John 3:16 (chapter 3, verse 16 of the Gospel of John of the New Testament) is one of the most widely quoted verses from the Bible and has been called the most famous Bible verse. It has also been called the "Gospel in a nutshell", because it is considered a summary of the central theme of traditional Christianity.
In the King James Version, the verse reads:
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.
In Exodus 4:22, the Israelites as a people are called "my firstborn son" by God using the singular form. In John, the focus shifts to the person of Jesus as representative of that title. The verse is part of the New Testament narrative in the third chapter of John in the discussion at Jerusalem between Jesus and Nicodemus, who is called a "ruler of the Jews". (v. 1) After speaking of the necessity of a man being born again before he could "see the kingdom of God", (v. 3) Jesus spoke also of "heavenly things" (v. 11-13) and of salvation (v. 14-17) and the condemnation (v. 18-19) of those that do not believe in Jesus. "14 And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up: 15 That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life." (John 3:14-15) Note that verse 15 is nearly identical to the latter part of John 3:16.
|Century and distinctive features||Translation||John 3:16|
|C1, Greek||Original Koine Greek|| ? ? , ? ? , ? ? ? ?.|
Hoút?s gàr ?gáp?sen ho theòs ton kósmon, h?ste tòn huiòn tòn monogenê éd?ken, hína pâs ho pisteú?n eis autòn m? apól?tai all? ékh?i zn ai?nion.
|C2, Syriac||Peshitta Bible|
? ? ? ?
Han? gér 'a?e? 'al?h? llm? 'aykan? dla?reh y?yy? yetel dkul man damhaymen beh l? na?a? él? nehwuwn leh ?ayé dallam.
|C4, Latin||Vulgate||Sic enim Deus dilexit mundum, ut Filium suum unigenitum daret: ut omnis qui credit in eum, non pereat, sed habeat vitam æternam.|
|C14, Middle English||Wycliffe's Bible||For God louede so þe world that he ?af his oon bigetun sone þat ech man þat bileueþ in him perische not but haue euerlastynge lijf.|
|C16, Protestant||Tyndale Bible||For God so loveth the worlde y? he hath geven his only sonne that none that beleve in him shuld perisshe: but shuld have everlastinge lyfe.|
|C16, Roman Catholic||Douay-Rheims Bible (1899 American Edition)||For God so loved the world, as to give his only begotten Son; that whosoever believeth in him, may not perish, but may have life everlasting.|
|C17, Authorised Version||King James Version (1769 Oxford edition)||For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believed in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.|
|C19, literal translation||Young's Literal Translation||for God did so love the world, that His Son--the only begotten--He gave, that every one who is believing in him may not perish, but may have life age-during.|
|C19, forerunner of modern version||Revised Version||For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life.|
|C20, formal equivalence||New American Standard Bible||For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life|
|C20, dynamic equivalence||Good News Translation||For God loved the world so much that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not die but have eternal life.|
|C20, in-between approach, best-seller||New International Version||For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.|
|C21, formal equivalence||English Standard Version (unchanged from RSV)||For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.|
|C21, paraphrase||The Message||This is how much God loved the world: He gave his Son, his one and only Son. And this is why: so that no one need be destroyed; by believing in him, anyone can have a whole and lasting life.|
|C21, "optimal equivalence"||Christian Standard Bible||For God loved the world in this way: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.|
(See also Modern English Bible translations.)
Recent translation scholarship has struggled most with the Greek adverb (houtos) which traditionally has been simply translated as "so" as in "so loved" in the KJV.
Theologians Gundry and Howell believe that the sense and syntax of the Greek ...? make it likely that the author of the Gospel of John is emphasizing both (a) the degree to which God loved the world as well as (b) the manner in which God chose to express that love--by sending his only son. Gundry and Howell write that the term more frequently refers to the manner in which something is done (see BDAG 741-42 s.v. ?/). However, they add that the ? clause that follows involves the indicative--meaning that it stresses an actual but usually unexpected result. They conclude that the sense and syntax of the Greek construction here focuses on the nature of God's love, addressing its mode, intensity, and extent. Accordingly, it emphasizes the greatness of the gift God has given.
There are other scholars agreeing with this assessment. "The 'so' (houtos) is an adverb of degree which points toward the clause which follows and here serves to express the idea of infinity, a love that is limitless, that is fully adequate." "The Greek construction...emphasizes the intensity of the love."
This understanding of the intent in the original Greek is reflected in various scholarly commentaries and translations such as these:
Based on their analysis of the original Greek parallelistic structure of John 3:14-17, Gundry and Howell provide the following English translation showing the grammatical structure of that passage:
PARALLELISTIC STRUCTURE OF JOHN 3:14-17
MAIN CLAUSES (UNINDENTED)
SUBORDINATE CLAUSES (INDENTED)
- And just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness,
- in this way must the Son of man be lifted up
- in order that everyone believing might have in him life eternal,
- for in this way God loved the world;
- and so God gave the only Son
- in order that everyone believing in him might not perish; rather, might have life eternal,
- for God did not send the Son into the world
- in order that he might judge the world;
- rather, in order that the world might be saved through him.
Various translations differ on whether this is a direct quote of Jesus or a comment of the narrator of the Gospel. For example, the Good News Bible ends the quotation marks after verse 13 after which there is a footnote 'The quotation may continue through verse 21.'
Cultural references to this verse are manifold. Some people (such as the Rainbow Man) display the reference in large letters at sporting events, seeking the attention of fellow fans, the staff controlling the venue's giant video screens and, if the game is televised, the television audience. The Heisman-winning American football player Tim Tebow printed this reference (among other Bible verses) on his eye black, notably during the 2009 BCS championship. Exactly three years later on January 8, 2012, was the game that would become known as "The 3:16 game", where Tebow threw for 316 yards in a playoff upset against the Pittsburgh Steelers; a game in which measurements of 3, 16 and 31.6 were also noted, "John 3 16" became the top Google search in the US. Professional wrestler "Stone Cold" Steve Austin's marquee catchphrase ("Austin 3:16") originated as a reference to John 3:16.
Computer scientist Donald Knuth is the author of 3:16 Bible Texts Illuminated, in which he examines the Bible by an analysis of chapter 3, verse 16 of each book. Each verse is accompanied by a rendering in calligraphic art, contributed by a group of calligraphers under the leadership of Hermann Zapf. 3:16 was chosen because of this key passage in John.
John 3:16 printed on the bottom rim of an In-N-Out Burger paper cup.