Periphrastic construction in I John 1:4

Carl Conrad cwconrad at
Fri Jul 2 07:44:58 EDT 1999

On 07/02/99, ""Robert R. Monti" <robemon at>" wrote:
> Right now I'm working my way through I John to keep up my Greek translation
> work up on my own. I'd like some input on I John ch. 1, v. 4:

There's a major transliteration error here that I'm going to correct each 
time I see it, beginning with transcription of the verse in question.


> Concerning Hi PEPLHRWMENH, I made the following note:
> 	Hi PEPLHRWMENH is the periphrastic construction (perfect participle
> and present
> 	subjunctive form of EIMI). It emphasizes a state of existence. For
> John, the completed
> 	process of writing about the manifested eternal life which the
> apostles had seen, heard
> 	touched is meant to achieve a durative state in both John and his
> intended audience --
> 	"that our joy might be completed."

I think that, in considering this verse, one must be aware that Hi 
PEPLHRWMENH need NOT be considered a periphrastic construction, although it 
COULD be. An alternative reading might be to read the Hi as present 
subjunctive and PEPLHRWMENH as a predicate adjective in the sense 
"complete." And I really think that this is probably the easier way to read 

However, we might ask whether this is ultimately another way of saying the 
same thing, especially as there is no NON-periphrastic form of the perfect 
passive subjunctive. In either case, I think that the emphasis in the 
perfect passive partaiciple PEPLHRWMENH is on an achieved state rather than 
on the achievement of the state: i.e., it's not a matter of EFFECTING the 
completion that is emphasized by use of this verb form (as it seems to me 
you are reading it when you write, "that our joy may be completed"--that 
idea would better be expressed, I think, with an aorist passive 
subjunctive, e.g. hINA hH CARA hHMWN PLHRWQHi); rather it's a matter of the 
present status of the joy as fully effective--as a fait accompli, so to 
speak. This is why I say that PEPLHRWMENH might almost as well be viewed as 
a predicate adjective and the whole clause might almost as well be written 
hINA hH CARA hHMWN Hi PLHRHS. And I think that the common translations of 
the clause are right: "that our joy may be COMPLETE"--rather than 

> Comments would be appreciated -- either on- or off-list is fine. I would
> also appreciate it if somebody would discuss the use of DE to lend strength
> to a statement or argument, as in I John ch. 1, v. 3b:


This is a little bit awkward and seems almost like an afterthought in a 
sentence that some might well consider a monstrous anacoluthon comparable 
in its own way to Ephesians 1:3-10 [No, I DON'T want to start up the "bad 
Greek" thread--I think this is intelligible but curiously, awkwardly 
phrased].  We have to look at this as a clarification, I think, of the 
preceding clause, hINA KAI hUMEIS KOINWNIAN ECHTE MEQ' hHMWN, and I'd be 
inclined to put the entire clause of 3b in parentheses: "(even our own 
fellowship with the Father and with His son Jesus Christ)".

One COULD say that there is an implicit ESTIN in this clause and that it is 
declarative: "even our own fellowship is with the Father and with His son 
Jesus Christ." I think that's a legitimate alternative.

OR alternatively one could say that this clause is an expansive description 
of the KOINWNIA that the writer wants the addresses to share; it ought 
perhaps, if thus understood, to be set in the accusative to agree with the 
KOINWNIAN of the previous verse, but it might be understood as something I 
rather despise to acknowledge the existence of: a NOMINATIVUS PENDENS; the 
nearest parallel would be the final phrase of GJn 1:14, PLHRHS CARITOS KAI 
ALHQEIAS, where one expects PLHRH, an accusative to agree with DOXAN, or 
alternatively PLHROUS, a genitive to agree with AUTOU.

Of course, I've been talking about a different problem than the one you 
have raised, one that seems closely bound up with the function of that DE. 
But I think the function of the DE is practically to turn the entire clause 
in which it is imbedded into a parenthetical one; to convey its force VERY 
LOOSELY, I'd convey the clause thus: "even the fellowship, that is, that we 
ourselves have with the Father and with His son Jesus Christ."

But there's something grammatically awkward in this phrasing, whichever 
alternative explanation one accepts: either the whole phrase ought not to 
be in the nominative, or else one must accept an implicit ESTIN. Perhaps 
the second alternative is easier, but I rather suspect that the first 
alternative may be more in accord with the composition as it stands (that 
it's something of an anacoluthon).

This has been awkward writing on the web, where I'm in recurrent peril of 
losing my connection. My home domain is down and I am connected to the net 
by an alternative ISP. I hope it goes through.

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