“For God so loved the world”

John 3:16 KJV
For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.

As most people know, this English is hundreds of years old and because most new translations are too afraid to mess with the Bible’s most popular verse (although I read that “judge not” has now surpassed it which is for another post). The first part of the verse to our modern ears sounds like it’s saying, “God loved the world so much”. But in that time it read like, “this is how God loved the world”.

Most of the readers of this blog already know this, but I thought I’d point out a quote by Jonathan Edwards (1703–1758) which explains it in those words:

“And all this will be aggravated by the remembrance, that God once loved us so as to give his Son to bring us to the happiness of his love, and tried all manner of means to persuade us to accept of his favor, which was obstinately refused.” [emphasis added]

Which to me is some confirmation that this is really how it reads in English much less the original Greek which I can’t comment on.

So now we have some brave new translations like these:

John 3:16 HCSB
“For God loved the world in this way: He gave His only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life.

John 3:16 NET
For this is the way God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.

John 3:16 ISV
“For this is how God loved the world: He gave his unique Son so that everyone who believes in him might not be lost but have eternal life.

I suppose God does love the world so much, but God wants to emphasize what He did because of it. The whole gospel message would fall apart if we just emphasized “God loves the world so much” wouldn’t it?

Edit: There has been considerable debate on this topic and it might not be as easy as I stated above. Here are more posts if you’d like to read more about it from all sides.

6 Responses to ““For God so loved the world””


  1. 1 Esteban Vázquez

    That’s really about the only thing I like in the HCSB, which I otherwise find unreadable. Same goes for the ISV. I guess there must be something in their translation procedures and choices that appeals to the Baptist(ic) mind!

  2. 2 Scripture Zealot

    Esteban, wouldn’t you say it’s easier to read than the ESV and NRSV? Why don’t you jump on bandwagons like the rest of us?
    Jeff

  3. 3 Esteban Vázquez

    Trust me, I would like nothing better than to jump on the HCSB bandwagon, but honestly I can’t read more than a chapter or two before I give up in frustration. I think the HCSB has all the right ideas about translation, but they are often so poorly (or better: so crassly) executed that I am finally forced to set it aside. I feel much the same about the ISV.

    Now, I find the NET to be much better overall, even if it’s a bit bland. The translators also seem to have something against (literary) redundancy, but to spot these and other such weaknesses, the copious notes are just great. Plus, I love my NET/NA27 diglot. Still, my primary reading Bibles are the RSV-2CE and the REB. I may never be able to break away from that!

  4. 4 Kevin

    I agree that “The first part of the verse to our modern ears sounds like it’s saying, “God loved the world so much”. But in that time it read like, “this is how God loved the world”.”. This is sooooooo true. This is just one example of what I like to call “cookie-cutter” translating. It is sad that translations of the English Bible seem to feel like they have to leave certain error in there just so that it soulds traditonal. The translation of the Bible has been a great concern of mine for many years. I would be grate if the author of this article would contact me and see if I can find an out-let for my love of the Bible.

  5. 5 Scripture Zealot

    Hi Kevin. Feel free to read and comment on this blog.
    Jeff

  6. 6 Scripture Zealot

    Apparently BBB feels otherwise.
    http://betterbibles.com/2010/12/18/for-google-so-loved-john-316
    So if I were to agree with the commenters I would have to say, Nevermind. I still think this post is correct as far as what the English of the KJV/AV meant.
    Jeff

  1. 1 So, What? John 3:16 and the Lord’s Prayer « God Didn't Say That
  2. 2 Changing the Lord’s Prayer??? « The Sundry Times
  3. 3 For Google so loved John 3:16 « Better Bibles Blog
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