Aspect: discourse function (Mk.2)

Observations on Mark 2:1-12
The Discourse Functions of Verbal Aspect

Though I suggested earlier today that I'd perhaps said enough re. 
aspect, I'm going to transgress anyway! I just finished working 
through Mark 2:1-12 and would be interested in any reactions to my 
preliminary conclusions. The interest here is particularly the use 
of the present form/imperfective aspect (aphientai, v. 5) to 
describe forgiveness, which one would almost expect to be phrased 
with an aorist. Voelz's article in Neotestamentica that I 
mentioned earlier selects this as one of the examples to challenge 
Porter's explanation of aspect.

(English text is NRSV)

1. The aorist carries the narrative flow of events (background):
     he returned
     it was reported
     many gathered
     they removed the roof
     Jesus saw their faith
     Jesus perceived
     he stood up
     took the mat
     and went out

2. All the conversation is recorded with the present form 
(foreground) (exceptions are noted with [ ] ):

     he said to the paralytic, "Son, your sins are forgiven."

     "Why does this fellow speak in this way? It is blasphemy! Who 
          can forgive sins but God alone?" 

     he said to them, "Why do you raise such questions in your 

     Which is easier, [to say: A] to the paralytic, 'Your sins are 
          forgiven,' or [to say: A], 'Stand up and [take your mat: 
          A] and walk'? 

     But so that [you may know: R] that the Son of Man has
          authority on earth to forgive sins"--he said to the

     "I say to you, stand up, [take your mat: A] and go to your 
3. The focal point of the entire passage is expressed with the 
most heavily marked form: perfect (frontground)
     so that you may know (hina de eidHte), v. 10

4. The clear and distinct function of the perfective and 
imperfective aspects in this passage suggest that further 
explanation is unnecessary. (That does not mean that more couldn't 
be said other than what I've summarized here [e.g., I didn't 
comment on the imperfect form in v. 4], but that the reason for 
the use of the verb forms is adequately explained by the discourse 
function of aspect.)

Rod Decker
Calvary Theological Seminary, Kansas City