Re: 1 John and epistolary aorists

From: Carl W. Conrad (
Date: Mon Apr 28 1997 - 08:53:37 EDT

At 6:03 AM -0500 4/28/97, Jonathan Robie wrote:
>At 08:12 PM 4/27/97 -0500, Carl W. Conrad wrote:
>>>And I still think that there is a shift of emphasis from the writer to the
>>>recipients in 2.12-.14. At the beginning, the present GRAFW is imperfective,
>>>with the focus on the time of the writer:
>>>Of course, the perfect is also very strong here, so the emphasis might be
>>>50/50. In 2.14, two things shift the emphasis to the reader - the EGRAPSA
>>>views the writing from outside, whether or not you believe in a past time
>>>referent for aorist, and the three strong statements at the end clearly tilt
>>>the emphasis toward the recipients:
>>Here's where I can't follow you, Jonathan. You must be seeing this shift of
>>emphasis to the reader from the use of the aorist alone, because I can't
>>see any difference from the GRAFW formulations: each of these also has a
>>vocative and a dative hUMIN for the group addressed and a hOTI clause with
>>verbs in the perfect tense; moreover two of those perfects are identical
>>PONHRON). Or perhaps you see that shift as a consequence of the different
>>elements in the final hOTI clauses, namely, the present tenses ISCUROI
>>ESTE, MENEI EN hUMIN. But I can't see how any of these features mark the
>>last sequence in 2:14 as MORE directed toward the readers than the previous
>>sequence of GRAFW formulations in 2:12-13. I can't see how the addressees
>>are any MORE in focus in 2:14 than they are in 2:12-13.

Jonathan, I CAN see a shift in 2:14, but I don't see it as one toward a
more distinct address to the listeners (and you are right to emphasize how
it sounds, because it was surely written to be read aloud to an audience);
it looks to me more like the rhetorical climax of the whole sequence that
started with the initial GRAFW.

Another thought occurs to me as I muse at the keyboard, and maybe this will
bring the discourse analysts out of the woodwork or wherever they are
hiding: I've never attempted to analyze 1 John in terms of its unity; while
I think that the opening passage with its echo of the prologue of the
gospel must be meant to have its initial position, the letter as a whole
really seems to have a very loose structure (as does SOME of the gospel of
John also, in fact): the sections do not appear to have a distinct
organization but rather to be distinct rhetorical units by themselves and
to have a sort of homiletic or parenetic character in general rather than
that of a real letter--that is to say, it's more like Ephesians than like
one of the undisputedly authentic letters of Paul. Yet parts of it, and in
particular this GRAFW/EGRAYA section, DO look like they belong to a real
letter. I wonder then whether this section could have been composed
originally as the finale of a letter but have lost a final position because
other material was added to form a larger collection of units. IF SO, then
that shift from GRAFW to EGRAYA would make a lot more sense in more than
one way: (1) the marked conclusion of that final 3-clause hOTI segment
would indeed be a fitting climax to 2:12-14; (2) the whole section 2:12-14
might well be understood as composed originally as a closer to a letter;
and (3) the EGRAYA in that case could better be understood as epistolary in
the normal sense in which grammarians use the term.

I've just taken a look at Bultmann's Hermeneia commentary on the Johannine
Epistles (tr. from his 14th German edition of 1967); while I'm sure that
many volumes have been written more recently, I see that Bultmann assumes
several stages of development of the whole, including what he calls an
"independent writing, or perhaps more appropriately, a rough draft" in
1:5-2:27. I note another "epistolary" EGRAYA in 2:27.

Another can of worms, Jonathan, but a most interesting one.

Carl W. Conrad
Department of Classics, Washington University
One Brookings Drive, St. Louis, MO, USA 63130
(314) 935-4018 OR

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