Sequence of actions between verb tenses

Wayne Leman Wayne_Leman at SIL.ORG
Thu Aug 9 15:11:52 EDT 2001

> 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.?

Mark, isn't the use of the Pres. Indic. following some other tense simply
the default tense marking for Greek? What this means, as I understand it, is
that the Pres. Indic. is "unmarked" (a technical linguistic term) for
semantic tense when another verb has set up the tense within a discourse
segment, but takes its semantic tense from that preceding verb. Tenses
within the discourse segment would often then be *relative* to the tense of
the verb which set the semantic tense for that section. I know that many
languages work this way with tense, and I think I recall that Greek does as

Wayne Leman
Bible translation site:


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

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