Re: 1 John 1,1

From: Carl W. Conrad (
Date: Sat Apr 04 1998 - 13:22:48 EST

At 10:44 AM -0600 4/4/98, wrote:
> wrote:
>> gat wrote:
>> >
>> > In 1 John 1,1 there is a very interesting change of tenses:
>> > hO AKHKOAMEN (perf.) - what we have heard
>> > hO EWRAKAMEN (perf.) TOIS OFQALMOIS hHMWN - what we have seen with
>> our eyes
>> >
>> > and then it changes to aorist:
>> >
>> > hO EQEASAMEQA (aor.) - what we looked at
>> > KAI hAI XEIRES hHMWN EYHLAFHSAN (aor.) - and touched with our hands
>> >
>> > Why is the change of tenses? One could simply say that John speaks
>> twice
>> > about the same thing (have seen, looked at) and just for a change
>> he is
>> > using once perf. and once aor. tense. Is it significant or it
>> doesn't
>> > matter?
>> The first two [perf.] tenses refer to actual first hand historical
>> events that are over and done with, but not without consequences. The
>> second is a result of the first, the third of the second, and the
>> fourth of the third. Progression is a key here.
>> hO HN AP'ARKHS 'That which was from beginnings' Seems to be refering
>> to the beginnings of the apostles' discipleships.
>> hO AKHKOAMEN 'That which we heard' Seems to refer to the discipling
>> entry point, where they first heard about Christ, prior to actually
>> seeing Him face to face.
>> hO EWRAKAMEN TOIS OFQALMOIS hHMWN 'That which we saw with our own
>> eyes' follows the hearing about Him.
>> These two phrases complete the physical-historical witness of the
>> author[s] [Editorial 'we'?] Then comes the first aorist, which
>> follows as a consequence of what the disciples saw with their own
>> eyes:
>> hO EQASAMEQA 'That which we see' And notice that this is a middle,
>> classic aorist [ErootSA construction]. The root differs from the
>> physical seeing in 2 [before it] Thus, as an abstract 'tense', in the
>> middle voice, the author is showing what happened next, from the
>> earliest beginnings of them all. They received a new kind of inner
>> [middle] vision that is different from physical seeing. This carries
>> the force of 'envisioning', and the consequent dedication of their
>> lives in this seeing to Christ. So the 'time' of this tense is the
>> time from their new 'seeing' until their deaths, which includes past,
>> present and future.
>> KAI 'And', as a consequence perhaps?
>> hAI XEIRES hHMWN EYALAFHSAN 'the hands of us feel' Because of the
>> envisioning, the bringing of that 'seeing' into the building of
>> Christ's church, involving a certain kind of action. Was there a
>> physical 'Laying on of hands?', or should this be taken as a 'groping
>> in the dark' [without the Light of Christ in the flesh] metaphor, or
>> is it something else? At any rate, it is a life-long venture
>> following the new 'seeing'.
>> PERI TOU LOGOU THS ZWHS 'concerning the word of Life [is]'
>> I'm out of time ~ Hope this helps...
>Well, I 'back in time' for a bit!!
>The meaning of the first aorist used in this opening is, imho, very
>overlooked, and I would like to talk about it a little.
>It is a middle aorist of perception, EQASAMEQA. The middle voice is
>crucial. The way that I use to keep the middle voice differentiated
>clearly in my thinking is to 'always see' it as the first of only two
>Greek voices, the 'inner' voice, termed the 'middle' and the 'outer'
>voice, which is then in turn divided into the 'active' and 'passive'.
>Our English has, on this understanding, only one voice, the 'outer',
>in its two forms. So with this understanding as a tool to keep the
>voices sharply differentiated, I tend to really keep an eye out for
>middle voice verbs of perception, and especially in the 'timeless'
>aorist 'tense'. The author of this passage, the editorial 'we',
>speaking for the apostles, John, is telling his readers in this brief
>introductory summary, about the inner quality of 'seeing' that is ever
>before him in his ministry, a seeing that proceeded from what he heard
>and what he saw with his own eyes. [the two perfects prior] Now given
>the fact of John's seership, when John talks about 'seeing' in the
>middle voice AND in the timeless aorist, I, for one, pay VERY close
>attention. This 'envisionment' that John has of the events of his
>discipleship with Christ is the very motive power that impels and
>shapes his ministry. It is emphatically NOT historical... It is
>ONGOING, past and future, and is guiding him even as he is scripting
>this letter. It lives IN him, it has lived in him from the beginnings
>of his discipleship with Christ, and will continue to live in him
>through his last breath on earth.
>This is the Sacred Spirit of Christ in John, clearly spoken in the
>middle aorist of perception.
>I hope I have not crossed the line of entering into theological debate
>here, but this is so clear from this construction that I am
>dumbfounded that it was missed altogether.
>The following aorist then describes the quality of his ever ongoing
>work within that 'seeing', and I really do not understand exactly what
>it means... Any insights?

My problem with this discussion, however much I appreciate what middle
voice can do, is that (a) QEAOMAI is traditionally called a deponent verb
because it is middle in EVERY tense, and (b) other verbs of vision in
John's gospel and the first letter are no less intense in their sense than
the verb QEAOMAI. I have on other occasions recommended the appendix on
verbs of vision in Raymond Brown's Anchor commentary on John's Gospel.

Carl W. Conrad
Department of Classics/Washington University
One Brookings Drive/St. Louis, MO, USA 63130/(314) 935-4018
Home: 7222 Colgate Ave./St. Louis, MO 63130/(314) 726-5649 OR

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