From: Carl W. Conrad (
Date: Tue Apr 01 1997 - 09:36:11 EST

At 7:45 AM -0600 4/1/97, Jonathan Robie wrote:
>Of course, if I don't interpret it as gnomic, it still makes sense: "all
>people have sinned, and fall short of the glory of God". Robertson indicates
>that some people dispute the existence of the gnomic, or at least its use in
>the NT (although Robertson believes that it does exist, and gives quite a
>few examples). Is anybody familiar with the arguments for and against the
>gnomic aorist?

My 2c worth: The single, most important proof for the existence of the
gnomic aorist is the existence of gnomes --you DO believe in gnomes, don't
you? The second most important proof for it is that if it didn't exist, it
ought to, just so we could argue over how best to pronounce it. I think,
however, that the classical perspective on it is what the name itself
expresses: AORISTOS: undefined, unlimited, or, to use one of the modern
Linguistic terms I DO claim to understand, "unmarked." As the classical
understanding of the Aorist indicative is that it states the simple
factuality of an action in the past, so the classical understanding of the
"Gnomic" aorist is that its reference is not to the time of the event but
to the fact of it: it MAY have happened, but the point is that it DOES
happen. And it is called Gnomic because it is so frequently used for
proverbial statements, which is what a GNWMH is.

Which is not quite what you asked, of course. I don't know that a
particular number of arguments have been advanced for or against it any
more than I know why the grammarians of Koine keep inventing new
syntactical categories, but I think that this very old category was
declared to exist for the same reason that other grammatical categories are
declared to exist: because it is believed that it is sufficiently frequent
a phenomenon that it must have been deemed by Greek-speakers to be the
right format for a proverbial statement.

Carl W. Conrad
Department of Classics, Washington University
One Brookings Drive, St. Louis, MO, USA 63130
(314) 935-4018 OR

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