John A. Battle, Jr.













                    Submitted in partial fulfillment of requirements

                          for the degree of Doctor of Theology in

                                    Grace Theological Seminary

                                                  May, 1975




  Please report any errors to Ted Hildebrand at:






       Accepted by the Faculty of Grace Theological Seminary

       in partial fulfillment of requirements for the degree

                                Doctor of Theology


                                        Grade A


                               Examining Committee

                                 James L. Boyer

                                    Homer A. Kent

                                    Charles R. Smith






The study of the Greek New Testament is perhaps the most rewarding

and exhilarating task possible. But this study requires exegetical tools.

The syntax of Greek verb tenses stands at the center of accurate exegesis,

and this grammatical tool must be formed and sharpened by inductive study

of New Testament usage.

            It has been this writer's happy task to seek to define more

closely the value of the Greek present indicative verb. He wishes to

thank all those who have assisted in this effort. First of all, thanks

are due to Dr. James L. Boyer, the chairman of the examining committee,

and to its other members, Dr. homer A. Kent, Jr., and Dr. Charles R. Smith,

for their patient and expert advice at several important points. Also,

thanks are due to Dr. John C. Whitcomb, Jr., who directs the Postgraduate

Division of Grace Theological Seminary, for his help and encouragement

throughout the entire program. In addition, this author wishes to express

his gratitude toward several of his colleagues in the faculty of Faith

Theological Seminary who have assisted with their advice, help, and per-

sonal libraries: Dr. A. Franklin Faucette, Dr. Stephen M. Reynolds, Dr.

Sang Chan Lee, and Dr. Richard C. Curry. But the one person who has

helped the most deserves special thanks, the author's wife, Tammie. In

addition to spending many, many hours in difficult work, she has always

been an inspiration and encouragement during this paper's preparation.

Of course, our chief gratitude must be directed to the One who inspired

the New Testament, and of whom it speaks.


            It is this author's hope that this study of the present indicative

will shed more light on the New Testament. Julius R. Mantey has advised,

"I trust in your dissertation you will cite several examples in the New

Testament where the present tense functions remarkably well in exegesis,

so much so that its readers would be deprived of much insight if it were

not used" (personal letter, September 13, 1974). Indeed, if the reader

will more thoroughly appreciate the meaning of the New Testament, this

paper's purpose will be fulfilled.






















                               TABLE OF CONTENTS


PREFACE                                                                                                                  iv

TABLE OF CONTENTS                                                                                           vi

LIST OF TABLES                                                                                                      ix

                               PART I. INTRODUCTION


      I. THE PLACE OF TENSE IN GREEK            

            The Importance of Tense in Exegesis                                                         1

            Common Misunderstanding of Tense                                                         4

            Modern Translation Approach of Eugene A. Nida                                     7

            Complexity of the Present Indicative                                                          16

            Aktionsart and Aspect                                                                                   18

     II. THE PLAN OF ATTACK                                                                                24

            An Inductive Approach                                                                                  24

            Method of Procedure                                                                                   26

            Summary of the Study's Results                                                                  28


            Total Occurrences                                                                                         30

            Present Indicative Frequency                                                                       35

            Doubtful Cases                                                                                              41

            Morphological Note on Movable Nu                                                          42



     I. THE USAGE CATEGORIES                                                                45

            Traditional Usage Classifications                                                                45

            Proposed Classifications                                                                             49

     II. THE PRESENT INDICATIVE IN PRESENT TIME                         53

            Progressive Present                                                                                     53

            The Verb "To Be"                                                                                           56


Chapter                                                                                                                       Page

            The Question of Aoristic Presents                                                             58

            Declarative Present                                                                                       61

            Customary Present                                                                                        63

            Abstract Present                                                                                            68

            Perfective Present                                                                                        75

            The Present in Kingdom Passages                                                   81

            Conclusion for Presents in Present Time                                                   84

     III. THE PRESENT INDICATIVE IN PAST TIME                                85

            Historical Present Frequency                                                                      85

            Synoptic Comparison                                                                                   90

            The Zero Tense Controversy                                                                        107

            Relevant New Testament Data                                                                     117

            Exegesis of the Historical Present                                                             130

            Otter Past Time Usages                                                                                135

            Conclusion                                                                                                     137

     IV. THE PRESENT INDICATIVE IN FUTURE TIME                         138

            Futuristic Present Frequency                                                                       138

            Futuristic Present Vocabulary                                                                     142

            Futuristic Present Aspect                                                                             149

            Futuristic Present Exegesis                                                                         151

            Present for Immediate Future                                                                      154

            Conclusion                                                                                                     157

     V. THE PRESENT INDICATIVE IN RELATIVE TIME                                   159

            Relative Present                                                                                            159

            Indirect Present                                                                                             160


            Present of the Protasis                                                                                 163

            Other Uses with Ei]                                                                                       172

            Present of the Apodosis                                                                               173

            Conclusion                                                                                                     179

                             PART III. CONCLUSION

            The Problem of the Present Indicative                                                        181

            Suggested Solution                                                                                       183

            The Limits of Syntax                                                                                     184




APPENDIX B. TIE MOVABLE NU IN MATTHEW                                             245

APPENDIX C. HISTORICAL PRESENT CONTEXT                                            246

APPENDIX D. PRESENT OF THE PROTASIS                                         252

BIBLIOGRAPHY                                                                                                      256

























                                     LIST OF TABLES

Table                                                                                                                           Page

   1. Present Indicatives per Chapter                                                                        30

   2. Present Indicatives per Book                                                                            34

   3. Present Indicatives per 100 Words                                                                  35

   4. Present Indicatives per 100 Verb Forms                                                         39

   5. Present Indicative Preference by Book                                                           40

   6. Present Indicative Preference by Author                                                         40

   7. Progressive Present Frequency                                                                        55

   8. Declarative Presents                                                                                          61

   9. Customary Presents                                                                                           67

   10. Abstract Presents                                                                                             74

   11. Perfective Present                                                                                           81

   12. Historical Present Frequency                                                                         86

   13. Synoptic Historical Presents                                                                         93

   14. Synoptic Historical Present Figures                                                 104

   15. Historical Present Vocabulary                                                                       119

   16. Historical Present Verb Types                                                                       122

   16A. Verb Type Percentages                                                                                 123

   17. Historical Present Contexts                                                                           126

   18. Historical Present Connections                                                                     127

   19. Futuristic Present Frequency                                                                         138

   20. Futuristic Present Vocabulary                                                                        142

   21. Present for Relative Time                                                                               161




Table                                                                                                                           Page

   22. Protasis Present Frequency                                                                            165

   23. Apodosis Present Frequency                                                             176





























                           PART I. INTRODUCTION


                  I. THE PLACE OF TENSE IN GREEK


            The verb is the center of the sentence. Verbs turn mere phrases

into clauses. They supply the heart, the force of the sentence. Accu-

rate exegesis must begin with the verb.

            The two primary features of verb syntax are mood and tense. This

paper will deal exclusively with the indicative mood. Within that mood

Biblical Greek has at least six tenses: present, imperfect, future,

aorist, perfect, and pluperfect.1  Each of these tenses carries with it

an exegetical background and flavor, implications and associations which

belong to that tense alone.2 The exact force of these tenses is still

highly debated. One of them, the present tense, especially has become

the object of recent inquiry and discussion. This paper shall concen-

trate on that single tense, the present indicative.


                        The Importance of Tense in Exegesis

            The Bible student has a special interest in Greek exegesis. The

New Testament in Greek is God's last direct revelation to His people,

inspired and inerrant. Each word reflects the meaning that God intended.


            1 For the few possible NT examples of the non-periphrastic future

perfect, see A. T. Robertson, A Grammar of the Greek New Testament in the

Light of Historical Research (hereinafter referred to as Grammar; Nashville:

Broadman Press, 1934), pp. 906-07.

            2 Ibid., p. 822: "In the beginning the verb-root was used with

personal suffixes. At first this was enough. Some verbs developed some

tenses, others other tenses, some few all the tenses."


Whatever meaning can be extracted from a passage's syntax will be true,

useful, and profitable (2 Tim. 3:16).

            The exegesis of the tenses stands at the center of such study.

   No element of the Greek language is of more importance to the student

   of the New Testament than the matter of tense. . . . Though it is an

   intricate nd difficult subject, no phase of Greek grammar offers a

   fuller reward. The benefits are to be reaped only when one has invested

   sufficient time and diligence to obtain an insight into the idiomatic

   use of tense in the Greek language and an appreciation of the finer

   distinctions in force.1

This attitude springs from the conviction that the various authors selected

their tenses purposefully.

   It is certainly unsafe, however, to proceed upon any supposition other

   than that he New Testament writer used the tense which would convey

   just the idea he wished to express. This is the rule, and all seeming

   exceptions are to be regarded with doubt.2

While ample provision must be allowed for individual variations of style,

as this paper will demonstrate, it should be assumed that each author em-

ployed tenses in accordance with general usage and propriety.

            Further, traditional grammarians have assumed that each tense had

its own distinct usage and force, and that one could not be switched with

another without changing the flavor or even the meaning of the passage.

One hundred years ago Alexander Buttmann defended the distinct meaning of

each tense:

   In the use of the Tenses the N.T. writers are by no means deficient

   in the requisite skill. Consequently the so-called Enallage Temporum

   or Interchange of Tenses, which was applied by some of the older inter-

   preters of Scripture often and indiscriminately, is to be opposed


            1 H. E. Dana and Julius R. Mantey, A Manual Grammar of the Greek New

Testament (hereinafter referred to as Manual Grammar; New York: The Macmillan Company, 1927). p. 177.

            2 Ibid.


   on behalf of the N.T. language at the outset, and discarded on


A. T. Robertson, with characteristic care and caution and historical aware-

ness, likewise emphasizes the unique aura of each tense:

            The point here is not whether the Greeks used an aorist where we

   in English would use a perfect, but whether Greeks themselves drew no

   distinction between an aorist and a perfect, a present and a future.

   It is not possible to give a categorical answer to this question when

   one recalls the slow development of the Greek tenses and the long his-

   tory of the language. . . . It is a very crude way of speaking to say

   that one tense is used "for" another in Greek. That would only be true

   of ignorant men. In general one may say that in normal Greek when a

   certain tense occurs, that tense was used rather than some other because

   it best expressed the idea of the speaker or writer. Each tense,

   therefore, has its specific idea. That idea is normal and can be

   readily understood. Various modifications arise, due to the verb it-

   self, the context, the imagination of the user of the tense. The result

   is a complex one, for which the tense is not wholly responsible. The

   tenses, therefore, are not loosely interchangeable. Each tense has a

   separate history and presents a distinct idea. That is the starting-


Thus, from the traditional view at least, the study of Greek tenses should

bear rich fruit for Bible students.

   The use of the Tenses is a most important subject for the exegesis of

   the NT. The student cannot learn too soon that the tenses are used

   with absolute accuracy by the NT writers, and he will soon realise

   how much is lost in meaning by inexactness.3

On the other hand, if traditional grammarians have been mistaken, if in

certain situations certain tenses are indeed interchangeable, then should

not the exegete be aware of that fact? In fact, by making artificial and

arbitrary distinctions, would not the interpreter, teacher, or preacher


            1 Buttmann, A Grammar of the New Testament Greek, tr. by J. H. Thayer

(Andover: Warren F. Draper, Publisher, 1873), p. 195.

            2 Robertson, Grammar, pp. 829-30.

            3 James Hope Moulton, A Grammar of New Testament Greek, Vol. I:

Prolegomena (3 d ed.; Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1908), p. 186.


be adding his own ideas to the Scripture and obscuring God's intended

meaning? Thus, in either case, the study of Greek tenses is vital for New

Testament exegesis.

                        Common Misunderstanding of Tense

            Perhaps some of the present difficulties among interpreters can be

traced to earlier neglect of this subject by many Greek grammarians. A

typical example might be the classical scholar Philip Buttmann (not to be

confused with Alexander Buttmann quoted above). He exhibits a remarkably

carefree attitude toward the peculiarities of Greek tenses:

   As the present, the imperfect, the perfect, the pluperfect, and the

   future, agree in the main with the corresponding tenses of other lan-

   guages, it is necessary only to speak briefly of the Aorist and the

   3d Future of the Passive voice.1

F. W. Farrar was convinced that similar delusions plagued the translators

of the venerable Authorized Version; he wrote that "the translators of our

English version have failed more frequently from their partial knowledge

of the force of the tenses than from any other cause."2

            On the other side, many modern writers overstep the rules of syntax,

forcing every occurrence of a particular tense into a supposed semantic

rule. Many examples of such misuse of the present indicative will appear


            1 Philip Buttmann, Greek Grammar for the Use of Schools, tr. by

Edward Everett (2nd ed.; Boston: Cummings, Hilliard, and Company, 1826),

p. 277.

            2 As quoted by Robertson, Grammar, p. 821. Robertson quoted from

the 1876 edition of Farrar's Greek Syntax, p. 123 (see p. lxviii). The

edition to which this writer had access, A Brief Greek Syntax and Hints on

Greek Accidence (New ed.; London: Longmans, Green, and Co., 1868), does not

seem to contain the quotation in the relevant chapter, pp. 110-27. However,

Farrar does criticize various practices, as using the auxiliary verb "have"

for Greek aorist verbs (pp. 118-19), which criticism appears unjustified.


in this paper. And other moods and tenses receive similar arbitrary

classification in the commentaries, in spite of the warnings issued in

standard grammars.

            The present imperative, for example, when used with mh<, often

means "stop doing such-and-such." Yet the pattern is by no means a rule.1

One need not claim that Paul accused Timothy of neglecting his ministerial

gifts (1 Tim. 4:14)!  And yet, surprisingly enough, even such a highly

respected grammarian as Nigel Turner, who wrote the third volume of

Moulton's Grammar himself appears to maintain that the rule is universal.2

The brilliant linguist Eugene A. Nida follows suit.3 One need only consult

the various standard commentaries at such a passage as John 20:17, "Jesus

says unto her, Do not touch me," to observe the confidence with which most

commentators construct the scene--Jesus trying to wrench his feet from the

woman's grasp. Comparatively few commentators4 even mention the alternative

possibility that Mary was about to touch the Lord.

            Along similar lines, many writers misunderstand the impact of the


            1 Moulton, for example, carefully explains the qualifications and

exceptions involved, Prolegomena, pp. 125-26.

            2 Turner, Grammatical Insights into the New Testament (hereinafter

referred to as Insights; Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1965), pp. 29-30. This

is not the only difference that separates the authors of Volumes I and III

of the famous grammar! See E. V. McKnight, "The New Testament and 'Biblical

Greek,'" The Journal of Bible and Religion, XXXIV:l (January, 1966), 36-42,

and Nigel Turner, "The Literary Character of New Testament Greek," New

Testament Studies, 20:2 (January, 1974), 107-14.

            3 Nida, Toward a Science of Translating (Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1964),

pp. 199-200; and God's Word in Man's Language (New York: Harper & Brothers,

Publishers, 1952), pp. 58-59.

            4 As Leon Morris, The Gospel According to John, in The New Inter-

national Commentary on the New Testament, ed. by F. F. Bruce (Grand Rapids:

Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1971), p. 840, n. 38, in spite of his

previous statement, p. 195, n. 65.


aorist tense. Frank Stagg in his instructive article "The Abused Aorist,"1

faults such illustrious names as F. W. Beare, Wilhelm Bousset, R. H.

Charles, Joachim Jeremias, Robert Law, Leon Morris, J. A. Sanders,

Rudolf Schnackenburg, A. N. Wilder, Raymond E. Brown, and C. H. Dodd with

misusing the aorist tense. They apply it, he says, too readily to the

action itself as being punctiliar, rather than to the author's presenta-

tion or view of the action. The correct appreciation of the aorist as

mere "non-determined" is not new. Ernest DeWitt Burton employed it

during the previous century in the field of aorist prohibitions.2  More

recently James L. Boyer has noted that the aorist expresses "simple occur-

rence," not "single occurrence," citing several examples of aorists that

describe durative action which is being conceived of as punctiliar.3

   The aorist is the most colorless, the least distinctive of all the

   tenses in Greek. It is the catch-all tense which was used whenever

   there was no particular reason to emphasize duration or abiding result.4


Hence, to continue in his words, the interpretation of aorists should be

equally broad:

   From the viewpoint of exegesis a safe rule, perhaps slightly exag-

   gerated, might be: When you come to a present, or imperfect, or

   perfect tense, dig into it and squeeze out of it its full signifi-

   cance. But when you come to an aorist tense, translate it as

   simply as possible and forget it.5

And yet respected scholars still "abuse the aorist." Nigel Turner has


            1 Stagg, in the Journal of Biblical Literature, 91:2 (June, 1972),

esp. 222-28.

            2 Burton, Syntax of the Moods and Tenses in New Testament Greek

(hereinafter referred to as Moods and Tenses; 3rd ed.; Edinburgh: T. & T.

Clark, 1898), pp. 75-76.

            3 Boyer, "Semantics in Biblical Interpretation," Grace Journal,

3:2 (Spring, 1962), 32.

            4 Ibid.                                      5 Ibid.


applied his understanding of the aorist to the science of textual cri-

ticism. Admitting that external manuscript evidence favors the inclusion

of "daily" in Luke 9:23, he yet believes that intrinsic "grammatical

evidence" rules it out, since "the addition of 'daily,' which has excel-

lent manuscript authority, is impossible with the aorist imperative, for

it makes the command durative."1 Note the use of that word "impossible."

Should not grammar be derived from the text, and not vice versa?

            While misunderstanding may err on the side of a too stringent

interpretation, it may also err by overlooking subtle but important

shifts in tense. In a very helpful article Julius R. Mantey disputes

with Dr. Henry Cadbury of Harvard, who takes the periphrastic future

perfects in Matthew 16:19 and 18:18 to be equivalent to simple futures.

Mantey compares these passages to the simple perfects of John 20:23 and

demonstrates that the future perfect tense itself provides the key to

these difficult verses.2 The apostles simply will be ratifying in their

official capacity what has already been decided and established in


            A false understanding of the Greek tenses can lead to arbitrary

and misleading exegesis. A correct understanding will throw light and

clarity upon God's true revelation.

                     Modern Translation Approach of Eugene A. Nida

            Central to this study are the issues of translation and


            1 Turner, Insights, p. 31.

            2 Mantey, "Evidence that the Perfect Tense in John 20:23 and

Matthew 16:19 is Mistranslated," The Journal of the Evangelical Theological

Society, 16:3 (Summer, 1973), esp. 129, 136.



interpretation. No modern treatment of tense exegesis can ignore the

presuppositions of recent translation theory. The word "presuppositions"

was chosen purposefully, since many conclusions in this field stem from

admittedly theological premises. Eugene Albert Nida is the best possible

spokesman for the new approach. Born in 1914, he studied at the Univer-

sity of California at Los Angeles and the University of Southern Califor-

nia, and received his Ph.D. from the University of Michigan in 1943.

An ordained Baptist minister, he was honored with D.D. degrees from Phila-

delphia's Eastern Baptist Seminary in 1956 and from Southern California

Baptist Seminary in 1959. Then in 1967 he obtained the earned Th.D.

degree from the University of Munster in West Germany. From 1937 to

1953 he was Professor of Linguistics for the Summer Institute of Lin-

guistics, the University of Oklahoma. Since 1943 he has been the

Secretary of Translations for the American Bible Society. Internation-

ally, he is the Coordinator of Research in Translations for the United

Bible Societies--a post from which he exerts enormous influence over

virtually every new published Bible translation throughout the world.

