Re: Santa Clause and the perfect tense . . .

Carl W. Conrad (
Tue, 19 Nov 1996 02:21:18 -0800

At 4:21 AM -0600 11/19/96, Tom Launder wrote:
>Hello Professor Conrad,
>I just wanted to drop a quick note and say thanks for your time and your
>reply to my question on the perfect tense. I have had a hard time
>relearning the things on present and aorist tenses. It seems like the
>"rug" has been pulled out on many commentators prior to this last fifty
>years or so. Moises Silva and Daniel Wallace have written some really
>interesting material that seems to challenge the traditional way of
>looking at things. Do you think that things might swing too wide in an
>effort to correct some obvious misunderstandings of tense? I really
>don't feel safe emphasizing the present tense continuous aspect at all.
>I read some commentaries on some verses and think, "hmmm, I wonder what
>Wallace would say to this guy?" Then I wonder about me. I don't want
>to make a verb say something that it doesn't, but if it really does?
>I think that you recongnize the young student's predicament here. I
>find a present tense or perfect and I begin to wonder what I am to do
>with it. The old school would say this, Wallace says that. Is this
>continuous action here? Hmmm. I wonder if in twenty years I will read a
>new grammar that will have rediscovered the old truths or put forth new
>ones that we never considered? This makes for a very nervous Bible
>student and teacher.

Just a brief comment on the "predicament." For one thing, I'm an old-timer myself--62 years old, having started Greek in the Fall of 1952. Moreover, my teaching is primarily in Classical Attic Greek rather than in Koine, and I am not impressed by a lot of what I've read to the extent that I think the classical doctrines about tense have been dislodged. What I think MAY be true is that the older views of the present and the aorist were cast a bit too rigidly; I suspect also that Hellenistic influence of native vernaculars on the Lingua Franca almost certainly had an impact on the way Greek was understood, spoken, and written in the era of the NT. It may be, however, that these investigators are overly inclined to cut the understanding of Koine grammar loose from its historical moorings; frankly, I haven't read Porter, and I think that I ought to before I judge him. I've read some of Wallace and have mixed feelings about his work--in his advanced grammar I'm inclined to think he multipl
ies grammatical categories overly much in the endeavor to nuance the grammatical categories to match differences that are nuanced in reality only in the context of particular NT texts. The one point that these new grammarians are making which I think IS correct is that context of a construction impacts heavily upon how it is to be understood in any particular text. On the other hand, I suspect it's a mistake to attempt to reformulate the understanding of the constructions unless the nuanced distinctions in usage appear in significant quantity in statistical samples.

Regards, cwc