Re: tense and aspect / action and states of being

Richard Lindeman (
Mon, 9 Sep 1996 13:14:32 +0000

> At last someone said what I have wanted to say, but was reluctant to jump
> into this string again. Noone emphasizes contextual interpretation more
> than I, but when you look at Hellenistic Greek, the writers generally
> preferred to use the aorist when narrating events from the past. They
> generally preferred the present when stating what was happening in the
> present. In fact of the hundred and fifty times when Mark uses the present
> in past narrative, (for those who think Matt & Luke used Mark) Matthew
> eliminated half of them in the places where he is parallel to Mark and Luke
> eliminated all of them. I would think that Luke at least preferred to
> espress past events in other ways. That is not to say that aorist is
> always past (note gnomics, etc) or that present tense always means that the
> action is going on in the present (it is also used in places where no time
> of action is intended).Any category we come up with to try and help in
> understanding is descriptive, i.e. an observation of tendencies. If we
> remember that such efforts at description can help, but they must not be
> allowed to put Paul & others in a strait jacket.
> Carlton L. Winbery
> Prof. NT & Greek La College

This sounds quite reasonable to me... in fact, it is extreemly close to
just what I stated early on... that I normally look for augmented
verbs to refer to the past time but that I *always* look to the context
to get my true bearings.