Freedom: John 8:36 “Shall Set You Free, You Shall Be Free Indeed”

Freedom – John 8:36

ἐὰν οὖν ὁ Υἱὸς ὑμᾶς ἐλευθερώσῃ, ὄντως ἐλεύθεροι ἔσεσθε

If the Son shall set you free, you shall be free indeed.

The verb ‘shall set free’ in the first half of this verse is couched in our old friend the aorist subjunctive form. The aorist subjunctive is like a future, only it carries the flavour of a future that has not yet happened, but is likely to. There is certainly more to this verb than the present tense of the NIV suggests. Jesus is looking at all those Pharisees who have not yet found the freedom he has to give, and promising them that come their freedom, it will be freedom indeed; a freedom of the future, as the future tense in the second half of the sentence indicates, a future freedom on which to set our hope.

The word translated “indeed” strikes the reader with an almost philosophical power, and given that this is John the master writer’s work, we are permitted to believe it was carefully chosen, and weigh its lights accordingly. It is ontōs. The ont- element is derived from the present participle, the -ing form of the verb “to be”, so “being”. The ending -ōs is the standard adverbial ending in Greek. So literally translated, element for element, we have a word that means “beingly”. We shall be “beingly” free. The word suggests our freedom will be textured in to the warp and woof of our very being.

But only if the Son sets you free. The choice of the word ontōs may indicate that Jesus’ audience might believe that they are free, but be deluded as to what this is. This thought arises naturally from the context, bittersweet with ironies as to the identity of the Word. True, actual freedom of being will come when, and only when you receive Jesus your Liberator.

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