The Son of God Given Authority to Judge Because He is ‘Human’: A Study in John 5:27, pt 6, Conclusion

[This is part 6 of a multi-part article. See part 1, part 2, part 3, part 4, and part 5.]

Comparison with John 1:1c and 1:14a

Comparing 5:27b with other theologically similar anarthrous PN-CV constructions in John’s Gospel, specifically 1:1c and 1:14a, may reinforce the stance adopted here.

In the verse which begins John’s Gospel the author describes the same subject – ὁ λόγος (ho logos), the Word – using the same verb in the same tense-form (ἦν, ēn; was, existed) in three separate clauses with three different nuances: existence, association, and essence, respectively.123  This threefold repetition of subject-verb exemplifies merely one portrayal of John’s predilection for poetic expression.  While it’s the third clause with the same syntactical construction as 5:27b, it will prove helpful to briefly investigate the first two as well.

The first clause (1:1a), Ἐν ἀρχῇ ἦν ὁ λόγος, translates In the beginning was the Word or, better, In the beginning the Word existed.  In its immediate context, taking into consideration verses 2-3, this declares the Word’s pre-existence with respect to creation, i.e., the Word’s eternality.  The second clause (1:1b), καὶ ὁ λόγος ἦν πρὸς τὸν θεόν, is best rendered and the Word was with God.  This second clause, when taken in conjunction with the first, describes the eternal relationship between the Word and (the) God, logically indicating that (the) God is other than, and in distinction from, the Word.  While the direct object τὸν θεόν, (the) God, could be understood as the Trinitarian Godhead, for our purposes here we assume the referent is God the Father.124

This brings us to the third clause, καὶ θεὸς ἦν ὁ λόγος, which is an anarthrous PN-CV-SN construction.  Most English translations render it and the Word was God.  While the PN could be deemed either definite or qualitative, an indefinite rendering (a god) is rejected from the outset for rather obvious exegetical and theological reasons.125

Colwell deems the usage in 1:1c definite by asserting the converse of his own rule; i.e., he presupposes definiteness unless “the context demands” indefiniteness or qualitativeness:

The absence of the article does not make the predicate indefinite or qualitative when it precedes the verb, it is indefinite in this position only when the context demands it.  The context makes no such demand in the Gospel of John, for this statement cannot be regarded as strange in the prologue of the gospel which reaches its climax in the confession of Thomas (20:28).126

Moreover, Colwell wishes to impose definiteness on 1:1c because of the definite, articular use of theos in another context (20:28)127 – precisely the same reasoning he used in 5:27b.  But, as we noted earlier, definite usage in one context does not necessitate definiteness in another.  In fact, if definiteness is pressed too hard, taking 1:1b in conjunction with 1:1c, modalism may obtain; i.e., the Word was God the Father.128

A better solution is to view the PN in 1:1c as (primarily) qualitative.129  Westcott understands 1:1c as qualitative, describing the divine nature of the Word, with 5:27b its converse, depicting the Word’s human nature:

The predicate (θεός) stands emphatically first . . . It is necessarily without the article (θεός, not ὁ θεός), inasmuch as it describes the nature of the Word and does not identify His Person . . . No idea of inferiority of nature is suggested by the form of expression, which simply affirms the true deity of the Word.  Compare for the converse statement of the true humanity of Christ 5:27.130

Harner, Dixon and Wallace view 1:1c as qualitative, as well.131  In addition, Barrett understands theos in 1c as describing the nature of the Word, hence, qualitativeness.132  Beasley-Murray seems to imply qualitative-definiteness in this context.133  Bruce also seems to imply qualitative-definiteness in 1c.134

The predominant English rendering and the Word was God seems fine, as long as the reader understands that it describes the essence of the Word.  Harner thinks it could be translated and the Word has the same nature as God.135  We prefer And the Word was by nature God.

Next we’ll discuss John 1:14a: Καὶ ὁ λόγος σὰρξ ἐγένετο.  Here we have the subject nominative (ὁ λόγος) preceding the anarthrous PN-CV construction (σὰρξ ἐγένετο, sarx egeneto; “flesh became”).  This is probably best rendered [And] the Word became flesh.

The analysis of the anarthrous PN-CV construction in 1:14a is more straightforward than either 1:1c or 5:27b.  It is clearly not indefinite, as we wouldn’t say the Word became a flesh.136  In a similar way, it would be difficult to state that the Word became the flesh, as this would mean that the Word took on a particular flesh, in which case a form of adoptionism would be implied: the divine Word ‘adopted’ a particular person, Jesus.137  No; the Word assumed another nature (human) when He became flesh, not another person, and this assumption of human nature resulted in the divine-human Person of Christ Jesus.  Hence, a qualitative understanding is the only possibility: [And] the Word became flesh – flesh consistent with that of every other human.

Wallace states that many commentaries prior to Colwell’s ‘rule’ noted a parallel between 1:1c and 1:14a because of the common anarthrous PN-CV constructions, with both clauses construed as qualitative.138  Westcott is but one example.139  In addition, as noted above, Westcott sees 5:27b as the converse of 1:1c.  Hence, these three qualitative PN-CV constructions can be viewed as forming a triad.  The Word was by nature God (1:1c).  Then, the divine Word became flesh, assuming flesh common to all humanity (1:14a), thus becoming the divine-human Person of Jesus.  This Jesus, the divine Son of God the Father (5:19-26), declared that the reason He was given authority to judge is because He is (also) human (5:27b).  In other words, though maintaining all the attributes of Deity (1:1c), the enfleshed Word is also human (1:14a), concurrently possessing all the qualities and characteristics consistent with being human, and it is the fact that the Word possesses human nature, in conjunction with His intrinsic divine nature, that enables Him to be Judge of all humankind (5:27b).

His incarnational humanity would remain a part of His Person – even after His “glorification,” which commenced at His death on the cross – as He, the divine yet human God-man, will be the future eschatological Judge of all humankind (5:28-30).  So, to reiterate, since the eternal Word is by nature God (1:1c), He possesses the divine capacity to judge humanity; however, it is only because He became flesh (1:14c) and is, hence, human that He cannot be seen as anything but a fair judge of humanity (5:27b) both during His earthly ministry (5:24-25) and at the eschaton (5:28-30).  For, like humankind, He suffered in His temptations (Heb 2:17-18; cf. Heb 5:2) and was tempted in all ways (Heb 4:15a-b); yet, unlike humanity, He remained unblemished, without sin (Heb 4:15c).

A contrarian may argue that John the Gospel writer could simply have used the adjectival forms (θεῖος, theios = divine; ἀνθρώπινος, anthrōpinos = human) instead of the nominal to make his intention clear in 1:1c and 5:27b.  However, using adjectives would have lessened the explanatory force, making these passages a bit ambiguous.  Was the Word simply another god, i.e. possessing the quality of divinity (1:1c), alongside God the Father?  Was Jesus merely human (5:27b)?  Moreover, these forms are infrequently used in the NT generally and, more importantly, completely absent in the Johannine corpus.140  Furthermore, it seems that the anarthrous PN-CV construction lends itself well to accentuating a particular quality of the subject nominative.  First, this is via the non-use of the article in the predicate nominative, which allows for a qualitative understanding, yet with an underlying definiteness.  Secondly, by placing the PN ahead of the CV – a linguistic device called fronting – the PN is necessarily emphasized.141  And the Gospel writer seems to have specifically intended this dual function in these contexts, just as he does predominately in the rest of his Gospel.


We have argued that John the Gospel writer, in making son of man anarthrous in 5:27b, wished to provide a distinction between this context and all other occurrences of the arthrous the Son of Man, while yet alluding to the latter.

It was shown that in the LXX the son of man idiom is always anarthrous, with the intended meaning mankind/humanity, or, human.  In the NT, the arthrous form is apparently a term specifically coined by Jesus, though it is used predominantly as a third person reference by Him.  Following Hurtado, we find that the articular ὁ υἱὸς τοῦ ἀνθρώπου does not characterize or define “the Son of Man;” instead the individual contexts refer to the Person of Jesus Christ.  Moreover, “the Son of Man” does not refer solely to Jesus’ human nature, and, therefore, the term cannot be said to denote His humanity as opposed to His divinity.

A point of connection was found in the context of the anarthrous υἱὸς ἀνθρώπου in John 5:27b, specifically in regards to judgment, with both Rev 1:13 and 14:14, each of these verses in the Apocalypse alluding to the figure like a son of man in Daniel 7:13.  It was argued that in John 5:27b the Gospel writer also intended an allusion to Daniel 7:13-14, by both the use of the anarthrous huios anthrōpou and the larger context (which also points to Daniel 12:1-2).  This point of contact is argued as specifically evocative of the eschatological human-like figure in Daniel, making it clear that Jesus is the one spoken of by the Prophet.

Colwell’s ‘rule’ was found to be largely unhelpful in exegeting 5:27b.  However, the specific syntactical construction Colwell investigated, with the anarthrous predicate nominative preceding its copulative verb – which Wallace helpfully terms “Colwell’s Construction” – was shown to be primarily qualitative in the Gospel According to John.  John 5:27b was argued as having a qualitative force and an underlying definiteness.

This same construction is found in 1:1c and 1:14a, and along with 5:27b, these verses form a sort of triad.  In 1:1c the eternal Word was (ἦν, en) {by nature} God. In 1:14a the divine Word became (ἐγένετο, egeneto) flesh, taking on human nature; in 5:27b the Son of God is (ἐστίν) human, the abiding result of the former: the preexistent, eternal divine Son dwells in human form among humankind.  Jesus fully participates in humanity because He is fully human; however, He is not merely human, as He’s the Son of God.  His incarnational humanity remains into the eschaton where He will be eschatological judge (5:28-30).  For it is because the eternal Word is by nature God (1:1c) that He possesses the divine capacity to judge mankind; however, it is only because He became flesh (1:14c) and is, hence, human (5:27b) that he cannot be seen as anything but a fair judge of humanity.

It is the Word’s pre-incarnational, eternal intrinsic divinity (1:1c) coupled with his incarnational humanity (1:14a) that makes Him the perfect Judge (5:27b) for humankind (5:24-25; 5:28-30):

And he (the Father) has given Him (Jesus, the Son of God) authority to judge because He is (also) human.

In this view, the reason that the Son of God is given authority to judge is because He is also human.  This provides the basis for which He can be a fair judge of all, saved and unsaved, at the eschaton.


123 See Westcott, Gospel According to St. John, V1, p 2; cf. Brown, John I-XXI, p 4.

124 Thompson, God of Gospel of John, p 57, observes that there are 108 occurrences of θεός (God) in the fourth Gospel, as compared to “Father” which appears 120 times. God is first explicitly referenced as the Father of the μονογενὴς (monogenēs) Son in 1:14 (μονογενοῦς παρὰ πατρός), when considered in its full context to include 1:18 (μονογενὴς θεός/υἱός).  The large majority of times in John’s Gospel “Father” is in a context of relationship with Jesus as his Son, and what the Father does through the Son (pp 57-58, 69-72).  This leaves open the possibility that θεός in 1b refers to the entire Godhead rather than merely the Father.

David Alan Black, It’s Still Greek to Me, p 79, understands the Trinity as the referent, more clearly differentiating the Trinitarian Godhead from the Logos as God (1c) in its micro-context by paraphrasing the verse: In the beginning the Word existed, and the Word was with the Deity [τὸν θεόν], and the Word was Deity [θεός] (emphasis in original).  (Here Black seems to construe the PN of 1:1c as qualitative-definite (pp 77, 79).)  Carson, Gospel According to John, pp 116-118, also asserts 1b as a referent to the Trinitarian Godhead.

On the other hand, Brown, John I-XXI, notes that in contexts in which at least two members of the Trinity are expressed ho theos is “frequently used for God the Father” (p 5).  Moreover, in 57 of 58 appearances of ὁ θεός in John the referent is God the Father (See Dixon, p 36).  While Thompson, God of Gospel of John, observes that “God” is not used as a referent for the incarnate Word in the Gospel according to John, but that “God” is used for the preincarnate Word (1:1c) as well as the glorified Jesus (20:28), the author, though not explicit, strongly implies that τὸν θεόν in 1:1b denotes the Father (pp 233, 234).

Many modern commentaries assert the referent as the Father, e.g., Brown, John I-XXI, p 5, 24; Keener, Gospel of John: One, pp 369-374; Kostenberger, John, pp 27-29.  Ridderbos, Gospel of John, implies 1b as a referent to the Father, as he states that 1:1 “is explained, at the deepest level, by the absoluteness of the historic self-disclosure of Jesus as the Christ, the Son of God” (p 35).  Martin Hengel, “The Prologue of the Gospel of John as the Gateway to Christological Truth” (in Bauckham, Mosser, Gospel of John and Christian Theology) sees John 1:1 as corresponding with 10:30: “I and the Father are one” (pp 272-273); cf. Paul N. Anderson, “On Guessing Points and Naming Stars” (in Bauckham, Mosser, Gospel of John and Christian Theology) who, similarly, equates 1:1 with 10:30 (p 314).  In addition, one may infer that Barrett, Gospel According to St. John, p 156, understands 1b as a reference to God the Father; Bruce, Gospel & Epistles of John, pp 30-31, also appears to imply the Father as the referent for 1b.

Moreover, a sampling of Patristic literature indicates a strong belief that τὸν θεόν in 1b is in reference to the Father: Elowsky, Ancient Christian Commentary: John 1-10, pp 8, 9, 10, 11, 12-15.  This includes Hilary of Poitiers, Origen, Augustine, Tertullian, Athanasius, Cyril of Alexandria, Gregory of Nyssa, Chrysostom, Ambrose, and Methodius.

125 See Wallace, Grammar, pp 266-267.  Also, as noted earlier, an indefinite rendering of an anarthrous PN-CV is “the most poorly attested” of the three choices (Wallace, Grammar, p 267).

126 Colwell, “Definite Rule,” p 21.  Emphasis added.

127 In the lone use of ho theos as a reference to the Son (20:28), this is in conjunction with a possessive pronoun, which may well make the presence of the article insignificant (see Wallace, Grammar, p 239), though this does not negate the fact that the usage here is definite.

128 See Wallace, Grammar, p 268.

129 Wallace, Grammar, notes that commentators before Colwell viewed the usage here as qualitative (p 268 n30).

130 Westcott, Gospel According to St. John, V1, p 6; bold added for emphasis.  See quote at note 119 above for Westcott on 5:27b.

131 Harner, pp 84-87; Dixon, pp 35-40; Wallace, Grammar, p 269.

132 Barrett, Gospel According to St. John, p 156.

133 Beasley-Murray, John, pp 10-11.

134 Bruce, Gospel & Epistles of John, pp 30-31.

135 Harner, p 87.

136 See Wallace, Grammar, p 264.

137 See Oliver D. Crisp, Divinity and Humanity: The Incarnation Reconsidered (New York, NY: Cambridge University Press, 2007), pp 34-71.

138 See Wallace, Grammar, p 264.

139 Westcott, Gospel According to St. John, V1, p 19.

140 Θεῖος is only used in Acts 17:29; 2 Pet 1:3, 1:4 (Titus 1:9 in a variant), ἀνθρώπινος in Acts 17:25; Rom 6:19; 1 Cor 2:13, 4:13, 10:13; James 3:7; 1 Pet 2:13.

141 In Koine Greek, most usually, the verb is placed first in a sentence, and by placing the PN in front of the verb the PN is emphasized.  For fronting see Martin M. Culy, I, II, III John: A Handbook on the Greek Text (Baylor Handbook of the Greek New Testament series, Martin M. Culy, gen. ed. (Waco, TX: Baylor University Press, 2004)), “Placing a constituent earlier in the sentence than its default order, most commonly in a pre-verbal position” (p 170).  Cf. Wallace, Grammar, p 269, nt 32.

The Son of God Given Authority to Judge Because He is ‘Human’: A Study in John 5:27, pt 5

[This is part 5 of a multi-part article.  See part 1, part 2, part 3, part 4 and part 6, conclusion.]

Grammatical-Syntactical Analysis of John 5:27b

We now turn specifically to the anarthrous PN-CV construction in 5:27b:

ὅτι υἱὸς ἀνθρώπου ἐστίν
ὅτι [PN:] υἱὸς ἀνθρώπου [CV:] ἐστίν
hoti [PN:] huios anthrōpou [CV:] estin
because huios anthrōpou He [the Son of God] is

It will be necessary to begin the discussion with a ‘rule’ put forth by E. C. Colwell, since it tends to be misapplied, even partly by Colwell himself in the establishment of his own rule.87 Knowing Colwell’s methodology will prove helpful in determining how to properly implement his findings.

