[B-Greek] Present tense for future events (was 1 John 1.9)

Iver Larsen iver_larsen at sil.org
Thu May 7 08:10:51 EDT 2009


As I happened to look over an old paper on this topic from one of my colleagues (Tony Pope), I 
thought it might be helpful for some to summarize a bit with a few examples:

He quotes the grammar of Winer-Moulton (1870), saying:

"The present is used for the future... when an action still future is to be represented as being as 
good as already present, either because it is already firmly resolved on, or because it must ensue 
in virtue of some unalterable law." (p. 331) and further:
"Elsewhere we find the present tense used of that which is just about to take place, which some one 
is on the point of doing, is already preparing to do." (p. 332)

Tony then presents two categories for Greek:

1. Scheduled/programmed/inevitable
2. Intention/decision

For 1. I'll just give a few examples (Tony suggests 56 examples from John's Gospel alone):

3:18 ὁ πιστεύων εἰς αὐτὸν οὐ κρίνεται
hO PISTEUWN EIS AUTON OU *KRINETAI*
CEV: No one who has faith in God's Son will be condemned.

7:33 Ἔτι χρόνον μικρὸν μεθ᾽ ὑμῶν εἰμι καὶ ὑπάγω πρὸς τὸν πέμψαντά με
ETI CRONON MIKRON MEQ' hUMWN EIMI KAI *UPAGW* PROS TON PEMYANTA ME
NLT: I will be with you only a little longer. Then I will return to the one who sent me.

7:41 Μὴ γὰρ ἐκ τῆς Γαλιλαίας ὁ Χριστὸς ἔρχεται;
MH GAR EK THS GALILAIAS hO CRISTOS *ERCETAI*
NLT: Will the Messiah come from Galilee?
REB: Surely the Messiah is not to come from Galilee.

For 2. a few examples also (Tony suggests 24 of these in John):

2:18 Τί σημεῖον δεικνύεις ἡμῖν
TI SHMEION *DEIKNUEIS* hHMIN
NIV: What miraculous sign can you show us?

4:11 πόθεν οὖν ἔχεις τὸ ὕδωρ τὸ ζῶν;
POQEN OUN *ECEIS* TO hUDWR TO ZWN?
CEV: Where are you going to get this life-giving water?

10:32 διὰ ποῖον αὐτῶν ἔργον ἐμὲ λιθάζετε;
DIA POION AUTWN ERGON EME *LIQAZETE*?
GW: For which of these good things do you want to stone me to death?

For category 2, one could also suggest "intended immediate action" rather than just intended action.

Iver Larsen

----- Original Message ----- 
From: "Carl Conrad" <cwconrad2 at mac.com>
To: "Eddie Mishoe" <edmishoe at yahoo.com>
Cc: <b-greek at lists.ibiblio.org>
Sent: 7. maj 2009 12:41
Subject: Re: [B-Greek] 1 John 1.9 Ed Glasscock in latest BibSac


>
> On May 7, 2009, at 12:58 AM, Eddie Mishoe wrote:
>
>>
>> George writes:
>>
>> "Therefore to say that the verb ERXOMAI [sic, should be ERCOMAI] in
>> "Jesus is coming again" is NORMALLY used to describe a process and
>> may therefore be in media res therefore having a future aspect."
>>
>> I've disagreed with statements like this in the past, and plan on
>> doing so in the future.
>
> I don't know whether the phrasing of this last sentence was chosen
> with due deliberation, but it strikes me as using present-tense
> formations to express what might as well be expressed in a future-
> tense formulation (of course, using an auxiliary). Let me rephrase it:
> "I have disagreed with such statements hitherto and shall/will
> dsagree with them hereafter." (I learned English grammar long enough
> ago to want to write "shall" instead of "will").
>
> Revelation 22:20 reads LEGEI hO MARTURWN TOUTO: NAI, ERCOMAI TACU.
> AMHN, ERCOU, KURIE IHSOU!
> In this instance it seems to me that the "deictic" marker TACU clearly
> indicates that ERCOMAI is to be understood in the sense of a future.
> That is also pretty clearly implied by the response with the
> imperative ERCOU: the "coming" is not immediately in process.
>
> You might compare Mt 26:2 οἴδατε ὅτι μετὰ δύο
> ἡμέρας τὸ πάσχα γίνεται, καὶ ὁ υἱὸς
> τοῦ ἀνθρώπου παραδίδοται εἰς τὸ
> σταυρωθῆναι
> OIDATE hOTI META DUO hHMERAS TO PASCA GINETAI, KAI hO hUIOS TOU
> ANQRWPOU PARADIDOTAI EIS TO STAURWQHNAI.
> In this instance it is quite clear that GINETAI and PARADIDOTAI must
> be interpreted as referring to future time.
>
> For reference, you might want to look at Wallace, GGBB, pages 535-537,
> "D.  Futuristic Present."
>
> Carl W. Conrad
> Department of Classics, Washington University (Retired)
>
>> George's sentence is quite obviously written in haste and lacks a
>> complete sentence structure; the point I want to chime in on is the
>> future tense/time. I'm not sure what a future "aspect" would even
>> entail.
>>
>> Many grammars will list several Present Tense (Indicative) verbs
>> that have some reference to the future (even to the past). I have
>> not read all the grammars on this topic, but I've personally not
>> found a Present Tense Indicative verb that refers to the future. I'm
>> happy to be introduced to some, but I've personally not run into one
>> in my own studies or in the several Greek Grammar books that speak
>> to this very issue. However, I am a big believer in deictic centers,
>> around which verbals are used. If a past time deictic center is
>> established, then a Present Tense used after this would reference an
>> "in progress" concept in relation to the deictic center, which
>> accounts for many Historical Presents of course.
>>
>> The idea behind the "Jesus is coming" is not that "Jesus will be
>> coming some time in the future." The Present Tense in constructs
>> like these, some argue, emphasize the certainty of a coming, and
>> should be translated something like "Jesus IS! coming; you can count
>> on that." And, since no man knows the day or hour of his coming, it
>> would be incorrect to say that "Jesus is coming in the future,"
>> since Jesus could have returned as the sentence was being written.
>> But this still is not the point. This Present Tense is much more
>> common than its Aorist counterpart, such as Romans "these he has
>> glorified" (Aorist tense). This is not intended to be, nor does it
>> contain, a temporal element. Many Present Tense, Aorist Tense, and
>> other verbs are not temporal propositions. This is of course true in
>> English. Open up any history book written in English and count, on
>> every page, the number of "historical presents." This concept is
>> very common, but is usually judged to be
>> informal grammar. You won't find Luke writing informally, but Mark
>> is very comfortable with it. An author's style is often established
>> by grammatical uses of this type. William F. Buckley Jr may not have
>> been very comfortable with a Historic Present, but C. S. Lewis was.
>>
>> So, I'm unaware of any future referring Present Indicatives. You
>> reference of course a Present Subjunctive, which very often obeys
>> the rules of the Indicative, but by virtue of the Mood, it does not
>> have to.
>>
>> Eddie Mishoe
>> Pastor




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