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  1. If it was not, what the possible significance can be deduced?

  2. Does ἄμπελος refer the vine tree or the vinyard where vine tree is planted as some commentator suggests?

Text:John 15:1 (ESV) “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser.

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Text: John 15:1 (ESV) “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser.

In the OT the house of Israel is called the "the vineyard of the Lord"

Isaiah 51:7 KJV

7 For the vineyard of the Lord of hosts is the house of Israel, and the men of Judah his pleasant plant: and he looked for judgment, but behold oppression; for righteousness, but behold a cry.

At Jeremiah 2:21 God refers to the unfaithful nation of Israel as "the degenerate plant of a strange vine".

Jeremiah 2:21 (KJV)

21 Yet I had planted thee a noble vine, wholly a right seed: how then art thou turned into the degenerate plant of a strange vine unto me?

Unlike the degenerate unfaithful nation of Israel, Jesus is the "true vine" and his Father is the vinedresser. Jesus then likens his faithful disciples as the branches and implores them to remain in union with him, in order to be fruitful and productive.

John 15:5 NASB “I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing.

The branches of a literal vine need to remain attached to the vine in order to remain alive and thus produce fruit, likewise, the followers of Christ need to remain in union with Christ in order to produce spiritual fruitage.

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  • I have questioned to other two Answers and that is: in effect, you too are saying, If my understanding is correct, in the context of one Parable, vine=Israel & vine=Jesus, if so, seem it is inconsistent, especially, in consideration of words in V-5 -9,: "I am the vine"; abides in me...etc. Jesus is explicitly identifying Himself as the true vine. If my misunderstood you, its my bad.
    – Sam
    Jun 17 '20 at 1:26
  • Sam ; God likened literal Israel to a vine (Psalm 80:8-15 and Isaiah 5:2,7). Similarly Jesus used a metaphor: "I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser." (John 15:1 NASB" Jun 17 '20 at 18:55
  • Yes, in the Scripture Israel likend to the vine, but that does not apply to all "vine" contexts, especially this one. Your answer ends referring vine to Christ, but also to "Israel" by your quote of Is 51:7 & Jer 2:21, which seems to be an inconsistency.
    – Sam
    Jun 17 '20 at 19:22
  • The vine always refers to Israel, but the true Israel - "she/he who sees God" - is also the bride, which is joined with Christ and is his body, thus Christ is the true vine as well and as he is the source of life for the body, so he is the true vine that gives life to the branches. A similar analogy holds for the New Jerusalem, e.g. the "true" Jerusalem, which comes down from Heaven prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. All these are the same metaphors.
    – Robert
    Jun 26 at 4:51
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Several things all coalesce in this first sentence in John 15, namely:

  1. Jesus is "full of grace and truth" (John 1:18). This is one of the matters that John wishes to establish and he does this by calling Jesus, eg, Jesus was the true light (John 1:9), the true glory (John 1:14), the true way of life (John 1:17), the true bread from heaven (John 6:32, 33, 55), true food (John 6:55), true witness (John 8:14, 16), the true and living way (John 14:6), etc. Thus, Jesus emphasised that He was the real source of truth and thus the source of life of the true vine, Israel as the branches of that vine.
  2. The sermon preached in John 15 & 16 was delivered by Jesus to the disciples while walking on the evening of His Gethsemane experience the night before the crucifixion. It is entirely probable that they walked past a vineyard on their way from Jerusalem to the mount of olives.
  3. The figure or metaphor of Israel being represented by a vine (ἄμπελος) occurs several times in the Old Testament, Ps 80:8, Isa 5:3-7, Jer 2:21, Eze 19:10, etc. Therefore, Jesus took this opportunity to explain that He was the fulfilment of all the symbols and prophecies of the OT and this was yet another example of that. Israel is the vine that grows from Jesus who is its true source of nourishment. That is, there could be no Israel without Christ.

He also adds something extra in V5-8; He takes the opportunity to emphasise that we are completely dependant upon Jesus for all good things, especially life in our Chrsitian walk:

I am the vine and you are the branches. The one who remains in Me, and I in him, will bear much fruit. For apart from Me you can do nothing. If anyone does not remain in Me, he is like a branch that is thrown away and withers. Such branches are gathered up, thrown into the fire, and burned. If you remain in Me and My words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. This is to My Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, proving yourselves to be My disciples.

In summary, while joined to Christ we can accomplish great things for Him and by Him; disconnected from Christ we will be cut off and thrown into the fire - we are lost.

