Although the Greek word “kai” is most often translated into English as “and”…


…its meaning in Greek goes way beyond that of our familiar English coordinate conjunction.

For English readers, “and” is relatively unambiguous, almost always joining two things of equal nature. In Greek however, “kai” is much more complex, operating in ways that are foreign to English speakers. As a result, English readers often wind up with profoundly mistaken understandings of what New Testament authors originally intended. The purpose of this post is to sort through some of those misunderstandings.

The best place to start is with one of the most popular, but widely misunderstood verses in the New Testament– John 4:24 “God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth” (NASB). Scores, perhaps hundreds, of sermons center on John 4:24 every week. Most will predictably differentiate between two kinds of worship (one in spirit and the other in truth) and then invariably conclude that true worship must include both. They are, unfortunately, wrong!

That’s because the phrase “spirit and truth” in John 4:24 is a “hendiadys,” a grammatical construction literally meaning “one through two.” A hendiadys expresses one thing using two things. The two “things” are typically nouns in a subordinate, rather than coordinate relationship. In effect, the second noun takes on the function of an adjective. Thus, “spirit and truth” really means “true spirit.”

Although the existence of a hendiadys can have a significant effect on meaning, there’s really no foolproof way to determine whether one is actually present. Context, structural cues, and an overall sense of scripture and authorial intent are the best guides. John 4:24 is a good example in which structure, in this case parallelism, plays a key role in identifying “spirit and truth” as a hendiadys. Since God is one thing (spirit), those who worship must worship Him in one thing (true spirit), not two things (spirit and truth) as commonly understood.

Thus we see a significant misunderstanding underlying countless sermons on John 4:24. True worship is not a matter of balancing two opposing principles (spirit/enthusiasm vs. truth/doctrine) as commonly preached, but is a matter of worshipping according to a particular kind of spirit– true spirit.

“God is spirit and those who worship Him must worship Him in true spirit.”

Some other possible examples of hendiadys (some of which have significant theological consequences) include …

  • Prov 29:15 —rod and reproof (RSV) = correcting rod (NIV)
  • Eccl 9:11 —time and chance = chance times
  • Phil 2:1 —bowels and mercies (KJV) = compassionate affection
  • John 3:5 —water and spirit = spiritual water (arguably the waters of baptism which have been made “spiritual” by the divine meaning placed upon them)
  • Rev 19:11 — is faithful and true = truly faithful (Note the singular “is” which requires a singular name “truly faithful,” not the two names “faithful and true”)
  • 1 Tim 3:15 —pillar and ground = grounded pillar
  • Eph 4:11 —pastors and teachers = teaching pastors
  • John 19:34 —blood and water = watery blood (i.e., “ichor,” the blood of the gods in Greek mythology, which John apparently uses as a testimony to the fact that Jesus truly was the Son of God)


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For other posts dealing with the use of “kai,” use the following link:
Search “kai”

For a word study of “kai,” see the following link:
Kai Word Study (1.5 MB)

For a sampling of references on the biblical use of hendiadys, see the following link:
A Sampling of References on Biblical Instances of Hendiadys



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