Monday, October 19, 2015

Matthew 16:19 and Greek Aspect

On p. 162 of his exegetical and linguistic Greek grammar, Richard A. Young discusses the future perfect periphrastic (which is constructed with a future form of εἰμί and a perfect passive participle), and how it relates to the exegesis of Matt. 16:19. This Matthean passage reads:

δώσω σοι τὰς κλεῖδας τῆς βασιλείας τῶν οὐρανῶν, καὶ ὃ ἐὰν δήσῃς ἐπὶ τῆς γῆς ἔσται δεδεμένον ἐν τοῖς οὐρανοῖς, καὶ ὃ ἐὰν λύσῃς ἐπὶ τῆς γῆς ἔσται λελυμένον ἐν τοῖς οὐρανοῖς. (WH)

One question that arises in connection with this passage might be whether Matthew is saying that Peter is to proclaim what has previously been decreed in heaven or does he decree first, thereby binding "heaven" to his judicial "enactments"? Young points out that if the English future perfect is pressed, then Peter does not "dictate heavenly ordinances."

But Stanley Porter asserts that the perfect formation only conveys the state without telling us about the verbal action's inception or permanence.

On the other hand, Spiros Zodhiates writes that in Matt. 16:18, 19: "The two verbs DEDEMENON (from DEW [1210] ) and LELUMENON (from LUW [3089] ), are both perfect passive participles which should have been translated respectively 'having been bound' and 'having been loosed' already in the heavens." (The Complete Word Study: New Testament. Chattanooga, TN: AMG Publishing, 1992.)

NET Bible: "I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven. Whatever you bind on earth will have been bound in heaven, and whatever you release on earth will have been released in heaven.”

Matt. 18:18 and Heb. 2:13 are other examples of this construction. There are certainly some profound biblical and grammatical issues at play here.


Duncan said...


19. "I will continue giving to you the keys [note: = means of locking or unlocking] which have their origin and source in the reign and activities of the heavens
(or: which pertain to and have the characteristics of the kingdom of the heavens; or: which belong to the sovereignty from the atmospheres; or, as a genitive of apposition: the keys which are the sovereign reign of the heavens). And so, whatever you can (or: may; should) bind upon the earth will continue being [something] having been bound, and still remaining bound, within the midst of the heavens (or: in the atmospheres). Also, whatever you can (or: may; should) loose upon the earth will continue being [something] having been loosed (unbound; untied), and remaining free of bonds, within the midst of the heavens (or: in the atmospheres)."

Edgar Foster said...

I truly hate to be overly critical when I see folks trying to make the Bible understandable or more widespread for others. However, much of this translation is interpretive; for example, "the keys . . . which have their origin and source in the reign and activities of the heavens"

But maybe the intent is to be interpretive rather than functional.

"the keys are the sovereign reign from heaven" is also highly interpretive. Yet I like the "having been loosed" and "having been bound" although the "continue being" is questionable.

Edgar Foster said...

δώσω is future, so why "I will continue giving to you"?

ἔσται is also future but it's rendered "will continue being . . . "

Edgar Foster said...

On the future "tense" in Greek:

"The 'future' and the 'present' do connote time so far as the name is concerned, but not even the names of the other 'tenses' express the notion of time: the name 'imperfect' connotes incompleted action and 'perfect' completed, while 'aorist' (privative A and hORIZW 'define, determine') connotes simply the action without further determination. Hence the very names of the 'tenses' warn us to distinguish carefully between the notion of the time of an action and of the manner in which the action is regarded, its 'aspect'. In fact, 'aspect' is an essential element of the Greek 'tenses' (leaving out of account the future) and hence is always distinguished by the form, whereas the time of actions is expressed in the indicative only, and in the other moods is either lacking or secondary" (Zerwick, Biblical Greek Illustrated by Examples, p. 77. Inverted commas in original).

Yet Richard Young states: "There is good support for the contention that the morphological features associated with Greek tense indicate only aspect, not time, and that time is established by the context rather than grammatical form (cf. Porter 1989:76-83; McKay 1981:290, 296). If this contention is correct, then it would be misleading to retain the term 'tense'" (Richard Young, Intermediate NT Greek, 105).

Duncan said...

As you say - both future tense.

I wonder if his decision is somehow tied to Acts 18:9,10?