(‘Oasis’  pic credit: ©2017 crisbaj. Used with permission)

Amp’d… amplified…

OK, here’s a tough question for ‘not Greek scholars’ like me to ask: why is there a dis-agreement over the scholarship that led to 35 of 38 major translations of John 4:23b-24??

Recap: John 4:23b-24 reads, in 35/38 translations… “worship the Father in spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth”.

Commentaries on these passages are all over the place.

In my searching, I came to find a scholar who takes great issue with these 35/38 renderings. John Mark Hicks, a Professor of Theology at Lipscomb University.

      [] see full discussion at                                                           

Looking closely at the structure of the Greek in these verses, the use of pneuma (spirit), as it appears 24 times in the Gospel of John, says Hicks… “never refers to human attitudes or motivations… born-again believers are born of the [pneuma] Spirit (John 1:33,34; 3:5, 34)… When believers worship the Father, they worship “in the Spirit.” God is pneuma (Spirit)… Believers enjoy a living water that arises out of the Spirit who dwells within us and, “in” this thirst-quenching water that is the Spirit, we worship the Father. It is the living water that wells of the Spirit are the Spiritual dynamics of worship itself – the Holy Spirit who gives life to worship by the living, personal presence of God by the Spirit.” (Hicks, 2012)

Surprising is that 35 translations lead the reader to a focus on the human person ‘worshipping’ and not the work of the Holy Spirit, which is always the under-tow of John’s Gospel.

Likewise, the use of ‘and the truth’ is further examined by Hicks, “…aletheia (truth), though it appears 55 times in the Gospel of John, never refers to Scripture. Instead, the dominant meaning of aletheia in John is that of authentic reality… The context of John 4 is not truth (biblical) versus falsehood (wrong), but is truth (reality) versus type (shadow).

Ultimately, Jesus said that He is the truth; He is the reality. [ “I am the Way and the Truth and the Life; no-one comes to the Father except through Me”  John 14:6]…” (Hicks, 2012)

Hicks ends this analysis of the John 4 passage with, “Jesus is the truth… who is the new temple”, as He is referred to in the full passages of John 4.

^Hence, a strong case for a proper rendering to read,

In [the] Spirit and in [the] Truth” 

^The amp’d version of this passage of John shows that ‘True Worshippers’ are directly connected with the Holy Spirit and Jesus, the Truth in adoration and worship. Adoration and worship come from the Holy Spirit and Jesus the Truth, not something manufactured or self-generated.

The tie-in… and harmony with… the Romans Chapter 8:

14 For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God. 15 The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship.[f] And by him we cry, “Abba,[g] Father.” 16 The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. (Romans 8: 14-16)

The New International Translation (NIV) stands out as one of the 3/35 that render John 4:23b-24 a bit differently than most, using ‘…in the Spirit’, rather than ‘…in spirit’. Using a high level of Scriptural scholarship, the NIV was translated in the 1970’s, and updated in 1984 and 2011. This distinct translation of the verses in John have stood the long, careful review process. However, the proposed NIV change to [the] Truth was never fully adopted.

Surprisingly, one of my favorite scholars, Eugene Peterson rendered this passage in The Message: “23-24 “It’s who you are and the way you live that count before God. Your worship must engage your spirit in the pursuit of truth. That’s the kind of people the Father is out looking for: those who are simply and honestly themselves before him in their worship. God is sheer being itself—Spirit. Those who worship him must do it out of their very being, their spirits, their true selves, in adoration.”

People are the focus of Peterson’s rendering. There is a hint of harmony with Romans 12 in The Message’s trans-literation, but it lacks the distinction that Hicks advocates.


Based on the scholarship of John Mark Hicks… and the New International Version editorial group… it would seem that ‘in the Spirit and in [the[ Truth’ is an acceptable ‘amplified’ rendering that adheres to the original Greek and better lends itself to a clear understanding of a God-focused flow within life, adoration and worship. 

Thoughts, anyone? Looking forward to the Comments…

written by crisbaj

© 2017 by crisbaj/  All rights reserved.

All Scripture references from New International Version unless otherwise indicated.

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