Jn 1.15 MARTUREI (was Re: Sequence of actions between verb tenses)

Patrick James patrick at basil.u-net.com
Sat Aug 11 10:23:01 EDT 2001


I think that some examples from Classical Greek and Latin will illustrate
this use of the present tense, when the surrounding verbs are historic.

> "The present tense may indicate that while John himself was long
> dead by the time the Gospel was written, his witness
> remained (and remains)."

Essentially, F.F. Bruce is correct here, but some further explanation and
illustration is necessary. The present tense appears to have been the
standard way of quoting, paraphrasing or alluding to an author, or perhaps
more clearly, his works, (ie he is dead, but his testimony says... ") and
even rumors.

Consider Plato's  Ion 531b (OCT)

SW: TI DE hWN PERI MH TAUTA (ie TA AUTA) LEGOUSIN;
        hOION PERI MANTIKHS LEGEI TI hOMHROS TE KAI
        hHSIODOS.

"What about when they do not speak about the same subjecets? For example,
 what Homer and Hesiod say about divination."

Or at 538c-539d, when referring to direct quotations from Iliad 11.639-40
and 630, 24.80-2, Odyssey 20.351-7 and Iliad 12.200-7, Socrates says:
KAI LEGEI PWS hOUTWS -, hOTAN LEGHi, EN ODUSSEIAi LEGEI
and LEGEI.

The dramatic date of this dialogue (c. 412 BC) is well after Homer and
Hesiod were alive, so the use of the present tenses of  LEGW treats both
authors not only as current voices but also as contempories (the dates of
both their lives are disputed).

Similarly, Cicero's Tusculan Disputations I is full of references in the
present tense to the ideas and thoughts of long dead Greek philosophers.
Both Servius, writing on Vergil, and the Scholiasts quote other writers
with the present tense too.

The author of a work then, whether written or spoken, is thought to be still
speaking.

MARTUREI in v 15 opens John's direct speech (EIPON Ist pers sing),
but KAI hAUTH ESTIN hH MARTUPIA TOU IWANNOU at v 19 closes
it.

I suggest that the present is used because the testimony considered to be
still in circulation at the time of writing and functions as an equivalent
to the
first ", v 19 being the closing ".
Cf. Homeric hWS EFATO or similar after most speeches.

The perfect KEKRAGEN (<KRAZW) is used because the perfect denotes
a present state (ie the shouted words are still in circulation) resulting
from an
action, the shout, in the past.


--
Patrick James - pat at patspad.net




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