The Greek in John 1:14 says

καὶ ὁ λόγος σὰρξ ἐγένετο καὶ ἐσκήνωσεν ἐν ἡμῖν, καὶ ἐθεασάμεθα τὴν δόξαν αὐτοῦ, δόξαν ὡς μονογενοῦς παρὰ πατρός, πλήρης χάριτος καὶ ἀληθείας.

Both ἐγένετο and ἐσκήνωσεν are in the aorist indicative, which is usually translated as a simple past, so that it says

"And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth." NASB

However, in 1 Peter 1:24, the aorist indicative is translated

"For 'All human life is like grass, and all its glory is like a flower in the grass. The grass dries up and the flower drops off'" ISV

διότι πᾶσα σὰρξ ὡς χόρτος, καὶ πᾶσα δόξα αὐτῆς ὡς ἄνθος χόρτου ἐξηράνθη ὁ χόρτος, καὶ τὸ ἄνθος ἐξέπεσεν

Is there any grammatical reason why John 1:14 doesn't say

And the logos becomes flesh and dwells within us, and we behold the glory of it, a glory as of an only begotten of a father; full of grace and truth


As Susan stated in her comment, ἐξηράνθη and ἐξέπεσεν in 1 Pet. 1:24 may be classified and understood as gnomic aorists and thus translated into English using the present tense. Indeed, various commentaries assert likewise. For example, in his commentary on 1 Pet. 1:24, Forbes wrote,1

Ἐξηράνθη 3 sg. aor. pass. indic. of ξηραίνω, “wither” (BDAG 684d). Ἐξέπεσεν 3 sg. aor. act. indic. of ἐκπίπτω, “fall off” (BDAG 308a). The two aor. tenses are gnomic, signifying universal truths (BDF §333.1; Moulton 134–35; T 73; R 836–37; Wallace 562; pace Moule 12). The aspect of the aor. which presents the action in summary form (Fanning 86–98) is fitting to depict this short-lived phenomenon. Pres. tense is required in English (ZG 706).

In his commentary on Jam. 1:11, which also employs the gnomic aorist, Yeager wrote,2

The aorists here are gnomic (timeless). “A generally accepted fact or truth may be regarded as so fixed in its certainty or axiomatic in its character that it is described by the aorist, just as though it were an actual occurrence. For this idiom we commonly employ the general present in English.”

Unlike 1 Pet. 1:24, the author in John 1:14 is not using the aorists to describe universal truths, but historical facts: the Word became flesh; the Word dwelt among us. The author wrote long after the Lord Jesus Christ ascended to heaven, and it was not true at that very time that the Lord Jesus Christ—in his very person—was dwelling among him (and others) on earth.


Forbes, Greg W. Exegetical Guide to the Greek New Testament: 1 Peter. Nashville: B&H, 2014.

Yeager, Randolph O. The Renaissance New Testament. Vol. 16. Gretna: Pelican, 1998.


1 p. 51
2 p. 504

  • 1
    +1. Also might be worth considering that the choice of aorist in 1 Pet. was made by the LXX translator of Isa 40, likely due to the perfect verbs in Hebrew (v. 7), where I gather the "gnomic" use is a little more common. The author of 1 Pet. was just quoting. – Susan May 6 '17 at 13:40
  • I'm choosing this as the answer because of your explanation of the Greek language, but I think your conclusion is the same Revelation Lad's. I would argue that "the logos becomes flesh and dwells within us" is a universal truth, but that will require additional questions. Thanks Simply a Christian. – Cannabijoy May 7 '17 at 9:20

The understanding of a passage must be in agreement with the historical reality it describes. Had John been writing about Jesus before His death, resurrection, this understanding would make sense:

And the logos becomes flesh and dwells within us, and we behold the glory of it, a glory as of an only begotten of a father; full of grace and truth.

However, this conveys the message He is still dwelling among us which is historically incorrect:

And when he had said these things, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. And while they were gazing into heaven as he went, behold, two men stood by them in white robes, and said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.” (Acts 1:9-11 ESV)

Since Jesus returned to heaven, the historical reality is a simple statement of the past:

"And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth." NASB

The fact Jesus no longer dwells among us grounds the passage in the past tense.

