Re: John 1.5 - try again

From: Joe A. Friberg (
Date: Wed Jan 12 2000 - 18:39:06 EST

----- Original Message -----
From: "Pete Phillips" <>
Sent: Wednesday, January 12, 2000 2:39 AM

> 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
> 6?

v6 starts a new paragraph with a new participant introduced, and constitutes
a change in genre to narrative. This is frequently the funciton of EGENETO:
to start a new narrative, introducing new participants, etc. Hence, v6 does
not help in the interpretation of the tenses in v5, nor vice versa.

Regarding the interpretation of the present and aorist in v5, it appears no
consensus is likely to be reached on each taken individually. There does,
however, appear to be a relatively constant semantic thread related to the
*contrast* between the two grammatical tenses.

Namely, the pres./ao. contrast highlights the continuous shining of the
light in spite of any or all attempts of the darkness to in any way grasp
it. The neg. + ao. highlights the inability/complete failure of the
darkness in its contest with the light. Perhaps this contrast is the
primary meaning to be grasped from the use of the tenses, rather than a
particular time frame. This contrast is usually brought out in translation
however the verse is translated:
- the light keeps on shining in the darkness, for the darkness could not
seize it
- the light shines on in the darkness, for the darkness cannot seize it
- the light still shines in the darkness, and the darkness has never put it
out (Phillips)
- The light (personified) shines (or is shining) and the darkness (also
personified) never apprehends it (Carlton Winbery)
- the light shines in the the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it
- the light shines on in the the dark, and the darkness has never quenched
it (NEB)
- ...the darkness never entered into the state of comprehension (Kimmo
- ...the darkness was not successful in overpowering it (Kimmo Huovila)
- ...darkness did not attempt to overpower the light (Kimmo Huovila)

In a very real sense, the pres./neg.+ao. contrast seems to point to the
absolute victory and supremacy of the light over the darkness. It would
seem quite difficult, however, to say that John was pointing uniquely to the
cross and resurrection; for while the resurrection demonstrates John's point
supremely, there is not enough (or much of anything?) in the immediate
context to restrict his meaning to that one archetypical event.

To put it another way, perhaps in the manner of foreshadowing John could be
alluding to the cross and resurrection (and indeed I do believe that central
event is encompassed by his statement), but it is not expected that the
reader should immediately connect his statement (v5) with only that event.
There have been, and will be, many attempts, categorically unsuccessful, by
'the darkness' to overcome, or even to comprehend, the light.

God Bless!
Joe A. Friberg

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