According to John 3:34 how are we to understand μέτρου when describing Gods gift of spirit?

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    This is an interesting question in that it suggests that PNEUMA is a commodity of sorts, doesn't it? I mean, it suggests that more is better which might make some unsettled. +1 – Ruminator Feb 19 '19 at 10:50
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    Context is key. The discussion in John. 3:34 was the unlimited or fullness of the Spirit given to Christ, the Son of God. "for God giveth not the Spirit by measure unto him." As opposed to the measure or portion poured out to the newly baptized on the day of Pentecost in Acts c. 2, Christ received the fullness of the Spirit. – Gina Feb 19 '19 at 14:27
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    @Ruminator - good comment - but the whole thrust of the comment is that the Spirit is given without measure. – user25930 Feb 19 '19 at 19:52
  • So, are you saying that we are either mature, or immature? That there is nothing in between? No spiritual childhood and/or teenage years? No desert walk, or fight to conquer our spiritual promised land? – Constantthin Feb 19 '19 at 22:36
  • Or, are you saying that all our growing is to be equated with a potter's making of a clay vessel. That the cup needs to be shaped and dried before the Spirit can be poured in? – Constantthin Feb 20 '19 at 8:55

Short Answer

The short answer is that I read this passage as saying that God does not "dole out" his wisdom to him but rather has deposited within him ALL of his treasures of wisdom and knowledge.

Who is the subject and who is the object?

The question is related to the "sense" (IE: of the meaning, the nuance) of "οὐ γὰρ ἐκ μέτρου" in John 3:34:

ΚΑΤΑ ΙΩΑΝΝΗΝ 3:34 SBL Greek New Testament (SBLGNT) 34 ὃν γὰρ ἀπέστειλεν ὁ θεὸς τὰ ῥήματα τοῦ θεοῦ λαλεῖ, οὐ γὰρ ἐκ μέτρου [a]δίδωσιν τὸ πνεῦμα.

Footnotes: ΚΑΤΑ ΙΩΑΝΝΗΝ 3:34 δίδωσιν WH NIV ] + ὁ θεὸς Treg RP SBL Greek New Testament (SBLGNT) Scripture quotations marked SBLGNT are from the The Greek New Testament: SBL Edition. Copyright © 2010 by Society of Biblical Literature and Logos Bible Software

According to the footnote some versions have ὁ θεὸς in the text indicating that it is God that does not give the spirit, not Jesus. This indicates to me that either:

  • "God does not give" was original but "God" was dropped somewhere along the line
  • Or, "he does not give" was original but "God" was added to make it clearer that it is God that does not give

In addition the words "to him" do not appear in the Greek so it is ambiguous again if it is God who gives to Christ or Christ who gives to those who believe.

However, by understanding the import of the passage it becomes clear that it is God [IE: God is the subject] who does not give "the Spirit" out of a measuring device to Christ.

The meaning of the phrase

BDAG comments on this passage:

...οὐκ ἐκ μέτρου J 3:34, an expr. not found elsewh. in the Gk. language, must mean in its context not from a measure, without (using a) measure (the opp. is ἐν μέτρῳ Ezk 4:11, 16; Jdth 7:21)

Arndt, W., Danker, F. W., Bauer, W., & Gingrich, F. W. (2000). A Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament and other early Christian literature (3rd ed., p. 644). Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

It literally says, basically "out of a measuring cup". Since this construct is not seen elsewhere it is not possible to say from the literature whether or not this would have been a recognized idiomatic usage, or if it might mean "some of". However, in the context, it is to me an obvious metaphor for "not doling". In other words, John is testifying that what Jesus says are God's words because God doesn't just dole information out to him on an as-needed basis. Rather, God has deposited within Christ all of the treasures of his wisdom and knowledge. In fact, he not only deposited them there but he concealed them in there so that the only way one can gain these treasures is through Christ:

Col 2:2-3 KJV - 2 That their hearts might be comforted, being knit together in love, and unto all riches of the full assurance of understanding, to the acknowledgement of the mystery of God, and of the Father, and of Christ; 3 In whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.

Col 1:19 KJV - 19 For it pleased the Father that in him should all fulness dwell;

The aspect of "give"

It is very tempting to overlook the significance of the present aspect of "give". Is it:

  • present: "God currently doesn't give the spirit from a cup..."
  • gnomic: "God never gives the spirit from a cup..."
  • continuous: "God does not continuously give the spirit from a cup..."

Notice that it does not say that "God did not give him the Spirit out of a cup" but that he "does not" (now, and ongoing) do so.