Colwell surveyed NT syntactical constructions in which the predicate nominative is without the article and precedes its copulative verb (anarthrous PN-CV constructions) in which the PN was, by his estimation, “indubitably definite.”88 Importantly, Colwell did not consider either indefinite or qualitative PNs as part of his final analysis. In his study, he barely mentions indefinite PN-CVs at all; however, he specifically excludes all qualitative PNs because they are “not definite” and declares that the total amount in the NT is “small” anyway.89 Yet, as noted above, definite and indefinite nouns can sometimes be simultaneously qualitative.

Colwell also considered anarthrous CV-PN constructions. Of the 123 total “indubitably definite” anarthrous PNs he counted in the NT,90 97 were PN-CV (79%), while 26 were CV-PN (21%).91 What we do not know via Colwell is: (a) how many total anarthrous PN-CV constructions there are in the NT;92 (b) of this total how many were determined to be (primarily) qualitative or indefinite as opposed to definite; and, (c) the relative distribution of the three compared to each other.

Colwell also noted that there are incidences of arthrous PN-CV constructions. Recall that all arthrous nouns are definite, no matter the context. Colwell added these 15 arthrous PN-CV constructions to his 97 “indubitably definite” anarthrous PN-CVs, concluding that 87% of the time a definite PN does not have the article when it precedes the CV,93 thus resulting in his general rule: A definite predicate nominative has the article when it follows the verb, it does not have the article when it precedes the verb.94 Of course, this percentage is only valid to the extent of Colwell’s accuracy in predetermining definite anarthrous PN-CV constructions. He concedes this point, though he explains that he endeavored “to exclude all nouns as to whose definiteness there could be any doubt.”95 From his analysis Colwell claims that, with respect to translation and interpretation, he has

show[n] that a predicate nominative which precedes the verb cannot be translated as an indefinite or a “qualitative” noun solely because of the absence of the article if the context suggests that the predicate is definite, it should be translated as a definite noun in spite of the absence of the article.96

This statement is not untrue considering his important conditional clause “if the context suggests that the predicate is definite.” Yet, in building his case for the incidences of definite anarthrous PN-CV constructions, he compared the arthrous – and hence, definite – the Son of Man (ho huios tou anthrōpou) in the CV-PN construction of Matthew 13:37 to the anarthrous PN-CV huios anthrōpou of John 5:27b, ‘proving’ that John 5:27b is definite.97 This exemplifies at least one methodological error. Colwell assumed that the definite usage of a PN in one context necessarily renders that same PN definite in another, in this case partially upon his presumption that the expression in both texts is a “title.”98 Moreover, it may be that he presupposed definiteness because of the anarthrous PN-CV construction (and perhaps because of the myriad instances of the Son of Man in the Gospels). That is, he may not have adequately assessed the context, merely imposing his hypothesis upon the text, for, on the surface, it does not appear he could declare John 5:27b “indubitably definite.” If true, he would have been assuming the converse of his own rule in determining definiteness, a practice found elsewhere in his work.99 Many others have done this very thing, citing Colwell and erroneously presuming that ‘an anarthrous PN is definite when it precedes the CV’100 – even though Colwell did not examine all such NT constructions. But, as Dixon points out, this is demonstrably false:

[T]he converse of Colwell’s rule . . . is not a valid inference . . . From the statement “Articular nouns are definite,” it is not valid to infer “Definite nouns are articular.” Likewise, from the statement “Definite predicate nominatives preceding the verb are anarthrous,” it is not valid to infer “Anarthrous predicate nominatives preceding the verb are definite.”101

To rephrase, as we noted above, sometimes definite nouns lack the article, so it would be fallacious to state ‘definite nouns are arthrous.’ Similarly, sometimes when a PN precedes its CV the noun is other than definite. The point here is that Colwell’s findings merely allow the possibility that an anarthrous PN-CV construction be definite. ‘Colwell’s rule’ states “nothing about the probability of definiteness.”102 Hence, context must be the first consideration. If the context suggests definiteness, then it is grammatically permissible to render it definite, per a proper interpretation of Colwell’s work.

Yet, according to the analysis of Harner and Dixon, in the Gospel according to John, an anarthrous PN is most times qualitative when it precedes its CV.103 Specifically, Harner interprets these constructions as primarily qualitative, and this qualitativeness “may be more important than the question whether the predicate noun itself should be regarded as definite or indefinite.”104 In his article he concludes:

. . . [A]narthrous predicate nouns preceding the verb may be primarily qualitative in force yet may also have some connotation of definiteness. The categories of qualitativeness and definiteness, that is, are not mutually exclusive, and frequently it is a delicate exegetical issue for the interpreter to decide which emphasis a Greek writer had in mind.105

In fact, of the 53 occurrences of anarthrous PN-CV constructions in John’s Gospel, Harner found 40 primarily qualitative in force.106 Dixon, on the other hand, deemed 45 of the 53 to be with a qualitative emphasis,107 with another five “probably qualitative.”108 While Harner does not count John 5:27b as qualitative,109 this clause is specifically identified by Dixon as “probably qualitative, but could be definite.”110 Assessing the work of Harner and Dixon along with his own analysis, Wallace states a general rule, thus revising Colwell: “An anarthrous pre-verbal PN is normally qualitative, sometimes definite, and only rarely indefinite.”111

Given the exegetical findings of the previous section in conjunction with syntactical probabilities, the position taken here is that υἱὸς ἀνθρώπου in John 5:27b is primarily qualitative and secondarily definite, revealing the μονογενὴς (monogenēs, unique, one-of-a-kind; 1:14, 18) Son of God’s incarnational status. Rather than making a one-to-one correspondence (because He [the Son of God] is the Son of Man), the focus in this verse is upon His incarnational humanity over against His deity.112 Thus, it should be interpreted: because the Son of God is son of man, i.e. because the Son of God is human. In other words, this clause should be understood: ‘because the Son of God (also) possesses all the qualities and characteristics consistent with being human.’ This seems the best way to understand John 5:27b in view of its immediate context, its contrast with yet connection to ὁ υἱὸς τοῦ ἀνθρώπου throughout John’s Gospel as illustrated in the previous sections above, its agreement with parts of the larger Johannine corpus (Revelation 1:13 and 14:14), and its allusions and references to the OT (especially in relation to Daniel 7:13-14, 7:26, 12:1c-2, but also to include general usage of υἱὸς ἀνθρώπου in the LXX113).

Some commentators perceive the qualitative force in John 5:27b. Barrett, e.g., recognizes the qualitative emphasis here, with an underlying definiteness,114 quoting Schlatter in agreement in this regard:

It is unnecessary here to use the articles because ‘in this context his uniqueness is perfectly clear. It arises out of the uniqueness of his status as Son of God . . . But here the emphasis lies upon the fact that he belongs to humanity as he who took the measure of life appointed to men.’115

Hare, also, seems to affirm a qualitative-definite force noting, importantly, that while the anarthrous form is “not identical” to the arthrous, he sees the expression in 5:27 as combining both:

[H]uios anthrōpou does not serve as a name but expresses a quality or status, yet its connotative force appears to be the same as that of the fuller appellative. Both forms of the phrase can refer to the humanity of the Word that became flesh for our salvation.116

Aune, following Hare, also asserts that the anarthrous υἱὸς ἀνθρώπου in 5:27 “expresses a quality or status, i.e., the incarnate status of the Son.”117 Additionally, Augustine affirms the view adopted here, as “[h]e is the one who will come and it is in the form [of man] that he will come [to judge].”118 As well, Westcott construes a qualitative-definite rendering, with the understanding that this is due to Christ’s role as Judge:

The prerogative of judgement is connected with the true humanity of Christ (Son of man), and not with the fact that He is the representative of humanity (the Son of man). The Judge, even as the Advocate (Heb. 2:18), must share the nature of those who are brought before Him. The omission of the article concentrates attention upon the nature and not upon the personality of Christ.119

Similarly, Godet recognizes that it’s necessarily from Christ’s humanity that He judges mankind, asserting a qualitative priority in John 5:27b:

It emphasizes the relation between the character of judge and that of Son of man. What is this relation? . . . The term, Son of man, without the article sets forth simply the quality of man which He shares with all other men . . . The quality of man is made prominent here for the purpose of explaining, not the dignity of Saviour, but that of judge. The judgment of humanity is a homage rendered to the holiness of God; but this homage, in order really to make reparation for the outrage committed, must proceed from the [human] race itself which has committed the offense. Judgment, in this view, is exactly on the same line with expiation, of which it serves as the complement. Expiation is the reparation freely offered believing humanity; judgment is the satisfaction which God takes from humanity which has refused Him this reparation. In the one, as in the other, of these acts, a man must preside.120

As evidenced by the foregoing, our position that John 5:27b should be understood as qualitative-definite finds theological and contextual validity, syntactical grounding, and support from some commentators. Strict definiteness, while viable, seems outweighed by contextual and theological considerations. Moreover, if the Gospel writer wished to make it clear that his intention in 5:27b was to indicate definiteness he could simply have utilized both articles and/or placed an arthrous PN after the CV – the latter construction used 66 times in his Gospel.121 Indefiniteness, though grammatically possible, is “the most poorly attested” of the three options involving a PN-CV construction,122 and seems unlikely in this context, for it could imply that a mere man is qualified to be eschatological judge.

Go to part 6, conclusion.


87 E. C. Colwell, “A Definite Rule for the Use of the Article in the Greek New Testament,” Journal of Biblical Literature 52 (1933): 12-21. See Wallace, Grammar, on how Colwell himself erroneously applied his own ‘rule’ (pp 258-259; cf. 259-262).

88 Colwell, “Definite Rule,” p 17. As Dixon, “Anarthrous Predicate Nominative in John,” observes: “Thus, what is to be asserted is not definiteness, but articularity” (p 13). Cf. Wallace, Grammar, p 262.

89 Colwell, “Definite Rule,” p 17.

90 Colwell, “Definite Rule,” p 17. Colwell also specifically excludes relative clauses (pp 16-17). He states that this 123 total is not necessarily 100% accurate – he may have missed a few – and this fact does not necessarily materially affect his results (“Definite Rule,” p 16 nt 10). I’ll agree that if the total were actually, say, 125 as opposed to his 123 that this would not detract from his analysis on this particular point. It’s what he concludes with this data that is problematic, as we will see.

91 Colwell, “Definite Rule,” p 17.

92 Philip B. Harner, “Qualitative Anarthrous Predicate Nouns: Mark 15:39 and John 1:1” (Journal of Biblical Literature 92 (1973): 75-87) counts 53 such constructions in John’s Gospel alone, with another eight in Mark (p 82). However, Harner construed most of these as emphasizing a qualitative force. More on this below.

93 Colwell, “Definite Rule,” p 17.

94 Colwell, “Definite Rule,” p 13. Emphasis added.

95 Colwell, “Definite Rule,” p 17.

96 Colwell, “Definite Rule,” p 20. Emphasis added

97 Colwell, “Definite Rule,” p 14.

98 Colwell, “Definite Rule,” p 14. Dixon, “Anarthrous Predicate Nominative in John,” identifies this sort of error (pp 19-22). Moreover, as Hare, Son of Man, illustrates, Matthew 13:37 is the only CV-PN construction of the expression in the entire NT, and the context is within a parable, which, given its allegorical nature, necessitates this form, in his opinion; cf. Gal 4:24f (p 151).

99 See Colwell’s (“Definite Rule”) exegesis of John 1:1c (p 21), which is discussed specifically below (see note 126 and corresponding text). Wallace (Grammar) recounts how he learned that Colwell considered the converse of his rule as valid as the rule itself (p 259, esp. ftnt 11).

100 As but one example, in an effort to refute the Arianism inherent in the Jehovah’s Witnesses’ New World Translation rendering of John 1:1c (“and the Word was a god”), Walter Martin [The Kingdom of the Cults: The Definitive Work on the Subject, Revised, Updated, and Expanded Edition, gen. ed. R. Zacharias (Bloomington, MN: Bethany House, 2003)] misapplied Colwell’s Rule, which, ironically, resulted in his implied support of Sabellianism (modalism) – a heresy he had staunchly opposed. Citing Colwell, Martin dogmatically declared: “the Greek grammatical construction leaves no doubt whatsoever that this [and the Word was God] is the only possible rendering . . . Colwell formulated a rule that clearly states that a definite predicate nominative (in this case theos – God) never takes an article when it precedes the verb (was), as we find in John 1:1[c] . . . [T]herefore . . . no article is needed . . . and to translate it ‘a god’ is both incorrect grammar and poor Greek” (p 108). The reason this can support Sabellianism is that in John 1:1b (and the Word was with [the] God (ho theos)) God (ho theos) can be understood contextually as the Father, and by claiming that the PN is definite in which “no article is needed” Martin affirmed – whether intentional or not – a fully convertible A = B / B = A proposition: the Word = God (the Father) and God (the Father) = the Word. See A. T. Robertson, [A Grammar of the Greek New Testament in the Light of Historical Research, 4th ed. (Nashville, TN: Broadman, 1934 (1914)), pp 767-768] who references this very clause, adding: “[W]hen the article occurs with the subject . . . and predicate, both are definite, treated as identical, one and the same, and interchangeable” (p 768). Cf. Wallace, Grammar, pp 258, 268. [More on John 1:1c in the next section.]

Martin went further astray in his statement that a definite noun in a PN-CV construction “never takes an article,” for, per Colwell, 15 out of 112 are arthrous (Colwell, “Definite Rule,” p 17). Hence, not only did Martin erroneously affirm the converse of Colwell’s rule, he mistakenly asserted that there can never be an articular PN-CV construction.

101 Dixon, “Anarthrous Predicate Nominative in John,” (hereafter simply “Dixon”) pp 11-12.

102 Dixon, p 18.

103 Harner, “Qualitative Anarthrous Predicate Nouns,” pp 75-87 (hereafter simply “Harner”); Dixon, pp 1-61.

104 Harner, p 75.

105 Harner, p 87. Emphasis added.

106 Harner, pp 82-83.

107 Dixon, p 32.

108 Dixon, p 34. These are identified as 1:49, 5:27, 9:5, 17:17, and 19:21.

109 This verse is not enumerated in his list of 40 in which “the qualitative force of the predicate is more prominent than its definiteness or indefiniteness” (Harner, pp 83, 83 nt 20). While Harner specifically engages some anarthrous PN-CV constructions in John, 5:27b is not one of them, and no specific reason was given for the non-inclusion of this verse in his list of 40. However, he does state: “Some degree of subjectivity is unavoidable . . . and the interpretation of some examples is uncertain” (p 83). Perhaps this means John 5:27b is, in his opinion, one of those that are “uncertain.”

110 Dixon, p 33; cf. 56.

111 Wallace, Grammar, p 262. Italics in original, bold added.

112 It is the surrounding context that is expressing Jesus’ deity via His divine functioning, not the Son of God idiom itself, as discussed above.

113 To include especially Psalm 8:4, 80:17, and 144:3 in their larger contexts. Leung, Kingship-Cross Interplay, states that “Son of Man” in Psalms 8:4, 80:17, and 144:3 are referenced in the post-NT Targums as “evidently messianic” (p 70). Yet the author includes John 5:27 among these “son of man” references, assuming it is definite along with all 12 other particularized usages of the term in John’s Gospel. This illustrates (a) the very point we’ve been making here that the understanding of a messianic the Son of Man only came after the NT had been written; and, (b) that this author, like many others, imposes particularity and definiteness upon 5:27b.

114 Barrett, Gospel According to St. John, p 262. The commentator also states: “Everywhere else in John both articles are used . . . because the phrase is here anarthrous it has been suggested that its meaning is not ‘the Son of man’; Jesus is qualified and authorized to judge because he has shared the experiences of men as one of themselves” (p 262).

115 Barrett, Gospel According to St. John, p 262 (emphasis added), who cites Adolf Schlatter, Der Evangelist Johannes, wie er spricht denkt und glaubt: Ein Kommentar zum vierten Evangelium (Stuttgart: Calwer, (1930) 1958), p 152. [Translation: John the Evangelist, As He Speaks, Thinks, and Believes: A Commentary on the Fourth Gospel.]

116 Hare, Son of Man, p 96; cf. pp 90-96.

117 Aune, Revelation 1-5, p 90.

118 Augustine of Hippo, “Sermon 127.10,” in Joel C. Elowsky, ed. Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture, New Testament, IVa: John 1-10, Thomas Oden, gen. ed. (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 2006), p 199. Brackets in original.

