Rev. 1:4 ὁ ἦν not ὁ γενόμενος

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Please quote the Greek text you are discussing directly in your post if it is reasonably short - do not ask people to look it up. This is not a beginner's forum, competence in Greek is assumed.
Tim Evans
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Re: Rev. 1:4 ὁ ἦν not ὁ γενόμενος

Post by Tim Evans » December 9th, 2015, 8:30 pm

Being relatively new to greek, and newly exposed to these types of discussions, I am trying to grasp the point here.

This particular phrase is one that I don't think anyone in my first year class had any problem grasping. Hence I doubt there would be any question over the meaning for the original readers, or for modern translations. Hence I am trying to grasp the underlying purpose of this type of question.

We have a set of inferred grammatical rules taken from readings of the original biblical greek. If an author breaks our inferred grammatical rules, this means either, 1. our inferred grammatical rules are incomplete, or 2. the author is less educated and has made a mistake, or something else? If the author has made a mistake, then wouldn't we likely see textual variants which correct the text?

So I guess the benefit of such discussion is, "Do we need to amend our understanding of biblical greek grammar?"
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Barry Hofstetter
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Re: Rev. 1:4 ὁ ἦν not ὁ γενόμενος

Post by Barry Hofstetter » December 10th, 2015, 6:45 am

Tim Evans wrote:Being relatively new to greek, and newly exposed to these types of discussions, I am trying to grasp the point here.

This particular phrase is one that I don't think anyone in my first year class had any problem grasping. Hence I doubt there would be any question over the meaning for the original readers, or for modern translations. Hence I am trying to grasp the underlying purpose of this type of question.

We have a set of inferred grammatical rules taken from readings of the original biblical greek. If an author breaks our inferred grammatical rules, this means either, 1. our inferred grammatical rules are incomplete, or 2. the author is less educated and has made a mistake, or something else? If the author has made a mistake, then wouldn't we likely see textual variants which correct the text?

So I guess the benefit of such discussion is, "Do we need to amend our understanding of biblical greek grammar?"
Naw, it ain't the case, bro. We just assume that the the author, since his solecisms are not repeated in other authors, is writing non-standard Greek, much as what I just wrote at the beginning of this reply.
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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.

Stephen Hughes
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Re: Rev. 1:4 ὁ ἦν not ὁ γενόμενος

Post by Stephen Hughes » December 11th, 2015, 10:37 am

Barry Hofstetter wrote:
Tim Evans wrote:Being relatively new to greek, and newly exposed to these types of discussions, I am trying to grasp the point here.

This particular phrase is one that I don't think anyone in my first year class had any problem grasping. Hence I doubt there would be any question over the meaning for the original readers, or for modern translations. Hence I am trying to grasp the underlying purpose of this type of question.

We have a set of inferred grammatical rules taken from readings of the original biblical greek. If an author breaks our inferred grammatical rules, this means either, 1. our inferred grammatical rules are incomplete, or 2. the author is less educated and has made a mistake, or something else? If the author has made a mistake, then wouldn't we likely see textual variants which correct the text?

So I guess the benefit of such discussion is, "Do we need to amend our understanding of biblical greek grammar?"
Naw, it ain't the case, bro. We just assume that the the author, since his solecisms are not repeated in other authors, is writing non-standard Greek, much as what I just wrote at the beginning of this reply.
Grammar and language are different things.

Most phrases that attempt to follow the grammar, but don't quite make it, are understandable, and can be translated into another language, according to what it seems to have been meant in the ungrammatical utterance. Beginners (foreign language learners) are not really able to identify their own errors, or the errors that others make that they themselves would or could make the same as them. They tend to feel that everything that is in the language is acceptable. There are also people who hold the a priori assumption that what is in the language is the language, and that a language itself variously expressed by any and all of its speakers is the definition of its grammar. In other words, the presuppositions usually lead to the conclusions. There is no point in continuing a discussion at the conclusion level when the assumptions are different or not stated.

Another reason for discussing in seemingly circular reasoning is to exclude the discussion of other circular reasonings, and to encourage further discussion without actually inviting it. By recording this discussion, and stating in parsing that I think this is a reference to Johannine Christology. Having this discussion also implicitly states that I think the opening words of 1 John don't need to be "grammatical", but could be like this. The logic being that is we push the issue that John felt comfortable saying this ὁ ἦν, then he could feel comfortable saying Ὃ ἦν ἀπ’ ἀρχῆς, ὃ ἀκηκόαμεν, ὃ ἑωράκαμεν τοῖς ὀφθαλμοῖς ἡμῶν, ὃ ἐθεασάμεθα, without proper regard for "grammar", ie ὁ ... . I think it is usual for advanced learners to be able to multi-layer and imply a lot that has significance in other places, when discussing any number of other topics. Another thing, perhaps substantial, perhaps a breaking of wind in a breeze, it tends to exclude other discussions such as that the ἦν sounds like a word often repeated during meditation in another religion, which has a significant meaning in another cosmological system. But as this is a forum for discussing Greek, not inter-faith apologetics, that stays in the background.
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Tim Evans
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Re: Rev. 1:4 ὁ ἦν not ὁ γενόμενος

