New Testament Studies

Short Studies

The Perfect Tense-Form and the Son of Man in John 3.13: Developments in Greek Grammar as a Viable Solution to the Timing of the Ascent and Descent  *

Madison N. Piercea1 and Benjamin E. Reynoldsa2

a1 Durham University, Abbey House, Palace Green, Durham, DH1 3RS, UK. email:

a2 Tyndale University College, 25 Ballyconnor Court, Toronto, ON M2M 4B3, Canada. email:


The perfect tense-form verb ἀναβέβηκεν in John 3.13 is usually interpreted in light of traditional verb theory, as a ‘past action with present results’. This interpretation introduces an apparent problematic chronology in that the Son of Man ascends before descending; however, recent developments in Greek grammar, particularly verbal aspect theory, provide a viable solution to this grammatical ‘problem’ and indicate that the Son of Man's descent precedes his ascent.


  • Gospel of John;
  • verbal aspect theory;
  • Greek grammar;
  • Son of Man;
  • ascent;
  • perfect tense


*  We are grateful to Joseph R. Dodson for commenting on an earlier draft of this note and for, in a certain sense, instigating its genesis.