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  • My question was more on His use of the adj. "true" describing the "vine", was He contrasting? And, you seem to agree -in #3- with the view - "Vine" refers to "Israel" than Jesus Himself?
    – Sam
    Jun 15 '20 at 21:48
  • Answer updated to help
    – Dottard
    Jun 15 '20 at 22:24
  • In your answer (1) ".. Israel as the branches of that vine" & (3)...Israel being represented by a vine (ἄμπελος)"-in effect, here, you are saying the "vine" represents the "Israel," and at the same time your comment on v 5-8 says- "we ( christians?) are completely dependant upon "Jesus" for all good things". If my understanding is correct, your answer indicates, in the context of one Parable, vine=Israel & vine=Jesus, seem it is inconsistent, especially, in consideration of words in V-5 -9,: "I am the vine"; abides in me...etc. Jesus is explicitly identifying Himself as the true vine.
    – Sam
    Jun 17 '20 at 1:18
  • @Sam - That is not what I said - Jesus used the well known figure of the vine to say that He was the true vine and we (as spiritual Israel) are the branches - completely dependant upon Him.
    – Dottard
    Jun 17 '20 at 2:01
  • It's my bad, if I misunderstood the last part of :"Thus, Jesus emphasised that He was the real source of truth and thus the source of life of the true vine, "Israel as the branches of that vine."
    – Sam
    Jun 17 '20 at 3:49
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Trench has noteworthy remarks on ἀληθής and ἀληθινός in his Synonyms of the New Testament.1 First, he notes that the Latin of the Vulgate often aids in distinguishing between ἀληθής and ἀληθινός by translating them by the Latin words verax and verus, respectively.

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Footnotes

        1 Trench, § VIII, p. 25–26

He further notes that, over time, English has failed to distinguish between the two, eventually translating both by the adjective “true.”

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As the Oxford English Dictionary notes, on its entry for “very,” as an adjective it was “Very common from c1300 to c1600; now rare except as an echo of Biblical usage.”

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Thayer notes that certain earlier English translations (e.g., Wycliffe’s) did distinguish the Greek words by translating them into English as “true” and “very,” respectively.

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John 15, Wycliffe’s New Testament

As both Trench and C. Stroud note, it is retained and translated appropriately in the Nicene Creed.

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Trench notes, also, that the adjective ἀληθινός has in it the suffix -ινος which “expresses the material out of which anything is made.”2

Footnotes

        2 Using the Perseus search function, searching for words ending in “inos,” and and then searching the results for the phrase “made of,” one may observe the multitudes of adjectives used in this sense. Some examples include ξύλινος (from ξύλον), “made of wood; wooden”; γήινος (from γῆ), “made of earth; earthen”; κρίθινος (from κριθή), “made of barley”; λίθινος (from λίθος), “made of stone”; etc.

He then cites Karl Friedrich August Kahnis in his Die Lehre vom Abendmahle3 whom he says well explains the difference between ἀληθής and ἀληθινός.

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ἀληθής and ἀληθινός differ thus, by the fact that the former word (ἀληθής) excludes the untrue and unreal, [while] the latter [word] (ἀληθινός) does not [exclude] the corresponding [untrue and unreal] of its idea. The measure of ἀληθής is the reality; the measure of ἀληθινός [is] the idea. The idea of the object corresponds with ἀληθής, [while] the object of the idea [corresponds] with ἀληθινός.

Footnotes

        3 Kahnis, p. 119

Trench provides a couple examples to illustrate the point. Xenophon4 said of Cyrus that he commanded «στρατεύματι ἀληθινῷ», “a very army” or “an army indeed.” Trench says that Xenophon “would not have altogether refused this name of ‘army’ to inferior hosts.” Plato5 referred to the sea beyond the pillars of Hercules (straits of Gibraltar) as «τὸν ἀληθινὸν ἐκεῖνον πόντον», “that very sea.”

Footnotes

        4 Xenophon, Anabasis, 1.9.17
        5 Plato, Timaeus, 25a

Trench further remarked,

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On the word ἀληθινός, Origen commented that something is said to be ἀληθινός in distinction to the shadow (σκιά), figure/type (τύπος), and likeness/semblance (εἰκών).6

Footnotes

        6 Origen, p. 120

Very Light

In the Old Testament, the Law of Moses was a light.7 In the New Testament, John the Baptist was a light,8 as well as the disciples of the Lord.9 The Lord Jesus Christ is the very light because he illuminates every one who comes into the world,10 shining in the darkness which cannot overcome him,11 whereas other light only shines so bright, so far, for so long.

Footnotes

        7 Pro. 6:23
        8 John 5:35
        9 Matt. 5:14–16
        10 John 1:9
        11 John 1:5

Very Bread

In the Old Testament, God gave the Israelites manna from heaven,12 “bread of the nobles,”13 sustaining the Israelites while they wandered in the wilderness.

The Lord Jesus Christ is very bread because those who eat of him shall never hunger,14 and in fact, never die,15 whereas those who eat other bread will hunger again.

