RE: Proffessor [sic] Blackwelder and participles

From: Dale M. Wheeler (
Date: Sat Mar 14 1998 - 13:55:06 EST

James Jackson wrote:

>I have been reading Boyce W. Blackwelder's book, "Light from the Greek New
>Testament" published in 1958. As a (novice, self-learning) Greek student I
>have found his insights to be fascinating. I have some questions concerning
>his discussion of the use of participles and the doctrine of salvation.
>I ask them can anyone tell me anything about him. Is he still alive? Does/did
>anyone of you know him personally?
> Now as to the questions I have. If I am understanding his reasoning
>clearly, he indicates in his section on participles that salvation involves a
>continuing action on the part of the believer. He cites John 3:14-16: "... so
>must the Son of man must be lifted up: that whosoever believeth [PISTEUWN,
>pres. part., goes on trusting] in him should not perish, but have [ECEI,
>subj., might continue to have] eternal life. For God so loved the world, that
>he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth [PISTEUWN, pres.
>part., goes on trusting] in him should not perish, but have [ECEI, might
go on
>having] eternal life.
> Professor Blackwelder also cites John 3:36: "He that believeth
>pres. part., goes on trusting] on the Son hath [ECEI, pres. indic. continues
>to have] everlasting life.
> John 5:24: "Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth [AKOUWN,
>pres. part] my word, and [PISTEUWN, pres. part., goes on trusting] on him
>sent me, hath [ECEI, pres. tense, goes on having] everlasting life."
> John 3:18: "The one who continues trusting [PISTEUWN, pres. part.] in him
>is not condemned; the one who does not continue trusting [same construction
>but with negative particle] is already condemned [KRISIN, perf. pass., is
in a
>state of condemnation] because he has not believed with abiding results
>[PEPISTEUKEN, perf. tense, indicating permanent attitude of unbelief] in the
>name of the only Son of God."
> With the understanding that these are just excerpts from his book, do the
>above examples strike at the heart of the doctrine of eternal security? If
>how does a doctrine like that come into being? Through inaccurate or
>inadequate translations of the New Testament? If Professor Blackwelder's
>translation of the above passages is accurate, how come the various
>translations of the Bible do not all reflect these meanings? If he is
wrong in
>his translations, would one attribute this to any theological bias he may
>have? If his is only one of many possible interpretations then one wonders
>God would allow His Word to be so ambiguous in such an important area as


With all due respect to Prof Blackwelder, I doubt very seriously that he
would be able to find many (perhaps I should say "any") competent Greek
grammarians to agree with him. Substantival Ptcs are just noun substitutes
in general, as they are in the above examples you cite. There is no more
an "ongoingness" to the use of the Present Subst Ptc, than there is a
"once-for-allness" to the Aorist Subst Ptc. The "tense" is chosen because
its appropriate to the type of action (Aktionsart) of the verb in question.
 "Hit" is a punctual and will normally take an Aorist (unless the writer is
trying to communicate repeated hitting); "Believe" is normally a Climax
(action leading to a conclusion) for which either the Pres or Perf are
natural. The same is true in general for the uses of the tenses in the
other moods.

If one were to follow this idea of the present = continuous always, one
would create absolute nonsense of the text. The examples are legion, but
let me give you one from the context of the first example; John 3:31 reads:


I seriously doubt that anyone would want to read or translate this verse as:

The one who *continuously* comes from above is *continuously* above all
things; the one who *continuously* is from the earth is *continuously* from
the earth and continuously speaks from the earth. The one who
*continuously* comes from heaven is *continuously* above all things.

The present tense in these cases does not mean *continuously*, whether its
a participle or an indicative; otherwise Jesus would have to be
*continously* coming from heaven in order to be the supreme ruler of the
universe ("above all things").
The present tense is chosen for ERCOMAI because the normal action of the
verb is an "activity" (unbounded and durative, ala Fanning)...but that
doesn't mean that anytime anyone goes or comes that they must do it DOES stop at some point. PISTEUW, as a climax verb,
normally refers to a (thought, feeling, etc.) process that leads to a
decision to accept something as true or valid. hO PISTEUWN is simply
someone who has made the decision, and is being characterized as a person
who accepts as true/valid certain propositions.

You can also see the same problem with the John 5:24 example listed
above...if PISTEUWN must be "continuously", then the hearing *must* be as
well, since this is a Granville-Sharp construction (one article with two
sing, non-proper, personal nouns connected by KAI)...which would mean that
NOONE gets saved, since noone *continuously listens*.

If you would like to pursue something that IS interesting, then you should
look at the places in John where the Pres is NOT used with the Subst Ptc (I
posted a list of these places to bgreek some time back, they should be in
the archives).


Dale M. Wheeler, Ph.D.
Research Professor in Biblical Languages Multnomah Bible College
8435 NE Glisan Street Portland, OR 97220
Voice: 503-251-6416 FAX:503-254-1268 E-Mail:

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