Wallace and the present gnomic

Jong Ha Lee
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Joined: September 28th, 2011, 10:39 pm

Wallace and the present gnomic

Post by Jong Ha Lee » October 13th, 2011, 6:25 pm

Wallace puts πᾶς ὁ πιστεύων (present participle), of John 3:16, under the customary present because of John’s stress on continual belief. [GGBB, 522, 523.] He also says that there are other times when πᾶς ὁ + the present participle are not gnomic. [GGBB, 523.] Yet, he says πᾶς ὁ πιστεύων in John 3:16 may also be a gnomic. [GGBB, 522.] He later adds, “John 3:16 πᾶς ὁ πιστεύων everyone who believes. The idea seems to be both gnomic and continual: “everyone who continually believes.” ” [GGBH, 620.] I read a blog somewhere that said that Wallace does not believe in such a gnomic element to John 3:16 because the gnomic is kicked out by the customary. I doubt this conclusion. Is he saying that John 3:16 does have a gnomic side, and that the present participle belongs under customary because that is its main stress? Of πᾶς ὁ πίνων in John 4:13 he writes, “It may be that the evangelist does have a habitual idea in mind (as well as the gnomic). The present participle is contrasted with the aorist subjunctive of the following verse, as if to say "everyone who continually drinks, but whoever should taste... ." [GGBB, 621.] Can the phrase “everyone who drinks” hold both gnomic, non-temporal force, and the continual, habitual, temporary force? Or does Wallace have something else in mind?

Thanks in advance.

Jong Ha.
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Barry Hofstetter
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Re: Wallace and the present gnomic

Post by Barry Hofstetter » October 14th, 2011, 7:45 am

With all due respect to Wallace (whose claims I will not have a chance to examine until later), I would argue that he is simply wrong – the present participle is neither customary nor gnomic. Especially used substantively, the participle tends simply to describe the referent in terms of the verbal idea contained in the verb, so that ὁ πιστεύων = "the one who believes, the one believing." If there is a gnomic or customary force, that is derived from context, not from the fact that it is a present substantive participle. In John 3:16 the gnomic idea is picked up from the usage of πᾶς, "everyone who believes."
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N.E. Barry Hofstetter
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Jack M. Barrack Hebrew Academy
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David Lim
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Re: Wallace and the present gnomic

Post by David Lim » October 14th, 2011, 8:18 am

Barry Hofstetter wrote:With all due respect to Wallace (whose claims I will not have a chance to examine until later), I would argue that he is simply wrong – the present participle is neither customary nor gnomic. Especially used substantively, the participle tends simply to describe the referent in terms of the verbal idea contained in the verb, so that ὁ πιστεύων = "the one who believes, the one believing." If there is a gnomic or customary force, that is derived from context, not from the fact that it is a present substantive participle. In John 3:16 the gnomic idea is picked up from the usage of πᾶς, "everyone who believes."
Yes, and I believe (is this gnomic?) that the meaning of John 3:16 should be clear from the rest of the passage in which it occurs, because that whole writing was never meant to be split into bits to be analyzed, but instead the author kept repeating the same things over and over again in many different ways, and so you can simply pretend that you have a gap where John 3:16 was and you can still derive it from the rest. Language is an error-correcting code in itself, which means that even if I make spelling and grammatical and sometimes logical errors here and there, anyone who knows the language I communicate in and has common sense can figure out where the errors are and how they can be corrected, without having to be told that there are errors to begin with, unless that one wants to make me say something that I did not intend to say of course. Likewise a single phrase should definitely not be saying something very different from the rest of one contiguous portion of text unless there is good reason to suppose so, such as if that portion appears to be merely an unordered list, and even in that case it is difficult to see why one would want to write down an unordered list of unrelated items. ;) Back to the question, see John 1:12 where the same word is used in the present participle form and it is difficult to see why it is "continual" or whatever Wallace may mean. I incidentally don't like the term "gnomic" anyway, but whatever term one uses I think the meaning is clear in any case.
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Jong Ha Lee
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Re: Wallace and the present gnomic

Post by Jong Ha Lee » October 14th, 2011, 5:31 pm

Thanks, guys.
Barry Hofstetter wrote:With all due respect to Wallace (whose claims I will not have a chance to examine until later), I would argue that he is simply wrong – the present participle is neither customary nor gnomic. Especially used substantively, the participle tends simply to describe the referent in terms of the verbal idea contained in the verb, so that ὁ πιστεύων = "the one who believes, the one believing." If there is a gnomic or customary force, that is derived from context, not from the fact that it is a present substantive participle. In John 3:16 the gnomic idea is picked up from the usage of πᾶς, "everyone who believes."
Just a few things. As to my reading of Wallace- not your own view- have I understood him correctly? What is he saying? Are you saying that he is claiming that the gnomic idea is picked up from πᾶς? Still on Wallace, is it possible to retain the gnomic and the customary within the same participial phrase? That is, is it even theoretically possible? Also, I’m not sure that Wallace is saying that the force should be taken merely from the phrase; he’s very strong on context. But maybe I’m missing something.