Footnotes

        12 Psa. 78:24; Exo. 16:25
        13 Psa. 78:25: לֶחֶם אַבִּירִים (lechem abbirim), which Origen translated as ἄρτον ἀγγέλων, Aquila and Theodotion as ἄρτον δυναστῶν, and Symmachus as ἄρτον μεγάλων (Field, Vol. 2, p. 225).
        14 John 6:35
        15 John 6:50

Very Wine

In the Old Testament, the nation of Israel was a vine planted by God Himself.16 But, because of unfruitfulness, that vine was burned with fire and cut down.17 The Lord Jesus Christ is the very vine because he is very Israel,18 and the branches of the very vine are those “in Christ” who are “fruitful in every good work.”19

If the very vine is Jesus Christ, then the very vine is also Christ’s body, the Church. To be precise, the members of Christ’s body are the branches of the vine. While there are fruitful branches, there are also unfruitful branches that the Father prunes from the vine.20 These unfruitful branches are not unbelievers, for they would never be in the very vine to begin with. Rather, they are believers who are lukewarm,21 or as Meyer calls them, Maulchristen (“mouth Christians”)22—those Christians who profess to be Christian but their works betray them,23 for Christ said, “Every tree is known by its fruit.”24 Even the apostle Paul warned Christians not to be high-minded, but fear, lest God breaks them off of the olive tree.25

Footnotes

        16 Psa. 80:8 cf. Lev. 22:33
        17 Psa. 80:16 cf. Jer. 2:21
        18 Isa. 49:3; Matt. 2:15 cf. Hos. 11:1
        19 Col. 1:10 cf. Luke 8:15; Rom. 7:4
        20 John 15:2
        21 Rev. 3:16
        22 Meyer, p. 531
        23 Jam. 2:17–18
        24 Luke 6:43–44
        25 Rom. 11:21. The same principle would apply to the vine. The unfruitful branches are removed/broken off.


References

Field, Frederick. Origenis Hexaplorum. Vol. 2. Oxonii: E Typographeo Clarendoniano, 1875.

Kahnis, Karl Friedrich August. Die Lehre vom Abendmahle. Leipzig: Dörffling & Franke, 1851.

Meyer, Heinrich August Wilhelm. Kritisch exegetischer Kommentar über das Neue Testament, Zweite Abtheilung, Kritisch exegetisches Handbuch über das Evangelium des Johannes. 5th ed. Vol. 2. Göttingen: Vandenboeck and Ruprecht, 1869.

Origen. Patrologiæ Cursus Completus: Series Græca Prior. “ΤΩΝ ΕΙΣ ΤΟ ΚΑΤΑ ΙΩΑΝΝΗΝ ΕΥΑΓΓΕΛΙΟΝ ΕΞΗΓΗΤΙΚΩΝ, ΤΟΜΟΣ Β'” (“The Explanations on the Gospel of John, Vol. 2”). Ed. Migne, Jacques Paul. Vol. 14. Petit-Montrouge: Imprimerie Catholique, 1862.

Trench, Richard Chenevix. Synonyms of the New Testament. 12th ed. London: Kegan, 1894.

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  • 1
    Your note on 'very bread' 'very light' 'very vine' is extremely interesting. +1. In the NT darkness is seen as a kind of light. But it is not the essence of light. It is not, as you say 'very light'. It is a false light (akin to moonlight).
    – Nigel J
    Jun 16 '20 at 4:57
  • 1
    Excellent job of contrasting and explaining the two. Jun 16 '20 at 17:45
  • Your conclusions are a). Those who "abide in him" bear much fruit, and the same time the "vine" refers to "the nation of Israel," -seems there is inconsistency. b). If "Very /true" is used to denote - "very/true vine" because those who "abide in him" " bear much fruit" - then, how can in v-2-every Branch IN ME not bear fruit"?
    – Sam
    Jun 16 '20 at 19:50
  • Could you please include in your answer as Q/A?
    – Sam
    Jun 16 '20 at 21:29
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Extremely Good question.

John 15:5 I am the vine.
John 15:1 I am the true vine.

It was definitely not a random choice. Jesus was emphasizing on its spiritual reality significance. It is not just a metaphor or symbolism.

John 6:63 The very words I have spoken to you are spirit and life.

From the literary point of view, Jesus has painted a beautify picture in our mind of vine, connection, and fruits in John 15 and we can apply that to our life. But more than that, I have understood what He says as spiritual reality. In my spirit, I see in the spiritual realm a real and true existence of spiritual vine described in John 15. This is possible because of the spiritual connection via our indwelling spirit Who teaches us all things. Earth is temporal reality; heaven is really the true reality.