Also, he provides an excellent focus for discussion since he is a pro-

lific writer. In addition to being associate editor of Practical An-

thropology, he is the author of numerous scholarly articles and of at

least ten books dealing with Bible translation.1


The Essence of the Theory

            The following diagram appears in a recent article by Eugene


            1 Detals in this paragraph are taken from "Nida, Eugene Albert,"

Who's Who in America: 1972-1973 (37th ed.; 2 vols.; Chicago: Marquis

Who's Who, Inc., 1972), II, 2334.



                   S1                M1               R1


                                                              R2     S2             M2            R2



                                                                R3           S3

                            Source Language                         Receptor Language

The top horizontal arrow in the diagram represents the original writing

of a Scriptural portion. The square boxes indicate that the entire

process was carried out in the original language--e.g., Greek.  S1

is the original "source" or author; M1 is the "message," or form of

the writing itself; and R1 is the original "receptor" of the message.

The second horizontal arrow represents a translation of the passage into

another language, the circles indicating the new language--e.g., English.

The translator, R2 S2, fulfills two functions, as the symbols indicate.

He must be first of all a receptor of the message in the original lan-

guage, and then he must become the source of the translated message,

M2, for the receptor, R2, who knows only the second language. The

bottom symbol, R3  S3 represents the critic of the translation--a

person who, even as the translator, must be familiar with both the

original language and that of the translation.

            The modern theory can now symbolically be stated thusly:

                        ( R1= R2 )  >  (M1 = M2 )


            1 The diagram and the following explanation are found in Eugene

A. Nida, "Implications of Contemporary Linguistics for Biblical Scholar-

ship," Journal of Biblical Literature, 91:1 (March, 1972), 87-89.


Similar receptor response outweighs similar message form or content.

Nida indicates with dotted lines the traditional method of judging trans-

lations. The critic looks for literary equivalence between  M1 and M2--

that is, between the two written texts. He expects literal translations

of vocabular and syntax. As much as possible the exact form of the

original is ought in the translation. Such a critic applauds what Nida

calls an "F-E" translation ("Formal-Equivalence" translation), as, for

example, the American Standard Version of 1901.1

            But Nida defends the new method, indicated by the curved arrows.

The critic should compare not the formal equivalence of the texts, but

rather the response produced in the two receptors. The modern reader

should have he same degree of understanding as he reads the translation

as the original Greek readers had in the first Christian centuries. The

modern critic, therefore, will prefer a more free translation, what Nida

calls a "D-E” translation ("Dynamic-Equivalence" translation), as, for

example, the Phillips translation.2 The D-E translation is characterized

by numerous departures from traditional standards. Often words are not

translated literally, but are adapted to different cultural milieus.

Thus "snow" becomes "kapok down"3 and "blood" becomes "death."4 Gram-

matical syntax also often is changed radically; and verb tenses, of

course, need not be slavishly reproduced in a D-E translation.


            1 Nida, Toward a Science of Translating, pp. 186, 192.

            2 Ibid., p. 160.

            3 Ibid., p. 171.

            4 As The New Testament: Today's English Version at Rom. 5:9, "by

his death" ( Gk. e]n t&? ai!mati), sponsored by the American Bible Society

(New York: Pocket Books, 1966).



            Nida attributes the phenomenal rapidity of this change in trans-

lation theory from "literalness" to "content transfer" to five major

developments in recent years:

   (1) the rapidly expanding field of structural linguistics, . . .

   the liberation of translators from the philological presuppositions

   of the preceding generation.

    (2) the application of present-day methods in structural linguistics

   to the special problems of Bible translation by members of the

   Summer Institute of Linguistics, also known as the Wycliffe Bible


    (3) the program of the United Bible Societies, . . . conferences,

   its journal The Bible Translator, helps for translators, and its

   own research and field work.

    (4) the publication since 1955 of Babel, under the auspices of

   UNESCO, a quarterly linguistic journal of contemporary trends.

    (5) machine translation . . . particularly in such places as the

   Academy of Sciences of the USSR in Moscow, Birkbeck College (Univer-

   sity of London), and in the United States at the Massachusetts In-

   stitute of Technology, Harvard University, IBM Research Center in

   Tarrytown, New York, Georgetown University, and the University of

   California at Berkeley.1

There can be no doubt of Nida's favoring the new trend. His strongest

criticism is reserved for such literal translations as the English Re-

vised Version and the American Standard Version--citing a particularly

obscurely worded example, he upbraids the "pernicious effects of the

literal, awkward syntax," and continues, "The words may be English, but

the grammar is not; and the sense is quite lacking."2

Conflict with Traditional Theory

            Deep crevices separate the two approaches. Nida is aware of these.

He mentions two conflicts in translation theory: "(1) literal vs. free


            1 Nida, Toward a Science of Translating, p. 22.

            2 Ibid, pp. 20-21.


translating, and (2) emphasis on form vs. content";1 and also three con-

flicts in theological approach: "(1) inspiration vs. philology, (2)

tradition vs. contemporary authority, and (3) theology vs. grammar."2

While one may object to the choice of terms, it is clear that Nida favors

the second alternative in each case. Both translators and receptors must

fall into one of the two categories. Nida asserts that superior trans-

lators will follow his method:

   F-E translations tend to distort the message more than D-E transla-

   tions, since those persons who produce D-E translations are in

   general more adept in translating, and in order to produce D-E

   renderings they must perceive more fully and satisfactorily the mean-

   ing of the original text.3

Likewise, the more enlightened readers will appreciate the new theory:

   The degree of sophistication of the receptors influences the extent

   to which one can use functional equivalents. In this connection it

   is important to note that so-called primitive peoples, whom we would

   regard as entirely unsophisticated, are usually quite ready to accept

   radical departures in the direction of functional rather than formal

   equivalents. Similarly, highly educated people in the Western world

   will gladly accept such far-reaching alterations. But partially edu-

   cated persons, whether in folk or civilized societies, appear to have

   difficulty with anything but the most literal renderings, for their

   newly acquired respect for "book learning" seems to prejudice them

   against real comprehension and in favor of literalistic obscurantism.

   A little education can be a dangerous thing!4

And lest it be thought that obscurantism is dead, translators and pub-

lishers are warned to proceed with due strategy to overcome the resistance

of the newly literate.

   The introductions of revisions is essentially a matter of education.

   A church that has used a traditional text of the Scriptures for

   several generations will obviously not find immediately acceptable

   a radically different translation, reflecting contemporary insights


            1 Nida, Toward a Science of Translating, p. 22.

            2 Ibid., p. 26.                          3 Ibid., p. 192.

            4 Ibid , p. 172.


into text, exegesis, and lexicon. Rather, it is necessary to prepare

a whole series of such revisions, with definite grades of adjustment

to the theoretical goal. Thus, over a period of some twenty to fifty

years the people may become better prepared to accept what is more

nearly accurate and meaningful.1

            But the heart of the matter is theological. At what point is

"inspiration" applicable, and what aspects of the original should the

translation thus seek to preserve? Nida candidly discusses the problem

in the following definitive paragraph:

            One must recognize, however, that neo-orthodox theology has given

   a new perspective to the doctrine of divine inspiration. For the

   most part, it conceives of inspiration primarily in terms of the re-

   sponse of the receptor, and places less emphasis on what happened to

   the source at the time of writing. An oversimplified statement of

   this new view is reflected in the often quoted expression, "The Scrip-

   tures are inspired because they inspire me." Such a concept of

   inspiration means, however, that attention is inevitably shifted from

   the details of wording in the original to the means by which the same

   message can be effectively communicated to present-day readers.

   Those who espouse the traditional, orthodox view of inspiration quite

   naturally focus attention on the presumed readings of the "autographs."

   The result is that, directly or indirectly, they often tend to favor

   quite close, literal renderings as the best way of preserving the

   inspiration of the writer by the Holy Spirit. On the other hand,

   those who hold the neo-orthodox view, or who have been influenced by

   it, tend to be freer in their translating: as they see it, since the

   original document inspired its readers because it spoke meaningfully

   to them, only an equally meaningful translation can have this same

   power to inspire present-day receptors.2

If the new method were found only among the neo-orthodox, the Bible

student could deal with it easily. Yet, Nida continues by noting the

adherence of many evangelicals as well to the new method:

   It would be quite wrong, however, to assume that all those who

   emphasize fully meaningful translations necessarily hold to a neo-

   orthodox view of inspiration; for those who have combined orthodox

   theology with deep evangelistic or missionary convictions have been

   equally concerned with the need for making translations entirely


            1 Nida, Toward a Science of Translating

            2 Ibid , p. 27.                          3 Ibid.


No one would dispute the essence of Nida's claim. For example, the para-

phrased Living Bible has received immense publicity from evangelist Billy

Graham. The controversy among conservatives concerning such translation

theories will continue to rage until a correct understanding of the place

of syntax in inspiration and exegesis can be ascertained and defended.

May this study contribute to that end.

Some Criticisms of the Modern Theory

            While a full analysis of this conflict deserves a separate treat-

ment, two shortcomings of the modern theory are relevant to this paper.

First, the orthodox doctrine of inspiration does indeed place the vital

point on the written autograph, not the original receptors. Nowhere does

the Bible claim that the R1 of Nida's notation understood the full

import of the revelation. Rather the message, M1, was inspired and

inerrant (cf. Isa. 6:9-10; 2 Pet. 3:16).

            Second while almost all Scripture is lucid, each passage is a

rich mine from which other truth, not immediately apparent, can be

extracted. Using an analogy, an electronic musical synthesizer can pro-

duce a "pure" musical note, which would appear as a simple, perfect curve

on an oscilloscope. A fine violin, playing the same note, will produce

in addition a innumerable variety of overtones or harmonics, which would

cause the curve on the oscilloscope to appear jagged and irregular. The

Bible resembles the violin, not the synthesizer. All one has to do is

read the Scripture proofs listed in any discussion in any standard sys-

tematic theology text to see the point: many verses which are teaching

one main thought also contain subsidiary words, phrases, or clauses which,

when compared to other passages, may imply some doctrine or truth quite


unrelated to that main thought. These are the "harmonics" of the Scrip-

ture. In a "free" translation the main thought is often preserved, or

even emphasized. But in the process many of these "harmonics" are of

necessity lost. In addition, the new wording will often introduce new

subsidiary thoughts which are foreign to both the original message and

the original receptors. And it cannot be argued that the translator can

know what these points are and can thus preserve them in his free trans-

lation. Biblical exegesis is never complete, and no one knows what great

truths still lie hidden in the vocabulary and syntax of Scripture.

            It also should be mentioned that the "orthodox" translator does

not seek "literalistic obscurantism." Rather, he desires to reproduce

the exact meaning of the passage, within the limits of translatability,

into modern speech. But he tries to preserve as much of the passage

intact as possible. He seeks to know the exact force of a present tense,

a dative pronoun, a particular vocabulary term. Each and every item of

the sentence is weighed and analyzed. And as far as is possible, each

part, along with the whole, is reproduced with its nearest equivalent in

the new language. He thus must master thoroughly the Biblical language,

and also the language of the translation. Perhaps, as Tyndale and Luther,

the translator will even enrich and expand the potential and force of

his own language, as he seeks to adapt it to the sublime thoughts of


            Concerning the present indicative tense in particular, this

study was undertaken to see just what that tense does imply in the New

Testament. If the tense was used strictly, it should be translated

strictly. If it was used loosely, it should be translated loosely.


In either case, the resulting translation will be "orthodox."

                  Complexity of the Present Indicative

            At first thought, the present indicative should be the easiest

of the tenses to understand. Normally, it is the first to be learned.1

Yet, perhaps because of its very commonness, its usage patterns bewilder

the investigator who feels at home with consistent and dependable limi-

tations and rules. Some of its perplexing features are here noted under

several heads.

Linguistic Questions

            The linguistic status of the present indicative in both classical

and koine Greek is now a live issue. Older traditional grammar claims

the indicative mood establishes the tenses as specifically defining time,

allowing several categories of special usage exceptions. Most modern

grammarians claim that the type of action, Aktionsart, or view of action,

"aspect," is more important even in the indicative. Some even believe

the present indicative to be a "zero" tense, after the analogy of early

Indo-European languages, which in many contexts is a simple substitute

for the prevailing tense of the passage.

Translation Questions

            In the more practical sphere, Bible translators must grapple with

all the kinds of present indicatives, including perfective, historical,

and futuristic usages. Should the translator reproduce the present

tense, or should he use the appropriate past or future tense?


            1 E.g.,  J. Gresham Machen, New Testament Greek for Beginners (New

York: The Macmillan Company, 1923), pp. 20-22.


Translations differ: some keep the present (as in Mark 10:1, KJV and ASV,

“cometh”); some change the tense to suit the context (RSV and NIV, "went,"

also NEB, "came"); the New American Standard Version compromises by

using a cumbersome punctuation system ("*went"). Which method best

conveys the meaning of the Greek text?

Literary Questions

            The use of the historical present also figures largely in the

question of Synoptic origins. The descending percentage uses from Mark

to Matthew to Luke often are used as arguments to sustain the theory of

Markan priority. A careful comparison of present indicative usage in the

Synoptic Gospels should help to shed light on this question.

Exegetical Questions

            The extremely frequent occurrence of the present indicative

results in its inclusion in many important historical, prophetical, and

doctrinal passages. At times the meaning of the passage itself depends

on the understanding of the verb's tense and mood usage. Some demand

a time interpretation (John 3:36, "He that believeth on the Son hath

everlasting life"; 8:58, "Before Abraham was, I am"); others must be

interpreted in terms of aspect (Hebrews 7:3, "abideth a priest continu-

ally"; 1 John 3:6, "whosoever abideth in him sinneth not"). In some

passages a possible futuristic use introduces various possible interpre-

tations (John 18:36, "My kingdom is not of this world").

            Another exegetical question concerns the use of the present

indicative in various classes of conditional sentences. There are two

variables: the degree of certainty or uncertainty indicated by various


Biblical authors in these constructions, and the time element, if any,

impliedjn the condition.

                                 Aktionsart and Aspect

            When one thinks of "tense," he automatically relates the word

to time: past, present, or future. Yet in Greek, careful study reveals

that tense often performs a double function.

   Every tense has generally speaking a double function to perform, at

   least in the indicative: it expresses at once an action (continuance,

   completion, continuance in completion), and a time-relation (present,

   past, future), and the latter absolutely, i.e. with reference to the

   stand-point of the speaker or narrator, not relatively, i.e. with

   reference to something else which occurs in the speech or narrative.1

This double function is most apparent in the indicative, but even in that

mood the time element is secondary.

The time of the action of the verb is often left to be inferred from

the content, and cannot always be certainly told from the form of

the verb. This is almost invariably the case with the moods other

than the indicative, and is sometimes the case in the Indicative mood


            The non-time feature of Greek tenses perplexed grammarians for

many years. Occasionally a scholar with above average insight would

fleetingly touch the nerve, as B. L. Gildersleeve, when he mused, "Moods

are temporal, tenses are modal.”3  Many older grammars neglect the


            1 Friedrich Blass, Grammar of New Testament Greek, tr. by Henry

St. John Thackeray (2nd ed.; London: Macmillan and Co., Limited, 1905),

p. 187.

            2 H. P. V. Nunn, A Short Syntax of New Testament Greek (5th ed.;

Cambridge: The Cambridge University Press, 1938), p. 66.

            3 Basil Lanneau Gildersleeve, Problems in Greek Syntax (Baltimore:

The Johns Hopkins Press, 1903), D. 127; this book is a reprint of articles

from the American Journal of Philology, XXIII (1902), of which he was the

editor (p. 3)


subject altogether in discussions of the indicative.1  Although the ori-

ginal edition of Goodwin omits the subject, the revision by Charles B.

Gulick remedies the deficiency. Gulick notes in his preface,

   Goodwin was a master in his own field of moods and tenses, and his

   exact knowledge combined with common sense produced a lucidity of

   statement that could hardly be improved. . . . I have tried to empha-

   size more distinctly the "character of the action."2

And in the appropriate section Gulick inserts his own understanding of

the dual nature of Greek verb tense:

   The tenses may express two relations. They may designate the time

   of an action . . . and also its character. .   . The character of an

   action appears in all the moods and in the infinitive and participle;

   the relation of time appears always in the indicative, and to a cer-

   tain extent in some dependent moods and in the participle.3

            This new understanding of tense significance sprang from the inves-

tigations in Germany of semantic scholars at about the turn of the century.

It was James Hope Moulton who first popularized the terms "linear" and

"punctiliar" in English New Testament Greek studies in his first edition

of his Prolegomena in 1906.4 At this stage the German word Aktionsart

("kind of act-on") became a standard designation in English as well:

   Our first subject under the Verb will be one which has not yet achieved

   an entrance into the grammars. For the last few years the compara-

   tive philologists--mostly in Germany--have been busily investigating


            1 William W. Goodwin, A Greek Grammar (Rev. ed.; Boston: Ginn &

Company, 1879), pp. 246-56; and George Benedict Winer, A Grammar of the

Idiom of the New Testament (hereinafter referred to as Idiom), rev. by

Gottlieb Lunemann, tr. from the 7th Ger. ed. by J. Henry Thayer (Rev. ed.;

Andover: Warren F. Draper, 1874), pp. 264-81.

            2 William Watson Goodwin, Greek Grammar, rev, by Charles Burton

Gulick (Boston: Ginn and Company, 1930), p. iv.

            3 Ibid , p. 266.

            4 C. F D. Moule, An Idiom Book of New Testament Greek (hereinafter

referred to as Idiom Book; Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1953),

p. 5.


   the problems of Aktionsart, or the "kind of action" denoted by dif-

   ferent verbal formations.1

The term now is thoroughly entrenched. "Tenses in Greek indicate the

kind of action, rather than the time of the action. Hence grammarians

in Germany coined this technical term, which has now become universally


            Grammarians have discerned three major types of action in Greek.

   The three essential kinds of action are thus momentary or punctiliar

   when the action is regarded as a whole and may be represented by a

   dot (•), linear or durative action which may be represented by a

   continuous line (----), the continuance of perfected or completed

   action which may be represented by this graph   (*------).3

Eugene Nida, using the alternative term "aspect," to be defined later,

notes six possible categories in Indo-European languages.

            Aspect, which defines the nature of the action, is a much more

   frequently used grammatical category than tense. Even within the

   Indo-European languages it was at one time more significant than at

   present. As a description of the kind of action involved in the verb,

   aspect serves to differentiate a number of contrasts, of which some

   of the most common are: (1) complete vs. incomplete, (2) punctiliar

   vs. continuous, (3) single (or simulfactive) vs. repetitive, (4)

   increasing vs. decreasing, (5) beginning vs. ending, and (6) single

   vs. habitual or customary.4

            According to these grammarians, in the earliest stages of Greek

the stem of the verb indicated its Aktionsart, as it is called. Later

the verbal prefix and suffix further defined its time or nature.5

Certain durative roots could be made perfective, for example, by the


            1 Moulton, Prolegomena, p. 108.

            2 Turner, Insights, D. 24.

            3 Robertson, Grammar, p. 823.

            4 Nida, Toward a Science of Translating, p. 199.

            5 Moule, Idiom Book, p. 6.


addition of prefixed prepositions.1 Classical Greek also sought to

maintain Aktionsart distinctions within the future tense.2 In any case,

time distinctions in verbs developed later.

