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When is a Perfect a Present? [οἷδα] (Monday with Mounce 112)

Categories Mondays with Mounce

Monday with Mounce Someone asked me a while back about the “perfect” οἷδα and whether its tense helps us understand what Jesus is saying in Mark 13:32-33.

“But of that day or hour no one knows (οἷδεν), neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. Watch out, be alert, for you do not know (οἷδατε) when the time will come.” (By the way, from now on unless I say, I am by default quoting the translation dad and I did for the interlinears; watch for it coming out elsewhere in a month — hint, hint.)

This is one of those basic facts, but one that is so basic I am not sure I have ever said anything about it. οἷδα is actually a second perfect in its form, but it is functioning as a present in terms of its meaning. A quick look through BDAG shows that none of the significance is carried over into the meaning of the word. Perfect in form; present in meaning.

By the way, the same is true of ᾔδειν, which is generally taught as second pluperfect in form but aorist in meaning.

Now it is interesting that in a sense you can see the perfect in the present. Smyth comments, “The verb-stem has the meaning find out; hence the perfect οἷδα means I have found out and hence I know (795). But beyond this, the traditional idea of completion with consequences connected with the perfect cannot be pressed.

This is a hard paragraph to understand. Personally, I understand vv 28-31 as referring to the signs of the coming destruction of the temple (of which there were many), and vv 32-37 as referring to the return of the Son of Man, of which there will be no signs and hence the admonition that we be ready. Jewish Christians in A.D. 70 should have seen the signs and fled Jerusalem. When Christ returns, there will be no where to flee and hence the absence of admonitions to do so.

But whether you agree with this or not, be careful not to press the “perfect” of οἷδα.

Bill Mounce William D. [Bill] Mounce posts about the Greek language, exegesis, and related topics at  Koinonia. He is the author of numerous books, including the bestselling Basics of Biblical Greek, and is the general editor for Mounce's Complete Expository Dictionary of the Old and New Testament Words. He served as the New Testament chair of the English Standard Version Bible translation, and is currently on the Committee for Bible Translation for the NIV. Learn more and visit Bill's blog (co-authored with scholar and his father Bob Mounce) at www.billmounce.com.

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