119 Westcott, Gospel According to St. John, 1, p 194; parentheses in original.

120 Godet, Commentary on the Gospel of John, Vol. 1, pp 477-478; italics in original.

121 For this quantity, see Harner (p 82) and Dixon (p 24). Delbert R. Burkett [The Son of the Man in the Gospel of John, (JSNTSup, 56; Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 1991)], who claims the usage here is indefinite (p 43), asserts that there are two other syntactical choices the Gospel writer could have used to mark the appellative as definite – though he also calls it a title – structures the biblical author utilized elsewhere in the Gospel, as “[t]he second article in [PN-CV] constructions is regularly retained . . .” (p 42). These two options are: (a) employing an anarthrous υἱός before the CV and τοῦ ἀνθρώπου after; (b) placing υἱὸς τοῦ ἀνθρώπου before the CV (p 42). For (a) he appeals to 1:49, 9:5, 10:2, 12:31, and 19:21; for (b) he compares to 8:39 and 10:36. Regarding Burkett’s supporting texts for (b), both Dixon (p 56) and Harner (p 83 ftnt 20), in contrast to Burkett, find the two to be primarily qualitative. I’m inclined to agree.

As to the supporting verses for (a), Harner explicitly agrees with the position taken by Burkett regarding 1:49 and 9:5 (pp 83-84) and implicitly agrees regarding 19:21 (p 83); however, Dixon finds these three verses “probably qualitative, but, possibly definite” (pp 19-22, cf. 41-44). 10:2 is determined to be qualitative by both Dixon (p 56) and Harner (p 83 ftnt 20). 12:31 does not appear to fit the pattern and is not assessed by either Harner or Dixon. Regarding 10:2, we concur with Harner and Dixon. On the other three verses we remain ambivalent: we can see the argument of Harner, and we can sympathize with the position of Dixon.

While it may be true that the Gospel writer would retain the second article in such constructions, given the evidence, to include sample size, I’m not so sure we can make any definitive conclusions as to the biblical author’s intentions regarding in/definiteness or qualitativeness, contra Burkett. In fact, it seems likely that Burkett deems these constructions definite on their face merely because he presupposes they are all titles.

122 Wallace, Grammar, p 267.

The Son of God Given Authority to Judge Because He is ‘Human’: A Study in John 5:27, pt 4

[This is part 4 of a multi-part article.  See part 1, part 2, part 3, part 5 and part 6, conclusion.]

Immediate and Larger Context of John 5:27b

Chapter 5 of John’s Gospel begins with Jesus healing the man at the pool of Bethesda. Jesus’ Jewish adversaries took exception to His healing on the Sabbath, and then commanding the now-healed man to ‘work’ – as per their much exaggerated extrapolation of Mosaic Law – in His instruction to the man to pick up his mat and walk (8-15).60 Verse 16 begins Jesus’ interaction with His interlocutors (16-18), and His monologue in response to them follows (19-47).

Jesus’ reaction to their concern of Him doing “these things” on the Sabbath (16) was to explain that He always works, along with His Father (17). His antagonists were even more zealous to kill Him, as they understood that He was making Himself equal with God (18). This was two-fold: (a) Jesus claimed to always work, to include the Sabbath and, (b) Jesus called God His own Father (ὁ πατήρ μου, ho Patēr Mou – My Father). On the former (a) Brown notes the following, pertaining to rabbinic understanding of God as related to the Sabbath:

In particular, as regards men, divine activity was visible in two ways: men were born and men died on the Sabbath. Since only God could give life (2 Kings 5:7; 2 Macc 7:22–23) and only God could deal with the fate of the dead in judgment, this meant God was active on the Sabbath . . . God has kept in His hand three keys that He entrusts to no agent: the key of the rain, the key of birth (Gen 30:22), and the key of the resurrection of the dead (Ezek 37:13). And it was obvious to the rabbis that God used these keys even on the Sabbath.61

Death itself was seen as “judgment.” Further explaining Jewish understanding regarding the Sabbath, Pryor observes that inherent in the Jews’ anger against Jesus was “the rabbinic awareness that since people are born and die on the Sabbath, God cannot be said to be idle on any day, for the gift of life and the work of judgment are divine prerogatives.”62 Thus, in the minds of Jesus’ antagonists, His claim of working as His Father works on the Sabbath strongly implied equality with God, with this ‘work’ understood potentially as ‘giving life’ (births) and ‘judgment’ (death). In response to His adversaries’ outward intent to take His life, Jesus commences to further confirm their suspicions by making explicit claims of possessing the ability to give life and exercise judgment (18-29), as we will see.63

After Jesus identifies Himself as the Son in relation to “My Father” (17), He continues this theme throughout His monologue, being more specific later that He indeed is the Son of God (25). This implies that all other mentions of ὁ υἱός (ho huios), the Son (19, 20, 21, 22, 23, and 26), in this pericope are references to Jesus as the Son of God. Given this, we may identify the pronouns in 5:27 thusly: And he [the Father] has given Him [the Son of God] authority to judge because He [the Son of God] is υἱὸς ἀνθρώπου.

The Son of God makes various claims of sharing in divine functions with the Father: The Son indicates that His works are performed through His dependence on the Father,64 as He “sees” His Father,65 and “whatever the Father does the Son does also” (19). This implies a unity between Father and Son.66 The Father shows the Son “even greater works” (20), to include the ability to raise the dead and give life (21). The Son of God has been entrusted with judgment (22), to include salvation unto eternal life for those who “hear” His words (24-25), both contemporaneous with his interlocutors (24-25) and in the future, eschatological resurrection-judgment (28-29). That is, Jesus’ words are describing both inaugurated eschatology (24-25)67 and consummated eschatology (28-29).68 The former centers on earthly belief or non-belief in Jesus in response to His words, the latter the eternal consequences – positive or negative – of this temporal choice (cf. 3:15, 17-18, 12:47-48).69 In the Gospel according to John “Christology is the root of eschatology; eschatology is the outworking of the Christology of the Son of the Father.”70

An important question to answer en route to exegeting 5:27b is this: What does the initial independent clause of verse 28 – Do not be amazed at this – refer to? Specifically, does this correspond to the words preceding it or those following? Certainly, the entire pericope proved ‘amazing’ to the perturbed Jews here, as they “were trying even harder to kill Him” even before Jesus began His monologue. Given that Jesus had already stated that hearing His words would bring about eternal life in the here and now, why would the statement following about the future resurrection be ‘amazing,’ especially in view of the rabbinic understanding of the reality of future eschatological judgment (Daniel 12:2)? Does this mean we should understand this in 28a as pertaining to Jesus’ previous words to the exclusion of the words that follow?

Yet it is conceivable that this in 5:28a (Do not be amazed at this) refers, in some way, to the description of eschatological judgment that follows. Moreover, it is plausible that this in context refers to both that which precedes it and that which follows. Commentaries are somewhat divided on this issue. Some opine that this refers solely to the preceding.71 Others posit that it pertains to what follows.72 Many others construe the meaning as referring to Jesus’ words both before and after this.73 The position adopted here – which we’ll unpack as we move along – comports with the latter, though the analysis is grounded in a particular understanding of the meaning and function of huios anthrōpou in 5:27b.

More specifically, the stance here is such that Jesus is telling His interlocutors to not be amazed that the basis upon which the Son of God is granted authority to judge is that He is huios anthrōpou. The Son of God, as huios anthrōpou, not only has been given authority for the present granting of life (24-25), He will also have future authority to judge at the eschatological resurrection-judgment, as it will be His (human) voice heard by both those who have “done good” (28-29a), and those who have “done evil” (28, 29b).74 Those who have “done good” are those who believed in Him during their earthly life, and they will hear the voice of the Son of God as υἱὸς ἀνθρώπου and will “rise to live,” thus fulfilling the Son of Man’s promise to “raise him up on the last day” (6:39-40, 44, 54). Those who have “done evil” are those who rejected the Son of God and His words, and hence rejected the Father who sent Him (3:18b [cf. 3:17a], 12:47-49; cf. 3:19b-20, 5:23), and they will hear the voice of the Son of God as υἱὸς ἀνθρώπου and then “rise to be condemned,” thus fulfilling the promise that “the very word I [the Son of God] spoke will condemn him at the last day” (12:48).75

A linguistic device used by the Gospel writer in this pericope may lend credence to our position. The verb in verse 28a – (θαυμάζετε, thaumadzete) be amazed, marvel – is the same as the one in v 20, though in a slightly different form (θαυμάζητε, thaumadzēte; may be amazed, may marvel). Taken together, these function akin to an inclusio,76 with each referring to the Son providing “greater works” in the form of judgment (positively and negatively), as illustrated by the intervening context, as well as 28b-29. Given our position here, θαυμάζετε in 28a (Do not be amazed at this) primarily refers to the just-stated fact (27b) that it is, and will be, the Son of God as υἱὸς ἀνθρώπου functioning as the vehicle by which these “greater works” are (24-25) and will be (28-29) effected.77 Similarly, the noun “works” (ἔργα, erga) in v 20 is a rephrasing of, and thus an allusion to, both uses of its verbal form “is/am working” in 17 (ἐργάζομαι, ergadzomai and ἐργάζεται, ergadzetai), with Jesus indicating that not only is He “working” on the Sabbath, along with His Father (17), He is and will be doing even “greater works” (20).

The subsequent use of “works” and “marvel” has the effect of not only linking each one with its previous usage, but of providing a cumulative, intensifying force as well. Jesus, the Son of God, not only is working (along with His Father) on the Sabbath, thereby alluding that He is possibly functioning divinely as contemporaneous Life Giver and Judge in earthly births and deaths, respectively (17), He does greater works in the form of explicitly providing eternal life (20-25). While His antagonists will marvel about these “greater works” of the Son of God in inaugurating eternal life in the present (20-25), even more marvelous is the fact that He, as υἱὸς ἀνθρώπου, will be the voice which will be heard at the consummation of salvation and the ultimate condemnation at the eschatological resurrection-judgment (27-30).78

That the voice (…because a time is coming when all who are in their graves will hear His voice…) of a ‘mere’ huios anthrōpou, son of man, would be the impetus for the final, resurrection-judgment would indeed be cause for his antagonists to marvel! That this Jesus – by all appearances to His interlocutors a mere man – would claim filial relationship to God (as the Son of God) as one who provides eternal life to those who hear His voice in the then-present age would surely be scandalous; but, for this Jesus to pronounce that the authority granted Him for all judgment, to include the final judgment, is because He is (also) huios anthrōpou would be quite another matter. To His antagonists, this would indicate, among other things, that this man Jesus not only claims direct familial relationship with God but is also claiming He would be alive as the final resurrection-judgment commences; and that it would be His (human) voice heard by all those in their graves, who would then arise to face judgment for either life or condemnation at the eschaton.79 Additionally, His adversaries may think that Jesus is implicitly stating that He would never see death, perhaps as per Enoch (Gen 5:23) or Elijah (2 Kings 2:11)

Quite plausibly, Jesus’ referring to Himself as the anarthrous υἱὸς ἀνθρώπου in the context of yet-future resurrection-judgment as described in 5:27-29 may prompt His hearers to recall the figure ὡς υἱὸς ἀνθρώπου (like a son of man) in Daniel 7:13-14, as well as the description of final judgment in Daniel 12:2.80 In fact, the similar phraseology of he has given Him authority (ἐξουσίαν ἔδωκεν αὐτῷ) in 5:27 (inaugurated eschatology) and to him was given authority (ἐδόθη αὐτῷ ἐξουσία) in Daniel 7:14 (yet-future prophetic reference) may provide further cause for his antagonists to connect the two. In addition, His audience could be inclined to recall the court scene depicted in Daniel 7:26-27, perhaps with the understanding that Jesus was implying He’d be presiding Judge. All this may account for why Jesus’ words in 5:27b were not the arthrous ὁ υἱὸς τοῦ ἀνθρώπου but, rather, the anarthrous form of the idiom; i.e. the intent was to specifically evoke the eschatological human-like figure in Daniel. In other words, since Daniel 7:13 does not refer to the figure coming with the clouds as one ‘like the Son of Man,’ but instead one like a son of man, like a human, the articles may have been purposely omitted in 5:27b.81 If so, the use of the anarthrous construction (υἱὸς ἀνθρώπου) in 5:27b in this context functioned to illustrate that the Prophet Daniel’s words were about Him. This is the stance taken here.

This position is bolstered by John’s use of similar language in the similarly-themed material in Revelation 1:13 and 14:14, as noted earlier.82 In fact, it may well be that the hyper-anthropic (super-human) description of Jesus in His post-earthly appearance in Revelation 1:7-18 (especially 14-16) and the depiction of Him as the eschatological reaper of 14:14-16 provides the very reason for the use of one like a huios anthrōpou in the Apocalypse, in contradistinction to the not-yet-glorified huios anthrōpou in John 5:27b. Stated another way, the appearance of the post-earthly Jesus is described as ὅμοιος υἱὸς ἀνθρώπου (homoios huios anthrōpou),83 like a son of man, in Rev 1:13 and 14:14 specifically because of His hyper-anthropic features, in order to distinguish it from, while yet retaining a connection to, his former earthly ministerial appearance as υἱὸς ἀνθρώπου (huios anthrōpou), son of man, human, in John 5:27b.84

Perhaps also of significance, as illustrated above, John the Gospel writer nowhere else uses the arthrous ὁ υἱὸς τοῦ ἀνθρώπου (ho huios tou anthrōpou) in a context of eschatological condemnation-judgment as found in John 5:29b. However, as noted above, Hurtado seems to be right in that the articular the Son of Man idiom functions only to refer to Jesus, not to define Him. But, then again, all contexts reflecting the negative aspect of judgment specify that it’s the individual’s rejection of Jesus in their earthly life that condemns them, not Jesus’ active condemnation of them, and these do not directly reference the eschaton. John 5:29b is, then, the only context of eschatological condemnation-judgment in the Gospel, and this includes the anarthrous υἱὸς ἀνθρώπου of 5:27b as part of its larger context.

The overarching point we are driving at here is that the Biblical author in John 5:27b seems to be emphasizing qualitativeness: And the Father has given the Son of God authority to judge because He is human. In other words, the function of the expression here appears best understood as taking on a strong adjectival force. The reason the divine Son of God has been granted authority to judge is due to His incarnational status of being fully human, sharing humanity with all humankind. If the Gospel writer intended an allusion or even a more direct reference to Daniel 7:13, as we’ve argued above, then it seems logical that the author would use the same non-particularized form of the term that the Prophet used, which, as we argued earlier, is best understood like a human. That is, the Daniel verse and the two in the Apocalypse which allude to Daniel are best construed as qualitative-indefinite, while John 5:27b seems best understood as emphasizing qualitativeness over definiteness. Assuming so, John 5:27 powerfully proclaims the hypostatic union – the unity of divinity and humanity in the Person of Jesus Christ.

The definiteness included in the qualitative-definite assessment of 5:27b should be understood as providing an implicit link to the other arthrous sayings of the idiom, as it’s, e.g., the Son of Man who will ‘raise up’ believers “at the last day” (6:39-40, 44, 54). However, this does not mean that the articular form of the idiom should be understood as strictly indicating Jesus’ humanity, as illustrated above. Thompson, agreeing with this position, also notes that both the Son of Man and the Son of God refer to Jesus as the Word-become-flesh in the Gospel of John:

In spite of the fact that in biblical usage “son of man” connotes humankind, it is too neat, even misleading, to say that [the] “Son of Man” refers to Jesus in his humanity, while “Son of God” denotes his divinity . . . [A]ll three designations – Son, Son of Man, and Son of God – refer to the same person, Jesus of Nazareth, who is Word-made-flesh. From his identity as the Word who was with God and who was God, who became flesh, and who in his vocation as the Messiah gives his flesh for the life of the world – from that identity these diverse filial forms derive their meaning.85

Accepting Thompson’s position, and given that in Jesus’ monologue here (5:19ff) He identifies Himself specifically as the Son of God (5:25), would it not seem superfluous for Jesus to state that the reason He, the Son of God, was granted authority to judge was because He, the Son of God, is the Son of Man? In addition, if we were to assume for the moment that the Gospel writer intended a definite understanding (the Son of Man) for the anarthrous huios anthrōpou here, this would be the only occurrence of a direct correspondence between the two idioms in Johannine literature.