   It may be more of a surprise to be told that in our own family of

   languages Tense is proved by scientific inquiry to be relatively a

   late invention, so much so that the elementary distinction between

   Past and Present had only been developed to a rudimentary extent

   when the various branches of the family separated so that they ceased

   to be mutually intelligible.3

            Ideally, assuming three types of action and three sorts of time,

the language could have developed nine tenses. However, language being

a human creation, it hardly develops along theoretically, mechanically

precise lines.

   A completer system of Tenses would include the nine produced by

   expressing continuous, momentary, and completed action in past,

   present, and future time. English can express all these, and more,

   but Greek is defective.4

            Unfortunately, terms and titles often fail to indicate precisely

the concept involved. Such is the case with the term Aktionsart. When

one hears "kind of action," he easily falls into a trap. The next logical

deduction is that the verbal tense can define the sort of action which

occurs in reality. Nigel Turner, as shown earlier, tends to follow this

lead. This theoretical basis appears clearly in this statement:

   Examining carefully the kind of action . . . grammarians have analysed

   it as either Durative (lasting) or iterative (repeating) in all moods

   of the present tense. The Aktionsart of the present must be clearly


            1 Moulton, Prolegomena, pp. 111-13.

            2 Blass, Grammar, pp. 36-37.

            3 Robertson, Grammar, D. 108.

            4 James Hope Moulton, An Introduction to the Study of New Testa-

ment Greek (hereinafter referred to as New Testament Greek; 4th ed.;

London: The Epworth Press, 1914), p. 191.


   distinguished from that of the aorist, which is not durative or

   iterative) and expresses no more than one specific instance of the

   action of the verb, involving usually a single moment of time.1

Even when distinguishing Aktionsart from the corrected term, "aspect,"

he mixes his definition:

   Essentially the tense in Greek expresses the kind of action, not

   time, which the speaker has in view and the state of the subject, or

   as the Germans say, the Aspekt. In short, the tense-stems indicate

   the point of view from which the action or state is regarded.2

While properly noting the "point of view from which the action or state

is regarded," he defines "aspect" as "the state of the subject," which

definition clouds the issue. A clearer definition of the two terms is

this: "The original function of the so-called tense stems of the verb in

Indo-European languages was not that of levels of time (present, past,

future) but that of Aktionsarten (kinds of action) or aspects (points of

view)."3 Note there the contrasting emphases in the terms Aktionsart and

            1 Turner, Insights, p. 29.

            2 Nigel Turner, A Grammar of New Testament Greek, Vol. III: Syntax

(Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1963), p. 59.

            3 F. Blass and A. Debrunner, A Greek Grammar of the New Testament

and Other Early Christian Literature (hereinafter referred to as BDF), tr.

and rev. from the 9th-10th Ger. ed. by Robert W. Funk (Chicago: Univer-

sity of Chicago Press, 1961), p. 116. Here is a good opportunity to com-

pare two English editions of Blass's Grammar: Thayer's translation of

Blass, and Funk's translation of Blass-Debrunner. The former is very

readable and lucid, and provides an invaluable help to understanding the

latter work, with its large mass of detail and extreme abbreviation, which

render it hardly discernable to most Greek students. In Thackeray's

"Preface to the English Edition," written in 1905, he compares Blass's

grammar to that of Winer: "The books to which the author expresses his

obligations are the grammars of Winer and Buttmann, Jos. Viteau, and Bur-

ton. The first-named of these works having grown to such voluminous

proportions, the present grammar, written in a smaller compass, may,

the author hopes, find a place beside it for such persons as maintain

the opinion me<ga bibli<on me<ga kako<n." Indeed, there has been an ironic

turn of events. Imagine how dismayed Thackeray would be, were he to

discover that Blass's latest edition has far surpassed even the me<geqoj

of Winer!


"aspect." Aktionsart draws one's attention to the event itself; "aspect"

more properly emphasizes the vantage point of the author.

   This label (Aktionsart) has since become well known among New Testa-

   ment grammarians, but it is possible that its significance is less

   well understood. In common with most English-speaking classical

   scholars, I prefer to use another label, "aspect," for what is refer-

   red to is not the kind of action, but the way in which the writer

   or speaker regards the action in its context--as a whole act, as a

   process, or as a state.1

To avoid the confusion inherent in the term Aktionsart, many Greek scholars

now prefer the term "aspect" as designating the chief meaning of the ten-

ses. For example, Maximilian Zerwick consistently prefers "aspect" to

the term "tense" in his grammar, and does not use the term Aktionsart.2

The new term provides an accurate insight into the syntactical data.

The aorist tense can describe durative action; the present can describe

punctiliar action; both tenses can describe perfected action. As W. D.

Chamberlain has put it, "Remember that the same act may be looked at

from any of these three viewpoints."3

            The aspect of the present indicative will be seen to be complex,

since the aspect is influenced also by the verbal root and by the his-

torical evolution of present tense usage. However, a correct understand-

ing of the concept of aspect itself will enable one to profit most greatly

in any inductive study of the data.


            1 K. L. McKay, "Syntax in Exegesis," Tyndale Bulletin, 23 (1972),


            2 Zerwick, Biblical Greek Illustrated by Examples (hereinafter re-

ferred to as Biblical Greek), tr. from the 4th Lat. ed. by Joseph P. Smith

(Rome: Scripta Pontificii Instituti Biblici, 1963), e.g., pp. 77-78.

            3 William Douglas Chamberlain, An Exegetical Grammar of the Greek

New Testament (New York: The Macmillan Company, 1941), p. 67.




                            II. THE PLAN OF ATTACK


                                An Inductive Approach


            The most valuable data for the study of any Greek point of syntax

in the New Testament is found in the Biblical text itself. Especially

when the occurrences are frequent, the knowledge of New Testament usage

provides the best guide--whether in lexicography or in syntax.

            The opposite method seeks absolute grammatical rules first, and

then seeks to impose these rules on every Biblical example. An outstand-

ing example of the extremes to which this method can lead was cited

earlier1--Nigel Turner's attempt to impose an inferior reading on the

text because of supposed "grammatical evidence."

            The method of this paper is inductive. The primary material shall

be the New Testament examples.2 With over five thousand occurrences of

the present indicative in the New Testament, the material is more than

ample to form valid conclusions. And these conclusions, in turn, should

provide the most relevant guidelines to the exegesis of the present


            1 See above, p. 7.

            2 The superiority of the inductive method in grammatical research

does not necessarily imply the superiority of that method in teaching a

new language to beginners. For an interesting conflict of viewpoints,

compare Basil Lanneau Gildersleeve, Hellas and Hesperia, or the Vitality

of Greek Studies in America (New York: Henry Holt and Company, 1909), pp.

29-30, who offers an amusing yet stringent criticism of inductive teaching

methods, with William Sanford LaSor, Handbook of New Testament Greek: An

Inductive Approach Based on the Greek Text of Acts (2 vols.; Grand

Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1973), I, vii-ix. LaSor's

text, in fact, outlines a one year Greek course for beginners, using the

inductive approach.



   The best preparation for proper Biblical exegesis, particularly in

   matters of semantics, the meaning of words, including both lexical

   and grammatical study, is the widest possible experience with and

   constant practice in the use of the original languages. One dare not

   look up a word in the analytical lexicon, discover it is a verb in

   the aorist tense, turn to the aorist tense section of Dana and Mantey,

   then say, "The original Greek says so and so."1

            Previous investigations have failed to treat the New Testament

verb exhaustively. Normally, each writer will list a particular usage

category and will offer three to six examples for each. Comparing the

grammars, one notices that the examples are nearly always the same, lead-

ing one to suspect that they merely have been handed down and received

from one generation to the next without independent investigation. For

example, Zerwick's discussion of concessive clauses2 cites, with one ad-

dition, a long list of illustrative references--which are identical, even

in their order, with an earlier list compiled by Burton.3 In addition,

the failure to be exhaustive often has resulted in an unbalanced cate-

gorization. For example, the so-called "conative present" is catalogued

in nearly every grammar as a major category. Yet an inductive search

reveals fewer than five New Testament examples, each of which would fall

more logically into another category with nearly fifty examples. An-

other drawback of previous investigations has been the retention of the

older categories, even after the developments in the field of verbal

aspect. Statements like this one by Chamberlain--"Those futuristic

presents are usually aoristic"--appear with regularity, but without


            1 Boyer, "Semantics in Biblical Interpretation," p. 33.

            2 Zerwick, Biblical Greek, p. 102.

            3 Burton, Moods and Tenses, pp. 112-13.



proof.1 Also, recent studies in comparative linguistics, including the

"zero tense" hypothesis, have raised serious questions regarding the in-

terpretation and force of the present tense when used for non-present

time; and these questions have yet to be faced by Biblical scholars.

Finally, an exhaustive, inductive study brings to light many thoughts and

suggestive examples which lead to the formation of newer, more relevant


                                      Method of Procedure

            Since every inductive study must begin with a full collection of

data, the first step was to locate and record every present indicative

verb in the New Testament. This was no small task. The search began with

a careful reading of the Greek New Testament, underlining every occurrence

of a present indicative verb form. Each of these was written on a sepa-

rate file card with the reference. The text used was the United Bible

Societies' Greek New Testament, second edition.2  In order to check the

list for omissions, it was compared with Nathan E. Han's A Parsing Guide

to the Greek New Testament (Scottdale, Pennsylvania: Herald Press, 1971).

This work lists and parses most of the verb forms verse by verse through-

out the New Testament. While Han's list is based on the twenty-fifth

edition of the Nestle-Aland Greek text (p. vii), it still provides an

effective check, since the two texts normally are quite similar. However,

Han's list is not complete. It omits repeated verb forms which have been

listed already within the previous several verses, and it omits many


            1 Chamberlain, An Exegetical Grammar of the Greek New Testament,

p. 71.

            2 Ed. by Kurt Aland, Matthew Black, Carlo M. Martini, Bruce M. Metz-

ger, and Allen Wikgren (2nd ed.; New York: United Bible Societies, 1968).



first person singular forms. In addition, it contains several omissions

and numerous errors.1 Hence it has been necessary to correct the original

data from time to time--adding overlooked examples, and deleting misread

ones. The final result is listed in Appendix A. It is believed this

list is complete. If anyone should find a missed example, the author

would appreciate the information.

            The second step was perhaps the most demanding of all. The over

five thousand verb cards were repeatedly analyzed and distributed among

various exegetical or syntactical categories. These categories often

shifted as the study progressed, with resulting mergers, divisions, ex-

pansions, and multiplications. Some verbs, like people, just seem to

dislike fitting in with the others, no matter how the arrangements are

made. Finally, however, the basic lines began to form and solidify, re-

sulting in the categories presented in Part II.

            The third step involved a detailed study of each category. The

lines of study were determined by the nature of the category, the exege-

tically significant issues involved, and the variety of the Biblical

examples. In each case there is at least an effort to state a conclusion

regarding any controversy concerning the particular category (e.g., the

aspect of "punctiliar presents," the zero tense concept for historical or


            1 E.g. proseu<xesqe in Mt. 5:44 and 6:9 is parsed as an indicative,

as is mh> gi<nesqe in 6:16; Mt. 16:8 and Mk. 8:17 dialogi<zesqe is listed as

imperfect; the three dative participles penqou?si, klai<ousin, and peripa-

tou?sin in Mk. 16:10, 12, are parsed as indicatives, whereas the indicative

pra<ssousi in Acts 17:17 is parsed as a dative participle. These mistakes

are typical of many others--e.g., the verb "ye sin against Christ" in 1 Cor.

8:12 is parsed as either indicative or imperative! Yet a work of this much

detail, especially in its first edition, must necessarily contain many

typographical and editorial errors which will undoubtedly be corrected

subsequently. In spite of these, it represents a major accomplishment,

and a welcome balm to Greek students everywhere.


futuristic presents, or the precise force of simple conditional presents).

            The final step was to compare the results of the study with tra-

ditional and contemporary literature about the Greek present indicative.

The wide divergencies in this literature make it impossible to analyze

it as a block.  Rather, it appears that various authors seem to explain

the data better at various points, and are less adequate elsewhere. As

a result; the literature must be considered in the discussion of each

category rather than as a unit at the end. Likewise, various Bible verses

or passages will be discussed in the chapter dealing with the appropriate


                         Summary of the Study's Results

            It is the conclusion of this author that most previous definitions

of the exact nature and force of the present indicative are inadequate.

The tense can describe action in any time--past, present, or future; and

it can describe action of any kind--durative, punctiliar, or perfective.

In short, time and Aktionsart are both inadequate concepts to define the

present tense.

            Concerning the modern zero-tense claim, it is concluded that the

concept is valid for certain roots and certain authors. But it is be-

lieved that in portions of Mark's and John's writings the historical pre-

sent is a vivid, narrative form, and that in Revelation many futuristic

presents are likewise vivid.

            Concerning the tense's use in conditions, it is concluded that

a present indicative protasis implies nothing as to the truth of the

protasis; but, rather, that it establishes the subject as a question

of fact.


            Finally, concerning the aspect of the present indicative, it is

conclusions that the tense has--except in zero usages--a legitimate aspect.

It normally signifies a durative and/or present time aspect. The aspect

is not related to the type of action, but to the force and attention

with which the author perceives and relates it.






                                       Total Occurrences

            The present indicative occurs with consistently high regularity.

As A. T. Robertson has put it, "The present indicative, from the nature

of the case, is the most frequent in actual usage and hence shows the

greatest diversity of development."1 This author counted over five

thousand present indicatives in the New Testament. The count includes

the verb oi#da, which has "come to be used as a practical durative pre-

sent,"2 in spite of its perfect form.3 The following table shows the

number of present indicatives counted in each chapter of the New Testa-



                                              TABLE 1


                        chapter occurrences                                      chapter occurrences

Matthew         1                      2                      Matthew         15                    34

                        2                      8                                              16                    26

                        3                      17                                            17                    21

                        4                      11                                            18                    26

                        5                      40                                            19                    27

                        6                      42                                            20                    28

                        7                      21                                            21                    30

                        8                      22                                            22                    31

                        9                      33                                            23                    44

                        10                    21                                            24                    27

                        11                    32                                            25                    12

                        12                    43                                            26                    63

                        13                    59                                            27                    29

                        14                    13                                            28                    6


            1 Robertson, Grammar, p. 350.                   2 Ibid., p. 881.

            3 In the same category is e@oiken in James 1:6, 23.


TABLE 1--Continued

                  chapter   occurrences                                   chapter         occurrences

Matthew                total        768                                          John                       3                              57

                                                                                                                                4                              69

Mark                       1              20                                                                            5                              65

                                2              40                                                                            6                              67

                                3              28                                                                            7                              66

                                4              49                                                                            8                              101

                                5              28                                                                            9                              59

                                6              23                                                                            10                            71

                                7              39                                                                            11                            45

                                8              38                                                                            12                            38

                                9              43                                                                            13                            62

                                10            44                                                                            14                            56

                                11            31                                                                            15                            31

                                12            36                                                                            16                            48

                                13            18                                                                            17                            21

                                14            61                                                                            18                            41

                                15            24                                                                            19                            32

                                16            7                                                                              20                            36

                                total        529                                                                          21                            54

                                                                                                                                total                        1,083


                                1              8

                                2              6                                                              Acts       1                              5

                                3              10                                                                            2                              19

                                4              12                                                                            3                              11

                                5              24                                                                            4                              10

                                6              41                                                                            5                              7

                                7              46                                                                            6                              2

                                8              32                                                                            7                              16

                                9              31                                                                            8                              14

                                10            23                                                                            9                              16

                                11            54                                                                            10                            27

                                12            61                                                                            11                            --

                                13            30                                                                            12                            6

                                14            24                                                                            13                            16

                                15            22                                                                            14                            4

                                16            29                                                                            15                            10

                                17            16                                                                            16                            11

                                18            27                                                                            17                            21

                                19            22                                                                            18                            5

                                20            32                                                                            19                            19

                                21            10                                                                            20                            15

                                22            37                                                                            21                            22

                                23            20                                                                            22                            16

                                24            19                                                                            23                            21

                                total        636                                                                          24                            13

John                                                                                                                       25                            19

                                1              50                                                                            26                            30

                                2              14                                                                            27                            11


                                    TABLE 1--Continued

                        chapter               occurrences                                              chapter              occurrences

Acts                       28                            7                              2 Corinthians        10                            13                           

                                total                        379                                                          11                            40

Romans                                                                                                                  12                            27

                                1                              20                                                            13                            18

                                2                              28                                                            total                        216

                                3                              22

                                4                              12                            Galatians                1                              13

                                5                              9                                                              2                              15

                                6                              15                                                            3                              25

                                7                              34                                                            4                              30

                                8                              43                                                            5                              22

                                9                              19                                                            6                              10

                                10                            21                                                            total                        115

                                11                            18

                                12                            7                              Ephesians              1                              5

                                13                            10                                                            2                              9

                                14                            30                                                            3                              8

                                15                            12                                                            4                              11

                                16                            14                                                            5                              22

                                total                        314                                                          6                              9

                                                                                                                                total                        64

1 Corinthians        1                              16

                                2                              12                            Philippians            1                              17

                                3                              30                                                            2                              12           

                                4                              24                                                            3                              13

                                5                              6                                                              4                              16

                                6                              31                                                            total                        58

                                7                              49

                                8                              17                            Colossians            1                              17

                                9                              40                                                            2                              14

                                10                            38                                                            3                              8

                                11                            39                                                            4                              9

                                12                            39                                                            total                        48

                                13                            23

                                14                            45                            1 Thessalonians   1                              3

                                15                            56                                                            2                              11

                                16                            13                                                            3                              9

                                total                        478                                                          4                              14

                                                                                                                                5                              13

2 Corinthians        1                              20                                                            total                        50

                                2                              10

                                3                              16                            2 Thessalonians   1                              7

                                4                              14                                                            2                              8

                                5                              20                                                            3                              14

                                6                              9                                                              total                        29

                                7                              11

                                8                              10                            1 Timothy              1                              11

                                9                              8                                                              2                              7


                                     TABLE 1—Continued


                         chapter                occurrences                                            chapter               occurrences

1 Timothy              3                              10                           2 Peter                    1                              10

                                4                              8                                                              2                              9

                                5                              14                                                            3                              15

                                6                              13                                                            total                        34

                                total                        63

                                                                                                1 John                    1                              20

2 Timothy              1                              12                                                            2                              55

                                2                              15                                                            3                              42

                                3                              3                                                              4                              45

                                4                              6                                                              5                              46

                                total                        36                                                            total                        208

Titus                       1                              9                              2 John                                                    12

                                2                              1

                                3                              5                              3 John                                                    19

                                total                        15

                                                                                                Jude                                                        13

Philemon                                                11

                                                                                                Revelation             1                              13

Hebrews                                1                              7                                                              2                              46

                                2                              12                                                            3                              35

                                3                              7                                                              4                              6

                                4                              7                                                              5                              6

                                5                              9                                                              6                              5

                                6                              6                                                              7                              6

                                7                              20                                                            8                              1

                                8                              10                                                            9                              11

                                9                              14                                                            10                            4

                                10                            20                                                            11                            15

                                11                            15                                                            12                            6

                                12                            14                                                            13                            12

                                13                            14                                                            14                            12

                                total                        155                                                          15                            1

                                                                                                                                16                            7

James                     1                              18                                                            17                            22

                                2                              25                                                            18                            7

                                3                              22                                                            19                            14

                                4                              32                                                            20                            5

                                5                              9                                                              21                            13

                                total                        106                                                          22                            14

                                                                                                                                total                        261

1 Peter                    1                              8

                                2                              9

                                3                              6

                                4                              10

                                5                              7

                                total                        40


            Before summarizing these results, it might be profitable to note

a single instance of style variation within a single book. Notice that

chapters 2-3 of Revelation each contain many more present indicatives

than any of the other chapters of the book. Of course, these chapters.

the Letters to the Seven Churches, comprise a different literary genre

from the others. Yet both portions come from John's pen. This example

should warn the investigator to refrain from construing differences in

present indicative frequency as evidence for divergent authorship.

