“Though he were dead” – A Controversial Understanding of John 11:25-26


Jesus said unto her, I am the resurrection, and the life:
 a. he that believes in me, though he were dead [i.e. having died the 1st Death], yet shall he live [i.e. the 2nd Life]:
 b. And whosoever liveth [i.e. is still living the 1st Life] and believes in me shall never die [i.e. the 2nd Death].
 Believest thou this?

John 11:25-26 KJV

John 11:25-26 – The Problem of a Superfluous Verse

Like many other verses in the bible, John 11:25-26 uses certain words in multiple senses. This means that the reader needs to be extra careful when trying to understand such verses in order to avoid ending up with the wrong interpretation. What I am about to say will no doubt shock many readers, but after much study, I strongly believe that John 11: 25-26 is referring to the idea that it is possible for (at least some of) the dead to believe the gospel in that state. I hope to demonstrate this discovery by carefully revealing what I believe to be the true meaning of key terms in this passage. Specifically, I believe that the term “dead” (in v.25) does not mean the same as “die” (in v.26) nor does “live” (in v.25) mean the same as “liveth” (in v.26). In other words, the verbs die and live are words to which these two verses have ascribed multiple meanings. Of course, John 11:25-26 does not employ different meanings for the same word in order to engage in equivocation (i.e. the accidental or deliberate use of a key term in an ambiguous way) but for the sake of achieving contrast through the use of an antithetical parallelism. According to Biblical scholar E.W. Bullinger’s Figures Of Speech Used in the Bible, the antithetical parallelism is a literary device used to demonstrate an antithesis, or contrast between certain words in each part of a symmetry. Verses which comprise an antithetical parallelism will therefore join opposing ideas in a noticeable contrast. Instead of repeating the same thing twice (as is done in a synonymous parallelism), an antithetical parallelism will say one thing in the first line and then a contrasting thing in the next. Yet, most explanations of John 11:25-26 which I have encountered completely miss Christ’s glaring attempt at creating a contrast. Instead, these commentaries end up ascribing a meaning to John 11:25 which is effectively the same as that of John 11:26. For instance, respected Bible commentators Albert Barnes and Adam Clarke both suggest that John 11:25 refers to the granting of eternal life to those who happen to die in a state of belief, while John 11:26 refers to the granting of eternal life to believers who are currently alive (but will also eventually die in a state of belief) [3]. But if this is the case, then why would Jesus say what is effectively the same thing, twice? What is the difference? No, there has to be something else going on in this passage. It is for these reasons that I have concluded that John 11:25-26 requires greater scrutiny.

Because the usual meaning of the verbs “die” and “live” seem inadequate to account for the contrast required between verses 25 and 26, we need to consult the Scriptures for more guidance. It’s as if the word “dead” (in verse 25) and “die” (in verse 26) require two different types of death, and the words “live” (in verse 25) and “liveth” (in verse 26) require two different notions of what it means to live.

Interestingly enough, the bible does tell us that there are actually two types of life and death that a person can experience. Let us first examine the two deaths. Continue reading

What does it really mean to be “dead in trespasses and sins”?


Colossians 2:12-20
(12) Buried with him in baptism, wherein also ye are risen with him through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised him from the dead.
(13) And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath he quickened together with him [Christ], having forgiven you all trespasses
(20) …therefore…ye be dead with Christ from the rudiments of the world…

Ephesians 2:1-6
(1) And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins
(5) Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;)
(6) And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus:

Romans 6:3-4 
Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death? Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.

Romans 6:5
For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection:

The goal of this essay is to determine what it means to be “dead in trespasses and sins.” I am concerned that the popular spiritual death explanation ascribed to this phrase by many Christian leaders is misleading. From Romans 6:5 emerges a rule which tethers the words death and resurrection to each other in such a way that both words must be taken in the same sense—they are both either literal or figurative. No mixing of a figurative death (e.g. spiritual death) and a literal resurrection is therefore permitted. This point is important because in the passages of Ephesians 2:1-6 and Colossians 2:13-20, both the Romans 6:5 rule and the force of logic compel us to conclude that the Author is using the terms dead and quickened symmetrically.

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