James Hope Moulton in his 1906 grammar wrote that the perfect tense is "the most important, exegetically, of all the Greek Tenses." Since it is used far less frequently than the other verb tenses---the present, the aorist, the imperfect, or the future---the writer makes a deliberate choice when choosing it. He has a particular point in using the perfect, selecting its unique purpose to communicate a specific meaning. At least one Greek grammarian explains that the perfect tense is used to "describe an act that has abiding results." But he isn't alone, others have shared this same thought (here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and more). Others use the terminology "ongoing results" (here, here, here, here, here, and more). Others have used the terminology "permanent state" (here, here, here, and more) or "permanent result" (here, here, here, and more). Donald J. Mastronarde in his Introduction to Attic Greek (1993) (p. 280) writes: "The perfect stem of a Greek verb conveys the aspect of completed action with a continuing or permanent result." Peter Bullions in his The Principles of Greek Grammar (1866) writes: "Hence the perfect is generally used to denote a lasting or permanent state or an action finished in itself, and therefore often occurs in Greek, where, in English, we use the present." In Syntax of New Testament Greek (University Press of America, 1988), James A. Brooks and Carlton L. Winbery write (pp. 104-5): "The perfect tense expresses perfective action. Perfective action involves a present state which has resulted from a past action. The present state is a continuing state; the past action is a completed action." Eugene Van Ness Goetchius in The Language of the New Testament writes (p. 293): "The Greek perfect differs from the Greek aorist in that it emphasizes the continuing result of the action which was completed in past time." Spiros Zodiates in his Reference Bible says that the perfect tense “looks at an action as having been completed in the past but as having existing results.”
Concerning "it is written" having ongoing or permanent results, others have made this same point. Alfred Plummer in his commentary on John writes this (p. 210):
Hath spoken, i. e. that Moses received a revelation which still remains. This is a frequent meaning of the perfect tense— to express the permanent result of a past action. Thus the frequent formula gegraptai is strictly 'it has been written,'or 'it stands written:' i.e. it once was written, and the writing still remains.
Kenneth Wuest, longtime Greek professor at Moody, writes in his Word Studies from the Greek New Testament, Volume Two (p. 12):
It is written, gegraptai; the perfect tense, speaking of an act completed in past time having present results, is used here to emphasize the fact that the Old Testament records were not only carefully preserved and handed down from generation to generation to the first century, but that they are a permanent record of what God said.
Later on p. 120, Wuest writes:
In Matthew 4:4, our Lord answers Satan, "It is written." The perfect tense is used. He quoted from Deuteronomy. The words had been written by Moses 1500 years before, but are still on record. . . . A good translation reads, "It stands written." It is the eternal word of God.
Many others agree with this point on gegraptai (hereand very strongly here). All of these following men see "it stands written" as a good translation: Broadus, Weymouth NT, Henry Morris, John A. Witmer in The Bible Knowledge Commentary, and MacArthur (see 1 Cor 1:19) among others.
An indication of the importance of the perfect tense can be seen in Romans 4 in two different uses of the Greek verb grapho. First in v. 17:
(As it is written, I have made thee a father of many nations,) before him whom he believed, even God, who quickeneth the dead, and calleth those things which be not as though they were.
Verse 17 refers to Scripture, Genesis 17:5. In that verse, the perfect passive, gegraptai is used. Then look at v. 23.
Now it was not written for his sake alone, that it was imputed to him.
Here we read "it was not written," and since that is not referring to Scripture, we have the aorist passive of grapho used. D. B. Ford in the American Commentary on the New Testament writes concerning verse 23:
We have here one of those instances of the niceties of Greek syntax, which cannot easily be fully exhibited in a translation. The formula "as it is written" occurs very often in the New Testament, in introducing passages from the Old. In such cases the verb is in the perfect tense, while here it is in what is called the aorist. The perfect always has a reference to the present time, describing the action as past indeed, but also as abiding in its permanent consequences; while the aorist simply describes the action as finished in some past time. The difference may be sufficiently represented in English by the expressions: "It stands written," and "it was written." Hence the propriety of the use of the perfect in the ordinary cases of quotation from the Old Testament, where the Scripture quoted is conceived of as a permanent record.
