Re: Inceptive aorist: questionable textbook example?

Carl W. Conrad (
Mon, 30 Dec 1996 21:37:06 -0600

At 9:28 PM -0600 12/30/96, Alan Repurk wrote:
>> At 05:44 PM 12/30/96 -0800, Alan Repurk wrote:
>> >Stephen C. Carlson wrote:
>> >> I think you've found a pedological limitation to the use of constructe=
>> >> texts. They are presented in a vacuum, without any context, which is
>> >> essential. I looked for the aorist forms of DIDASKW in the gospels,
>> >> and none of them are inceptive. I would guess that the author intende=
>> >> the inceptive aorist from his use of the non-classical TOTE =3D thereu=
>> >> but I can't be sure.

I'm not quite sure about "pedological"--it sounds rather ominous; if,
however, "pedagogical" is what was meant, I think the comment is right on
target. People who write their own Greek exercises for students ought to
have them proofread by a dozen other competent persons or else they are
likely to write some ridiculous constructions. I say this after being
burned more than once by sentences that I've written. I agree with
Stephen--it's probably a miscomposed sentence.

>> >How about in Mr 1:21 where is was not until the sabbath had started 'EUQ=
>> >and that he had entered into the synagogue 'EISELQWN EIS THN SUNAGWGHN'
>>that he
>> >began to teach 'EDIDASKEN' ?
>> >
>> >Sincerely,
>> >-lars
>> Lars,
>> Some translations add "began to" to this verse, others simply say that Je=
>> taught. But what would justify inserting the phrase "began to" in Mark 1:=
>> Why should we treat this as an inceptive aorist?
>> Jonathan
>As one of our friendly mentors pointed out, it is an inceptive imperfect.
>I sure am glad we are allowed to make mistakes on this list !
>Now that I am home, I see that my CB Williams has a footnote on this
>verse calling it an Inceptive imperfect. I never noticed before, but
>he has a lot of footnotes which pertain to this. Also the NEB uses
>began. But you raise a valid point. How does one know when to
>translate into the english in this fashion ? To my ear, 'began to teach'
>paints a picture which helps me visualize the action.

Imperfect it is--and the imperfect, like the present, is often employed in
an inceptive sense: conative ('try to'), inceptive ('begin to,' 'proceed
to'), durative ('continue to'); the difference made by the imperfect is to
set the point of departure in the past. Context has to be the guide in
these instances.

Carl W. Conrad
Department of Classics, Washington University
One Brookings Drive, St. Louis, MO, USA 63130
(314) 935-4018 OR