John's use of Asyndeton in the prologue of John

Roger Thornhill

Well-known member
i believe that this is the only analysis of the prologue that analyzes John's use of conjunctions for the punctuation as found in our critical editions like NA27.

This Expository Rendering reflects the way John uses connectives. John’s style utilizes a high level of asyndeton.

In John’s prologue we find the conjunctions καὶ, ὅτι and asyndeton (Φ) which is the lack of a conjunction. Because John uses asyndeton much more frequently any other conjunction some have called asyndeton the ‘default .’

However this should not be construed as having no meaning at all. John’s choice to use Φ is just as significant as when he uses the copulative καὶ for addition or ὅτι as explanatory and so ‘ default’ is not to be construed with having no meaning. “Testing for Johannine Authorship by Examining the Use of Conjunctions” (Polythress) gives an example from John 1:18 which includes asyndeton. There he groups asyndeton together with two other contrastive conjunctions and says:

“We might have expected alla at 1:18(2). But the line between types of contrast and tension requiring alla, de, and asyndeton in John is somewhat fluid. The two parts of 1:18 are in tension;”

This expository rendering reflects the following conjunctions and gives symbols for an analysis of the entire prologue.

ΦΝ New paragraph, new subject (7 instances)
ΦS Summary of previous ΦΝ (3 instances)
ΦB Contrast like δε (but) (5 instances)
ΦBI Φ οὐκ … αλλά; = not … but (2 instances)
KA καὶ Add new subject to previous or add new information to previous element. (2)
ὅτι- Explanatory (2)

Asyndeton (Φ) in the prologue come in pairs. The Φ that follows is either a summary of the first (ΦS) or a contrast. It is also noteworthy that every ΦS begins with οὗτος. These account for 10 of the 17 instances of Φ in the prologue. In the remaining instances of asyndeton, they all show contrast. The external evidence of English renderings include conjunctions that indicate contrast with ‘but’ at verses 18, 17 and 12. In verses 8 and 13 contrast is amplified where αλλά is also in a subordinate clause in addition to the entire clause showing contrast to the previous. Weakened contrast is shown in verse 10 where some English versions use ‘but’ and ‘yet’ in a subordinate clause. Verse 4 will be controversial. It should be noted that there are no examples of ΦS that don't begin with οὗτος in the prologue and all the other Φ indicate contrast. Thus John's use of Φ in the prologue highly favors a contrast as well. It should be noted that
ὃ γέγονεν which starts this asyndeton is in the perfect which is a departure from the previous aorist ἐγένετο which provides further contrast.

ΦN 1 Ἐν ἀρχῇ ἦν ὁ λόγος, καὶ ὁ λόγος ἦν πρὸς τὸν θεόν, καὶ θεὸς ἦν ὁ λόγος. [In the beginning the Word was and the Word was with God and the Word was divi]

ΦS 2 οὗτος ἦν ἐν ἀρχῇ πρὸς τὸν θεόν. [This one was with God in the beginning.]

ΦN 3 πάντα διʼ αὐτοῦ ἐγένετο, καὶ χωρὶς αὐτοῦ ἐγένετο οὐδὲ ἕν. [All things were made through him/it, and so apart from him/it nothing was made.]

ΦB ὃ γέγονεν 4 ἐν αὐτῷ ζωὴ ἦν, καὶ ἡ ζωὴ ἦν τὸ φῶς τῶν ἀνθρώπων· [But what was made in him was life and his life was the light of men.]

ΚA 5 καὶ τὸ φῶς ἐν τῇ σκοτίᾳ φαίνει, καὶ ἡ σκοτία αὐτὸ οὐ κατέλαβεν. [And so the light is shining in the darkness and the darkness has not overpowered it.]

ΦN 6 Ἐγένετο ἄνθρωπος, ἀπεσταλμένος παρὰ θεοῦ, ὄνομα αὐτῷ Ἰωάννης· [There came to be a man named John sent from God.]

ΦS 7 οὗτος ἦλθεν εἰς μαρτυρίαν ἵνα μαρτυρήσῃ περὶ τοῦ φωτός, ἵνα πάντες πιστεύσωσιν διʼ αὐτο. [This one came as a witness to bear witness concerning that light in order that all would believe through him.]

