Mt 3:2, 4:17

Carl W. Conrad cwconrad at artsci.wustl.edu
Mon Nov 29 06:43:10 EST 1999


At 11:48 PM -0600 11/28/99, David A Bielby wrote:
>Dear B-Greekers
>
>In my further study of Matthew 4:17 some questions are coming up. I'm
>wondering what the force of the Perfect tense in the word HNGIKE in Mt
>3:2, 4:17 is, and how that impacts the rest of the sentence?  Why
>wouldn't Matthew use the Aorist here? What are the implications of the
>Perfect Active Indicative syntactically?   It seems to me that Jesus may
>be saying here that the kingdom has fully come near...or completely
>arrived.  Is this a correct reading?  Maybe He's saying: Because the
>kingdom of heaven is 'right here in full measure or presence you must
>repent.

One common translation of HGGIKEN is "is at hand"--i.e., "is immediately
ahead of us/you." I think you have pretty much rightly expressed the force
of the perfect here as indicating the present condition; the aorist would
simply indicate the fact of drawing near as taking place in the past, while
the perfect indicates more the present state consequent upon that. You
might consider a couple uses of the aorist of EGGIZW in Matthew: 21:1 (KAI
hOTE HGGISAN EIS hIEROSOLUMA KAI HLQON EIS BHQFAGH ... TOTE IHSOUS
APESTEILEN DUO MAQHTAS ...) and 21:34 (hOTE DE HGGISEN hO KAIROS TWN
KARPWN, APESTEILEN TOUS DOULOUS AUTOU PROS TOUS GEWRGOUS LABEIN TOUS
KARPOUS AUTOU), where the main clause indicates a past action for which
HGGISAN and HGGISEN give the time reference. And I would agree with what
you say in your final sentence.

>Also, why can't the phrase TWN OURANWN be translated as a plural?
>(I've always wondered about this phrase which appears all over the place)

I suppose it could, in the sense that each planetary sphere constitutes one
of the OURANOI, but the normal understanding is that Matthew uses the
genitive plural OURANWN where the general practice elsewhere is to use the
singular genitive OURANOU is that the Hebrew dual form for heaven,
SHAMAYYIM is being expressed by the plural. I dont' know whether the
Aramaic is equivalent or not but the Hebraisms seem more common in Matthew,
and Matthew regularly does use BASILEIA TWN OURANWN rather than BASILEIA
TOU OURANOU.

>So, can this phrase mean: the dominion/kingdom of the heavens has
>come....?
>
>Does the sentence communicate a causal relationship between the dominion
>of heaven coming near and the ability of one to obey the imperative
>"METANOEITE"?
>Does this imply the Kingdom's nearness has an empowering potential for
>the hearers to obey?

I think the causal relationship is rather between the imperative METANOEITE
and the reason for it in HGGIKEN GAR ... I don't see anything in the text
that implies necessarily that one's capacity to repent is greater now than
before the present situation, but rather that the urgency is greater. The
urgency of the situation quite commonly in prophetic exhortations to
repentance is the grounding of such exhortations; often there is a warning
that one is making a choice between life and death when one chooses to
repent or not to repent.




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
WWW: http://www.artsci.wustl.edu/~cwconrad/



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