re: Aorist Imperative form of Mark 1:3

Carl W. Conrad (
Wed, 4 Sep 1996 06:09:12 -0500

At 11:42 PM -0500 9/3/96, Mike Phillips wrote:
>> From:, on 9/3/96 1:14 PM:
>> Your question has probably already been answered by now, but in any case my
>> experience with the imperative is that the aorist is virtually
>>equivalent to
>> our ordinary English imperative, and you don't have the variations
>> seen with the indicative (I'm not sure the indicative really has them per
>> I rather suspect that this is a false mixing of context with grammar--but
>> that's a whole 'nuther subject). The present imperative is the odd ball.
>> help you with Zerwick, but I'm sure someone else already has or will.
> I certainly appreciate your note, which I read as an indicator that the
>imperative mood "swallows" the aorist aspect and eliminates the nuances (which
>may or may not be actual) of the aorist in the indicative. As to your
>sentiments regarding the willingness of others to pitch in and instruct me in
>my efforts to learn, would that it were so; It seems your circle is larger
>than others are willing to circumscribe.

If I may sidle my way inside this little circle, I'd like to demur from too
simplistic a notion that "the imperative mood 'swallows' the aorist aspect
and eliminates the nuances (which may or may not be actual) of the aorist
in the indicative." Take, for instance, Mk 8:34:


I've always felt that the tense differences in these 3 imperatives are by
no means arbitrary: "If any one is willing to follow (after) me, let him
deny himself--once for all time--, take up his cross--once for all time--,
and begin to follow me continuously." I suppose Will Wagers would call that
a "hypertranslation," but I don't think that the Greek says any less than

I recall Billy McMinn (wherever he may be), who taught me my first year of
Greek, told an apocryphal story of a tourist at Delphi who went out to see
the ruins one morning and left a good pair of shoes with an attendant at
the hotel with a present imperative, "Polish these shoes," only to return
several hours later and find the attendant still polishing them--he ought
to have used an aorist imperative. Of course, one can't imagine that this
ever happened, but I thought it was a useful illustration. But I'm grateful
to him also for pointing out these eloquent tense differences in Mark 8:34.

Carl W. Conrad
Department of Classics, Washington University
One Brookings Drive, St. Louis, MO, USA 63130
(314) 935-4018 OR