Re: John 1:5 - aspect

From: Carl W. Conrad (
Date: Tue Jan 11 2000 - 10:27:00 EST

At 2:28 PM +0000 1/11/00, Pete Phillips wrote:
>What is the aspectual significance of FAINEI being present
>tense and KATELABEN being aorist? Does this suggest
>1. that the light keeps shining?
>2. that the darkness had an attempt at
>extinguishing/understanding the light but that this
>opportunity had now passed and will not return? Is it
>referring to a one-off opportunity. i.e. is John referring
>to the crucifixion here or am I just doing what I am trying
>not to do and being theological?

I'm tempted to write simply, "probably." But I'd probably need to explain
that anyway; I'm not sure one can avoid theologizing in offering any
interpretation of this passage. But yes; I've always understood FAINEI as
indicating the ongoing, continual shining of the Light (of revelation from
the cross) and that KATELABEN has a dual potential sense, the primary one
being that of "quench" with the negative: Darkness didn't succeed in
snuffing out the light, with at least perhaps a secondary sense of
KATALAMBANW in the Stoic sense of "apprehend,"grasp intellectually"--in
which sense I'd understand the aorist to have the sense, "and the Darkness
has not succeeded at grasping it."

To me personally, the fascinating thing here has always been the way in
which "Darkness" is represented as personified, much as Paul represents
"Sin" and "Death" as personified demonic forces. But that belongs to the
larger interpretative framework of how one understands John's gospel and
its categories as a whole, and doesn't really belong here.


Carl W. Conrad Department of Classics/Washington University One Brookings Drive/St. Louis, MO, USA 63130/(314) 935-4018 Home: 7222 Colgate Ave./St. Louis, MO 63130/(314) 726-5649

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