THE THREE "SAWS" OF JOHN 20
Written by Ron Hutchison

As I have attempted to do some translation of the New Testament I have learned that most of the English translations we have available today fall short in bringing out the details hidden in the Greek New Testament. This does not mean that we cannot learn what to do to be saved or how to live to please God by reading English translations, but it does mean that we are missing some of the fine details that are just not translated in English translations.

One such instance is in John 20:1-9. This is the account of Mary Magdalene coming to the tomb where Jesus' body had been placed after he died on the cross. John tells us that it was still dark when she came to the tomb and that she "saw that the stone had been taken away from the tomb" (v.1). She then "...ran and came to Simon Peter, and to the other disciple, whom Jesus loved, and said to them. They have taken away the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid Him." The Bible then tells us that "Peter therefore went out, and the other disciple, and were going to the tomb. So they both ran together, and the other disciple outran Peter and came to the tomb first. And he, stooping down and looking in, saw the linen cloths lying there; yet he did not go in. Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb; and he saw the linen cloths lying there, and the handkerchief that had been around His head, not lying with the linen cloths, but folded together in a place by itself. Then the other disciple, who came to the tomb first, went in also; and he saw and believed."

Notice the three words translated "saw" which I have put in  italics and underlined in verses 5, 6 and 8. Notice that the apostle John ("the other disciple") was the first one to arrive at the tomb. The Bible says "...he stooping down and looking in, saw the linen cloths lying there..." The Greek word translated "saw" in this verse is Blepei. It is a word which means "to observe." This was a mere viewing of the facts from outside the tomb without, apparently any significant realization of what had taken place other than the fact that what Mary had reported was true.

The second Greek word translated "saw" in verse 6 is theorei. It is a word that means "to behold." ". . . and he saw the linen cloths lying there." Peter's "seeing" was deeper because he went into the tomb and clearly saw something astounding: the handkerchief or head roll, was still intact and folded up in a place by itself. Peter "saw" more detail. He was a step closer than John was when John first came to the tomb. He saw more evidence and was closer to realizing what had actually taken place. However, he did not yet understand completely.

The third word translated "saw" in verse 8 is eiden. It is a word that means "to perceive." When John went inside the tomb after Peter, he "saw and believed." In other words, John perceived what had actually taken place. He understood that Jesus had been raised from the dead just as He said He would be! John "perceived and believed." John's reaction from "seeing" was "believing" that the "impossible" had taken place. Jesus had been resurrected from the dead! It was as a result of this perception or understanding that he believed.

[Note: if there is an objection given to the understanding that John did realize the significance of the empty tomb at this point after reading verse 9 which the NKJV translates, "For as yet they did not know the Scripture, that He must rise again from the dead", then understand that the word translated "did not know" is in the pluperfect tense. The pluperfect ('past perfect') shows action that is complete and existed at some time in the past, (the past time being indicated by the context). Thus, a correct translation of this verse would read "For they had not yet understood (that is, they had not understood in the past) the Scripture..." In other words, up to the time that John "perceived and believed" the apostles had not understood the Scripture, but now John did understand. Richard Weymouth's The New Testament in Modern Speech renders the verse like this: "For until now they had not understood the inspired teaching, that He must rise again from among the dead."]

The lesson is this. It is not just enough to "see" (observe) some of the facts about Jesus. It is not enough to "see" (behold) the details about Jesus. We must "see" Jesus in the sense of perceiving or understanding the truth about what He has done for us and what He requires of us before we can be saved. We must observe or behold the facts of the gospel, and then we must come to the correct perception or understanding of what we have observed and beheld.


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