Historical Presents in the Gospel of John

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Historical Presents in the Gospel of John

Post by swilhite » January 21st, 2014, 9:21 am

Right now I'm currently noting features of John's use of the HP and am stuck on two uses.

In John 13.22 and 13.24 two HPs are used. Both are λέγει. According to Levinsohn (in, Discourse Features of NTG, 202, 208), HPs in John typically have a cataphoric highlighting feature. Since these are speech HPs, they do not introduce a speech, so they are not technically "speech proper" (term?).

So, my question: I can't help but see both of these HPs having an anaphoric element (backward-pointing), is this possible with an HP? The typical DA literature I read seem to predominantly argue for a cataphoric element for HPs.

If this has been discussed on B-Greek, can you point me there? Or point me in other DA books clarifying this use of the HP?

Thank you.


Alan Patterson
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Location: Emory University

Re: Historical Presents in the Gospel of John

Post by Alan Patterson » January 21st, 2014, 12:17 pm

In John 13.22 and 13.24 two HPs are used. Both are λέγει.
You are going to get yelled at for not putting the Greek verses in your email.

21 ταυτα ειπων ιησους εταραχθη τω πνευματι και εμαρτυρησεν και ειπεν αμην αμην λεγω υμιν οτι εις εξ υμων παραδωσει με
22 εβλεπον εις αλληλους οι μαθηται απορουμενοι περι τινος λεγει
23 ην ανακειμενος εις εκ των μαθητων αυτου εν τω κολπω του ιησου ον ηγαπα [ο] ιησους
24 νευει ουν τουτω σιμων πετρος και λεγει αυτω ειπε τις εστιν περι ου λεγει
25 αναπεσων εκεινος ουτως επι το στηθος του ιησου λεγει αυτω κυριε τις εστιν

I do not see any HPs here. These two presents are to be expected in light of the fact that John puts us into the time these conversations take place. The words of Jesus are not some past event, but present in the ears of those sitting there. We are not to be looking at this event as if we are off into the future and looking backwards. The event is still in progress, which is the definition of the Present tense. Who is Jesus speaking about here? What is he saying? This is just normal conversational/narrative writing.

Remember to quote the entire passage you are referring to...you will be referring to :p
χαρις υμιν και ειρηνη,
Alan Patterson

Stephen Carlson
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Location: Melbourne

Re: Historical Presents in the Gospel of John

Post by Stephen Carlson » January 22nd, 2014, 4:08 am

Thanks to Alan for posting the text. These presents are in indirect questions, which in Greek is relative to the time of the main clause. English, by contrast, "backshifts" the tense of the verb in indirect statements and questions so that the verb must be recast into the preterite.

The historical present, on the other hand, is the use of a present tense form in the main clause in narrative. The two examples of λέγει in John 13:22 and 24 are not in the main clause but in a subordinate clause. So there are not historical presents.

Historical presents are not uncommon in John, but these are not examples of it.
Stephen C. Carlson, Ph.D.
Melbourne, Australia

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