Re: Porter on the present

From: Philip L. Graber (
Date: Fri Oct 20 1995 - 19:51:56 EDT

On Fri, 20 Oct 1995, Bruce Terry wrote:

> Normally, punctiliar aspect would be encoded as unmarked aspect and
> present time by unmarked time. Since no such tense form exists, time takes
> precedence over aspect and the present tense form was used. This means that
> the present tense form was used both to encode continuous action and/or any
> kind of action.
> The exegetical consequence of this is that it is invalid to reason from a
> present indicative verb that the action was viewed as continuous by the
> writer.


Mari's position (and I would tend to agree with her) is that the present
encodes imperfective aspect but NOT tense. (BTW, imperfective aspect does
not necessarily mean "continuous action.") In the case of the "historical
present" the question for your position is why the present, which you say
encodes present tense, is used in ways which clearly do NOT indicate
present tense? Isn't it better to say (as Mari does) that the present
form is unmarked for tense? The same goes for the aorist. If they are
unmarked for tense, this goes some way toward explaining the widespread
use of the present and aorist for participles in a way that does not
indicate time.

Philip Graber Graduate Division of Religion
Graduate Student in New Testament 211 Bishops Hall, Emory University Atlanta, GA 30322 USA

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