Post by Tim Evans » December 12th, 2015, 7:19 pm

Thanks guys, that clarifies things for me somewhat. Im glad I asked.
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Jonathan Robie
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Re: Rev. 1:4 ὁ ἦν not ὁ γενόμενος

Post by Jonathan Robie » December 13th, 2015, 8:42 am

Barry Hofstetter wrote:
Tim Evans wrote:So I guess the benefit of such discussion is, "Do we need to amend our understanding of biblical greek grammar?"
Naw, it ain't the case, bro. We just assume that the the author, since his solecisms are not repeated in other authors, is writing non-standard Greek, much as what I just wrote at the beginning of this reply.
I think this is mostly a discussion of what adjective to apply here. This is an unusual usage, it is also used repeatedly in the Revelation. If you want to learn standard Greek, you would probably use Attic Greek or Luke or perhaps John as a template, and not the Revelation.

But in this case, it's a phrase that recurs repeatedly in the Revelation, and I'm not (yet) convinced that this is bad Greek. Mike Aubrey weighs in on this in his doctoral thesis, starting on page 42.
John, the author of Revelation, provides us with a unique piece of data that exhibits this fact in one of the most theologically profound statements in the New Testament, provided in example (3.8) below.
!!! SNIP !!!
Unlike other places in Revelation, this grammatical error is intentional. It is also an error that covers the ambiguities between three of our four types of sentence pairs. Using a participle along with a definite article as the head of an RP (reference phrase) is a standard construction in Koine Greek. Participles are marked for aspect, but they are not marked for tense. This presents a challenge for the author here, since he is trying to make a statement involving both aspect and tense: the ongoing (and thus imperfective) existence of God not only in the present, but also the past and future. The use of the existential verb as an imperfective participle, ˈon (ὢν) ‘being’, is used for present time reference. Likewise, the imperfective participle of the motion verb, erˈxomenos (ἐρχόμενος) ‘is coming’, provides a useful construction for future time reference. These are both effectively fully grammatical for making temporal reference with a participle independent of a morphological tense marker. But the middle verb, which we have marked in bold, is highly unusual. This verb is the same existential verb as the first participle, but in its past imperfective indicative form, ˈen (ἦν) ‘was’. John, as the author here, has a few challenges. First, he is dealing with the fact that the lexeme in question ˈene (εἶναι) ‘to be’ has no past participle form. The form does not exist; there is a systematic gap. Thus, technically, we have what should be a Type I situation. There is no verb-form available. However, our author has attempted to work around that, but in doing so, he has placed an existing verb-form into what would otherwise be an ungrammatical context. He has used the indicative verb, ˈen (ἦν) ‘was’, in a syntactic position that, grammatically, is limited to substantives only. Even still, this was a deliberate choice on his part. As such, we have also moved beyond a simple binary distinction between grammatical and ungrammatical, since the writer has a specific meaning intended beyond the ungrammaticality.
I hadn't read this at the time, but I think Mike is saying what I was trying to say, and saying it better. To me, this feels like effective use of language, and a memorable and striking phrase.

Does anyone have access to The New International Greek Testament Commentary: The Book of Revelation by GK Beale? What does he say about this on page 188? Mike refers to this in a footnote.

I just checked Swete, who calls this "a characteristically bold attempt to supply the want of a past participle of εἰμί".
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S Walch
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Re: Rev. 1:4 ὁ ἦν not ὁ γενόμενος

Post by S Walch » December 13th, 2015, 12:12 pm

Jonathan Robie wrote:Does anyone have access to The New International Greek Testament Commentary: The Book of Revelation by GK Beale? What does he say about this on page 188? Mike refers to this in a footnote.
Here you go :)
ἀπὸ ὁ ὢν καὶ ὁ ἦν καὶ ὁ ἐρχόμενος is one of the characteristic solecisms in the Apocalypse, since a genitive construction should follow ἀπό. Scribes tried to correct the apparent mistake by adding θεου (“[from] God,” M [a] t; Vic Prim) after the preposition. But it would be a blunder of modern thinking to judge this as a mistake of one who did not know his Greek very well. Here, as often elsewhere, commentators generally acknowledge that the “incorrect” grammar is intentional. ὁ ὤν is probably taken from Exod. 3:14, where it occurs twice as an explanation of the divine name Yahweh, and John keeps it in the nominative in order to highlight it as an allusion to Exodus. Furthermore, the full threefold phrase may have become a general title for God in Judaism (see above), and this would have been reason enough for the author to maintain the nominatives. Beckwith, Robertson, and others argue unnecessarily that John considered the LXX paraphrase of the divine name indeclinable, since the unchangeable form would have suited better the majesty, sovereignty, and unchangeableness of God. If such were the case, the same kind of grammatical irregularity would have the same significance for the devil’s name in 20:2!
It is possible that John employs such kinds of constructions here and elsewhere as Hebraisms in order to create a “biblical” effect and so to show the solidarity of his work with that of God’s revelation in the Old Testament. Further examples of such intended solecisms are in, e.g., 1:5; 2:20; 3:12; 9:14.
- GK Beale, NIGTC, Revelation, pg 188
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Stephen Carlson
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Re: Rev. 1:4 ὁ ἦν not ὁ γενόμενος

