I am a pastor and not a Greek scholar, but I had an interesting conversation with a Bible translator friend over this verse yesterday. The curiosity lies in the fact that basically all translations tie the οὕτως of John 316 to the subsequent ὥστε clause: ὥστε τὸν υἱὸν τὸν μονογενῆ ἔδωκεν. It is interesting because it’s almost never how that construction works. Also, we have the classic καθὼς/οὕτως construction in verses 14 and 15, with an initial clause: καθὼς Μωϋσῆς ὕψωσεν τὸν ὄφιν ἐν τῇ ἐρήμῳ being followed by two parallel clauses:

οὕτως ὑψωθῆναι δεῖ τὸν υἱὸν τοῦ ἀνθρώπου, ἵνα πᾶς ὁ πιστεύων ἐν αὐτῷ2 ἔχῃ ζωὴν αἰώνιον.

Οὕτως γὰρ ἠγάπησεν ὁ θεὸς τὸν κόσμον, ὥστε τὸν υἱὸν τὸν μονογενῆ ἔδωκεν, ἵνα πᾶς ὁ πιστεύων εἰς αὐτὸν μὴ ἀπόληται ἀλλʼ ἔχῃ ζωὴν αἰώνιον.

If this is indeed the intended construction, then the train of thought is some thing like:

  • Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness
  • In the same manner (as the serpent), the son of man must be lifted up
  • In the same manner (as Moses), God loved the world by doing the lifting

It seems to be pretty straightforward, but I have never heard anybody connect the activity of God in v16 with the activity of Moses in v14, at least not so directly. And the translations certainly don’t do us any favors

  • God (Colossians 2:12) is seen as responsible for 'nailing' 'to the cross' (Colossians 2:14). In this passage what is 'nailed' is the 'handwriting of ordinances'. This is not quite as the question supposes but the initiative is, it is true, of God. – Nigel J May 10 at 14:16
  • Extremely good Question +1. – Dottard May 10 at 22:22

The adverb οὕτως modifies the verb ἠγάπησεν (loved). If it pointed back to a noun, it would be the adjective οὗτος.

Note: καθὼς (just as) and οὕτως (in this manner) are connected in John 3:14. Besides, if one connects the two οὕτως, Jesus being crucified is connected with God loved. But, the connection is with γὰρ (For). If the οὕτως in 3:14 were compounded with οὕτως in 3:16 (thus also connected to καθὼς in 3:14), instead of γὰρ, the verses would be connected with the conjunction καὶ (and). Another issue is verse 3:15 is in between the two verses.

Translating this passage with emphasis on the connection.

And just as Moses lifted up the snake in the desert, in the same way the Son of Man must be lifted up, in order that whoever believes in him should have eternal life. For in this manner God loved the world, so that he give his only son in order that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.

"So that" because it is ὥστε and not ὅτι. Essentially, the before and after describes the same thing.

The conjunction for establishes a causal relation between this [3:16] and the preceding verse. -- Hendriksen, W., & Kistemaker, S. J. (1953–2001). Exposition of the Gospel According to John (Vol. 1, p. 139). Grand Rapids: Baker Book House.

See Is translating οὕτως in John 3:16 as "so much" valid?

  • I think it's fixed now. It's close to my bed time and a fumbled around some. – Perry Webb May 10 at 23:29

I think the translator friend is half correct. However, I fully agree that these Greek conjunctions and little adverbs must be watched very carefully indeed.

The passage John 3:14-16 contains FOUR such pivotal words:

  • V14a καθὼς (in the same manner in which ...)
  • V14b οὕτως (thus, in the same manner ...)
  • v15 ἵνα (in order that ...)
  • v16 Οὕτως (thus, in the same manner ...)

The question here is whether the Οὕτως here points forward or points backward - semantically, it can do either. Since this adverb is effectively acting like a pivot word to connect an OT type (or metaphor) to its NT antitype it is behaving somewhat like a conjunction, or at least a connecting link.

I both reject and accept the translator friend's assertion for the following reasons:

  1. Jesus is portraying Himself as the Savior of the world to which people can look and be healed/saved - the bronze serpent did this to a much lesser extent but I do not believe that is the central force of the Jesus' comment.
  2. The second Οὕτως is actually linking the ζωὴν αἰώνιον (life eternal) of V15 to the same phrase in V16. Thus, Dottard's extreme paraphrase might read thus (with the above pivot words' translations highlighted):

Just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, in the same way, the Son of Man must be lifted up (ie Crucified) so that everyone may have eternal life.

It is for the same goal of eternal life that the One and only Son was given by God so that those who trust Him might have that goal (eternal life).

That is just as the οὕτως in V14b links the ὕψωσεν (lifted up) of V14a to the ὑψωθῆναι (will be lifted up); so also the οὕτως in V16 links the ἔχῃ ζωὴν αἰώνιον (may have life eternal) of V15 to the ἔχῃ ζωὴν αἰώνιον (will have eternal life) of V16.

  • "One and only Son" is an egregious mistranslation, unfortunately present in many of the modern (per)versions of the Bible. Such a phrase contradicts John 1:12 just two chapters prior. Like it or not, the word "begotten" is crucial, as God can have many adopted sons in addition to His begotten Son. – Polyhat May 11 at 0:38
  • @Polyhat - and do you think that "only begotten" is correct in Heb 11:17 - Isaac was not only nor first? The problem here is that you assume that monogenes is derived from genao - which literally means to have sex with and beget. Actually, mongenes is derived from genos (class or kind), thus making the word mean "unique" which Isaac was because he was the child or promise who became a human ancestor of Jesus – Dottard May 11 at 23:18
  • Isaac was both only and first from Sarah, Abraham's lawful wife at the time God had made the promise to Abraham regarding his seed. God's promise was to both man and wife, as God counts the "man" as both male and female, "one flesh." More than merely the child of promise, Isaac was Abraham and Sarah's only begotten son. – Polyhat May 12 at 0:51
  • Great answer Dottard! I will share with my translator friend. – Robb May 12 at 13:13
  • @Polyhat - Isaac was not Abraham's only begotten - he had many sons as per Gen 25. Now squirming about trying to make Isaac Sarah's only begotten and not Abraham's only begotten will not get you anywhere. That is, Isaac was NOT Abraham's only begotten. – Dottard May 12 at 21:02

John 3:

14 Just as [καθὼς G2531] Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so [οὕτως G3779] the Son of Man must be lifted up, 15 that everyone who believes may have eternal life in him.”

16 For God so [Οὕτως G3779] loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

οὕτως (houtōs)
Strong's 3779: Thus, so, in this manner. Or (referring to what precedes or follows).

The first οὕτως refers to Moses lifting up the snake.

The second οὕτως refers to its nearest precedent, i.e., God lifting up the Son of Man.

Two οὕτως's for two different precedents.

John 3:16 - Might οὕτως be a reference to Moses?

No. Moses wasn't the closest precedent.

  • Thanks Tony, but I'm not sure I follow. The first outws definitely relates Jesus to the serpent, not to Moses. The serpent was lifted up, and in the same manner he will be lifted up. The question regarding the second instance is: God's love/action is being correlated to what? – Robb May 10 at 15:29
  • The outws here refers to a verb, not to a noun. – Tony Chan May 10 at 15:33
  • Yes, in this case the verb is “lifted up” in the first instance, which correlates the action as it relates to its object (serpent/Jesus). In the second case the verb is “loved” and God is the subject. The question remains, where is the corollary? – Robb May 10 at 15:46
  • The corollary has to do with the verb "lifting" in both cases. – Tony Chan May 10 at 15:48

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