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Daniel of Doulogos Name:Daniel
Home: Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada
About Me: I used to believe that evolution was reasonable, that homosexuality was genetic, and that people became Christians because they couldn't deal with the 'reality' that this life was all there was. I used to believe, that if there was a heaven - I could get there by being good - and I used to think I was more or less a good person. I was wrong on all counts. One day I finally had my eyes opened and I saw that I was not going to go to heaven, but that I was certainly going to suffer the wrath of God for all my sin. I saw myself as a treasonous rebel at heart - I hated God for creating me just to send me to Hell - and I was wretched beyond my own comprehension. Into this spiritual vacuum Jesus Christ came and he opened my understanding - delivering me from God's wrath into God's grace. I was "saved" as an adult, and now my life is hid in Christ. I am by no means sinless, but by God's grace I am a repenting believer - a born again Christian.
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Wednesday, October 04, 2006
eis and en...
While they stopped teaching grammar in Canada, I am sure there are many of you in the US and UK who still know what a preposition is, yet for my Canadian readers, or for those who either don't remember, or never actually picked up on what a preposition is, I will quickly reintroduce you to the idea.

In English there are several prepositional words, "across, after, at, before, by, during, from, in, into, of, on, to, under, with, without, etc." - they are easier to list than they are to describe, since there is no cut and dry way to identify them except by examining how they are used in English.

We use these words before a noun to modify the way we understand the use of the noun in the sentence. If the noun is "table" the preposition is used to describe the relationship that the table has in the sentence. something can be under, over, on, around, near, beside, beneath, or even "in proximity to" or "across from" the table.

There can be some cross-over in English when it comes to prepositions - that is, prepositions such as under, underneath, beneath, below, etc. can all mean the same thing and the use of one preposition over another can sometimes be a matter of style or personal preference - that is, there is room in our language to use different words that mean the same thing.

We can become a little less precise if we get sloppy with our prepositions however - that is, I could say that "John is at the store" or I could say "John is in the store" and while the meanings are close - they are not exact - one suggests that John is "at" a location, the other suggests that John is "in" an object (the store).

Consider the confusion of words like "in, into, and inside:"
John jumped in the boat.
John jumped into the boat.
John jumped inside the boat.

We can understand these three as having a synonymous meaning: that John jumped "into" the boat. But we can also understand both "in" and "inside" to mean that John was already in the boat at the time that he jumped. "Into" however can only mean that John jumped from without the boat and "into" the boat. (H/T: David).

If we change the verb to the more predicative second person version of "I am" ("he is"), the distinction is not as easy to blur:
John is in the boat
John is into the boat.
John is inside the boat.

We see (or should see) that the preposition "into" doesn't really lend itself to this usage as easily as it might for the other prepositional phrases.

Now, why do I bother with the grammar lesson? Because in Greek there are two prepositions eis (into) and en (in) that are used to describe our belief with regards to Christ.

In English, when we believe in something - that is usually regarded synonymously with either accepting something as true, or suggesting that we agree with a set of values personified by the object we "believe in" ("I believe in America!").

When we read that we are supposed to "believe in Christ" we regard that as meaning that we are to accept as true that Jesus is the Christ.

But what do we do when scripture tells us to believe into Christ? If we are the typical reader, we shelve that and imagine it means the same as believe in Christ - but said in some sort of grammatically clumsy way.

But I believe it is not clumsy, but critical, even literal - we are to believe ourselves into Christ on the cross - for God so loved the world that He gave His one and only son that whoever believes into Him should not perish, but have ever lasting life.

There is a faith that believes "in" Jesus, just as one might believe in freedom, or believe in truth - an assent that acknowledges that Jesus is exactly whom He claimed to be. Believing "in" Jesus means that I assent to the facts about Jesus, it can even mean that I believe the gospel to be a true and valid offer, and it can even mean that I believe that offer is extended to me personally. Believing in Jesus can be made to say all those things I suppose. But believing into Jesus can only be made to describe that sort of faith that results in union with Christ - if we replaced the word "believe" with "press" you might get the flavor right - If I said "press into Jesus" you would picture someone trying to press themselves into Jesus - when I say "believe into Jesus" it is much the same - it is through faith that we enter into Christ.

I think we are inclined to give short shrift to language - most of our English translations will translate "eis" as "in" instead of "into" in verses like John 3:16, 18, and 36 - because we don't talk like that in English - and really, the prepositions seem close enough don't they? Surely they reason, there is not much difference between "en" and "eis."

How does translating this little preposition in a literal way affect your understanding of the gospel? It doesn't even phase mine, except to re-affirm it. The faith that I have isn't just an intellectual agreement, it is a faith that produces a union with Christ - it is through this faith that I have "believed" myself "into" Christ. The word we translate as "Believe" in John 3:16 is a verb in the Greek...
posted by Daniel @ 10:47 AM  
  • At 12:11 PM, October 04, 2006, Blogger David said…

    Tch - such sloppy grammar. In your first example, there actually is an important distinction. "jumped in/inside" means something quite different from "jumped into." "John jumped in/inside the boat" means that he was in the boat when he jumped, and still in the boat when he landed. "John jumped into the boat" means that he was outside the boat when he jumped, and inside the boat when he landed.

