Imperfects as simple pasts

Date: Wed May 15 1996 - 17:20:59 EDT

I think Ken has hit on one of the more challenging areas of Greek (sorry not
to cite his original comments; my server has no easy way to do it). I would
say, no, Ken, you were not taught wrong in first year Greek (at least not
from what you say in your post). The nature of the imperfect (which only
occurs in the indicative because it necessarily involves time) is incomplete
action from the viewpoint of the event being described, and this suggests
the general sense of continous action. The problem is translating it in a
way that makes good English, and sometimes the meaning of the English word
itself and/or the context seems sufficient to convey the meaning of the
original. This is one of the things we worked on in updating the NASB, which
may have overused "began to" (in italic) to identify the imperfect tenses.
In some contexts "began to" may have sounded awkward or have not conveyed
the best idea of what was going on in the original. We changed some of these
to the simple past, on the ground that the idea of the imperfect was ade-
quately conveyed by lex and context.

Don Wilkins
UC Riverside

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