  • @SimplyaChristian I responded to the Christianity question. Indeed, there is nothing in John 17:3 to suggest any requirement to believe in "The Doctrine of the Blessed Trinity". In fact, the clear distinction made by John between God and Jesus absolutely precludes the possibility that belief in the Trinity is compatible with John's thinking.
    – user10231
    Commented Jun 2, 2016 at 16:52
  • Let me clarify: can «αὕτη δέ ἐστιν ἡ αἰώνιος ζωή ἵνα γινώσκωσιν σὲ» be interpreted (understood) as "knowing God...is a consequence of eternal life" (emphasis on "consequence")?
    – user862
    Commented Jun 2, 2016 at 17:32
  • 1
    @SimplyaChristian No, it cannot. Absolutely not.
    – user10231
    Commented Jun 2, 2016 at 20:01
  • @SimplyaChristian Let me clarify the best translation for the Greek word ἐστιν (tis) or (its). Adding "consists of" adds conjecture. Also there's much more scripture that confirms the concept of "consequence" from the perspective of "next in sequence".
    – Decrypted
    Commented Jun 15, 2016 at 21:33
  • @Decrypted It is nice to have a lot of confidence except for when you are dealing with a subject which you know so little about, such as Greek. For this let's defer to BDAG, not just because they are the most trusted authority among scholars but also because he demonstrates John's stylistic distinctive with multiple examples.
    – user10231
    Commented Dec 10, 2016 at 12:58

The simpler reading is the best: Knowing God IS eternal life, which works well with the statement in 1 John 5 that "...you may know you HAVE eternal life..." One can complicate the statement, but there is no real reason to do so.

"Consists of..." sure, but why complicate the text? ;-)

The John 6:29 has the same structure, so again, read the simpler "the work of God IS to believe..." And would we apply the believe as trust, conjoined with obedience, we have a complete picture, i.e. the work of God is to trust in and obey the words of the One whom God has sent..."


The correct understanding of this is:

This is what everlasting life is all about: that one might know THEE who are the one true God and even whom, THOU didst send, Jesus Christ.

THEE and "the one true God" and "whom" and "Jesus Christ" are all in the accusative singular and are the object of know.

Since THEE indicates one person, the pronouns THOU and WHOM refer to both the one true who is also Jesus Christ.

Thus Jesus Christ is actually asserting: he is the one true God.

And know here is the same verb as in Mt 1:25, where Joseph is said not to know Mary (in a conjoining way). So here to know means conjoining with Jesus (see Rom 6:5 on this), the bride must marry the groom. But I digress.

But do note the verb in 1 Jn 5:13 is a different verb meaning knowledge from seeing rather than knowledge from intimacy.


God shows a duality from his metaphors of Lightness and Darkness.

Breakdown study of Matt 6:22-24 Compare Greek to Sinaiticus

22 ο λυχνοϲ του ϲωματοϲ εϲτιν ο οφθαλμοϲ εαν η ο οφθαλμοϲ ϲου απλουϲ ολον το ϲωμα ϲου φωτινον εϲτε

Greek Letter to English Letter Morphology

22 o lumnoϲ tou ϲpmatoϲ eϲtin o oktalmoϲ ean h o oktalmoϲ ϲou aplouϲ olon to ϲpma ϲou kptinon eϲte

Word Calibration

22 the . luminous . of the . of body . tis . the . vision . if . is . the . vision . of you . single . whole . the . body . of you . photonic . will be(LORD)

Breakdown study of Matt 6:22-24 Compare Greek to Sinaiticus

23 εαν δε η ο οφθαλμοϲ ϲου πονηροϲ ολον το ϲωμα ϲου ϲκοτινον εϲται · ει ουν το φωϲ το εν ϲοι ϲκοτοϲ εϲτιν το ϲκοτοϲ ποϲον

Greek Letter to English Letter Morphology

23 ean de h o oktalmoϲ ϲou ponhroϲ olon to ϲpma ϲou ϲcotinon eϲtai · ei oun to kpϲ to en ϲoi ϲcotoϲ eϲtin to ϲcotoϲ poϲon

Word Calibration

23 if . but . is . the . vision . of you . sly . whole . the . body . of you . gloomy . will be(LORD) ... if . therefore . the . light . the . in . you . gloom . tis . gloom . much?

