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John 4:7

Ladies and Gentlemen:

e.g. NASB: 7There came a woman of Samaria to draw water. Jesus said to her, “Give Me a drink.” NIV:  7 When a Samaritan woman came to draw water, Jesus said to her, “Will you give me a drink?” Greek: DOS MOI PEIN

Whilst the essence of the sentence remains the same, [Jesus asks for a drink], the way in which Jesus asks, transmits quite a different tone between the translations, at least to the English reader. The text is the same — there appear to be no variants. It is a straightforward aorist imperative.

None of my commentaries deal with this point. BDF (SS387) says that the imperative is not confined to commands but also requests/concessions Smyth (SS1835a) says something similar. Both fail to help me [much] in identifying the different flavours.

AT Robertson [yes Mr. FWS — he was promoted to Greek work due to the lack of tornados, and another desperate attempt to get my money’s worth from my purchase ;-)] page 947[c] is slightly more helpful but not a lot. I almost forgot Wallace (until about to SEND this email) who is the most useful and who acknowledges the problem. Page 488 he says how difficult it is to communicate tone in a written language. He gives the impression of trying to categorise ever so neatly the different uses — but I’m not sure he succeeds entirely.

So the question is, how does one identify correctly, the tone of an occurrence of the imperative? Indeed: Is it even possible? Does the verb form [aorist in this case] play a role? Is it simply a question of context? I got to wonder whether the response of the woman gives a clue. She uses AITEW [PWS…EMOU…AITEIS] but this can take a soft [ask] or a stern [demand] meaning…the context of the conversation as a whole implies a request rather than a somewhat brusque command…

What would be the “normal” polite way of asking for something? I believe that in several modern European languages, a simple imperative carries with it no negative tonal connotations when asking for something…same for NT Greek?

I’d be interested in your views…

Paschal greetings to you all…


Stephen Baldwin