            The findings of Table 1 are summarized below:

                                                TABLE 2

                        PRESENT INDICATIVES PER BOOK

book                     occurrences                                  book                   occurrences

Matthew                     768                                         1 Timothy                   63

Mark                           529                                         2 Timothy                   36

Luke                            636                                         Titus                            15

John                            1,083                                      Philemon                    11

Acts                            379                                         Hebrews                     155

Romans                      314                                         James                          106

1 Corinthians             478                                         1 Peter                        40

2 Corinthians             216                                         2 Peter                        34

Galatians                    115                                         1 John                         208

Ephesians                   64                                            2 John                         12

Philippians                 58                                            3 John                         19

Colossians                 48                                            Jude                            13

1 Thessalonians         50                                            Revelation                  261

2 Thessalonians         29                                            total NT                      5,740

With the number of occurrences in hand, one can see that he is working

with a great deal of data. He also begins to feel that the tense is used

differently by the different authors. Both these conclusions are true.

But more data is needed. Total occurrence is not enough; there needs to

be a frequency evaluation for each book and author.


                         Present Indicative Frequency

            Due to the detailed research of Robert Morgenthaler,1 it is pos-

sible to compare the findings recorded above with other relevant statisti-

cal data, and to determine the frequency of the present indicative in each

New Testament book and author. Morgenthaler's Greek text is Nestle's

twenty-first edition;2 but due to the large numbers involved and the basic

similarity of that edition to the text used in this study, his figures

are close enough for the purposes of this study.

Frequency per 100 Words

            Morgenthaler lists a total of 137,490 words in the Greek New

Testament.3 The number of words in each book is listed below, along with

the number of present indicative verbs, and the resulting percentage:

the number of present indicative verbs per one hundred words, to the

nearest hundredth of a percent.

                                                TABLE 3

                        PRESENT INDICATIVES PER 100 WORDS

book                words         P.I. verbs            P.I. verbs/100 words

Matthew         18,305                        768                             4.20

Mark               11,242                        529                             4.71

Luke                19,428                        636                             3.27

John                15,416                        1,083                          7.03

Acts                18,382                        379                             2.06

Romans          7,105              314                             4.42

1 Corinthians 6,811              478                             7.02

2 Corinthians 4,469              216                             4.83

Galatians        2,229              115                             5.16

Ephesians       2,418              64                                2.65

Philippians     1,629              58                                3.56


            1 Statistik des Neutestumentlichen Wortschatzes (hereinafter re-

ferred to as Statistik; Frankfurt am Main: Gotthelf-Verlag Zurich, 1958).

            2 Ibid. p. 9.                             3 Ibid., p. 164.


                               TABLE 3--Continued

     book                       words        P.I. verbs              P.I. verbs/100 words

Colossians                 1,575              48                                3.05

1 Thessalonians         1,475              50                                3.39

2 Thessalonians         821                 29                                3.53

1 Timothy                   1,588              63                                3.97

2 Timothy                   1,236              36                                2.91

Titus                            658                 15                                2.28

Philemon                    33.3                11                                3.28

Hebrews                     4,951              155                             3.13

James                          1,749              106                             6.06

1 Peter                        1,678              40                                2.38

2 Peter                        1,098              34                                3.10

1 John                         2,137              208                             9.73

2 John                         245                 12                                4.90

3 John                         219                 19                                8.68

Jude                            457                 13                                2.84

Revelation                  9,834              261                             2.65


total NT                      137,490          5,740                          4.17

            One notes several interesting phenomena. John's books have the

highest usage, far above the New Testament average of 4.17 present indi-

catives per 100 words. His Gospel and epistles are very high; yet his

Revelation is quite low, with only 2.65 present indicatives per 100 words;

only four books have a lower rating. The nature of the Apocalypse's

content accounts for the difference, as will be seen later.1  Also it is

of interest that Paul's epistles tend to fall into natural groups:

            Eschatological--        1 Thessalonians         3.39

                                                2 Thessalonians         3.53

            Soteriological--         Romans                      4.42

                                                1 Corinthians             7.02

                                                2 Corinthians             4.83

                                                Galatians                    5.16

            Christological--         Ephesians                   2.65


            1 However, the "letter" genre of Rev. 2-3, mentioned earlier, has

a percentage more in line with John's other books. Independent count of

the Nestle-Aland text, 25th ed., shows 1146 words for Rev. 2-3. With 81

present indicatives in the two chapters, the resulting percentage is 7.07

present indicatives per, 100 words, a typical figure for John.


                                                            Philippians     3.56

                                                            Colossians     3.05

                                                            Philemon        3.28

                        Pastoral--                   1 Timothy       3.97

                                                            2 Timothy       2.91

                                                            Titus                2.28

Obviously, the lines are not absolute, but in general there is a pattern.

From the highest percentages downward this order appears: Soteriological

Epistles Eschatological Epistles, Christological Epistles (with Philip-

pians reaching up and Ephesians down), then the Pastoral Epistles (over-

lapping the Christological Epistles).

            While this frequency list is highly instructive, another frequency

base would be even more helpful. Next shall be shown the frequency of

the present indicative as compared with other tenses and moods, including

infinitives d participles. This information will give a better idea of

each author's style and tense preference.

Frequency per 100 Verb Forms

            In order to compute the number of present indicatives per 100

verbs, it was necessary first to determine the total number of verb forms

in each book. The author was unable to locate this information already

published; so it was necessary to add up the occurrences listed under

every verb in a New Testament concordance. The concordance of Jacob Bru-

baker Smith1 would be suited admirably for the project, since each entry

charts the number of occurrences in each book, but his concordance is

based on the Textus Receptus rather than on a later critical text.2 The


            1 J. B. D Smith, ed., Greek-English Concordance to the New Testament

(Scottdale, Pennsylvania: Herald Press, 1955).

            2 Ibid., p. v.


closest work to J. B. Smith's based on a critical text, was found in the

vocabulary list of Robert Morgenthaler.1  Using Nestle's twenty-first

edition, Morgenthaler charts every vocabulary word in the New Testament,

showing how many times it occurs in each book. The one drawback is that

Morgenthaler combines John's epistles into a single entry. Hence, for

John's epistles this author obtained the information from Moulton and

Geden's Greek concordance.2

            In order to ascertain the number of verbs in each book it was

necessary to pick out the verbs from the other vocabulary words, to write

them down ,with the number of occurrences in each book, and to add up the

totals. Morgenthaler's list contains 1,846 verbs. Many occur only one

time in the New Testament; the others range all the way up to the most

common one, ei#nai, which is found in the New Testament 2,450 times.3

In all, the New Testament contains 27,714 verb forms. Table 4 lists the

number of verbs in each book, and the number of present indicatives per

100 verb forms. Notice that this table, while generally agreeing with

the previous one, gives a much more accurate assessment of each book's

preference for the present indicative. For example, Table 3 showed that

the Gospel of John and 1 Corinthians have nearly identical P.I./100 words

frequency. Yet Table 4 shows that Paul in 1 Corinthians actually is much


            1 Morgenthaler, Statistik, pp. 67-157.

            2 W. F. Moulton and A. S. Geden, eds., A Concordance to the Greek

New Testament According to the Texts of Westcott and Hort, Tischendorf

and the English Revisers (2nd ed.; Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1899).

            3 Morgenthaler, Statistik, p. 91. The task of recording these

words and statistics was a strenuous one, involving nearly 48,000 entries

in a difficult chart format. This author wishes to thank his wife,

Tammie, for cheerfully doing this work with exemplary care and precision.


                                       TABLE  4


     book                       P.I. verbs        verb forms                  P.I. verbs/100 verbs

Matthew                     768                 3,948                                      19.45

Mark                           529                 2,612                                      20.25

Luke                            636                 4,388                                      14.49

John                            1,083              3,535                                      30.64

Acts                            379                 3,874                                      9.78

Romans                      314                 1,159                                      27.09

1 Corinthians             478                 1,288                                      37.11

2 Corinthians             216                 758                                         28.50

Galatians                    115                 407                                         28.26

Ephesians                   64                    325                                         19.69

Philippians                 58                    254                                         22.83

Colossians                 48                    234                                         20.51

1 Thessalonians         50                    243                                         20.58

2 Thessalonians         29                    122                                         23.77

1 Timothy                   63                    299                                         21.07

2 Timothy                   36                    224                                         16.07

Titus                            15                    112                                         13.39

Philemon                    11                    44                                            25.00

Hebrews                     155                 916                                         16.92

James                          106                 347                                         30.55

1 Peter                        40                    275                                         14.55

2 Peter                        34                    194                                         17.53

1 John                         208                 436                                         47.71

2 John                         12                    48                                            25.00

3 John                         19                    51                                            37.25

Jude                            13                    84                                            15.48

Revelation                  261                 1,537                                      16.98


            total NT          5,740              27,714                                                20.71


more fond of the tense than John is in his Gospel. The reason for this

variation is that Paul in 1 Corinthians uses all verb forms less frequently

than John, thus having a lower P.I./word rating; but when he does use a

verb form, he favors the present indicative, thus raising the P.I./verb

rating. These findings can be summarized by listing the books in descen-

ding order of preference for the present indicative. This follows in

Table 5, along with the rounded off percentage of present indicative usage,

as opposed to other moods and tenses.


                                        TABLE 5


rank                 book                P.I. usage        rank                 book                P.I. usage

1                      1 John                48%             15                    Colossians     21%

2                      3 John                 37%            16                    Mark               20%

3                      1 Corinthians     37%            17                    Ephesians       20%

4                      John                    31%            18                    Matthew         19%

5                      James                  31%            19                    2 Peter            18%

6                      2 Corinthians     28%            20                    Revelation      17%

7                      Galatians            28%            21                    Hebrews         17%

8                      Romans               27%           22                    2 Timothy       16%

9                      2 John                  25%           23                    Jude                15%

10                    Philemon             25%           24                    1 Peter            15%

11                    2 Thessalonians  24%           25                    Luke                14%

12                    Philippians           23%          26                    Titus                13%

13                    1 Timothy            21%          27                    Acts                10%

14                    1 Thessalonians   21%                                  ________________

                                                                                                NT average     21%

            Finally, with the above information in hand, one can ascertain

each Biblical author's style and preference for the present indicative.

These findings are tabulated below; the authors are arranged in the order

of the amount of their material in the New Testament.

                                              TABLE 6


author             words              verbs               P.I. verbs        %--P.I. verbs/100 verbs

Luke                37,810                        8,262              1,015              12%

Paul (incl.       37,300                        6,385              1,652              26%


Paul (excl.      32,349                        5,469              1,497              27%


John                27,851                        5,607              1,583              28%

Matthew         18,305                        3,948              768                 19%

Mark               11,242                        2,612              529                 20%

Hebrews (if    4,951              916                 155                 17%


Peter               2,776              469                 74                    16%

James              1,749              347                 106                 31%

Jude                457                 84                    13                    15%


total NT          137,490          27,714                        5,740              21%


            Therefore, the authors with above average present indicative

usage, in descending order, are James, John, and Paul, while those below

average are Mark, Matthew, Hebrews (if non-Pauline), Peter, Jude, and


Doubtful Cases

            In a few forms the present indicative is identical to either a

subjunctive or an imperative. Normally the context clearly indicates

which parsing is intended. However, occasionally both are possible with-

in the context.  In these cases the examples are included in this paper's

discussion, bit they are here listed:

Mt. 11:3,        prosdokw?men, ind. or subj. (Burton notes that "all deliber-

            ative questions use either the Subjunctive or the Future Indi-

            cative," Moods and Tenses, p. 77.)

Mt. 24:43,      ginw<skete, ind. or impv.

Mt. 26:45,      kaqeu?dete and a]napau<esqe, ind. or impv., decided by punc-


Lk. 7:19, 20, prosdokw?men, see Mt. 11:3 above

Lk. 12:39,      ginw<skete, ind. or impv.

Jn. 12:19,       qewpei?te, ind. or impv.

Jn. 14:1a,        pisteu<ete, ind. or impv.

Jn. 15:27,       marturei?te, ind. or impv.

Acts 25:24,    qewpei?te, ind. or impv.

1 Cor. 1:26,   ble<pete, ind. or impv.

1 Cor. 6:4,      kaqi<zete, ind. or impv., depends on punctuation

Eph. 5:5,         i@ste, ind. or impv.

1 Th. 2:9,        mnhmoneu<ete, ind. or impv.

1 Pet. 1:6,      a]gallia?sqe, ind. or impv.

1 Jn. 2:27,      me<nete, ind. or impv.

            With the inclusion of this list, the raw data for this study is

complete. Part II will show the division of these occurrences into their

respective categories and will develop the evidence for the conclusions

of this study delineated in Part III.


Morphological Note on Movable Nu

            Students in first year Greek learn the following rule:

    When the -ousi of the third person plural of the verb comes either

    before a vowel or at the end of a sentence, a n, called movable n,

    is added to it. Thus ble<pousin a]posto<louj. Sometimes the movable

    n is added even before a word that begins with a consonant. Thus

    either lu<ousi dou<louj or lu<ousin dou<louj is correct.1

Of course, the movable Nu also appears in the present indicative on the

third person, singular and plural, of non-thematic verbs. The impression

given in Machen's textbook is that seldom--"sometimes . . . even"--the

movable Nu is used when the "rule" does not require it. However, it ap-

pears that the "rule" cited applies more to Byzantine and modern Greek

than to classical or koine Greek. The movable Nu

    is so universal in the forms which admit it at all, that it is only

    necessary to take note of omissions. Modern use, by which n is in-

    serted before vowels only, is known to be wrong even for classical

    writers, and in Hellenistic it is altogether to be set aside.2

Actually, in Hellenistic Greek, it often runs counter to the rule:

    Its particular place . . . is the pause, i.e. the end of a sentence or

    clause. Moreover, from the v BC on the tendency to employ n to avoid

    hiatus, and therefore to comply with the modern rule which stems from

    the Byzantine period, betrays itself in an increasing degree. It is

    very popular in the Hellenistic language, but e.g. in the papyri of

    the Ptolemaic period it is omitted often before vowels and appears

    still more often before consonants. . . . The standard MSS of the NT

    almost always employ it, whether a consonant or vowel follows, or the

    word stands at the end of a sentence.3

Interest in this subject began when it was noticed that in the New Testament

examples of the present indicative, the movable Nu was nearly always present.


            1 Machen, New Testament Greek for Beginners, p. 27.

            2 James Hope Moulton and Wilbert Francis Howard, A Grammar of New

Testament Greek, Vol. II: Accidence and Word-Formation (Edinburgh: T. & T.

Clark, 1929), p. 113.

            3 BDF, p. 12.


In fact, a careful search revealed that in only ten instances was the

final Iota left final:

            Mt. 18:10,      ble<pousi                  Acts 17:7, pra<ssousi

            Mk. 2:4,          xalw?si                     Acts 18:10, e]sti<

            Lk. 16:29,       @Exousi                     Acts 19:38, e@xousi

            Jn. 5:23,         timw?si                      Acts 26:4, i@sasi

            Jn. 10:14,       ginw<skousi             Rev. 9:4, e@xousi

In each of these places the word is followed by a consonant, thus up-

holding the rule; but in one of them, Acts 17:7, the form is followed

immediately by a comma, which, while allowed by Machen's wording, contra-

dicts that of BDF, "Its particular place . . . is the pause, i.e. the end

of a sentence or clause."1 However, these references do support this

further statement in BDF:

    It is omitted here and there (never, however, before a vowel and in

    pause) following e and with e]sti<, somewhat more often after the -si

    of the 3rd pl., most frequently by comparison after the -au of the

    dat. plur.2

            In order to see how often the movable Nu could have been omitted,

according to the rule, compared to the number of times it was omitted,

this author selected at random the book of Matthew. Every potential case

of a present indicative with the movable Nu was located. Then those ex-

amples were eliminated which were followed by a vowel or which were fol-

lowed by any mark of punctuation in the UBS text. All of these occur-

rences, as expected, had the movable Nu. The remaining list, therefore,

consisted solely of examples in which the verb was followed by a consonant

and was not in pause--in other words, cases in which the movable Nu was

not necessary.   In only one case was the Nu missing (Mt. 18:10), but in


            1 BDF, p. 12. It should be noted that the Nestle text, used by

BDF, inserts the Nu in Acts 17:7.

            2 Ibid.


sixty-six cases it was still present. These cases are identified in Ap-

pendix B. As stated by Moulton-Howard, "The irrational addition of -n

may be set beside its irrational omission."1 Hence, an easier rule to

remember, and more accurate, is this one: "The rule of the koine was to

use the n movable irrespective of what followed."2


            1 Moulton and Howard, Accidence and Word-Formation, p. 113.

            2 Dana and Mantey, Manual Grammar, p. 24.





                         I. THE USAGE CATEGORIES


            Before the present indicative can be treated as a whole, it must

be considered in its various exegetical usages separately. This chapter

shall define the categories to be explored in this paper.


                        Traditional Usage Classifications

            Earlier grammarians were aware of the broad use of the present

indicative found in the New Testament. W. H. Simcox, for example, wrestling

with this problem, sought the solution in "foreign influence" and in "the

special requirements of the Scriptural order of thought."1 Subsequently,

A. T. Robertson noted simply,

    All three kinds of action are found in the present (punctiliar,

    durative, perfect). All three kinds of time are also found in the

    present ind. (historical present = past, futuristic present = future,

    the common use for present time), 2

thus adding to the time variations already noted by Simcox the aspect

variations as well.

            The difficulty and complexity of this subject becomes evident as

one examines the various schemes which have been proposed for classifying

the uses of the present indicative. No two systems are the same. How-

ever, in spite of the numerous differences, a few categories are so out-

standing or unique that they appear in virtually every list:


            1 William Henry Simcox, The Language of the New Testament (4th ed.;

London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1906), pp. 98, 101,

            2 Robertson, Grammar, p. 869.


    a) Progressive present, action going on at the same time as the

            speaking or writing

    b) Conative present, attempted action not carried out

    c) Gnomic present, general truth

    d) Iterative present, repeated or customary action

    e) Aoristic present, punctiliar action in present time

    f) Historical present, past action

    g) Futuristic present, future action

    h) Perfective present, past action, with either the action itself or

            its effects continuing into present time

In spite of this general consensus grammarians have never fully agreed.

In fact, none of the grammars consulted in this study had even the nine

categories listed above.

            The classical grammarian H. W. Smyth omits the aoristic category,

and adds two others. He adds another perfective category for continuing

action, and he adds the annalistic present, a present which "registers

historical facts or notes incidents," in addition to the historical pres-


            Another classical scholar, B. L. Gildersleeve, uses categories

similar to these used later by Smyth.2 He calls the progressive present

the specific present, and the gnomic present the universal present. He

includes the classical annalistic present under the head of historical

present.  But he leaves out the iterative as well as the aoristic cate-



            1 Herbert Weir Smyth, A Greek Grammar (New York: American Book

Company, 1916 , pp. 276-78.

            2 Basil Lanneau Gildersleeve and Charles William Emil Miller, Syntax

of Classical Greek from Homer to Demosthenes (hereinafter referred to as

Syntax; 2 vols.; New York: American Book Company, 1900, 1911), I, 81-88.