At the same time, the condition described cannot be reduced or limited on the basis of the grammatical construction of the passage. Rather, it is clear the writer is conveying the dynamic character of the Word and must be understood accordingly. "The logos becomes flesh and dwells within us" is inaccurate because the logos which became flesh returned to heaven. Yet John clearly indicates this is only a temporary condition:

Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father's house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also. (John 14:1-3 ESV)

During the temporary period of interruption, the Word will still be present:

And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you. I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. (John 14:16-18 ESV)

And the Word will remain the same:

When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. (John 16:13)

Thus John describes both the dynamic and progressive and continuing nature of the unchanging Word. Attempting to constrict the passage by a reliance on the grammar ignores the physical realty John describes: the logos which became flesh and dwelt within us has been replaced with the ἄλλον Παράκλητον which dwells within those who receive Him (during His temporary absence in the flesh):

Do you not know that you are God's temple and that God's Spirit dwells in you?
(1 Corinthians 3:16 ESV)

Understanding the passage as "the logos becomes flesh and dwells within us" ignores and denies the present tense condition of the promised ἄλλον Παράκλητον during the temporary absence of the logos in the flesh.

  • (+1) since your answer was first, and comes to the same conclusion as Simply a Christian. This answer works if the logos was a divine person that incarnated himself into a human body named Jesus. But I don't believe that to be the case, so I would have to disagree with this conclusion. Thanks for the answer. – Cannabijoy May 7 '17 at 9:23
  • @anonymouswho In response to your comment I have amended my answer. In my opinion your are seeking an understanding of the passage which is inconsistent with the complete picture given, namely, the Word still dwells within some (and so among us) despite the absence of Jesus. – Revelation Lad May 7 '17 at 15:10

Good exegesis always considers the larger context of your passage. John 1:14 is in the context of John 1:1-17, a narration of historically past events, so ἐγένετο and ἐσκήνωσεν are properly understood and translated as simple past ("became" and "dwelt"). That’s why John 1:14 does not say "becomes flesh and dwells among us." Those actions happened in the past.

On the other hand, 1 Peter 1:22-23 are instructions for our future lives, supported by 1 Peter 1:24-25's general, ubiquitous truths, quoted from Isaiah 40:6-8. “All people are like grass, and all their glory is like the flowers of the field" is implicitly in the present tense (general truths), because these phrases omit the copula "is," which by omission is understood as present tense.

That's why the aorist indicative verbs in the rest of this passage are properly considered gnomic aorists, and translated into English as present tense: "All human life is like grass, and all its glory is like a flower in the grass. The grass dries up and the flower drops off." These are general truths, just like the first half of the passage.


Based on Daniel B. Wallace's comments, as they were given to us in Dan's answer to 'What tenses does aorist in indicative mood in the New Testament usually express?', the default rendering of the "aorist indicative" should be past, unless the context dictates otherwise.

As pointed out by Simply a Christian in his answer to the OP, the writer in John 1:14 is relating historical facts, so the default rendering of the "aorist indicative" is thus justified. In regard to 1 Peter 1:24, however, I challenge the ESV's translation, which I would translate like this:

24 For all flesh is like the grass, and all its glory as the flower of the grass. The grass was withered, and the flower fell away, 25 but the word of the Lord abides forever. And this is the word: the one that has been declared unto you.


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When Peter says, "The grass was withered, and the flower fell away", he is referring to the flesh of the Lord that was with him for a time in the world, but then was no longer. Unlike the Lord's flesh, however, the Lord's word abides forever.

This is a compelling reason to render the "aorist indicative" using the default. Someone would have to provide something even more compelling to do otherwise.

  • I think you mean "indicative" each time you have "imperative". Since you've cited him in excerpt, you may be interested in Wallace's comments on this issue in 1 Pet 1:24. (Not mentioned there, but that choice was likely heavily influenced by the Hebrew perfect that it translates in Isa 40.) – Susan May 6 '17 at 7:52
  • @Susan Perhaps, had the ESV translators considered the context as I have, they might have translated it differently. – enegue May 6 '17 at 8:42

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