"And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Son may bring glory to the Father. You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it. (John 14:13-14)
Why are there differences among the versions?There is a major difference in the translations between some of the versions regarding John 14:13. The phrase, "so that the Son may bring glory to the Father" was the translation in the 1984 New International Version. It was recently changed to "so that the Father may be glorified in the Son."
This makes the translation consistent with the King James Version. But the New Living Translation version says, "so that the Son can bring glory to the Father."
What is the difference between "the Father may be glorified in the Son" and "the Son can bring glory to the Father"?
The Greek is written in such a way that literally would be "Father will be glorified [ἐν (en)] the Son." And the word ἐν (en) has been translated to "in" in these versions. However, the Greek word ἐν (en) can also mean "by."
Why would they not translate the word ἐν (en) to "by" instead of "in"? After all, who speaks like that?
Let's say for example, that Bobby glorified his Dad. Would anyone in their right mind say, "Dad was glorified in Bobby"? Such a statement is nonsensical. It makes no sense. It completely erases the action that took place when Bobby glorified his Dad.
In the same way, to say that the Father (the Creator, God) will be glorified "in" the Son is nonsensical. It makes no sense. How can someone be glorified inside of someone else?
Because of this translation misstep, the 1984 NIV translation was utilized, as this translation is closer to the literal Greek, which would be "the Father will be glorified by the Son."
To say that the "Son may bring glory to the Father" is another way of saying that the Father will be glorified by the Son.
What about asking for anything in Jesus' name?Some take this part of Jesus' statement out of context. The context of the audience, circumstance, and surrounding statements is critical.
Some interpret this as Jesus suggesting we can ask him or God for anything - be it wealth, fame, success in one's job or winning a football game. Whatever it is, if we ask in Jesus' name, it will be done.
This teaching diametrically opposes Jesus' teachings. It suggests that Jesus is our servant. As if we are the ruler and Jesus and God are there to serve our every whim. We just order up some wealth or success from them and as long as we ask in Jesus' name it will be delivered to us.
As if God and Jesus are our waiters. They are just waiting on us, waiting for us to ask for something and as soon as we do, they spring into action and get it done for us.
This absolutely contradicts Jesus' teachings that we are God's servants and our natural position is to love God and do God's will. Their interpretation is that God and Jesus are waiting for us to ask them, so they can do our will. This contradicts Jesus' teachings, such as:
"Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven." (Matthew 7:21)
What is the meaning of asking in Jesus' name then?To understand Jesus' statement about asking in Jesus' name, we must understand the circumstance and the audience. Jesus is speaking directly to his closest disciples here, just prior to him being arrested and executed for his teachings.
Jesus knows his body will be murdered at the hands of the institutional temple priests and the Romans, and he is preparing his students to go out and pass on his teachings to others.
This is evidenced by his prior statement:
"I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father." (John 14:12)Jesus says "because I am going to the Father" because he knows he will be leaving his body shortly - when it has been murdered - and will be returning to the spiritual realm to be with God.
He says, "anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing" because what he has "been doing" is teaching about God. He wants his disciples to also teach others about God.
And the reason he says, "he will do even greater things than these" is because his disciples (and his disciples' disciples) will be reaching out to those beyond whom Jesus taught to. They will teach Jesus' message to a wider audience as they disperse and teach to their respective communities.
There are two areas of mistranslation here.
The first relates to "in my name," and the second is "whatever you ask" and "you may ask me for anything."
The phrase "in my name" comes from the Greek phrase ἐν τῷ ὀνόματί. The word "name" is being translated from the Greek word ὄνομα (onoma). While Thayer's lexicon indicates ὄνομα can mean "name," it can also mean "the name is used for everything which the name covers, everything the thought or feeling of which is aroused in the mind by mentioning, hearing, remembering, the name, i.e. for one's rank, authority, interests, pleasure, command, excellences, deeds, etc."
We can also provide evidence from other translations from ὄνομα (onoma) elsewhere in the Gospels. For example, Jesus said:
"Anyone who receives a prophet because he is a prophet will receive a prophet's reward, and anyone who receives a righteous man because he is a righteous man will receive a righteous man's reward." (Matt. 10:41)Here the combination of εἰς (eis), ὄνομα (onoma) and προφήτης (prophētēs) - which could be translated to "in the name of a prophet" is being translated to "because he is a prophet";
"And if anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones because he is my disciple, I tell you the truth, he will certainly not lose his reward." (Matt. 10:42)Here the combination of εἰς eis, ὄνομα onoma and μαθητής (mathētēs) - which could be translated to "in the name of my disciple" is being translated to "because he is my disciple"'
"And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or fields for my sake will receive a hundred times as much and will inherit eternal life." (Matt. 19:29)
Is he saying 'in my name' or 'for my sake'?
In Matt. 19:29, ἐγώ (egō) ὄνομα (onoma), ἕνεκα (heneka) - which could also be translated to "for my name's sake" - is being translated to "for my sake."
Just as in the above verses, the use of "in my name" doesn't make much sense in context. It also twists the meaning of Jesus' statement. The use of "name" here is relating not specifically to Jesus' physical name, but rather, to what Jesus represents. Jesus' mission, in other words.
This is clarified by the next part of his statement, being translated to "so that the Son may bring glory to the Father." While this is not a completely correct translation of the Greek phrase, ἵνα δοξασθῇ ὁ πατὴρ ἐν τῷ υἱῷ, the translation clearly indicates that the supposed phrase "in my name" is attached to Jesus' bringing "glory to the Father." The two cannot be separated. Jesus cannot be separated from his service to God.
