Re: Apocalyptic grammar EPLUNAN, ELEUKANAN

From: Carlton Winbery (
Date: Tue Sep 29 1998 - 13:12:14 EDT

Carl Conrad wrote;
>My own grammatical question concerns the predicates EPLUNAN KTL and
>ELEUKANAN KTL: should they be understood as predicates to hOUTOI? "These
>are the ones who come from the great tribulation, and they have washed ...
>and they have whitened ..." OR (which seems more likely to me) are they
>hanging onto the substantival participle construction, hOI ERCOMENOI, as if
>hOI ERCOMENOI were in fact, as we tend to translate it, equivalent to a
>relative clause: not "the ones coming" but "the ones who come" so that the
>whole clause reads: "These are the ones who come from the great tribulation
>and (who) have washed ,,, and (who) have whitened ..."? If that is the
>intent of the writer, then this would be another of those not infrequent
>grammatical "irregularities" of this NT book.
>Just another observation, while I'm at it: it also looks to me like the two
>aorists here, EPLUNAN and ELEUKANAN, should be understood as instances of
>the absorption of the function of the perfect tense by the aorist. Aren't
>we inclined to translate them as perfects in English? "have washed" and
>"have whitened"? I don't know that I'd want to lay down any hard-and-fast
>rule here, but I rather think that the aorist is increasingly being used in
>the Koine like the Latin perfect tense to cover both the aorist "simple
>past" sense and the perfect "completed action" sense, while the Greek
>perfect, whether simple or periphrastic, tends to be used more
>fundamentally in a stative sense.

This use of the aorist is frequently in the NT. Some grammarians call it
the culminative aorist (as tho every thing must have a name). The key is
that the aorist seems to infringe upon the function of the perfect. Its
not just the completed action but the existing result that seems to be
present. Other good egs. are eph 3:3 EGNWRISQH, and even closer Rev. 5:5
ENIKHSEN. Conversely egs. of the perfect that acts much like an aorist
would be Matt. 25:6 GEGONEN ("In the middle of the night there came
[GEGONEN] a cry."), John 12:29 LELALHKEN. Is this not just part of the
looseness of language use in the later Hellenistic times?

Carlton L. Winbery
Fogleman Professor of Religion
Louisiana College
Pineville, LA 71359

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