From: Carl W. Conrad (email@example.com)
Date: Fri Apr 25 1997 - 11:49:34 EDT
At 5:26 AM -0500 4/25/97, Jonathan Robie wrote:
>I woke up this morning with 1 John 2.12-.14 on my mind - I think I've
>finally grasped something that has puzzled me: a simple explanation for the
>shift from GRAFW to EGRAPSA in 1 John 2:12-14. In a passage like this, which
>is highly stylized and carefully constructed, it felt like there should be
>some explanation, especially since John seems to use tense very carefully -
>for instance, Carl Conrad once pointed out that John uses the perfect much
>more carefully than other New Testament writers.
>I think that the reason for the shift from GRAFW to EGRAPSA is simply that
>the focus is shifting from the writer to the recipient. This is reinforced
>by the shift in verse .14 from perfect to present. We start out in verse .12
>with GRAFW(present) + hOTI + Verb(perfect):
>GRAFW hUMIN...hOTI AFEWNTAI
>GRAFW hUMIN...hOTI EGNWKATE
>GRAFW hUMIN...hOTI NENIKHKATE
>The focus is on John as he writes this passage (or this letter); the focus
>shifts to the reader with EGRAPSA, used as an epistolary aorist in verses
>EGRAYA hUMIN...hOTI EGNWKATE
>EGRAYA hUMIN...hOTI EGNWKATE
>EGRAYA hUMIN...hOTI ISCUROI ESTE KAI O LOGOS TOU QEOU EN hUMIN MENEI KAI
>NENIKHKATE TON PONHRON.
>This ISCUROI ESTE shifts to present tense, which feels to me like an even
>stronger shift to the recipient: you are strong, and the word of God abides
>in you. Then comes NENIKHKATE in perfect: and you have overcome the evil
>one. Read this passage once leaving out the present tense phrase ISCUROI
>ESTE KAI O LOGOS TOU QEOU EN hUMIN MENEI KAI - to my ear, it is much duller
>and less emphatic, and the final NENIKHKATE TON PONHRON has much less punch.
>The present tense phrase changes the focus and sets it up so that the final
>NENIKHKATE is very strong.
Well, it is an interesting question or problem set you throw out here. I
have only an educated guess to propose here, and one that may give the
impression that I have given up completely on the whole matter of aspect
and "tense." Nevertheless, I'm inclined to say that I really don't think
think there's a dollar's or a penny's worth of difference in meaning
between GRAFW (present) and EGRAYA (aorist) in these statements unless it
is about as great as that between (a) "I'm writing to you because ...," and
(b) my writing you has as its reason the fact that ..." Which is to say
(don't give me that Apollonian hEKHBOLOS whammy, Don Wilkins!) that I don't
think these aorist forms EGRAYA have any past time reference at all; if
they have distinctive aspectual significance at all, my guess is that they
envision the writing as a whole act. I suppose that they COULD BE
epistolary, but the inconsistent usage makes this at least questionable.
On the other hand, the matter of the perfect tenses and the present tenses
of ISCUROI ESTE and MENEI seems to me much more clearcut and intelligible:
it seems to me that all of these verbs, perfect or present, are in fact
stative in their usage: the perfects AFEWNTAI, EGNWKATE, NENIKHKATE are
statives with present reference; I'd translate them, if possible, AS
PRESENT TENSES: "Your sins are IN REMISSION (like cancer that has ceased to
threaten), "You know fully ...", and "You are victors over the Evil One.
But the present tenses are also present in focus: ISCUROI ESTE is stative:
"You are at full strength," and MENEI just may possibly emphasize the
durative: "continues to abide." But it seems to me that the center of
gravity in these verses is in the hOTI clauses, and all of these verbs are
>One other thing bothers me about this passage: look at what John says to
>GRAFW hUMIN, TEKNIA, hOTI AFEWNTAI hUMIN hAI hAMARTIAI DIA TO ONOMA
>EGRAYA hUMIN, PAIDIA, hOTI EGNWKATE TON PATERA.
>GRAFW hUMIN, PATERES, hOTI EGNWKATE TON AP ARCHS.
>EGRAYA hUMIN, PATERES, hOTI EGNWKATE TON AP ARCHS.
>GRAFW hUMIN, NEANISKOI, hOTI NENIKHKATE TON PONHRON.
>EGRAYA hUMIN, NEANISKOI, hOTI ISCUROI ESTE KAI O LOGOS TOU QEOU EN hUMIN
>MENEI KAI NENIKHKATE TON PONHRON.
>The statements addressed to fathers are identical except for the shift from
>GRAFW to EGRAYA. The statements addressed to young men are highly parallel -
>in fact, the second may be seen as a more dramatic restatement of the first.
>But the statements addressed to children don't seem parallel to me. Also,
>this is the one case where he changes the word used to address the group
>(TEKNIA/PAIDIA). I'm not sure how to interpret this, or how much I should
>read into it, but it is a clear discrepancy in the organization of the
>passage, and it might well mean something.
>I also find the three groups intriguing. Does TEKNIA refer to all of us, as
>in TEKNIA MOU in verse 2.1, or to spiritual children, or to physical
>children? Do PATERES and NEANISKOI refer to those who are physically fathers
>and young men, or are these three groups to refer to a progression in
>maturity - e.g. from spiritual children, to strong young spiritual warriors,
>to spiritual fathers who have attained wisdom?
In my opinion John is using TEKNIA for the whole congregation that he is
addressing as a spiritual father, a not uncommon practice in Hellenistic
religious communities,--and that by PAIDIA, PATERES, and NEANISKOI he
really is singling out age-groups.
I'm not quite sure what these reactions are worth; I express them in the
same casually curious fashion as that in which Jonathan tossed out the
questions, awaiting alternative reactions.
Carl W. Conrad
Department of Classics, Washington University
One Brookings Drive, St. Louis, MO, USA 63130
firstname.lastname@example.org OR email@example.com
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