Friday, March 26, 2010

I saw something this morning in James that I hadn't seen before in James 1:24. The text reads:

Greek: κατενόησεν γὰρ ἑαυτὸν καὶ ἀπελήλυθεν καὶ εὐθέως ἐπελάθετο ὁποῖος ἦν.

(Literal) Translation: For he looks at himself and departs and immediately forgets what he was like.

There are three verbs to discuss in this verse (excluding the last verb ἦν): (1) he looks (κατενόησεν); (2) he departs (ἀπελήλυθεν); and he forgets (ἐπελάθετο). Respectively, they are aorist, perfect, and aorist verb forms. The question we ask is why did the author change verb forms in the middle of a chain like this? What is he trying to convey? What is his intended point? If any? (Often, a change in verbal form like this is atypical and suggests emphasis/prominence.)

The middle verb (he departs, ἀπελήλυθεν) is the perfect verbal form in Greek. Porter, Decker and many others have suggested that the perfect verbal form is not necessarily referring to "tense" per se (past action with ongoing results) but that it signifies heightened prominence and "frontground" in the discourse. Very simply, it is the author's way of shining the spotlight on that particular element for emphasis.

The point in James 1:24 (especially in the context of 1:19-27) is not so much that the person 'hears' the word. But the point that James intends to get across here is that the person looks at himself in the mirror and then he is in the state of departing and leaving that mirror having forgotten what he looked like and the changes that need to be made.

The point? James is clearly drawing emphasis (from the Greek verbal form) on the man who hears the word, sees the word, knows the word, and yet he finds himself in the state of departing from the word unchanged as he totally forgets what he just heard and how he needs to respond.

Don't be this man who hears and looks into the word yet departs from it without making the necessary changes to grow in your sanctification. This person, James says, is "deceiving himself" (1:22).


Anonymous said...


although your discussion of the language was totally over my head, you clarified this image for me. it was helpful in your sermon as well.


Subscribe to RSS Feed Follow me on Twitter!