The Wartburg Project

August 3rd, 2017

36. Why does the EHV use “through” instead of “by” in John 1:3, 10, and 1 Corinthians 8:6?

The first verses of the Gospel according to St. John clearly state that the Son of God is true God. He is the Second Person of the Triune God. He always “was God” (Jn 1:1). He was eternally “with God” (Jn 1:2). He participated in the work of creation. The EHV translates John 1:3 this way:

3Through him everything was made, and without him not one thing was made that has been made.

The second half of the sentence reinforces what the first half is saying: Nothing was made without him. He participated in all of the work of creation. The English word “through” is the usual translation for the Greek term “dia” when it is paired with the genitive case. The EHV consistently translates this term that way. This translation of “through” is not incorrect. Anyone who accuses this translation of being incorrect is actually accusing Dr. Martin Luther who translated it that way in his 1545 German Bible (“durch”). Many others have offered the same translation in the verses you mention in your question. One was the Lutheran commentator, R. C. H. Lenski.
The EHV offers the same translation [of dia + the genitive] when it refers to God the Father in Hebrews 2:10, “Certainly it was fitting for God (the one for whom and through whom everything exists), in leading many sons to glory, to bring the author of their salvation to his goal through sufferings.” So we are certainly not somehow downgrading the deity of Christ. There is nothing wrong or incorrect about this standard translation. Quite often, the translator needs to distinguish between different prepositions in the immediate context.
Most translations use the term “through” [for dia + the genitive] in Matthew 1:22. EHV translates it this way: “All this happened to fulfill what was spoken by the Lord through the prophet:”… In this particular passage a translator must distinguish between two Greek prepositions. The phrase “by the Lord” is the Greek hypo + the genitive. Consistently, the EHV renders hypo + the genitive with “by…” Here are a few examples from the Gospel according to St. Matthew:

Matthew 2:15 (EHV) This happened to fulfill what was spoken by the Lord through the prophet: “Out of Egypt I called my son.”

Matthew 2:16 (EHV) When Herod realized that he had been outwitted by the Wise Men, he was furious. He issued orders to kill all the boys in Bethlehem and in all the surrounding countryside, from two years old and under. This was in keeping with the exact time he had learned from the Wise Men.

Matthew 3:13 (EHV) Then Jesus came from Galilee to be baptized by John at the Jordan.

Matthew 4:1 (EHV) Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the Devil.

The translation of “through” in John 1:3, 10, and 1 Corinthians 8:6 is not incorrect. It’s actually correct. We simply need to grasp more clearly what the Bible is teaching in these passages. According to Scripture the work of creation is preeminently ascribed to God the Father, the First Person of the Trinity. Consider how this is taught in 1 Corinthians 8:6:

… nevertheless for us there is one God—the Father, from [ex + genitive] whom all things exist, and we exist for him—and one Lord—Jesus Christ, through [dia + genitive] whom all things exist, and we exist through him (EHV).

Scripture teaches that God the Son (Second Person of the Trinity) and God the Holy Spirit (Third Person of the Trinity) cooperated in this work of creation. The “external works” of the Triune God are indivisible. Consider the working of the Triune God according to Hebrews 1:2, “In these last days, he has spoken to us by [en + dative] his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through [dia + genitive] whom he made the universe” (EHV). Martin Chemnitz serves as a reliable guide in the matter of these prepositions. He wrote:

Now we must not engage in arguments motivated merely by curiosity as to the difference of the persons in the work of creation, but rest content with that revelation that all things have been created by the eternal Father through the Son with the help of the Holy Spirit. This is what Gregory of Nazianzus has concluded from Rom. 11:36, “There is one Father “from” whom are all things, and the Son “through” whom are all things, and the Holy Spirit “in” whom are all things.” These points are not to be drawn in to suggest the inequality of the persons, as the Arians blasphemously asserted when they said that the Son was an instrument of God in the creation, as a woodsman uses an axe. “For these prepositions, ‘ “from,” “through,” and “in” says Nazianzus, “do not divide the nature, but express the properties of the one and unconfused nature.” [Martin Chemnitz and Jacob A. O. Preus, Loci Theologici, (St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1989), p. 157.]

Johann Gerhard sounds very similar:

Therefore we conclude that creation is an undivided act of the one true God alone, namely, of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit… We should not dispute too inquisitively about the distinction of persons in the work of creation, but let us be content with the simple truth that the eternal Father created all things through His Son in the Holy Spirit. The fathers gather this proposition from Rom. 11:26. However, Nazianzen is correct in adding that those short words “ ‘from,’ ‘through,’ and ‘in’ do not divide His nature but express the properties of the one, unconfused nature.” Observe also that in Col. 1:16 all things are said to have been created “in the Son.” Chrysostom (on Hebrews 1, homily 2): “It is not as a heretic foolishly suspects, that the Son is some instrument of the Father, nor is He said to have created through Him as though He Himself could not create. Rather, just as the Father is said to judge through the Son because He begot the judge, so also He is said to work through the Son because it is clear that He begot the workman.” [Theological Commonplaces: On Creation… (St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 2013), p. 14.]

These quotations clearly show that the fact that a heretic might misuse a proper translation does not lead us to remove the translation from Scripture but to explain that translation in a proper way.
A fuller study of the doctrinal implications of prepositions will be presented in our forthcoming article "Those Pesky Prepositions."