HN in John 1.1a

Carl W. Conrad cwconrad at
Tue Jan 14 07:54:34 EST 2003

At 7:44 AM -0500 1/14/03, Barry Hofstetter wrote:
>----- Original Message -----
>From: "Richard W. Wilson" <rwwilson147 at>
>To: "Biblical Greek" <b-greek at>
>Sent: Monday, January 13, 2003 9:32 PM
>Subject: [b-greek] HN in John 1.1a
>> Hello,
>> I'm a first time poster to B-Greek. Although I've done some Greek study
>> in the past, I'm in no sense a scholar, and far less of Greek, but I'm
>> re-engaging questions I've left on the shelf for a long time.
>> Does the imperfect active HN in John 1.1a indicate or suggest an ongoing
>> eternal existence or does it simply mean at a particular point in time,
>> ie., the beginning, the Word existed?
>> I would appreciate whatever you might contribute to my/our understanding
>> on these questions. What do you think?
>Rich, welcome.  I don't think such a determination can be made simply from the
>tense of the verb.  The imperfect of EIMI is the only past tense usage of the
>verb (there is no aorist or perfect), and simply indicates a past state of
>being.  The precise limits of that state of being have to be derived from
>contextual clues.

Just to second Barry's point in perhaps even stronger terms:

When a biblical text evokes from us a question about whether it means what
it doesn't actually say, we should, in my opinion, hesitate to ask that
question,on grounds that what comes to mind may more likely be idle
speculations rather than anything the Biblical writer MAY have meant; I
think we ought to assume that if the Biblical writer didn't answer the
question that WE want to ask, then the Biblical writer probably did not
intend for us to ask that question. So in this instance, John 1:1 is
immensely suggestive but also concise in the extreme, indicating only the
co-evality of Logos and any beginning that is of concern to humanity: more
than that it does not state.

Carl W. Conrad
Department of Classics, Washington University (Emeritus)
1989 Grindstaff Road/Burnsville, NC 28714/(828) 675-4243
cwconrad at OR cwconrad at

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