WStroupe wrote:Thank you for weighing-in on this subject, Dr. Carlson - your insights are very much appreciated.
Thanks for your reply. (Feel free to call me Stephen or Στέφανος on this forum.)
WStroupe wrote:I remember from somewhere the advice, "Don't over-Greek the Greek", or something to that effect. I want to follow that good advice and not read more into the Greek than is justified. I think your insights help me to stay within proper bounds in that regard.
Yeah, I'm getting the feeling that there is a bit of a theological undercurrent in your response. This forum focuses on the meaning of the Greek text rather than it's theology, to the extent that this distinction is practicable.
WStroupe wrote:It is very helpful to understand, with your assistance here, the fact that in the use of the aorist participle ἐλθών, primary emphasis is being placed upon the end result (the finding that the slave was staying awake and working faithfully) rather than upon the process of achieving that finding, or upon simply the coming of the master in itself. This does fit with the surrounding context of Matt. 24:46 in that the aim or goal of settling accounts with all, both righteous and otherwise, and the results of the Lord's findings in that regard, is what is given quite a lot of attention.
In other contexts whereἜΡΧΟΜΑΙ is used, not its participle, the "coming" itself appears to be treated as of primary importance - because the coming itself results almost immediately in profound and dramatic consequences, according to the surrounding context - Matt. 24:30 is an example I would point to in this respect.
For this meaning, the key here is the aspect
, as shon in its verb stem, not the finiteness
of the verb form (participle or indicative form). The situation type (Aktionsart
) of this verb is an accomplishment: there's some activity progressively leading up to an inherently defined culmination point. The use of the aorist stem selects the realization of the culmination point, while the use of the present stem selects the activity (i.e. the going or even the planning for it) leading up to it. So the fact that ἐλθών is a participle has nothing to do with what part of the meaning of the verb is more important.
WStroupe wrote:Please, allow me to posit a supposition here with regard to what I perceive to be the most important unique shades of meaning of the aorist participle ἐλθών and the verb ἜΡΧΟΜΑΙ as illustrated at Matt. 24:46 and 25:31, and then at Matt. 24:30, and please critique me on this:
I would say that where the aorist participle is used, the "coming" is merely the prerequisite event - it must occur, of course, but it introduces a period of "finding" or of evaluation of persons. The Greek grammar thus causes us to focus primary attention upon the period subsequent to the "coming", not the "coming" itself. And true to this supposition, the verses immediately after Matt. 24:46 and after Matt. 25:31 grab our attention because they give us details of how persons are evaluated and what decisions or judgments are rendered. This period of evaluation that is begun by the "arrival" of the Lord is a period that evidently lasts for more than a few minutes - please see the first two prophetic illustrations in the 25th chapter of Matthew where Jesus illustrates how he will settle accounts. It appears to take a little time - certainly more than a few minutes, I would say.
However, where the normal form of the verb ἜΡΧΟΜΑΙ is used, the "coming" itself seems to receive primary focus. Matt. 24:30 illustrates this. The "coming" almost immediately results in dramatic consequences for all, both righteous and wicked. No evaluation of persons or decisions or judgments regarding them need be rendered, as is the case at Matt. 25:31, for example. The judgments have already been rendered, and now they merely need to be executed. Thus, the coming itself is, in context, 'the real deal', because it so rapidly results in such profound effects.
If I, as a writer in English, wanted to speak of a situation where a court would suddenly begin to sit, but its proceedings would take a bit of time as decisions were being rendered, then I would say something like, "The defendant will be happy if the court, having arrived, finds him innocent".
However, if I wanted to merely to depict the swift execution of any judgment already rendered by the court, I would write, "The defendant will see the court coming with all its authority and power".
I hope I have made the shades of meaning, which I think I see in the Greek, clear.
Please critique me on this.
I'll try to avoid the theological undertones this part of your response is gesturing towards. If you're interested about the primary emphasis in the clause, you really have to focus on the finite verb
in the relative clause: εὑρήσει. You seem to spend a lot of time worrying about import of the participle when the syntax of the clause is saying that the spotlight is on the finding, not the coming. The participle backgrounds the action and provides some context for understanding what is conveyed by the main verb. So I think it is probably not a good idea to make the critical part of one's exegesis focus on a participle. Almost by definition, participles are less important to the author of the text.
In the parable at hand (not its application to the Final Judgment), how can the master find the slave without already being there? The finding presupposes the coming and it is redundant to mention it. But Matthew says it anyway, even though he doesn't have to, in order to slow down the pace, create some anticipation, and make the finding more dramatic. There's no spotlight on the coming; it belongs on the finding. That's what I think is going on in the text.
Stephen C. Carlson, Ph.D. (Duke)
Post-Doctoral Fellow, Faculty of Theology, Uppsala