1 Peter 1:22 Perfect Participle
Carl W. Conrad
cwconrad at artsci.wustl.edu
Tue Mar 9 06:32:02 EST 1999
At 12:18 PM -0700 3/4/99, John Barach wrote:
>I've been working on 1 Peter 1:22-25 recently and have encountered some
>different opinions on how to deal with the perfect participle hHGNIKOTES
>Because it is perfect, some commentators argue that it refers to an event
>which took place in the past, namely, the readers' conversion (or
>baptism): "Since you have purified your souls (by converting or by being
>baptized), now love one another." In this view "obedience to the truth"
>refers to believing the gospel.
>Others, however, take the participle as expressing the necessary and
>on-going prerequisite for the command to love one another, so that the
>participle functions somewhat imperativally: "Love one another, and that
>love is possible only if you purify your souls...." The participle thus
>"denotes the duty which must ever be fulfilled (hence the perf.) if the
>AGAPAN is to be realized" (Huther). In this view "obedience to the
>truth" refers to keeping God's commands in daily life. Elsewhere in this
>passage (1:2; 1:14) "obedience" refers to conduct, and the context is a
>call to holiness (1:15).
>Does the perfect participle require us to see this purification as a past
>event or can it be read as the on-going prerequisite?
I see that nobody has tackled this so far, and it does raise an interesting
and significant question about perfect participles in relationship to
imperatives, particularly in view of the fact that participles not
infrequently appear in imperative phraseology as the equivalents of
associated imperatives. So is that the case here.
The text (UBS4): 22 TAS YUCAS hUMWN hHGNIKOTES EN THi hUPAKOHi THS ALHQEIAS
EIS FILADELFIAN ANUPOKRITON, EK [KAQARAS] KARDIAS ALLHLOUS AGAPHSATE
EKTENWS 23 ANAGEGENNHMENOI OUK EK SPORAS FQARTHS ALLA AFQARTOU DIA LOGOU
ZWNTOS QEOU KAI MENONTOS.
First of all I think I'd want to be wary here of any overconfidence that
one of the two views stated above is right and the other wrong. In favor of
the view that hHGNIKOTES has quasi-imperatival force might be the passage
from 2 Peter involving also an admonition to go beyond FILADELFIA to AGAPH
(2 Peter 1:5-7: 5 KAI AUTO TOUTO DE SPOUDHN PASAN PAREISENEGKANTES
EPICORHGHSATE EN THi PISTEI hUMWN THN ARETHN, EN DE THi ARETHi THN GNWSIN,
6 EN DE THi GNWSEI THN EGKRATEIAN, EN DE THi EGKRATEIAi THN hUPOMONHN, EN
DE THi hUPOMONHi THN EUSEBEIAN, 7 EN DE THi EUSEBEIAi THN FILADELFIAN, EN
DE THi FILADELFIAi THN AGAPHN.) On the surface, there is some similarity
between the two parenetic passages that urge behavior grounded in a
condition in which those exhorted have supposedly attained.
One clear difference between the two passages is that the participle
associated with the imperative in 2 Peter 1:5 is aorist: PAREISENEGKANTES
EPICORHGHSATE ... That, I think, is more normal when the participle is
understood to have imperative force so that the sense is 'PRWTON MEN
PAREISENEGKE, EPEITA DE EPICORHGHSATE ...' The question in my mind
regarding the 1 Peter 'parallel' is whether the perfect participle
hHGNIKOTES is functioning as the equivalent of an aorist (hHGNISANTES)--and
there does seem to be some assimilation of function between the perfect and
the aorist in Hellenistic Greek--or whether the perfect participle
hHGNIKOTES is really stative in the older function of the perfect tense.
Personally, I think that the decision between the two alternative ways of
understanding hHGNIKOTES outlined by John above depends upon how one
resolves this question. My own inclination is to take the perfect
participle in 1 Peter 1:22 as stative and NOT equivalent to an imperative;
i.e. I'd be inclined to side with the interpretation, "Because your hearts
ARE NOW sanctified by obedience to the truth to sincere affection for your
brothers and sisters in Christ, do bring to fulfilment your devotion to
each other ..." Perhaps some support for this view might be gained from the
appearance of the second perfect participle ANAGEGNNHMENOI in vs. 23--and
yet, it is perhaps easier to see ANAGEGENNHEMNOI as referring to a state
that has been fully attained than it is to see the sanctification of the
hearts as such.
Nevertheless I can see the reasonability of the alternative understanding.
I rather think that one's theological assumptions and one's understanding
of the process of conversion/salvation may play a considerable
role--perhaps more important than the grammar, so long as the ambiguity of
the grammar is acknowledged--in tipping the balance in favor of one or the
other alternative. That is to say: if one understands conversion/salvation
as a process essentially complete at a given time of spiritual rebirth, one
may be more inclined to read hHGNIKOTES as stative without imperatival
force, while if one understands conversion/salvation as an ongoing process
continuing from the moment of regeneration until a TELOS in the future,
then one may with more reason be inclined to understand hHGNIKOTES as
having quasi-imperatival force. If this were a Pauline text I'd be inclined
to look at it the second way, while if it were a Johannine text I think I'd
be inclined to look at it the first way. I guess this is a cop-out
ultimately: I think that the grammatical implication of the fact that the
participle is PERFECT rather than AORIST is simply not obvious.
I'd like to hear any arguments based on the grammatical form of hHGNIKOTES
alone that favor one of the alternatives over the other.
Carl W. Conrad
Department of Classics/Washington University
One Brookings Drive/St. Louis, MO, USA 63130/(314) 935-4018
Home: 7222 Colgate Ave./St. Louis, MO 63130/(314) 726-5649
cwconrad at artsci.wustl.edu OR cconrad at yancey.main.nc.us
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