Re Sequence of actions between verb tenses

Mark House mhouse at
Thu Aug 9 14:33:01 EDT 2001

"Harry W. Jones" <hjbluebird at> wrote:

> Let's say that we have and aorist tense verb and perfect tense verb in
> a clause, is there a way to know which action took place first? Or
> between an imperfect and aorist or between an imperfect and perfect
> verb? Or would the context determine this? I believe I know the answer
> but I would like it confirmed.

I don't have a direct answer to this at this time, but it reminded me of a
particular case of combined tenses that one of my Beginning Greek students
had trouble with. I include the student's query below, followed by my
ruminations. I'd be interested in any comments others on the list might

The student's question:

> I've tried to stay active with my Greek. I continued translating and
> finished 1 John and I am now starting on John's Gospel.
> I have a question for you. In the prologue, in v. 1:15, I'm not sure
> why a verb
> is in the present tense but, marturei, is present tense but kekraken is
> perfect. There is an anarthrous present participle, legoon, as well.
> I'm taking it as an adverbial participle modifying kekrakso. So how do
> you translate marturei?  "while he was witnessing.." or " while he has
> witnessed.."

My reply:

Interesting use of tenses there in Jn. 1:15. A Greek teacher's paradise!

Why the Pres. Indic. followed by the Perf. Indic.? My first inclination was
to say that this is an historical present, but then why not the same for
kragw? On further reflection, it seems to me that both the pres. and the
perf. have PRESENT significance, but in slightly different ways. The first
verb (marturei) would have the sense of: "John provides testimony concerning
him (Jesus)." The focus is on our present possession of this witness
testimony rather than the past historical event. The kekragen may then have
the sense of "and (=in that?) he has cried out, saying..." The choice of the
perfect allows a focus which again isn't so much on the historical event
("John bore witness and cried out" [aor]) but on the abiding results -- the
testimonial legacy he left to GJohn's readers in that proclamation.

Under this present-focus scheme, how would the passage be translated? (Now
for the tough part!) Here's a crack at it: "John leaves us his testimony
concerning Jesus in that he has cried out, saying..."

You're on the mark with the legwn - an adverbial ptc. either telling HOW he
cried out ("He has cried out by saying..." "He has cried out in these
words..."), or effectively telescoping the "saying " with the "crying out"
("He has cried-out-and-said...").

Mark A. House
Sometime Adjunct Greek Prof.
Fuller Theological Seminary

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