[B-Greek] A REMOTE ANTECEDENT IN JOHN 12:20-26??
bluemeeksbay at yahoo.com
Sun Aug 22 10:27:00 EDT 2010
Thanks for your insight. I have known of Levinsohn’s book for some time, I
probably should now get a copy for myself. I like your take on the change to the
present, (I made a mistake, the present is used three times as you said, not
four as I said), but what is still interesting is that in each occurrence of the
present an actual question occurs. I know this does not prove anything in and of
itself, but it might indicate that Jesus is responding to a question. Now
granted it could be an undisclosed question of Andrew and Philip, but we do have
the disclosed question of the Greeks to see Jesus.( HRWTWNin verse 21).
When looking at it from a discourse perspective, how does one discern when a
response is limited to one of the participants? In other words, from a discourse
perspective what prohibits AUTOIS from referring only to the Greeks, or for that
matter only to Andrew and Philip? Obviously, from a purely grammatical point of
view it could be limited to either.
However, your point is well taken, most commentators do not see it the way I
suggested, but I am not ready to give up yet on my suggestion. However, I would
never be dogmatic on my point of view because that would just be forcing the
text to say something it just doesn’t say for sure. In my view, the text is king
and interpretations must be subservient. If the text is not clear, I am always
open to all possibilities, or, at least, I try to be.
Nevertheless, one last thing that might support my suggestion is verse 32. How
appropriate it would be for Jesus to make an exception to his oft repeated
assertion that he is only going to the lost sheep of Israel by now speaking
directly to the Greeks through the end of verse 26, thus making a dramatic
point, and then broadening his discourse to all the crowd, (vs. 27-31 which
presumably would be the Israelites), and then ending it with the announcement
And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself."
John 12:32 NET,
Jew and Gentile together. Truly, as you mentioned, the historical present would
dramatically admonish all to, as you said, *Listen up and remember this!*
Thanks for your great post.
From: Iver Larsen <iver_larsen at sil.org>
To: Blue Meeksbay <bluemeeksbay at yahoo.com>; BG <b-greek at lists.ibiblio.org>
Sent: Sun, August 22, 2010 4:23:34 AM
Subject: Re: [B-Greek] A REMOTE ANTECEDENT IN JOHN 12:20-26??
In my view, your two questions are best analyzed from a discourse perspective.
One important area in discourse linguistics is participant reference. It so
happens that Greek often uses a simple pronoun to refer to the major
participants in a discourse. Levinsohn in his Discourse Features of NT Greek
calls them VIPs (very important participants), chapter 8.3. That is why Jesus is
so often simply referred to as "he" (i.e. with a pronoun or verbal affix). Since
this discourse rule does not apply to English, idiomatic translations will often
clarify the reference by saying "Jesus".
The plural pronoun "they" will then refer to the other major participants in the
discourse. Sometimes it is the disciples, sometimes it is the hostile Pharisees,
sometimes it is the crowd of people listening to him. In John 8:12-59
the major participants are Jesus on one side and the hostile Pharisees (the
"Jews") on the other with the crowd as a backdrop. In John 12:12-50 the major
other participant is the crowd (OCLOS occurs 5 times in verses 12-24). The
Pharisees are not active here, even though the author comments on their lack of
So, the AUTOIS in v. 23 refers to the crowd gathered around him, including the
disciples and these Greeks. Jesus is not specifically addressing the Greeks.
(And he probably did not speak in Greek to the crowd.)
Why does John mention these Greeks (Gentiles)? Possibly because this is the
last public speech Jesus gives, and the inclusion of the Greeks' wish to meet
Jesus foreshadows that the gospel is to be preached to Greeks, too, so that ALL
may believe in Jesus as the Messiah and receive eternal life (20:31).
As to why APOKRINOMAI in v. 23 is in the present tense, this is also a discourse
topic, namely, John's use of the historic present. It is used to highlight the
content of the coming statement as crucial for John's presentation of the
gospel. This place is the first time in John that the present form of this verb
is used, but check also the other two: 13:26, 38. It is way of saying: Listen up
and remember this! John uses the present tense of LEGW with the same function
Levinsohn discusses the historical presents (HP) in John 12:22-23 in his chapter
Steve Runge says: "It is not the action of the HP verb itself that is
prominent, but that which follows."
For more information see:
Runge, S. E. (2010). A Discourse Grammar of the Greek New Testament: A Practical
Introduction for Teaching and Exegesis (169). Bellingham, WA: Logos Research
----- Original Message -----
From: "Blue Meeksbay" <bluemeeksbay at yahoo.com>
To: <b-greek at lists.ibiblio.org>
Sent: 21. august 2010 17:14
Subject: [B-Greek] A REMOTE ANTECEDENT IN JOHN 12:20-26??
> How remote can an antecedent be?!