Coming to your view, Barry, are you saying that there is a gnomic force there, coming from πᾶς? And when you say there is (?) a gnomic element via πᾶς, are you pointing to the indefiniteness of the pronoun? Wallace is aware that the phrase is substantival. Therefore, I’d need more info from you to demonstrate that your substantival solution dislodges his.

Thanks.
David Lim wrote:
Barry Hofstetter wrote:With all due respect to Wallace (whose claims I will not have a chance to examine until later), I would argue that he is simply wrong – the present participle is neither customary nor gnomic. Especially used substantively, the participle tends simply to describe the referent in terms of the verbal idea contained in the verb, so that ὁ πιστεύων = "the one who believes, the one believing." If there is a gnomic or customary force, that is derived from context, not from the fact that it is a present substantive participle. In John 3:16 the gnomic idea is picked up from the usage of πᾶς, "everyone who believes."
Yes, and I believe (is this gnomic?) that the meaning of John 3:16 should be clear from the rest of the passage in which it occurs, because that whole writing was never meant to be split into bits to be analyzed, but instead the author kept repeating the same things over and over again in many different ways, and so you can simply pretend that you have a gap where John 3:16 was and you can still derive it from the rest. Language is an error-correcting code in itself, which means that even if I make spelling and grammatical and sometimes logical errors here and there, anyone who knows the language I communicate in and has common sense can figure out where the errors are and how they can be corrected, without having to be told that there are errors to begin with, unless that one wants to make me say something that I did not intend to say of course. Likewise a single phrase should definitely not be saying something very different from the rest of one contiguous portion of text unless there is good reason to suppose so, such as if that portion appears to be merely an unordered list, and even in that case it is difficult to see why one would want to write down an unordered list of unrelated items. ;) Back to the question, see John 1:12 where the same word is used in the present participle form and it is difficult to see why it is "continual" or whatever Wallace may mean. I incidentally don't like the term "gnomic" anyway, but whatever term one uses I think the meaning is clear in any case.
I’m not sure what you mean here, David. Why is it difficult to see whether the participle in John 3:16 is continual or whatever? And why is the gnomic an inappropriate category? And how are you interpreting John 1:12? I need you to connect your dots for me, please.

God bless

Jong Ha
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David Lim
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Re: Wallace and the present gnomic

Post by David Lim » October 14th, 2011, 10:38 pm

Jong Ha Lee wrote:
David Lim wrote:Yes, and I believe (is this gnomic?) that the meaning of John 3:16 should be clear from the rest of the passage in which it occurs, because that whole writing was never meant to be split into bits to be analyzed, but instead the author kept repeating the same things over and over again in many different ways, and so you can simply pretend that you have a gap where John 3:16 was and you can still derive it from the rest. Language is an error-correcting code in itself, which means that even if I make spelling and grammatical and sometimes logical errors here and there, anyone who knows the language I communicate in and has common sense can figure out where the errors are and how they can be corrected, without having to be told that there are errors to begin with, unless that one wants to make me say something that I did not intend to say of course. Likewise a single phrase should definitely not be saying something very different from the rest of one contiguous portion of text unless there is good reason to suppose so, such as if that portion appears to be merely an unordered list, and even in that case it is difficult to see why one would want to write down an unordered list of unrelated items. ;) Back to the question, see John 1:12 where the same word is used in the present participle form and it is difficult to see why it is "continual" or whatever Wallace may mean. I incidentally don't like the term "gnomic" anyway, but whatever term one uses I think the meaning is clear in any case.
I’m not sure what you mean here, David. Why is it difficult to see whether the participle in John 3:16 is continual or whatever? And why is the gnomic an inappropriate category? And how are you interpreting John 1:12? I need you to connect your dots for me, please.
I meant two things:
(1) If you did not have John 3:16 but you had the rest of that portion of text, which is concerned with believing Jesus Christ and entrusting oneself to his authority, would you think that it is continual, or that the focus is simply on the choice? John 3:1-8 is about being begotten from above, and it is not continual, just like John 1:13. John 9-13 is about the testimony that Jesus has testified, which one can either believe or not believe, receive or not receive, which is also not continual, like John 1:12. John 3:14-15 draws a parallel from the old testament where the Israelites were bitten by poisonous snakes and simply had to look upon a bronze serpent that was lifted up on a pole to be healed, which was not continual either. John 3:17-21 says that it is continual rejection of the authority of the son of God that brings judgement, but does not say anything about continual belief. Rather, the intent of the whole is simply to tell Nicodemus that everyone is to believe, which is to come to the light that has come into the world.
(2) What comes after believing is beyond the scope of John 3 in my opinion but quite clear in John 1:12-13, where "as many [people] as received him, [he] gave to them, to the [ones] who believe into his name, authority to come to be children of God, who were begotten not out of bloods, nor out of will of flesh, nor out of will of [a] man, but out of God." I think this is naturally understood as: Jesus giving authority to people to come to be children of God and their being begotten out of God are facts irrespective of time and only dependent on whether they receive him, which is whether they believe and accept his authority.

