8

John 11:26 (version-A)
and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?

The translation of this verse in my native language, in English will be like this :

John 11:26 (version-B)
and whoever lives by believing in me will not die forever. Do you believe this?

The "problem" with the translation in my native language, the sentence in the verse version-B can mean :
X. They do die (physically), but will not die forever
Y. Literally, they will never die (physically) ---> ignoring the word "physically" makes the same with version-A .

My conclusion of point-X,
Maybe "will not die forever" means "because will be resurrected with glorified body". Besides the event in the verse is about resurrecting Lazarus, so maybe this event is an example of "will not die forever".

My conclusion of point-Y,
Since I know there is a Christian who already physically died - then "will never die" applied only to a Christian who live in a "rapture" time. Literally they will never die (1 Cor 15:52).

I feel strange on my own conclusion of point-Y. To me it leads to a question "really ? Jesus is talking about people who live in rapture time ?".

But to push point-Y means that all of His believers will never die physically also strange, since there are Christians who already died physically.

So, if the verse read is in my native language, (to me) point-X is more appropriate. Now the question is, what does it mean "will never die" in the verse of version-A ?


For reference (although maybe it's useless as this site is in English), here is the link to John 11:26 in my native language.

migrated from christianity.stackexchange.com May 3 '18 at 0:42

This question came from our site for committed Christians, experts in Christianity and those interested in learning more.

  • Karma, this is a great question, but I know that there will be different insight depending on which denomination you ask. Could you select a specific denomination by adding the appropriate tag to your question? – JBH May 2 '18 at 18:58
  • @JBH But What if he wants to hear different insight? Because When I ask a question on here I want to hear different insight – diego b May 3 '18 at 3:06
  • 1
    Hi, karma. No, you do not need to specify any denominational status in order to ask the question. I have up-voted your question as I think it is a very sensible and interesting one. Welcome to BH, if you have not been here before. Just out of interest, what is your native language ? – Nigel J May 3 '18 at 11:28
  • 1
    @NigelJ, thank you for your comment, advice and upvote. My native language is Indonesian. – karma May 3 '18 at 16:12
  • 1
    @karma, Yes, the many versions are helpful, but in this case you have to consider the Greek to really understand it. The Indonesian version was helpful because at least it suggested something was missing from the others. There is a Greek word in the text meaning "age" (a long period of time), which is often interpreted as representing "forever". I hope you get a clear answer as to possible meanings of the Greek sentence in context. – disciple May 4 '18 at 20:18
2

"Will never" and "will not ... forever" represent four Greek words:

οὐ μὴ εἰς τὸν αἰῶνα

οὐ μὴ is a double negative and the phrase εἰς τὸν αἰῶνα literally means something like "unto the ages". (εἰς τὸν αἰῶνα is used frequently in Greek Orthodox prayers and is translated as "unto the ages" or "unto the ages of ages" in English versions. We might also say "forever and ever".) The entire phrase - εἰς τὸν αἰῶνα with the negative - essentially means "never". The verb in the verse - ἀποθάνῃ - is a subjunctive form of ἀποθνῄσκω ("die").

The understanding here is that believers would never die spiritually, and even bodily they would not suffer death permanently - per Jesus' reference to His being the Resurrection (v.25). The notion of spiritual immortality is also conveyed in verse 25:

He that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live

Theophylact, a Greek, explains the verse:

He that believeth in Me, though he were dead physically, yet shall he live. Therefore, be not troubled: though your brother has died, yet shall he live. And not only your brother: whosoever liveth and believeth in Me shall never die spiritually. If I have the power to easily save your brother from what is less terrible - spiritual death - surely I can easily save your brother from what is less terrible - physical death."

The Lord asks Martha if she believes this. She hears Him speak, but is so dazed by grief that she gives an answer that does not correspond to His question. Jesus asked if she believed that He was the resurrection and the life, and that whosoever believeth in Him would never die spiritually or bodily. Indeed, believers do not die, because of their hope of resurrection.*


* The Explanation of the Gospel of John (tr. from Greek; Chrysostom Press, 2007), p.181

2

Good question! The context of this verse is the impending resurrection of Lazarus:

11:23 יהושע said to her, “Your brother shall rise again.”

11:24 Martha said to Him, “I know that he shall rise again in the resurrection at the last day.” - ISR version

However, Martha believes Jesus is referring to the resurrection "on the last day." We wonder if she is referring to the resurrection that is commonly called the 1st resurrection, the resurrection of the Just, which occurs with the return of Jesus, and is the kingdom of heaven on earth that lasts for 1000 years (Rev. 20:6). Or, is she referring to the 2nd resurrection, which could more literally be called 'the last day' because it comes and the 'end' of time counted chronologically (1000 years, etc.). I favor the latter interpretation. If I'm right, Jesus is saying, in essence, 'you're looking at the most distant resurrection, but I can resurrect your brother here and now':

John 11:25 (ISR) יהושע said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he dies, he shall live.

