The KJV translates John 17:11 as: "Holy Father, keep through thine own name those whom thou hast given me, that they may be one, as we are."

The NWT translates John 17:11 as: "Holy Father, watch over them on account of your own name which you have given me, in order that they may be one just as we are one."

The KJV has Jesus praying to his Father to keep safe those people given to him, through the Father’s own name.

The NWT has Jesus praying to his Father to watch over those people given to him, on account of the Father’s name given to Jesus.

Two completely different meanings! In one, the Father’s own name keeps the believers safe. In the other, the Father gives his own name to the Son. I would not have been surprised if the former was the NWT rendition, and the latter had been the KJV. But it’s the opposite way round!

However, my question is, how to tell from the original language text whether it’s the Father’s own name that keeps believers safe, or if the Father gives his own name to the Son, to keep believers safe. Does the Son receive the Father’s own name or is it those people the Father gives to the Son – or is it both?

  • The original language is ambiguous. I answered this already here: hermeneutics.stackexchange.com/questions/63734/…
    – Polyhat
    Aug 1, 2021 at 15:17
  • 1
    Up-voted +1. Holy Father, keep them in Thy name, whom Thou hast given to me, that they may be one as we; Young's Literal. I have never yet (in 50 years studying the word of God) found any portion of it to be 'ambiguous' unless Deity intends it so to be for spiritual or moral reasons. I do not see this as one of those places. KJV and YLT have the correct translation, in my view.
    – Nigel J
    Aug 1, 2021 at 19:14
  • I have a feeling, based on knowledge of a few other Indo-European languages, that the neuter pronoun can serve either as a placeholder for another neuter noun (onoma), as is also the case with masculine and feminine (pro)nouns as well; or as a more abstract, catchall relative pronoun (such as when connecting phrases, similar to the use of the neutral τοῦτο in Ephesians 2:8, for instance).
    – Lucian
    Aug 2, 2021 at 3:52
  • Ambiguous grammar aside, the context (verses 9 and 24) suggests that the phrase most likely applies to his followers.
    – Lucian
    Aug 2, 2021 at 4:12

5 Answers 5


There is a textual matter in the verse.

πατερ αγιε τηρησον αυτους εν τω ονοματι σου ους δεδωκας μοι

[TR - Beza, Stephanus, Elzevir and Scrivener all identical]

Textus Receptus Bibles

The Textus Receptus (and therefore the KJV translation follows it) has ous (masculine plural - 'whom') whilst the W&H/Nestle Aland text, has ho (neuter singular - 'which').

The TR text can be seen in the Englishman's Greek New Testament and the W&H/Nestle Aland can be seen on Biblehub.

Thus the KJV/EGNT/YLT (from Textus Receptus Greek text) read :

Father holy, keep them in the name of thee whom thou has given to me [EGNT

Holy Father, keep through thine own name those whom thou hast given me, that they may be one, as we are. [KJV]

Holy Father, keep them in Thy name, whom Thou hast given to me, [YLT]

Whilst other translations, from the W&H/Nestle Aland Greek text, will not be similar.

I do not know of any name which is given the Father that is then given to the Son. That seems to make no sense to me.

The name of the Father is 'Father'.

Titles are given to Jesus such as Christ and Immanuel and Lord. But I know not of any place where he is given - by the Father - the name 'Father'.

  • 1
    It looks as if the departure from the Textus Receptus is one for the worse. In so many cases of alteration, omission, and addition, what is so often being presented is a Greek text that is weaker in the area of the Deity of Christ and (even more particularly and subtly) is weaker in matters of the relationship of Father and Son.
    – Anne
    Aug 6, 2021 at 5:49
  • I couldn't have said that better than you have put it, @Anne
    – Nigel J
    Aug 6, 2021 at 8:58
  • @NigelJ - what of the titles given in Isa 9:6 - He (Emanuel) will be called, ... everlasting Father ... "
    – Dottard
    Jan 31, 2022 at 20:20
  • 1
    @Dottard The basis for continuing to use (not 'adopting') the TR is fully laid out in Dean John Burgon's Revision Revised and in Hermon Hoskier's Codex B and its Allies . A list of 'counter examples' is invited. The TR is worthy of continual use (to those who embrace it) not just to be 'adopted' as fancy suits. The 'textual evidence' you speak of is disputable on solid grounds and the two Textual Critics I mention spent their lives resisting the Egyptian/Coptic recension.
    – Nigel J
    Feb 1, 2022 at 10:35
  • 1
    @Dottard I would be interested to see a systematic rebuttal of Dean John Burgon's Revision Revised and of Hermon Hoskier's Codex B and its Allies . But we have been waiting over a hundred years and none has appeared. Relying on many suspect 'variants' is not a sensible procedure, in my own view.
    – Nigel J
    Feb 1, 2022 at 12:47

The text of John 17:11 has two forms in the second half of the verse. Here is my translation of each form:

1. NA28, UBS5, W&H (incl NWT), Byzantine, Majority, Orthodox, etc

Πάτερ ἅγιε, τήρησον αὐτοὺς ἐν τῷ ὀνόματί σου δέδωκάς μοι, ἵνα ὦσιν ἓν καθὼς ἡμεῖς. = Holy Father, keep them in the Name of You which (ᾧ) you have given Me that they may be one as we are.

