Re: Pluperfect in John 7:30

From: Carl W. Conrad (
Date: Mon Feb 08 1999 - 08:52:20 EST

At 8:04 AM -0500 2/8/99, wrote:
>Dear Carl,
>Thanks for your thoughtful response! Forgive my lack of clarity on one point.
>I did
>recognize OUPW as meaing "not yet," but I wonder why John chose to use the
>pluperfect of ERCOMAI in 7:30. In this verse, it is clearly the narrator's
>voice we are
>hearing. This differs from 2:4, where Jesus is clearly the speaker. In direct
>Jesus uses the perfective present hHKEI. But in 7:30 and in 8:20, the
>narrator uses a pluperfect. Why? Does he employ ELHLUQEI because, from his
>he thinks of Jesus' hour as having definite duration - a duration which is
>complete and
>"no longer" in effect at the time of writing?

IF I understand your question rightly, you are asking about whether OUPW
should be understood in reference to the time of writing. I for one do not
think so; that's what's called epistolary tense, when the writer
(particularly in a letter, sometimes in a legal document) uses a particular
past tense (usually an aorist indicative to indicate the time in which he
is writing as past from the viewpoint of the reader). That is not
ordinarily the practice in straightforward narrative and I do not think we
should assume it here; rather, the perspective is, I think, from the time
of Jesus' speaking and action at the point indicated in the narrative.

I'm wondering whether your citation from Mounce is the source of the

>. . . Mounce says that "the pluperfect is used to describe an action that
>was completed and whose effects are felt at a time after the completion but
>before the time of the speaker."

If you'll think about it you can see that this description makes perfectly
good sense with reference to an action that HAS IN FACT TRANSPIRED: but our
indicative pluperfect in the present instance is negated by OU: the hour
HAD NOT yet arrived. I don't quite know how we talk about the lasting
impact of an action that has not taken place--talk about it, that
is--BEFORE it takes place.
In fact, however, this may be exactly what I was trying to get at in my
last post: that John in some instances seems to be using the pluperfect not
so much to stress a point about finality of action, but rather in an
archaic way: in this instance, at any rate, I think (my gut
feeling--nothing more) that most contemporaries would have used an aorist:
something like: OUPW HLQEN hH hWRA AUTOU. Generally the aorist is used to
indicate anteriority to the time of the main verb.

Carl W. Conrad
Department of Classics/Washington University
One Brookings Drive/St. Louis, MO, USA 63130/(314) 935-4018
Home: 7222 Colgate Ave./St. Louis, MO 63130/(314) 726-5649 OR

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