1 Jn 1.1 Shift from perfect to aorist

How do I work out the meaning of a Greek text? How can I best understand the forms and vocabulary in this particular text?
Forum rules
This is a beginner's forum - see the Koine Greek forum for more advanced discussion of Greek texts. Please quote the Greek text you are discussing directly in your post if it is reasonably short - do not ask people to look it up.

1 Jn 1.1 Shift from perfect to aorist

Postby John Brainard » February 5th, 2013, 10:18 am

in 1 John 1:1 we read

ὃ ἦν ἀπ' ἀρχῆς, ὃ ἀκηκόαμεν (perfect), ὃ ἑωράκαμεν(perfect) τοῖς ὀφθαλμοῖς ἡμῶν, ὃ ἐθεασάμεθα(aorist) καὶ αἱ χεῖρες ἡμῶν ἐψηλάφησαν(aorist) περὶ τοῦ λόγου τῆς ζωῆς

What is the significance of the shift from the perfect to the aorist?


Thanks

John
John Brainard
 
Posts: 72
Joined: September 18th, 2011, 5:17 pm

Re: 1 Jn 1.1 Shift from perfect to aorist

Postby cwconrad » February 5th, 2013, 2:28 pm

John Brainard wrote:in 1 John 1:1 we read

ὃ ἦν ἀπ' ἀρχῆς, ὃ ἀκηκόαμεν (perfect), ὃ ἑωράκαμεν(perfect) τοῖς ὀφθαλμοῖς ἡμῶν, ὃ ἐθεασάμεθα(aorist) καὶ αἱ χεῖρες ἡμῶν ἐψηλάφησαν(aorist) περὶ τοῦ λόγου τῆς ζωῆς

What is the significance of the shift from the perfect to the aorist?
ἶν

There is no significant shift of tense here: the verb εἶναι has only present, imperfect, and future tenses. The ἦν here is very much like the ἣν in John 1:1 (ἐν ἀρχῇ ἦν ὄ λόγος. That which existed is conceived as having existed continuously throughout time rather than to have come into existence (which would be indicated by a form of γίνεσθαι). The more significant shift in these two clauses is from the 3rd-person singular verb of the first clause to the 1st-person plural verb of the second clause. The first of the four clauses built upon the neuter singular relative pronoun is in the 3rd-person singule, the next three are all in the first-person plural. The proposition expressed here is that something that was always in existence throughout time has been experienced at a particular point within time by those making the statement (or those indicated as included in the author's statement).

[Edit (Louis Sorenson) This topic was moved from Vocabulary to What Does This Text Mean]
Carl W. Conrad
Department of Classics, Washington University (Retired)
… ἐπειδὴ καὶ τὸν οἶνον ἠξίους
πίνειν, συνεκποτέ’ ἐστί σοι καὶ τὴν τρύγα Aristophanes, Plutus 1085
cwconrad
 
Posts: 1332
Joined: May 5th, 2011, 5:52 pm
Location: Burnsville, NC 28714

Re: 1 Jn 1.1 Shift from perfect to aorist

Postby Paul-Nitz » February 6th, 2013, 2:14 am

I often wish we had a rating button in B-Greek.
δυο ἀντίχειροι ἀνά. (οὐ τουτ εστιν, ἀντιχειροτονῶ!)
Paul D. Nitz - Lilongwe Malawi
Paul-Nitz
 
Posts: 206
Joined: June 1st, 2011, 4:19 am

Re: 1 Jn 1.1 Shift from perfect to aorist

Postby Stephen Carlson » February 6th, 2013, 10:41 am

For 1 John 1:1, the general description of the perfect in BDF § 340 is adequate:"it denotes the continuance of completed action" (emphasis original). Specifically, it emphasizes the effect on the subject, BDF § 342(2) with note citing 1 John 1:1. Now, modern linguistics would classify this as an "experiential perfect" (Bentein 2012:179), denoting that the subject has had the experience of performing the action, and this kind of perfect is as old as Homer (e.g., Bentein's example of Iliad 24.391-392 τὸν μὲν ἐγὼ μάλα πολλὰ μάχῃ ἔνι κυδιανείρῃ / ὀφθαλμοῖσιν ὄπωπα "many times have I set eyes upon him in battle, where men win glory"). Bentein (2012:182) notes that the discourse function of an experiential perfect is that it "focuses on the ascription of some present property to an agent."

So, the idea here is that the authorial "we" has the on-going status of being eye-witnesses and ear-witnesses to what they have seen (ὃ ἑωράκαμεν) and heard (ὃ ἀκηκόαμεν). The reference times for these perfects is the time of the speaker/writer (when the writer remains a witness), but the reference times for the following aorists, like most aorists, is in the past when the witnesses did the beholding and the touching. Thus, I think the shift from a perfect to an aorist in 1 John 1:1 is a shift in the reference time, from the time when the continuing effects hold to when the completed actions occurred.

Reference:

Bentein, Klaas. 2012. "The Periphrasitc Perfect in Ancient Greek: A Diachronic Mental Space Analysis." Transactions of the Philological Society 110.2: 171-211.
Stephen C. Carlson, Ph.D. (Duke, New Testament)
Stephen Carlson
 
Posts: 1905
Joined: May 11th, 2011, 10:51 am
Location: Melbourne

Re: 1 Jn 1.1 Shift from perfect to aorist

Postby cwconrad » February 6th, 2013, 1:03 pm

I realize -- much to my embarrassment -- that I responded to a question that was not asked and ignored the question that was asked. I saw "shift from perfect to aorist" and immediately read it as "shift from imperfect to aorist." Stephen has amply responded to the queation that actually was asked. I would only add to what he has said that the temporal distinction between aorist and perfect tenses in Koine is not as sharp as it was in earlier Greek; I think it's a mistake to endeavor to pinpoint the nuances between aorist and perfect verbs overnicely.
Carl W. Conrad
Department of Classics, Washington University (Retired)
… ἐπειδὴ καὶ τὸν οἶνον ἠξίους
πίνειν, συνεκποτέ’ ἐστί σοι καὶ τὴν τρύγα Aristophanes, Plutus 1085
cwconrad
 
Posts: 1332
Joined: May 5th, 2011, 5:52 pm
Location: Burnsville, NC 28714

Re: 1 Jn 1.1 Shift from perfect to aorist

Postby Stephen Carlson » February 6th, 2013, 1:54 pm

cwconrad wrote:I realize -- much to my embarrassment -- that I responded to a question that was not asked and ignored the question that was asked. I saw "shift from perfect to aorist" and immediately read it as "shift from imperfect to aorist." Stephen has amply responded to the question that actually was asked. I would only add to what he has said that the temporal distinction between aorist and perfect tenses in Koine is not as sharp as it was in earlier Greek; I think it's a mistake to endeavor to pinpoint the nuances between aorist and perfect verbs over nicely.


Yes, there are some perfects where it's difficult to tell if there's any difference in nuance, e.g. 2 Cor 11:25 τρὶς ἐραβδίσθην, ἅπαξ ἐλιθάσθην, τρὶς ἐναυάγησα, νυχθήμερον ἐν τῷ βυθῷ πεποίηκα.
Stephen C. Carlson, Ph.D. (Duke, New Testament)
Stephen Carlson
 
Posts: 1905
Joined: May 11th, 2011, 10:51 am
Location: Melbourne


Return to What does this text mean?

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 1 guest

cron