            Among scholars of Biblical Greek the variation is even greater.

R. T. France, for example, lists only five categories, omitting the gnomic,

iterative, and perfective categories.1 And in his discussion of the aoris-

tic present he shows some confusion.2

            C. F. D. Moule's analysis conforms fairly well to the list above,

except there is no category for the perfective present whose effects con-

tinue into the present. Instead, another category of "present in reported

speech" is introduced.3

            The older grammarian S. G. Green notes only four categories, omit-

ting these categories: conative (his is the only grammar seen to omit this

category), gnomic (unless it be included under "habitual or usual act"),

aoristic, and perfective. The last omitted category is, however, brought

forward in th discussion of the "certain futurity" category.4

            Burton comes closest to the "average" list, with all those listed

and two additional, the periphrastic present (present of ei#nai plus a

present participle) and the present in indirect discourse. In addition,

he divides the perfective present into its two natural parts.5

            A. T. Robertson's scheme is a little harder to follow and compare,

since he analyzes his Aktionsart categories rather than the tenses as

such. Under “aoristic present” he includes the specific or constative


            1 France, "The Exegesis of Greek Tenses in the New Testament,"

Notes on Translation, 46 (December, 1972), pp. 4-5.

            2 Ibid., cf. pp. 6-7.                 3 Moule, Idiom Book, pp. 7-8.

            4 Samuel G. Green, Handbook to the Grammar of the Greek Testament

(Rev. ed.; New York: Fleming H. Revell Company, 1912), pp. 297-98.

            5 Burton, Moods and Tenses, pp. 7-16.


present (as “I say” in the Gospels) along with the gnomic, historical,

and futuristic categories.1 Under "durative action" he includes the ob-

viously progressive examples ("descriptive present"), past continuing ac-

tion ("progrssive present"), and iterative and conative Presents. He

allows some historical and futuristic presents, and adds "deliberative"

and "periphrastic" presents.2 Finally, under "perfected action" he

includes "presents as perfects."3

            Blass gives many examples of each category he lists. However, he

does not include the gnomic, iterative, or perfective categories. He

does add the "relative present," which is similar to the present in indi-

rect discourse, only is limited to verbs of perception and knowledge.4

            One of the few grammars to attach any priority to the categories

is that of Dana and Mantey. Listed under "regular uses of the present"

are the "progressive" and iterative categories. "Progressive" presents

are divided into what has earlier been listed as progressive and perfective

presents. An Dana and Mantey see two types of iterative presents, repe-

titive ("iterative") and habitual ("customary"). Under "special uses of

the present" are listed the aoristic, futuristic, historical, conative

("tendential" , and gnomic ("static") categories.5

            The only writer this author discovered who tried to actually count

the number of usages in each exegetical category was G. Mussies,6 His


            1 Robetson, Grammar, pp. 864-70.             2 Ibid., pp. 970-82.

            3 Ibid. pp. 881, 903.                                                  4 BDF, pp. 167-69.

            5 Dana and Mantey, Manual Grammar, pp. 182-86.

            6 Mussies, The Morphology of Koine Greek as Used in the Apocalypse

of Saint John (hereinafter referred to as Apocalypse; Leiden: E. J. Brill,

1971), p. 333.


categories are sufficiently different from the average that they deserve

a separate listing, along with an example and the number of occurrences

in Revelation:

            1) General present, Rev. 10:3, 6 times

            2) Direct address to the reader, Rev. 16:15, 11 times

            3) Explanatory remarks in visions, Rev. 17:18, 42 times (including

                        13 which should also be listed under #4, but are not counted


            4) Reported speech, mainly Rev. 2-3, 121 times

            5) Historical present, Rev. 19:12, 43 times

            6) Future present, Rev. 14:9, 39 times

While this author would dispute the assignment of several examples to these

categories, the list does demonstrate three things: the unusual grammatical

character of the Apocalypse, the approximate weight of the major categories,

and the difficulty of defining exegetically significant categories.

                                   Proposed Classifications

            The exegetical categories arrived at by this author are here out-

lined, with an example of each usage, and the symbol used for each cate-

gory (as in Appendix A).

            I. Present indicative in present time

                        A.        Progressive present (10), describes action or state of being

                                    going on during the time of speaking or writing.

                                    Mt. 9:4, "Why are you thinking evil things in your hearts?"


                        B.        Declarative present (11), introduces a statement of the

                                    speaker or writer.

                                    Lk. 7:28, “I say to you, . . .”


                        C.        Customary present (12), describes habitual, customary, or

                                    repeated action.


                                    1.         General customary present (121), describes customary

                                                action  without reference to its repetition for any



                                    1 Cor. 1:22, "The Jews seek a sign."

                        2.         Singular iterative present (122), describes action re-

                                    peated by one individual.

                                    Jn. 14:10, "The Father abiding in me does his works."

                        3.         Plural iterative present (123), describes action repeated

                                    by each member of a plural subject.

                                    Lk. 5:33, "The disciples of John fast often."

                        4.         Non-iterative customary present (124), describes customary

                                    action which occurs only once to any individual.

                                    Mt. 11:5, "The blind receive sight."

                        5.         Parabolic customary present (125), describes the expected

                                    action of a typical person in a parable.

                                    Mt. 13:44, "From joy he goes and sells all he has."


            D.        Abstract present (13), describes truth or fact which is theo-

                        retical or abstract, and therefore always valid.


                        1.         Explanatory present (131), explains relevant facts and

                                    information to help the reader.

                                    Lk. 2:4, "the city of David, which is called Bethlehem."

                        2.         Factual present (132), describes a natural, theological,

                                    or theoretical truth.

                                    Jn. 15:5, "Without me you are not able to do anything."

                        3.         Impersonal present (133), expresses what is right, proper,

                                    advantageous, or necessary.

                                    2 Cor. 5:10, "It is necessary for all of us to appear."

                        4.         Interpretive present (134), explains the theological sig-

                                    nificance of an item in the text.

                                    Mt. 13:38, "The field is the world."

                        5.         Comparative present (135), compares the similarities of

                                    two items.

                                    Mk. 4:26, "The kingdom of God is as a man."


            E.         Perfective present (14), describes a present state resulting

                        from past action.


                        1.         General perfective present (141), describes perfected

                                    action with a simple present tense.

                                    Jn. 11:28, "The teacher has come."

                        2.         Present in periphrastic perfect (142), provides the helping

                                    verb for a perfect participle.

                                    Col. 2:10, "You are completed in him."




                        3.         Present in citation periphrastic perfect (143), provides

                                    the helping verb in the phrase "it is written."

                                    Jn. 6:31, "even as it is written."

                        4.         Citation present (144), describes the actions or previous

                                    Scriptural writers or characters.

                                    Rom. 10:5, "Moses writes concerning the righteousness

                                    which is of the law."

II. Present indicative in past time

     A.   Historical present (21), describes simple past action in a


            Mk. 7:28, "She answered and says."

     B.   Present for immediate past (22), describes action immediately


            Jn. 13:22, "being uncertain concerning whom he says."

    C.    Imperfective present (23), describes past action continuing into

            the present.

            Lk. 13:7, "For three years I come seeking fruit."

III. Present indicative in future time

    A.    Futuristic present (31), describes future action.

            Jn. 20:17, "I ascend to my Father."

    B.    Present for immediate future (32), describes action just about

            to happen.

            Lk. 19:8, "Lord, I give to the poor."

IV. Present indicative in relative time

     A.   Relative present (41), describes action which is present to

            the verbal context of the clause, but not necessarily to the

            speaker or writer.

            1 Cor. 7:36, "That which he wishes let him do."

      B. Indirect present (42), describes action presented in indirect

            discourse, thought, or perception.

            Lk. 18:37, "They declared to him that Jesus the Nazarene is


V. Present indicative in conditional sentences

     A.   Present of the protasis (51), describes the condition necessary

            to produce the apodosis.

            Ja. 4:11, "if you judge the law."

     B.   Concessive present (52), describes the condition in spite of

            which the apodosis will take place.


            Heb. 6:9, "though we speak thus."

    C.    Substantive present (53), describes the content of desired


            Lk. 6:7, "They were watching . . . if he heals on the Sabbath."

VI. Modal use of the present indicative (60), employs the word as

            a subjunctive or an imperative.1


            1 In a few places the present indicative seems to take on the

meaning of another mood. It appears to be used as a subjunctive in de-

liberative questions with prosdokw?men (Mt. 11:3; Lk. 7:19, 20), a form

which can be either indicative or subjunctive; likewise, a subjunctive

sense seems best for gi<netai, in Rom. 11:6 and ginw<skomen in 1 Jn. 5:20.

In two places the present indicative resembles the imperative mood: Lk.

2:29, a]polu<eij; and 2 Tim. 1:15, oi#daj. These few cases evidently should

be treated as with the other mood and do not fall into the purview of

this study.






            By far the largest number of usages lie within this category.

Except for the perfect tense and specialized uses of the aorist, the pres-

ent tense monopolizes expressions of present time. But within this gen-

eral category are numerous subtypes. Each of these shall be examined in

this chapter.

                                        Progressive Present

            This constantly used designation finds various interpretations

among grammarians. Burton tends to make the category nearly universal.

    The most constant characteristic of the Present Indicative is that

    it denote action in progress. It probably had originally no reference

    to present time. But since, in the historical periods of the language,

    action in progress in past time is expressed by the Imperfect, and the

    Future is used both as a progressive and as an aoristic tense for fu-

    ture time, it results that the Present Indicative is chiefly used to

    express action in progress in present time. Hence in deciding upon

    the significance of any given instance of the Present Indicative in

    the New Testament as well as in Classical Greek, the interpreter may

    consider that there is, at least in the majority of words, a certain

    presumption in favor of the Progressive Present rather than any of

    the other uses mentioned below.1

This author concluded that nearly 40% of the New Testament's present in-

dicatives are progressive presents. Robertson tends to lean more toward

an "aoristic" present--i.e., no aspect distinction--as the basic idea of

the tense, with the progressive feature being added later.

    The original present was probably therefore aoristic, or at least some

    roots were used either as punctiliar or linear, and the distinctively

    durative notions grew up around specially formed stems and so were

    applied to the form with most verbs, though never with all. 2

            1 Burton, Moods and Tenses, pp. 7-8.

            2 Robertson, Grammar, p. 865.



However, he admits that it is the largest category in the New Testament.1

He calls it "descriptive present," and reserves "progressive present" for

presents that carry on past action (e.g., 1 John 2:9),2 which cases will

be treated later in this chapter.

            In this study the term "progressive present" describes any present

which describes an action or state of being which is present to the speaker

or writer, and which does not fall into another, more specialized category.

Some examples often given for this category, as Matthew 25:8 ("our lamps

are going out") or 8:25 ("Lord, save, we perish"), are included rather

in the "immediate future" category for reasons which will be argued in

that discussion.3

            The title "progressive present" is indeed vague. But the alter-

natives are misleading. Thus "simple present" might be assumed to be

aoristic; "general present" might be confused with "present of general

truth," the "gnomic" category.

            Translating the progressive present often leads to the English

periphrastic present--"he is drinking milk"--to avoid confusing it with

the English general present of customary action--"he drinks milk."4

Sometimes the Greek stresses the progressive idea by combining the present

indicative of ei#nai with a present participle--the "periphrastic present."

In these cases, the participle takes on the nature of a predicate adjective:

The Greek has no special form for the progressive present of English,

nor for the progressive tenses generally. In the periphrasis with the


            1 Robertson, Grammar, p. 879.

            2 Ibid.

            3 Cf. Robertson, Grammar, p. 879; Burton, Moods and Tenses, p. 8.

            4 Moule, Idiom Book, p. 7; cf. Robertson, Grammar, p. 879.


    present participle, the participle is generally equivalent to a

    characteristic adjective or substantive, with which it is often cou-


            The progressive present is the largest single category of present

indicative verbs, being used frequently by all authors. The following

table notes its frequency in each book, as compared with other uses of

the present indicative.

                                               TABLE 7

                           PROGRESSIVE PRESENT FREQUENCY

            book                prog. pres.                  P.I. verbs                    %--prog. pres.

Matthew                       210                               768                               27%

Mark                            136                               529                               26%

Luke                             201                               636                               32%

John                             404                               1,083                            37%

Acts                             204                               379                               54%

Romans                        124                               314                               39%

1 Corinthians                 174                               478                               36%

2 Corinthians                 122                               216                               56%

Galatians                       55                                 115                               48%

Ephesians                     38                                 64                                 59%

Philippians                     42                                 58                                 72%

Colossians                     33                                 48                                 69%

1 Thessalonians             29                                 50                                 58%

2 Thessalonians             12                                 29                                 41%

1 Timothy                     19                                 63                                 30%

2 Timothy                     19                                 36                                 53%

Titus                             5                                  15                                 33%

Philemon                       5                                  11                                 45%

Hebrews                       50                                 155                               32%

James                           28                                 106                               26%

1 Peter                         17                                 40                                 42%

2 Peter                         16                                 34                                 47%

1 John                           120                               208                               58%

2 John                           3                                  12                                 25%

3 John                           11                                 19                                 58%

Jude                             4                                  13                                 31%

Revelation                     84                                 261                               32%


total NT                        2,165                            5,740                            38%


It is noticeable that the highest frequencies are found in Paul's Prison


            1 Gildersleeve, Syntax, I, 81.


Epistles, Acts, and scattered epistles of Paul and John. In these books

more than half of the present indicatives are simple progressive presents.

Yet one should beware of generalizations, as, for example, the difference

between Second and Third John might prove.

                                          The Verb "To Be"

            The most common verb, ei#nai, is also one of the most complex.

Its aspect is basically durative.1 In this sense it is contrasted with

gi<nesqai, which denotes "temporal existence which has a beginning and

ending."2  It especially is durative as a present tense helping verb in

a periphrastic construction.3

            General agreement prevails concerning the verb's linking capa-


                        a) x equals y,

                        b) x is described by y, or

                        c) x is located at y,4

as well as its primary syntactical usage:

    Ei#nai is mainly a structure signaling word in Greek. As such, it is

    nearly lexically empty, in distinction from all other verbs in Greek.

    On the basis of this study, one may formulate the following generali-

    zations with respect to ei#nai: ei#nai, belongs to a restricted class

    of verbs, consisting of one member; ei#nai is primarily a syntactic

    rather than a lexical item in the vocabulary stock of Greek: ei#nai,

    determines one sentence type that plays a fundamental role in the

    structure of Greek.5


            1 Charles H. Kahn, "The Greek Verb 'To Be' and the Concept of Be-

ing," Foundations of Language, 2 (1966), 254-55.

            2 Lane C. McGaughy, Toward a Descriptive Analysis of "Einai as a

Linking Verb in New Testament Greek (hereinafter referred to as "Einai),

Dissertation Series, No. 6, The Society of Biblical Literature (Missoula,

Montana: University of Montana, 1972), D. 135.

            3 Ibid., p. 7.                4 Ibid.              5 Ibid., pp. 150-51.


Where disagreement arises is in understanding its lexical status when used

absolutely, as in the famous statement, "I am." Some writers vehemently

deny any "existential meaning" for ei#nai, and assume a predicate comple-

ment should be supplied.1 Kahn even goes so far as to assert that the

Greeks' understanding of the verb ei#nai led to certain distinguishing

points in Greek philosophy.2

            On the other side, however, the verb seems to have "existential"

force in the statement "I am." In John 8:58, for example, "It stands in

unmistakable contrast to pri>n   ]Abraa>m gene<sqai. This is the only passage

in the NT where we have the contrast between ei#nai and gene<sqai. The

verse ascribes to Jesus consciousness of eternity or supra-temporality."3

A crucial passage is John 8:24-29. In verse 24 Jesus says, "If you be-

lieve not that I am, you shall die in your sins," and similarly in verse

28, "then shall you know that I am." This expression is tied closely

to the description of Jehovah in the Old Testament.4 In this understand-

ing Abbott is joined by Ethelbert Stauffer, who notes the special Messi-

anic use of e]gw< ei]mi in Mark and John.5 Some writers see the possibility


            1 McGaughy,   @Einai, pp. 119-25; Kahn, "The Greek Verb 'To Be' and

the Concept of Being," pp. 250-54.

            2 Ibid., p. 260.

            3 Friedrich Bachsel, "ei]mi<," Theological Dictionary of the New

Testament, Vol. II, ed. by Gerhard Kittel, trans. and ed. by Geoffrey W.

Bromiley (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1964), p. 399.

            4 Edwin A. Abbott, Johannine Gramar (London: Adam and Charles

Black, 1906), pp. 183-86, notes Isa. 43:10-13; 46:4; 48:12; Dt. 32:39;

also the parallel phrases "from the beginning," "working," and "speaking"

in John 6:68-69 and Isa. 43:10; 52:6.

            5 "e]gw<," Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, Vol. II, ed.

by Gerhard Kittel, trans. and ed. by Geoffrey W. Bromiley (Grand Rapids:

Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1964), pp. 352-54.


of the simple translation "I am he" or "it is I" in many instances, as

B. F. Westcott at John 6:20.1 But "I am he" is clearly rendered by e]gw<

ei]mi< au]to<j, as in Luke 24:39.2  Rather, e]gw< ei]mi, in the Gospels often

has the added significance of "I am the Savior," "I am the Son of God."3

The phrase "seems to call upon the Pharisees to believe that the Son of

man is not only the Deliverer but also one with the Father in the unity

of the Godhead."4

                                The Question of Aoristic Presents

            Most grammars have a major category of admittedly few examples

for "punctiliar presents."

    In those few cases where a punctiliar act taking place at the moment

    of speaking is to be denoted, the present is usually used since the

    punctiliar aorist stems form no present. 5


            1 Westcott, The Gospel According to St. John (Grand Rapids: Wm. B.

Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1881), p. 98. Westcott lists the following

verses under his explanation: Mk. 13:6; Lk. 21:8; Jn. 4:26; 8:24, 28, 58;

(9:4); 13:19; 18:5, 6, 8. However, Abbott is wrong to assume that Westcott

favors the same translation in each passage, as an examination of each in

Westcott's commentary will prove (Johannine Grammar, p. 183).

            2 Abbott, Johannine Grammar, p. 182.

            3 Cf. Mk. 13:6 and Lk. 21:8 with Mt. 24:5, which adds, o[ Xristo<j.

            4 Abbott, Johannine Grammar, p. 187; an interesting issue of similar

import is the possible Messianic claim in Christ's answers to the Sanhedrin

and Pilate: "Are you the Son of God?" Jesus says, "You have said." For

a convincing defence of the claim, see D. R. Catchpole, "The Answer of Je-

sus to Caiaphas (Matt. xxvi. 64)," New Testament Studies, 17:2 (January,

1971), 213-26. On pp. 217 and 226 Catchpole summarizes the statement's

force: "In Matt. 26:25 su> ei#paj contains an affirmation modified only by

a preference for not stating the matter expressis verbis. . . . In each

case considerations of the literary background of su> ei#paj or u[mei?j

le<gete converge with the position of the phrases at the turning point of

the hearing to recommend the following meaning: affirmative in content,

and reluctant or circumlocutory in formulation."

            5 BDF, p. 167.


However, the argument is lacking, since the aorist indeed can describe

events in present time, as examples of the so-called "dramatic aorist"

show.1 On the other hand, some claim the present tense cannot be aoristic,

it "cannot denote the completion of an act."2  Burton comes into some dif-

ficulty by defining the present indicative as "action in progress" and

then having to allow for a large exception category.