2. TR (alone)

Πάτερ ἅγιε τήρησον αὐτοὺς ἐν τῷ ὀνόματί σου οὕς δέδωκάς μοι ἵνα ὦσιν ἓν καθὼς ἡμεῖς = Holy Father, keep them in the Name of You whom (οὕς) you have given Me that they may be one as we are.

Note the important difference in meaning as highlighted above. The TR text is almost impossible to sustain in view of the very solid attestation in the ancient witnesses for the NA28 and UBS5 text also used in the Byzantine text and majority text, etc.

Jesus' prayer is to keep Christians safe by the Name of the Father which was given to Jesus. Jesus said this on other occasions such as:

  • John 8:54 - Jesus answered, “If I glorify Myself, My glory means nothing. The One who glorifies Me is My Father, of whom you say ‘He is our God.’
  • John 10:25 - Jesus answered them, “I told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in my Father’s name bear witness about me,
  • John 12:28 - Father, glorify Your name!” Then a voice came from heaven: “I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again.”
  • Rev 14:1 - Then I looked and saw the Lamb standing on Mount Zion, and with Him 144,000 who had His name and His Father’s name written on their foreheads.
  • Do you have the full TR text, and could you add that here? Because the word "ᾧ" (RelPro-DNS) and the word "οὓς" (RelPro-AMP) are two different forms of the same word (Strong's G3739) and my copy of the Textus Receptus (TR) does not show the difference you claim here.
    – Polyhat
    Aug 1, 2021 at 23:05
  • Verified textual variation. +1
    – Perry Webb
    Aug 1, 2021 at 23:30
  • 17:11 ᾧ δέδωκάς μοι {B} The reading that best accounts for the origin of the others has also the strongest attestation: the difficulty of ᾧ (which is read by 𝔓, א A B C K L W Δ Θ Π Ψ 054 f f 28 565 700 Byz Lect) prompted some copyists to replace the dative (which is attracted to the case of the antecedent) with the accusative ὅ (D* X 2148 al) or with the plural οὕς (Db 892 1009 vg goth eth geo al).
    – Perry Webb
    Aug 1, 2021 at 23:32
  • The latter correction could also have been prompted by the recollection of ver. 6 or the statement in 18:9. The omission of one or more clauses from several ancient witnesses (𝔓* it, , , , , syr cop) may be due to the difficulty of the original reading, or it may be accidental. Bruce Metzger's Textual Commentary.
    – Perry Webb
    Aug 1, 2021 at 23:34
  • @Polyhat - Greek text added. See biblehub.com/multi/john/17-11.htm
    – Dottard
    Aug 1, 2021 at 23:37

On John 17:11, I believe the KJV is God's Word and the greek is what it says. Other versions and Hort falsify the KJV and Hort is used by the ASV, RSV, NASV, and most other alternative versions. They change verses willy nilly to support 'man's free will' -- as Romans 3:22 "faith of Christ" changed to "faith in Christ" to support Arminian free williness (of the devil).

So our verse stands as the KJV has it! The verse reads "Holy Father, keep through thine own name those thou hast given me..." It says plainly "through thine 'God's' own name 'those' disciples thou hast given to Christ"

So, the KJV is absolutely right. Read it slowly. THE KJV IS GOD'S WORD absolutely Ron Johnson

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    – agarza
    Aug 6, 2021 at 1:03

To illustrate the problem via an English example:

"It was the one who wrote the book that united the people."

Does "that" refer to "book" or to "the one"? Is it the person who united the people or was it the book that the person had written which united them?

It is impossible to know for sure. The antecedent for "that" is unclear because the word "that" can apply to a person or to a thing (in this case a book). Further, in this case there are two separate dependent clauses, and it is common for English to interchange "that" for "who" if the "who" is otherwise repetitious.

In Greek, however, the relative pronoun doesn't even vary in this manner. It would be like always using "that" for a person or a thing. The antecedent of the relative pronoun in John 17:11 upon which the translation hinges, and differs so widely in meaning from one translation to the next, is likewise ambiguous. It can be understood to refer to the name or to the people (them).

Depending on how the reader interprets, the meaning in this case can seem rather different.

For another English example but which hinges on a dangling modifier:

"I gave the cookies to the children on paper plates."

Most people would intuitively understand this sentence without question. But on closer inspection, it doesn't seem to say what the speaker almost certainly meant! Were the children on the paper plates, or was it the cookies?

This just illustrates the ambiguities of language that seem inherent to all languages. Greek is no exception. There are times when an ambiguity exists in the original text and translators are forced to make a decision, rendering the meaning either one way or the other. Such is the case with John 17:11.


As pointed out by Polyhat, the original Greek verse is ambiguous. Even the English NWT is somewhat ambiguous:

Holy Father, watch over them on account of your own name

Pause here with a coma. It read likes "Holy Father, watch over them with your own name".

which you have given me, in order that they may be one just as we are one.

The name which you have given me.

However, you're right in that it is more natural to parse it like this:

Holy Father, watch over them

on account of your own name which you have given me,

in order that they may be one just as we are one.

So there are two possible parse trees for two different meanings.

NIV makes it unambiguous with a comma:

Holy Father, protect them by the power of your name**,** [coma]
the name you gave me, so that they may be one as we are one.

At https://biblehub.com/john/17-11.htm, 13 out of 27 versions use a comma after "name" to disambiguate.

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