Re: Mari Broman (was Aorist resources)

Don Wilkins (
Tue, 10 Dec 1996 14:54:52 -0500 (EST)

At 10:15 AM 12/10/96, A. Brent Hudson wrote:
>Don wrote:
>>>>This is also at the core of the problem: the matter of
>whether our
>interpretation of the context legitimately allows us to redefine
>essential meaning of the tense<<<
>But Don, this seems circular to me. One would first have to
>agree that past time is the 'essential meaning' of the aorist
>indicative for your statement to be convincing. Moreover, if I
>am following this correctly, this is the exact thing that Mari
>is saying is NOT the case. Therefore, in an investigation to
>find out what is the essence of the aorist indicative, I think
>we should put aside the assumption of past-time as a 'essential
>meaning' and simply look at the evidence.

Good observations, Brent, so let me clarify. While my own experience has
led me to think that context and grammar should be carefully distinguished,
I do in fact see this as a matter of legitimate debate, so my *whether* was
to be taken seriously. From my point of view, the other side could argue
that any given tense could have a very wide range of possible meanings, and
that the context serves to narrow down the range. But I think such an
approach will ultimately be self-contradictory and lead to grammatical
anarchy. As to the essential meaning of the aor. ind., I think you
misunderstand me. There are two components: time (exclusive to the
indicative) and aspect (simple, non-continuous action), and this is the
traditional understanding, more or less. Mari of course disagrees with me,
and we ultimately need some way of determining whether either approach is
correct. You are perfectly free to argue that we should set aside the
assumption of past time for the aor. ind., but you either need to show that
the construction is just as uncertain in classical and hellenistic Greek,
or that there are convincing reasons to redefine this and other essential
concepts of grammar beginning at or before the GNT.

>Also, I would agree wholeheartedly that one must look well
>beyond the NT if one seeks to make grammatical point about Greek
>per se. This is my beef with scholars making new rules based
>solely on the Gramcord database. For these arguments to have
>weight, I think one must consider the rest of the literature of
>the Koine period, particularly the Apostolic Fathers, Josephus,
>and even Philo and the many non-Jewish/Christian Koine writings
>of the time.

Agreed, though of course I would not stop with the Koine period. A relevant
side-issue is how one approaches the writing of an NT grammar. At first it
might seem good (in the sense of DOKEW) to start from scratch, allowing
nothing from earlier Greek to influence one's research. Dan Wallace and I
have discussed this in regard to possible error and solecisms in the GNT.
But the problem, as I see it, is to have a practical "clean room" approach
(i.e. making absolutely NO assumptions based on earlier Greek). I don't
think anyone (including Dan) has been able to do that, and I really don't
see how anyone could.

Don Wilkins
UC Riverside