EdothE > tense & aspect

Since I'm a bit slow responding to this thread, all I'll have to say in 
response to the translation question is that I would agree with Philip's 
remarks in that regard.

I would broach another aspect [pun not intended :) ] of the issue that is 
reflected in David's comments that:

> EDOQH ... could be understood in a temporal sense.  Notice the temporal 
> augment... which is characteristic of those tenses in the indicative mood 
> that refer to past time... punctilliar aspect of the verb is probably
> never completely absent from the aorist, in the indicative, the aorist's   
> meaning is often substantially temporal.
> "is given" could be used...if we understood it as a simple, factual- rather 
> than temporal statement...yet the verb EDOQH's being indicative in mood 
> does suggest it has some temporal force.

The temporal nature of the augment has been strongly challenged. (See 
elaboration following.) I'd hesitate to use "punctilliar" to describe 
the aorist since that has been misunderstood as referring to 
instantaneous, once-for-all action. The type of action is better 
described under the rubrics of Aktionsart (or as Fanning would prefer, 
"procedural characteristic") and hinges on lexis rather than verb form. 
Following Porter and others, I would suggest that Greek does not 
grammaticalize temporal reference at all, but only -aspect-: the 
subjective way in which the speaker chooses to portray the action, 
whether perfective (as a whole, complete), imperfective (in process), or 
stative (existing state or condition as a result of a complex of 

Re. augment, there are numerous instances of augmented forms in the NT 
that do not refer to past time--far too many to note as "exceptions." 
Augments appear on forms that refer to past, present, future, 
omnitemporal, and timeless contexts. From what I understand of 
Classical, a similar situation holds. (You Classicists are welcome to 
correct the following summary as needed; it is a summary of Porter's 
_Verbal Aspect_ [pp. 208P09], not my own research.)

In Homeric Greek the augment is "purely scansional" (208, citing 
Drewitt). Although the augment is invariable in NT Greek, that is not 
the case in older Greek. In support of this, note the following patterns 
of usage in Homer. In the similes and gnomes [i.e., literature that is 
predominantly either omnitemporal or timeless], the aorist is usually 
augmented, though there are sixteen such aorists without the augment. 
Iterative aorists (a past-referring narrative use), however, do _not_ 
take the augment. In narrative texts both the aorist and imperfect are 
frequently not augmented. In the speeches, present-reference aorists 
"nearly always" have the augment, but preterite-reference aorists often 
do not. These factors suggest that "it is not the augment that creates 
or emphasizes the past meaning in any tense" (209, citing Drewitt). The 
augment is probably a later development in the history of Greek. "By the 
classical period it was simply a formal feature of the imperfect, aorist 
and pluperfect indicative. By the Hellenistic period it was so devoid of 
special significance that it ceased to be attached to the pluperfect, 
and in later centuries it disappeared altogether except when accented" 
(McKay, cited on 209).

As to the temporal nature of the tenses, the following paradigms are 
very useful. These are taken from Porter, 75-76, 83. (You've noticed by 
now that I have been heavily influenced by Porter [and Fanning]; working 
through these heavy-duty dissertations has been my major project this 

{Note on the format of text following: it will appear to contain a lot 
of garbage; I've dumped material from my word processor with the Greek 
font into the (notoriously hostile) Internet that doesn't understand 
that language! As a result there will be a lot of noise. As hints, the 
accents and greathing marks are going to be j J v ; [ ] { }, etc. You'll 
prob. have to break out the Greek Testament to make good sense out of 
them, but I just don't have the time to reformat the whole thing. I 
think you'll be able to follow it. I did take time to add _ _ to 
indicate the equivalent forms that are the point of each illustration. 
(Parsing follows Gramcord abbrev.)}

Group 1. Present indicative
Matt. 8:25, Kuvrie..._ajpolluvmeqa_, Lord, _we are perishing_, 1PPMI > 
Mark 11:27, Kai; _e[rcontai_ pavlin eij" Ierosovluma , and _they were 
     coming_ again into Jerusalem, 3PPAI > e[rcomai
Matt. 26:18, pro;" se; _poiw'_ to; pavsca meta; tw'n maqhtw'n mou , with 
     you _I am going to make_ the Passover with my disciples, 1SPAI > 
Matt. 7:19, pa'n devndron mh; poiou'n karpo;n kalo;n _ejkkovptetai_ kai; 
     eij" pu'r bavlletai , every tree not making good fruit _is cut off_ 
     and thrown into the fire, 3SPPI > ejkkovptw
2 Cor. 9:7, iJlaro;n ga;r dovthn _ajgapa'_ oJ qeov" , for God _loves_ a 
     joyful giver, 3SPAI > ajgapavw