I think "gnomic" has been used to refer to a statement that is without tense but rather states some general truth. It is not that it is inappropriate, but I just don't like the term as it does not tell me what it means and I always have to check it up again. ;)
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Barry Hofstetter
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Re: Wallace and the present gnomic

Post by Barry Hofstetter » October 15th, 2011, 8:32 am

Jong Ha Lee wrote:Thanks, guys.

Just a few things. As to my reading of Wallace- not your own view- have I understood him correctly? What is he saying? Are you saying that he is claiming that the gnomic idea is picked up from πᾶς? Still on Wallace, is it possible to retain the gnomic and the customary within the same participial phrase? That is, is it even theoretically possible? Also, I’m not sure that Wallace is saying that the force should be taken merely from the phrase; he’s very strong on context. But maybe I’m missing something.

Coming to your view, Barry, are you saying that there is a gnomic force there, coming from πᾶς? And when you say there is (?) a gnomic element via πᾶς, are you pointing to the indefiniteness of the pronoun? Wallace is aware that the phrase is substantival. Therefore, I’d need more info from you to demonstrate that your substantival solution dislodges his.
I did have a chance to look over Wallace's sections on the "customary" present and the "gnomic" present. I simply, as stated before, disagree with Wallace. Aspect for participles is a funny thing, actually, All I can really do here is repeat my assertion that a substantive participle is less concerned with the type of action expressed as it is the fact of the action. The difference in John 3:16 between an aorist participle and a present participle would be the difference of the act of belief viewed as a whole versus the act of belief as a state, a generalized description of the action involved. "Continuing" is really a confusing category, and I don't see that implied at all. The present participle there implies continuing or customary action to the same extent as the English "believing" or "one who believes." Now, I am not sayiing that Wallace is wrong about the customary use of the present tense in the indicative, but I don't think his use of the participle as an example is good -- the fact that it is a participle in a particular syntactic onstruction changes things a bit.

As for gnomic, I think Wallace may lean in that direction due to the presence of πᾶς. πᾶς itself does not imply any sort of gnomic idea, but modifying the present participle here, it does seem to combine to present a general truth, i.e., that anyone who has faith is going to live forever. But πᾶς is really then part of the context which results in that reading of the text -- in simple terms, it's what the text actually says. The syntax in and of itself will not help us directly with the nature of that faith, how it begins, whether it's conditional or has to be continuing, and so forth -- that has to be determined from context and other descriptive and propositional statements.

This is one of the criticisms of Wallace, that he often uses as examples of syntax what really is derived from the total context of a given passage, so that at least in some of his examples we are getting commentary on the text rather than syntax and grammar. I especially see this with his multiplicity of genitive usages, but I think this might be another example.
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N.E. Barry Hofstetter
Instructor of Latin
Jack M. Barrack Hebrew Academy
καὶ σὺ τὸ σὸν ποιήσεις κἀγὼ τὸ ἐμόν. ἆρον τὸ σὸν καὶ ὕπαγε.

Jong Ha Lee
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Re: Wallace and the present gnomic

Post by Jong Ha Lee » October 15th, 2011, 10:04 am

Brothers, thanks for the salutary reminder of context being king, and that even the experts have feet of clay! Only in the last year or so have I studied Wallace’s work in earnest; prior to that I tended to dip into various grammars and exegetical commentaries. I did do a cursory search on πιστεύων in John’s writings, and I found myself questioning whether they held a customary force, never mind gnomic; I felt a plain vanilla “to believe” was the obvious import in at least some cases. Although I am still hesitant on John 3:16, mainly because of Wallace’s comments on the customary participle therein.