With all the preceding in mind, for contextual and theological reasons we will tentatively reject a strictly definite (when at the expense of a qualitative) the Son of Man as the authorial intention for John 5:27b. Assuredly, had the Gospel writer wished, he could have simply added both articles to the expression in order to make certain his intention for definiteness, rather than leaving it (seemingly) ambiguous. However, we will withhold a final conclusion on this until the grammatical-syntactical argument is engaged.

While we have been contending for a qualitative-definite authorial intent, we have not specifically investigated indefiniteness, which, on the surface, seems to be a viable option.86 This possibility will be explored briefly in our grammatical investigation below.

[Go to part 5.]


60 For some detail on the violations to the Mishna see Raymond E. Brown, The Gospel According to John I-XII, 2nd ed. (Garden City, NY: Doubleday & Company, 1966), p 208.

61 Brown, John I-XXI, p 217. Emphasis added. The archaic rendering of Scripture (e.g. “Gen xxx 22”) has been changed to common usage. This practice continues throughout.

62 John W. Pryor, John, Evangelist of the Covenant People (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 1992), pp 26-27, as cited in Craig L. Blomberg, The Historical Reliability of John’s Gospel (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 2001), p 111. Emphasis added.

63 See Blomberg, Historical Reliability, pp 110-111, 114-115.

64 See brief discussion in Marianne Meye Thompson, The God of the Gospel of John (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2001), p 234.

65 Note that no one can see God (John 1:18; cf. 5:37, 6:46) and live (Ex 33:20), a point that would not have been lost on Jesus’ Jewish antagonists.

66 See Thompson, The God of the Gospel of John, pp 231-235.

67 Jesus’ words in verse 25 that “a time is coming and is now here when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God and those who hear will live” should be understood as contemporaneous (νῦν ἐστιν, now is), with the dead understood as the spiritually dead.   That is, the ζωὴν αἰώνιον, eternal life, of v 24 should be seen as inaugurated eschatology and not consummated eschatology. This is known usually as the already but not yet. Eternal life is secured in the temporal life through belief in Christ, yet its consummation comes at the eschaton.

68 For a lengthy discussion on the contrast between inaugurated eschatology and consummated eschatology, with respect to eternal life here in John’s Gospel, see Thompson, The God of the Gospel of John, pp 80-87, though Thompson uses “realized eschatology” rather than “inaugurated eschatology.”

69 Miroslav Volf, “Johannine Dualism and Contemporary Pluralism” [in The Gospel of John and Christian Theology, R. Bauckham and C. Mosser, eds. (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2008)], delineates the difference between the two judgments well: “The theme of divine judgment is present. Jesus spoke of God’s wrath against unbelievers (3:36) and understood himself as the executioner of that judgment in the endtime (5:27-29). But he stated repeatedly and emphatically that he has not come into the world to judge it but to save it (3:17; 12:47). True, his coming in the world effected judgment, depending on how people responded to it (3:17-21). But that is precisely the point: He does not actively judge, his words and actions judge, depending on how people respond to them . . .” (p 43; italics in original).

70 George R. Beasley-Murray, John, Word Biblical Commentary, D. Hubbard, G. Barker, gen. eds. (Waco, TX: Word, 1987), p 80.

71 E.g., D. A. Carson, The Gospel According to John, Pillar New Testament Commentary, D. A. Carson, gen. ed. (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1991), p 258; Andreas J. Kostenberger, John, Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament, Moises Silva, ed. (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 2002), p 189, though the author thinks it possible that it could refer to both the preceding and the following.

72 E. g., Craig S. Keener, The Gospel of John: A Commentary, Volume One (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, (2003) 2010 (1st softcover ed.)), p 651.

73 C. K. Barrett, The Gospel According to St. John: An Introduction with Commentary and Notes on the Greek Text, 2nd ed. (Philadelphia: Westminster, 1978), p 263; Herman Ridderbos, The Gospel of John: A Theological Commentary, trans. J. Vriend (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, (1987) 1997), pp 200-201; Beasley-Murray, John, p 77; B. F. Westcott, The Gospel According to St. John, Vol. 1 (London: John Murray, 1908), p 192 [;view=1up;seq=210;size=125].  Brown, John I-XXI, opines that the author may have “the whole complex of ideas” in view (p 215).

74 If the Gospel of John is in any way polemical against a proto-Gnosticism, our interpretation of this statement may be seen as negating a supposed spirit/matter dualism in Jesus – i.e., that Jesus is a mere man with a divine spark/seed relying on external ‘gnosis’ for guidance (some Gnostics charged that John’s Gospel was promoting Gnosticism). In other words, since Jesus is making the claim that He is the Son of God, working in dependence on the Father – as opposed to some sort of external ‘gnosis’ – to effect judgment/salvation for humanity, and that He, as huios anthrōpou (according to the understanding adopted here), is that Judge, then Jesus is, in effect, affirming the unity of His divine-human Person, a position incongruent with Gnosticism.

75 See note 47 above.

76 For an example of the multitude use of this device in Philippians see Black, Linguistics for Students of New Testament Greek, pp 181-188.

77 Cf. Westcott, Gospel According to John, V. 1, p 192.

78 The ISBE notes that it was thought that it would be God who would judge: “As a general rule, the intertestamental literature considers God rather than the Messiah the one who ushers in the cosmic transformation;” however, one notable exception is in Psalms of Solomon (18:4-9), which “installs the Messiah as the ideal judge and ruler” (O. A. Piper, “Messiah,” in G. W. Bromiley, gen. ed. The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1988, p 3.333). The point is that, in a general sense, there was not an expectation that the Messiah would be the earthly Judge, let alone the eschatological Judge; and, hence, Jesus’ claims – even if the antagonists were to briefly consider Him a contender for Messiahship – may prove to be too ‘amazing.’

79 Godet [Frederick L. Godet, Commentary on the Gospel of John, Vol. 1, trans. Timothy Dwight (London/Toronto: Funk & Wagnalls, 1886)] comes to a similar conclusion: “There is great force in the words: shall hear His voice. ‘This voice which sounds in your ears at this moment, will be the one that shall awake you from the sleep of death and cause you to come forth from the tomb. Marvel not, therefore, that I claim to possess both the authority to judge and the power to raise from the dead spiritually.’ Thus the last convulsion of the physical world, the universal resurrection, will be the work of that same human will which shall have renewed the moral world—that of the Son of Man. ‘Since death came by man,’ says St. Paul with precisely the same meaning, ‘the resurrection of the dead comes also by man’ (1 Cor. 15:21)” (p 479). We cannot help but note, however, that Godet, following Gess, advocated an ontological kenosis so extreme as to involve the complete metamorphosis of the Logos upon becoming flesh, such that the Word was effectively transformed from Deity into man [see L. S. Chafer, Systematic Theology, Vol. 1 (Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel, 1993), p 380]. This absolute depotentiation of the Logos was somewhat amusingly referred to as “incarnation by divine suicide” by La Touche [Everard Digges La Touche, “The Unity of Person,” in The Person of Christ in Modern Thought, p 355].

80 See Brown, John I-XXI, p 220.

81 Bauckham, Gospel of Glory, asserts that the Gospel writer purposefully alludes to Daniel 7:13 here: “Only in one instance in John is there an allusion to Dan. 7:13, and in that case (5:27) John indicates this by using the anarthrous form of the expression (huios anthrōpou), which is not his usage in the twelve other occurrences of ‘the Son of Man’ in the Gospel but which corresponds literally to Dan. 7:13” (p 178).

82 See notes 57 and 58 and corresponding text. Also note the words of 5:29 indicating that both the saved (those who have done good) and the unsaved (those who have done evil) will experience ἀνάστασις, resurrection, the former to “life,” the latter to “condemnation.” Certainly, as observed just above, 5:28-29 seems likely intended to evoke Daniel 12:2 (note the similar ἀνίστημι, here as the future middle verb ἀναστήσονται, will awaken); cf. Rev 20:5, 6 (ἀνάστασις). 5:29 is clearly a reference to the ‘white throne judgment,’ which includes the opening of ‘the book of life’ (Rev 20:11-15; cf. Daniel 12:1-2).

83 See note 56 above for a possible reason for John’s slightly different rendering than the LXX of Daniel 7:13.

84 We must bear in mind that, though the Incarnation began when the Word ‘became flesh,’ it continues on as the Word’s new mode of existence. In other words, the Second Person of the Trinity remains a divine-human entity.

85 Marianne Meye Thompson, John: A Commentary, New Testament Library, C. Clifton Black, et al eds. (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox, 2015), p 58. It must be noted, however, that Thompson construes 5:27b as the definite the Son of Man (pp 56, 58, 131).

86 Hurtado, Lord Jesus Christ, opines that υἱὸς ἀνθρώπου “should probably” be rendered a son of man (i.e. indefinite) here, specifically over against the definite (p 291 ftnt 78). Hurtado’s rejection of a definite understanding of the term is due, rightly, to: (a) his demonstration that the expression was not an established title at the time (as noted above), and (b) the fact that the form here is expressly anarthrous, and thereby not in keeping with the usual NT pattern. However, Hurtado seems not to have investigated the possibility of a qualitative force here.

The Son of God Given Authority to Judge Because He is ‘Human’: A Study in John 5:27, pt 3

[This is part 3 of a multi-part article.  See part 1, part 2, part 4, part 5 and part 6, conclusion.]

NT Usage of ‘(the) Son of Man’

In the NT the idiom is most often arthrous, with only four instances of anarthrous constructions, with John 5:27b included in the latter. We’ll briefly discuss the use of the articular form of the expression in the Synoptic Gospels, and then we’ll go into a bit more detail on the usage in John’s Gospel given our subject verse, John 5:27,32 before examining the remaining uses of the expression in the NT.

As implied above, regarding the arthrous, particularized the Son of Man ( υἱὸς τοῦ ἀνθρώπου, ho huios tou anthrōpou), Jesus Himself appears to have coined this self-referential term as part of his own idiolect, His own “style” of speaking.33 Predominately, this expression is on Jesus’ lips, and as He used it, it was as an implied reference to Himself in the third person.34 Moreover, the Son of Man “is never used as a confessional title for Jesus,” i.e. “the phrase never functions itself to express an honorific claim made about Jesus.”35 In other words, no one else referred to Jesus as the Son of Man as if it were some sort of recognized title perhaps of christological significance, such as, for example, the Son of God (John 1:49, 11:27).36 This does not mean that the way in which Jesus used this self-reference was not in messianic contexts. This merely indicates that His audience did not recognize the articular expression as having any sort of prehistory or significance beyond Jesus’ own self-usage – though the anarthrous form of the expression would likely have been understood by both Jesus’ protagonists and antagonists, given OT usage. Suffice to say that it is recorded as Jesus’ favorite self-designation, especially in the Synoptic Gospels in which the arthrous form of the idiom is used 69 times.37

There are myriad uses of the Son of Man in the Synoptics – some of divine functions or messianic themes, others more mundane. He has the authority to forgive sins (Mt 9:6; Mk 2:5; Lk 5:24), and He is “Lord of the Sabbath” (Mt 12:8; Mk 2:28; Lk 6:5). Yet Jesus uses this term as a self-reference in His accusation of being a glutton and a drunkard (Mt 11:19; Lk 7:34). The Son of Man foretells his resurrection (Mt 17:9; Mk 9:9), and He provides salvation (Lk 19:9-10) as the One “who gives His life as a ransom for many” (Mt 20:28, Mk 10:45). He is “the one who sows the good seed” (Mt 13:37).38 He will “suffer many things” (Mk 9:12; Lk 9:22), and He will be delivered up in death (Mt 17:22; Mk 9:31; Lk 9:44, etc.).  The Son of Man is the subject of the OT prophets (Lk 18:31). He mentions His return (Mt 16:28, 24:27, 30, 37, 39, 44; Mk 13:26; Lk 18:8, 21:27, etc.) and how the Son of Man will be coming in full glory (Mt 24:31, 25:31; Mk 14:62; Lk 21:27) at the eschatological judgment (Mt 25:31ff; Mk 13:26), gathering His “elect” (Mt 24:31, 25:31-33; Mk 13:27); however, the actual judging He will do as “King,” both in a positive sense (Mt 25:31-40, 46b) and a negative sense (Mt 25:31-33, 41-46a).

This definite form of the expression, the Son of Man, the doubly arthrous υἱὸς τοῦ ἀνθρώπου (ho huios tou anthrōpou),39 is found another dozen times in the Gospel according to John and possibly one other as the truncated the Son, given its immediate context (6:40).40 However, the functions of these statements are somewhat different and somewhat more narrowly focused in comparison with Synoptic usage. In the following the specific verses containing the Son of Man are bolded, while the others, which consist of implied references within contexts containing and immediately surrounding the term, are not.

The first occurs in 1:51 in reference to an ‘opened heaven’, with angels descending and ascending upon Him. This is clearly a reference to Jacob’s dream in Genesis 28, but scholars are divided on how to interpret it.41 The next reference is in 3:13 in which He is the one who descended from heaven.42 This motif is also found in 6:27 (and following) as “the food that endures,” i.e. the “true bread from heaven” (6:32), “the bread of life” (6:48, 51, 58; cf. 6:53), which is found in “He who comes down from heaven” (6:33, 46, 50-51; cf. 6:27) in order “to do the will of the Father” (6:38; 6:40the Son43). This “bread” is identified as His “flesh” (σάρξ, sarx: 6:51, 52, 53, 54, 55, 56), which is linked to His “blood” (6:53, 54, 55, 56), with both bringing eternal life (6:51, 53-54; cf. 6:27, 6:40) to those who believe in Him (6:47; cf. 3:15, 6:29, 35, 40), and it is these believers whom He will raise up “at the last day” (6:39-40, 44, 54). He will also “ascend to where He was before” (6:62; cf. 3:13). In another context, there is the account of Jesus asking the formerly-blind-but-now-healed man if he believes in the Son of Man, with the larger context about ‘spiritual blindness’ and then-present judgment/salvation (9:35; cf. 6:40).

Overall, the main theme in John’s Gospel is Christ’s glorification (δοξάζω, doxadz), and the Son of Man is found in some of these contexts (12:23, 28, 13:31-32 [cf. 7:39, 8:54, 11:4, 12:16, 14:13, 17:4, 10]). He is ‘glorified’ through being “lifted up” (8:28, 12:32), with the metaphor of Moses’ bronze snake of Numbers 21:8-9 underlying (3:14-15). Verse 12:31, which points to the Cross itself as judgment, is contained in the larger context of the Son of Man’s glorification in 12:23.

The final two appearances, both in 12:34, also refer to Jesus’ being “lifted up;” however, the context is unique in the Gospel according to John in that these words are not on Jesus’ own lips. The first is the crowd paraphrasing Jesus (conflating 12:23 and 12:32), while the second is the crowd then asking Jesus, “Who is this ‘ υἱὸς τοῦ ἀνθρώπου’?” This passage, in context, indicates that they thought Jesus was, or could be the Christ/Messiah, yet they were confounded by His statement that He, as the Son of Man, would be “lifted up” – i.e. He was to die – for they understood that the Christ would “remain forever.” This illustrates that the crowd did not associate the Son of Man directly as a messianic title, but as Jesus’ own self-designation, whatever its meaning. Hare explains by paraphrasing the questions posed by the crowd, If we have been mistaken in regarding you as the Messiah, what then are you? What are you telling us when you call yourself ‘the Son of Man’?”44

Assessing the usage of the articular form of the expression in John’s Gospel it becomes apparent that it is only in the context of Jesus’ earthly ministry, most often for His ‘lifting up,’ or ‘glorification,’ and in contemporaneous salvation-judgment, as well as the implied future salvation for those who will ‘eat His flesh and drink His blood,’ i.e. those believing in Him,45 whom He will ‘raise up’ “at the last day.” Conspicuously absent, however, is any use of the Son of Man in reference to His eschatological return, in contrast to the Synoptics. In fact, the Gospel according to John barely mentions Jesus’ return at all, and even then the context is ambiguous with regard to timing (21:22-23). Yet, like the Synoptics, the Son of Man is found in references regarding the eschatological consummation of salvation, though John prefers ‘raising on the last day’ as compared to the ‘gathering’ of His “elect” in the Synoptics.46 However, while Matthew utilizes ὁ υἱὸς τοῦ ἀνθρώπου specifically in reference to the negative aspect of eschatological judgment, i.e. final condemnation-judgment, John does not.47 This latter point will be considered in our contextual analysis of 5:27b.

As noted, the final clause in John 5:27 is the only incidence of an anarthrous son of man (υἱὸς ἀνθρώπου) in the Gospel of John – and the one and only time the idiom lacks the articles in the four canonical Gospels. Recall from above, however, that an anarthrous noun is not necessarily indefinite. We will return to this below.