    So you see, you are even more right about the need for grammatical precision than you thought.

  • At 12:48 PM, October 04, 2006, Blogger Even So... said…


  • At 1:54 PM, October 04, 2006, Blogger Daniel said…

    David, because you pointed it out in the meta, now I can't go and quietly fix it...


  • At 1:54 PM, October 04, 2006, Blogger Daniel said…

    JD - I agree.

  • At 3:55 PM, October 04, 2006, Blogger David said…

    Sorry, Daniel. Next time, I'll email you secretly.

  • At 4:42 PM, October 04, 2006, Blogger Daniel said…

    David, You know me well enough that you should feel free to email me openly...

  • At 6:42 PM, October 04, 2006, Blogger Daniel said…

    JD - I usually reserve the word "interesting" as a one word comment when what I really mean is, "I think you are way, way, way out to lunch, and even sitting in a tree on the edge of reality, but because I don't want to hurt your feelings, I am just going to say interesting, meaning, I find it interesting that you are way, way out to lunch."

    Is that the kind of interesting you are meaning? ;)

  • At 7:24 PM, October 04, 2006, Blogger David said…

    Daniel, thanks... I'm getting just a little misty.

  • At 10:44 PM, October 04, 2006, Blogger Even So... said…

    What kind of interesting did you mean when you agreed with me, then?

    As for me, interesting to me meant to wait and see what and how Greek gamers might play with this...

  • At 8:33 AM, October 05, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    You know, someone could take that phrase "believe into Jesus" to mean that we believe ourselves into Jesus. I understand the word "into" as a more active word.

    The word "into" is often used in a progressive way, such as "I am going into the store now."

    I wonder how many people would take that little word "into" and assume that we are suppose to be progressively believing ourselves into Christ?

    Another way that occured to me is that believing "into" Jesus means that our believe puts us into the Body of Christ.

    This is a thought-provoking post; and I mean that in the complimentary sort of way.

  • At 10:08 AM, October 05, 2006, Blogger Daniel said…

    Kim - As I consider the application of this preposition I am reminded of what Christ said in Matthew 11:12, "From the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven has suffered violence, and the violent take it by force." [ESV] and again in Luke 16:16, "The Law and the Prophets were until John; since then the good news of the kingdom of God is preached, and everyone forces his way into it."

    I am sure you will agree that anyone who believes for a time and then falls away didn't have saving faith in the first place - that is, like the rocky soil in Luke 8:13, they, "believe for a while and in time of temptation fall away" - that their very departure from the faith demonstrates the counterfeit nature of their "faith" (c.f. 1 John 2:19).

    For that reason I wouldn't imagine the verse to be saying that we generate a state of continuing salvation by auto-suggesting to ourselves that we are "in" Christ - but rather that when Jesus said, "I am the way" it was far more literal than most of us imagine.

    I think you rightly identify the truth of this passage when you muse, that believing "into" Jesus means that our [belief] puts us into the Body of Christ. Not that we are to understand the "body of Christ" in some metaphorical manner as being merely a synonym for "the church" - but that we understand the literal application - that we were literally put into Christ Jesus (John the Baptist said that when the Christ came He would baptise with the Holy Spirit and with fire) so that we are united with Him (being "in" Him) in His death, burial, and resurrection.

    We all agree, or ought to agree, that it is because we are "in Christ" that every Christian endeavor is possible, and any effort or activity that is done "outside" of Christ can hardly be deemed Chrsitian. Which is a long way of saying I suppose that I find merit in this particular understanding, on many levels - and I find nothing (as yet) that contradicts it in scripture (though I suppose there may be some sacred cows out there I haven't thought of?)

    On a more personal note, I should like to pretend that I was pondering this thought as a matter of intellect or serious deliberation - such a presentation of why I am even mentioning it would likely paint me as, at the very least, a very "thoughtful" fellow - but the reality is that I was really struggling to submit myself to the Lord in a more permanent way - to get down to the root matter, and stop dealing with the symptoms as it were - and felt that if I could at least understand what it is inside me that continues to obstinately deny Christ's rule in my heart at every turn - that I might agree with Him about myself and secure some manner of genuine and lasting deliverance from self. It was in this pursuit that I prayed for wisdom with regards to my sorry state. I wanted to understand what was hindering my faith - hindering my union with Christ, and throughout the day a series of "aha" moments began to shape an answer to my question - one of the links in that chain was this present possibility when John said "into" he meant "into" in a very literal sense. It wasn't where the chain stopped, but after I saw it, it seemed so obvious I wondered that I had never seen it before - and those kind of things make for the most interesting blog posts.

