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

John Sanders john.franklin.sanders at gmail.com
Tue May 12 01:29:28 EDT 2009

My dear Iver Larsen,

It has been several days now and no one else has responded to your last post
(8 May) on this subject: present tense for future events.

I am somewhat confused as to what you are attempting to describe.  Are you
suggesting in contexts where the present tense is associated with a “near
future” or is scheduled in some manner, that the present tense is really a
“closet future tense” masquerading as a present tense?

I do not believe I would need to agree with Mr. Mishoe, but I definitely
would not think in terms of present tenses being really future tenses.

Let me recite an anecdote first.  Formerly my wife taught Japanese for the
University of Washington.  Her class was in Richland, Washington and her
class was composed of company managers, engineers, and scientists, most had
a PhD.   During one session she one of her students, a well known and
respected scientist was arguing about the use of one construction in
Japanese.  After some time, my wife said, “I think we are having a problem
of communicating.  Let me restate what I am saying.  I am Japanese, you are
not.  I speak Japanese, you do not.  You wish to learn to speak Japanese and
I wish to help you learn to speak Japanese.  Japanese say this in this
manner.  What you are proposing is English or French (he was originally from
Belgium) using Japanese words.  That does not make it Japanese.”

How individuals use language is one aspect we should consider, along with
grammar and syntax, in describing how words are used.  You are part way
there, depending on how you wish to interpret Winer-Moulton.

Let me introduce a second thought.  Awhile ago while in the United States
(or perhaps it was Japan, I forget now) I saw a movie; I believe it was
called “Redemption” or something like that.  They used a number of
flashbacks in that film.  The first one I recall was when the younger sister
looked out the window and saw her older sister and the Gardener
talking.  Shortly
after that, so it would definitely be called “near past” the scene was shown
once again, but from a different perspective.  During the entire flashback,
all the verbs were in the present tense.  Under no circumstance would anyone
think these verbs were past tense verbs disguised as present tense verbs.

I would contend that tense is not a description of the relationship of
events anchored to a specific point in “real time”, bur rather is a
description of the relationship of events relative to a point identified as
present, and that present can be shifted as required by the speaker or

I would phrase what Winer-Moulton wrote as that given these set of
circumstances, the speaker or writer could cast the phrase using either the
present tense or the future tense (both tenses are possible).  Under some
circumstances the choice will be dictated by common usage, in others by what
the tenses represent.  The present tense quite often depicts the
circumstances as more vivid (using a phrase that grammarians a century ago
would use).  The adverb carries the full load of describing time.  When the
future tense is used, then part of the load of the adverb is shifted to the
verb, where the adverb can be omitted completely if specific time is not

In the examples given, the translations quite often could have been rendered
using the English present tense rather than the future tense.  The “rule”
you have, as I see it, is similar to what Dr. Wallace has developed.  These
“rules” do not explain Greek grammar or syntax, but rather are rules to help
in translating the Greek into English or some other language.  Generally, if
English usage allows, I would tend to translate the present tense of the
Greek as present tense in the English.

John Sanders
Suzhou, China

On Fri, May 8, 2009 at 1:52 PM, Iver Larsen <iver_larsen at sil.org> wrote:

