Tag Archives: John 4:37

The Salty Sower

What is the best way of reading John’s gospel in Greek? From P66 of course. Even the spelling mistakes are divine, except when they aren’t.
I was considering the political risk in running a business within a certain formerly democratic state when my eyes fell on John 4:36-37 in this most ancient document …

Ὁ θεριζων μεισθον λαμβανει και συναγει καρπον εις ζωην αιωνιον· ϊνα ὁ σπιρων ὁμου χαιρη και θεριζων·
Εν γαρ τουτω ὁ λογος εστιν αληθινος ὁτι ἁλος εστιν ὁ σπειρων και αλλος ὁ θεριζων·
Added rough breathings and capital letters.

The reaper receives payment and collects the fruit unto generations of life, so that the sower can rejoice like the reaper.
For in this, the word is genuine that: “A salty one there is who sows and another who reaps”.

The difference between P66 and other manuscripts is a λ — αλος ‘salty’ vs αλλος ‘another’. Now salt was used by the ancients, patriarchs and kings, to enter agreements. They would eat salt together. If we trust in laws and agreements we will be more likely to sow in the sense of investing, but not particularly likely to reap as Isaiah 65:21-22 hints.

But what if this is not about investment? Salt was used in Israel to flavour sacrifices. But a sacrifice wouldn’t rejoice would it? Perhaps it would if it weren’t sacrificed, like Isaac in Genesis chapter 22. Otherwise it’s surprisingly hard to find people on the street who rejoice because they haven’t been sacrificed recently. It is also a bit challenging to find an article about chanterelles which mentions how to sow them and not just how to eat them.

In a sense reaping and sowing are opposite actions. When it comes to wheat or chanterelles, sowing is more enriching for a third party. When it comes to human souls, reaping is so much more essential for the survival of mankind and mother earth, so if you are somewhat old and there is room in your heart, why not accept a disciple?

By the way, the usual text says: “There is one who sows and another who reaps.”