Re: Porter on the present

From: Rod Decker (
Date: Sun Oct 22 1995 - 09:10:11 EDT

>David L. Moore said,

> It is, then, the practical usefulness of this new paradigm in the
>task of exegesis that should concern us. When, for instance, we find that
>no absolute statements can be made about the encoding of time in certain
>grammatical forms of the verb, is it better to pronounce them unmarked for
>tense, or are we better off, in a practical sense, to note the usual tense
>content of the form and then explain those special cases which constitute

Classifying them as exceptions is how such instances have been handled
traditionally. I think the primary thrust of the new paradigm (Porter's
version of it at least; less so in Fanning's) is that there are too many
exceptions to provide a useful system.

>IMHO, the latter calls on the exegete to come up with
>objective reasons for his or her interpretations, but the former leaves
>the door open for a substantial subjective factor.

Perhaps I'm misunderstanding your statement, but I think the reverse would
be true. Is it not the "new paradigm" that requires objective evidence from
the context (in the form of deictic indicators, etc.) to justify the
proposed temporal implicature of any given instance? This system does _not_
result in a subjective, "make-any-verb-any-time-you-like" exegesis. It does
suggest that past assumptions have resulted in too hasty conclusions based
only on form with too little attention to the context. Either system can,
of course, be abused, but that does not invalidate either one.

A tense-less approach to Hebrew has not seemed to be an exegetical concern
(and it was once taught in temporal terms: preterites as past, waw
conversives, etc.--but I'm out of my territory there!), why is there more
concern for Greek? I have heard it suggested (though I don't know enough to
judge) that the reason Greek has been treated as a temporal-encoded
language for so long is that the revival of Greek studies in the
Renaissance & Reformation was percipitated by Latin scholars who assumed
more Latin structure/form/function in Greek than was legitimate. (This may
account for some treatments of the cases as well.)


Rodney J. Decker Calvary Theological Seminary
Asst. Prof./NT 15800 Calvary Rd. Kansas City, Missouri 64147

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