perfect tense and John 1:3-4
iver_larsen at sil.org
Mon Aug 19 01:30:14 EDT 2002
> -----Original Message-----
> From: Clwinbery at aol.com [mailto:Clwinbery at aol.com]
> Carl Conrad wrote in March, 1996.
> Present: APOQNHiSKEI " ... is dying"
> Imperfect: APEQNHiSKE(N) " ... was dying"
> Aorist: APEQANE(N) " ... died"
> Present Perfect: APOTEQNHKE(N) "is dead" = "has died"
> Past Perfect: APETEQNHKEI "was dead" = "had died"
> A similar verb is GI(G)NOMAI, where GI(G)NOMAI means " ... come into
> existence," EGENOMHN means "came into existence," but GEGONA means " ...
> exist full-formed." Worth looking at are the Greek verbs in John's
> prologue, 1:3-4: "all things came into existence (EGENETO) through his
> agency, nor did a single thing come into existence (EGENETO). What has
> existence (GEGONEN) was, in fact (HN, "philosophic" or "explanatory"
> imperfect) Life in Him."
Thanks for an excellent description of the perfect. It was perfect :-)
The last translation of John 1:3-4 caught my attention, mainly because "What
has existence was, in fact, Life in Him" makes no sense to me.
The text is (punctuation added, but disputed):
V. 3: PANTA DI' AUTOU EGENETO, KAI XWRIS AUTOU EGENETO OUDE hEN hO GEGONEN.
V. 4: EN AUTWi ZWH HN, KAI hH ZWH HN TO FWS TWN ANQRWPWN
It makes good sense to me to understand v. 3 as saying in a typical Hebrew
repetitive, parallel, emphatic style: EVERYTHING came into being through his
agency, and outside of his agency not one thing of that which (now) exists
(or: has come into being), came into being.
That v. 4 should start a new sentence is quite parallel to v. 1. A fronted
topicalized "In HIM" seems both natural and common for John's style.
So, what are the grammatical or contextual reasons for dividing the text as
the latest versions of the NA and UBS text have it?
Bruce Metzger in his textual commentary strongly supports the punctuation I
have shown above, but he was outnumbered by a majority of the committee for
theological and historical reasons. One of Metzger's points is that if the
other view had been correct, he would have expected ESTIN in v. 4 with the
perfect, not HN (the HN was actually changed to ESTIN in a few less reliable
mss - Aleph and D).
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