Tense and aspect in Mark 2:18-20

From: Jonathan Robie (74144.2360@CompuServe.COM)
Date: Sat Sep 07 1996 - 09:02:58 EDT

After yesterday's work with 1 John 1, I started preparing for a Bible study that
I'm leading in the gospel of Mark, and I took the time to mark the tenses of the
verbs in the first few verses, Mark 2:18-20. (The Bible study is inductive, and
by my own rules I can't bring anything that the participants don't see in the
English, but I wanted to look in a little more depth.)

Like the 1 John 1 passage, this starts with an imperfect, and moves on through a
variety of tenses. In both cases, the imperfect seems to set the stage for the
rest of the narrative. Here is the passage in Mark:

"Now John's disciples and the Pharisees were fasting (hHSAN NHSTEUONTES,
periphrastic imperfect). [Some people] came (ERCONTAI, present mid./pass.) and
asked (LEGOUSIN, present) Jesus, "How is it that John's disciples and the
disciples of the Pharisees are fasting (NHSTEUOUSIN, present), but your's are
not fasting (NHSTEUOUSIN, present)?" Jesus answered (EIPEN, aorist), "How can
(DUNANTAI, present mid./pass.) the guests of the bridegroom fast (NHSTEUEIN,
present infinitive) while he is (ESTIN, present) with them? While he is (ESTIN,
present) with them they cannot fast (NHSTEUEIN, present infinitive). But the
time will come (ELEUSONTAI, fut.) when the bridegroom will be taken from them
(APARQH, aorist subjunctive passive), and on that day they will fast
(NHSTEUSOUSIN, future)."

This makes me wonder if the imperfect is frequently used to "set the stage" for
a narrative. Also, since this is the first passage I looked at after the 1 John
passage, I wonder if most narratives have as much variation in tense/aspect as 1
John 1 and Mark 2:18-20.

What is the force of DUNANTAI NHSTEUEIN? What is the force of APARQH?


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