David, I’m not convinced of the incongruity of the gnomic. It’s come down through the centuries to us, and applies well to Greek. I’m having a hard time determining what the limits of a gnomic are. I understand well a clear gnomic compared to a clear customary, but my mind whizzes a bit when those lines get a bit blurred, and that is why I struggled with Wallace. I still don’t know how one tense can bear two forces simultaneously. If you can, guys, please put me out of my misery on that one! (I get the feeling I’m missing something rather “duh”ish.)
Barry Hofstetter wrote:The difference in John 3:16 between an aorist participle and a present participle would be the difference of the act of belief viewed as a whole versus the act of belief as a state, a generalized description of the action involved. "Continuing" is really a confusing category, and I don't see that implied at all. The present participle there implies continuing or customary action to the same extent as the English "believing" or "one who believes." Now, I am not sayiing that Wallace is wrong about the customary use of the present tense in the indicative, but I don't think his use of the participle as an example is good -- the fact that it is a participle in a particular syntactic onstruction changes things a bit.
Barry, I’m trying to pick my way through your comments here. Do correct me where I err. So, you’re saying that the force of the participle in John 3:16 is merely on the act of believing. As such, the participle here is not concerned with the gnomic, or with a customary emphasis on continuity. That is, there is an element of continuity to participle in John 3:16, but only as it indicates a state of being. Have I got you?

The following questions arise out of the same quest for clarification. How does this “state of being”, which, according to you, implies continuity, correspond to the mere act of believing implied in the verbal element? How does a seemingly punctiliar act (I’m not implying an aoristic emphasis), namely believing, correspond with a state of believing? Does not a state of believing, or of anything, imply an ongoing condition? Would a state of being imply more of an emphasis on the adjectival nature, “the believing one”?

As to your option, namely, a plain reading of the participle, why do you choose that contextually?

God be with you.

Jong Ha
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David Lim
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Re: Wallace and the present gnomic

Post by David Lim » October 15th, 2011, 10:23 am

Jong Ha Lee wrote:I felt a plain vanilla “to believe” was the obvious import in at least some cases.
If that is the essential meaning that you understand on reading the whole thing, that that is indeed the meaning that it was meant to convey; simply "every one who believes".
Jong Ha Lee wrote:David, I’m not convinced of the incongruity of the gnomic. It’s come down through the centuries to us, and applies well to Greek. I’m having a hard time determining what the limits of a gnomic are. I understand well a clear gnomic compared to a clear customary, but my mind whizzes a bit when those lines get a bit blurred, and that is why I struggled with Wallace. I still don’t know how one tense can bear two forces simultaneously.
I also don't know how one word can bear two meanings simultaneously, unless of course we are talking about double-meanings on purpose. And I did not say the "gnomic" is incongruous, but rather I am hesitant to use a term which may have connotations that I never intend. I think simply taking the text for what it is is preferable to a detailed analysis of what that one particular word means. In my own words, that word just refers to the act of believing into Jesus, or entrusting oneself to Jesus, and there is no connotation of time. The writer is simply telling his readers, "Believe into Jesus!"
Jong Ha Lee wrote:Does not a state of believing, or of anything, imply an ongoing condition? Would a state of being imply more of an emphasis on the adjectival nature, “the believing one”?
I think it is just a matter of whether one believes or not. The text is just saying, "every one who believes into Jesus will have life", and also implying, "every one who does not believe into Jesus will perish". It is not about whether the belief is continual but whether one believes. You could however say that those who did not believe chose to remain in their unbelief and those who believed chose not to.
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Mark Lightman
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Re: Wallace and the present gnomic

Post by Mark Lightman » October 15th, 2011, 11:44 am

David wrote: The writer is simply telling his readers, "Believe into Jesus!"
I agree with David. I would paraphrase John 3:16b thus:

ὁ ἄνθρωπος ὅς τὴν ἐν αὐτῷ πίστιν ἔχει καὶ τήν ζωὴν ἔχει.
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Jong Ha Lee
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Re: Wallace and the present gnomic

Post by Jong Ha Lee » October 15th, 2011, 11:53 am

David, thanks for your comments. Excuse me if I ask a few more questions. How do you classify the present participle in John 3:16. What category do you put it in? Is it the progressive (descriptive) or something else?

Guys, how would you classify or describe both participles in Romans 3:11 (οὐκ ἔστιν ὁ συνίων, οὐκ ἔστιν ὁ ἐκζητῶν τὸν θεόν)? Do they have gnomic force? If not, why not?

Thanks in advance.

Jong Ha.
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