ΦBI 8 οὐκ ἦν ἐκεῖνος τὸ φῶς, ἀλλʼ ἵνα μαρτυρήσῃ περὶ τοῦ φωτός [He was not that light but he came to witness concerning that light.]

ΦN 9 Ἦν τὸ φῶς τὸ ἀληθινόν, ὃ φωτίζει πάντα ἄνθρωπον, ἐρχόμενον εἰς τὸν κόσμον. [The true light that gives light to all men was coming into the world.]

ΦB 10 ἐν τῷ κόσμῳ ἦν, καὶ ὁ κόσμος διʼ αὐτοῦ ἐγένετο, καὶ ὁ κόσμος αὐτὸν οὐκ ἔγνω. [But the world did not know him even though he was in the world and the world came into existence through him. Cp. CEV, ESV.]

ΦN 11 εἰς τὰ ἴδια ἦλθεν, καὶ οἱ ἴδιοι αὐτὸν οὐ παρέλαβον. [He came to his ow relatives and they did not receive him.]

ΦB 12 ὅσοι δὲ ἔλαβον αὐτόν, ἔδωκεν αὐτοῖς ἐξουσίαν τέκνα θεοῦ γενέσθαι, τοῖς πιστεύουσιν εἰς τὸ ὄνομα αὐτοῦ, [But to all the others who received him and believed in his name he gave authority to become children of God. Cp. NASB, ESV)

ΦBI 13 οἳ οὐκ ἐξ αἱμάτων οὐδὲ ἐκ θελήματος σαρκὸς ⸋οὐδὲ ἐκ θελήματος ἀνδρὸς⸋ ἀλλʼ ἐκ θεοῦ ἐγεννήθησαν. [They were not from blood relations not from the will of fleshly man but they were born from God.]

ΚA 14 Καὶ ὁ λόγος σὰρξ ἐγένετο καὶ ἐσκήνωσεν ἐν ἡμῖν, καὶ ἐθεασάμεθα τὴν δόξαν αὐτοῦ, δόξαν ὡς μονογενοῦς παρὰ πατρός, πλήρης χάριτος καὶ ἀληθείας. [And so the Word became flesh and resided among us and so we saw his glory as befits the uniquely begotten firstborn of God full of grace and truth.]

ΦN 15 (Ἰωάννης μαρτυρεῖ περὶ αὐτοῦ καὶ κέκραγεν λέγων· [John witnesses concerning him and cried out]

ΦS οὗτος ἦν ὃν εἶπον· ὁ ὀπίσω μου ἐρχόμενος ἔμπροσθέν μου γέγονεν, ὅτι πρῶτός μου ἦν.) [(This is the one of whom I said: The one coming from behind me has moved ahead of me, because he was before me.)]

ὅτι 16 ὅτι ἐκ τοῦ πληρώματος αὐτοῦ ἡμεῖς πάντες ἐλάβομεν καὶ χάριν ἀντὶ χάριτος· [For from his fullness we have all received grace and truth]

ὅτι 17 ὅτι ὁ νόμος διὰ Μωϋσέως ἐδόθη, [Because the law was given through of Moses]

ΦΒ ἡ χάρις καὶ ἡ ἀλήθεια διὰ Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ ἐγένετο [But the grace and th truth came through Jesus Christ. Cp. CEV, NET.]

ΦN 18 Θεὸν οὐδεὶς ἑώρακεν πώποτε· [No one has seen God at any time]

ΦB μονογενὴς θεὸς ὁ ὢν εἰς τὸν κόλπον τοῦ πατρὸς ἐκεῖνος ἐξηγήσατο. [But the uniquely begotten god who is at the Father’s side has made him known. Cp. NIV.)

The Real John Milton

Well-known member
Excellent work. The following statistic I found to be very interesting:

“It is also noteworthy that every ΦS begins with οὗτος. These account for 10 of the 17 instances of Φ in the prologue.”

Roger Thornhill

Well-known member
Excellent work. The following statistic I found to be very interesting:

“It is also noteworthy that every ΦS begins with οὗτος. These account for 10 of the 17 instances of Φ in the prologue.”
Not sure if I worded that very well.

There are are 10 of the 17 examples of Asyndeton in the prologue that introduce a new subject (ΦN) and three of those are a summary with οὗτος. (ΦS).

The remaining 7 all show a contrast. There