> Just a few comments below:
> ----- Original Message -----
> From: "Eddie Mishoe" <edmishoe at yahoo.com>
> To: <b-greek at lists.ibiblio.org>; "Iver Larsen" <iver_larsen at sil.org>
> Sent: 7. maj 2009 21:40
> Subject: Re: [B-Greek] Present tense for future events (was 1 John 1.9)
> Thank you for these examples Iver. Let me suggest, without appropriate
> study time in these usages,
> the following in order to show why I have come to my conclusions.
> 3:18 ὁ πιστεύων εἰς αὐτὸν οὐ κρίνεται
> CEV: No one who has faith in God's Son will be condemned.
> EM: The idea here is not that the believer will not come into condemnation
> in the future, true
> though that be, but that the believer "IS NOT condemned (even now)".
> -------------------------
> IL: This indicates a present state and is expressed in Greek by KEKRITAI as
> we have in the next
> sentence.
> -----------------------
> 7:33 Ἔτι χρόνον μικρὸν μεθ᾽ ὑμῶν εἰμι καὶ ὑπάγω πρὸς τὸν πέμψαντά με
> NLT: I will be with you only a little longer. Then I will return to the one
> who sent me.
> EM: Again, the idea is not "I will be with you (in the future) only a
> little while. And the
> conditions that must be fulfilled or met before Christ returns to the one
> having sent him are
> already being met. I think this is why the NLT translation adds "THEN I
> will return." The addition
> of THEN  adds a deictic center. But this usage seems to conflict with my
> previous statements about
> adverbs modifying verbs not serving as deictic centers. I need to restate
> that as adverbs modifying
> verbs indicating "HOW" never serve as deictic centers, but adverbs
> functioning as "WHEN" or temporal
> adverbs can serve as deictic centers.
> -------------------------------------
> IL: I don't adhere to the theory of deictic centers. The NLT was only given
> as an example of a
> translation using the future "I will return" for the present hUPAGW. Other
> ways are possible in
> English, e.g. I am going to return. The first clause has a "true" present:
> "I am only with you for
> yet a little while." The "going away" - hUPAGW refers to a future event
> after the "little while" has
> expired as indicated by "then".
> -----------------------------------
> 7:41 Μὴ γὰρ ἐκ τῆς Γαλιλαίας ὁ Χριστὸς ἔρχεται;
> NLT: Will the Messiah come from Galilee?
> REB: Surely the Messiah is not to come from Galilee.
> EM: This is really not a temporal expression. The idea is "The Messiah IS
> not coming out of Galilee
> (whenever he does come)." Also, the idea is also not "The Messiah will not
> come in the future out of
> Galilee." Sometimes adding "in the future" helps resolve these kinds of
> temporal issues.
> -----------------------------------
> IL: The speaker does not accept that Jesus is the Messiah, so he is still
> waiting for the Messiah to
> come in the future some time. The Greek present tense indicates the
> "scheduled event", which happen
> to be a common usage of the present form in English, too. (I have an exam
> tomorrow. I am coming next
> week).
> -----------------------------------
> For 2. a few examples also (Tony suggests 24 of these in John):
> 2:18 Τί σημεῖον δεικνύεις ἡμῖν
> NIV: What miraculous sign can you show us?
> EM: The request is not for a sign in the future. What miraculous sign can
> you show us RIGHT NOW.
> Again, adding "in the future" clears these kind of constructs up.
> -------------------------------------------
> IL: It appears that you do not include "immediate future" in your concept
> of "future", but rather
> includes it in your concept of "present time".
> ------------------------------------------
> 4:11 πόθεν οὖν ἔχεις τὸ ὕδωρ τὸ ζῶν;
> CEV: Where are you going to get this life-giving water?
> EM: Just add "in the future." The idea is NOT where will you get this water
> in the future, but where
> is this water to which you refer.
> 10:32 διὰ ποῖον αὐτῶν ἔργον ἐμὲ λιθάζετε;
> GW: For which of these good things do you want to stone me to death?
> EM: Jesus is not asking when in the future (as if he is inquiring about
> their intentions for next
> Thursday) do you plan on stoning me, but for which good work are you even
> now (they have already
> giving Jesus indication that they are going to stone him; perhaps they have
> gathered some stones to
> initiate the stoning; something prompted this question by Jesus; there was
> obviously indications of
> a stoning taking place) beginning to stone me. The stoning of someone
> begins with antecedent
> actions, such as holding counsel to confirm an act worthy of stoning has
> been committed, the
> gathering of stones, etc.
> --------------------
> IL: Same comment as above. For some reason, you are equating "future" with
> "distant future" and
> excluding "immediate future".
> ---------------------
> Anyway, I will need more time to analyze these passages, but I wanted to
> show the thinking process
> behind my conclusions.
> --------------------
> IL: I suggest you read the quote from Winer again. He expressed it very
> well.
> Iver Larsen
> ---
> B-Greek home page: http://www.ibiblio.org/bgreek
> B-Greek mailing list
> B-Greek at lists.ibiblio.org
> http://lists.ibiblio.org/mailman/listinfo/b-greek

More information about the B-Greek mailing list