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1 John 5:19 wickedness or wicked one?

Discussion in 'Bible Versions & Translations' started by Logos1560, Apr 27, 2009.

  1. Logos1560

    Logos1560 Active Member
    Site Supporter

    Oct 22, 2004
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    Glenn Conjurske, a defender of the KJV but not a KJV-only advocate and sometimes a critic of modern translations, wrote the following concerning 1 John 5:18-19:

    "Verse 18: the wicked one does not touch those who are born of God.
    Verse 19: the whole world--that is, all who are not born of God--lies in the wicked one" (Olde Paths and Ancient Landmarks, October, 1992, p. 217).

    Conjurske had this note for "the wicked one" in verse 19: "The translation 'wickedness' in verse 19 is certainly mistaken, though grammatically it is possible. In the Greek it is 'the wicked,' in the singular, which may be either masculine ('the wicked one') or neuter ('the wicked thing')--the latter being the equivalent of 'that which is wicked,' or simply 'wickedness.' But this translation, though grammatically possible, is certainly not correct in this place, for verse 19 in the Greek uses the same words as are used in verse 18 (only changing the nominative to the dative, which affects nothing), but in verse 18 the same words must certainly be taken as masculine, not neuter, for the obvious reference is to a personal agent. We are not at liberty to take the words as masculine in verse 18, and neuter in verse 19" (Ibid.).

    Ralph Earle wrote concerning 1 John 5:19: "We do not have the abstract noun, poneria, but the dative masculine of the adjective poneros. So the correct translation is 'the evil one'" (Word Meanings, p. 452).

    Do you agree with the arguments offered concerning 1 John 5:19 above or do you think that the KJV's rendering is the correct one and why?
  2. franklinmonroe

    franklinmonroe Active Member

    Aug 2, 2006
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    I don't think that Conjurske is completely accurate here. My understanding of Greek words are that they are either masculine, feminine, or neuter in their root and when they are inflected (indicating case and number) the gender of the word is not affected. (Note: I think there may be few rare exception words that are placed in more than one category.)

    Therefore, the same masculine adjective poneros (Strong's #4190) in verse 18 is also masculine in verse 19; this is confirmed by Robertson in his Word Pictures of the New Testament. This should not be confused by the fact that Greek singular dative forms of the nominative or dative case have the same ending (spelling).

    The Greek adjective is used in a nominative sense in verse 18 and preceded by the definite article ("o"), literally meaning together something like "the evil" or "the wicked". A corresponding word for "one" is not present in the Greek. Perhaps implied by the context, the word "one" is supplied by the translators (yet the KJV does not put it in italics). Just because the word is considered masculine for grammatical purposes, it does not follow that it must indicate the biological gender of the real-world object (obviously, many objects for which there are words are inanimate or do not reproduce). In this case, there are no contextual clues as to the physical sexuality of the subject; from this passage alone even a female entity cannot be ruled out. Therefore, "one", "thing", or another 'gender neutral' singular term could be inserted by the translators.

    The same grammatically masculine Greek word is also preceded by a dative form of the definite article in verse 19, and collectively these words could approximate "to the evil" or "for the wicked" in English (again, there is no corresponding Greek word for "one" or "thing" here). Definite articles are not always present in Greek (but typically more frequently than in English), nor is it always neccessary or desireable to translate them into English each and every time they are present.

    I think if the Greek words in verse 18 are to be rendered something like "the Wicked One" (designating a personal agent) then it certainly should follow that a corresponding indication be made in verse 19; it seems that the author is exhibiting a parallelism between "we" that are of the Holy God and those ("the whole world") that belong to an Evil One.

    Some of the more literal versions --
    We know that we are of God, and the whole world lieth in the evil one. (American Standard Version)

    we have known that of God we are, and the whole world in the evil doth lie; (Young Literal Translation)

    We know that we are of God, and the whole world lies in the wicked [one]. (Darby)

    We are aware that we are of God, and the whole world is lying in the wicked one. (Concordant Literal Version)
    #2 franklinmonroe, Apr 28, 2009
    Last edited by a moderator: Apr 28, 2009