Sequence of negatives NIV 2011

In our devotional readings yesterday we read John 1:1-18. When I came to 1:13, I read it wrong according to NIV 2011 (and NIV 1984). Here is the text:

John 1:13

children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God

But here is how I read it:

children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision nor a husband’s will, but born of God

I realized after the fact, that “not of” and “nor of” form a sequence with the genitive (in English), and then a slight change with “or a,” so not quite as clear as a normal sequence. However, the Greek does not have that distinction; all three portions are joined identically:

 ⸂οἳ οὐκ⸃ ἐξ αἱμάτων οὐδὲ ἐκ θελήματος σαρκὸς ⸋οὐδὲ ἐκ θελήματος ἀνδρὸς⸌ ἀλλ᾿ ἐκ θεοῦ ⸀ἐγεννήθησαν.

But then I checked other places in the NT in NIV 2011 to see how negative sequences were handled.

John 1:25 questioned him, “Why then do you baptize if you are not the Messiah, nor Elijah, nor the Prophet?”

John 5:37-38 And the Father who sent me has himself testified concerning me. You have never heard his voice nor seen his form, nor does his word dwell in you, for you do not believe the one he sent.

John 12:40     “He has blinded their eyes and hardened their hearts, so they can neither see with their eyes, nor understand with their hearts, nor turn—and I would heal them.

Rom 8:38-39 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of Goda that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

1 Cor 6:9-10 Or do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor men who have sex with men nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.

Gal 3:28 There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. (Note: This is a little different construction, but same principle)

So, it seems odd to find the sequence in John 1:13. My guess is that some people who read this orally will unconsciously read it as I did above, and not as it is written in NIV 2011. How often we we “read into” the text what we think it should say?


Author: exegete77

disciple of Jesus Christ, husband, father, grandfather, great-grandfather, teacher, and theologian