Examples of what I mean are:

  • Fort Knox vs an ATM
  • A well "springing up" from inside you vs a well in the ground where you have to draw it over and over

IE: Jesus had become God's "Fort Knox", and did not make him receive his "water" from a well in the ground.


John is saying that whenever Jesus speaks it is God's words because God has embodied in Jesus all the treasures of his wisdom and knowledge. When Jesus needs to deal with a situation he doesn't go ask his Father because his Father (God) has already infused him with a spirit of wisdom and knowledge and thus all of the treasures. If you want to know anything about God, ask Jesus because he has all the answers and no one else does (except of course God who gave him the knowledge).


The passage is extremely important because it specifically describes the relationship between God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit:

  • God gives the spirit
  • the spirit gives Jesus God's treasures of wisdom
  • so when Jesus speaks it is for all intents and purposes the same as God speaking because Jesus only speaks what he has learned from listening to God:

Jhn 15:15 NIV - 15 I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master's business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.

Hence his sheep recognize his Father's "voice".

Jesus is God's means of communication (John 1, Hebrews 1:1-3).

Update 2

Just to be clear, I don't intend to suggest that God's brain and Jesus' brain are identical. God knows things that he has NOT deposited with Christ. As an example:

Mar 13:32 KJV - 32 But of that day and that hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels which are in heaven, neither the Son, but the Father.

But everything that the believer needs to know is revealed to Christ and through Christ. Obviously, Jesus did not even know if his return was to be in the summer or winter since he encourages prayer that it NOT be in winter.

We also have the example of the Revelation that God gave to Jesus so that he would give it the saints. Perhaps we are to understand that in that Revelation the details of the time and manner of his arrival were given.

But that Jesus is limited in what he says to only that which his God and Father has taught him:

John 8:28 KJV - 28 Then said Jesus unto them, When ye have lifted up the Son of man, then shall ye know that I am he, and that I do nothing of myself; but as my Father hath taught me, I speak these things.

In this way he provides a good example of what he expects of the believer:

Num 24:13 KJV - 13 If Balak would give me his house full of silver and gold, I cannot go beyond the commandment of the LORD, to do either good or bad of mine own mind; but what the LORD saith, that will I speak?

Luk 10:26 KJV - 26 He said unto him, What is written in the law? how readest thou?

Isa 8:20 KJV - 20 To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them.

I should also point out that I read "he did not give Jesus the spirit by measure" is referring by implication to wisdom. IE: That to give one "the spirit" implies, I think that he is to be understood to be imparting revelation because the spirit is the "organ" and/or "medium" by which communication is made (IE: "breath").

  • Context seems to be important in this usage. Considering the comment in Jo 3;8, although not in context as to time, could vs 34 shed light on or perhaps clarify vs8? ps, not sure if this is within the scope of this site, if not, please advise. ty – Anthony Carl Martin Edd Feb 20 '19 at 18:14
  • It appears to be a visual allusion to Ecclesiastes 11:5!: Ecc 11:5 KJV - 5 As thou knowest not what is the way of the spirit, nor how the bones do grow in the womb of her that is with child: even so thou knowest not the works of God who maketh all. – Ruminator Feb 20 '19 at 18:42

"metron" (BDAG gives "the result of measuring", ie, measure) in John 3:34 is modified by the negative "ou". Because this word here is genitive, the literal meaning is "not by measure", that is, not limited, as much as needed, without limit.

Thus, the sense of the phrase means that God gives the Spirit without limit, that is, not measured (or metered) out. Thus we have:

  • NIV: for God gives the Spirit without limit.
  • ESV: God, for he gives the Spirit without measure.
  • NASB: God; for He gives the Spirit without measure.
  • CSB: since he gives the Spirit without measure.
  • ISV: because God does not give the Spirit in limited measure to him.
  • KJV2000: for he giveth not the Spirit by measure.
  • YLT: for not by measure doth God give the Spirit;

It is interesting that other passages also discuss metering out the Spirit in some sense such as:

  • 2 Kings 2:9 where Elisha requests a double portion of the spirit of Elijah
  • 1 Cor 12:4 discusses the Spirit dividing to every man severally as He will

Thus, the sense in John 3:34 is the Spirit arriving with fullness. This is contradistinction to John 7:39 about the Spirit not yet being [fully] given and the promise in John 16:13 about the Spirit teaching about Jesus. Compare Act 1:2, 4, 8, and Acts :1-4 for the fulfilment of Jesus prophecy about the giving of the Spirit without limit/measure.

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