Re: John 1.5 - try again

From: Carl W. Conrad (
Date: Wed Jan 12 2000 - 07:14:55 EST

At 8:39 AM +0000 1/12/00, Pete Phillips wrote:
>Thanks for all the discussion but I didn't actually ask for
>your favourite translations or reminders of what BAGD, LSJ,
>ASV, RSV and all the others say. What I specifically
>requested was an insight into the aspectual side of things
>as there seem to be people in this list who know what
>they're talking about vis-a-vis aspect while the rest of us
>walk around looking glazed. So once again:
>What is the aspectual significance of the aorist of
>KATELABEN in John 1.5 in association with the present of
>FAINEI and followed by a simple aorist in EGENETO in verse
>Yours with utmost respect.

Gee whiz, (as Rodney D. might say in all sincerity) that's a lot more
respect than some of us on B-Greek usually get!


Carlton has written: 'The use of the aorist KATELABEN with the negative is
a common use of the aorist in the NT to say that something never happens.
"The light (personified) shines (or is shining) and the darkness (also
personified) never apprehends it." I think it is a mistake to make too much
of time in either the present or the aorist.' He may be right--the aorist
may be "gnomic"--but would that also be true in verse 11: EIS TA IDIA
HLQEN, KAI hOI IDIOI AUTON OU PARELABON? The structure is very similar, so
should we say, "His own never accept him"? I don't really think so, for
there the aorist seems to me more clearly to state a past fact; perhaps the
parallelism isn't there because both verbs of verse 11 are in the aorist.

You then ask about the bearing of the 'simple' aorist EGENETO in verse 6 on
how we are to understand AUTO OU KATELABEN in verse 5. I personally don't
think it has any bearing back upon verse 5 at all. Verses 6-8 are commonly
deemed a prose insertion into the prologue to differentiate John the
Baptist from the incarnate LOGOS. Whether or not that view is valid, I
personally think that EGENETO in verse 6 must construe pretty closely with
APESTALMENOS as a sort of periphrastic pluperfect, although it's certainly
possible that the EGENETO may simply be an aorist equivalent of the
imperfect HN and that it has an existential sense [PLEASE, let's not fly
off into a tizzy over the word 'existential'!--it does have a standard
grammatical sense.]: "There was a man, one sent by God, by name of John." I
don't think this EGENETO has much bearing if any at all on the use of the
aorist in verse 5.

Finally, another personal note here. While I realize that many list-members
do hold as a matter of faith that the Biblical text in all its parts is
intelligible and monovalent in its intended meaning, that is a
hermeneutical proposition that I personally don't share--nor am I asking
those who hold it to share my degree of hermeneutical agnosticism. Others
seem to be amazingly confident that the precise meaning of the text can be
ascertained with the application of competent scholarly resources. The
older I get, the less sure I am about that; I often tend to see alternative
possibilities for understanding some Biblical texts and do not expect to
know the truth about their interpretation in this life. The eschatological
tension between our current state of "seeing through a glass darkly" and
what we shall know "then" is something that I personally tend to feel ever
more strongly with the passage of time. The upshot of which is that I'm not
altogether sure we're going to get to the rock bottom of the question of
that aorist in John 1:5.

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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