Bill Mounce

For an Informed Love of God

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Friday, March 23, 2012

The Abused Imperfect

I came across a great use fo the imperfect in my reading this mornng. In 1 Cor 3:6, Paul writes, "I planted,  Apollos watered,  but God gave the growth (ηὔξανεν)" (ESV). A pretty generic, colorless transation that is reflected by most other translations (cf. NRSV, KJV, HCSB, NET). The NLT, it seems to me, is even more colorless: "it was God who made it grow." That relegates God's work totaly to the past.

The problem with this is that ηὔξανεν is imperfect. I think I am going to start a club named, "The Abused Imperfect." (Those who have been in ETS for years may hear the play on words.) The imperfect is explicitly continuous, and yet so often it is translated as if it were an aorist. Sounds like the sterewotypical youngest child syndrome, always in the shadows caused by the older siblings.

What caught my eye was the NIV's translation. The 1984 NIV reads the same, "God made it grow." The NIV 2011, however, reads, "God has been making it grow." Wonderful! The whole point is that through the efforts of people like Apollos Paul, God is the real power of the ongoing spiritual growth of the Corinthians. It has been a process, work done over time. "Has been making" conveys that idea beautifully.