    The Present Indicative is sometimes used of an action or event coinci-

    dent in time with the act of speaking, and conceived of as a simple

    event. Most frequently the action denoted by the verb is identical

    with the act of speaking itself, or takes place in that act. . . .

    This usage is a distinct departure from the prevailing use of the

    Present tense to denote action in progress. There being in the Indi-

    cative no tense which represents an event as a simple fact without at

    the same time assigning it either to the past or the future, the Pre-

    sent is used for those instances, in which an action of present time

    is conceived of without reference to its progress.3

Robertson is quick to point out this inconsistency:

    A greater difficulty is due to the absence of distinction in the tense

    between punctiliar and linear action. This defect is chiefly found

    in the indicative. . . . There is nothing left to do but to divide

    the so-called Pres. Ind. into Aoristic Present and Durative Present

     (or Punctiliar Present and Linear Present). The one Greek form covers

    both ideas in the ind. The present was only gradually developed as a

    distinct tense. .      . The present is formed on punctiliar as well as

    linear roots. It is not wise therefore to define the pres. ind. as

    denoting "action in progress" like the imperf. as Burton does, for

    he has to take it back on p. 9 in the discussion of the "Aoristic

    Present," which he calls a "distinct departure from the prevailing use

    of the present tense to denote action in progress." In sooth, it is

    no "departure" at all. The idiom is as old as the tense itself and is

    due to the failure in the development of separate tenses for punctiliar

    and linear action in the ind. of present time. 4

Due to the combined durative-punctiliar history of the present indicative,


            1 Dana and Mantey, Manual Grammar, p. 198.

            2 Goodwin-Gulick, Greek Grammar, p. 268: this statement was not made

in Goodwin's own edition, cf. A Greek Grammar, p. 246.

            3 Burton, Moods and Tenses, D. 9.

            4 Robertson, Grammar, p. 864.


it appears that the tense cannot be limited to either category.

    It must not be thought, however, that the durative meaning monopolises

    the present stem. In the prehistoric period only certain conjugations

    had linear action; and though later analogic processes mostly levelled

    the primitive diversity, there are still some survivals of importance.1

The only limitation would come through the nature of the action itself.

If the action takes any time at all, it could be classed as progressive.

On this basis, K. L. McKay has denied a punctiliar present:

    Some grammarians write as if the present may be used to express a

    punctiliar action in present time ("aoristic present"), but can it?

    If a real action is really in present time it is almost inevitably

    in process. In the rare cases where an aoristic sense in present

    time is appropriate--mainly in the colloquial language of comedy--

    the aorist is used.2

But in view of the many examples of presents with "undefined" action, it

seems best to define the aoristic present as Robertson does: "The aoristic

present = undefined action in the present, as aoristic past (ind.) = un-

defined action in the past."3 In the New Testament, it "may be interpre-

ted either as durative or as aoristic, depending on the context."4

            In this study the common examples of aoristic presents have been

switched to other--it is hoped, better--categories. Thus Robertson's

example of Luke 7:8, "I say go, and he goes," is listed under customary

present; and his "common ei]mi<" is under progressive presents.5 The only

special category derived from these "aoristic presents" shall be the

declarative category discussed next.


            1 Moulton, Prolegomena, p. 119.

            2 McKay, "Syntax in Exegesis," p. 49.

            3 Robertson, Grammar, p. 865.       4 Mussies, Apocalypse, p. 276.

            5 Robertson, Grammar, p. 865.


                                Declarative Present

            The largest single category normally listed under "aoristic pres-

ents" is "le<gw in the Gospels."1 This category was considered sufficiently

large and distinctive to be included as a separate category. Other ex-

amples belong with it, as "says the Lord" in Old Testament quotations,

and the frequent "I exhort," "I command" and "I make known" statements

throughout the New Testament, especially in the epistles. At first the

category was entitled "presents of self-expression." But the strongly

assertive quality of the examples made the title "declarative present"

more appropriate. The following table delineates this category in the

major New Testament sections.

                                             TABLE 8

                               DECLARATIVE PRESENTS

            type Mt.          Mk.     Lk.       Jn.       Acts    Epistles Rev,  total

            1          3          2          8          5          11        66        2          97

            2          -           -           -           -           -           33        -           33

            3          27        3          36        3          1          4          1          75

            4          -           2          5          -           -           -           -           7

            5          27        12        6          -           -           -           -           45

            6          -           1          -           -           -           -           -           1

            7          -           -           -           20        -           -           -           20

            8          -           -           -           5          -           -           -           5

            9          -           -           -           -           4          8          16        28

            total 57           20        55        33        16        111     19        311

Key:    1--miscellaneous: "I exhort, command, ask, adjure, etc,"

            2--"I say" introducing the speech

            3--"I say to you (pl.)"

            4--"I say to you (sing.)"

            5--"truly I say to you (pl.)"

            6--"truly I say to you (sg.)"

            7--'truly truly I say to you (pl.)"

            8--"truly truly I say to you (sg.)"

            9--"says the Lord (or the Spirit)"


            1 Burton, Moods and Tenses, p. 9; Robertson, Grammar, p. 866;

Moule, Idiom Book, p. 7.


As expected, books with more homiletic material rate higher than histori-

cal or prophetical books. However, authorship style here has an important

bearing. Paul often "beseeches," "commands," and "exhorts." Jesus, on

the other hand, as reported by all four Evangelists, merely "says." Yet

the form of "I say" varies from book to book: Mark prefers "truly I say

to you"; Luke prefers to omit "truly"; Matthew balances the two forms.

John, who only three times has "I say to you," never writes "truly I say

to you." Instead, twenty-five times John has the formula "truly truly I

say to you," a form found nowhere else in the New Testament.

            In almost all these instances the declarative verb is followed by

the content of the speech.1 The declarative verb can therefore be under-

stood as either durative, emphasizing the process of making the speech, or

aoristic, emphasizing the content of the speech as a unit. The latter

seems the most likely. The introduction probably is intended to add force

to what is said. This understanding is that of the United Bible Societies'

translating rule #19: "Introductory expressions such as 'verily, verily,'

must be related to the content of what is said, not to the fact of saying."2

But one must be careful to distinguish Aktionsart and aspect in these verbs.

The speech itself is not punctiliar, but it is merely viewed as aoristic,

with no reference to its linear or punctiliar nature, but concentrating

on the matter only.


            1 Sometimes "says the Lord" comes within or after the speech. Bruce

M. Metzger notes, "Paul occasionally adds within or at the end of the quo-

tation the words le<gei ku<rioj," "The Formulas Introducing Quotations of

Scripture in the New Testament and in the Mishnah" (hereinafter referred

to as "Formulas"), Historical and Literary Studies: Pagan, Jewish, and

Christian, Vol. VIII of New Testament Tools and Studies, ed. by Bruce M.

Metzger (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1968),p. 55.

            2 Nida, Toward a Science of Translating, p. 182.


                                   Customary Present

            This category, as many others, covers a wide territory and finds

various definitions in the grammars. Robertson calls it "iterative" or

"customary," and charts it as a series of punctiliar dots (• • • •).1

Dana and Mantey find a subdivision, calling "iterative" those presents

which recur at successive intervals, and "customary," those which denote

habitual action.2 Thus "I brush my teeth" would be customary, while

"I still get cavities" would be iterative. On the whole, however, this

method seems artificial and is difficult to carry out when assigning

categories—What does one do with "I sin"?

            Other grammarians lump several categories together. Burton has no

separate category for repeated action, except what might be implied in

"General or Gnomic Present."3  H. M. Smyth, on the other hand, divides the

category into "customary," i.e., repeated by one person, and "factual,"

for "general truth."4

            It appears that the most cogent subdivision is that offered by

Moulton, who uses the terms "frequentative" and "iterative." Using the

word a]poqn^<skw, he notes,

    We find the present stem used as an iterative in 1 Cor. 15:31, and as

    frequentative in Heb. 7:8; 10:28; 1 Cor. 15:22; Rev. 14:13: the latter

    describes action which recurs from time to time with different indi-

    viduals, as the iterative describes action repeated by the same agent.5

This division seems the best, and more objective than that suggested by

Dana and Mantey. Eventually, this author divided customary presents into


            1 Robertson, Grammar, p. 880.  2 Dana and Mantey, Manual Grammar, p.


            3 Burton, Moods and Tenses, pp. 8-9.        4 Smyth, Greek Grammar, p. 276.

            5 Moulton, Prolegomena, p. 114. In this sense he, as opposed to Bur-

ton, includes aa]fi<omen in Luke 11:4 as frequentative, since the same indi-

viduals "habitually forgive," p. 119.


five groups. Each of these will be noted in turn.

General Customary Present

            This is the largest section, and includes repeated, customary, or

habitual action, whether the subject is singular or plural. None of these

examples fits certainly in any of the following four categories.

            Usually the subject is plural, and the action described may or may

not be repeated by any particular individual. This category does not

stress the repetitive nature of the act for any particular individual;

rather, it stresses the repetitive nature of the act itself. In the case

of a singular subject, this category stresses not so much the repetitive

nature of the act, as it emphasizes its dependability in any particular

case; thus John 10:27-28, "My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and

they follow me; and I give unto them eternal life." The plural verbs

(hear, follow) are customary--whether each sheep hears and follows once

or more than once is not the question in view. Also the singular verbs

(know, give) are customary, since each individual instance is more in view

than the mere repetition required for Christ to know and give life to

all the sheep throughout history.

            An interesting example of this usage is a]pe<xousin in Matthew

6:2, 5, 16, "they have their reward." Adolf Deissmann has compared this

usage to the common use of a]pe<xw on papyri and ostraca business and tax

receipts: "I have received payment in full--nothing more is due."1 Jesus

was speaking of the Pharisees as a class, not necessarily of individuals.

As Moulton has put it, "The hypocrites have as it were their money down,


            1 Deissmann, Light from the Ancient East, tr. by Lionel R. M.

Strachan (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1927), pp. 110-12.


as soon as their trumpet has sounded."1

Singular Iterative Present

            This category includes cases where a singular verb represents re-

peated action for that one subject. For example, John the Baptist says

in Matthew 3:11, "I baptize with water." The action is not progressive,

but rather repetitive or habitual. Many times Jesus says, "The things

which I say unto you." Yet the verb refers primarily to His repeated

speeches made throughout His ministry, not primarily to the speech He is

making at the time. Paul uses this category in Romans 7, where he des-

cribes his constant struggles with his sinful nature. It is wrong to sup-

pose that he is describing his earlier life.2

Plural Iterative Present

            Often the present verb is plural and the action is customary.

But, in addition, it is clear from the context and important in the

statement, that each individual in the plural subject repeatedly does the

action. Thus the disciples of John ask, "Why do we and the Pharisees fast

often, but thy disciples fast not?" (Mt. 9:14). The point of the question

is not that fasting as such is at issue, but repeated fasting is the norm.

Often the subject is "we," as with Paul's frequent "we preach Christ,"

"we boast on you," or "we give thanks often for you."


            1 Moulton, Prolegomena, p. 247.

            2 Charles Horne, Salvation (Chicago: Moody Press, 1971), p.

113; cf. Boyce W. Blackwelder, Light from the Greek New Testament (Ander-

son, Indiana: The Warner Press, n.d.), p. 67.


Non-Iterative Customary Present

            This title may sound incongruous or self contradictory. Yet there

are several New Testament examples which need such a category. In these

cases the action occurs only once to each particular individual, but the

action is considered repetitive as it occurs with many different indivi-

duals at different times. There is a close relationship between this

category and the factual or gnomic present. The dividing line is a matter

of emphasis, and thus of personal judgment. This category stresses the

repetitive--and thus inevitable--nature of the action. The gnomic present

instead emphasizes the physical, logical or legal basis of the action.

            Thus Matthew 7:19, "Every tree that brings not forth good fruit

is hewn down, and cast into the fire," is non-iterative, since it obvi-

ously can happen only once to each tree; yet it is customary, since it hap-

pens to many trees over the years. When Jesus declared in Matthew 11:5

that "the blind receive their sight, and the lame walk, the lepers are

cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, and the poor have the

gospel preached to them," He was referring to the sun of the single heal-

ings of each person as repetitive, since many people were being healed.

Perhaps the finest example is Paul's in 1 Corinthians 15:22, "In Adam all

die." Each person dies once; yet Paul uses the present tense because

the action constantly repeats itself with different individuals.1


            1 James Oliver Buswell is a bit unclear when he says, "The present

tense of the verb justifies the implication of a continuous process. All

men are subject to death," A Systematic Theology of the Christian Religion

(2 vols.; Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1962), I, 289; the

word "continuous" is better replaced by "continuously repeated"; the

action itself is not durative.


Parabolic Customary Present

            Often as He related a parable, Jesus would describe a hypotheti-

cal situation, and would describe the actions of the character which

would be expected in that situation. For example, the man in Matthew

13:44, having found the treasure-field, "goes and sells all that he has,

and buys that field." This action is not iterative, but it is customary

for a person in his circumstances. Similarly, the plants in shallow

ground "have no root" (Mk. 4:17) because there is no soil. Since these

examples occur in parables and hypothetical situations, they are divided

from the general customary presents.

            Having seen all the types of customary presents, it is now possible

to delineate the occurrences of each type in the New Testament books.

                                               TABLE 9

                                   CUSTOMARY PRESENTS

book                            1          2          3          4          5          total

Matthew                     99        31        14        13        17        174

Mark                           21        15        10        -           21        67

Luke                            73        27        13        12        25        150

John                            55        47        8          5          2          117

Acts                            10        14        4          -           -           28

Romans                      25        36        8          -           -           69

1 Corinthians             82        15        15        3          -           115

2 Corinthians             33        4          2          -           -           39

Galatians                    10        2          -           -           -           12

Ephesians                   4          -           -           -           -           4

Philippians                 4          1          -           -           -           5

Colossians                 2          -           1          -           -           3

1 Thessalonians         5          -           2          -           -           7

2 Thessalonians         5          -           1          -           -           6

1 Timothy                   12        2          -           -           -           14

2 Timothy                   6          1          -           -           -           7

Titus                            3          -           -           -           -           3

Philemon                    -           1          -           -           -           1

Hebrews                     33        3          -           1          -           37

James                          40        -           -           -           -           40


                               TABLE 9--Continued

book                1          2          3          4          5          total

I Peter             9          -           -           -           -           9

2 Peter            8          -           -           -           -           8

1 John             24        1          2          -           -           27

2 John             -           -           -           -           -           -

3 John             -           7          -           -           -           7

Jude                8          -           -           -           -           8

Revelation      18        -           1          -           -           19


total NT          589     207     81        34        65        976

            Key:    1--general customary presents

                        2--singular iterative presents

                        3--plural iterative presents

                        4--non-iterative customary presents

                        5--parabolic customary presents

                                    Abstract Present

            Often the present indicative indicates a general truth or a time-

less statement or idiom. Unlike the previous category of customary or

repeated presents, this category is necessarily durative. Yet the action

itself need not be durative, only the truthfulness or validity of the

statement within the context of the speaker or writer. Thus Jesus can

say, "The seed is the word of God," and the context is established--the

parable of the sower. In another parable the seed may represent something

else entirely. There are five major types of abstract presents, and they

are examined below.

Explanatory Present

            Often the Biblical writer will step aside to interpret or explain

some item in his account to the reading audience. The very second occur-

rence of the present indicative in the New Testament falls into this

group, " . . . which is interpreted, With us is God" (Mt. 1:23). Matthew

uses this device only four times (above, and in 27:33, 46, 62), and Luke


only twice (2:4; 8:26). But it is frequent in Mark (12 times: 3:17; 5:41;

7:2, 4, 11, 34; 12:18, 42; 15:16, 22, 34, 42), and John (10 times: 1:38,

41, 42; 4:9; 5:2; 9:7; 19:17, 40; 20:16; 21:24), and Acts (9 times: 1:12,

19; 4:36; 8:26; 9:36; 13:8; 16:12; 23:8, 8). It is found only once in

the epistles (Heb. 9:2) and three times in Revelation (2:24; 21:17;

22:20). It is possible to include some citations under other categories

as well; for example, the verbs in Acts 23:8, "The Sadducees say that

there is no resurrection, neither angel, nor spirit; but the Pharisees

confess both," could be classified as customary presents as well as ex-

planatory presents. Yet here it seems that the confidential tone of Acts

calls for classing those verbs as primarily explanatory.

Factual Present

            This category, often called the "gnomic" present, has a fairly

high number of occurrences. Unfortunately, the line separating this cate-

gory and several others is not always clear, and the confusion is evident

in the grammars. While all recognize a sort of "gnomic" present,1 the

definitions and examples for the category are far from uniform. The dif-

ficulty arises from the nature of the category. If every statement of the

Bible is true, is it not a fact, and is it not, therefore, factual?

Furthermore, many progressive presents as well as customary presents lend

themselves to this grouping.2

            Perhaps one helping factor is the durative nature of these verbs'

aspect. K. L. McKay goes so far as to distinguish gnomic presents from


            1 Dana and Mantey call it "static" present, Manual Grammar, p. 186.

            2 Burton, Moods and Tenses, pp. 8-9.


gnomic aorists on the basis of aspect alone:

    The difference between the present and the aorist in these timeless

    contexts is the normal aspectual difference between process and com-

    plete action, and we need not apologize for it.1

While this estimation appears a bit sweeping, it seems reasonable to re-

strict this category to more or less "timeless" expressions of fact. The

aspect of these verbs could be either durative or "non-determined."

Robertson thinks that gnomic presents are aoristic, and defines the gnomic

present as "the aorist present that is timeless in reality, true for all

time."2 Of course, "aoristic" here means "non-determined" aspect, not

"punctiliar" in reality. Likewise, the timeless idea influences Dana

and Mantey, who define their "static" present as "practically the present

of duration applied to a verb of being."3

            The examples chosen for this category are those which appear too

uniform or durative to be included under the customary presents. The

statement is a matter of fact, theoretical or actual. Thus, Matthew 5:14,

"A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid" is a theoretical statement;

there need be no historical example of such a city. On the other hand,

Matthew 5:37, "whatsoever is more than these is of evil," is a theoretical

statement which has many sad examples in reality.  Matthew 6:22, "The light

of the body is the eye," expresses a general truth of relative nature;

that is, it is valid within the present created human race. Finally,

1 John 4:8, "God is love," declares a truth which is universally valid

for all time.


            1 McKay, "Syntax in Exegesis," p. 49.         2 Robertson, Grammar, p. 866.

            3 Dana and Mantey, Manual Grammar, p. 186.


Impersonal Present

            The little expressions "it is necessary," "it is lawful," "it is

good," "it is proper," "it is better," and a few others pop up throughout

the New Testament. They trace their descent to the ancient Greek language.

"In the present tense the idiom is on purely Greek lines, not Semitic.

. . . So the impersonal verbs (and e@xw) stand to themselves in support

from ancient Greek and the koinh<."1 The identity of these has been

disputed by some, as Nigel Turner, who maintains that the verbs quoted

above are not impersonal if followed by "an infinitive as subject."2

For truly impersonal verbs, Turner finds their origin at least partially

in the desire to avoid God's name when He is the implied subject)

            In this study the idiomatic phrases o! e]stin and tou?t’ e@stin are

not normally included as impersonal presents (as in Robertson, Grammar,

p. 881), but are classed under such categories as explanatory or interpre-

tive presents. One particular example stands out as highly problematical.

