I'm looking at the Greek of John 1 and the first words spoken by Jesus in that Gospel. I am trying to understand what the author is conveying, theologically, in these opening words. First impressions are important and just as the last words of Jesus on the cross were important, so are the first words.
John 1:38 (interlinear) has, "he says to them, 'what do y'all seek?' ... They said to him, 'Rabbi,..., Where are you staying?'"
- I use y'all to indicate 2nd person plural instead of confusing that with 2nd singular
- "he says" is λέγει in present tense, "seek" is also present tense
- "you staying" is present tense. from (μένω). You could also translate this as "where do you abide?"
- Note: this verb "to abide" appears 40x in John, just like the word Logos does (these are the only two words that appear 40x). Fourty is a jewish number of ritual purity and we know that numerology is important to John (see 7s throughout the text). μένω seems to be a technical term in John as it appears only 3x/2x/7x in Matthew/Mark/Luke respectively
That's all fine. It's the response and the narrator's tenses that are confusing (exciting) me.
John 1:39 (interlinear) has, "he [Jesus] says, 'Come (root: ἔρχομαι) and y'all will see (ὁράω).' They went (ἔρχομαι) therefore, and saw (ὁράω) where he abides (μένω)."
- Here "says" is present tense. "Come" is present tense command form (imperative).
- "y'all will see" is future tense indicative.
Here's the question: "they went" uses the aorist (past possibly incomplete) tense, "saw" uses aorist but "he abides" uses present (ongoing) tense. Why the different tenses? Is Jesus still staying in the place they went to?
The aorist tense is something that happened in the past but may still be happening. It's clear that they completed their tasks of "went" and "saw"?? Or is it that this "going and seeing" is metaphorically an ongoing process to the present?
Does this match some other patterns of greek I am not aware of? The NRSV just translates this as "They came and saw where he was staying"... KJV has, "They came and saw where he dwelt" But this uses "he was staying" or "he dwelt" as if it were in a past completed conjugation as well.. But it is in present tense! My translation was "they came and saw where he abides [to this day]."
Why does the NRSV/KJV translate this present tense verb to past complete tense? Are they trying to avoid a metaphorical interpretation and keep this grounded in the past tense? Is this a part of greek grammar that I just don't understand (it is not my specialty, I'm just seminary trained).
Does this imply that the first two disciples had a privileged vision of where Jesus abides? When these disciples "stayed with him that day" in 1:39, this is in the past complete (aorist) tense indicating that their abode with him was temporary.
This greek word for abiding is used to describe how God's word abides in people (Jn 5:38). The first time it is used to speak about how the spirit abides in Jesus (Jn 1:32). In Jn 6:56, we have the eucharist formula of eating body and blood.. Such a person "abides in/with me and I in/with him."
Also we have Jn 8:31 where Jesus says, "If you abide in/with the word, you are truly my disciples." Is this what the text is speaking of in John 1? These two (anonymous disciple, conceivably the Beloved Disciple, and Andrew) are truly the disciples of Jesus because they abide with Jesus that first day?
In Jn 8:36, we get that "the son abides in the house forever" (assuming this is god's house mentioned in the beginning of John 14).