Re: From whence it IS?

From: Dale M. Wheeler (
Date: Wed Jun 03 1998 - 10:36:35 EDT

Wed, 3 Jun 1998 06:03:52 -0400 Carl W. Conrad wrote:
>At 10:26 PM -0400 6/02/98, Jim West wrote:
>>At 10:11 PM 6/2/98 -0400, you wrote:
>>>John 2:9 - KAI OUK HDEI POQEN ESTIN - I am thinking this means, "and not
>>>knowing from whence it was," but ESTIN is present tense. Would that be
>>>not knowing from whence it is?" That sounds awkward to me. Why present
>>>instead of past?
>>>William Boyd
>>I would call this the narrative present. I.e., in order to make a story
>>more enthralling, the present tense is used so that "you are there". See?
>I would agree that "narrative present" would be a better term, but
>traditionally this is called the "historical present" in most grammars.

I hate to disagree with Jim and Carl...well I don't actually "hate" it, but
that of course is a discussion for another thread on semantics... (-:

but, this is not an historical present, but rather the use of the retained
present tense in an indirect discourse clause, viz., in English indirect
discourse/quotes (the report of what someone thinks is also indirect
clauses we back up one time frame from the time of the original statement/
thought/feeling or use the subjunctive; in Greek you retain the tense/time
of the original statement/thought/etc. That's why this is present tense in
the Greek but is translated by an English past time form.

It has been my observation (as well as many others; I think Wallace mentions
this somewhere as well) that in the NT, LXX, and other places I've bothered
to look, that ESTIN is NEVER used as an historical present. The only possible
exception would be John 5:2, which, because of the preponderance of the
contrary evidence, I don't think is an exception. I take it that it means
that at the time of John's writing "the sheep gate...with five porticos" was
still in existence, ie., "There _is_ in Jerusalem..." not "There _was_ in
Jerusalem..." That would seem to mean that John's Gospel was written before
AD70. I really don't have any theological axe to grind on this one, this is
just a grammatical observation.


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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