Another thing becomes evident in our brief survey of the Son of Man: The expression does not point exclusively to Christ’s humanity. In the Synoptics, for example, the Son of Man is the one “who gives his life as a ransom for many” (Mt 20:28, Mk 10:45), implying a salvific function, which is made explicit elsewhere (Lk 19:9-10) – a power reserved for deity, not a mere human. Similarly, but more convincingly, in John 9:35 a soteriological function of the Son of Man is surely implied by Jesus’ direct question to the man formerly blind: “Do you believe in the Son of Man?” The larger context clearly indicates inaugurated eschatology in the form of then-present judgment/salvation (9:36-41).48 Most likely, the textual variant replacing the Son of Man with the Son of God in 9:35 is attributable to copyists’ assumptions that the Son of Man was too strong here.49 Furthermore, In John 3:13 the Son of Man is described as the one who descended from heaven – a proclamation of His pre-earthly existence, thus implying His divinity.50

Hurtado asserts that “the Son of Man” has no inherent meaning in and of itself. Each individual statement says something about Jesus but does not actually define the Son of Man: “[T]he expression’s primary linguistic function is to refer, not to characterize . . . [I]t is the sentence/saying that conveys the intended claim or statement, not ‘the son of man’ expression itself”.51 Hurtado seems convincing here, given the evidence.

Outside the Gospels the occurrences of the son of man idiom are all anarthrous except Acts 7:56. The Acts verse describing Stephen’s vision of the heavenly, glorified Jesus in which Stephen, under the power of the Holy Spirit (7:55), states that he sees “the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.” At this, the murderous throng was so incensed that individuals covered their ears, yelling as loudly as they could – in part, perhaps, to drown out Stephen’s words – and began to stone him (7:57). The reason the crowd was so infuriated at His statement is, as La Touche notes,

because it was recognized as an assertion that the crucified Galilean Carpenter was standing in the Messiah’s place. Hence the phrase [the Son of Man] (which does not seem to have been a Messianic title) must have been recognized by the Sanhedrin as a Self-applied title of the Lord Jesus Christ.52

That is, while the Sanhedrin understood Jesus as the Son of Man, they did not recognize the expression as messianic or Jesus as the Messiah.

Hebrews 2:6 is a direct quote of Psalm 8:4 (see previous section). Koester remarks, “The context of Ps 8 suggests that ‘man’ (anthrōpos) is a collective noun referring to humankind, but since the noun is singular, it can be applied to the man Jesus . . .”53 Though the expression is not particularized as the Son of Man, O’Brien observes that “the words of the psalm would have struck [early Christians] with a force that went beyond their original setting.”54

The final two appearances of the anarthrous use of the idiom are found in Revelation (1:13, 14:14), and each time there are obvious allusions to Daniel 7:13 in their respective contexts.55 Significantly, neither verse in the Apocalypse definitize the term by employing the articles, for in both contexts – using remarkably similar terminology as that found in Daniel 7:13 – one like υἱὸς ἀνθρώπου is described.56 The contexts are depicting, respectively, eschatological return with impending condemnation-judgment (1:7-18),57 and eschatological salvation-judgment (14:14-16).58 There is little doubt the figure described here is the glorified Jesus Christ at the Second Coming (cf. Dan 7:13 in previous section). Assuming John the Revelator is the same author as John’s Gospel – a position affirmed here – it is notable that the arthrous the Son of Man ( υἱὸς τοῦ ἀνθρώπου) is not used. Is there a correlation between the anarthrous like a son of man in these verses in the Apocalypse and the Gospel’s anarthrous construction in John 5:27b? Applying a bit of discourse analysis and linguistics should prove insightful.59

[Go to part 4.]


32 Though all Scripture is θεόπνευστος, “God-breathed,” (from theos = God; pneō ≈ blow, breathe out, wind, spirit), inspired by God (2 Tim 3:16), the Holy Spirit worked through each human writer, resulting in vocabulary usage sometimes peculiar to the individual author. This underscores the importance of assessing each biblical book on its own, while considering the larger corpus of the biblical author, with a view towards the whole of Scripture.

33 For discussion on and definition of idiolect, see Hurtado, Lord Jesus Christ, p 292. Idiolect also refers to the characteristic way in which each Biblical author writes; see Constantine R. Campbell, Advances in the Study of Greek: New Insights for Reading the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2015), pp 134-135.

34 See Douglas R. A. Hare, The Son of Man Tradition (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress, 1990), p 1. That is, Jesus never states something to the effect of, “I am the Son of Man.”

35 Hurtado, Lord Jesus Christ, p 293; italics in original. Continuing Hurtado’s thoughts: “Even within the Gospels no one ever addresses Jesus as ‘the son of man,’ proclaims him to be such, or contests his own use of the expression; and it never functions with the several other appellations bandied about as possible categories for Jesus . . .” (p 293). Cf. Hare, Son of Man, p 1.

36 It is certainly noteworthy that in both Peter’s confession (Matt 16:16; cf. John 1:41) and Nathanael’s confession (John 1:49) we find “the Son of (the living) God,” with Peter also using “Christ,” while Nathanael concomitantly affirms Jesus as “King of Israel,” yet neither call Him the Son of Man. Similarly, Martha’s confession affirms Jesus as “the Son of God” and “the Christ” (John 11:27). This underscores the likelihood that the Son of Man was not understood by 1st century hearers as messianic. Cf. Hurtado, Lord Jesus Christ, pp 292-295.

37 For various interpretations of the arthrous form of the expression throughout history see Delbert R. Burkett, The Son of Man Debate: A History and Evaluation (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999).

38 See Hare, Son of Man, pp 150-151 for some particulars on this specific passage.

39 For the use, and lack, of articles preceding each word of a genitive phrase (head noun + genitive noun) see Wallace, Grammar, for Apollonius’ Canon and Apollonius’ Corollary, pp 239-240, 250-252, 254; cf. 91.

40 In this verse the Son is used amidst other occurrences of the Son of Man (6:27, 53, 62) and Jesus’ alternating the expression with first and third person pronouns throughout this pericope. In addition, nowhere in the micro context does Jesus refer to Himself as the Son of God. On the other hand, in 6:40 Jesus speaks of “the Son” in relation to “My Father;” but, then again, compare to the Son of Man in 6:27 in which it is used as a third-person reference alongside “God the Father.”

41 See Hare, Son of Man, pp 82-85. Kirk (“Heaven Opened”) argues that the Johannine ὁ υἱὸς τοῦ ἀνθρώπου in John 1:51 is illustrating a Jesus-Jacob nexus, with Jesus the new Jacob, i.e. the New Israel (Gen 35:10), which in turn helps identify the promised “greater things” []; Contra Mavis M. Leung, The Kingship-Cross Interplay in the Gospel of John: Jesus’ Death as Corroboration of His Royal Messiahship, (Eugene, OR: Wipf & Stock, 2011), pp 66; cf. 64-67. More convincing is Richard J. Bauckham, Gospel of Glory: Major Themes in Johannine Theology (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 2015), pp 166-180, in which Nathanael is one example of the “renewed Israel,” while the Son of Man symbolically represents the ladder of Jacob’s dream, providing the link to heaven and earth via His being “lifted up” on the Cross.

42 And perhaps simultaneously “the one who is in heaven.” See David Alan Black, “The Text of John 3:13,” Grace Theological Journal 6.1 (1985): 49-66, in which the author argues for the originality of this final clause, a textual variant which is footnoted in most modern Bible versions.

43 See note 40 above.

44 Hare, Son of Man, pp 108-109.

45 See Benjamin E. Reynolds, “The Use of the Son of Man Idiom in the Gospel of John,” in ‘Who is This Son of Man?’, pp 116-117.

46 Though the Son of Man specifies in 6:53 that ‘unless you eat His flesh and drink His blood’ you have “no life,” it is only s/he who ‘eats His flesh and drinks His blood’ that He will ‘raise up on the last day’ (cf. 5:29a). That is, He does not speak of the resurrection of the condemned for judgment in this context (though cf. 5:29b).

47 The context of John 3:16-21, which includes the words “whoever does not believe stands condemned already” (v 18), seems to be referring to the Son as ‘the Son of God’ – the Son in relation to the Father (especially considering τὸν μονογενῆ in v 16 and τοῦ μονογενοῦς in 18; cf. 1:14, 18) – rather than ‘the Son of Man.’ With this in mind, it may be best to understand the similar passage at 12:44-50 (“the one who rejects Me . . . that very word I spoke will condemn him at the last day” in v 48) as ‘the Son of God’ as well. While there is certainly some overlap between the usage of the Son of Man and the Son of God in John’s Gospel, nevertheless, the context of both passages indicates it’s the individual’s rejection of Jesus Christ causing his own eventual self-condemnation rather than Christ’s active condemnation of him.

48 See, e.g., J. Louis Martyn, History and Theology in the Fourth Gospel, 3rd ed. (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox, 2003), pp 133-134.

49 See Bruce M. Metzger, A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament, 2nd ed. (Stuttgart: Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft/German Bible Society, 1994), p 194; cf. Benjamin E. Reynolds, “The Use of the Son of Man Idiom in the Gospel of John,” in ‘Who is This Son of Man?’, p 118; Hurtado, “Summary and Concluding Observations,” in ‘Who is This Son of Man?’, p 165.

50 See, e.g., Benjamin E. Reynolds, “The Use of the Son of Man Idiom in the Gospel of John,” in ‘Who is This Son of Man?’, pp 107-108.  Also see note 42 above.

51 “Summary and Concluding Observations,” in ‘Who is This Son of Man?’, p 167, emphasis in original; cf. pp 165-168.

52 Everard Digges La Touche, “The Person of Christ as Revealed in History,” in The Person of Christ in Modern Thought (London: James Clarke, 1912), p 259; italics and capitalization as per original, bold added, bracketed phrase mine, added for clarity. This work is a compilation of a series of lectures. []

53 Craig R. Koester, Hebrews: A New Translation with Introduction and Commentary, Anchor Bible Commentary (New York: Doubleday, 2001), p 215, parenthesis in original. See earlier discussion on Psalm 8:4 above.

54 Peter T. O’Brien, The Letter to the Hebrews, Pillar New Testament Commentary, D. A. Carson, gen. ed. (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2010), p 95. Koester, Hebrews, further notes, regarding the anarthrous son of man, “This expression has two levels of meaning, referring both to human beings and to Christ . . . Hebrews does not refer to Jesus as ‘son of man’ outside this quotation, even though one might expect it to if it were a christological designation” (p 215).

55 Hurtado, Lord Jesus Christ, rightly notes that both “are simply echoes of the phrasing of Dan. 7:13, referring to a figure in a vision having a humanlike appearance” (p 293 note 83).

56 The Greek is slightly different in that the Apocalypse uses ὅμοιος (like) as compared to Daniel’s ὡς. This could have been for stylistic reasons, as John may have preferred to use a bit of alliteration and assonance (τῶν λυχνιῶν ὅμοιον υἱὸν ἀνθρώπου, tōn luchniōn homoion huion anthrōpou; καθήμενον ὅμοιον υἱὸν ἀνθρώπου, kathēmenon homoion huion anthrōpou).

57 The people will “mourn because of Him” (v 7) at the eschatological judgment, for He is “coming with the clouds” (v 7; cf. Dan 7:13; Matt 16:27, 24:30-32), and “out of His mouth proceeds a sharp double-edged sword” (v 16) with which to judge (Rev 19:15, 21; cf. Heb 4:12) , as He holds “the keys of death and Hades” (v 18; cf. 20:13-14). On the latter, see discussion in David E. Aune, Revelation 1-5 [Word Biblical Commentary, B. M. Metzger, gen. ed. (Dallas, TX: Word Books, 1997)], pp 103-105.

58 Here John the Revelator uses the exact same verbiage as the LXX of Daniel 7:13 in the prepositional phrase ἐπὶ τῶν νεφελῶν, upon/with the clouds, as compared to 1:7’s μετὰ τῶν νεφελῶν, with the clouds, which, according to Aune [David E. Aune, Revelation 6-16, Word Biblical Commentary, B. M. Metzger, gen. ed. (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 1998)], “suggests familiarity with the Theodotianic version of Daniel” (p 840). Clearly Rev 14:14-16 centers on eschatological salvation-judgment, in contradistinction to the condemnation-judgment in the remainder of the chapter (vv 17-20). The figure depicted here, “one like a son of man with a crown of gold on his head” and holding a sharp sickle, is differentiated from the other figure with a sickle (v 17), identified specifically as an angel, who is not wearing a crown or sitting upon the clouds. That the first figure, along with the one described in Rev 1:13, is the same as the one of Daniel 7:13 can hardly be in doubt. And certainly this is the glorified Jesus Christ pictured in eschatological judgment. Contra Aune, Revelation 6-16, who thinks that, rather than Christ, the first reaper in 14:14 is an angel like the second one in 14:17 (pp 800-803).   Then again, see Robert L. Thomas, Revelation 8-22: An Exegetical Commentary (Chicago: Moody Press, 1995), who affirms the figure as Christ, while specifically disagreeing with the position that the reaper in question is an angel (pp 218-219); cf. Grant R. Osborne, Revelation [Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament, Moises Silva, ed. (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 2002)], who takes the same position as Thomas on this point (pp 550-553). Perhaps the most convincing refutation comes from Paul A. Rainbow, Johannine Theology: The Gospel, the Epistles, and the Apocalypse (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 2014), who notes that Christ is described here “in terms reminiscent of Old Testament accounts of angelophanies,” but “by adapting stock [OT] imagery for manifestations of celestial beings, John indicated Christ’s appearances in the visions, not his nature” (p 158; emphasis added).

59 See, e.g., Peter Cotterell & Max Turner, Linguistics & Biblical Interpretation (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1989); Stephen H. Levinsohn, Discourse Features of New Testament Greek: A Coursebook on the Information Structure of New Testament Greek, 2nd ed. (Dallas, TX: SIL International, 2000); David Alan Black, Linguistics for Students of New Testament Greek: A Survey of Basic Concepts and Applications (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 1995); Campbell, Advances in the Study of Greek: New Insights for Reading the New Testament, pp 148-191; Steven E. Runge, Discourse Grammar of the Greek New Testament: A Practical Introduction for Teaching and Exegesis (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 2010).

The Son of God Given Authority to Judge Because He is ‘Human’: A Study in John 5:27, pt 2

[This is part 2 of a multi-part article. See part 1, part 3, part 4, part 5, and part 6, conclusion.]

‘Son of Man’ in the LXX

In the LXX, the Greek OT, υἱὸς ἀνθρώπου (huios anthrōpou), the words translated into English most often as “son of man” – though some use “human being” as a dynamic equivalent – are always anarthrous. However, it must be noted that sometimes the translator renders a particular term definite in a context in which the Greek connotes indefiniteness, or vice versa, when it seems to read better that way in English. But, importantly, this is a translation issue and does not indicate the force of the Greek grammar in these instances.18

In Psalm 80:1719 the context may indicate the people of Israel collectively, Israel as a nation, or a specific person in the king of Israel. In any case, this is best rendered the definite the son of man in English.

In Psalm 8:4 (cf. 144:3; and see Heb 2:6 in next section) υἱὸς ἀνθρώπου is in parallel with ἄνθρωπος (anthrōpos, man). In this context huios anthrōpou and its corresponding anthrōpos seem best understood as collective terms for mankind as a whole, rather than a singular person.20 That is, the terms should be seen as collective singulars, similar to the usage of ‘man’ in English in which it can be applied either singularly or collectively as akin to ‘humankind’ or ‘humanity.’21 In other words, ἄνθρωπος and υἱὸς ἀνθρώπου should be understood as synonymous here:22 “What is man that you take thought of him or son of man that you care about him?”23

The very first appearance of son of man is found in Numbers 23:19: “God is not man that he should mislead or a son of man that he should vacillate . . .”24 Here, like the previous example, ἄνθρωπος is in parallel with the expression υἱὸς ἀνθρώπου, with the latter possibly understood as qualitative as in “God is not [like] man[kind] that he should mislead or human . . .” In this instance huios anthrōpou appears to be qualitative-indefinite, as opposed strictly indefinite or definite, though some English translators preface it with “the”.

