[b-greek] Re: Matthew 28:19,20

From: Iver Larsen (iver_larsen@sil.org)
Date: Sun Mar 03 2002 - 07:24:37 EST

> >On Fri, 1 Mar 2002 17:28:08 -0600 "Kevin Cauley" <cauley@airmail.net>
> >writes:
> > >
> > > Question: How do the participles BAPTIZONTES and DIDASKONTES relate
> > > to the main verb MAQHTEUSATE from a strictly grammatical standpoint?
> > > No theology please, just grammar/syntax.
> > >
> > > Thanks,
> > >
> > > Kevin Cauley
> >At 09:15 PM 020301 -0700, lance w seevers wrote:
> >I would think that the present tense of BAPTIZONTES and DIDASKONTES
> >indicates action that is concurrent with that of the main verb
> >Walt Seevers

This is standard for present participles that support a finite verb, and I
would agree with this and disagree with the non-standard analysis below.
Whether means or whatever is not really a grammatical quality of the present
tense participle but a function of the semantic content of the verbs and the
context in general.

> Ward Powers: Instead, I see it as sequential action, consequent to the
main verb
> MAQHTEUSATE. First you make disciples, then those who become
> disciples are
> to be baptized, and then they are to be taught. BAPTIZONTES is plural and
> present tense because it is repeated action, serially with different
> people. As people become disciples they are baptized. Then
> baptized i.e. the recognized members of the Christian community,
> are to be
> taught the Christian faith, what to believe, how to live.
> So the verbs form a sequence of what is to happen: make disciples, then
> baptize them, and then an ongoing program of teaching them. Present
> participles after the main verb can be used to indicate a sequence of
> events in this way.

There is another aspect apart from Greek grammar which has not been
mentioned so far. When Jesus gave the commandment he was not speaking in
Greek nor thinking in Greek. It is a common and well established Semitic
thought pattern to first give a brief overview, summary or title and then
give the details which fill out the brief overview.

It is one of the interesting clashes we find all the time in the GNT, and a
clash between Hebrew and English thought patterns. Whereas Greek and English
(like Ward Powers analysis) use a basically chronological, sequential
thought pattern, Hebrew and other Semitic languages do not. Semitic uses a
circular pattern of repeated themes where the same idea is expressed in two
or more rounds or circles. The second circle usually goes back in time to
fill out the details already briefly given in the first circle. With an
understanding of this thought pattern, much of the OT and some of the GNT
suddenly makes sense.

With this in view, it is most likely that the first part which consists of
an aorist imperative which "stands on" an aorist participle constitute that
overview of the task, the first circle. This transforms into two imperatives
in English, the first being a stepping stone to the second: "Go and make
disciples of all ethnic groups". The aorist is used because this is looked
upon as a task, a conceptual unit. There is no focus on the process, how
long it takes or what is involved, but a general command focusing on the
outcome: Make disciples.
The second part gives the details of this command in good Hebrew fashion,
the second circle. It answers the question: "What is involved in making
disciples" or "What do they need to do to make disciples". Two important
details are given: Baptize them (not the EQNH, but the individual people
AUTOUS) and teach them.
It is most reasonable to assume that the event described by the first
present participle is thought of as coming before the event described by the
second present participle, and this is supported by the practice in Acts of
immediately baptizing people as soon as they expressed a confession of
belief and before the teaching program started. Of course, baptizing people
does not take long, while teaching takes much longer.
There are other details of making disciples that are understood but not
mentioned explicitly, namely proclaiming the Gospel and people responding in
faith to that proclamation. These two events come before baptizing and
teaching according to the pattern we see in Acts (regardless of one's
theology). The proclamation may be implicit in the "go" before "make
I think the "correction" by B (followed by D and no other mss) to the aorist
participle is a Greek attempt to deal with the Hebrew pattern. It was made
by someone who did not think in Hebrew. An aorist participle would indicate
that the baptizing comes before making disciples. This "correction" is in a
sense correct, but probably not what the original text said, because the
original was Greek as written with a Hebrew mind. With the Hebrew thought
pattern, the details go back in time to fill out what is briefly summarized
in the overview.

Iver Larsen

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