Re: Tenses in Mark 11:24

From: Maurice A. O'Sullivan (
Date: Fri Nov 13 1998 - 08:45:48 EST

At 19:49 12/11/98 -0600, you wrote:
>I'm just a little greeker - only my third semester. I hope this question
>isn't too basic, but I guess this is how we all learn so here goes...
>I'm having trouble understanding the reason for the aorist tense of
>ELABETE in Jesus' words in Mark 11:24:
>PROSEUCHESQE ...present [all things] you pray for
>AITESQE... present [and] you ask for
>PISTEUETE... present you believe
>ELABETE...Aorist you received [them] (past tense?)
>ESTAI...future they will be granted [to you].
>The logic puzzles me...if I already had something why would I pray for
>it? Or is that simply the point about faith that Jesus is teaching? Or
>are there some finer grammar points about the aorist I'm not fully
>appreciating in this verse?


If it's any comfort to you, this is a problem with a _very_ long history.

If you take a look at the critical apparatus of the modern editions of the
GNT you will see all the evidence for the great divide among the textual

The UBS 3 edition limits itself to listing the attestations of aorist and
present, whereas the N/A 27 in addition gives the few extant examples of
the future.

When you say:

>>The logic puzzles me...if I already had something why would I pray for
>it? Or is that simply the point about faith that Jesus is teaching?<<

I hear echoes down the centuries of just such questions being asked by
puzzled monks in scriptoria all over Europe. There were, of course, monks
who were either tired or bored, or both --- have a look at some of the
illustrations in Metzger's great book on "Greek Manuscripts of the N.T " to
see the marginal doodlings and comments of such monks.

But what intrigues me most is the choice made by _modern_ translators or
translation committees in the process of producing new editions in English.

The NRSV opts for the aorist of LAMBANW :
" So I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have
received it, and it will be yours."

 whereas many translations adhere to the sense of the AV:
"Therefore I say unto you, What things soever ye desire, when ye pray,
believe that ye receive [them], and ye shall have [them]."

although I see that the New Jerusalem Bible neatly exploits the ambiguity
inherent in the English verb " to have " with:
"I tell you, therefore, everything you ask and pray for, believe that you
have it already, and it will be yours.

There are a few which follow the future tense used ( to my own surprise )
by Jerome:
"propterea dico vobis omnia quaecumque orantes petitis credite quia
accipietis et veniet vobis"

One such use of the future is in the NAB:
"Therefore I tell you, all that you ask for in prayer, believe that you
will receive it and it shall be yours"


Maurice A. O'Sullivan
[ Bray, Ireland ]

" Blessed he that neither tastes
bitter wisdom from the Greeks,
nor spits out the simple words
of the men of Galilee!"

-------- St. Ephraim the Syrian

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