J. Duncan - M. Derrett, «Jewish Law and Johaninne Vocabulary: a)lhqh&j at Jn 5,31-32; 7,18; 8,13. 17.», Vol. 17 (2004) 89-98
The backgrounds of Jn 6 and 7-8 having been missed, a)lhqh&j is still rendered “true”, whereas it means “legitimate” both in (e4du+t (testimony) and in s# eli+hu+t (agency).
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90 J. Duncan M. Derrett
Talm. B.B. l60b). Grotius (1641)5 explained: verum non opponitur falso,
set idem est quod Syr. Å¡arÃ®ra Heb. neâ€™emÄn [Ket. II. 97...Ï€Î¹ÏƒÏ„á½¹Î½, firmum,
ratum, stabile, legitimum. Potest aliquid esse verum quod solum per se
tale non est ut fidem impetret. Potest quis de re vera dicere (8,14) sed ni
si alia accedant non persuadet. One knows (A) that no party in litigation
may tender evidence for himself (8,13), though (B) he need not maintain
silenceâ€™6. Mishnah, R.H. III.1 actually contrasts neâ€™emÄn and truth, by
no means identical. One knows also (C) that no single testimony was
accepted (cf. Mt l8,16 with Dt 19,157. Single testimony might be true, but
it was not â€œlegitimateâ€, what Z.W. Falk (Introduction to Jewish Law I,
1972, 115) renders â€˜dependableâ€™. Î¤he correct translation of á¼€Î»Î·Î¸á½µÏ‚ at Jn
5,31 and the other cases I deal with here.
A Jewish jurist will say that single testimony is bÄtÄ“l, â€œvoidâ€. It is a
pity that after seventeenth-century authors of great repute had solved the
problem our translations-on-shelf continue to give false renderings8, and
commentators are, for the most part, similarly unhelpful9. Leon Morris
(John, 1971, 324;5), citing Odeberg, actually requires â€œuntrueâ€, for Jesus
would have erred giving â€œindependentâ€ testimony, placed as he was, and
therefore both scholars reject â€œlegally validâ€. The exquisite argument will
persuade those whom it may. The pseudo-improvement, â€œvalidâ€, can be a
In his Annotationes, summarized by M. Polus, Synopsis Criticorum IV (London 1669)
121438-50. John Lightfootâ€™s solution, Harmony of the Four Evangelists, pt. 3 (1647) at Whole
Works V (London l822) 265: â€œtrueâ€ ad modum recipientis. (How did Lightfoot miss Bezaâ€™s
recognition of Å¡arÃ®raâ€™ ?) That word is still current: G.M. Lamsa, Gospel of Light (Philadel-
phia 1936, repr. San Francisco 1986) 348. With Jn 18,38 cf. 1 Esd. 4,35-36. Alas, T.C. Falla,
A Key to the Peshitta Gospels (Leiden 1991-) has not reached Å¡.
(A) Mishnah, Ket. II.9; R.H. III.1; Bab. Talm., Ket. 27b. H. Strack and P. Billerbeck,
Kommentar zum Neuen Testament, II, 466, 522. (B) An accusedâ€™s objurgations can be
imagined. He may curse both witnesses and the court. P. Bovati, Re-establishing Justice.
Legal Terms and Procedures in the Hebrew Bible (Sheffield 1994) 342-2.
H. van Vliet, No Single Testimony (Utrecht 1958). Bovati, Re-establishing Justice,
At Jn 5,31, of translations into English in my hands seven (including REB) read
â€œvalidâ€ while ten read â€œtrueâ€ or the equivalent. Modern commentators are happy to reprint
â€œtrueâ€. Translations into Hebrew having nâ€™eemnÄhÍ… â€›Ä“dÃ»tÃ® are partially correct. The Vulg. has
non est verum (so Luther) but Knoxâ€™ (1945) â€œworth nothingâ€ reveals the authorâ€™s access to
a Jewish source. W. Temple, Readings in St Johnâ€™s Gospel (London 1968) 113, has â€œconvinc-
ing evidenceâ€, when what is needed is â€œjudicially acceptable, legitimateâ€. See Cornelius Ã
Lapide (1639) at Jn 5,31.
No help is to be had from Bultmann (1962); Dodd (1968); Marsh (1968); Barrett
(21978); Heanchen (EV 1984); Beasley-Murray (1999). Bernardâ€™s â€œneed not be taken as
trueâ€ (1928) crept towards the right answer. H.N. Ridderbos, John (Grand Rapids 1997)
202, has a good treatment, settling for â€œjudicially validâ€.