Re: Romans 3:22-23

From: Carl W. Conrad (
Date: Wed Oct 04 1995 - 23:26:17 EDT

At 5:03 PM 10/4/95, wrote:
>Timothy Bratton wrote;
>> But this verse just doesn't make sense. If the aorist tense is understood
>> as a one time completed action in the past, how could "all have sinned."
> Is
>> Paul perhaps taking some poetic license here?
>I would agree with others who have suggested that you are using the aorist in
>too restricted a sense. I think also that Frank Stagg published an article
>in the JBL years ago entitled, "The Abused Aorist."
>In Brooks & Winbery Romans 3:23 is used as an example of the Gnomic Aorist
>(I'm not sure what Prof. Whatmouth would call it). By Gnomic we take it to
>be a statement of a general maxim, i.e., something that is universally true.
> Remember the sentence begins in vs. 22, "There is no distinction (between
>Jew and Gentile) because all sin and continually come short of the glory of
>God." This is the summation of the point that Paul has been making since
>1:18. Don't think of aorist as "one time" action or as all in the past. It
>can be but often is not.
>I hope Ellen gets her toilet fixed.

This missive (?) strikes me as Carlton Winbery at his finest, most
supercilious, and yea, verily, gnomic, so much so that I take the liberty
of citing it IN TOTO prior to offering my own grubby little comments.

(1) Was that "Whatmouth" deliberate? or deliberative? I knew Joshua
Whatmough once, a truly gnome-like little (perhaps he was taller than 4
feet, but he didn't seem it) Welshman with a grand KLEOS as comparative
linguist. I frankly don't remember hearing him talk about aorists; it
seemed that he talked most that year about Hittite and laryngeals and how
all the mysteries of Umlaut would be understood by one who could fathom the
mysteries of newly-deciphered Hittite. And when he wasn't talking about
that, he was talking about shooting pigeons with molten tar in a water
pistol, which struck me as a sticky, unlikely, and most unpleasant exercise
in futility. I learned a lot more from his successor, Calvert Watkins. What
I DO remember Whatmough talking about was the Nominative Absolute in Greek
(everyone else calls it an accusative absolute, but since the participle is
neuter, who can tell?) and the genitive of the sphere.

(2) It seems to me that the aorist often has the force of "get x
accomplished," as opposed to the present tense's force of "endeavor to do
x." If that has any validity, then the Pauline aorist in the text in
question might be understood to mean: "everyone manages to succeed at
sinning ..."--which strikes me as most probably true.

(3) I too hope that Ellen gets her toilet fixed (in the best sense of the
aorist tense, whatever the best sense of the aorist tense may be).

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

This archive was generated by hypermail 2.1.4 : Sat Apr 20 2002 - 15:37:30 EDT