Re: Matthew 5:48

From: clayton stirling bartholomew (
Date: Sun Feb 13 2000 - 00:38:10 EST


I took a quick look at the digital versions of the NASB, NIV, RSV, NRSV.
The difference in wording of Matthew 5:48 has no impact as far as I can
see on your question. The all rendered ESESQE as a command. So lets
forget the English translations, no help is going to be found there.

The question isn't about the form of ESESQE which is a future
indicative. The question is about the function of ESESQE. Ask yourself,
"what is ESESQE doing in this context?" Is ESESQE describing the future
state of the addressees? This is possible but unlikely. Look at FONEUSIS
in Matt 5:12, it is also a future indicative. Is it describing something
in the future? Notice it is negated. The key to solving problems like
this is to think functionally.

Now to the grammars. Zerwick #280 says that in the legal language of the
OT the future is almost always used as a categorical imperative. Note
that Zerwick's term "categorical imperative" is a functional label and
should not be confused with the morphological imperative. Zerwick calls
this usage Semitic and BDF #362 agrees with him but Stanley Porter
(Idioms, p. 44 #2.4.2.b) states that this "commanding" function of the
future form is also found in classical Greek although he does not give
any examples.

All three of these grammars call into question whether that the Future
form is used to mark an aspect. The future may not be part of the
aspectual system and it may not tell us anything about time. It might be
better at the fucntional level of analysis to compare the Future to the
Subjunctive mood. This is a nasty, complicated and controversial subject
which I prefer to leave alone.

Back to your question. The future is used several times in the immediate
context to mark the function of "commanding." So in my mind there is
little doubt that we see that also taking place in Matt. 5:48 ESESQE.
BDF #362 argues that the use of the Future form for a command, only
takes place in quotes or allusions to the OT, including Matt. 5:48
connecting it with Dt 18:13 and Lev. 19:2. Porter blows a hole in this
by saying that the semitic connection here is not absolute, that this
idiom can be found in texts unaffected by semitic usage.

Clayton Stirling Bartholomew
Three Tree Point
P.O. Box 255 Seahurst WA 98062

---------- >From: David A Bielby <> >To: Biblical Greek <> >Subject: Matthew 5:48 >Date: Sat, Feb 12, 2000, 7:52 PM >

> Matthew 5:48..."ESESQE OUN hUMEIS TELEIOI..." > > I'm wondering what the arguments are to translate ESESQE as an IMPERATIVE > instead of as Future Indicative. I noticed the NIV/NAS and NKJ all > handle this differently.

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