Re: NUN + Indicative Aorist = Perfect?

From: Sara R. Johnson (
Date: Tue Apr 08 1997 - 18:13:53 EDT

>I have found 5 examples of NUN + Indicative Aorist Verb in the New
>Testament, and I've tentatively reached the conclusion that this combination
>functions much like a perfect: it calls attention to a current state
>resulting from a past action. However, I'd like to see if my interpretation
>of these passages matches that of others. For those who missed it, yesterday
>I also found two NUN+Aorist examples in Homer, cited by Smyth. Both were
>inceptive aorist, and these seemed to be equivalent to perfects, but it was
>difficult to conclude much from them. All in all, I still have only 7
>examples, which is a small data set - does anybody know other examples worth
>looking at?
>Matt 26:65 tote o arciereus dierrhxen ta imatia autou legwn: eblasfhmhsen:
>ti eti creian ecomen marturwn; ide *nun* *hkousate* thn blasfhmian:
>Matt 26:65 (NASU) Then the high priest tore his robes and said, "He has
>blasphemed! What further need do we have of witnesses? Behold, you have now
>heard the blasphemy;
>The current status: they have heard the blasphemy (and no longer need

Possible -- but I would have been inclined to take NUN here as meaning
"only just now": "you just now heard the blasphemy": i.e. they don't need
witnesses because the accused has just repeated his crime in full view of
the court. =) If this were true, the aorist would have normal rather than
perfective force. But maybe that's hair splitting.
>Roma 11:31 outws kai outoi *nun* *hpeiqhsan* tw umeterw eleei, ina kai autoi
>(*nun*) *elehqwsin*.
>Roma 11:31 (NASU) so these also now have been disobedient, that because of
>the mercy shown to you they also may now be shown mercy.
>The current state: having been disobedient (and being capable of receiving
>The second example of an aorist here, ELEHQWSIN, is passive subjunctive, not
>indicative, but it is very interesting because of its parallelism to the
>first aorist (especially if the second NUN is accepted as genuine), and
>because it is almost impossible to give it a past referent.

Here I would agree that the aorist seems to have perfect meaning when taken
with NUN.

What interests me about the subjunctive that follows is that, in classical
Greek, I would have taken the subjunctive as illustrating Smyth's point
about primary aorists and secondary aorists. In classical Greek a purpose
clause after a primary tense (including true perfects) requires the
subjunctive and is traslated "may": "They have been disobedient in order
that they *may* be shown mercy." A purpose clause after a secondary tense
(including, normally, the aorist) however normally requires the optative
and is translated "might": "They were disobedient in order that they
*might* be shown mercy." So in theory, in classical Greek, when an aorist
is followed by primary sequence, using the subjunctive, you can immediately
tell that that the aorist is being used with primary meaning, for instance
with a perfect sense ("they have disobeyed"). BTW I think this is why
Smyth's discussion of "primary" and "secondary" aorists is actually quite

Alas, with the virtual disappearance of the optative in Koine, the absence
of the optative probably can't be used to determine whether or not an
aorist is being used with a primary sense...

It has been an endless day and I ran out of energy before I could absorb
your other examples! More later, perhaps.

Probably way out of my depth with all this aspect theory, but fascinated


Sara R. Johnson
Visiting Assistant Professor
Department of Religion and Classics
University of Rochester

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