Re: Perfects

From: Carlton L. Winbery (
Date: Fri Sep 06 1996 - 11:36:56 EDT

Winbery said
>>> hESTHKA is exactly what the Risen Christ says in Rev. 3:20.
Robie said
>>"I am standing", meaning that he has reached the state of standing, or being
>>risen, with the emphasis on the state which has been reached. Am I
>>this correctly?
Conrad said
>Well, I don't suppose that Carlton MEANT to be misleading or to suggest
>that hESTHKA in Rev 3:20 has something to do with resurrection itself.

Very true. I saw it as parallel to what Carl had said previously about the
perfect. There is clearly an emphasis on existing result.

>>> (1John 1:1,3)
>>Thanks for choosing this passage, which I love, but I've clearly missed out on
>>some of its richness...let's try digging into this...
>I read through this whole post (believe it or not) before attempting to
>respond to it; it's rather like Faust's meditation on how many ways one may
>translate John 1:1a, EN ARXHi HN hO LOGOS ...
>>> "That which was (impf) from beginning,
>>In discussing imperfect, BDR #327 gives the example of Acts 21:20:
>>EDOXAZON TON QEON, EIPAN TE, translating it, "they praised over a
>>longer period of time and in various ways, until they finally said".
>>My goodness, that seems like an awful lot to hang onto one poor verb!
>>Is all of this really implied? (I notice that the translations are much
>>sparser, e.g. NIV says: "they praised God. Then they said...")
>Others might want to defend the NIV; the truth is that all versions are
>much more successful at some points than at others. TO PNEUMA hOPOU QELEI
>PNEI ...
>So is that a "hypertranslation?" I think that the BDR version does express
>the sense of those five words pretty well: continuous or repeated action in
>EDOXAZON, and then EIPAN is conclusive; the linkage of the two verbs by TE
>is eloquent enough to imply all those inbetween words in that translation.
>Hardly would one think that a simple conjunction like TE could be so

My emphasis was upon the verb to be not just on the imperfect tense.

>>But if we *can* attribute that much significance to the imperfect, then
>>I assume "That which was (impf) from beginning" stresses that it has been
>>there ever since the beginning, and we see it there before us, waiting to
>>be discovered, giving us a feeling of suspense...

Clearly the claim in 1 John is that it had already been discovered. That
forms the foundation for witness.

>There's a wonderful line (v. 11) in Hesiod's ERGA KAI hHMERAI with an
>instance of what someone once called "the philosophic imperfect" or "the
>imperfect of the recently-discovered fact":
> "There was not, after all, a single brood of Strifes, but on earth
> are two."
>This is very similar; yes, the LOGOS was ALWAYS in existence, continuously
>--STILL IS, in fact.

My point exactly.

>>> that which we heard (perf),
>>> that which we saw (perf) with our eyes,
>>Ah, now we have discovered it, both by hearing it and seeing it. The state
>>of having discovered is stressed by the use of the perfect, not the process
>>of hearing or seeing.
>I'd make this "that which we HAVE heard ... HAVE SEEN ..." to underscore
>that the experience is still vivid in the memory and understanding of the

Yes, I generally translate the perfect which emphasizes the completed
action with have or has, but here I see the perfects not very different
from the aorist. They both seem to gather up the whole event and throw it
at us.

>>> that which we gazed upon (aor) and our hands handled (aor)
>>Several different interpretations seem possible here. And that's a problem for
>>me. As I understand it, terms like "culminative aorist" combine an objective
>>statement, "aorist", with a subjective judgement about the interpretation of
>>this particular aorist. I'm surprised that this is not stated clearly in
>>any of
>>my books. And it looks as though the process people use is to examine each
>>possible interpretation of the aorist, and see which ones make sense in the
>>given context. My problem is that almost every possibility seems plausible to
>Considering the vividness of the verbs employed in the aorist tense in this
>combo, I really think that the emphasis presented by the aorist is simply
>factuality of the event (CONTRA any docetic view?): " ... what we REALLY
>DID cast our eyes upon and what our hands ACTUALLY DID feel ..."
>>Ingressive aorist stresses the entrance into an action. Examples given in BDR
>>include Acts 15:12, ESIGHSEN PAN TO TLHQOS, "became still", Mt 17:6,
>>SFODRA, "they began to be very afraid", Romans 14:9, EZHSEN, "came to
>>life", and
>>2 Cor 8:9, where Jesus EPTWXEUSEN, "became poor". So let's try applying
>>this to
>>"that which we gazed upon (aor) and our hands handled (aor)". EQEASAMEQA comes
>>from QEAOMAI, which have several senses that are intriguing in this context.
>>BAGD sense 1.b. is "come to see" as in EISELQWN O BASILEUS QEASASQAI T.
>>ANAKEIMENOUS Mt 22:11. With the ingressive aorist, this could mean that we
>>come into his presence, and come into contact with him. BAGD sense 2 means to
>>see or behold in such a way that a supernatural impression is gained, e.g.
>>1:14 EQEASAMEQA T. DOXAN AUTOU, "we beheld his glory", or came to perceive his
>>Carlton mentions the culminative aorist: according to Young, "the
>>completion of
>>an action which issues into another action or state". My Robertson (the short
>>grammar) does not seem to use the term. Is the other state the state of
>>proclamation given below? It seems reasonable.
>I don't think there's anything "ingressive" about the aorists in 1 John
>1:1. "Culminative" seems right to me--in this sense, we could translate: "
>... and we got to focus our eyes on him, and our hands got to enter into
>real contact with him ..."
>>Or could this be what BDR calls a complexive aorist, emphasizing that "we
>>repeatedly beheld him and touched him with our hands over a period of time"?
>>Or perhaps even a gnomic aorist, saying that the beholding and touching him is
>>beyond time, not fixed in time.
>Wie, bitte? At this point I get frustrated with this endeavor at splitting
>the interpretative meanings of tenses into infinite refractions. At any
>rate, I think that the VERY LAST thing the author of 1 John 1:1 wants to
>say is that the beholding and touching of Jesus by the disciples is outside
>of time and space; he is emphasizing the historical reality of that
>contact, probably in opposition to docetic notions that the "historical
>Jesus" wasn't really a human being.

When the emphasis in the aorist (as seen in the context) is on the fact
that something has happened (that's the basis for the testimony), it cannot
be ingressive (emphasizing the beginning) or gnomic (a general maxim that
is always true, a truism), but must emphasize the whole event from the
perspective of looking back on it, i.e. culminative, an accomplished fact.

>>> we are declaring (present) also to you...
>>Ah, this part at least is clear, and emphasizes the present process of
>>declaring to "you".

I would say the continual or iterative witnessing to the Christ event.

Carlton L. Winbery
Prof. NT & Greek La College

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