Re: Grammatical Tense, LEGW,

From: Karen Pitts (
Date: Thu Oct 26 1995 - 02:48:12 EDT


You are correct, my statement

>Mark's Greek is so sloppy, that I don't know that I'd place any importance on
>the tenses he uses

is a bit too general. What I should have said, is that Mark uses imperfect
FAR more than any of the other Gospel writers. My snail-pace class learns
imperfect in lesson 3 and aorist in lesson 12 (which is sometimes separated by
a year or more), so I search widely for Biblical examples of imperfects. They
are almost always in Mark. Therefore, I don't know that I would place that
much interpretation on his use of imperfect vs. the aorist. I'd have to study
this in depth to support my intuition, which I'm not prepared to do right now.

I still maintain that Mark's Greek is sloppy. He uses participles in purpose
clauses where you would expect an infinitive and he uses periphrastic phrases
far more than anyone else (although John does use them quite a bit). And I
find his use of imperfect a bit jarring.

Anyway, I'll try to keep my generalizations a little less inflamatory.

Back to specifics of this passage (which I just read and discussed this last

you pointed out the following on Mark 2:1-12:

>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
> hearts?
> 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
> paralytic--
> "I say to you, stand up, [take your mat: A] and go to your
> home."
>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

My comments are twofold. Mark still mixes present and aorist in the direct
discourse in a fashion that I can't give any meaning to. And, your point 3, I
always though that oida, although perfect in form, was treated, for all
intents and purposes, as a present.

Thanks for the text recommendations for teaching aspect (partially exerpted
below for anyone else who interested).

>From Rod Decker
>I use Mounce's textbook which introduces verbs from an aspectual approach and
>distinguishes between aspect (the primary significance of "tense forms" in
his >system) and time (secondary in his system). . . .I spend quite a
>bit more time at the beginning of second year discussing temporal
>implicature. That is also the point at which I have them read Silva's _God,
>Language and Scripture: Reading the Bible in the Light of General
>Linguistics_ for an intro to the use of linguistics in biblical studies.


Karen Pitts
Hopewell Presbyterian Church, Hopewell, NJ, teacher of NT Greek
David Sarnoff Research Center, Princeton, NJ, statistician

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