Help a brother out? A little question about the information structure of "eternal life" in 1John 5.13


Well my title basically says it all: I need help with interpreting what's going on, as far as the information structure (=IS) is concerned, with the phrase ζωὴν αἰώνιον ("life eternal") in 1John 5.13. Here's the verse:

Ταῦτα ἔγραψα ὑμῖν ἵνα εἰδῆτε ὅτι ζωὴν ἔχετε αἰώνιον, τοῖς πιστεύουσιν εἰς τὸ ὄνομα τοῦ υἱοῦ τοῦ θεοῦ.

I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God that you may know that you have eternal life. (ESV)

I'm not that great at figuring out Greek IS issues, and frankly don't want to use what little free time I do have to dig through Levinsohn or Runge's layout of this level of analysis (I'm a new dad after all!). I'd much more enjoy doing this with someone—but not alone.

So does anyone feel equipped or ambitious enough to help?

To me, it just looks like something unusual (i.e. not default) is going on with the phrase ζωὴν αἰώνιον ("life eternal")—with the verb being inserted in between the two.

Here's what I'm thinking so far:

  1. The phrase ζωὴν αἰώνιον is by far the prototypical arrangement of the two lexical items (about 93% of the cases; 40/43, I think).
  2. However, the reverse is also attested (i.e. αἰώνιον ζωὴν), but only 3x.
  3. So, this separation in 1John 5.13 is definitely unusual—and I think the sole exception.
  4. Whether the fronted constituent (ζωην) occupies the P1 (topicalization) or P2 (focus) slot I can't say. Can you? (Or am I wrong altogether here?)
  5. As far as 1John 5 is concerned, "eternal life" becomes an active topic via its fronted position in the P1 slot in vs. 11.
  6. Given this, I'd say the fronted element in vs. 13 (of "life"), then, is in the P1 position, since it's not new information, but the re-activation of a "sleeping" topic.
  7. However, it is new in the sense of how the concept/phrase is lexicalized; and, thus, could be considered P2?


I don't know. I give. Help?