Re: HN inceptive at John 1? (was ZWH in John 1:5)

From: Dan Parker (
Date: Mon Jan 17 2000 - 13:35:20 EST

> From: "Dan Parker"
> Sent: Friday, January 14, 2000 2:20 PM
>> The force of GINOMAI apparently signals a clear change of state or
>> situation, "to come to acquire or experience a state (Louw-Nida),"
>> even a beginning of life which might refer back to the ARXH HN of
>> John 1:1. This would make the imperfect HN of John 1:1 perhaps even an
>> inceptive imperfect, so that hO LOGOS "came to be" EN ARXH (the when)
>> and the "what" he came to be was QEOS. The manner in which he is
>> QEOS is then further defined as relating to the fact that PANTA DI
>> AUTOU EGENETO and that as H ZWH he became TO FWS TWN ANQRWPWN.

Joe Friberg said:
> The term/category 'inceptive imperfect' does not seem applicable in this
> concept, for the inceptive category presupposes a Narrative context. In Jn
> 1.1-5, the genre is Expository, not Narrative. As such, the HN's are best
> taken as simple stative propositions. EGENETO as an intransitive verb in
> this context does represent a change of state; it is presented as a simple
> historical (non-narrative) fact. The contrast between these two verbs is
> very clear; they are in complementary distribution: EGENETO indicates a
> change of state, HN a simple (continuative) state.

Joe, thanks for the reply. What you say is interesting and I would
like to hear more regarding the change of aspect for HN in this

If I understand you properly, you categorize John's prologue as a
number of facts exposited but not necessarily in the order that they
happened historically. Is this correct? If you are right I can see
your point.

I would like to consider an alternative, that as discussed in Stanley
Porter's "Verbal Aspect," page 101-102. He calls John 1:1-5 a "well
crafted" example of "Discourse deixis(text deixis)" with clear "main
story indicators" where the "story line" (i.e. narrative) "maintains
its flow by adding to what has already been given."

John 1:1 starts out with EN ARXH, and each additional phrase is
connected to the previous one with something new added. The word order
is switched after this introduction to predicate-subject, subject
predicate with the last element leading into the next. It really is an
intricate piece of writing! This is one of the reasons that I always
intuitively felt that hO GEGONEN starts the thought in verse 4 with hO
GEGONEN EN AUTW ZWH HN, because otherwise the pattern would be
disrupted not only for the preceding thought, but also for the next
where the ZWH in that phrase is picked up in the next phrase as the

John also masterfully picked his tense forms as well. The PANTA DI
AUTOU EGENETO of verse 3 merely speaks of the creation of life in the
aorist, but it is followed by the significant change to a perfect in
verse 4. This ZWH which was created by hO QEOS in hO LOGOS is
presented as a finished work, the effects of which continue on
afterwards with great significance to ANQRWPOS. Thus it seems that
GINOMAI in verse 4 is not a "simple historical (non-narrative) fact."

In the book of first John, he describes hO LOGOS of John 1 as TOU
PROS TON PATERA. (cf John 1:1!) John later refers to him as TON AP
ARXHS (the one who existed from the beginning.)

In contrast to the use of GINOMAI in Jn 1:3-4 I find his use in verse
6 as merely stating a fact with EGENETO ANQRWPOS (there was a man.)
This seems much different that the usage in the previous verses (I
think you made a case for a new narrative being started here in
another post) and yet it seems that the events are being related in
historical sequence, indeed this story line seems to continue in
temporal order all the way to verse 18.

The lexicon BAGD also distinguishes between the meanings of GINOMAI
and states that in Jn 1:3a it means "be made, created," while the
meaning at Jn 1:6 is "happen, take place."

Therefore, since hO GEGONEN at Jn 1:3b is being presented as referring
BACK to the EGENETO in Jn 1:3a, it seems impossible to take it in the
sense that is found at Jn 1:6. The conclusion I come to is that H ZWH
(hO LOGOS) was created. This seems reinforced by the fact that H ZWH
is created and also a title of hO LOGOS in first John. In first John
it is THN ZWHN that is PROS TON PATERA and in John 1 it is hO LOGOS
that is PROS TON QEON.

>> GINOMAI is also used in verse 14 of John 1 as the beginning of the
>> existence of hO LOGOS as SARC, which might parallel the beginning of
>> the H ZWH of hO LOGOS as QEOS in John 1:1
> Here again, the contrast between HN and EGENETO is made clear. The parallel
> serves simply to highlight the contrast.

Joe, you said:
"they are in complementary distribution: EGENETO indicates a change of
state, HN a simple (continuative) state."

Stanley Porter attributes the change of state to the aorist EGENETO as
the "act of creation" (Porter 261) and the "state of creation" as
GEGONEN. This seems to fit my understanding of the aspect of the

Also what had been made (created, ho GEGONEN) was (HN) life. The ZWH
HN is a predicate nominative which is being equated by John as hO
GEGONEN. I do not understand how a predicate nominative can be used to
contrast. I am used to it as copulative. Is this what you really meant
to say or am I misunderstanding you? If not do you have other examples
where predicative nominatives are used to contrast differences in this

Best Regards,
Dan Parker

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