Re: Aorist revisited [was Mari Broman Olsen (nee Mari Broman)]

Paul Zellmer (
Tue, 10 Dec 1996 18:59:09 -0800

Jonathan Robie wrote:
> Why do you say that the aorist refers to past time? What examples do you
> have that show that the aorist establishes past time without, and sometimes
> in contradiction to, other contextual clues?


You ask a hard thing, not because the examples are hard to find, but
because they are so numerous. As you well know, the traditional
approach to the aorist indicative is that it is point action in past
time. This is the traditional approach because it fits the majority of
cases. For example, EGENETW in Mark 1:4 has no other contextual clues,
yet I think you would not put that as concurrent or future time to the
writing of the text. If this is the normal interpretation of the aorist
indicative, would you not expect many, if not most, cases of its use to
be in the absence of other "time" clues? It, in itself, would carry
that baggage.

What you would need to show (and you have not yet, other than your
search with the contradictory clue NUN) are cases where there are no
other contextual clues AND YET the time is obviously not past. You
would also have to show this in various gendre. I don't think you will
find it in the most time-related gendre--narrative. You may find it in
didactic or (possibly) apocalyptic writings. And, while we are on the
topic of gendre-related usages, since I have not yet had time to read
Mari's work, I wonder if her position that the augment had lost it's
force by the time of the NT Koine would really stand up if she limited
herself to narratives. Even in English, once we leave narratives, the
importance of time diminishes. And, in Greek, the aspect appears to be
stronger than the tense anyway.

I'm not picking on you by addressing this to you, Jonathan. It is that
you seem to be the most active searcher of examples in your learning
methodology. Therefore I challenge you to check to see how big the
situation is. It is well established that there are aorists that are
"present" and "future". The question is, what is the percentage of
these "anamolies" compared to all the aorist indicatives in, say, the
GNT? I think you will find that the vast majority of cases will be
consistent with the traditional view of the aorist indicative, which
would indicate to me that the theory, the approach needs merely to be
modified to allow for the exceptions. This differs from the arguments
that you seemed to have been making, which basically calls for a total
rewrite of the approach.

Peace, brother.

Paul Zellmer
Southern Methodist Missions