Re: Verbal aspect and Acts 28:30

Rod Decker (
Thu, 9 May 1996 19:08:15 -0500

Ken Litwak asked:

>than Avogadro's number), if we understand the aorist via verbal aspect,
>it seems to me that "Luke" is saying Paul stayed for two years, but the aorist
>has nothing to do with the time of the event, since the aorist never has a
>relation to time. So Luke could be saying "Paul is staying in his own rented
>house. It's been two years so far". Is that a correct view of verbal aspect
>and does this interpretation hold water? Thanks.

I'd say yes, except for the phrasing of "since the aorist never has a
relation to time." The aorist often has a time relationship--just not one
mandated as past time because it is aorist. Perfective aspect simply refers
to the stay. It does not specify whether or not the stay has been completed
or is continuing. Either way, however, would result in: "placing the
writing of Acts after these two years" (unless the context is prophesying
this 2-yr. stay!--which it isn't).

Just read Bruce Terry's response after queuing the above...

>suggestion you give is a possibility. It is also quite possible that the
>aorist tense here is doing nothing more than indicating that this action (or
>state) is on the storyline (aorist is the foregrounding tense of narrative

Bruce, would you mind explaining how you are using the term
'foregrounding.' What are the other planes with which you contrast
foreground? I have followed Porter's terminology and called
aorist/perfective the 'background' (with imperfective = foreground, and
perfective = frontground). But since you connect foreground with the
storyline, I suspect it is only a difference in terminology since it is
aorist/background that carries the storyline using Porter's terminology.


_/Rodney J. Decker, Asst. Prof./NT Calvary Theol. Seminary\_
_/ Kansas City, MO\_
_/As of 7/96: Baptist Bible Seminary (PA)\_