Tuesday, April 14, 2009

1 John 1:1-2:2

1.1 The verb 'to hear' (akou-oo) and 'to understand/see' (ora-oo) are both in the perfect, while 'to see' (theao-mai) and 'to touch' (psehlapha-oo) are in the aorist. Again, an aorist tense suggests a one time event; a perfect tense has the connotation of a past action that creates an on-going and present status. John (or the writer from the Johannine community), by using these tenses, suggests that although the original congregation can no longer touch or see Jesus because of his ascension, but the reality of hearing and understanding the word of God remains. This perhaps is not simply true of the original congregation, but us as well. We leave Sunday having seen and even touched Jesus in the bread and wine, but as we head out, we still are in the state of hearing and understanding.

1.2 In both 1.1 and 1.2, the verb 'eimi' (to be) is used in the imperfect tense. In Greek, there really is no aorist tense of 'eimi,' the 'to be' verb. (which if you stop and think, makes a lot of sense). In both cases, the verb is translated with the English aorist form of the to be verb: "was." What is probably a more helpful translation is not the static "was" but an imperfect "was being" or "was and continues to be" or "has been"  In short, the English "was" makes it sound like the event of the Word being with the Father or the Word being from the beginning is over; the imperfect tense in the Greek suggests that that the Word continues to be with the Father and continues to be from the beginning.

1.3-1.4 The only verbs so far in the present tense are 'apangell-oo' (to proclaim),
'martyre-oo' (to witness) and 'ech-oo' (have + fellowship), and 'graph-oo' (to write), all of our actions. The only God verb so far is "appear" (phanero-oo); always in the aorist.

1.5 The word for "message" here is 'angelia' related to the word for angel.

1.6 This sentence ends with the phrase, literally, "are not doing the truth." Translators have fun trying to put that in idiomatic English.

1.7 The verb for cleanse 'kathariz-oo' is in itself a neat word -- tell your people their sins have been catharized! Also worth noting is that it is in the present tense.

1.9 The word here for confess is 'homologe-oo,' which means literally, "to speak in one voice," suggesting that even in the early church, public confession was the norm.

2.1 and 2.2 These do not belong in this section! The crazy word here is 'hilasmos' or 'propitation' or 'atonement." This word is related to a number of other words having to do with atonement. This word is not that common (2x NT; 7x NT). What is helpful to keep in mind is that the book of John has no mention of God's wrath. The most obvious, connection, it seems to me, with this word, is with a numbers 5 'hilasmos' which is a sacrifice made to repay someone the wrongs they have done to you. The particular word, then, may have more to do with restitution than with some sort or anger-management. Perhaps the idea of an angry God needing to be fed blood will never disappear, but I think the idea in John 1 and the particular use of this word emphasizes the forward nature of the sacrifice rather than the backward nature -- the sacrifice was not simply to please God for past sins, but to set us straight for future relationship.

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