Re: present indicative in Rom 6:14-24

From: Bryan Rocine (
Date: Mon Apr 12 1999 - 21:30:38 EDT

Dear Carl,

Thank you for your thoughtful and thorough response. You wrote:

> At 4:18 PM -0400 4/7/99, Bryan Rocine wrote:
> >Dear B-Greeks,
> >
> >Do the present indicative verbs used in Rom 7:14-24 refer to the past,
> >perhaps a repetitive or habitual past? Is the use of present indicative
> >here idiomatic or "rhetorical" or "idiosyncratic" because they refer to
> >something entirely past? Or does Paul mean it just as he says it
> >
> >Perhaps it is obvious why I would ask. If these present indicative
> >verbs do not refer to the past, I would have a hard time reconciling
> >them with Paul's imperatives in 6:11-14 or the discourse in 8:1ff.
> Isn't your header wrong? Am I misunderstanding what it is that you're

Yes, my header is indeed wrong, sorry. It should have read 7:14-24, and you
managed to understand me very well.
> It looks like nobody has responded to this one: I wonder why? ;-) My guess
> is that quite a bit of ink must have been shed and perhaps squandered on
> and you'd probably best look at the bibliography or raise the question on
> the new Corpus Paulinum list about the most relevant bibliography; that
> would also be a much more appropriate forum for discussion of this
> question, since your question really only indirectly concerns the present
> tense in these verses. There are numerous aspects to this very complex
> question. I'll make just a couple observations:

I realize, of course, that the passage has cost a pretty penny in ink for
commentaries, as you say (all our talk won't count because it's simply
electrical energy! ;-) ) My question is really more of a linguistic
nature. See below. On the other hand, I'm all ears for a bibliography with
a particularly linguistic sensitivity.

> (1) I think this is another question like Clay's yesterday about Lk
> that requires examination that doesn't have much to do with the Greek text
> as Greek text, although I think there must be quite a bit of ancient
> literary and rhetorical models that could illuminate the question.

Here is about where my question comes in. If the passage does indeed
utilize a "rhetorical" present, I assume Paul anticipates his readers won't
have nearly so much trouble understanding the rhetorical usage as all those
commentators! Your suggestion that this passage may amount to an example of
the "historical present" is helpful. Is that my answer? Or can the list
point to other Greek literature in which a distinctly rhetorical use of the
present is found, not of the historical present per se, i.e., some of that
"quite a bit of ancient literary and rhetorical models that could illuminate
the question."

> (2) I think personally--but I wouldn't set this opinion forward as having
> any authority whatsoever--that the use of the present here IS rhetorical,
> although probably not essentially different from the use of the present
> tense in narrative of past events--the so-called historical present--to
> make vivid the action. I think you should note the imperfect and aorist
> within this sequence which really begins with 7:7.

Yes, this is helpful, but the change to the present in v. 14 is rather
abrupt. Is it abrupt by Greek standards?

<noted and snipped; lots of good stuff!>

Thanks again,

B. M. Rocine
Associate Pastor
Living Word Church
6101 Court St. Rd.
Syracuse, NY 13206

(office) 315.437.6744
(home) 315.479.8267

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