Two-timing aorists

Jonathan Robie (
Thu, 12 Dec 1996 18:14:27 -0500

At 02:30 PM 12/12/96 -0500, Randy Leedy wrote:

>>The OVERWHELMING correspondence between augmented forms and past
>>time in Koine Greek must be given its proper weight.
>Any good theory will have to account for this, based on the evidence.
>In fact, Mari's theory predicts that the majority of aorist forms
>will describe events which have occured in the past - not because the
>aorist has a past *tense*, but because the *aspect* of the aorist
>implies that the action has already taken place.
>As I understand aspect, it implies nothing of the sort. An event of
>unspecified aspect can take place in any time frame whatever, as I
>understand the meaning and usage of that term.

I don't know if you saw my other post where I explained that tense and
aspect relate to two different times, the time of discourse and the time of
depiction. Let me take a recent and vivid example:

> I get home yesterday and find out my daughter has thrown up.

My reaction: yuck!

This event happened in the past - yesterday, or the day before this sentence
was uttered. It occured before the time of discourse. According to Mari,
tense is concerned with time of discourse. Aspect is concerned with the time
depicted - in other words, it is the "view" of the scene depicted, and that
view may be of the event happening (imperfective), or of an event which has
happened (perfective).

In this case, the aspect is imperfective - you see yourself as Mari walking
into the house and finding out that her daughter has thrown up. In other
words, the depiction is of an event as it occurs, as though your eye were
following the action. The depiction could also have been of the time when
she had already found this out:

> I got home yesterday and found out my daughter has thrown up.

My reaction: what did you do?

In this case, you see the situation after she arrived and found out that her
daughter had vomited. I noted my reactions because they say something about
the depiction: intuitively, I see her in the situation *after* finding out,
and wonder what she did next. In the first case, I'm not that far, I see the
event in the process of happening.

So there are two times involved.

Since aorist "sees" the event after it has happened, it is no accident that
most uses of aorist are for events that actually *have* happened at the time
of depiction. But aorist can depict events in the past, present, or future
with respect to discourse time. Here are some examples taken from Mari's
thesis, augmented by Wallace:

1. Present time (c.f. Wallace: Immediate Past Aorist / Dramatic Aorist)

"Now I know what I will do!" (TEV, Luke 16:4)

Also: Matthew 3:17 (possible), 9:18, 26:65, Mark 16:6, Luke 1:47, John
21:10, Eph 3:3, Rev 12:10 (possible)

2. Future reference (c.f. Wallace: Proleptic Aorist, Futuristic Aorist)

"If he listens to you, you **have gained** your brother" (RSV, Matthew 18:15)

Also: Mark 11:24, John 13:31, John 15:6, Rom 8:30, 1 Cor 7:28, Heb 4:10,
Jude 14, Rev 10:7

3. Past reference

You can find lots of examples of this anywhere, so I won't bother with this
category, since it is not controversial.

Mari's theory accounts for different categories of aorist usage found in a
grammar like Wallace's, and it does so with a clean theory.


Acts 2:12 (GNT) existanto de panteS kai dihporoun, alloS proS allon
legonteS: ti qelei touto einai;

Jonathan Robie
POET Software, 3207 Gibson Road, Durham, N.C., 27703
Ph: 919.598.5728 Fax: 919.598.6728
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