Tense and moody about John 20:27

Jonathan Robie (74144.2360@compuserve.com)
19 Sep 96 07:31:57 EDT

"A man without a watch does not know what time it is.
A man with two watches does not know what time it is. But he does know something
about the epistemology of time."

This little Greek has heard contradicting opinions from two big Greeks about
interpretation of tense and mood for verb forms that do not exist. One big Greek
tells me that some verb forms don't exist for certain roots, so other verb forms
are substituted. Apparently, some lexicons tell you which forms exist and which
don't. For instance, because FERW does not exist in aorist, you shouldn't
overinterpret the use of present where aorist might be expected.

For instance, in John 20:27, there is a series of imperatives, where FERW is
always present imperative, and the other verbs are all aorist imperative:

John 20:27 (NASU) Then He said to Thomas, "Reach (present imperative) here with
your finger, and see (aorist imperative) My hands; and reach (present
imperative) here your hand and put it (aorist imperative) into My side; and do
not be unbelieving, but believing."

John 20:27 (GNT) eita legei tw Qwma Fere ton daktulon sou wde kai ide ta ceira
mou kai fere thn ceira sou kai bale ei thn pleuran mou kai mh ginou apisto alla

To the one big Greek, one possible explanation for the present imperative in
FERW is that aorist simply does not exist for the verb, so present is
substituted. This explanation bothered me, since it involves circular reasoning
in the use of the data: if this verse *had* used an aorist imperative for FERW,
then our lexica would tell us that the aorist imperative *does* exist for FERW,
which would affect our interpretation elsewhere.

So I asked another big Greek, who said "you can express pretty much anything in
the Greek" (I've heard that before, somewhere), but some forms are used
with different roots. He gives this example: in English, "go" changes to
"went" to express past tense. "Goed" does not exist, but that doesn't mean
that we can't express the thought "He goed to the store", it merely means
that we express it with a different root.

This seems to be reflected in the structure of BAGD. For instance, for FERW,
BAGD says:

> FERW (Hom. + inscr., pap., LXX, En., Ep. Arist., Philo, Joseph.,
> Test. 12 Patr., Sib. Or.) impf. eferon; fut. oisw J 21:18;
> Rv 21:26; 1 aor. hnegka, ptc enegkas; 2 aor inf. enegkein
> (Bl-D. #81.2); 1 aor. pass hnexqhn 2 Pt 1:18, 21a.

This seems to list the other roots that are used to express specific forms.
HNEGKA would be used to express the aorist. Incidtentally, the second big Greek
says that the use of present imperative in John 20:27 reflects aspect, depicting
the motion of the hand through the air.

So here is my question: if a verb form does not exist for a root, are other verb
forms substituted, or does this just mean that another root would be used to
express the same thing?


P.S.: My brother says that I'm working too hard at tense and mood, which can be
understand easily by examining the following examples:

Indicative mood: I'm in the mood
Subjunctive mood: I could be in the mood
Present tense: I am tense
Future tense: I will be tense
Past tense: I was tense

His use of the term past tense, of course, shows that he doesn't know a thing
about Greek...