Re: Lk 19:1-10: ambiguous present tense

From: Philip L. Graber (
Date: Tue Nov 07 1995 - 14:06:51 EST

On Sun, 5 Nov 1995, Carl W. Conrad wrote:

> As intriguing to me as the fact that an noteworthy interpreter has argued
> for such an interpretation and the evident ambiguity of the story itself is
> the use of the present tense in v. 8. We have just had an intriguing
> discussion of the possibilities of varied interpretation of the Greek
> present tense, and it occurs to me that this particular instance is
> sufficiently ambiguous to invite discussion amongst our learned colleagues.
> What do you think this present tense means about Zacchaeus' habitual
> behavior or future demonstration of present repentance?

Since none of our learned colleagues have responded, I guess I will. Luke
Johnson translates DIDWMI as "am giving," explaining that Zacchaeus is
indicating that his repentance is not a one-shot deal, but a change in
habit. Whether or not this is a good reading, it certainly is a
legitimate use of the present tense in English. It is stewardship season
in many churches, and a natural response to the question, "What will you
give to the church next year?" might be, "I am giving $xx.xx/month next
year." According to Mari's analysis (of both Greek and English), this is
accounted for by the fact that present realizes imperfective aspect but
not tense. In context, the time reference is clearly future. In the
Zacchaeus story, the context would also seem to indicate future
(Zacchaeus is identified as a sinner, and Jesus says that "today"
salvation has come, etc.).

Philip Graber Graduate Division of Religion
Graduate Student in New Testament 211 Bishops Hall, Emory University Atlanta, GA 30322 USA

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