Re: John 6:29 & the Present Tense

Date: Mon Oct 11 1999 - 00:28:52 EDT

On Sun, 10 Oct 1999 20:41:13 -0500 Steven Craig Miller
<> writes:
> 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
> With that in mind, what do you think of this approach to John 6:29: The
> of God is this: to keep on believing in the one he sent...OR to believe
> the one he sent (with an ongoing belief in mind). Rather than the
> subjunctive force. >>

The present tense in Greek views action as continuous in contrast
to the aorist tense wherein the action is undefined. Continuous action
can be broken down generally as progressive (viewed as actually
progressing in present time) or as habitual or characteristic, that is,
as continuous action going on in past, present, and/or future times.

I would agree that John's use of the present tense is typically habitual
or characteristic. His use of the present tense of PISTEUW in contrast
to the aorist is striking. The purpose of John's Gospel (20:31) and
of 1 John (5:13) illustrate this.

His use of the aorist tense in Jn 2:23 illustrates that it is possible to

believe not unto eternal life, since Jesus did not entrust Himself to
such, knowing what was in their hearts (2:24).

> 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.
> 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.

The problem is that the present tense may denote a progressive
nuance, that is, "is committing adultery (in the act of remarriage)".
This, of course, addresses the issue made by some over whether
remarriage constitutes an on-going act of adultery. This cannot
be proved by the use of the present tense. The nuance may be
merely progressive.

Paul Dixon


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