It is a]pe<xei, in Mark 14:41, translated, "It is enough." That particular

usage is included as impersonal, since the verb allows that meaning in

contemporary koine Greek. Deissmann reproduces an ostracon from Thebes,

dated 32-33 A.D., with identical usage in the first singular.4

            What does the present tense of the impersonal verbs signify? Ex-

amining the examples, one concludes that the present tense normally stresses

the present time application of the statement. "It is necessary (dei?)"

applies to the present; "it was necessary (e@dei)" applies to the past.


            1 Robertson, Grammar, p. 881.                   2 Turner, Syntax, pp. 291-92.

            3 Ibid., p. 291.

            4 Deismnann, Light from the Ancient East, pp. 111-12; photograph,

p. 111; cf. Robertson's comments, Grammar, p. 866.


Yet, even here, usage is more subtle. Thus, Jesus says, "These things it

was necessary (e@dei) to do" (Mt. 23:23), and yet it is still necessary:

here the imperfect may be used because it was more important that they do

something else also. Most of the impersonal verbs are found in the

present tense, indicating that the time is indeed abstract, the aspect


Interpretive Present

            These verbs seek to explain the meaning of events, sayings, or

parables from the theological perspective. They differ from explanatory

presents, which explain more technical matters of language or custom.

Thus e]stin in Matthew 3:3 is interpretive, "This is that which was spoken

through Isaiah," and in 7:12, "This is the law and the prophets." Mat-

thew 11:14 provides an important interpretive use as well: "and if you

wish to receive (it), he is Elijah who is about to come." Often this

present is used in the explanation of parables--e.g., "The one sowing

the good seed is the son of man" (Mt. 13:37). This author included the

crucial passage Matthew 26:26 in this category: "Take, eat, this is my

body." The identity of the bread with Christ's body springs from theo-

logical truth and symbolism, not physical equality (Jn. 6:63). Sometimes

the wording of the passage causes another verb to be used besides e]sti<n,

as Mark 4:14, "The sower sows the word."

            Often in the book of John Jesus or the author explains a term or

fact introduced into the narrative, as "the witness of John" in 1:19,

"the judgment" in 3:19, "the work of God" in 6:29, "the bread of God" in

6:33, "the will of my Father" in 6:40, and many other examples. Also in-

cluded are the famous "I am" passages in John, already discussed in this



            The interpretive present is frequent in epistolary literature

(e.g., Rom. 5:14), especially in Paul's more "theological" longer epistles;

and in Hebrews, with that book's continual interpretation of Old Testament

symbolism and prophecy. An example in Hebrews is at 10:20, "the veil,

that is, his flesh." The verse has caused difficulty for some. Hebrews

often uses the form tou?t ]  e@stin (2:14; 7:5; 9:11; 11:16; 13:15; and here

at 10:20).  N. H. Young has shown that word order is not a factor in de-

termining the antecedent in these cases.1 Yet the natural interpretation

is to tie "veil" to "flesh," and the structure of the passage bears it

out.2  The usage occurs with greatest frequency (23 times) in Revelation,

interpreting the apocalyptic visions (1:20a, b; 4:5; 5:6, 8; 11:4; 13:10,

18a, b; 14:12; 16:14; 17:9a, b, 11b, c, 12, 15, 18; 19:8; 20:2, 12, 14;

21:8). In fact, the abundance of these interpretive presents should en-

courage the student toward a literal, futuristic interpretation of Reve-

lation, since John goes out of his way to avoid a mystical understanding

by frequently employing interpretive presents.

Comparative Present

            In a few places the interpretive present is modified or softened

by stating the interpretation as a "similarity,"--"is similar to"--much as

a simile is distinguished from a metaphor by the addition of "like" or

"as." Also, this category of verbs ushers the reader from the reality to

the figure, while the interpretive present brings him back from the figure


            1 Young, "tou?t ]  e@stin th?j sarko>j au]tou? (Heb. x. 20): Apposition,

Dependent or Explicative?" New Testament Studies, 20:1 (October, 1973), 101.

            2 Ibid., pp. 102-04; cf. Homer A. Kent, Jr., The Epistle to the

Hebrews; a Commentary (Winona Lake, Indiana: B.M.H Books, 1972), pp. 198-99.


to the reality.

            Usage for this category in the New Testament is limited primarily

to the Synoptic Gospels (Mt. 11:16; 13:31, 33, 44, 45, 47, 52; 20:1; Mk.

4:26; Lk. 6:47, 48, 49; 7:31, 32; 13:18, 19, 21). The only other exam-

ples in this category are the two occurrences of eouxcy in the book of

James (1:6, 23).

            This last group brings to an end the category of abstract pres-

ents. The occurrences of each type in the books of the New Testament are

here listed.

                                            TABLE 10

                                 ABSTRACT PRESENTS

book                            1          2          3          4          5          total

Matthew                     4          54        21        22        8          109

Mark                           12        33        23        6          1          75

Luke                            2          35        30        9          8          84

John                            10        66        15        22        -           113

Acts                            9          4          21        5          -           39

Romans                      -           25        4          8          -           37

1 Corinthians             -           69        15        5          -           89

2 Corinthians             -           4          4          -           -           8

Galatians                    -           9          -           7          -           16

Ephesians                   -           4          5          2          -           11

Philippians                 -           -           1          -           -           1

Colossians                 -           1          3          3          -           7

1 Thessalonians         -           -           1          -           -           1

2 Thessalonians         -           -           1          -           -           1

1 Timothy                   -           8          5          -           -           13

2 Timothy                   -           -           2          -           -           2

Titus                            -           1          5          -           -           6

Philemon                    -           -           -           1          -           1

Hebrews                     1          8          3          7          -           19

James                          -           18        1          -           2          21

I Peter                         -           1          -           1          -           2

2 Peter                        -           1          2          -           -           3

1 John                         1          38        -           3          -           41

2 John                         -           3          -           3          -           6

3 John                         -           1          -           -           -           1

Revelation                  3          1          7          23        -           34


total NT                      41        384     169     127     19        740


                                    TABLE 10--Continued

            Key:    1--explanatory present

                        2--factual present

                        3--impersonal present

                        4--interpretive present

                        5--comparative present

While these verbs may be considered timeless, the present tense is appro-

priate since the truth is applicable to present time--whether to the

speaker at the time of speaking, or the the author at the time of writing.

The aspect, therefore, is aoristic, in the sense of the "undetermined"

view of the action's duration.

                                  Perfective Present

            The perfect aspect describes a present, continuing effect produced

by a past event. Many times in the New Testament a present indicative is

used in contexts where the perfective meaning is obvious. The unqualified

denial of this fact by G. Mussies appears forced: "The present indicative

does not express any view except the non-perfective view, and as such it

is unmarked as opposed to the perfect indicative."1 The perfective present

is indeed found in the New Testament, and can be divided into the follow-

ing four heads.

General Perfective Present

            Often the stem of the verb itself is made perfective by the ad-

dition of a prepositional prefix, as a]poqn^<skw and only gradually does


            1 Mussies, Apocalypse, p. 275. If it be thought that the wording

of this sentence is unclear, perhaps J. Neville Birdsall rightly attributes

Mussies's awkward writing style to the fact that he, a German, himself

wrote his book in English; review in the Evangelical Quarterly, XLV:1

(January-March, 1973), esp. p. 49.


it resume its durative nature.1 Such is also the case with pa<reimi,

which can mean "I have come," as well as "I am present."2  In other cases

the roots themselves evidently had a perfective meaning, as h@kw or a]kou<w.3

A. T. Robertson notes that in these cases the "root has the sense of

state, not of linear action. This is an old use of these roots."4 When

the stems themselves are perfective, as h@kw or pa<reimi (often), it is

important to remember that "this is not a Present for the Perfect of the

same verb, but a Present equivalent to the Perfect of another verb."5

On the other hand, is there any contrast between a perfect verb and a

present used as a perfect? Burton and others tend to make no distinction.6

But it seems better to see with Dana and Mantey a greater stress on the

present state in the perfective present than in the simple perfect tense.

    To say that this use is "present for perfect" is not accurately rep-

    resenting the case. It does approach quite closely the significance

    of the perfect, but stresses the continuance of results through

    present time in a way which the perfect would not do, for the perfect

    stresses existence of results but not their continuance.7

            New Testament examples of perfective presents are not lacking.

John asks Jesus, "Do you come to me?" (Mt. 3:14); Jesus had already come

and was there as a result. Jesus consoles the paralytic, "Your sins are

forgiven" (Mt. 9:2), for Jesus had seen his faith already shown. This


            1 Moulton, Prolegomena, p. 114.

            2 William F. Arndt and F. Wilbur Gingrich, eds., A Greek-English

Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature (Chicago:

The University of Chicago Press, 1957), p. 629.

            3 Burton, Moods and Tenses, D. 10; BDF, p. 168; Chamberlain, An

Exegetical Grammar of the Greek New Testament, p. 71.

            4 Robertson, Grammar, p. 881.       5 Burton, Moods and Tenses, p. 10.

            6 Ibid.                                      7 Dana and Mantey, Manual Grammar, p. 182.


last example is often listed under the category "aoristic present," but

truly it better is perfective--God had already forgiven his sins, which

forgiveness Jesus declared with authority (cf. v. 6). An undebatable

example is found in Luke 1:34, where Mary protests to the angel, "How will

this be, since I know not a man?" Her previous chastity resulted in her

present virginity. Often in court scenes this usage comes forth. Pilate

declares, "I find no fault in him" (Jn. 19:4), speaking of the results of

the previous interrogation. Some controversy surrounds Acts 26:31, "This

man has done nothing worthy of death or bonds." Winer believes the present

is customary, his conduct in general.1 However, it seems better to class

pra<ssei there as perfective, since Paul's previous conduct was at issue,

not his conduct, for example, while being held two years in Caesarea.

To strengthen this claim, note the strongly parallel wording in Luke 23:15,

"Nothing worthy of death has been done by him." Here the form is e]sti>n

pepragme<non, the periphrastic perfect. If this be the case, then Acts

26:31 parallels the force of Acts 25:11: "if I am guilty," a conditional

present which is also perfective,2 and also "if I have done (pe<praxa<)

anything worthy of death," a normal perfect tense verb.

Present in Periphrastic Perfect

            A periphrastic construction combines the present indicative of

the helping verb--normally ei]mi<3--with a participle, to form a synthesis.

The helping verb does influence to a degree the aspect of the resulting


            1 Winer, Idiom, p. 267; also BDF, p. 168.

            2 Ibid., for both Winer and BDF.

            3 But e@xw appears in Mk. 8:17.


tense--making it more linear. "The periphrastic use of ei#nai must be

clearly distinguished from its equative function."1  Normally the con-

struction is the present indicative of ei#nai with either the present

participle, forming the periphrastic present, discussed earlier, or the

perfect participle, forming the periphrastic perfect, which McGaughy holds

to be a simple equivalent to the perfect tense.2 The other possibility,

the periphrastic aorist, using the imperfect form h#n with the aorist

participle (blhqei<j), is "quite exceptional," being limited in the New

Testament to Luke 23:19.3

            A good example of the aspectual contribution of the Present indi-

cative to the periphrastic perfect is in Ephesians 2:5, 8. Kenneth S.

Wuest observes,

    Not content with the details offered by the perfect tense, Paul uses

    a periphrastic construction consisting of a participle in the perfect

    tense and the verb of being in the present tense. The perfect tense

    speaks of the existence of finished results in present time, whereas

    Paul wanted to express persistence of finished results through present

    time. So he borrows the durative aspect of the present tense verb to

    give persistence to the existing results. . . . The security of the

    believer could not have been expressed in stronger terms.4

Present in Citation Periphrastic Perfect

            This category is merely a subdivision of the previous one. It

consists of periphrastic perfects applied to Scripture citation--i.e.,

the form ei]stin gegramme<non, "it is written." The form is found only six

times, and always in John's Gospel (2:17; 6:31, 45; 10:34; 12:14; 20:30).


            1 L. C. McGaughy,   @Einai, p. 82.

            2 Ibid., p. 81.                          3 Burton, Moods and Tenses, D. 11.

            4 Wuest, "The Eloquence of Greek Tenses and Moods," Bibliotheca

Sacra, 117:46 (April, 1960), 135.


The first five refer to Old Testament Scripture; the last reference re-

fers to his own book, "which things are not written in this book." He

then employs the normal New Testament perfect form, "but these things are

written (ge<graptai) that you might believe." Since this periphrastic

form is a special Johannine idiom, it appears best to understand its

aspect as perfective, the equivalent of the perfect indicative, and not

as especially durative. This form thus constitutes an idiomatic exception

to the conclusion of the previous section.

Citation Present

            Often when one quotes from a written source, he thinks of the

author as speaking still, in his writings. Thus in English, as well as

other languages, the citation present is actually a perfective present--

e.g., "Shakespeare extols the quality of mercy." The saying is past,

yet the saying continues as an echo.

            Some writers have sought to identify various Biblical citation

formulas with the intended interpretation of the citation. Thomas

Hartwell Horne has shown the fallacy of this method in practice.1 However,

the form of citation presents does show the high regard of the New Testa-

ment writers for the Old Testament Scriptures. For the subject of the

verbs "he says," "it says," and so forth, is often "God" or "the Holy

Spirit," as well as "the Scripture."2   For an extremely important discussion


            1 Horne, An Introduction to the Critical Study and Knowledge of

the Holy Scriptures (8th ed.; 5 vols.; Grand Rapids: Baker Book House,

1839), II, 336-46.

            2 Turner, Syntax, p. 293; Turner notes the textual variant supplying

h[ grafh< in Rom. 10:8 in MSS D and G; see the Nestle-Aland text.


of the theological importance of citation presents, see Benjamin Breckin-

ridge Warfield, "'It Says:’  ‘Scripture Says’ ‘God Says'"; he shows how

these formulas confirm the orthodox doctrine of verbal inspiration.1

Bruce M. Metzger notes that there needs to be an investigation comparing

the New Testament citation formulas with those of the Mishnah, to show the

difference between the Christian and the Orthodox Jewish attitudes toward

the Old Testament in the first century A.D.2 While Metzger in his article

does not discuss the significance of the present tense in citation for-

mulas, he does observe that "the New Testament writers allow themselves

more freedom in attributing personality to the Scriptures than do the


            Sometimes the human author is regarded as still speaking, as in

Matthew 22:43, "How does David call his Lord?" Jesus considered David as

still speaking, even though he was dead and buried (Acts 2:29). Other

times the Scripture itself speaks (Jn. 19:37), or God in Scripture (Acts

13:35; Gal. 3:16). This form of citation present is especially frequent

in the books of Romans and Hebrews, both of which make extensive theolo-

gical use of the Old Testament.

            The occurrences of the perfective present are enumerated in the

following table.


            1 Warfield, The Inspiration and Authority of the Bible, ed. by

Samuel G. Craig (Philadelphia: The Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing

Company, 1948), pp. 299-348; the chapter originally appeared in The Pres-

byterian and Reformed Review, X (1899), 472-510.

            2 Metzger, "Formulas," pp. 52-53.

            3 Ibid., p. 55; this is especially true of Hebrews; see the appendix

in Brooke Foss Westcott, The Epistle to the Hebrews (2nd ed.: Grand Rapids:

Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1892), pp. 474-76.



                                          TABLE 11

                                PERFECTIVE PRESENT

            book                1          2          3          4          total

Matthew                     5          2          -           1          8

Mark                           3          1          -           1          5

Luke                            8          5          -           3          16

John                            13        2          6          1          22

Acts                            8          4          -           6          18

Romans                      1          1          -           24        26

1 Corinthians             2          3          -           4          9

2 Corinthians             -           1          -           1          2

Galatians                    1          -           -           2          3

Ephesians                   1          2          -           2          5

Philippians                 2          -           -           -           2

Colossians                 -           1          -           -           1

1 Thessalonians         2          -           -           -           2

2 Thessalonians         1          -           -           -           1

1 Timothy                   1          -           -           1          2

2 Timothy                   1          -           -           -           1

Hebrews                     9          4          -           14        27

James                          1          -           -           2          3

2 Peter                        -           1          -           -           1

1 John                         1          1          -           -           2

Jude                            1          -           -           -           1


total NT                      61        28        6          62        157

                        Key:    1--general perfective present

                                    2--present in periphrastic perfect

                                    3--present in citation periphrastic perfect

                                    4--citation present

                 The Present in Kingdom Passages

            Twenty three times the present indicative describes some truth

specifically about the Kingdom of God. These usages do not constitute

a category for this study, but will be scattered among the other cate-

gories. However in view of their exegetical importance, they are here

mentioned together.

            This author believes the theocratic Kingdom of the Bible to be

still in the future, to be ushered in by Christ after His personal, physical

return to the earth. In many cases when the Kingdom is mentioned in the



Gospels, therefore, the usage is taken as futuristic, especially when

grammatical factors in the context suggest a futuristic usage. However,

in some of these instances, the presents could also be factual--describing

what the Kingdom is like without stating the time of its manifestation.

Included as futuristic presents are the following references:

            a. Mt. 5:3, e]stin; parallel beatitudes are future

            b. Mt. 5:10, e]stin; see "a"

            c. Mt. 11:11, e]stin: they will be greater in the future; note future

                        in Lk. 13:30

            d. Mt. 18:1, e]sti>n; see "c"

            e. Mt. 1 :4 e]stin; see "c"

            f. Lk. 6:20, e]sti>n: see "a"

            g. Lk. 7:28b, e]stin; see "c"

            h. Lk. 17:20a, e]rxetai; po<te shows Pharisees expected a future


One additional reference qualifies as expressing immediate future, even

though it is listed under the interrogative substantive category:

            i. Acts 1:6, a]pokaqista<neij: immediate future implied by "at this

                        time"; future implied by "to Israel"

            Even though the kingdom is future in its manifestation, it is

present in it representatives and in many of its blessings for believers.

The Church and the Kingdom are different. Yet the Church experiences spiri-

tual blessings promised in the New Covenant.1 Even before Christ's death

and resurrection, the Kingdom was present in Himself and in His appointed

delegates; and after Pentecost the Kingdom was present in the Church


            1 Kent, The Epistle to the Hebrews: A Commentary, pp. 158-60.


through the Holy Spirit in many of its spiritual manifestations.1 This

idea does not contradict the truth that Jesus and the apostles taught an

earthly futuristic Kingdom of both physical and spiritual aspects, in line

with literal Old Testament prophecy.2 All these remarks lead to the

following two usages of the present indicative as progressive presents:

            j. Lk. 17:21, e]stin; i]dou< calls attention to the present time; "as

                        to the personal presence of its King, the Kingdom was actually

                        'in the midst' of men."3

            k. Lk. 22:29, diati<qemai; for both the disciples and Jesus, the con-

                        ferring takes place before the realization

One case is relative:

            1. Lk. 21:31, e]]stin; "when you see" sets the time

            Occasionally the present indicative is customary, describing "how

things happen" concerning the Kingdom:

            m. Mt. 21:31, proa<gousin; speaks of new birth

            n. Lk. 17:20b, e@rxetai; Pharisees do not recognize the King4

            o. Lk. 18:24, ei]sporeu<ontai; compare with "m"

Closely related to the customary presents are the factual presents. Each

of these states a truth about the Kingdom, its source, character, or its


            1 George Eldon Ladd, The Presence of the Future (Grand Rapids:

William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1974), pp. 271-73.

            2 Ibid., pp. 319-20.

            3 Alva J. McClain, The Greatness of the Kingdom, An Inductive Study

of the Kingdom of God (Chicago: Moody Press, 1959), p. 272.

            4 This passage has been variously interpreted. Arndt and Gingrich

make it progressive: "the Kingdom of God is not coming with observation

i.e., in such a way its rise can be observed," Greek-English Lexicon, p.

