Re: Test of The "Timeless" Aorist

From: Edgar M. Krentz (
Date: Thu May 07 1998 - 19:34:47 EDT

I have come to the conclusion that this discussion is going nowhere. George
is enamoured of a timeless aorist, which no grammar of ancient Greek
supports. Carl and most others, including me, hold that the aorist in the
indicative is a preterit tense. I would humbly suggest that this discussion
has run its course, used an adeuate amount of bandwidth, and should be
continued in private correspondence. I have read little new on this in the
last few days. :-)
>Well, I don't know much about Johanint theology, my friend ~ All I
>can do is look at the text, and AT THIS POINT in the text, the
>incarnation of the Logos has not yet been introduced. So far we have
>LOGOS, hO QEOS, ARCH, GENETO, ZOH, FWS, ANQRWPOI, [I've probably left
>some out, I don't have it in front of me] and then along comes this
>little present tense verb, and the immediate question is: WHY??? Why
>present tense? Whose present? And the only answer I can come up with
>is the reader's/hearer's present... But even that is speculation on
>my part!!! IF the text puts it in the present tense, then WE as
>translators had BETTER put it in the present tense, because IF WE DO
>NOT, my friend, WE THEN BECOME EDITORS!!! [Well, you know, what ol'
>John REALLY meant to say, you see, was this: "....blah blah
>blah..."}] At which point we deserve to be ignored as translators.
>Commentary? Yes, of course. Just not translation!!
>My own take on this is that John is showing us, in as simple a way as
>is possible, the meaning of the ARCH in 1:1, which has no dimension at
>all, and is the 'abidence' of the LOGOS, dead center in the middle of
>our 'present tense' experience of ongoing time, but I would NEVER
>translate the present tense in John with this conception, but you can
>rely on me to ALWAYS translate the tenses in this gospel EXACTLY as
>they appear, for all the obvious and usual reasons.
>> 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 your INTERPRETATION it COULD have been differently expressed, you
>see. But the brutal grammatic fact is that it was NOT differently
>expressed by the AUTHOR... You see....
>> 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
>> tense.
>Carl Dear...
>Until you honor my distinction between the English 'simple' and
>'ongoing' present tenses, this objection will continue to leak
>The aorist, however formed, has ONLY the English simple present that
>even CAN carry its force, and I have already granted to you that the
>English IS ambiguous, but is the best that we can do. In terms of
>grammar, the only way you or anyone else has to 'entime' the aorist is
>by context and theology...
>Which is why, in your terms, Rich is as right as anyone else who might
>have some exegetical 'take' on the aorist here. I'm no better, in
>terms of 'my take', you see ~ I simply insist on a consistent and
>invariable translation of the aorist 'tense', which ONLY the English
>simple present CAN do... And not all that greatly, granted, but much
>better than the joss sticks of whatever contextual considerations one
>might happen to be seeing at the time!!
>George Blaisdell

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Edgar Krentz
Professor of New Testament
Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago
1100 East 55th Street
Chicago, IL 650615
Telephone: (773) 256-0752
Office: [preferred for anything professional]
Home: [Tel: 773-947-8105]
GHRASKW AEI MAQWN. I grow older, learning all the time.
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