Recently I quoted Daniel Wallace from his note on Romans 3:10 in the section on the perfect tense in his Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics. Wallace is clear to say that the perfect tense has results that continue to the present from the point of view of the author. Even if we hold ourselves to that position, we can agree with Wallace on this grammatical point that he writes:
This common introductory formula to OT quotations seems to be used to emphasize that the written word still exists.
So why that use of the perfect? According to Wallace "to emphasize that the written word still exists." Then he begins making exegetical or theological points about authority, but he starts that section by saying, "Although just beyond the reach of grammar." He's more sure about the point of the perfect being about the continued existence of what was written more than he is the other. What Wallace writes about the perfect passive of gegraptai reminds me of what I read in J. A. Alexander's commentary on Matthew:
It is written, more exactly, has been written, the perfect tense suggesting the additional idea of its having been not only uttered long ago, but ever since on record and awaiting its fulfilment.
So does "it is written" indicate something about the preservation of what God inspired, what was originally written? The perfect tense is more rare than the other tenses, and, therefore, more important, because when it is used, it is making some point that differentiates its usage from the other tenses. I believe that in addition to the other arguments on preservation, it should be paid attention to. Others think the same. Not until recently has anyone said that gegraptai doesn't make this point of preservation, and those simply to undermine the idea of the perfect preservation of the text. The arguments read like people who are desperate to keep alive the prospects of an imperfect Bible. They can't even have gegraptai mean what men have already said it means, because it would hurt the cause of the eclectic or critical text. Here are some of the comments that were written to me about this gegraptai argument:
It reads too much into Jesus’ choice of tense. I sincerely doubt any of Jesus’ hearers thought that His use of the perfect meant that the quotation would continue to exist in its quoted form ad infinitum. In fact, I sincerely doubt that Christ’s hearers thought about his use of the perfect at all.
You could call that the "historic mind reading" argument. He just knows that Jesus hearers wouldn't have thought anything about a choice of tense. And he's sincere. He needs not produce anything but sincerity and you've got to just believe that.
Here was someone elses argument in its entirety:
This is an excellent example of the type of grammatical error that Carson points out in his Exegetial Fallacies book (which I am currently reading for class right now).
Uh-huh. The strong and very scary "Don Carson argument." He doesn't produce a parallel for the so-called "exegetical fallacy," but he invokes the name of Don Carson. That's all he needed to do. Same guy who made the first comment, came back with this:
How can you argue for a position with a known bogus argument and expect it to convince people? At best that’s dishonest.
There haven't been people, again, until just recently that didn't see preservation in gegraptai. No one argued against that. Did they see more than preservation? Have they seen authority, for instance? Sure. Did they understand "it is written" to be a "introduction formula"? Yes. But it is written in the Greek in the perfect tense. It's certainly not a "known bogus argument." The argument against it is what appears to be bogus to me. I'm not ready to call people liars, like the other side so easily is wont to do, however. I think labeling it dishonest shows the desperation on the other side.
If the results of the perfect extend only to the present, there is still a strong argument for preservation here. The New Testament authors were guaranteeing that the results of the original writing of their referred texts were still in existence 400 to 3000 years after their completion. The writers accepted Scriptural preservation from the past to the present time of the writing. It is reasonable to assume that if preservation was active from the past into the present that there was also ample reason to suppose that it would continue into the future.
This perfect passive argument is not a centerpiece of a defense of perfect preservation. One person characterized it that way in a recent discussion. I think that he knows that perfect passive of grapho does not buttress the perfect preservation position. However, it supplements it. It's worth mentioning and bringing to attention. It is another argument. In many ways, it is an argument that would not itself be very strong if it weren't for statements already made about perfect preservation in Scripture. However, the 67 New Testament usages of gegraptai testify to God' s perfect preservation of His Words.