Breakdown study of Matt 6:22-24 Compare Greek to Sinaiticus 24 ουδειϲ δυναται δυϲι κυριοιϲ δουλευειν ει γαρ τον ενα μιϲηϲι και τον ετερον αγαπηϲι ˙ η ενοϲ ανθεξετε και του ετερου καταφρονηϲει ου δυναϲθε θω δουλευειν και μαμωνα

Greek Letter to English Letter Morphology

24 oudeiϲ dunatai duϲi curioiϲ douleuein ei gar ton ena miϲhϲi cai ton eteron agaphϲi ˙ h enoϲ antexete cai tou eterou catakronhϲei ou dunaϲte tp douleuein cai mampna

Word Calibration

24 not one . he able for himself . to duo(both) . to lords . to serve . if . indeed . the . one . he will hate . and . the . other . he will love ... or . one . he will hold onto . and . the . other . he will be thinking down . not . able . to God . to serve . and . to trust

Matt 6:22-24 Decoded Version Sinaiticus to English

The vibes of one's body reflects the focus, if the focus is optimistic the whole body will be radiant with God's light. 23 But if the focus is pessimistic the whole body will be gloomy. Therefore if the light in you gloomy this is very gloomy. 24 No one has the ability to serve both Lord's for indeed the pessimist will hate and the optimist will love, or the optimist God will hold onto and the pessimist will be cut down not able to serve and trust God."

Therefore one's either "In God's Light" or "Not in God's Light".

John 3:19-21 NASB

This is the judgment, that the Light has come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the Light, for their deeds were evil. 20 For everyone who does evil hates the Light, and does not come to the Light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. 21 But he who practices the truth comes to the Light, so that his deeds may be manifested as having been wrought in God.

Here we can see where the verdict comes in. The people Love feeling gloomy and pessimistic for fear that their errors will get exposed. And it's the optimists that realize that what's been done has been done by God.

It's specific for it shows that the errors have been "been wrought in God".

"I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the Lord do all these things." - Isaiah 45:7 KJV

The initial problem caused by eating the fruits in the garden

"for God will know, for in the day you eat from our speech and we will open his eyes and was of you like God, he will know my function and error." - (Genesis 3:5 Decoded)

This he means Adam will know.

He reinforces this concept with the teachings about his face.

God originally hid his face and this caused many to die. He then decided to stop hiding his face while at the same time pouring out his Spirit. Then Paul explains we see the light of the knowledge of God's glory in the face of Jesus Christ.

Therefore we have two classifications

  • Seeing God's face = Life / Light
  • Not Seeing God's face = Death / Gloomy

Those Truly in Christ Have his Face

And all that sat in the council, looking stedfastly on him, saw his face as it had been the face of an angel. (Acts 6:15 KJV)

Even from times of Old the people could not bear to look at Moses' face therefore he wore a veil. Also the promise in Revelations that we will see his face.

God also shows the Duality in his metaphors of the Trees.

As John the Baptist stated (and he was given the Holy Spirit as well)
Every tree that does not produce good fruit is chopped down and thrown into the fire.

The Flesh of the Law and the fruits of the Spirit.

That these forces oppose each other. The flesh Death and the Spirit Life.

Let us not forget the BOLD statement from John.

"Whosoever abideth in him sinneth not: whosoever sinneth hath not seen him, neither known him." - (1 John 3:6 KJV)


This truth: Knowing the only true God, and Jesus Christ, who he has sent is absolutely necessary for eternal life.

  • (-1) because your comments are too loosely connected to the source text.
    – user10231
    Commented Dec 10, 2016 at 21:18
  • @WoundedEgo Where can it start connecting more to the source text?
    – Decrypted
    Commented Dec 14, 2016 at 4:47
  • The "vibes of one focus"? Where did you get that one?
    – user10231
    Commented Dec 14, 2016 at 12:02
  • @WoundedEgo Is satisfactory?
    – Decrypted
    Commented Dec 14, 2016 at 12:44
  • D., translation from one language to another cannot be successfully accomplished using the method you are employing. It is necessary to actually learn the language or at least employ the lexicons available to learn from those who have taken the time and effort to do so. You might get something right from time to time but you will certainly go off into the weeds more often than not, and that is what seems to be happening. Please refrain from trying to "translate" without the benefit of knowledge of the source or skill with the lexicons. Thanks.
    – user10231
    Commented Dec 14, 2016 at 12:49

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