Re: Test of The "Timeless" Aorist

From: Edgar Foster (
Date: Mon May 04 1998 - 13:18:53 EDT wrote:

> Edgar Foster wrote:
> > Dear George,

> > I am in the slow (for me) process of testing your thesis
vis-a'-vis the aorist. I would like to present a Scripture for your
consideration: John 3:13.<<


> Edgar ~

> This passage transliterates effortlessy as follows.
> "If not who out of heaven descends, the Son of man."

I would say it should literally read: "if not the one out of heaven
having descended."
> Another way is:

> "If not the Son of man who descends out of heaven."

I have problem with this rendering, George. John is not describing
either an ongoing event or a "present" occurrence. John is relating a
past event which HAS affected anthropoids for all eternity.

> Notice that "is descending" is NOT >to be used, and that translators
> are often very sloppy in their rendering of the Greek present as
both 'descends' and 'is descending'. The first should be reserved for
aorist, the second for the present tense.<

I would translate KATABAS-"that descended."

> > Notice the employment of the aorist participle active (KATABAS)
="having descended" or "has ascended."<<

> > Surely we have an historical use of the aorist in this passage. How
could we timelessly render the "descent" of the Son of man? The aorist
seems to strengthen the force of the historical Christ event.<<

>>The question is not the historicity of the event, as a single, one
time event, or otherwise. The aorist is unconcerned with that issue.<<

I think this is a clear example that the aorist IS concerned with
such. While it is true that the aorist deals with undefined action, in
most instances it can be understood as a past action or event unless
the context indicates otherwise.

>>We can say, in truth, from our reading of the whole text, that it
was indeed a one time historical event. That is a theological matter.<<

My point is that we should not translate the passage: "is descending"
or "who descends."
> The point of the aorist usage here to give the accounting of that
event a timeless scope of envisionment. It simultaneously places the
reader/listener at the scene of the event, much like the historical
vivid present, while evoking the vast range of meanings in the
reader's understanding and memory of just what "descending" means,
thereby lifting upon its wings one's vision of that particular event
to a horizonless perspective. [I know, I know... I wax poetic!!]<<

> > Gerald Borchert adds:

> > "The aorist tense [in John 3:13] is intended to enumerate an event
in history quite unlike any concept of the Son of Man in Enoch (68:2-6)
or Daniel (7:14)" (Borchert 181 [1996]).
> No question about that!

But notice, George. This is the same point I am making. The aorist is
used to emphasize historicity--a one time event. I do not believe that
this is a theological supposition.

Later sir,

Edgar Foster :-)


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