At our evening service this past Lord’s Day an interesting question arose, did Jesus or John speak the words of John 3:16?
This was something I did not even notice because I don’t use a red letter Bible and my quotation marks in my ESV are so small! (I evidently wasn’t wearing my glasses). I had always presumed this verse was John’s commentary upon the story of Jesus and Nicodemus.
In the Greek original there are no quotation marks here and so the question is left to the translators. Here is how it breaks down in some common Bible translations:
Those that have it as Jesus: NLT, ESV, NASB, AMP, HCSB
Those that have it as John: NIV, BSB, BLB, KJV, NKJV, CSB, ASV, CEV, GNB
So more have it as John than Jesus, but the division is comparable. Evangelical Bible commentaries also seem to be divided on the matter.
There are no major doctrines that are effected whether this was spoken by John or Jesus; ultimately John’s words are Christ’s (1 Ti 3:16; 1 Pe 1:11). There are minor issues of how we might interpret the words, like if I say the same thing or you say the same thing; however, these won’t break the bank.
I have always taken these as John’s words because they read like the introduction to John, they are explanatory (rather than progressive). John often takes time as the narrator to interject his [inspired] thoughts. There is also a tense change, which points away from Jesus and to John. Jesus also never referred to Himself as, “the only begotten Son,” but rather John does. It seems to me that John is explaining, or expanding upon, what Jesus and Nicodemus had been conversing about.
However, it is such a minor matter than I’m certainly open to alternative views.
Author: Chris Crocker
Pastor, historian and beekeeper.