John the Baptist says of Jesus that :

He who from above comes, above all is. [John 3:31 EGNT literal]

But the first 'above' is anothen and the second is epanw.

The word anothen is also used in the context of Jesus' garment woven 'from the top' and again regarding the veil of the temple rent 'from the top'. Therefore the idea is of 'origin from above'.

But the word epanw is sometimes translated as 'over', 'upon' or 'thereon'.

Therefore it seems to me that John uses two distinctive words to convey two slightly different concepts, the one of 'origin from above' and the other of 'influence from above'.

Would it be correct to see authority being expressed in that the One 'from above' is 'over' all ?

This seems to be further the case in the second expression, in the same verse :

He who from heaven comes, above (epanw) all is. [John 3:31 EGNT literal]

And the emphasis on authority seems, to me, to be further continued in verse 35 :

The Father loves the Son and all things has given into his hand. [John 3:35 EGNT Literal],

a remarkable epression, since it is present tense and Jesus is not (yet) crucified, risen and ascended to the right hand of God on the throne.

Is this the emphasis given by John's choice of epanw , that the One come from above is (already) 'over' all ?

EGNT is The Englishman's Greek New Testament being the Stephanus text of 1550 with an interlinear and literal translation (1870).

1 Answer 1


ἄνωθεν versus ἐπάνω

ἄνωθεν (anóthen) according to BDAG has four basic meanings:

  1. in extension from a source that is above, from above, eg, Mark 15:38, Matt 27:51, John 3:3, 7, 27, 31, 19:11, 23, James 3:1:17, 15, 17
  2. from a point in time marking the beginning of something, from the beginning, eg, Luke 1:3, Acts 26:5
  3. for a relatively long period in the past, for a long time, eg, Acts 26:5, Luke 1:3
  4. at a subsequent point of time involving repetition, again, eg, John 3:3, 7, Gal 4:9

BDAG is quick to point out the apparently deliberate play on words involving the double meaning in John 3:3, 7 again, vs from above.

ἐπάνω (epanó) according to BDAG has three basic meanings

  1. marker of a position relatively higher whether contiguous or not, above, over, eg, Luke 10:19, 11:44, Matt 5:14, 21:7, 23:18, 20, 22, 27:37, 28:2, Rev 6:8, 20:3, etc.
  2. pertaining to exceeding something in amount, more than, eg, 1 Cor 15:6, Mark 14:5.
  3. pertaining to being superior in status, above, over, eg, Luke 19:17, 19, John 3:31.

John 3:31 text is:

ἄνωθεν ἐρχόμενος ἐπάνω πάντων ἐστίν· ὁ ὢν ἐκ τῆς γῆς ἐκ τῆς γῆς ἐστιν καὶ ἐκ τῆς γῆς λαλεῖ. ὁ ἐκ τοῦ οὐρανοῦ ἐρχόμενος ἐπάνω πάντων ἐστίν·

I would translate this as (over-emphasizing the distinction between our main words of interest):

The One coming from above is above all in status/importance. The being from the earth is from the earth and speaks from the earth. The One coming from heaven is above all in status/importance.

Note that while ἐπάνω (epanó) occurs twice, ἄνωθεν (anóthen) occurs once and is parallel to "from heaven".

Thus, the primary meaning here of ἐπάνω (epanó) is to convey superior status or superior importance. This may or may not include authority but it is not necessarily inherent in the meaning of the word. However, there is no doubt that superior authority would imply superior status but the reverse is not necessarily true.

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