Re: Santa Clause and the perfect tense . . .

From: Jonathan Robie (
Date: Mon Nov 18 1996 - 06:44:02 EST

At 11:26 PM 11/17/96 -0800, Tom Launder wrote:

>So. . . all this to ask for some help in understanding the significance
>of the perfect tense in passages like John 5:24.
>"Most assuredly I say to you, he who hears my word and believes in Him
>who sent me has eternal life, and shall not come into judgement, but HAS
>PASSED from death to life."
>I have become hesitant to emphasize the perfect tense, but doesn't this
>passage ooze exegetical honey?

I also find this difficult, but I'm working on it. I'll take a whack at it,
and the Big Greeks will correct me where I'm wrong.

Perfect tense focusses on the present state which results from a past
action. The HAS PASSED does not focus on the act of passing from death to
life, it focusses on the current state: he now has life. Tenses are best
analyzed in context.

John 5:24 (GNT) Amhn amhn legw umin
oti o ton logon mou akouwn (present active participle)
kai pisteuwn (present active participle) tw pemyanti me
ecei (present active indicative) zwhn aiwnion
kai eis krisin ouk ercetai (present middle indicative),
alla metabebhken (perfect active indicative) ek tou qanatou eis thn zwhn.

The rest of this passage is in the present, which focusses on the action in
process - hearing, believing, having life, not coming into judgement. The
perfect then explains why he won't come into judgement - he has already
passed from death into life, and is now in that state. To express the
perfect better, I like adding the word "already" to that phrase.

One thing Don Wilkins pointed out to me which I find helpful: it is easy for
us "little Greeks" to think that every single tense emphasizes something,
but not every verb is a profound theological statement, and every verb has
to have a tense.


Jonathan Robie
POET Software, 3207 Gibson Road, Durham, N.C., 27703
Ph: 919.598.5728 Fax: 919.598.6728
email:, <--- shockwave enabled!

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