Throughout the Book of Ezekiel the vocative form (nominative of direct address) is used: υἱὲ ἀνθρώπου (huie anthrōpou).25] This form is used as a substitute for the name of the person, as in, e.g. ‘Mr. President.’ This particular term (υἱὲ ἀνθρώπου) is used in place of ‘Ezekiel’ nearly 100 times, and can be understood in English as “human!”26 This same form of the idiom is found once in Daniel, in 8:17, in which the angel Gabriel addresses Daniel as he interprets the vision of a ram and a goat for the Prophet.

The most discussed “son of man” verse in the OT is, of course, Daniel 7:13. In its full context, this verse is clearly messianic and, with the benefit of NT revelation, most understand it to refer to a yet-to-be-fulfilled prophecy regarding Jesus’ eschatological return. Importantly, however, Hurtado notes that the arthrous the Son of Man ( υἱὸς τοῦ ἀνθρώπου, ho huios tou anthrōpou), which is Jesus’ favorite self-reference in the New Testament, is not found in any literature – without some ambiguity regarding original transmission27 – before the recording of Jesus Christ’s earthly ministry.28 With this in mind, it would be anachronistic to claim that Daniel intended to refer to the figure in this verse as the definite “the Son of Man” (and, again, the articles are not used here or anywhere in the LXX). Instead, this passage should best be translated one like a son of man, construed as the qualitative-indefinite one like a human: “As I continued watching my night vision – lo and behold! – one like a son of man was coming with the clouds of heaven.”

Old Testament references to clouds in a setting like the one described here by Daniel are frequently “in connection with the presence of the Lord.”29 Yet describing this heavenly figure using the son of man idiom has “the effect of . . . intensify[ing] the quality in question, so that ‘son of man’ lays stress on the humanity of the person (Ps. 146:3).”30 Archer, interpreting Daniel through the lens of NT revelation, writes:

The messianic Son of Man is brought before the throne of the Ancient of Days (v. 13) to be awarded the crown of universal dominion (v. 14). This refers, not to his inherent sovereignty over the universe as God the Son (as consubstantial and co-eternal with the Father and the Holy Spirit), but to his appointment as absolute Lord and Judge by virtue of his atoning ministry as God incarnate – the one who achieved a sinless life (Isa 53:9), paid the price for man’s redemption (Isa 53:5-6), and was vindicated by his bodily resurrection as Judge of the entire human race (Acts 17:31; Rom 2:16).31

In assessing some of the various occurrences of “son of man” in the Greek OT it becomes clear that context indeed is a major factor in determining meaning. Next we’ll examine the NT to see if context plays a large part in assessing presumed authorial intent there as well.

Go to part 3.


18 An example of this sort of translational difficulty is found in ἐν υἱῷ (en huiō, in son) of Heb 1:2, in which the anarthrous noun in its immediate context seems best understood with a predominating qualitativeness (‘in one whose characteristics and standing is as a son’). Since the referent is clearly Jesus when the larger context is taken into consideration, many translations render it the possessive in His Son, which is a bit too strong. See Wallace, Grammar, pp 245, 247; cf. David Alan Black, It’s Still Greek to Me: An Easy-to-Understand Guide to Intermediate Greek (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 1998), p 77. Moreover, as Dixon (“Anarthrous Predicate Nominative in John”) notes, “Often, the only way to effectively communicate a qualitative noun in the English idiom is by prefacing the noun with ‘a’” (p 47).

19 I’m using the chapter/verse numbering system found in most English Bibles for the Psalms, which are translated from the Hebrew Masoretic Text. This numbering differs from the Septuagint; hence, the Greek here is actually from LXX 79:18. This practice is continued throughout.

20 The psalmist certainly could have used the plural form of either or both of these terms. But that would appear to have lessened the rhetorical effect.

21 The use of singular pronouns (αὐτοῦ/ν, “him”) here does not preclude a collective understanding, in our estimation. For example, in English we could state: “The man ignored the fish [collective singular] on the menu, as he just doesn’t care for it [collective singular] in general.” Assuredly, one cannot impose English usage upon the Greek, but it seems the principle is correlative here, given the overall context of the Psalm (see vv 5-6).

22 F. F. Bruce [The Epistle to the Hebrews, NICNT (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1985 (1964))] notes the “synonymous parallelism” of the two terms (p 35); cf. William L. Lane [Hebrews 1-8, Word Biblical Commentary, B. M. Metzger, gen. ed. (Nashville, TN: Word, 1991)] who states that the writer of Hebrews in quoting the Psalm here, “understood that the parallel expressions ἄνθρωπος, ‘man,’ ‘humankind,’ and υἱὸς ἀνθρώπου, ‘son of man,’ ‘mortal,’ were perfectly synonymous and were to be interpreted in terms of this fact” (p 47). Perhaps one shouldn’t go so far as calling these “perfectly synonymous” – assuming this means exactly equative – as it seems the two are not 100% interchangeable (see corresponding text to note 30 below). Relatedly, υἱὸς ἀνθρώπου is not meant to be strictly gender-specific. There are other examples in which υἱός is gender non-specific, such as Luke 10:6, in which υἱὸς εἰρήνης is more literally son of peace, though Danker [Frederick W. Danker, The Concise Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament (Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 2009)] renders it one devoted to peace (p 360 2.b.β).

23 My own translation, though I rely heavily on Accordance / OakTree Software (version, 2015) which parses all the words, various grammars, lexicons, and standard English Bible translations as guides. The translations throughout are handled similarly.

24 Credit must be given to David Alan Black whose rendering of the final verbal infinitive as vacillate in the International Standard Version translation seems to best capture, and succinctly state, authorial intent, given the context. My rendering of mislead is based on the LEH-2 [J. Lust, E. Eynikel, K. Hauspie, A Greek-English Lexicon of the Septuagint, Second Edition, (Stuttgart: Bibelgesellschaft, 2003)], as from Accordance / OakTree Software, Inc., version 2.5, and Gary Alan Chamberlain, The Greek of the Septuagint: A Supplementary Lexicon (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 2011), p 40.

25 See Decker, Reading Koine Greek, for more on the vocative case (pp 618-622).

26 See David R. Kirk, “Heaven Opened: Intertextuality and Meaning in John 1:51,” Tyndale Bulletin 63.2 (2012): 237-256, pp 244-245. Leslie C. Allen [Ezekiel 1-19, Word Biblical Commentary, D. A. Hubbard, G. W. Barker gen. eds. (Dallas, TX: Word Books, 1994)] prefers “human one” (pp 3, 38).

27 This even includes 1 Enoch (aka Book of Enoch) due to the fact that, while the original language is thought to be either Hebrew or Aramaic, or a combination of both (like the Book of Daniel), the only extant complete text is in Ethiopic [see E. Isaac, “1 (Ethiopic Apocalypse of) Enoch” in James H. Charlesworth, ed. The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha, Volume 1: Apocalyptic Literature & Testaments (New York: Doubleday, 1983), pp 6-7]. Ethiopic lacks the article altogether – see Kirk, “Heaven Opened,” pp 246-247 – hence, 46:3, in which the term is usually translated as definite [see, e.g., Isaac, “1 Enoch,” p 34], could just as easily be a son of man. Cf. Darrell D. Hannah, “The Elect Son of Man of the Parables of Enoch,” in ‘Who is This Son of Man?’: The Latest Scholarship on a Puzzling Expression of the Historical Jesus, L. W. Hurtado and P. L. Owen eds. (London:  T&T Clark, 2011), pp 130-158, esp. pp 137-141.

28 Larry W. Hurtado, Lord Jesus Christ: Devotion to Jesus in Earliest Christianity (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2003), pp 290-306. Hurtado does not find this expression in its arthrous form in any Greek text prior to the canonical Gospels (p 291). See the following blog post by Hurtado in which he briefly discusses this and surrounding issues (in it he provides a link to a pre-publication version of his final essay in a recently published work on this subject (referenced just above in note 27): “Summary and Concluding Observations,” in ‘Who is This Son of Man?’, pp 159-77):

29 Joyce G. Baldwin, Daniel: An Introduction and Commentary (TOTC), D. J. Wiseman gen. ed. (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, (1978) / OakTree Software, Inc. 2009, version 1.5), p 158.

30 Baldwin, Daniel, p 158; emphasis added.

31 Gleason L. Archer, Jr., “Daniel,” in Daniel and the Minor Prophets: The Expositor’s Bible Commentary with the New International Version, Volume 7, F. E. Gaebelein, gen. ed. (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1985) , p 91; emphasis added.

The Son of God Given Authority to Judge Because He is ‘Human’: A Study in John 5:27, pt 1

[This is the first part of a multi-part article. See part 2, part 3, part 4, part 5, and part 6, conclusion.]

This article will argue that, properly understood, John the Gospel writer1 conveys in John 5:27 that Jesus Christ was given authority by the Father to judge due to His incarnational status of being fully human yet the Son of God. In other words, the Son of God was granted this authority as a result of becoming flesh (1:14), for when the preexistent divine Word (1:1) added human flesh to Himself (1:14) He became just like every other human being – in His humanity. Yet the Son of God is not merely human, for, just as He shares humanity with mankind (5:27), the Person of Christ shares divinity with His Father (1:1).

But one might ask, “How is this understanding much, if any, different from what most translations read?” The contention here is that the Gospel writer did not intend the Son of Man, as in the particularized, definite form of the expression ( υἱὸς τοῦ ἀνθρώπου, ho huios tou anthrōpou) found in 1:51, 3:13-14, etc., much less the indefinite a son of man. Rather, the evangelist had in mind son of man, understood as akin to human, though with an allusion to the Son of Man, as well. The interpretive key is provided by the syntactical structure of John 5:27 (micro context) in combination with the larger context of 5:16 through 5:30, plus the macro context of the entire Gospel, the larger Johannine corpus, and Scripture as a whole. The issue centers on the words υἱὸς ἀνθρώπου (huios anthrōpou), son of man, and the ordering of these words within the final clause of 5:27.

Relevant Terminology

First it may be helpful to define terms and concepts used throughout this inquiry.


In Koine (NT) Greek there is one article2 – many times translated into English as “the” when used with a noun,3 as in ὁ υἱός (ho huios), the son. There is no indefinite article (“a” or “an” in English).4 The technical term for a noun being used with the article is arthrous; conversely, when a noun lacks the article it is anarthrous. A synonym for arthrous is articular.

Unlike the definite article in English (“the”), which remains in the same form no matter the context, the Greek article, like most other words in Greek, is declined (inflected). That is, it changes form to match the person, number, gender, and case of the word or words with which it is connected. For example, in ὁ λόγος (ho logos, the word) both the article (, ho) and the noun (λόγος, logos) are masculine, first person, singular and in the nominative case (see below for nominative); comparatively, the feminine, first person, singular form of the article in the nominative case is ἡ (hē).

Definite noun:

An arthrous noun is definite, as it stresses individual identity. However, an anarthrous noun may also be definite, in which case context is one of the deciding factors. If the context surrounding an anarthrous noun emphasizes unique referential identity, the noun is definite. Stated another way, if the noun is referencing a specific member of a class, it is definite. Yet some anarthrous nouns are definite no matter the context, such as proper names, which are used with and without the article. Also, monadic nouns, one-of-a-kind nouns, such as (the) moon, (ἡ) σελήνης ((hē) selēnēs),5 are definite though sometimes lacking the article, an example of which is in Luke 21:25.6

Indefinite noun:

An indefinite noun is an anarthrous noun in which the context indicates a singular member of a class, without indicating which member. For example, in John 9:1 there was “a man blind from birth.” The anarthrous ἄνθρωπος (anthrōpos, man) reveals nothing about the man himself7 (though the descriptor “blind from birth” provides further identification).

Qualitative noun:

A noun is qualitative if it emphasizes quality, nature, or essence over definiteness or indefiniteness. “A qualitative noun . . . does not merely indicate membership in a class of which there are other members (such as an indefinite noun), nor does it stress individual identity (such as a definite noun).”8 Its focus is on the kind, accentuating class traits.9 To paraphrase Wallace, the emphasis of a qualitative noun is on the attributes shared by group members, while the stress of an indefinite noun is on a member of a group,10 and a definite noun highlights unique identity. When used qualitatively, a noun carries an additional function as an adjective, emphasizing a quality or qualities of the class.11

Obviously, an indefinite noun can never be definite, and vice versa; however, a qualitative noun can and most usually does include either definiteness or indefiniteness.12

Predicate nominative (predicate noun)

A predicate is that part of a sentence “which is said or asserted of the subject.”13 Taking a very basic sentence as an example, She ate, the subject is the noun “she,” which is the (subject) nominative, while the verb “ate” is the predicate. If we complete our sentence, She ate half the lemon meringue pie, the entire portion after the subject is considered the predicate (“ate half the lemon meringue pie”). Our interest here, however, is with a specific type of predicate, the predicate nominative (predicate noun).

A noun or noun phrase that explains the subject nominative (SN) and is used to complete the predicate is a predicate nominative (PN). The verb linking the SN to the PN is the (linking) copulative verb (CV). The most common CV is the verb be (is, am, are, was, were, has been, etc.); others are become, seems, feels, etc.   For example, in Johnny is the quarterback, the SN is Johnny, the CV is, and the PN quarterback.

The PN can infrequently connote an exact equivalence to the SN (such that SN = PN and PN = SN), though usually it is only somewhat, or nearly equivalent (PN ≈ SN). The relationship between the PN and its SN is most often that in which “the predicate nominative describes the class to which the subject belongs.”14 Sentences or clauses with PNs are constructed predominately in one pattern in English: SN-CV-PN. In Koine Greek, however, word order is more flexible, such that the following are found: SN-CV-PN; SN-PN-CV; PN-CV-SN; PN-SN-CV.15

Our concern here is in the possible semantic significance provided by the anarthrous PN-CV construction in John 5:27b (the positioning of the SN – which is absent here, though implied by the person and number encoded in the verb (He, the Son of God) – bearing no significance in these constructions):

PN: υἱὸς ἀνθρώπου CV: ἐστίν
PN: huios anthrōpou CV: estin
PN: son of man CV: (He [the Son of God]) is

This specific syntactical structure allows for either a definite (the Son of Man), an indefinite (a son of man), or a qualitative (son of man, i.e., human) meaning, with a possible nuance combining a predominant qualitative force with either definiteness (human + the Son of Man), or indefiniteness (human + a son of man). Before looking more specifically at the syntax in John 5:27b various LXX16 (aka Septuagint, the Greek version of the Hebrew Old Testament) and New Testament usages of son of man17 will be analyzed. However, it is beyond the scope of this study to perform an exhaustive scrutiny of the LXX and NT occurrences of this idiom, though there will be much more focus on the latter.

Go to part 2.


1 Here we assume, without putting forth any sort of argument, that the Apostle John is the writer of the Gospel According to John (ΚΑΤΑ ΙΩΑΝΝΗΝ, KATA IO̅ANNE̅N).

2 Technically, there is no ‘definite’ article in Koine Greek. Per Rodney J. Decker [Reading Koine Greek: An Introduction and Integrated Workbook (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 2014)], “There is no such thing as a definite article in Greek – only an article that may or may not express definiteness. Likewise, the lack of an article is not necessarily an expression of indefiniteness but may express a qualitative meaning or some other nuance” (p 39). Wallace [Daniel B. Wallace, Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics: An Exegetical Syntax of the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1996)] notes, “No one questions that the article is used frequently to definitize, but whether this captures the essential idea [of the article] is another matter” (p 209).

3 In Koine Greek the article is also used with almost any part of speech in order to nominalize it (see Wallace, Grammar, p 209). For a lengthy discussion on the multitude uses of the article, see Wallace, pp 206-290, 306-309.

4 “There is no need to speak of the article in Greek as the definite article because there is no corresponding indefinite article” (Wallace, Grammar, p 209; italics in original, bold added).

5 See Wallace, Grammar, pp 248-249.

6 In the Luke verse we find ἐν ἡλίῳ καὶ σελήνῃ (en hēliō kai selēnē) – translated word for word: in sun and moon – with both terms clearly definite though anarthrous, which we translate into English as “in the sun and the moon.” For a complete discussion on definite nouns see Wallace, Grammar, pp 245-290, 306-309.

