Jonathan wrote, responding to me:
But we are talking about grammar. What approach do you advocate? How
should we describe the aorist in our grammars, if not scientifically?
Is there something wrong with clear, testable statements? If Mari
makes testable statements about grammar that are wrong, you have all
the weapons you need at your disposal - show her that her statements
don't fit the text.
I advocate being as scientific as possible. I would say that the best
theory is the one that most simply explains the greatest number of
instances. However, when met with scattered counterexamples that do
not form a coherent pattern, I would not necessarily feel compelled
to formulate a more complicated theory in order to take them into
account. I would consider the possibility of accounting for them by
simply putting them outside the realm of science and trust my
judgment to determine their meaning.
The message goes on with many additional arguments, all of which I
find perfectly agreeable. Again, I'm not suggesting that we should
throw out science and develop a touchy-feely school of grammar.
Also, I'm not attacking Mari or her work; I haven't even seen it yet.
What I have done is use this debate as a case in point to raise a
question. Jonathan has been arguing vigorously and articulately in
favor of a hypothesis that he finds superior due to its ability to
explain not only the traditionally accepted uses of the aorist but
also the ones traditionally viewed as exceptional. I'm simply
questioning whether a grammatical hypothesis, in order to be
considered valid, requires the same degree of consistency and
predictability in its outcomes that the pure sciences require. If
not, then it is perhaps misguided to measure the usefulness of a
particular grammatical hypothesis in those terms alone.
Jonathan wants me to describe an alternate method. The nearest I can
come to an analytical METHOD that includes the non-scientific
dimension of language is that of contextual analysis. The correct
meaning of any word, regardless of its form, is that which fits the
demands of its context perfectly. By context I mean not only the
immediately surrounding words, but the ever-larger circles of context
that expand ultimately to non-linguistic considerations such as
social and religious background. This sort of analysis is not
entirely objective, certainly. To some people, it is therefore
inferior. But I maintain that the true inferiority rests with the
method that is inconsistent with the nature of the object of its
study. If language indeed contains subjective elements, then a purely
objective method of analysis is the inferior one. I LIKE TO BE AS
OBJECTIVE AS I POSSIBLY CAN! (Indeed, my theology compels me to be.)
But I'm convinced that I can't be ENTIRELY objective in the study of
I'll try to tie up some loose ends on this philosophical line, then
quit. I accept grammatical and linguistic methods as helpful to a
very great degree, and I think Mari's work should go on. If it turns
out that here theory commends itself as the least intrusive means
(least intrusive on other areas of Greek grammar) of explaining the
significance of the aorist, or that it ends up explaining a great
variety of other heretofore puzzling phenomena, then she'll be justly
lauded for her work.
One other point deserves clarification. I'm not really responding to
Mari at all; I'm responding to Jonathan's arguments in behalf of her
theory. I'm suggesting that superiority in point of scientific method
does not necessarily equate with superiority in point of grammatical
usefulness or consistency with the genius of the language.
I think I've stated my case as clearly as I know how, so I don't see
much virtue in writing more on this line, other than to respond
briefly to separate topics in a couple of messages remaining in my
in-box. I hope I can be forgiven for rambling some. All things
considered, it seems the least of the evils to press the Send button
now rather than spend more time rewriting.
In Love to God and Neighbor,
Bob Jones University