[B-Greek] Eph 4:22: time of "being corrupted"

Carl Conrad cwconrad2 at mac.com
Thu May 8 19:45:23 EDT 2008


On May 8, 2008, at 4:20 PM, Harold Holmyard wrote:

> Dear Carl,

I don't really know why this should be addressed to me in particular;  
I should think others might have alternative views on the question  
well worth attending to.

> Almost every English translation in Eph 4:22 takes TON FQEIROMENON as
> something like "which is being corrupted." However, my understanding  
> is
> that the temporal force of a participle is governed by the time of the
> main verb. Here is an online statement of that principle from a  
> website
> teaching NT Greek:
> http://www.ntgreek.net/lesson31.htm
>
> To the extent that the tense of a participle indicates time, it will
> indicate time only relative to the main verb. Present tense  
> participles
> usually indicate action coincident with the time of the main verb.

I think that works well enough, as a general principle.

> The main verb of the clause in which TON FQEIROMENON occurs is
> understood by most to be EDIDACQHTE in v. 21. This aorist verb refers
> back to the time the Ephesians learned Christ (v. 20), that is, to the
> time they were saved. So it refers to a past event. Is there any  
> reason
> why it would not be possible to translate the participle as "which was
> being corrupted"? I will transcribe the passage from verse 20  
> through 23:
>
> hUMEIS DE OUC hOUTWS EMAQETE TON CRISTON, EI GE AUTON HKOUSATE KAI EN
> AUTWi EDIDACQHTE, KAQWS ESTIN ALHQEIA EN TWi INSOU, APOQESQAI hUMAS  
> KATA
> THN PROTERAN ANASTROFHN TON PALAION ANQRWPON TON FQEIROMENON KATA TAS
> EPIQUMIAS THS APATHS, ANANEOUSQAI DE TWi PNEUMATI TOU NOOS hUMWN
>
> But you did not thus learn Christ, if indeed you heard about him and  
> in
> him were taught, just as truth is in Jesus, that you should put off,
> according to the former conduct, the old man which was being corrupted
> according to the lusts of deceit, and be renewed in the spirit of  
> your mind.

I don't think I would understand FQEIROMENON as dependent upon  
EDIDACQHTE but rather upon APOQESQAI. That is, in effect, "you were  
given instructions to put away the humanity of your older existence --  
the humanity that is grounded in your previous life-style, grounded in  
illusory desires -- and to set about the process of renewal of your  
insight through the spirit." I would understand APOQESQAI and  
ANAQNEOUSQAI as the equivalents of imperatives constituting the  
instruction(s) given to the Ephesian congregation when they were  
becoming believers. "The instructions that were given you were: (1)  
put away (= APOQESQE) and (2) set about the process of renewal  
(=ANANEOUSQE).

Now if that's the case, then the exhortation to the believer is  
APOQESQAI TON PALAION ANQRWPON TON FQEIROMENON (and also ANANEOUSQAI  
TWi PNEUMATI TOU NOOS hUMWN).

Is that exhortation one that is incumbent upon a believer only at the  
outset of his/her existence as a believer? Has a believer already  
completed this task of renunciation of what he/she used to be and  
transformation into a new spirit-driven existence? Or is this  
something that a believer is to continue doing? You may very well say  
that APOQESQAI must be a once-for-all-time achievement; I might  
readily believe that the resolution to do so involves a will to have  
done with the old self forever, but are we to suppose that the  
salvation was something completed back at the beginning of one's  
existence as a believer? The believer passes through the waters of  
baptism, dies to the old self and is born again into a new self? My  
own sense is that the gospel proclamation envisions this salvation in  
terms of an "already" and a "not yet." But I'm afraid that takes us  
into the sticky and off-limits area of doctrinal assumptions. At any  
rate, my own take is that the participle FQEIROMENON finds its  
reference point in APOQESQAI rather than in EDIDACQHTE; the  
infiinitive APOQESQAI doesn't have a temporal status here but rather  
only an aspectual status; there's no impediment that I can see to it  
coordinating with TON PALAION ANQRWPON FQEIROMENON.

Finally, I think I would prefer to understand FQEIROMENON not so much  
as "being corrupted" (passive) as "perishing" (middle). I think that  
FQEIROMENON means "heading, sooner or later, toward annihilation" The  
two phrases KATA TEN PROTERAN ANASTROFHN and KATA TAS EPIQUMIAS THS  
APATHS characterize the humanity of one's older existence as (a) a  
lifestyle that one has renounced and (b) wanting things that have no  
real worth.

Ultimately, I think that the reason why FQEIROMENON is translated as a  
present participle in so many versions is that the translators simply  
don't envision the renunciation of the old self and spiritual renewal  
as a process immediately efficacious and permanently achieved.


> If it is possible, is there any grammatical reason why the present  
> would
> be preferable, or even justified?
>
> The infinitive APOQESQAI (to put off) is an aorist imperative (in
> contrast with a subsequent present infinitive ANANEOUSQAI [to be
> renewed]). Most interpreters take this contrast to suggest a
> once-and-for-all commitment to put off the old man that is undertaken
> when one is saved.
>
> If putting off the old man was a once-for-all commitment with ongoing
> implications made in the past, couldn't it be appropriate to think of
> the old man's corruption as something that was happening back then?
>
> Yours,
> Harold Holmyard
>
>
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Carl W. Conrad
Department of Classics, Washington University (Retired)






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