Re: Aspects of Gnomic Fog

From: S. M. Baugh (
Date: Fri Apr 04 1997 - 10:39:01 EST

Carl W. Conrad wrote:
>From one Greek gnome to others, my special thanks to Wes Williams
>and Prof Kenneth McKay for a most illuminating comment on and
>illustration of the "timeless aorist" particularly as it appears
>to general conditions. Frankly, I feel that I'm beginning to emerge
>from out of the fog that I entered as a result of some of the recent
>discussion of aspect, the most confusing part of which to me has
>been a kind of inconsistent terminology and comparisons between
>other languages and Greek which have seemed to me to cloud the picture
>of Greek usage more than to clarify it.

Dear Carl,

I'm glad to hear that you are rising from out the mist, because your
experience with Greek prior to Koine would give the rest of us most
helpful balance. It is, at present, very easy to research the NT corpus
for verbal aspect because of GRAMCORD's capabilities. However, there has
been some early work along these lines in classical Greek, especially by
Albert Rijsbaron (*The Syntax and Semantics of the Verb in Classical
Greek,* 2d ed. [Amsterdam, 1994]; and an earlier one showing that
Aristotle recognized the atelic/telic distinction: *Aristotle, Verb
Meaning and Functional Grammar,* [Amsterdam, 1989]). I am currently
reading an earlier work by Peter Stork (*The Aspective Usage of the
Dynamic Infinitive in Herodotus* [Bouma Boekhuis, 1982]) which is--dare
I risk sounding "geeky"?--pretty exciting stuff.

My own opinion is that the interrelations of tense, aspect, verb
meanings, and the various contexts are very complex, such that the
overarching theories (e.g., Fanning or Porter) have not yet fully or
decisively described the Greek verb system. I also have a suspicion that
the aspectual system underwent changes over time, but to confirm that
requires much more expertise than I (or perhaps any one researcher)

My only point is that I think the research into Greek aspect has only
begun--hence the confusion of terms and even conceptual muddle [to which
I admit, though some things are finally clearing up after about six
years of occasional research into it]. I for one welcome your input and
that of all others into this important area.


S. M. Baugh
New Testament
Westminster Theological Seminary
1725 Bear Valley Parkway
Escondido, CA 92027

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