Thursday, April 16, 2009

A “Perfect” Perusal

Although a portrait of Jesus Christ does not exist, most of the writers of the New Testament did know what He looked and sounded like. The shape of His face, the resonant quality of His voice—all were known to them. The use of the perfect aspect [traditionally called tense] in 1 John 1:1 confirms this statement.

Recalling a scene from the movie “Sleepless in Seattle,” the youngster tells his dad that he is beginning to forget what his deceased mother looked like. He closes his eyes in concentration, yet he still cannot fully outline her face. Time takes its toll. Were it not for photographs, eventually the young boy would be unable to picture his mother in his mind’s eye.

But this is exactly what is not happening in 1 John 1:1. John says that he and his fellow apostles have heard and can still “hear” [ἀκηκόαμεν] the timber of His voice. They have seen and can still picture [ἑωράκαμεν] His image in their mind’s eye. Time had not yet dimmed the image and the sounds of Jesus’ life on earth.

Ronald Ward attempts to catch the force of the perfect aspect in 1 John 1:1, “That which was from the beginning which still rings in our ears, the vision of which is still before our eyes . . . .” (Hidden Meaning in the New Testament, 50, italics mine). The Greek grammarian, A. T. Robertson, notes that “Some instances of the perfect [aspect] clamor for notice” (The Minister and His Greek New Testament, 100). He illustrates on page 101, “Once more in I Cor. 15:4 Paul employs a present perfect indicative [emphasizing the existing state] of the Resurrection of Jesus in the midst of a long list of aorist indicatives. . . . Paul undoubtedly means to emphasize the fact that Jesus is still risen by the present perfect. He is the Risen Lord, as is shown by the very [aspect] that is employed.”

Christians today, of course, cannot say what John said in 1 John 1:1. No one has seen and heard Christ directly. None can picture Him or create the sound of His voice in one’s mind. But this is only a temporal deficiency. When Jesus returns all believers can join John and speak in the perfect aspect forevermore! Today, however, Christians can still proclaim the risen Christ with confidence. The Apostle Paul has eternally validated this truth through his use of the perfect aspect, “Christ is risen!”