Re: Why an instantaneous imperfect in Mark 8:24?

From: Daniel L Christiansen (
Date: Thu Jun 24 1999 - 12:43:21 EDT

Jay Adkins wrote:

> Why must the 3rd person, imperfect, active, indicative verb ELEGEN be
> understood as a instantaneous imperfect in Mark 8:24?
> 8:24 Then he looked up and kept saying, "I am seeing men, because as
> trees I am perceiving walking."
> The context would, to me, seem to support this translation if, due to the
> blind man's confusion, he kept repeating himself. Is this impossible? Or
> just highly improbable? Or within the realm of reason?


    It's not that it "must" be so interpreted: it has to do with what is the most
likely understanding of the verb given its context and unmarked range of meaning.
Many readings are within the realm of possibility, but in any communication, written
or oral, it seems that the correct understanding is usually close to that which
requires the least assumptions on the part of the receiver. Certainly, the man
could have been repeating himself, but the context doesn't appear to present this to
us; thus, to translate the imperfect as iterative would IMO be loading the word with
too much baggage.

    BTW, the hOTI seems to me not to be the causal particle, here, but the relative
pronoun "which." It's in the neuter singular to "group" the tree-shapes together:
it's the shape that is important, not the individual trees/men. The causal idea
does not seem to offer any explanation for the first verbal clause: "I see men,
because I perceive them like walking trees" doesn't appear to make sense. However,
"I see men, which I perceive like walking trees" is certainly intelligible. Though
there are some translations which have taken it as causal.

> Wallace has used
> this as an example of the instantaneous imperfect and 18 English
> translations I have checked appear to agree

    Usually, this is a pretty good check . . . if that many translations agree,
chances are good that it is a good rendition. Though majority does not always rule:
sometimes the guy walking the wrong way turns out to be the only one who knows where
he is going (he's later called a visionary, after the rest of the crowd tramples him
to death).

> I should probable stop asking this
> question why, it sure slows up the process.

    Never, never :) If we all stopped asking "why," this list--among others--would
disappear. Then, what would Carl do with all the free time on his hands?

Daniel L. Christiansen
Department of Bible
Multnomah Bible College
8435 NE Glisan Street
Portland, OR  97236
(Also Portland Bible College, Prof of Biblical Languages)

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