> HSAN DE hELLHNES TINES EK TWN ANABAINONTWN hINA PROSKUNHSWSIN EN THi hEORTHi•
> hOUTOI OUN PROSHLQON FILIPPWi TWi APO BHQSAI+DA THS GALILAIAS KAI HRWTWN AUTON
> LEGONTES• KURIE, QELOMEN TON IHSOUN IDEIN. ERCETAI hO FILIPPOS KAI LEGEI TWi
> ANDREAi, ERCETAI ANDREAS KAI FILIPPOS KAI LEGOUSIN TWi IHSOU. hO DE IHSOUS
> APOKRINETAI AUTOIS LEGWN• ELHLUQEN hH hWRA hINA DOXASQHi hO hUIOS TOU
> AMHN AMHN LEGW hUMIN, EAN MH hO KOKKOS TOU SITOU PESWN EIS THN GHN APOQANHi,
> AUTOS MONOS MENEI• EAN DE APOQANHi, POLUN KARPON FEREI hO FILWN THN YUCHN
> APOLLUEI AUTHN, KAI hO MISWN THN YUCHN AUTOU EN TWi KOSMWi TOUTWi EIS ZWHN
> AIWNION FULAXEI AUTHN. EAN EMOI TIS DIAKONHi, EMOI AKOLOUQEITW, KAI hOPOU EIMI
> EGW EKEI KAI hO DIAKONOS hO EMOS ESTAI• EAN TIS EMOI DIAKONHi TIMHSEI AUTON hO
> PATHR. John 12:20-26
> Whenever reading this passage I have always wondered why Jesus did not receive
> the Greeks. This always disturbed me. However, upon reading it again I wonder
> if, perhaps, my assumption that he did not receive the Greeks was mistaken
> and, in fact, he did answer the Greeks.
> When I came across AUTOIS in verse 23, I took it to mean Andrew and Philip,
> however, I remembered it was mentioned in an earlier post that John once used
> antecedent that was quite remote from the pronoun. This made me consider this
> passage again and wonder if actually the Greeks could be the antecedent of
> AUTOIS and not Andrew and Philip.
> If this is true, perhaps this is how it might have happened.
> Jesus was in the court of the Gentiles with his twelve disciples. Jesus,
> perhaps, was standing on the southern side of the soreg and the other
> were gathered around him. On the outermost part of this circle stood Philip.
> such, the Greeks came up to him to see if they could ask Jesus a question.
> Philip, for whatever reason, did not think he could make this decision on his
> own so he goes up to Andrew. As he was whispering in Andrew’s ear, Andrew
> over Philip's shoulder to see the Greeks that Philip was talking about. After
> a short discussion, they both decide to take the request to Jesus.
> Since they were all standing in a circle around Jesus, with the enquirers on
> outermost part of the circle, perhaps, the Greeks were only 8-10 feet from
> Jesus. With Andrew and Philip now in the inner part of the circle, they only
> needed to take a couple steps to whisper in Jesus ear that a group of Greeks
> were asking to see Him. As Andrew and Philip are talking, Jesus looks up and
> sees the group patiently standing on the outermost part of the circle. Jesus
> then all of a sudden starts to speak to them and says, ELHLUQEN hH hWRA hINA
> DOXASQHi hO hUIOS TOU ANQRWPOU. AMHN AMHN LEGW hUMIN, EAN MH hO KOKKOS TOU
> PESWN EIS THN GHN APOQANHi, AUTOS MONOS MENEI• EAN DE APOQANHi, POLUN KARPON
> FEREI ..., etc. probably to verse 27 where Jesus begins a new discourse to
> everyone gathered nearby.
> One other point I noticed. John uses the word APARNEOMAI77 times in his
> Seventy-three times he uses the aorist tense and four times he uses the
> tense. Of those 73 times sometimes it is used in response to an actual
> question, but most of the time he uses it with EIPEN to introduce a simple
> (Just as an aside, is the use of APARNEOMAI with LEGW a common idiom in extra
> biblical texts? As most probably have noticed this combination had been
> to a form of LEGW in many modern translations, leaving out APARNEOMAI in the
> translation completely.)
> However, getting back to John’s use of the present tense, why switch to a
> present tense in this case when he almost always uses the aorist? Could it be
> used to indicate the suddenness of Jesus’ answer? One thing I have noticed is
> that in the other three instances of the present tense of this word in this
> Gospel it is used in response to an actual question, and not just a simple
> statement. Therefore, could this be a slight indication that Jesus is
> to the inquiry of the Greeks. Other times the writer of the Gospel of John
> indicates that Jesus knew beforehand what was in the hearts of those whom he
> conversed. Could verse 22-26 actually be an answer to the question on the
> of the Greeks? Or, if not, could it be a response to correct their expectation
> of what they understood would be the mission and objective of a Jewish
> More than likely these Greeks were God-fearers from afar who had heard of
> from some returning Jews who had previously been to Jerusalem.
> Does anyone think it is doing an injustice to the text to understand AUTOIS as
> referring to hELLHNES? Just how far away can we take an antecedent without
> getting ridiculous in our analysis? Does anyone know of other such examples
> where the antecedent is this far removed?
> Cordially,Blue Harris
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