Re: 2 John 7-Importance of Present Participle

From: George Blaisdell (
Date: Wed Feb 03 1999 - 11:11:32 EST

Text of 2 Jn 7:


This from Hall Harris' commentary: []

       The meaning of the confession in verse 7, =Ihsou'n CristoVn
ejrcovmenon ejn sarkiv.

This is the same confession mentioned in 1 John 4:2, except that the
perfect participle of 1 John 4:2 is replaced by a present participle
(ejrcovmenon) here. It is probable that the entire phrase "Jesus Christ
coming in the flesh" should be understood in the same way as 1 John 4:2,
with =Ihsou'n as the object and CristoVn as the complement of an
object-complement double accusative construction. What is confessed is
therefore "Jesus [as] Christ coming in the flesh." See the second Note
on 1 John 4:2 for more detailed discussion of this phrase and other
possible options.

       The significance of the use of the present participle ejrcovmenon
in the confession.

There are two possible ways of understanding the significance of the
present participle ejrcovmenon in verse 7.
       (a) If the participle is understood in a futuristic sense, this
could be a reference to the second coming, i.e., the parousia. Such a
sense is grammatically
possible for the present tense according to BDF 339(2). If this
represents a proper understanding of the present participle, then the
confession in 2 John 7 involves acknowledgement of Jesus' second coming,
and the opponents would be denying this (or the opponents may
acknowledge the second coming, but deny that it will be "in the flesh").
       (b) The second possibility is to understand the participle as a
reference to the first coming, that is, the incarnation. In this case
what is being affirmed in the confession is that Jesus is really the
Christ come in the flesh. This sense is strongly favored by the parallel
confession in 1 John 4:2 (see the second Note on 4:2) where a perfect
participle is used, thus pointing to a past event. In this case the
question is, why did the author substitute a present participle here,
when a perfect participle (as in 1 John 4:2) would have been more
precise? I think the second possibility is much more probable because of
the parallel confession in 1 John 4:2. However, I am not sure we can say
with much certainty why the author chose to express the confession using
a present participle here rather than a perfect. We may be dealing with
the Johannine love of stylistic variation. R. Brown has suggested that
the author was influenced by the repeated use of the present participle
ejrcovmeno" in GJohn to describe Jesus (1:15, 1:27, 12:13). This is
possible even if one believes (as I do) that the same person wrote GJohn
and 2 John, because the formula may have been somewhat fixed as a
description of Jesus by this time, or may have been a favorite idiom of
the author. But it is impossible to be sure.

For myself, I do not buy for one eye-blink the "Johannine love of
stylistic variation" understanding [above], but I do like the approach
that sees this epistle as a follow up to 1 John written to drive home
clearly what was being missed by the recipients of the 1st letter.

Thus, the present participle, while indeed referring to a past event, is
stating it in an urgent way, almost a kind of 'dramatic present of a
past event', so as to have rhetorical force and move its recipients to
clearly understand the importance of what is being said.


George Blaisdell
Roslyn, WA

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