Re: Eph 4: 22-24

From: Jürg Buchegger (
Date: Fri Mar 31 2000 - 03:59:35 EST

<x-charset iso-8859-1>Dear Carl, dear Harold,
At Wed, 29 Mar 2000 11:12:11 -0600 C.W. Conrad wrote:
>Yes, I do think that hUMAS is functioning as the subject of APOQESQAI and
>the other infinitives in verses 23 and 24, but I think that all of these
>infinitives are to be understood as standing in for aorist imperatives
>rather than for aorist indicatives; I think that the key to understanding
>them thus lies in verse 21: " ... if at any rate, you heard him (scil.
>'telling you') and if IN HIM you were instructed, THAT YOU SHOULD PUT OFF
>THE OLD MAN ..." LEGW and DIDASKW can be followed by an infinitive
>representing a command, and I think that is what is happening in these

Ok, but isn't there a difference in choosing
DIDASKW ... + (plain) Infinitive and
DIDASKW ... + Infinitiv cum Accusative (the AcI-construction)?

>I understand what you're asking here about those infinitives
>representing actions taken in the past, but I don't think that really makes
>much sense ("You were taught that you have put off the old self, the one
>that is perishing, and that you are now letting yourself be remade, and
>that you have put on the new self ...")--to me it doesn't. I think rather
>that the aorist infinitives represent the telic aspect: Go ahead and strip
>off the old man (get it done!)--and later: Go ahead and put on the new man
>(go ahead! DO IT!)--whereas in the middle we have the continuous aspect in
>ANANEOUSQAI: submit yourself to the ongoing process of renewal in/by the

Concerning the aspect (+ the question of why a change from aorist to present
and back to aorist)
Harold R. Holmyard III wrote (Wed, 29 Mar 2000 12:54:38 -0600)
>You remember that infinitives, apart from the future infinitive, do
>not have tense but only aspect. So if anything might be implied by the
>change from aorist to present, it might be that the decisions to put off
>the old man and put on the new man should have been decisive, unique ones,
>while the renewal of the mind was a constant expectation.
Doesn't the aspect affect the content of the verb, e.g. the "putting
off/on", and not "the decision" to put off/on? That is: the putting off/on
should be decisive. If yes, wouldn't that mean that logically the decisive
aspect of a putting off/on stands in some tension to the possible
interpretation of this infinitives as continuing commands for christians?

And Carl closed with:
>If it isn't already obvious, I take it for granted that this is all to be
>understood in terms of baptismal imagery and an understanding of what it
>means in terms of taking off one's old clothes before immersing oneself in
>the water of baptism, dying to the old-self and beginning the process of
>re-creation/new creation, then ultimately rising from the water and putting
>on the new clothes of the regenerated self.
I agree that somewhere in the background of this texts, we have baptism. But
are you saying that the metaphor "putting off/on" is describing the act of
baptism (which of course is not continuing and happend in the past) in is in
some way actualizing it (using the same metaphor) into the christian life
(the whole life being one baptism). I don't want to come too much into
theology, but my point here is: If this is what the author is saying here
(e.g. you should continue "to put off, renew and put on") why not put all
the infinitives in the present?

The longer I think about this passage, I come down with the following:
We should start with the grammatical and syntactical givens and these are

1. The three infinitives in V.22-24 are the direct object of the verb
DIDASKW in V.21 (I dismiss the possiblity to take them with the KAQWS...)

2. We do not only have a DIDASKW + Infinitiv, but DIDASKW + AcI. The hUMAS
functions as the subject of the three infinitives. It would be possible to
take hUMAS as the object for the infinitive (and TON PALAION ANQRWPON being
an apposition to hUMAS) but this is very unlikely. - Now what I learned
about the Infinitiv as the object (BR 233; BDR 392+396f; Zerwick 406-408
etc.) is, that for both DIDASKW and MANQANW you would expect the simple
OFEILW, EIWQA, ARCOMAI). The hUMAS is somewhat unexpected.

3. The change aorist/present/aorist has of course "aspectual force". The
middle infinitive (present) marks the activity (renew; passiv) as an
activity that is not yet finished, is developing, continuing (durative). The
aorist stresses the "happening" of an activity or the "being" of a state
without telling you something about the question of "ongoing" or "not
ongoing". The verb itself (its content/meaning; here: put off/on) normally
hints or decides whether the activity is momentary or enduring, the aorist
itself just "summarizes" the activity. The aorist can also point to either
the starting point (ingressive) or the end/goal (effective; telic
(CW.Conrad)) of an activity.
Now in our case, if we have to decide which nuance of the aorist-aspect do
the two infinitives in V. 22 and 24 (put off/on) have, one could probably
find arguments for every possibility. The verb itself and the context
normally can give some help. The metaphor itself (putting off/on) fits well
into the punctual aspect of the aorist, because putting off/on clothes
normally does not take the whole lifetime. And if the "context" is some kind
of allusion to baptism (but I think that put off/on is NOT describing the
act of baptism but the spiritual reality that is connected (symbolized?) in
it) this too hints to a momentary act.

4. Now, at this point we of course enter into theology, but we can not avoid
that (as Carls last paragraph shows) at this point. This has to do with the
fact, that the infinitives put off/on are metaphorically speaking of another
reality, either the act of baptism or (and?) the spiritual reality that is
mirrored in baptism. Only if we know clearer what "to put off/on" really is
describing, we can decide whether this infinitives
a) should be translated as indicatives or imperatives and (question of
b) whether the tense should be present or past (question of tense)
The question of modus and tense for the three infinitives in Eph 4: 22-24
can not be
decided apart from the question of the reality behind the metaphor "putting
of the old man and putting on the new man", right?

5. Now does not the TON FQEIROMENON... in v.22 say that the putting off is
something, that is continuing in the presence? This apposition to TON
PALAION ANQRWPON is a ptc med or pass in the present tense and the aspect of
the present points to the continuing process of this "decaying". Now this
would mean that the text clearly states that the "old man" is continuially
decaying and at the same time should be or has been put off! Logically one
would of course choose the imperative for the "putting off" because how can
an "old man" that has already been put off continue to decay? Or can he?
Here again we run into the problem that Eph is speaking in images or
methapors. Who is the "old man"? How can one put off/on a person? What
reality is Eph talking off? Because in the natural world the thought of
"having put off the old man" and "this old man is continuing to decay" don't
fit together too well, this does not mean that this is impossible for the
spiritual reality that is described here. So I would think that the present
ptc FQEIROMENON can not decide over the question of modus and tense of the
infinitive APOQESQAI.

Now, where do we go from here? Is this where Greek ends and theology begins?

J¸rg Buchegger
Bern, Switzerland

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