Force of the imperfect in 1 Cor 3:6 ηὔξανεν

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Stephen Carlson
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Force of the imperfect in 1 Cor 3:6 ηὔξανεν

Post by Stephen Carlson » July 24th, 2012, 6:50 pm

What is the force of the imperfect in 1 Cor 3:6?
1 Cor 3:6 wrote:ἐγὼ ἐφύτευσα, Ἀπολλῶς ἐπότισεν, ἀλλὰ ὁ θεὸς ηὔξανεν ·
Here we have two aorists, ἐγὼ ἐφύτευσα ("I planted"), Ἀπολλῶς ἐπότισεν ("Apollos watered"), followed by an imperfect ὁ θεὸς ηὔξανεν. Translations usually render the final imperfect perfectively, "God gave the growth" (NRSV), "God made it grow" (NIV), or even Deus incrementum dedit (Vulgate).

What is the force of Paul's imperfect here? Is it because the church in Corinth is still growing? If so, would an English perfect progressive (cf. Brooks and Winberry, p. 92*) "but God has been growing it" be appropriate then? Or is the imperfect ηὔξανεν inceptive (as if to say "God began growing it")?

Stephen Carlson

* Though Brooks and Winberry translated it with a perfective causative: "but God caused it to grow."
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Stephen C. Carlson, Ph.D.
Melbourne, Australia

Alex Hopkins
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Re: Force of the imperfect in 1 Cor 3:6 ηὔξανεν

Post by Alex Hopkins » July 25th, 2012, 7:08 am

Hi Stephen,

I noticed in a recent reading of Fanning that he refers to this verse at several points (pages 19, 76, 187, and 249).
Fanning, p76, wrote:In main clauses the contrast of aorist and imperfect often reflects (alongside other differences) this pattern of temporal ordering: aorists denoting events in sequence one after another, with imperfects inserted here and there to relate events which occurred concurrently with the aorists. A brief example of this in the NT is 1 Cor. 3:6 ἐγὼ ἐφύτευσα, Ἀπολλῶς ἐπότισεν, ἀλλὰ ὁ θεὸς ηὔξανεν. In over-translated form this is 'I planted, then Apollos watered, but all the while God was causing the growth.'
Fanning, p248, in a section headed 'Customary or iterative imperfect, wrote:The second type of contrast between customary imperfect and aorist is the difference of foreground events vs. background circumstances. Here the imperfect usually occurs singly in a series of aorists, and it relates parenthetical or explanatory information supplementing the main narrative given by the aorists.
[Fanning cites 1 Cor 3:6 on page 249 in his list of verses supportive of his point.]

Some while back (http://lists.ibiblio.org/pipermail/b-gr ... 23980.html) I referred to what I called the 'layering' effect of the imperfect where concurrence of action is in play; this is similar to the first of Fanning's points cited, which seems to me to explain adequately the choice of the imperfect in this verse.

Regards,

Alex Hopkins
Melbourne, Australia
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Stephen Carlson
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Re: Force of the imperfect in 1 Cor 3:6 ηὔξανεν

Post by Stephen Carlson » July 25th, 2012, 7:25 am

Thanks for that. It is pretty helpful. I'll just note that Robertson has a somewhat different view:
Robertson p.838 wrote:Where the aorist and the imperfect occur side by side, it is to be assumed that the change is made on purpose and the difference in idea to be sought. In juxtaposition the aorist lifts the curtain and the imperfect continues the play.
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Stephen C. Carlson, Ph.D.
Melbourne, Australia

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