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  • As C. Stroud brought out all "I am the true.." statements, and you seemed to agree that Jesus uses the adj. "True" by choice, then would it be to differentiate Himself from all others before Him and after Him?
    – Sam
    Jun 15 '20 at 22:07
  • Yes, I agree with C. Stroud +1. As far as the vine is concerned, no one else claims that he is a vine before of after Jesus, other than God.
    – Tony Chan
    Jun 15 '20 at 22:48
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John 6:32 "the true" bread from heaven, alethinon.

John 1:9 "the true" light, alethinon.

John 15:1 "the true" vine, alethine.

These are all to do with who Jesus is. As in "very God of very God"-verax- veracity-truly God. Other examples:

1 Thessalonians 1:9 "the living and true God" and John 17:3 "the only true God".

A useful contradistinction being to compare "alethinon", who God is, with what is said:

John 3:33 "..his testimony..is true" different word here "alethes".

Romans 3:4 "let God be true..", "in your words".

Back to "alethinon, in Hebrews 8:2 "the true" tent is in heaven. The tabernacle in the wilderness was real but only a copy of the real/true thing.

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Q: When Jesus said, I am “the true vine” (ἡ ἀληθινή )- in John 15:1, was the “true” a random choice, or is there any significance?

1. The message of John 15:1-8:

God the Father, for His own glory, willed and initiated the grafting of the (wild) branches into the true vine (Jesus) that the branches bear "true fruits" pleasing to God. To that end, disciples must continue to have the mutual relationship of abiding "in Me and I in you," outside which the stated fruit-bearing will not be possible. And, besides, Jesus equates "I in you" with "My Words in you" (v.7).

Jesus warns that Father God will take away every branch (disciples), that ceases to bear true-to-name fruit, and do not abide in the true vine (Jesus) cut off and withers and thrown into the fire to be burned.

Jesus promises that the Farmer (God the Father) will take good care of the branches to bear more fruit, and He will answer all their requests if they abide in Jesus and Jesus' words abide in them.

2. The significance of "I am the true vine."

In context (Jn. 15:1-5), ἄμπελος means "vine tree," is a metaphor for Jesus, for Jesus is speaking explicitly regarding personal relationship: the true vine tree and branches, Jesus and His disciples. Besides, in the Scripture, God is always the planter or the owner of the vine tree/the vineyard.

a. Jesus began by saying, "I am the true vine tree ..." instead of the generic terms, "I am a vine tree."

He uses the word with its spiritual significance: “I am” - is the statement of His eternal existence (Jn 8:58) and the Christological self-identification mark for Jesus, the Messiah (Jn. 4:26; 8:23, 24,28; 10:30,36,38; 13:15; 18:5,8).

I am "the true (ἀληθινή) vine tree" - Jesus uses Botanical metaphor best to convey that He is the genuine, authentic, and the original vine tree — i.e. "true-to-name-vine tree." Here, Jesus is saying to Disciples; He is the true messiah of God (Jn. 3:16; Acts 4:12; Phil. 2:7-9) that they must proclaim Him. (Disciples soon to go out as the witness of Christ.)

b. "You are the branch" - depicts their job roles and functional position in Jesus by choice of Jesus and God the Farmer (Mark 3:14; John 15:16; Jn. 18:9).

c. "Fruit" -refers, in the context, to the fruits of Evangelism (Jn. 4:35-36; Mt. 9:37; Col. 1:5-6). Disciples have been with Jesus for 3-1/2 years, and now Jesus said in v.3, Disciples are already clean, and go out to produce the fruit -make disciples of all nations (Mt. 28:19)

d. In verse 7, Jesus equates "I abide in you" with "My words abide in you," which signifies Jesus' Words" is the "seed", the "imperishable living word of God" (Lk. 8:5; 1 Pet. 1:23) which Disciples will go out to sow.

The significance of "I am the true vine tree" is in the botanical metaphor. According to the Science of Grafted Fruit Tree, the seed cannot produce the same rootstock fruit because of the cross-pollination of seeds –i.e., Plant an apple seed does not yield the same exact type of apples the seeds came from. Fruit are look- alike, but not the true-to-name apple.

In effect, Jesus is affirming, Jesus/His Word is the true, genuine "seed" which He entrusts with Disciples, which they must guard and preserve from all cross-pollination" from within and without. To do that, they must abide in the true vine, Jesus and His Word. As disciples, with due care, sow the unadulterated "seed,"(the gospel of Jesus) it will replicate the "true-to-name" grapes(vine) (Fig. disciples) in all nations as the Lord commanded (Mt. 28:18-20). And that will be the fruits of Evangelism that glorifies God.

The Apostles, the first runners of the Great Commission, and upon whom the church is to build (Eph. 2:20), did not fail the Lord's expectation and passed on the "seed" to the next runners. With their life, they kept their loyalty to the Lord.

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If I may be so bold, in Zechariah 4v6 the angle said to him; 'Not by might nor by power,but by my Spirit',says the LORD Almighty.

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