Post by Stephen Carlson » December 13th, 2015, 5:16 pm

Jonathan Robie wrote:Mike Aubrey weighs in on this in his doctoral thesis, starting on page 42.
I, for one, would be ecstatic if Mike continued on to doctoral studies, but this is his master's thesis.
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Barry Hofstetter
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Re: Rev. 1:4 ὁ ἦν not ὁ γενόμενος

Post by Barry Hofstetter » December 14th, 2015, 8:54 am

There is very little doubt that this is an intentional solecism on the part of the author. For the record, standard Greek would have something like:

ἀπὸ τοῦ ὄντος καὶ τοῦ γενομένου καὶ τοῦ ἐρχομένου...

This is why we don't prove grammatical points from Revelation. We have this, which is clearly intentional, and we have other solecisms in Revelation which appear unintentional, and make no exegetical difference at all, such as:

 14:19 καὶ ἔβαλεν ὁ ἄγγελος τὸ δρέπανον αὐτοῦ εἰς τὴν γῆν καὶ ἐτρύγησεν τὴν ἄμπελον τῆς γῆς καὶ ἔβαλεν εἰς τὴν ληνὸν τοῦ θυμοῦ τοῦ θεοῦ τὸν μέγαν...

Where the adjective and the noun do not agree in gender.
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N.E. Barry Hofstetter
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Jack M. Barrack Hebrew Academy
καὶ σὺ τὸ σὸν ποιήσεις κἀγὼ τὸ ἐμόν. ἆρον τὸ σὸν καὶ ὕπαγε.

Benno A Zuiddam
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Re: Rev. 1:4 ὁ ἦν not ὁ γενόμενος

Post by Benno A Zuiddam » September 4th, 2020, 4:34 am

Barclay (Revelation) suggested a long time ago that this was ungrammatical, but probably due to the author's emphasizing the unchangeable nature of God.

It could be, but fixed rules for the details of a language is a myth created by government language committees who have the power to change the language every thirty years and wish to make their mark. In antiquity there are no fixed rules like that. If it worked for you to communicate your message it did fine. It certainly does in Rev 1:4 and avoids the misunderstandings that γενόμενος could create.

Personally I would suggest that this could be a Latin-ism. "Ab eo qui est et qui erat et qui venturus est." As you see, this is perfect Latin grammar without participles. Maybe St John learned his Greek from a Roman, or was kept by Latin speaking soldiers at Patmos, so that it was perfectly natural for him to say it in this way. It clearly conveys his meaning anyway.
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Barry Hofstetter
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Re: Rev. 1:4 ὁ ἦν not ὁ γενόμενος

Post by Barry Hofstetter » September 6th, 2020, 9:36 am

Benno A Zuiddam wrote:
September 4th, 2020, 4:34 am
Barclay (Revelation) suggested a long time ago that this was ungrammatical, but probably due to the author's emphasizing the unchangeable nature of God.

It could be, but fixed rules for the details of a language is a myth created by government language committees who have the power to change the language every thirty years and wish to make their mark. In antiquity there are no fixed rules like that. If it worked for you to communicate your message it did fine. It certainly does in Rev 1:4 and avoids the misunderstandings that γενόμενος could create.

Personally I would suggest that this could be a Latin-ism. "Ab eo qui est et qui erat et qui venturus est." As you see, this is perfect Latin grammar without participles. Maybe St John learned his Greek from a Roman, or was kept by Latin speaking soldiers at Patmos, so that it was perfectly natural for him to say it in this way. It clearly conveys his meaning anyway.
I'd like to know when those government committees meet, so that I could give them a piece of my mind... :)

Yes, the Latin grammar is perfectly regular using relative clauses which do not reflect the problem with the Greek. The writer of Revelation could have done the same thing, if he wanted to use relative clauses and finite verbs, and that would have looked a lot more Latin than what he does, ἀπ' αὐτοῦ ὅς ἐστιν καὶ ὃς ἦν καὶ ὃς έλεύσεται, rather than the odd mixture of construction that he does use. Jerome's rendering is valuable in that it shows us how he read the text, and that he felt no need to replicate the intentional solecism.
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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.

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