Group 2. Aorist indicative
Luke 16:4, _egnwn_ tiv poihvsw , _I know_ what I intend to do, 1SAAI > 
2 Cor. 11:25, tri;" _ejrabdivsqhn_, apax ejliqavsqhn, tri;" ejnauavghsa 
     , three times _I was beaten_, once I was stoned, three times I was 
     shipwrecked, 1SAPI > rJabdivzw
John 17:14, 18, oJ kovsmo" _ejmivshsen_ aujtouv"...kajgw; ajpevsteila 
     aujtou;" eij" to;n kovsmon , the world _is going to hate_ them...I 
     am going to send them into the world, 3SAAI > misevw
Eph. 5:29, oujdei;" gavr pote th;n eJautou' savrka _ejmivshsen_ , for no 
     one ever _hates_ his own body, 3SAAI > misevw
Luke 7:35, kai; _ejdikaiwvqh_ hJ sofiva ajpo; pavntwn tw'n tevknwn 
     aujth'" , wisdom _is justified_ by all her children, 3SAPI > 

Group 3. Perfect indicative
Matt. 21:27, kai; ajpokriqevnte" tw' Ihsou' ei\pan, _Oujk oi[damen_ , 
     answering, they said to Jesus, "_we donUt know_", 1PRAI > oi\da
Acts 10:45, o{ti kai; ejpi; ta; e[qnh hJ dwrea; tou' aJgivou pneuvmato" 
     "ejkkevcutai" , because the gift of the Holy Spirit "had been 
     poured out" upon the Gentiles, 3SRAI > ejkcevw
James 5:2, oJ plou'to" uJmw'n "sevshpen" kai; ta; iJmavtia uJmw'n 
     shtovbrwta gevgonen , your riches are going to rot and your 
     garments are going to become moth-eaten, 3SRAI > shvpw
2 Peter 2:19, w|/ gavr ti" _htthtai_, touvtw/ dedouvlwtai , for by what 
     someone _is overcome_, by this he is enslaved, 3SRPI > hJttavomai
1 John 3:14, _metabebhvkamen_ ejk tou' qanavtou eij" th;n zwhvn , _we 
     are transformed_ from death into life, 1PRAI > metabaivnw

Each of the three groups above use the same tense (present, aorist, 
perfect--all indicatives), but have, in order, five different temporal 
references: present, past, future, omnitemporal, and timeless. The 
problem posed is: what is the significance of tense if the same tense 
forms can all refer to the same range of temporality and if three 
different tenses can have the same range? This is a very difficult 
question for the traditional approaches to tense to accommodate in their 
system. Note, too, that all the examples are from the indicative mood, 
which is the one mood that almost every system connects with temporal 
reference in some way. Porter's conclusion from these examples is that 
Greek tenses do not grammaticalize time. This does not mean that Greek 
cannot express time--only that it does not do so through the use of the 
morphological category of tense. This should not be surprising to 
someone who has studied Hebrew where a similar lack of tense/time forms 
is accepted with little question. Other languages do the same. To 
express time, Greek uses both lexis and deictic indicators in the 
context (ew", hdh, otan, mevllw, shvmeron, etc.).

This seems somewhat confusing to those trained in traditional Greek 
terminology since it says, in essence, that the Greek tenses are not 
true tenses. Unfortunately the terminology is not likely to succumb to 
change after several millennia of use. Porter offers several suggestions 
for offsetting this difficulty. Perhaps the most practical is to expand 
the grammatical descriptions used to indicate both form and function. 
For example, instead of referring to, say, the aorist tense, it would be 
more accurate to refer to the aorist form used of present time. This may 
be longer, but provides a substantial increase in clarity that more than 
offsets the slightly clumsier phrase.

Another set of sample texts frames the question of aspect in a helpful 
way. They are as follows.

Group A
Luke 21:10, Tovte _e[legen_ aujtoi'" , then _he was saying_ to them, 
     3SIAI > levgw
Luke 20:41, _Eipen_ pro;" aujtouv" , _he said_...to them, 3SAAI > levgw
Acts 20:38, tw'/ lovgw/ w|/ _eijrhvkei_ , the word which _he spoke_, 
     3SLAI > levgw

Group B
Luke 24:18, _oujk e[gnw_ ta; genovmena ejn aujth'/ ejn tai'" hJmevrai" 
     tauvtai"... , _you don't know_ the state of things in [Jerusalem] 
     in these days?, 2SAAI > ginwvskw
John 5:42, _e[gnwka_ uJma'" , _I know_ you, 1SRAI > ginwvskw
John 21:17, su; _ginwvskei_ oti... , _you know_ that..., 2SPAI > 

Each of the groups above use three different verb forms of the words for 
saying (in imperfect, aorist, and pluperfect forms) and knowing (in 
aorist, perfect, and present forms), yet they all refer to the same time 
(past in the first group, present in the second). Are these sets of 
diverse forms (that have similar temporal reference) semantically 
distinct? Why? How? 


Rodney J. Decker
Assistant Professor of Greek and Theology
Calvary Theological Seminary, Kansas City
(94-95 sabbatical explains the Univ. of Wisc. address!)