Re: Test of The "Timeless" Aorist

From: Carl W. Conrad (
Date: Wed May 06 1998 - 17:42:27 EDT

At 4:03 PM -0500 5/6/98, wrote:
>Richard Lindeman wrote:
>> George... this is an excellent example of where I think you are just simply
>> mistaken. There is no reason not to translate the augmented aorist in past
>> time here. Aorist is not the same as perfect. Complete is not the same as
>> Completed. There are a number of possible translations for this verse. But
>> let's consider two of them::
>> One possibility is to assume that this verse refers to the life of Jesus
>> Christ when he was upon earth. In this case we would take FAINEI as a
>> historical present and take KATELABEN as resultive in past time. The
>> translation would be as follows:
>> "The light was shining in the the darkness yet the darkness did not overcome
>> it."
>> This would then simply be a statement of the fact of Christ's life death and
>> resurrection. Darkness did not prevail over Christ. BTW... this is the
>> translation I personally favor at the moment for this verse.
>Rich ~
>You are a much more audacious translator than I will ever be!!
>The first phrase in this gospel is EN ARCH, which is a TIME concept,
>and as such must be kept in mind throughout the entire text. And as
>well, from these two words [EN ARCH], one can take to the bank,
>happily or unhappily, the understanding that the writer of this gospel
>will be using time/tense verbs with a level of precision and
>exactitude that is exceeding fine, more so than in any of the other
>gospels, imo. ["Tis why the writing is so simple ~ He does NOT wish
>to be misunderstood!!]
>I conclude from this consideration that when John uses the present
>indicative verb form, that present indictive is EXACTLY what he means,
>and for anyone to come along and change it into a past imperfect [was
>shining] by playing 'deuces wild' with the 'possible assumptions' of
>the meaning of the aorist, which is extraordinally precise in its
>meaning, is heroic bravery beyond the call of duty of very brave
>men!! And you, my friend, are a far braver man than I will ever be,
>and I assure you that I am utterly fearless under fire. [I know,
>fearlessness is not bravery, etc.!! :-) ]

Well, for once we agree on something, George. I think that present FAINEI
is indeed important and would even be willing to convey it as "continues to
shine" or "goes on shining"--my reading of Johannine theology is that the
shining started with the incarnation but really climaxed with the
crucifixion/resurrection--which is to say with the
exaltation/glorification. Of course this COULD have been expressed with an
imperfect (or "past imperfect" as you call it above), but I would translate
an imperfect (if it were EFAINEN) as "the light began to shine ..."-- the
built-in imperfective aspect here is the emphasis upon the uncompleted,
i.e. ongoing, process of shining.

On the other hand, I hardly see that you are justified in faulting Rich for
translating the present as a "past imperfect" when you are translating an
aorist (clearly marked as "past" by the augment) as if it were a present

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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