7 See Wallace, Grammar, p 244.

8 Wallace, Grammar, p 244.

9 See Wallace, Grammar, pp 244, 264-265.

10 Wallace, Grammar, p 266.

11 This is a point brought forth by Paul Stephen Dixon, whose Master’s thesis “The Significance of the Anarthrous Predicate Nominative in John” (Th.M. thesis, Dallas Theological Seminary, 1975) we will be referencing more herein: “All nouns are lexically definite, in that they refer to particular objects. In usage, however, nouns may be adjectival. The stress then is on a quality or essence, and not definiteness” (p 9).   (See here:

12 See Dixon, “Anarthrous Predicate Nominative in John,” pp 9-10; Wallace, Grammar, pp 243, 244.

13 Frank X. Braun, English Grammar for Language Students, (Ann Arbor, MI: Ulrich’s Books, 1947), p 15.

14 Wallace, Grammar, p 41, emphasis in original. Cf. 40-42.

15 Of course, the subject is not always explicitly expressed in the immediate context in Greek; however, for convenience’ sake we’ve placed “SN” before “CV” in such instances, since the subject is implicitly expressed by the verb and the immediate context. There are even verb-less structures, as in PN-SN (see Wallace, Grammar, pp 269-270.

16 The apocryphal books (known as Deuterocanonical books by the Roman Catholic Church), such as Tobit, Wisdom (of Solomon), etc., will not be included as part of this enquiry. Additionally, plural forms of the idiom are not considered.

17 Henceforth son of man and/or the Son of Man will be interchanged with ‘the expression,’ ‘the idiom,’ or ‘the term.’ Context should make the referent/s obvious to the reader.

Appendix: Proposal for a Possible New Conception of the Plu/Perfect Forms

[In this appendix to the multi-part “A Somewhat Brief Explanation of Verbal Aspect Theory as it Pertains to Koine (NT) Greek, with Focus on Temporal Reference” we’ll be dispensing with the cumbersome practice of adding “tense-form” to each of the verb names.]

We must continue to ask questions of our methodologies as well as of the text.[102]

The following will be speculative. It may provide a possible way toward a consensus among the various positions on the plu/perfect, or it may prove to have no merit whatsoever. Since this writer lacks the requisite knowledge base to fully test out the following theory, it will not be rigorously argued.[103] The focus here – as in this work as a whole – is on the indicative mood.

Could it be that all the current views on the plu/perfect possess some form of the truth with respect to verbal aspect, yet none capture it in its entirety? That is, is it possible that Fanning is correct that both forms are perfective, Campbell is right that both are imperfective, that Porter and Decker are correct that both forms are a third category altogether, and the traditional view found in most grammars is true in that the plu/perfect are both essentially perfective and imperfective (though some use different terminology)?

Randall Buth, in a blog post late last year[104] – in part recapping a portion of the 2013 SBL (Society of Biblical Literature) meeting in which Porter, Fanning, and Campbell restated their respective views on the perfect – illustrates how the morphology of the perfect emanates diachronically from both aspects.[105] Though apparently adhering to the traditional view including that the perfective (aoristic) portion reflects an anterior event, while the imperfective (present) constitutes ongoing relevance,[106] Buth approaches the theory proposed that will be proposed below:

The Greek perfect is an aspectual category and its morphology reinforces the viewpoint that it is not only an ‘imperfective’ like Campbell, nor is it simply a third aspect category like Porter’s stative, but that it is an aspect that has a perfective element inside it, like Fanning…The perfect is a complex, fused category that includes two ordered parameters that may be labelled {+perfective, +imperfective}. The perfective parameter explains why the perfect includes a complete action.[107]

What if Buth is correct in that the perfect is a “fused category,” consisting of both perfective and imperfective aspects – not that the perfective portion depicts an antecedent verbal action (VA),[108] while the imperfective illustrates ongoing relevance of that VA,[109] but that the two aspects are superimposed one over the other? In other words, rather than two separate VAs in which the imperfective follows the perfective, the perfect is portraying one VA expressed both perfectively and imperfectively simultaneously. Stated yet another way, the expressed viewpoint of the perfect is concurrently perfective and imperfective, as opposed to a sequencing of perfective then imperfective. This is the proposal presented here.

Comrie notes that in Bulgarian, another Proto-Indo-European language, there are the seemingly self-contradictory ‘imperfective aorist’ and ‘perfective imperfect’ forms, each combining both aspects into one.[110] One use of the ‘imperfective aorist’ is, “to indicate an action which is presented as a single whole (whence the Aorist as marker of perfectivity), but with internal complexity (whence the Imperfective as marker of imperfectivity).”[111] In the Bulgarian system it is the tense-form’s aspect that predominates over the added aspectual feature, i.e. with the ‘perfective imperfect’ it is the imperfective aspect of the imperfect that prevails over the perfective aspect.[112] In other words, the imperfective aspect is superimposed over the perfective. Similarly, with the ‘imperfective aorist’ it is the perfective aspect of the aorist which is superimposed over the imperfective aspect.[113] Therefore, the two forms are not redundant, as one has the imperfective dominant, while the other has perfective dominant, thus differentiating the one from the other.[114] In both cases, it seems that the purpose is to emphasize the VA by the use of both aspects.[115]

Is it possible that the Koine Greek perfect and pluperfect resemble the Bulgarian here?[116] Let’s investigate how this might work out after making a few preliminary assumptions.

It seems pretty clear that what is commonly known as the pluperfect exhibits the remoteness feature of the imperfect, which we’ll call remote imperfectivity. Of course, remoteness is not a necessary part of the imperfective aspect, as the present form well illustrates. Therefore, if the Bulgarian schema were to apply to Koine,[117] it seems best to understand the pluperfect as a ‘perfective imperfect’ (PI), with remote imperfectivity the dominant aspectual feature.[118] Hence, borrowing from the Bulgarian model, it superimposes its intrinsic remote imperfectivity over its perfectivity.

But what of the perfect? It appears it could function either as an ‘imperfective aorist’ or a ‘perfective present.’ For now we’ll assume that it’s an ‘imperfective aorist’ (IA) and proceed to argue the case for it, in part because it matches the Bulgarian system; but, more importantly, this seems to provide for the best explanation and outworking of this morphological form, as will be discussed below. Hence, for our purposes here, the IA will be portrayed as superimposing its presumed inherently dominant perfective aspect over its imperfectivity. Since the imperfectivity of the IA is different from that of the PI, we could term it non-remote imperfectivity, or, perhaps better, proximate imperfectivity, in order to distinguish between the two.

Using Isachenko’s parade analogy,[119] we can restate our relative positions on the two forms:

The IA primarily views the VA of the parade in its entirety from the helicopter, yet concurrently views it in progress at street-level of the parade, a proximate imperfective perspective akin to the present. The concurrent perfective and proximate imperfective VA in the IA likely has the effect of semantic emphasis, as compared to single-aspect forms.

The PI primarily views the VA in progress from a remote imperfective perspective, the parade view from the grandstand (a bit more remote from street-level), while simultaneously viewing the VA in its entirety, from start to finish, from the helicopter. The concurrent remote imperfective and perfective VA in the PI likely has the effect of semantic emphasis, as compared to single-aspect forms.

Once again adapting Campbell’s helpful diagrams, graphically the IA and PI could resemble the figures below (these are composites of the diagrams from the third part of this article, with the IA combining the aorist + present graphs, and the PI the aorist + imperfect). The viewpoints in the figures should be understood as ‘looking at’ the VA which resides on T1 – T2. This is not intended to depict a ‘time distance’ from or to the T1 – T2; the distance between the viewpoints and the timeline is depicting remoteness, or non-remoteness/proximity, from the VA. Both T1 and T2 should be understood as adapting to the temporal reference of the specific context. For example, with past temporal reference, both T1 and T2 will be in the past, whereas with present temporal reference (and an omnitemporal, or gnomic, implicature), T1 will represent the past while T2 will represent the future.

Alternatively, the current position in each figure could be seen is illustrating a present-time perspective, envisioning each viewpoint as a ball on a pendulum with its fixed point directly above it on T1 – T2 representing the VA. Swinging to the right (towards T2) will depict a past-time perspective, while swinging to the left (towards T1) will exhibit a future-time perspective. In other words, swinging to the right illustrates the viewpoint to the right of the VA, looking ‘back’ at the VA, looking at the past; swinging to the left illustrates the viewpoint to the left of the VA, looking ‘ahead’ to the VA, peering into the future. Of course, by necessity, each individual figure’s two viewpoints will ‘swing’ in tandem, i.e. the perfective and imperfective viewpoints in each individual figure will always be identical in temporal reference (hence the connecting dotted line).

Stated in previous segments and worth repeating here is that remoteness does not necessarily entail past temporal reference. Also, one must bear in mind that perfectivity, the helicopter view, is inherently more remote than imperfectivity. To differentiate from remote imperfectivity, we could call it perfective remoteness, with the understanding that its remoteness feature is amplified as compared to that of the PI (and the imperfect).

Imperfective Aorist To reiterate, as we are proposing here, the IA is predominately a perfective perspective with added proximate imperfectivity (shown above), whereas the PI is superimposing its remote imperfective viewpoint over perfectivity (shown below). Note that the arrows of the respective perfective viewpoints are placed both further left (at T1) and further right (at T2) of the imperfective arrows, thus illustrating that perfectivity encompasses both the inception and the termination of the VA while imperfectivity does not.

 Perfective Imperfect

In testing this hypothesis we’ll begin with the IA (perfect), since it is much more prevalent in the NT as compared to the PI (pluperfect).

Imperfective Aorist

Colossians 1:17; συνέστηκεν: Most agree that this signifies the continuous holding together of the cosmos by Christ – in other words, imperfective aspect. Taking the traditional understanding of the perfect, what would be the anterior VA in view here?[120] One cannot say it’s the advent of creation (that would be κτίζω from v 16), for this particular verb says nothing about the initial act of creating, but rather sustaining that which has already been created. Applying our theory of the perfect as an IA, this verb is depicting the VA in its entirety, perfectively – an omnitemporal implicature, encompassing the entire temporal realm, from its inception to termination (or to infinity) – while concurrently conveying the VA in its particulars, with its intrinsic proximate imperfectivity. In other words, Paul is communicating that in Christ all things have always been continuously held together, are currently being held together, and will continue to be held together. Admittedly, it’s a bit difficult to translate simultaneous perfectivity and imperfectivity.

John 5:33; ἀπεστάλκατε: This is the first of two perfects in this verse, both of which Campbell opines are difficult to reconcile with Porter’s stative view, asking if this one is reflecting the Jewish leaders as being in “a state of having-sent-to-John-ness?”[121] While this doesn’t necessarily negate Porter’s stance, it does point to a lack of clarity in his rather vague description of this morphological form as constituting “a given (often complex) state of affairs,”[122] as mentioned in the previous segment. This example also seems to create difficulty for the traditional view, as what would be the continuing relevance of the Jewish leaders having sent (messengers) to John (cf. v 35)?[123] Employing our hypothesis here, the IA is illustrating the entire VA of the Jews having sent (messengers) from inception until termination, while simultaneously depicting that they kept sending (messengers). By the context this is evidencing past temporal reference (cf. v 35: ὑμεῖς δὲ ἠθελήσατε ἀγαλλιαθῆναι πρὸς ὥραν ἐν τῷ φωτὶ αὐτοῦ – and you were willing to rejoice in his light for a time).

John 5:33; μεμαρτύρηκεν: This one is very similar to the immediately preceding. Implementing the IA, the sense would be he has borne witness (perfective) and he was bearing witness (imperfective) – past temporal reference. While some may argue that John’s testimony still had some validity at the time of Jesus’ utterance, this seems more of a pragmatic implicature drawn out from the context rather than a part of the aspectual semantics.

Coming from a different angle on this subject of continued relevancy, the VA in the aorist ἐνίκησεν (has conquered) in Revelation 5:5, for example, certainly has ongoing importance, but this is borne out by the context (pragmatics), not necessarily from the perfective aspect (semantics) of the aorist.[124] Could the same be true for some perfects; i.e. could it be the context providing the continuing relevance rather than the presumed semantics of the perfect? Moreover, keeping the traditional understanding of the perfect in mind, the use of the aorist for νικάω in Rev 5:5 begs the question: Why wasn’t the perfect used here instead of the aorist?

Many have noted that there are a number of perfects which some think are merely aoristic, retaining only the perfective aspect.[125] Revelation 5:7 contains one such example in εἴληφεν (He took). Yet Porter notes that John the Revelator uses the aorist form of this verb in the very next verse,[126] thereby indicating that there must be some sort of aspectual distinction between them.[127] On the surface, “took” would seem to be strictly punctiliar, but, as Comrie notes, a verb commonly considered punctiliar can be construed as having duration, albeit very short duration.[128] More importantly, the fact that λαμβάνω is existing in the NT in the present, to include Revelation (14:9, 14:11, 17:12), indicates it can and is used as an imperfective. Hence, εἴληφεν can work as an IA, concurrently perfective and imperfective. Assuming so, John the Revelator describes the taking of the scroll in its entirety, while also illustrating that action in progress. The effect of the added imperfectivity intrinsic to the IA seemingly would be to heighten the significance of the taking of the scroll.

2 Cor. 2:13; ἔσχηκα: While providing his own reasons why some seemingly aoristic perfects actually function as ‘true perfects,’[129] Robertson nearly concedes the usage here is a “preterit punctiliar,” i.e. merely aoristic.[130] However, he goes on to reject both the aorist and imperfect as unsuitable for the presumed literary purpose of Paul who “wished to accent the strain of his anxiety up to the time of the arrival of Titus.”[131] Then Robertson hints at our proposal here: “It was durative plus punctiliar.”[132] Our position on the IA works well in this instance (I did not have rest in my spirit), as Paul is conveying his overall discontent perfectively – from inception to termination – while focusing on the state of his feeling of unrest at that time (imperfectivity). Porter renders this I was not in the state of having, i.e. possessing, rest in my spirit.[133]

1 Cor. 15:4; ἐγήγερται: We’re stepping a bit outside our self-imposed parameters by using an example of a perfect middle indicative, as Porter seems to stand alone in his interpretation of 1 Corinthians 15:4.[134] Even McKay departs from Porter, adhering more closely to the traditional understanding in that though he affirms stativity, McKay asserts that the state continues.[135] Porter, on the other hand, finds the perfect in this context deictically limited by τῇ ἡμέρᾳ τῇ τρίτῃ (on the third day):

…Many commentators extrapolate an unhealthy amount of exegetical insight from the Perfect…claiming that it means that Christ was raised and the results of his being raised continues. This may be good theology, but it cannot be argued for solely on the basis of the stative aspect. In this context temporal deixis (τῇ ἡμέρᾳ τῇ τρίτῃ) specifically limits the temporal implicature to the state of raisedness that was in existence three days after the burial…Cf. 1 Cor 15:12, 13, 14, where this specific state is referred to, twice in conditional sentences…[136]

Yet it would seem possible that τῇ ἡμέρᾳ τῇ τρίτῃ is descriptive rather than limiting, i.e. the Apostle Paul is describing the point at which the state of risen-ness began. On the other hand, if Paul is recounting events chronologically, this may provide more credence to Porter’s position.[137] A final resolution is not necessary, as the IA will work in either case. As regards the traditional understanding, the perfective reflects the beginning of the state of risen-ness on the third day and its extending to infinity, with the imperfective ‘looking at’ the state itself up close in its particulars. As to Porter’s perspective, perfectively the IA signifies the beginning and endpoint of the VA as on the third day; its imperfectivity is the same as in the traditional view, though of much shorter duration.

Matthew 4:4 (cf. 6, 7, 10; Luke 4:4, 8, 10); γέγραπται: One more perfect middle was chosen, for, on the surface at least, this particular example does not appear to work with our hypothesis. Imperfectivity is plainly evident, but perfectivity seems to be an anterior event, thus, by appearances, tipping the scales toward the traditional interpretation. Perhaps Buth is correct in that it is due to “the reduced focus on the causative action [ED: perfective VA] in the perfect middle.”[138] But, on the other hand, this is no different from our immediately preceding example in this regard. In keeping with our conception here, it is not that the initial handwriting is in “reduced focus,” just as the actual raising of Jesus is not a reduced focal point in 1 Cor. 15:4. Neither the actual writing nor the initial raising is in view at all, but rather, implied.[139] In both cases it is stativity that is the sole focus. In other words, the inception of the state, signified before the ink was dry, so to speak in this case, and a nanosecond after Christ’s raising in the Corinthians passage, is the beginning point of the perfective VA in the IA, which follows the immediately preceding implied action, and so the lexemes here should be understood as stative rather than dynamic/actional. Hence, the perfective VA for γέγραπται is the entire state of ‘written-ness,’ which, after inception, is unbounded temporally, with the imperfective VA the continuing stativity itself. Thus, it seems best to translate the verb as it stands written, or perhaps something akin to it is on record.

