[B-Greek] Significance of Pluperfects In John 6:17

Carl W. Conrad cwconrad at artsci.wustl.edu
Wed Jul 25 07:15:43 EDT 2007


On Jul 24, 2007, at 5:57 PM, Douglas M. Wood wrote:

> Dear Text Experts:
>
>      I am a pastor preaching this coming Sunday.
>
> In chewing on and investigating the meaning of
>
> my text (John 6:15-21; Jesus Walks On The Sea),
>
> I discovered your website.  I trust that you are
>
> most interested in discerning the meaning that
>
> the Holy Spirit intended, through His on-purpose
>
> choice of Greek words.
>
>
>
>      There are 2 pluperfects in John 6:17.  Since
>
> there are only 22 pluperfects in the entire NT, I
>
> am thinking that 2 in one spot is very significant.

Your count is in error: there are 34 instances of the pluperfect in  
John's gospel alone and a total of 86 instances in the GNT. That's  
still a relatively small number and that number becomes still smaller  
if we discount forms of OIDA (HiDEIN, etc.) and hISTAMAI (hEISTHKEIN,  
etc.) and its compounds that are equivalent to imperfects.

It is sometimes said that John's gospel uses the perfect tense more  
precisely than other gospels; although there are instances where that  
may be argued, I think that it would be more accurate to point to the  
growing overlap and confusion in usage between the aorist and the  
perfect and pluperfect tenses in the Koine. The aorist is quite  
commonly used to express past completed action as well as action  
completed prior to some past point of reference (e.g. HLQEN can, in  
the appropriate context mean "he has come" or "he had come" as well  
as simply "he came"). I'm rather inclined to think that this  
evangelist not uncommonly used perfect and pluperfect forms where  
other Koine writers might more likely have used the aorist.

John the evangelist certainly did use many terms, especially the  
language of light and darkness, figuratively and profoundly --  
especially in the prologue of the gospel and in the discourses of  
Jesus, but one ought to be wary of suspecting figurative senses where  
the narrative makes perfectly good sense as describing phenomenal  
happenings in ordinary time and space.

>
>      Most English translations render the verse
>
> as a report on the time and status -- for example,
>
> "And it was already dark, and Jesus had not come
>
> to them" (NKJV).  I find such a translation superfluous
>
> given the time report in v. 16.
>
>
>
>      I am theorizing that the pluperfects in this
>
> verse intone something more significant --
>
> and cosmically so, related to the Light
>
> coming into the Darkness theme in this, the
>
> Gospel of John.
>
>
>
>     What say you about the pluperfects here ?
>
> Are there any articles in your archives that you
>
> can point me to ?  Do you know of any
>
> commentaries that attempt to fathom the significance
>
> of the pluperfects (so far, I have only found the
>
> William Hendriksen volume on John in the New
>
> Testament Commentary by Baker Book House
>
> [1953] that calls any attention at all to the pluperfects;
>
> but, I find his interpretation of the meaning not
>
> fully satisfying) ?


Carl W. Conrad
Department of Classics, Washington University (Retired)





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