Re: Matt 19:9 & the Present Tense

Date: Mon Oct 11 1999 - 18:03:06 EDT

On Mon, 11 Oct 1999 16:20:22 -0500 Steven Craig Miller
<> writes:
> PD: << Again, the present tense may denote what you are arguing for
> here, but it does not have to. It may denote a progressive nuance (is
> committing adultery in the act of remarriage). Or, it may be a gnomic
> often referred to as the aorist present, something that is timeless in
> reality, true of all time (compare the use of SPEIRETAI in 1 Cor
> The point is you simply can not prove your thesis by an appeal to the
use of
> the present tense here. >>
> I suspect that outside mathematics or modern logic, it is impossible
> to prove anything beyond all doubt. The issue as I see it is not what
> can be proven beyond all doubt, but rather what is MOST probable (given

> what we know).

Yes, of course. We are dealing with likelihood or probabilities here,
with proof. Sorry for communicating otherwise. But, it may be good
from time to time to be reminded of possible alternatives, and of the
reality that what one believes may not be as sure as he thinks.

> As I see it, the present tense of MOICATAI (at Mt 19:9)
> creates the presumption that it refers to linear action (as opposed to
> punctiliar action) unless there is some evidence to the contrary.
Without any
> evidence to the contrary, then the BEST translation would appear to be:

> "lives in adultery." I concede the fact that I have not PROVEN my case
> all doubt, but I do humbly suggest that taking MOICATAI to refer to
> linear action is the MOST probable interpretation of the passage.

The question does not pertain to linear action, as the possibilities
I have posited denote such. The question, rather, pertains to the
particular nuance of that linear action. You cannot argue that your
position is correct because it denotes linear action and mine are
not because they do not denote such action. They do.

The only argument you might raise would pertain to probabilities
at this point. Is it more probable that MOICATAI is habitual than
any other nuance? If so, why?

By the way, the fact that the translations do not typically render it
like you suggest (like they do in 1 Jn 3:9, for example) might caution
us to opt for a less interpretive translation. I personally feel the
modern translations do a fine job of communicating the somewhat
uncertain nuance of the present tense.

If I am coming across as antagonistic to your view, please keep
in mind I am speaking as a pastor. I have seen far too many times
people unfairly bruised and put on guilt trips, especially in this

I am not suggesting that such remarriage does not constitute on-
going adultery. All I am saying here is that we may be going beyond
the text if we affirm it is saying so. It may just as easily be saying
something else, like the man who divorces his wife, not for fornication,
and remarres commits adultery. He certainly is committing (progressive)
adultery in so doing. The gnomic truth is also true. But, are we
justified in going beyond and saying the present tense denotes
habitual and characteristic activity here? If so, why? Just because
it is a present tense? Of course not.

Paul Dixon

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