We also cannot separate this statement by Jesus from his previous statement mentioned above:
"I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father." (John 14:12)
What will Jesus do for them?The bottom line is that Jesus was trying to tell his disciples that because of his devotion to the Supreme Being - because he wants to please the Supreme Being - he will continue to be available to his disciples. Even after he leaves his body, he will be there to help guide them and help them to carry on his message. Such help and guidance would be invoked by calling upon Jesus' name according to this statement.
Jesus wasn't trying to tell his disciples that he would give them "anything" as in fame and fortune or winning football games. The word "anything" is being taken from the Greek root word τις (tis), which means, according to the lexicon, "a certain," or "a certain one." In this context, it means something particular - not an all-inclusive "anything."
Rather, Jesus was trying to communicate that he would be there for them regardless of how difficult the circumstance was, to guide them spiritually. No matter what, he would be there for them, in any circumstance, to help them in their spiritual mission to serve him.
Such a relationship is rich and deep. It is not a superficial, passing relationship. It encompasses humility, commitment and an attitude of servitude. The reason why Jesus called some of his students "disciples" is because they had given their lives to him. They had made a commitment to spend their lives in his service, and thus in the service of God. And after Jesus left his physical body they continued that service, teaching Jesus' teachings in public squares and marketplaces.
What does 'Son' mean?This concept of Jesus' service to God ("doing God's will" or "bringing glory to the Father") brings us to another mistranslation.
The Greek word being translated to "son" is υἱὸς. The word υἱὸς can be translated to "son" in the context of a physical father-son relationship. But, according to the lexicon, this is only "generally used of the offspring of men" and "in a restricted sense, the male offspring (one born by a father and of a mother)."
The lexicon also states that υἱὸς is "used to describe one who depends on another or is his follower." This indicates that within a spiritual context, the word translates to "dependent follower" or "devotee," rather than to "son." And someone who follows and depends upon another can also be described - when there is love involved - as a "devoted follower" or even a "loving servant."
These alternative definitions are confirmed by the use of υἱὸς elsewhere by Jesus:
“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons [υἱὸς - servants or followers] of God.” (Matthew 5:9)and Jesus' teacher, John, said this:
"Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become sons [υἱὸς - servants or devotees] of God. (John 1:12).And there are multiple references to "sons of God" among the English Bible translations:
When human beings began to increase in number on the earth and daughters were born to them the sons of God saw that the daughters of humans were beautiful, and they married any of them they chose. (Genesis 6:2)
The Nephilim were on the earth in those days—and also afterward—when the sons of God went to the daughters of humans and had children by them. They were the heroes of old, men of renown. (Genesis 6:4)
Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan came also among them. (Job 1:6)
Again there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan came also among them to present himself before the LORD. (Job 2:1)
When the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy? (Job 38:7)
For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God. (Romans 8:14)
For the earnest expectation of the creation eagerly waits for the revealing of the sons of God. (Romans 8:19)When "servants" or "followers" is used rather than "sons", suddenly all of these statements now make sense. Being a servant of God is consistent with many other statements by Jesus, such as:
"For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother." (Matt. 12:50)and
"Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven." (Matt. 7:21)These indicate that Jesus is not making a claim to be God's "only begotten son." Such a claim would make God impotent. Is the Supreme Being - who created the entire physical universe with all the solar systems and living beings - only capable of having just one son? That would be an absurd statement.
Rather, as discussed elsewhere, the idea of "only begotten" comes from the Greek word μονογενής (monogenēs), which can mean "only" or "single of its kind" according to the lexicon, but also, according to its use among many ancient Greek texts, to mean "unique," "special," "privileged," or "favorite" as well. When we derive that the relationship being discussed is related to God, we can only conclude that what is being discussed is a special relationship with God. In this case, a "unique," "privileged" or "favorite" relationship.
What this indicates is not an "only begotten son," but rather, a special relationship with God - a dedicated, loving relationship. This would translate to being God's "intimate loving servant," or "intimate representative." (Thayer's lexicon also indicates that υἱὸς can also refer to a representative.) A person who is exchanging a confidential and special loving relationship with the Supreme Being, and one who is representing the Supreme Being.
It is also clear from the Gospels that Jesus did not come in his own name, rather, in God's Name. This is why he said, and then his disciples chanted, as Jesus entered Jerusalem:
"Blessed is he who comes in the Name of the Lord." (Matt. 21:9/39, Mark 11:9, Luke 13:35, John 12:13)As Jesus states in this statement, he has come to glorify God. Glorifying God also includes glorifying God's Holy Name.
It is easy to mistranslate something that is not understood. Translations often are limited by the knowledge of the translator. In this case, knowing that Jesus has a special intimate loving relationship with God requires being aware of such a relationship. Otherwise, it is difficult to understand what Jesus is getting at as he discusses how his disciples can pass on Jesus' teachings.
If we are serious about accessing that relationship, it will become available to us. Otherwise, it will be hidden from view, which is ultimately why many mistranslations occur. Jesus' purpose was to give us the opportunity to regain our own intimate loving relationship with the Supreme Being, as Jesus clearly taught:
“‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment.” (Matt. 22:37-38)
*Here is the translation of Jesus' statement from the Lost Gospels of Jesus:
Whatever you request in my name, that I will do, so that the Creator will be glorified by His Representative. If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it." (John 14:13-14)