Re: John 6:29 & the Present Tense

From: Steven Craig Miller (
Date: Sun Oct 10 1999 - 21:41:13 EDT

To: David A Bielby and the participants of B-Greek,

<< I remember the clearest understanding of the continual sense of a
present active in John's writings from 1 John 3:8 hO POIWN THN of the devil... So, I thought that the present often refers
to a continual state or activity rather than one time occurences. With that
in mind, what do you think of this approach to John 6:29: The work of God
is this: to keep on believing in the one he sent...OR to believe in the one
he sent (with an ongoing belief in mind). Rather than the simple
subjunctive force. >>

FWIW ... the passages I've always wondered about are the divorce texts in
the Synoptic gospels. E.g. the NRSV translates Mt 19:9 as:

<< And I say to you, whoever divorces his wife, except for unchastity, and
marries another commits adultery. >>

The English translation "commits adultery" might give some the impression
that the sin is committed only during the marriage ceremony. I wonder if
the present tense might be better translated as: "living in adultery"? One
might translate Mt 19:9 as:

<< And I say to you, whoever divorces his woman, except for infidelity (or:
prostitution [?]), and marries another lives in adultery. >>

I reckon that the idea is too unpopular to be adopted by any major
translation. And although I would not personally approve of such an ethic,
it seems to me that is what the text is saying.

Re: John 6:29:

<< How about translating this verse: that you may keep believing...?? >>

Who would want to argue that this verse might imply: 'that you may believe
for a little while'? FWIW, after A.T. Robertson notes in his grammar that
with the present indicative can be used for either punctiliar or linear
action, he (864) writes:

<< This defect is chiefly found in the indicative, since in the subj.,
opt., imper., inf. and part. ... the aorist is always punctiliar and the
so-called present practically always linear ... >>

How about John 15:12: "This is my commandment that you keep on loving one
another just as I have loved you"?

Also, one might note that the variant reading at John 6:29 is PISTEUSHTE
(aor. subj.) as opposed to PISTEUHTE (pres. subj.). If the aor. subj. is
translated as "that you believe ..." (as it is in the NKJV), shouldn't the
present subjunctive be translated differently? Or would one want to say
that there is no real difference between the two variant readings?

-Steven Craig Miller (

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