Re: 3rd-person imperatives in the Lord's Prayer

From: James H. Vellenga (
Date: Mon Aug 18 1997 - 12:12:57 EDT

> From Mon Aug 18 11:12 EDT 1997
> Date: Mon, 18 Aug 1997 10:08:59 -0500
> >> Date: Thu, 14 Aug 1997 19:05:32 -0500 (CDT)
> >> From: Jeffrey Gibson <>
> >>
> >> Moreover, what strikes me here is how well the "on earth as it is
> >> in heaven" clause (another Matthean addition?) fits in with the
> >> discussion raised by Ward Powers on binding and loosing in Matt.
> >> 16. Perhaps all that is being asked for is not so much a
> >> transformation of the earth, as guidance and help from God that the
> >> community who prays this prayer conforms itself to God's will.
> >>
> >Perhaps. But if so, wouldn't we expect Matthew and Luke to
> >use present (imperfective) imperatives?
> >
> >Personally, I was actually surprised to see that all three
> >imperatives (or both of them, in the case of Luke) turn out
> >to be aorists. Matthew and Luke both seem to be expecting
> >us to pray for an event rather than an ongoing process --
> >in Rolf Furuli's terms, for something that has a recognizable
> >beginning and ending. Praying for the community to conform
> >itself to God's will, it seems to me, would be a prayer for ongoing
> >rather than realized activity. Perhaps we are to pray for
> >these events to be realized ultimately and eschatologically.
> In response to the two statements above:
> (1) The imperative mood is the mood of urgency, used regularly in prayer
> and to express permission, not just to give commands. See Jesus' prayer in
> Mark 14:36.

I think the difference is that I don't yet see prayer in the
NT as being something distinct from giving commands and expressing
permission (although it may contain other elements besides).
>From our recent discussion of Matt 16 & 18, plus a few other
passages, it seems that the NT writers felt that God had
given his people authority to command certain things -- perhaps
even of God -- albeit in a delegated rather than in an arbitrary
way. That is, his people could not ask for arbitrary things,
but only those that were "according to his desire." But perhaps
these three are commands that his people can feel confident in
giving at all times.

> (2) Why be surprised by aorists? It is often the "tense" of preference in
> non-indicative uses. That is certainly true of ELQEIN. Here is where a
> concordance might be very instructive.
> For GINOMAI cf. Matt 8:13, 9:23, 15:28. Luke 22:42 is an exception.
> For hAGIAZW cr. John 17:17, the only other imperative form in the NT.
> In short, I would be surprised if the present did occur in the LP!
I'm sorry, I assumed that the source of my surprise would be clear,
and it evidently was not. I was not surprised that aorist
imperatives are used in prayer, but rather that these three
"commands" were aorist rather than present/imperfective. I had
expected the prayer to be asking for ongoing hagiazation, coming,
and becoming, but instead they turned out to be asking for
one-time rather than ongoing activities. I would like to
have agreed with Jeffrey that we're asking for something
ongoing, but that did not seem to be the case, and that's
what surprised me. I would have expected, for example,

  "have your name keep being consecrated"
  "have your kingdom keep coming"
  "have your desire keep coming into being"

But that doesn't seem to be the sense of these, unless I
misunderstand the connotations of the aorist imperatives.

Jim V.

James H. Vellenga |
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