Article No. 52

John 17:24 "Father, I will that they also, whom thou hast given me be with me where I am ..."

Among the English versions there is considerable variety of renderings of the Greek THELO - "I will", reflecting differences of opinion among scholars regarding the precise meaning of the Greek word, which is found in all the manuscripts. There is a variant in some manuscripts which has led some translators to substitute "that which" for "they whom", but this does not affect the meaning of THELO. The rendering in the Authorised Version conveys an emphatic declaration of the Saviour's will concerning His people, but all of the alternatives are weaker expressions such as - desire, wish, want, would and pray.

Versions with I WILL

No fewer than twenty five versions, ancient and modern, Protestant and Roman Catholic, "conservative" and "liberal", from 1382 to the present decade, have rendered THELO - "I will" or "It is my will". The list begins with Wyclif and includes Tyndale, the Great Bible, the Geneva Bible, the Bishops' Bible, the Rheims and Douay versions, the Authorised Version (followed here by Scofield, New Scofield and Newberry), Haweis, "Five Clergymen", Alford, Bowes, American Bible Union "Corrected Version" (1866), Young's Literal Version, the Revised Version, Clarke, Moffatt, Concordant Version, Spencer (R.C.), Confraternity (R.C.), Letchworth Version and the "Judean and Authorised Version".

Versions with I DESIRE

The rendering "I desire" was adopted in twenty translations:- J.B. Darby, Rotherham, Ferrar Fenton, Weymouth, Twentieth Century, Book of Books, C.K. Williams, Bagster's Interlinear (with Stephens' Text), Ronald Knox, Basic English, R.S.V., Roman Catholic Edition of R.S.V., Amplified Version, Schonfield, New English Bible, Wuest, Modern King James Version, New American Standard Version, King James II (Jay Green), and New King James Bible New Testament.

Versions with WISH, WANT and WOULD

Ten versions prefer "I wish". These are - The American Baptist Publication Society 1883 version, Samuel Sharpe, Jehovah's Witnesses' Diaglott-Interlinear and English, New World Translation, Rieu, Wade, Goodspeed, Lamsa and Marshall (Interlinear with Nestle text). Another nine versions have "I want" - C.B. Williams, J.B. Phillips, Jay Green's Children's and Teenage Versions, the Jerusalem Bible (R.C.), Today's English Version, Good News for the World, the Living Bible and the New International Bible (published in 1978). The versions of Lloyd and Cunnington, the Berkeley and New Berkeley Versions, and the New American Bible (R.C.), have "I would that" or "I would have", and the Mercier version alone has "I pray".


The Greek Lexicon of Liddell and Scott distinguishes THELO from BOULOMAI, the former expressing "will combined with choice and purpose - to will, be willing, wish, desire." Cremer's Lexicon insists that THELO is the stronger word to denote the will passing into action, and used in the Septuagint and New Testament for "elective inclination, love", but he includes John 17.24 with instances of "to will in the sense of desire", Thayer gives the meanings, (1) "To be resolved, or determined, to purpose. (2) To desire, wish". According to Thayer, BOULOMAI is used for the will which follows deliberation, and THELO for the will which proceeds from inclination. Arndt and Gingrich give "the wish of desire" as the primary meaning of THELO and include John l7.24 in this section. The will of purpose and resolve is put in second place, Moulton and Milligan list some occurrences of THELO for a personal wish or desire in first century secular papyri, but these do not exclude a more emphatic use in other contexts.


Some critics of the Authorised Version might be inclined to suggest that the Calvinism of the translators affected their judgment in rendering this word as they did, but it is interesting to note that Calvin says, "To will is put for to desire, for it expresses not a command, but a prayer". Many commentators who were hostile to Calvin's doctrinal position disagreed with his interpretation of this verse, and insisted on rendering it as in the A.V., so the charge of theological bias cannot stand.

Alford was no Calvinist, but he wrote, "THELO is not the THELO of chapter 12:21, 1 Cor. 7:7, but more like that of Mark 6.25, an expression of will founded on acknowledged right."

Jamieson, Brown and Faussett state the case even more strongly "The majesty of this style of speaking is quite transparent. No petty criticism will be allowed to fritter it away in any but superficial or perverted readers."

Gill comments, "The form in which these words are delivered is not so much by way of entreaty, as demand; they are a declaration of Christ's will, in which He insists upon it as His right, upon the foot of His purchase, and those covenant transactions which passed between Him and His Father on behalf of those who were given Him ..."

Westcott agrees that the A.V. rendering is correct. "He no longer prays, but gives expression to His "will", For the use of THELO by Christ see 1.22, 23; Matt. 8.3; 23.37; 26.39; and parallels in 15.32 (20.14); Luke 12.49. It is further interesting to contrast this expression of Christ's own will on behalf of His disciples with His submission to His Father's will in His prayer for Himself (Mk. 14.36),

Bengel remarks, "He had said in 9.15, 20 EROTO - I ask. Now his language assumes an increase in force. It is to be interpreted, I will, for "I would desire" is too weak a rendering. Jesus asks with the right of a claim, and demands with confidence as the Son, not as a servant ...".

The reader of the Authorised Version "I will" in this text has very substantial ground for confidently regarding this rendering as accurate and meaningful, and superior to the various alternatives offered in the modern versions.


For more information write to:

Trinitarian Bible Society
Tyndale House, Dorset Road
London, SW19 3NN, England
Telephone: 0 181 543 7857
Fax: 0 181 543 6370