Re Flashbacks

Alex / Ali alexali at surf.net.au
Thu Jan 2 12:54:23 EST 2003


There is an aspect of the discussion on flashbacks which might be worth
mentioning, as it has not been mentioned in the present discussion and I
cannot recall it being mentioned in recent BGreek discussion.  (Perhaps
'change of time reference' would be a better term than 'flashback' for the
instances that I cite below.)

Consider, first, the response of the man who had been blind, in answering
those who for a second time were questioning him.  Told that "this man
(Jesus) is a sinner", he replies, (John 9:25), "I do not know whether he is
a sinner.  hEN OIDA hOTI TUFLOS WN ARTI BLEPW."  One can only wonder what
readers of interlinears might make of 'blind being now I see'?! (Berry's
interlinear)

Or, Acts 4:34b-35, explaining why there was no needy person among the
believers.  hOSOI GAR KTHTORES CWRIWN H OIKIWN hUPHRCON, PWLOUNTES EFERON
TAS TIMAS TWN PIPRASKOMENWN KAI ETIQOUN PARA TOUS PODAS TWN APOSTOLWN,
DIEDIDETO DE hEKASTWi KAQOTI AN TIS CREIAN EICEN.

Clearly the action of the present participle PWLOUNTES precedes that of the
imperfect indicative EFERON.

The present participles WN at John 9:25 and PWLOUNTES in Acts 4:34 exemplify
the use of the present participle in representing an imperfect (there being
no imperfect participle).  Though this usage is rare in the NT, it is
well-known from classical times and is sometimes called 'the participle of
the imperfect' (Smyth, 1872 a. Present, 1).  (It may help to note that it is
also well-documented, e.g. Burton p127; Goodwin, 1289; Zerwick, 274 p92; BDF
339.3; Robertson, p892).

(Note, incidentally, how the NRS translation fails to justice to the
(iterative) force of the imperfects of Acts 4:34-35:  "There was not a needy
person among them, for as many as owned lands or houses *sold* them and
*brought* the proceeds of what was sold. 35 They *laid* it at the apostles'
feet, and it *was distributed* to each as any had need."  Far better is the
NAS: "For there was not a needy person among them, for all who were owners
of land or houses *would* sell them and bring the proceeds of the sales, 35
and lay them at the apostles' feet; and they *would* be distributed to each,
as any had need." [emphases mine]).

At John 8:9 we read that those who had been condemning the woman caught in
adultery left one by one, KAI KATELEIFQH MONOS KAI hH GUNH EN MESWi OUSA.
The NRS renders 'and Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before
him'.  But EN MESWi OUSA is hardly 'standing before him';  rather, it is
another example of this 'participle of the imperfect'  - 'the woman who had
been in the middle'.

This use of the present participle to represent an imperfect is more
commonly noted in the NT in instances of the participle used substantivally.
One example often noted is Matthew 2:20b.  An angel tells Joseph to return
from Egypt with the infant Jesus and his mother, explaining TEQNHKASIN GAR
hOI ZHTOUNTES THN PSUCHN TOU PAIDIOU, 'for those who *were seeking* the
child's life are dead'.

Although such instances are more common, I have time only to add that if the
references of further examples were of interest, I could provide these.
Though they are more common, they are also more complicated, because the
semantics of such substantival participial constructions is debated.

Alex Hopkins
Melbourne, Australia




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