Re: John 16:8: KAI ELQWN EKEINOS, aorist particible

Carl W. Conrad (
Tue, 20 Aug 1996 12:02:36 -0500

At 11:38 AM -0500 8/20/96, Jonathan Robie wrote:
> I need some help understanding the use of the aorist
> particible ELQWN in John 16:8: KAI ELQWN EKEINOS ELEGCEI
> KRISEWS. All five translations I looked at say "when he
> comes", using the present tense in English. Clearly, the
> context indicates that the Spirit is coming in the future,
> as indicated by DIKAIOSUNHS.
> Different sources I have seem to look at this differently.
> Robertson suggests "when he is come", true to his punctiliar
> understanding of aorist. I think I understand that.
> BDR also seems to see aorist as punctiliar, and gives three cases:
> (1) the beginning is stressed(EBASILEUEN, became king), (2) the end
> is stressed (EBALEN, met), or (3) treatment as a whole without respect
> for time. I don't know how to apply this paradigm to the above passage.
> Young's book emphasises this third use from BDR: aorist as a helicopter
> view, seen as a whole, not as repeated action. I'm not sure if I understand
> this or not. If I do, then ELQWN would mean that a change of state has
> occurred, and this change is seen as a whole.

I think the simplest way to understand this aorist participle is as a
substitute for a conditional clause, such as hOTAN ELQHi EKEINOS, ELEGCEI
... If you bear in mind that the narrative setting of the statement is
prior to "the Hour" of the exaltation and glorification of the Son of
Man--the sine qua non for the appearance of the Paraclete, then Jesus is
here speaking of what the Spirit WILL DO AFTER (HE/IT) ARRIVES. So the
passage could be understood thus: "And once he has arrived, he will ...
This is what I learned to call a "Future more vivid" clause (not a
particularly useful term); in Greek it calls for a subjunctive + AN in the
protasis; Latin is much more exacting, using a future perfect indicative in
the protasis. English, of course, is not as logical as Latin: it must use
the present tense here to describe what is clearly a still-awaited

Carl W. Conrad
Department of Classics, Washington University
One Brookings Drive, St. Louis, MO, USA 63130
(314) 935-4018 OR