The Question of Punctuation in John 1.3-4: Arguments from Ancient Colometry

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The question of how to punctuate John 1:3-4 has confounded both ancient and modern readers. Various textual and linguistic arguments have been used to support one of at least four suggestions about how to punctuate the passage. The present state of research, which supports both Reading A (belongs to the sentence in 1:4) and Reading B (belongs to the sentence in 1:3), is based primarily on textual evidence, whereas linguistic arguments have proven inconclusive and are used to confirm diametrically opposed readings. In this article, I apply recent developments in the study of ancient colometry and thus provide a firmer foundation for linguistic arguments based on the rhythm and length of lines. I conclude that balanced cola, approximate rhythm, and a successful beginning of the gradatio in 1:4-5 can be achieved only if the passage is punctuated according to Reading A. The case for understanding as part of 1:4 (Reading A) is more conclusively confirmed by both linguistic and textual evidence than by relying primarily on manuscript evidence. The fact that Reading A also provides the lectio difficilior and can explain the origin of Reading B makes it probable that it constitutes the original reading of John 1:3-4.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)175-191
JournalJournal of Biblical Literature
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2018 Jan 1

Subject classification (UKÄ)

  • Religious Studies


  • Gospel of John
  • New Testament Studies
  • Colometry
  • Textual Criticism
  • Punctuation


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