    Thanks for the feedback Kim, and let me know if your own study and meditation confirms or denies it - I should like to know when I am out in left field before people start throwing stones... ;-)

  • At 10:17 AM, October 05, 2006, Blogger Daniel said…

    JD - my agreement was that it was interesting - if you meant it in the classic Spock-like way, but then after I got insecure ;-)

    The Greek itself is pretty straight forward, there is nothing really cryptic about it - we just tend to translate it according to the literary presumption that John -isn't- making a theological point with the preposition "into" - and so we ignore that and translate it into a less awkward English rendering. I too, being Greek-weak as it were, would like to see if there is anything in the grammar that -demands- we remove the fullest meaning of the preposition. Surely there is nothing "wrong" with translating the passage the way it is translated - if John isn't making a theological distinction.

    I wonder if any Greek scholars read my blog?

  • At 10:55 AM, October 05, 2006, Blogger Frank Martens said…

    I'm sure there's nothing wrong in translating it as "into". But here's what I see...

    So if we translate this as "we are believing into Christ every day" it's possible that it's true. But the question that holds is, how is this possible when man is totally depraved? And it get's into the question, does man have the ability to will that?

    Well... what we need to remember that we still do things to be in the body but there's something behind us to drive us to do that. Christ, obviously.

    I'm really not saying anything, that ya'll don't already know. But, we still do things, we make choices and actually act out based on will. But we would all agree that Christ changed that will to continually "believe into" Christ and the gospel, and therefore produce good works.

    So that's how I think on the subject, there is definitely a continual doing on our part and yet an empowering thing on Christ's part.

  • At 12:14 PM, October 05, 2006, Blogger Daniel said…

    Frank - Amen. John makes it pretty plain in the sixth chapter of his gospel (several times) that no one comes to the Son except those whom the Father calls beforehand.

  • At 2:06 PM, October 05, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said…


    Oh, I agree with you 100% about what that little word indicates. I was just playing devil's advocate. I so seldom have anything to add, but that thought just popped into my head.

  • At 8:10 AM, October 07, 2006, Blogger Ryan said…

    Daniel, that's very interesting. Ah, that is, your point holds much interest to me. It does make me wonder why eis hasn't been translated into, especially in John 3:16.

    Additionally, I'm just thinking here, eis may indicate the result of the belief. We believe and are, by believing, grafted into the vine (John 15). In this way it indicates that the belief is on a deeper level than mere intellectual acceptance of the reasoning contained in the gospel; whereas it seemed you thought more about the whole phrase "believe into" as having more significance.

    I'm not saying I'm right and you're wrong by any means, but just adding another possibility.

    Definitely something to pray about and meditate on. Hmmm...

  • At 1:27 PM, October 07, 2006, Blogger Daniel said…

    Ryan - good observation - I hope I haven't over-stated/misrepresented my thoughts on the matter. By stressing "believe into" I only mean to make the same distinction you have made - that there is a faith that doesn't result in a grafting into Christ - a mouth profession that doesn't reflect a heart profession - an empty, counterfeit faith that doesn't result in one being baptised into Christ (justified/saved).

    It may be that understanding the nuance of the phrase will lend itself to understanding the nature of saving faith - that is, pressing into the kingdom is the same as believing into Christ.

    I wouldn't want to make my last stand defending this particular hill - but the idea that only a faith that results in union with Christ can save you doesn't offend any other understanding I have from scripture.

    Your comments are always welcome Ryan!

  • At 8:57 AM, October 10, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    The reason eis is probably translated as 'in' instead of 'into' is probably threefold; first, 'in' is an accepted meaning of the preposition eis although 'into' is preferable; second, 'in' reads more easily to the English mind; third, there is always some interpretation that goes along with translation because there is no exact one-to-one equivalence between different languages.

    As for John 3:16, you have just added another pet peeve to my list of the common translations of this passage. My first one is that the word hutos with is usually translated 'so' and understood as 'so much' by most people I have encountered, actually falls in a semantic domain of 'thus' or 'in this manner.' So (notice how 'so' can be used with the sense of 'thus'), a more accurate translation in my opinion would be "For in this manner God loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes into him shall not perish but have everlasting life."

    Thanks for the food for thought.

  • At 11:53 AM, October 10, 2006, Blogger Daniel said…

    Jim V - Thanks for the well reasoned thoughts.

    Enough people translate eis as "in" for me to know, even had I no clue about Greek - that such a translation is acceptable. I think the very ease with which it can be rendered as "in" should give us cause to consider whether that is the intended meaning behind the text. Yet my concern is whether the meaning "into" can be tossed out or labeled as wrong just because it can be translated as "in" sometimes. That is where the food for thought comes in for me.

    Like yourself, I don't like the rendering "so" - I prefer "in this way."

    Thanks again for your comments.

  • At 2:28 PM, October 10, 2006, Blogger Ryan said…

    On the subject of "So" in John 3:16, in Spanish it is rendered

    Porque de tal manera amó Dios al mundo.

    Because in such manner loved God the world.

  • At 2:55 PM, October 10, 2006, Blogger Daniel said…

    We could keep "so" if we used it as the Elizebethian English did - which we would extend to "like so" - For God, loved the world like so, He gave...

  • At 4:03 PM, October 10, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    The ESV has a footnote for that first part of John 3:16 saying, "For this is how God loved the world." Good job for putting that footnote in, too bad it is only a footnote as many people don't read them.

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