Could it be that, in general, a concurrently perfective and imperfective form such as the IA aspectually transforms dynamic/actional lexemes to stative ones, whether in the passive or active mood? Both verbs in John 5:33 above – sending and bearing witness – are actional lexemes, yet the IA has the effect of converting each into stative verbs, as in the Jews were in a state of continuously sending messengers to John and John was in a state of continuously bearing witness about Jesus.   Συνίστημι in Col 1:17 appears to make a similar lexical transformation. It’s too premature to conclude anything definitive given our limited sampling above, but if it be determined that all dynamic/actional lexemes are converted to stative in the IA (perfect), this would provide explanatory force to Porter’s position on the stative aspect. Moreover, this would provide a more firm foundation to counter those who oppose Porter’s position of stative aspect on the basis that stativity is strictly an Aktionsart function, for this would indicate that stativity is subjectively chosen by the writer in his use of the IA (perfect), no matter the lexeme, which in turn would lead to objectively stative Aktionsarten. To put it succinctly, assuming our analysis from the small sampling above holds true universally, in the IA (perfect) it is the concurrent perfective and imperfective VA providing the means by which the Aktionsart values are necessarily stative.

We’ll see if this resulting stative Aktionsart works out in the PI (pluperfect) in the next section.

While our position is that the form known as the perfect is in actuality an ‘imperfective aorist,’ we’ve not yet addressed why it could not be a ‘perfective present’ instead, though we shall do so forthwith, using the following very brief rationale. It is known that the perfect later took on a strictly ‘aoristic’ meaning before it eventually disappeared altogether.[140] Hence, it seems more logical that the form was a perfective-dominated one, with the imperfective portion somewhat subsidiary, rather than an imperfective-prominent form.[141]

Perfective Imperfect

The PI (pluperfect) is only occasionally used in the NT. In keeping with its relative scarcity, fewer examples will be chosen as compared to the IA. Due to the remote imperfective quality of the imperfect, the PI is intrinsically more remote than the IA. This does not necessarily mean the PI will be reflecting past temporal reference, but in many cases it does so.

John 6:17; ἐγεγόνει: This is the first of two PI forms in this particular verse. It had become dark. Once again, we have a normally dynamic lexeme[142] with stative Aktionsart as a result of the use of the two aspects concurrently. The setting is such that it was in a state of having become dark. Because of the overriding thrust of the imperfect, the inherent meaning of the lexeme, and the presence of ἤδη, there is focus on the arrival of darkness.   Here the imperfective VA is the continuing state of darkness which had just begun. The perfective VA is circumscribing the entire VA to the scene depicted in the boat on the water. There is no antecedent event; the entire VA is encompassed in its perfective imperfectivity.

John 6:17; ἐληλύθει: Έρχομαι is also an inherently dynamic/actional lexeme. Jesus had not yet come – here it appears that, once again, the lexeme is transformed into a stative. The point seems not merely that Jesus had not come down to them on the boat, but more in the sense of Jesus had not come and remained with them on the boat. If this is a correct interpretation, then our hypothesis on lexical transformation of the IA and PI holds in this particular case, as well.

Mark 15:7; πεποιήκεισαν: Here we have another dynamic/actional lexeme. Barabbas had brought about murder, or had committed murder, but the focus is not on the initial action. This is more to make an identification of the insurrectionist as a murderer, as one in a state of having committed murder. The Gospel writer could have just chosen the nominative φονεύς or ἀνθρωποκτόνος (murderer). Could it be that the PI was chosen because it carries more weight, perhaps because of its dual-aspectual character? The imperfective VA is the focus on the past and yet-present (at that time) state, while the perfectivity is circumscribing this state to the time encompassing the point immediately following his committing murder to the then-present.

Luke 4:29; ᾠκοδόμητο: Another verb in the middle voice was chosen to determine if it acts the same as the IA examples above. Οἰκοδομέω, building a house, is another dynamic/actional lexeme, and here it is indeed similar to the middle IAs. Once again, it is not the actual building of the city in view; it is the fact that the city is standing. Hence, the sense here is on which their city stood built. The PI’s imperfectivity is the standing of the city, its perfectivity encompasses the time period just after it was built to the then-present.

John 8:19; ᾔδειτε: This verse was chosen because it contains the same verb used in slightly different ways. If you knew Me, you would also know My Father. The first usage seems akin to what Robinson calls a “polite idiom,”[143] which in English is rendered as past tense for the present, as it is here. The second is also present temporal reference. This is an example of the inherent remote imperfectivity of the imperfect portion of the PI being used in a non-past context.


While recognizing that our sampling is inadequately small and the argumentation insufficiently rigorous, we have posited that the perfect and pluperfect forms may well have been intended as ‘imperfective aorists’ and ‘perfective imperfects,’ respectively, in view of the Bulgarian. Assuming so, these morphological forms encode the verbal action as concurrently – as opposed to sequentially – perfective and imperfective. Employing Isachenko’s parade analogy, this is akin to viewing the parade from the helicopter while simultaneously viewing it at street level – a dual perspective. This simultaneity in these dual-aspectual forms inherently produces a stative implicature. Moreover, it appears that normally dynamic/actional lexemes are transformed to stative verbs by the use of these forms, thus resulting in stative Aktionsart. This supports Porter’s stance of stative aspect regarding these morphological forms, while potentially providing specific methodological bases for Porter’s position.

[102]   Guthrie, “Boats in the Bay,” in Porter, Carson, eds. Linguistics and the New Testament: Critical Junctures, p 25. For the purposes of this appendix I’ve taken Guthrie a bit out of context here, but his larger point is what I’m after: We must be willing to continually ask questions of the methodologies used to extract meaning from the NT texts, and studies in the discipline of linguistics may provide a possible way forward in finding a solution to the disparate opinions on the function of the perfect and pluperfect.

[103]   Perhaps there’s a really good reason why the following theory will not work, eluding me due to lack of expertise. I humbly and sincerely welcome any feedback/criticism.

[104]   Randall Buth, “Getting the Right Handles on the Greek Perfect,” Biblical Language Center website, (November 29, 2013), retrieved from, as accessed 9/23/14.

[105]   ibid, paragraphs 5-8. Buth notes that both reduplication, a marker of imperfectivity, and a κ from aorists “preserving an archaic feature of Greek morphology” (par 6), signifying perfectivity, are/were present in the perfect.

[106]   Using ἐμήμεκα (translated as “I have vomited”) as an example (“Getting the Right Handles,” para 4), and adding, “[o]ne could use the label ‘stative’ to describe the ongoing relevance, as long as the ‘completeness’ parameter was also included” (para 4), Buth appears to support the traditional view in this context. Elsewhere (“Verbs Perception and Aspect,” in Taylor, Lee, et. al., eds. Biblical Language and Lexicography) he affirms, “…I, like most Greek grammarians, feel that time intersects with aspect in the indicative. However, I would not disagree with those who would point out that an aspect that is (+ perfective, + imperfective) implies a certain temporal sequencing” (p 192 n 30; emphasis added). This is contrary to the findings of Porter and Decker, which indicate that this does not always work out in practice, as summarized in the fourth part of this series. See also footnote 65.

[107]   ibid, par 3-4.

[108]   The term “verbal action” here is meant as a shorthand, collective descriptor, used for either perfective or imperfective aspect, substituted for “event” (for dynamic/actional lexemes in the perfective), “process” (for dynamic/actional lexemes in the imperfective), and “state” (for stative lexemes in the imperfective, and for stative lexemes in the perfective, which are not merely stative, but typically seen as both incepting and terminating), for brevity. See Comrie, Aspect, pp 48-51.

[109]   Even the presumed perfective VA followed by imperfective VA in the traditional view is not applied universally, as the so-called “extensive perfect” (see Robertson, Grammar, pp 895-896), aka “consummative perfect” (see H. E. Dana and Julius R. Mantey, A Manual Grammar of the Greek New Testament, (New York: Macmillan Publishing, 1955), pp 202-203) are explained as the converse, reflecting imperfective followed by perfective.

[110]   Comrie, Aspect, pp 23, 31-32

[111]   ibid, p 23

[112]   ibid, p 32

[113]   ibid.

[114]   In addition, the imperfectivity of the ‘imperfective aorist’ is intrinsically more proximate than the imperfectivity of the ‘perfective imperfect.’ Conversely, the imperfectivity of the ‘perfective imperfect’ is more remote than the imperfectivity of the ‘imperfective aorist.’ More on this below.

[115]   This is my own conclusion, based on the fact of each form’s dual-aspectual value. This seems to comport with the traditional view of the perfect and pluperfect.

[116]   It should be noted that Comrie describes the ancient Greek perfect as per the traditional view: “[T]he Perfect, although referring to a past situation, is still treated as a primary (i.e. non-past) tense for the purpose of determining the sequence of tenses” (Aspect, p 53). However, it seems the author is merely ‘reporting,’ i.e. Comrie is only parroting the positions in typical grammars.

[117]   There is one important difference: In the Bulgarian model each of these forms are past tense, for past temporal reference, according to Comrie (Aspect, p 23). As illustrated in previous sections of this article, Porter has demonstrated that the Koine perfect is reflecting both past and non-past contexts, and the pluperfect, though mostly reflecting past temporal reference, is not exclusively so.

[118]   This would not seem to work as an ‘imperfective aorist,’ as we would most likely assume the imperfectivity in such a form would be akin to the present, i.e. it would be non-remote.

[119]   See Porter, VAGNT, p 91

[120]   Robertson (Grammar) claims the verb here “has lost the punctiliar [ED: aoristic VA, perfective aspect] and is only durative” (p 896).

[121]   Campbell, Verbal Aspect, p 171; cf. 169-175. The same specific example is cited in Campbell, Basics, p 49. Campbell’s difficulty here lies in his confusion of Porter’s position of the subjective use of the perfect to connote a “state of affairs,” as opposed to the objective stativity of Aktionsart.

[122]   Porter, Idioms, p 22

[123]   Robertson (Grammar, pp 896-897) calls this a “vivid” historical present perfect, meaning the VA was actually in the past, but conveyed as if present in order to provide emphasis.

[124]   I state “not necessarily” here since perfective aspect may or may not include durativity, as Comrie notes (Aspect, p 22). One example illustrating durativity is found in the aorist of βασιλεύω in 1 Cor. 4:8: ἡμῶν ἐβασιλεύσατε (You have become kings). Porter (VAGNT), apparently with durativity in mind, renders ἐνίκησεν in Rev 5:5 as the present-referring “stands victorious” (p 228). Osborne (Grant R. Osborne, Revelation: Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament, Moises Silva ed. (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 2002)) recognizes a possible present temporal reference here, but ultimately concludes past: “[T]he aorist refers to his life as a victory over the powers of evil (global aorist) or, more likely in this context, to his sacrificial death as the great “victory” over Satan (punctiliar force)” (p 253; parentheses in orig.). At first blush this appears to better fit the context (see ἀρνίον ἑστηκὸς ὡς ἐσφαγμένον in Rev 5:6), agreeing with Thomas (Robert L. Thomas, Revelation 1-7: An Exegetical Commentary, Kenneth Barker gen. ed. (Chicago, IL: Moody Press, 1992)): “The purpose of Jesus’ victory is expressed by anoixai (“that He may open”). This is a shade different from calling the opening a result of His victorious redemptive work…The opening of the scroll is best seen as the object or purpose of Jesus’ conquest” (p 388). On the other hand, David Aune (Word Biblical Commentary, 52A: Revelation 1-5, David A. Hubbard & Glenn W. Barker gen. eds. (Dallas, TX: Word, 1997)) observes that the verb νικᾶν here “is used without an object limiting the scope of victory [which] suggests that his victory is unlimited and absolute” (p 349). While Aune translates the aorist has conquered (pp 321, 349), his understanding suggests then-present and perhaps even current-present reference (similar to Porter?). In other words, this means that Aune understands has conquered as an English present perfect to include the then-present, whereas Thomas and Osborne understand has conquered as an English present perfect which only includes the past on up to but excluding the then-present – see footnote 94.

Robertson (Grammar) calls the usage in Rev 5:5 an application of the “effective aorist,” with a focus on the “end of the action” (pp 834-835). But this seems a bit forced, as if he wants to retain the presumed past tense feature of the aorist – “…because of the time-element in the indicative (expressed by the augment and secondary endings),” (p 835) – while somehow providing a present-time application in order to fit the context here.

[125]   See Robertson, Grammar, pp 898-902; McKay, Syntax, p 50; Mathewson, “Rethinking Greek Verb Tenses,” pp 20-22; Wallace, Grammar, pp 578-579; H. E. Dana and Julius R. Mantey, A Manual Grammar of the Greek New Testament, (New York: Macmillan Publishing, 1955) pp 202-205.

[126]   Porter, VAGNT, pp 264-265; cf. Mathewson (“Rethinking Greek Verb Tenses”) in which the author observes that Rev 5:9 also contains the aorist form of λαμβάνω (p 20). Robertson (Grammar) calls the usage here a “vivid dramatic colloquial historical perfect” (p 899). Dana and Mantey (Manual Grammar, p 204) follow Robertson.

[127]   Robertson (Grammar) notes this: “The mere fact of the use of the aorists and perfects side by side does not prove confusion of the tenses. It rather argues the other way” (p 901).

[128]   Comrie (Aspect, pp 42-43) uses the example of “cough” – not as iterative (a series of coughs), but as a semelfactive (one single cough) – in a situation in which a film of an individual’s single cough is slowed down to where it is revealed as having very brief duration. It seems one may even be able to argue that “kick” can be imperfective, taking into account the individual’s swing of the foot leading up to the actual point of impact, and perhaps even including its follow-through.

[129]   Robertson, Grammar, pp 898-902

[130]   Robertson, Grammar, p 901. Robertson uses “punctiliar” rather loosely in describing perfectivity throughout.

[131]   ibid.

[132]   ibid. Though Robertson opines that the perfect or pluperfect could work here, he ultimately interprets Paul’s usage as a “(historical dramatic) present perfect” (p 901; parenthesis in original).

[133]   Porter, VAGNT, p 258

[134]   This is according to the works surveyed here.

[135]   McKay (New Syntax) asserts: “[T]he event producing the state may be implied strongly enough for the addition of an adverbial attachment which applies particularly to the event: e.g. 1 Cor. 15:4 καὶ ὅτι ἐγήγερται τῇ ἡμέρᾳ τῇ τρίτῃ, and that he rose on the third day (and remains risen). The emphasis is still on the state rather than the event, but the flexibility of the language permits the addition of an adverbial phrase which would usually accompany the aorist which might have been used here” (p 32). Cf. pp 40, 50; McKay “The Use of the Ancient Greek Perfect,” pp 12-13.

[136]   Porter, VAGNT, p 262

[137]   That is, if verse 4 is seen as the beginning of a chronological series of events describing Christ’s death and resurrection and the ramifications of His atoning work (“Christ died for our sins” in v 3), then we have 1) He was buried, 2) He was raised on the third day, 3) He appeared to Peter, 4) then to the Twelve, etc., which could be construed as limiting ἐγήγερται to Easter.

[138]   Buth, “Getting the Right Handles,” par 10

[139]   McKay (“The Use of the Ancient Greek Perfect”) suggests this regarding the Corinthians passage: “But the context is that Christ is risen, a continuing condition which has given rise to a new state of affairs. A more strict grammarian would no doubt have used the aorist at this point and introduced the perfect later, but Paul is less concerned with the respective provinces of aorist and perfect than with his theological purpose: the past facts of death, burial, resurrection and attestation are to him subsidiary to the significance of the fact that Christ continues in the risen state” (p 12; italics in original, bold added for emphasis).

[140]   See, e.g. Rodney J. Decker, Koine Greek Reader: Selections from the New Testament, Septuagint, and Early Christian Writers, (Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publications, 2007), p 236; McKay, “The Use of the Ancient Greek Perfect,” pp 1-2. Perhaps the dual-aspect quality of the form proved too confusing.

[141]   Moreover, with two other imperfectives – namely the present and the imperfect – the decision to use it ‘aoristically,’ rather than imperfectively, makes sense. It would make an interesting study to see if, upon its adoption as a strictly perfective, the ‘perfect’ was used predominantly, or even solely, in one temporal sphere as opposed to another, in order to differentiate it from the aorist, before the ‘perfect’ eventually disappeared.

[142]   Γίνομαι is used to denote a change from one state to another by some sort of process or event. Thus, the verb is dynamic, signifying the act of transition. This differentiates it from, e.g. εἰμί. That it results in a new state does not negate that it is inherently dynamic/actional.

[143] Robertson, Grammar, pp 918-919. See footnote 68 above.