Dr. Pappas, I have a question about the use of eimi, in 1 Tim 1:15. A Danish Bible translation translates the eime, was, and some
argue that Paul was saying we no longer are sinners. Whats your take on this?
1 Tim. 1:12-17 is speaking about Paul's state of being before he was saved and how he considers himself after his salvation experience (he was and is chief among sinners). The grace of God showed mercy upon him to save him, in spite of his sin. Verse 13 uses a "to be" verb (eimi) or, rather a "to be" participle that has a Present Active tense. Almost all translations translate this as a past tense "Even though I was formerly a blasphemer..." This is translated that way because this is a "to be" verb, it signifies a state of being and the addition of the adverb/adj "proteron" before (in time) moves to the English as past tense. It would be strange to say "before this (his salvation), being a blasphemer and ..." It is more natural in English to say "Who was before a blasphemer..." That describes his state of being prior to obtaining mercy from God.
It should be stated, however, that the tense of the participle relates to "kind of action," the time of action is taken from the main verb "eleeo" "I obtained mercy" which is Aorist. The result is a precise Greek statement of who Paul was, before he was saved, his state of being was that of a blasphemer against Christ and His followers (cf. Acts 9:1,4,5; 22:4,7), a persecutor and violent man (one who, uplifted with pride, either heaps insulting language upon others or does them wrong).
The Present Participle used with the aorist verb says, that at some point in the past, Paul was like a wild animal, but that God acted upon him (Aorist Passive - I was given mercy, or I obtained mercy), because, in a state of ignorance (another present participle), I acted in unbelief.
Paul continues in verse 15 to say he continues to be (eimi) a sinner as the present active indicative indicates. I noticed one translation has "and I was the worst of all[NLT]." I looked to see if there was a textural variant but found none. This translation is dead wrong! Paul uses some strong, emphatic wording here. He says - Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of which I am (continue to be) chief, me! (or, I myself am, continue to be chief). This verse is plan and simple. Those who replace "am" with "was" are playing games.
Paul still considers himself to be a sinner even though he is saved.The argument that once one is saved, he or she cannot sin, or is not a sinner is just wrong and silly. This section of Scripture clearly teaches that Paul claimed to be a sinner before his salvation and continues to be.
Hope that helps.
Dr. John Pappas