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

Harold Holmyard hholmyard3 at earthlink.net
Thu May 8 20:20:10 EDT 2008


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.


HH: Thanks for your lengthy and thoughtful answer. I did not mean to 
exclude others giving a response. I apologize if it seemed that way. I'm 
glad you got the ball rolling, if it is to roll. Yes, the force of the 
infinitive was a topic of recent discussion, for some commentators and 
translations assume that "you were taught that you have put off the old 
man." I don't think that's good because, as you say, there is an ongoing 
aspect to the words in Eph 4:22-24, which seem to have an imperative 
element, even if they are somewhat factual in reporting what was taught. 
I think the intention to put on the new man created according to God can 
be a full-blown intention, but it is the work of a lifetime, isn't it? 
So perhaps you're right about the participle referring to more than just 
the time when the people originally resolved by faith to put off the old 
man.

Yours,
Harold Holmyard
>
>> 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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