[b-greek] Re: the use of future

From: Glenn Blank (glennblank@earthlink.net)
Date: Fri Apr 06 2001 - 11:06:50 EDT

 "Carsten Schmelzer" <storch@storchsites.de> wrote on Fri, 6 Apr 2001
>in jesus quotation of the commandments he uses very frequently the 2nd
person singular future indicative (i.e.lk 10:27,mat 22:39). why is this form
always translated as an imperative?
>"Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself (mat 22:39)"

>is the futureform normally used as an imperative?

In English, yes. As in a parent: "You
*will* clean your room." In fact, "Thou shalt love thy neigbor,"
strictly speaking, is, 2nd pers. sing. fut. ind. in English. The imperative
being "Love thy neighbor." Not to get into a discussion
of English grammar (I never could keep straight the old English rules about
when to use "shall" vs. "will" anyway . . . something about "will" for 2nd
pers and "shall" for 3rd pers in the case of the one mood, and just the
opposite for the other mood.)

But coming back to the Greek, it seems you have answered your own question:
the fact that Jesus frequently uses 2ps fut ind to quote commands is an
indication that the indicative syntax was frequently used to express an
imperative sense. In my admittedly less than exhaustive survey, I found
about a third of the instances of 2ps fut. ind. expressing a semantic
imperative. (Examples of this form being used by speakers other than Jesus
include Rm 7.7, Rm 13.9, 1 Co 9.9, Jam 2.8). In each case, the KJV
translates it "Thou shalt . . ." Most of these instances are quotations of
OT or rabbinical law. In such cases, the NIV and J.B. Phillips both
translate with 2ps fut. ind., but in cases where the imperative is Jesus'
own command they translate using a syntactical imperative.

Of course, when a language like Greek uses to same synactical form to
express two different semantic moods, the potential exists for ambiguity;
and in fact, in several instances of 2ps fut. ind, IMO, the context does
*not* definitively disambiguate; i.e., Mt. 1:21, Lk 1:13, Lk 5:10, Lk 17:8,
Jn 13:8. In several of these, the NIV and Phillips choose to use the
imperative syntax, thus nailing down one of the two possible senses. IMO,
this is overtranslating and reading into the text a specificity that is not
there. So for a language like English that has the same duality of semantic
uses for the same syntactic form, it would seem to me that the translator
should use the same syntactic category the Greek does. Of course, in a
language where 2ps fut ind cannot mean imperative, the translator must
decide which sense is meant. Is German such a language?

Incidentally, in Mt. 19:19, as the scribe is listing his obligations, he
uses the 2ps fut ind form throughout except for "honor thy father and
mother," where he switches to imperative: TIMA TON PATERA KAI THN MATERA.
This got me wondering whether NTG uses a gradient for force for imperatives
as English does, such as "Could you shut the window" vs. "Please shut the
window" vs. "You *will* shut the window." I guess the way to get at this
would be to search out all the instances where context clearly indicates a
semantic sense and note the distribution of 2ps fut. ind. as opposed to
syntactic imperative. Has anyone investigated this?

glenn blank
Pensacola FL

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