The world

Vincent M. Setterholm Vincents at
Tue May 7 15:39:40 EDT 2002

Hey Lew,

English also has many words for 'world'.  World, Earth, globe, Terra. Greek,
like most other languages, has synonyms.

Concerning "had", your translation makes it sound like a present tense.
Like imperfect, the present tense also looks at the action of the verb from
within, with reference to whether or not the action is completed, etc.
Porter (Verbal Aspect) calls both present and imperfect tenses the
"Imperfective Aspect" for this reason.  Though while Porter denies all
connection between tenses and time (not too many grammarians are willing to
go that far), it seems obvious to me that in relation to other verbs in the
sentence, imperfect is past-time.  So "was having" is better than "am
having".  At that point it is a matter of style and translation theory.  To
someone who knows a bit of Greek, reading the English "was having" would
signal them that an imperfect was being used, but doesn't really convey the
nuance in this particular case to English speakers better than 'had'.  If
you are too slavish to the formal structures of the source language, your
translation in the target language is going to be very awkward (for example,
you would never put two articles in front of 'world' - beore the the world -
in your English like it has in the Greek, would you?)

I don't think 'before the world to come' can make sense here.  The World is
in the accusative case, so it is the subject of the infinitive.  In "before
the world to come" the infinitive is functioning as an adjective, describing
which world, so you would leave the world in the genitive case as the object
of the preposition pro (and probably use a participle instead of an

For the infinitive of eimi in this verse, I prefer "was" as in "before the
world was (existed)".  Pro with the genitive tou means "before" and we
already know that Jesus was talking about a past glory rather than a present
one: if it was "before the world to come" then he would still have the glory
since it is still before the world to come when he is speaking... but if it
is "before the world was" this makes sense with talking about a past glory
that he shared with the Father.

Another piece of evidence in favor of this translation is the variant
readings for this verse which replace the object of the preposition 'pro'
with tou genesthai, or "before the beginning".

This then explains why many translators chose 'had' instead of 'was having'.
Since Jesus is asking for a glory that he used to have, but has no longer, a
simple 'had' makes sense and sounds better in English.

Vincent Setterholm

-----Original Message-----
From: osbo at [mailto:osbo at]
Sent: Monday, May 06, 2002 11:41 PM
To: Biblical Greek
Subject: [b-greek] The world

In the Greek there are three words used for world, can some one please =
tell my the reason why this?

I have recently been trying to fathom out the translation of John 17:5 =
and have had the following presented to me, would some one please =

Concernintg this verse..The word "had" is the imperfect tense of the =
Greek word "echo." The following definition of the imperfect is given in =
Syntax and Synon. of the Greek Testament, pg.87; "The imperfect denotes =
an incomplete action, one that is in its course, and is not yet brought =
to its intended accomplishment. It implies that a certain thing was =
going on at a specified time, but excludes the assertion that the end of =
the action was attained." In other words, Jesus was in the process of =
being glorified. Instead of reading, "the glory which I had," it should =
read, "the glory which I am having." He was "having glory."

  The word "was" is the present infinitive of the Greek word "eimi." The =
most common translation of this tense is "to be." That is how it appears =
in the Kingdom Interlinear Translation of the Greek Scriptures and The =
Emphatic Diaglott. Jn.17:5 should read, "And now, O Father, glorify thou =
me with thine own self with the glory which I am having with thee before =
the world to be (or to come)."=20

Is there a better translation than the AV?

Lew Osborne

 osbo at

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