11:26 “And everyone that is living and believing in Me shall never die at all. Do you believe this?”

In verse 26, the words translated 'at all' are these words in Greek:

εἰς τὸν αἰῶνα (eis ton aiona) 'in the age' or 'in eternity.'

If we translate this, "shall never die in the age" we have a more complex piece of info that just "at all." Jesus then would be teaching Martha about the 1st or 2nd resurrection and saying, "those who believe and live in me will not die at the 2nd resurrection." They will not die in eternity.

The teaching then, encompasses two things: 1. Jesus can resurrect the dead in the here and now. 2. Jesus will resurrect those who live and believe in him in the kingdom age, and they will never die again.

"Shall never die at all" should not be interpreted literally, but using the grammar and context we get "shall never die in eternity."

1

Somewhere along the line some preacher or teacher started saying that "death", in scripture, means "separation". I've never seen any scripture to support that. The teaching probably started to accommodate the fact that the scriptures teach that Adam's sin led to death while preachers wanted to say that people "go to Hell" and "eternal conscious torment".

In the scriptures the term "dead" sometimes is used the way the secular world uses it:

Joh_11:14  Then said Jesus unto them plainly, Lazarus is dead.

However, sometimes the scriptures are careful to make a distinction between "dead" and "sleeping":

Mat_9:24  He said unto them, Give place: for the maid is not dead, but sleepeth. And they laughed him to scorn.

Mar_5:39  And when he was come in, he saith unto them, Why make ye this ado, and weep? the damsel is not dead, but sleepeth.

Luk_8:52  And all wept, and bewailed her: but he said, Weep not; she is not dead, but sleepeth.

Dan_12:2  And many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt.

Joh_11:11  These things said he: and after that he saith unto them, Our friend Lazarus sleepeth; but I go, that I may awake him out of sleep.

1Th_4:14  For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him.

In those situations "dead" refers to "extinction" - death with no hope of resurrection while "asleep" refers to those who are currently dead but will in the future live again.

So "will never die" means "will never be extinct", even if needs be they are temporarily "dead".

1

The word 'forever' does not occur in the Greek text of the verse in question. Translations into various languages are better if they stick to the actual Greek words used, so version 'A' is the better one - '...whoever lives by believing in me will never die...'

Jesus often made astonishing statements that stopped people in their tracks. He did that deliberately. This is one of them.

What could he possibly have meant? Martha's brother, Lazarus, HAD died despite having faith in Jesus. He was a beloved friend of Jesus, who wept bitterly at news of his friend's death (John 11:35). The sense of that, in the gospel account, is that Jesus was really angry at the death of Lazarus. However, don't forget that Jesus said "This sickness will not end in death. No, it is for God's glory so that God's Son may be glorified through it." (John 11:4) Jesus was not referring to any future 'rapture'. He knew that God would be glorified within the day, and that he would be the means of a miracle of grace that would result in many people putting faith in him as the Son of God (John 11:42-45). That, in turn, would lead to his enemies acting to get him killed (John 11:46-53), which was the whole point of his mission to earth - to die sacrificially. This event has nothing to do with any 'rapture' in the distant future.

Martha believed in the day of judgement and resurrection, when the departed spirits of the dead would be clothed in resurrection bodies to receive their eternal reward or punishment. The rabbinical schools of Shammai and Hillel back then taught this, and when Jesus recorded his warning about hell in Luke chapter 16 he agreed with that belief which has, as one bases, Ecclesiastes chapter 12 - at death the spirit returns to God who gave it, and the person has to account for how they lived in the flesh. This means that Jesus, Martha, and many other Jews (though not the Sadducees) knew that physical death only meant the death of the body, and not of the eternal part that lives on after death.

This is where your 'Point Y' collapses, because the New Testament states that physical death is the 'wage' all sinners receive for their sin. "For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord." (Romans 6:23) We have all built up a body of sinful works throughout our lives, and we will be paid by God for that, with death. Physical death must come to all sinners. The grave must claim them. That is why although Jesus gave himself over to death despite never having sinned, the grave could not claim him but had to give him up. Jesus' resurrection on the third day was proof that he was, truly, the Son of God (Romans 1:1-4).