628. Premillennialists can understand it either as in this paper, or by

meta> parathrh<sewj as prophetic date-setting. This author prefers the

former, since the reference in Jesus' answer seems to be to the Pharisees'



subjects. The category is like the comparative present in the Kingdom


            p. Mt. 19:14, e]sti>n: describes the nature of its subjects

            q. Mk. 10:14, e]sti>n: see "p"

            r. Lk. 18:16, e]sti>n: see "p"

            s. Jn. 18:36a, e@stin; describes its source

            t. Rom. 18:36b, e@stin: see "s"1

            u. Rom. 14:17, e]stin: describes its character

            v. 1 Cor. 15:50, du<natai; describes the necessary nature of its


            w. Eph. 5:5, e@xei; see "v"

            These few passages provide rich material for fascinating discussion,

and for further specialized research in other tenses and moods.


                      Conclusion for Presents in Present Time

            So far the study has consisted of present indicative usage which

directly bears on present time. The major categories--progressive present,

declarative present, customary present, abstract present, and perfective

present--contribute various aspectual emphases. Even in present time the

present indicative expresses both durative and aoristic points of view. In

order to work out a general conclusion, it is necessary to push the tense

to its time-limits, past and future, and to its modal limit in conditional

sentences. This plan provides the basis for the rest of Part II.


            1 The "but now" indicates a future reversal when the Kingdom shall

be more worldly in its influence, if not in its source; cf. George N. H.

Peters, The Theocratic Kingdom of our Lord Jesus, the Christ (3 vols.;

1884; reprinted; Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications, 1972), II, 32-33.






            Since Greek was a living language, it took on character and flavor

by use, which still confuses the grammarian desiring "the rule of law" in

language. The use of the present tense for past time, while it sounds

incongruous, is actually common to all language. This chapter shall deal

with three types of present indicatives: the historical present, the

present for immediate past, and the imperfective present. The largest and

most debated category is that of historical presents, and it will require

the bulk of this chapter. The other two categories will be discussed at

the end.


                              Historical Present Frequency

            The historical present is simply a present indicative in past nar-

ration, where one would expect a "past" tense, such as an imperfect or

an aorist. The first one in the New Testament is fai<netai in Matthew

2:13, "And after they had departed, behold, an angel of the Lord appears

to Joseph in a dream."

            Since the historical present is limited to narration, it is rare

in epistles, being encountered only in Hebrews. It is found chiefly in

the Gospels, Acts, and Revelation (ch. 4-22). The individual occurrences

of all the historical presents in the New Testament are listed in Appendix

C. The following table shows the frequency of the historical present in

each book in which it occurs. In addition to these there is a possible

historical present in Hebrews 11:15 (mnhmoneu<ousin); but since it is

conditional, it is included in that list. This table is more accurate


                                     TABLE 12


            book                hist. pres.        verb forms      hist. pres./100 verb forms

            Matthew         94                    3,948                          2.38

            Mark               150                 2,612                          5.74

            Luke                13                    4,388                          0.30

            John                163                 3,535                          4.61

            Acts                14                    3,374                          0.36

            Revelation      54                    1,537                          3.51

and helpful for comparing frequencies than earlier attempts. John C.

Hawkins, not knowing the total number of verbs in each book, had to

estimate frequency by figuring the average number of historical presents

on each page of the Westcott and Hort printed Greek text.1 Hawkins thus

estimates: "it appears that Mark uses it more freely than John":2 now an

exact comparison is possible: 5.74 to 4.61, a difference of just under


            Obviously, the frequency of the historical present varies con-

siderably from book to book throughout the New Testament. This fact fits

with the general usage of historical presents in all language. "It is a

well-known idiom in all periods of Greek, particularly in popular, non-

literary usage."3 Various strata of writing styles reflect various usage


     It was indeed a permanent element in prose narrative, whether colloquial

     or literary; but it seems to have run much the same course in English,

     where the historic present is not normally used in educated conversation

     or in literature as a narrative form. It carries a special effect of


            1 Hawkins, Horae Synopticae (2nd e.; Grand Rapids: Baker Book

House, 1909), p. 143.

            2 Ibid.

            3 France, "The Exegesis of Greek Tenses in the New Testament," p. 5.


     its own, which may be a favourite mannerism of a particular author,

     but entirely avoided by others.1

The historical present is so universal that Paul Kiparsky can cite a

usage even from a Hittite inscription: "He went to his grandfather and

speaks to him.2

            It is interesting to note how other Greek writings use the histori-

cal present. It is not found at all in Homer.3 However, it is frequent

in other classical writers.4 This variation in classical authors invites

speculation. Gildersleeve suggested that the tone of content influences

the use or disuse of the historical present.

     This use of the present belongs to the original stock of our family

     of languages. It antedates the differentiation into imperf. and

     aorist. Being a familiar form, it is set down as a mark of simplicity

      (a]fe<leia) of style. By reason, therefore, both of its liveliness

     and its familiar tone it is foreign to the leisurely and dignified

     unfolding of the epos, and is not found in Homer, whereas it is very

     common in the rhetorical Vergil, as it is very common in the Attic

     orators. Nor is it used to any extent, if at all, in the statuesque

     Pindaric ode, whereas it is frequent in the Attic drama, which seems

     to have introduced it to higher literature.5

            The usage finds a home among the neo-classicists as well. Nigel

Turner quotes the statistics produced by K. Eriksson (Das Praesens His-

toricum in der nachclassischen griechischen Historiographie, Diss. of

Lund, 1943, pp. 39, 76, 83) showing widespread use of the historical


            1 Moulton, Prolegomena, p. 121.

            2 Tense and Mood in Indo-European Syntax" (hereinafter referred

to as "Tense and Mood"), Foundations of Language, 4(1968), 32.

            3 Goodwin-Gulick, Greek Grammar, p. 268.

            4 Several examples in classical literature are cited by Winer,

Idiom, p. 267. H. W. Smyth, Greek Grammar, rev, by Gordon M. Messing

(Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1956), p. 277, offers an example

of the similar "annalistic present."

            5 Gildersleeve, Syntax, I, 86.


present in the Archeology of Dionysius of Halicarnassus, Arrian's Anabasis,

and Xenophon's Anabasis.1  He also notes a few samplings from Josephus,

showing a high ratio of historical presents per page.2 This author spot

checked a page of Josephus selected at random. One page of Greek contains

several aorists and many imperfects, and in addition, three historical

presents:  paragi<netai, eu]ri<skei, and a]polu<ei.3

            The historical present occurs often in the LXX. Winer's statement,

"as to the Sept., in which this usage is extremely rare,"4 is misleading.

Parts of the LXX, especially the books of Kings, have many historical

presents. Thackeray's classic work notes that even within the books of

Kings, vocabulary and style vary sharply. He uses the following notations:5

            earlier portions:        K.a     (= 1 K.)

                                                K. bb  (= 2 K. 1:1 - 11:1)

                                       (= 3 K. 2:12 - 21:43)

            later portions:   (= 2 K. 11:2 - 3 K. 2:11)

                                                K. gd (= 3 K. 22:1 - 4 K. end)

                           = +

He then states that shows an "almost complete absence of the histori-

cal present," while the other sections show varying amounts (145 in K.a,

28 in K. bb, 47 in He notes the resulting contrasts within


            1 Turner, Syntax, p. 61.                     2 Ibid.

            3 Josephus, The Jewish War, 1:301, in The Jewish War, Books I-III

With a translation by H. St J. Thackeray, Loeb Classical Library (London:

William Heinemann, Ltd., 1927), p. 140.

            4 Winer, Idiom, p. 267.

            5 Henry St. John Thackeray, A Grammar of the Old Testament in Greek

according to the Septuagint (hereinafter referred to as Septuagint; Cam-

bridge: Cambridge University Press, 1909), p. 10.

            6 Ibid.


the LXX:

     The historic present tends to be used with verbs of a certain class;

     apart from le<gei, etc. it is specifically used of verbs of seeing in

     the Pentateuch, of verbs of motion (coming and going) in the later

     historical books: its absence from K. bd, distinguishes the later from

     the earlier portions of the Kingdom books.1

Hawkins enlarges on Thackeray's list, and offers the following occurrences

in LXX books:2

                        Genesis, 9                              2 Esdras, 8

                        Exodus, 24                                         --Ezra, 3

                        Numbers, 7                                        --Nehemiah, 5

                        Joshua, 1                                Job, 25

                        Judges, 2                                Esther, 2

                        Ruth, 1                                    Tobit, 10

                        1 Kingdoms, 151                   Daniel, 1

                        2 Kingdoms, 32                     Bel and the Dragon, 1

                        3 Kingdoms, 47                     1 Maccabees, 2

                        4 Kingdoms, 2                       2 Maccabees, 1

                        1 Chronicles, 2                      3 Maccabees, 3

                        1 Esdras, 3                             4 Maccabees, 3

                                                total LXX, 337

Having tabulated the total, he observes that the historical present is

still more rare in the LXX, even in narrative portions, than in Mark's

Gospel.3 Moulton has suggested that the difference is due, at least in

part, to the lack of le<gei, in LXX narration.4

            As would be expected, the historical present is most common in

popular speech. This fact is borne out by its very common use in the

papyri,5 and even in modern Greek.6


            1 Thackeray, Septuagint, p. 24.

            2 Hawkins, Horae Synopticae, p. 213.

            3 Ibid., p. 214.                       

            4 Moulton, Prolegomena,  p. 121.

            5 Ibid. Moulton includes examples.

            6 BDF, p. 167.


                                Synoptic Comparisons

            One of the most interesting fields of Bible study is the subtle

and intricate nuances of the three Synoptic Gospels. The so-called "Synop-

tic Problem" has intrigued scholars for centuries, and has produced a pro-

found as well as elaborate literature. Entering into this picture is the

historical present. Those who defend the Markan priority claim the higher

frequency of the historical present in that book as evidence that the

other authors "corrected" his usage by supplying past tenses.1 While this

study cannot cover the point completely, a few comments are in order.

General Data

            First, it is evident from Table 12 that Mark does use the historical

present much more frequently than Matthew and Luke. But the distance be-

tween Matthew and Luke far exceeds that between Matthew and Mark. Hence,

the remark, "Matthew and Luke do not favor the historic present,"2 tends

to be misleading.

The Case of Luke 24:12

            It has been assumed by many that Luke corrected Mark's grammar,

deleting "Mark's historical presents except in 3:49."3 Hence, the appear-

ance of any historical present in Luke is immediately suspect. One

celebrated case is Luke 24:12, "Peter having arisen ran unto the tomb,


            1 For example, Ned B. Stonehouse, Origins of the Synoptic Gospels,

Some Basic Questions (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Com-

pany, 1963), pp. 61-62.

            2 Charles H. Talbert and Edgar V. McKnight, "Can the Griesback

Hypothesis Be Falsified?" (hereinafter referred to as "Griesback"),

Journal of Biblical Literature, 91:3 (September, 1972), 350.

            3 Robertson, Grammar, p. 367.


and having stooped down sees the linen cloths alone; and he departed

wondering to himself what had happened." The UBS text includes the verse,

but with a "D" rating.1 This rating appears strange in view of the verse's

overwhelming textual support, including Aleph, A, B, and the Byzantine

text, along with the Bodmer Papyrus, p75. Against the verse stands the

western D alone.2  Three reasons have been advanced against the verse:

the parallel wording in John 20, indicating (to some) an interpolation;

the textual "Western Non-Interpolations" in Luke;3 and the presence in

the verse of a historical present. Metzger reports that a "sharp difference"

prevailed in the Committee as they debated these verses:

     During the discussions a sharp difference of opinion emerged. Accor-

     ding to the view of a minority of the Committee, apart from other ar-

     guments there is discernible in these passages a Christological-

     theological motivation that accounts for their having been added,

     while there is no clear reason that accounts for their having been

     omitted. Accordingly, if the passages are retained in the text at

     all, it was held that they should be enclosed within square brackets.

     On the other hand, the majority of the Committee, having evaluated

     the weight of the evidence differently, regarded the longer readings

     as part of the original text.4

And the Committee also refected theological borrowing from John as an

explanation for Luke 24:12.

     A majority of the Committee regarded the passage as a natural ante-

     cedent to ver. 24, and was inclined to explain the similarity with

     the verses in John as due to the likelihood that both evangelists

     had drawn upon a common tradition.5

            Recently two scholars have attempted to disqualify the verse.


            1 The Greek New Testament, pp. 314-15.                          2 Ibid.

            3 The nine so-called Western Non-Interpolations are Mt. 27:49;

Lk. 22:19b-20: 24:3, 6, 12, 36, 40, 51, 52; Bruce M. Metzger, A Textual

Commentary on the Greek New Testament (hereinafter referred to as Textual

Commentary; New York: United Bible Societies, 1971), D. 192.

            4 Metzger, Textual Commentary, p. 193.               5 Ibid., p. 184..


K. P. G. Curtis considers the "linguistic evidence" as "most weighty" for

excluding the verse. He does not mention such niceties as textual evidence.1

Raymond E. Brown is more cautious, but he also considers "the Western text

as original not because of better transmission but through correct emen-

dation."2 Both these critics are answered on their own ground by John

Muddiman, who notes that the verse now "has at last been put up for re-

habilitation.3  Muddiman asserts that, if Luke had a redactor, he would

no doubt have "corrected" the historical present in 24:12, just as he

supposedly had corrected the others taken from Mark.4 He continues with

this bit of wisdom:

            The uncorrected historic present . . . is a good illustration of

     the frequent inconclusiveness of the stylistic criterion in textual

     criticism. Unless we resort to emendation, we must admit that the

     Third Gospel contains at least two "scandalous" historic presents.

     Our author, then, is not infallible, but if he slipped twice, why not

     a third time, considering human rather than mathematical probability.5

F. Neiynck, following up Muddiman's article, adds the obvious fact that

John could very well have referred to Luke when writing John 20,6 adding

significant details, or perhaps relating a separate but similar event.

Furthermore, he sees as a possible "'source' of the uncorrected historic

present" in Luke 24:12, the historical present qewrou?sin, which is found


            1 Curtis, “Luke xxiv. 12 and John xx. 3-10," Journal of Theological

Studies, XXII (1971), esp. 515.

            2 Brown, The Gospel According to John (xiii-xxi), in The Anchor

Bible, ed. by William Foxwell Albright and David Noel Freedman (Garden

City, New York: Doubleday & Company, Inc., 1970), pp. 967-69, 1000-01.

            3 Muddiman, "A Note on Reading Luke XXIV. 12," Ephemerides Theolo-

gicae Lovanienses, XLVIII:3-4 (December, 1972), 542.

            4 Ibid., p. 544.                                    5 Ibid.

            6 Neiynck, "The Uncorrected Historic Present in Lk. xxiv. 12,"

Ephemerides Theologicae Lovanienses, XLV11.1:3-4 (December, 1972), 553.


in Mark 16:4.1

            Thus it appears that Luke really did use historical presents.2

Once again, grammar must proceed from the text, not the reverse.

Specific Data

            In order to compare accurately the three Synoptics' use of the

historical present, one must examine the individual examples for each of

the Gospels. The occurrences are here tabulated, along with the parallel

usages (if any) in the other Synoptic Gospels. This table is a compila-

tion of several charts in Hawkins's Horae Synopticae (pp. 144-49), along

with the results of this author's research. The parallelism followed is

that worked out by Burton and Goodspeed.3 The forms marked with an asterisk

(*) are historical presents.

                                                TABLE 13

                         SYNOPTIC HISTORICAL PRESENTS

                        Matthew                     Mark                           Luke

*2:13              fai<netai                  -                                   -

*2:18              ei]si<n                          -                                   -

*2:19              fai<netai                  -                                   -

*3:1                paragi<netai           1:4 e]ge<neto               3:2 (e]ge<neto)


            1 Neiynck, "The Uncorrected Historic Present in Lk. xxiv. 12,"

p. 551.

            2 Thus Abbott is wrong to say that John is the only Evangelist to

use ble<pei as a historical present, Johannine Grammar, p. 350.

            3 Ernest DeWitt Burton and Edgar Johnson Goodspeed, A Harmony of

the Synoptic Gospels in Greek (2nd ed.; Chicago: University of Chicago

Press, 1947).


                                         TABLE 13--Continued

                        Matthew                     Mark                           Luke

*3:13                paragi<netai              1:9 h@lqen                     -

*3:15                a]fi<hsin                     -                                   -

4:1                    a]nh<xqh                       *1:12    e]kba<llei         4:1 h@geto

*4:5                  paralamba<nei           -                                   4:9 h@gagen

*4:5                  i@sthsin                      -                                   4:9 e@sthsen

*4:6                  le<gei                            -                                   4:9 ei#pen

*4:8                  paralamba<nei           -                                   4:5 a]nagagw<n

*4:8                  dei<knusin                    -                                   4:5 e@deicen

*4:9                  le<gei                            -                                   4:6 ei#pen

*4:10                le<gei                            -                                   4:8 ei#pen

*4:11                a]fi<hsin                     -                                   4:13 a]pe<sth 

*4:19                le<gei                            1:17 ei#pen                     5:10 ei#pen

                        -                                   *1:21 ei]sporeu<ontai   4:31 kath?lqen

                        -                                   *1:30 le<gousin            4:38 h]rw<thsan

                        -                                   *1:37 le<gousin            -

                        -                                   *1:38 le<gei                   4:43 ei#pen

8:2  i]dou<. . . proselqw<n                      *1:40 e@rxetai              5:12 e]ge<neto. . . kai> i]dou<

8:3                    le<gwn                          *1:41 le<gei                   5:13 le<gwn

*8:4                  le<gei                            *1:44 le<gei                   5:14 parh<ggeilen

*8:7                  le<gei                            -                                   -

                        -                                   -                                   *7:40 fhsi<n

*8:20                le<gei                            -                                   9:58 ei#pen

*8:22                le<gei                            -                                   9:60 ei#pen

*8:26                le<gei                            -                                   -


                                     TABLE 13--Continued

            Matthew                     Mark.                                      Luke

9:2        i]dou<                             *2:3      e@xretai                       5:18      kai> i]dou< . . .

              proselqw<n                              fe<rontej                               fe<rontej

            -                                   *2:4      xalw?si                       5:19      kaqh?kan

9:2        ei#pen                            *2:5      le<gei                            5:20      ei#pen

9:4        ei#pen                            *2:8      le<gei                            5:22      ei#pen

*9:6      le<gei                            *2:10    le<gei                            5:24      ei#pen

*9:9      le<gei                            *2:14    le<gei                            5:27      ei#pen

9:10      e]ge<neto                       *2:15    gi<netai                                   -

9:12      ei#pen                            *2:17    le<gei                            5:31      ei#pen

*9:14    le<gontej                     *2:18    e@rxomai                                  -

9:14      le<gontej                     *2:18    le<gousin                     5:33      ei#pan

12:3      ei#pen                            *2:25    le<gei                            6:3        ei#pen

            -                                   *3:3      le<gei                            6:3        ei#pen

12:11    ei#pen                            *3:4      le<gei                            6:9        ei#pen

*12:13   le<gei                            *3:5      le<gei                            6:10      ei#pen

            -                                   *3:13    a]nabai<nei                  6:12      e]ge<neto . . . e]celqei?n

            -                                   *3:13    proskalei?tai             6:13      prosefw<nhsen

            -                                   *3:20    e@rxetai                       -

            -                                   *3:20    sune<rxetai                 -

12:46    i]dou<