But here is the miracle of grace Jesus enables: those who have faith in Him as the Son of God will never die, even though their physical bodies die. Their spirit lives on, returning to God, and then receiving a resurrection body on the day of judgement, but because they have passed over from judgement to life because of believing in Jesus, they will live forever in glory. That is why Jesus said just before the death of Lazarus that his sheep listen to his voice "and I give them eternal life and they shall never perish. No-one can snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no-one can snatch them out of my Father's hand. I and my Father are one." (John 10:27-30)

This is what "will never die" in version 'A' means. Despite the body having to die, physically, the person remains alive, in Christ, and will never die spiritually, because they have faith in Jesus Christ being the Son of God who died for their sins.

http://www.ccel.org/search/fulltext/Josephus%27%20Discourse%20to%20the%20Greeks%20Concerning%20Hades][1]

Josephus' Discourse to the Greeks Concerning Hades

  • Anne, I'm sorry, a bit out of topic ... you wrote : "Physical death must come to all sinners". So, do you mean 1 Cor 15:51-52 is not talking that some sinners in the future time will not experienced physical death ? Or do you mean in that your sentence above followed with "except some sinners in the future time" ? Please CMIIW. – karma May 4 '18 at 19:59
  • 1
    Fair point karma. Certainly there will be a time in the future when some believers alive at the time of Christ's return to earth will not experience death as is normally the case, yet the transformation of their physical bodies might still 'count' as death - I'm not sure about such technicalities. I just didn't want to deviate from the question to the degree of writing about that exception to the rule! Your questions to me deserve being asked separately on here. (Sorry, I don't know what CMIIW means.) – Anne May 5 '18 at 6:29
  • "The word 'forever' does not occur". Strictly speaking this is true, but the word "aiōna" meaning age (a very long period of time), which is in the text, is often interpreted as implying "forever". According to biblehub.com/text/john/11-26.htm aiōna is present in both the Westcott-Hort text and the majority text. – disciple May 5 '18 at 12:41
  • @Anne I fixed your second link but was not clear about what your first one should be. – Nigel J May 11 '18 at 16:18
  • @Nigel The first one was just a general page for finding books (such as ones about Josephus) using the ccel.org search engine. I shall remove it. I have also responded to your comment on my answer about death, and Christ's righteousness, thanks. – Anne May 16 '18 at 10:39
0

There are two issues in this question that are in many respects not entirely related.

The first is philosophical one, to what extent does ones exegesis enter into the translation process? While no translation of the Bible can avoid adding exegesis into the process of translation, there are methods that attempt to minimize the influence of exegesis in the translation itself. Those methods all emphasize a literal translation from the source language into the receptor language. KJV, NASB, and ESV are all English translations that attempted to be as literal as possible (while they do differ in the text they are using as the basis for the translation. NIV is an example of a work in which the meaning of the text as understood by the translators explicitly entered into the translation through a concept they called dynamic equivalence. Anyone who would like to read an excellent article on this, here is a link:

DYNAMIC EQUIVALENCE:A METHOD OF TRANSLATION OR A SYSTEM OF HERMENEUTICS? By Robert Thomas https://www.tms.edu/m/tmsj1g.pdf

The second issue is what did Jesus mean in this context when he said "And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die" (KJV). As in all cases the context determines the meaning of any phrase. The circumstances here is the physical death of Lazarus and the responses of his two sisters when Jesus finally arrived on the scene. Mary asked that Lazarus be raised at that moment and Martha knew he would be raised on the last day when believers would be resurrected (V. 24). I think Jesus is responding to Martha's statement and her comments on the idea of resurrection on the last day, He is emphasizing that it is belief in Him that will be the standard by which people are raised to eternal life and that following that resurrection they will live forever. Remember that John gives the specific reason he wrote his gospel:

John 20:31 -- 31 But these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name.

From the context, the meaning of John 11:26 is not about death prior to the time of resurrection but of death after the resurrection and even more importantly, what will be the basis upon which a person will be raised to eternal life -- belief that Jesus is the resurrection and the life.

I would even argue that those who were dead in verse 25 are not those who were spiritually dead, that is argued and detailed in other places in the New Testament, just not here. The context is of the physical death of Lazarus and when he would be raised from the dead. The issue He addressed is when people who have physically died will be raised, as well as the previously stated basis of their resurrection.

0

I took this to mean "die more than just physically".*

*Or perhaps "die completely".

Some might think it means "die spiritually".

A similar idea is found in this phrase: "separated from the life of God*" in Ephesians 4:18, as a certain meaning of the word "dead" or type of "death". In Deuteronomy it says that YHWH/elohiym is one's "life" (Deut. 30:20). The Son of Man is recorded as saying "I am... the life" (Jn. 14:6). The Apostle Paul wrote "Christ, [who is] our life" (Col. 3:4). Romans 8:10 says "the 'spirit' [is] life."

*Greek: τοῦ θεοῦ. "The theou/theos" (the English word "The" followed by the Greek word "theou") is often how the New Testament translates the Hebrew plural word "elohiym"/elohim.

There is also the phrase "second death" mentioned in several places in Revelation (Revelation 2:11; Revelation 20:6, 14; Revelation 21:8).

But, to me, the idea that it means "die more than just physically" is a meaning that seems like a simple interpretation that applies to the passage. :)

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.