Re: Attention aspect geeks: John 15:6 EBLHQH, EXHRANQH

From: Carl W. Conrad (
Date: Mon Apr 07 1997 - 15:54:41 EDT

At 3:28 PM -0500 4/7/97, Don Wilkins wrote:
>My thanks to Wes for his kind comments regarding my remarks and his
>respectful disagreement. Homer is of course the first (and perhaps only)
>haven for those who wish to reinterpret the meaning and use of the augment,
>but in doing so I think they commit the same general fallacy that the
>venerable A. T. Robertson committed many years ago, in that Homeric Greek
>is used as an excuse to explain anomalies in much later Greek. The only
>real difference is that ATR used Homer to justify perceived irregularities
>in koine, while advocates of a meaningless augment use Homer in an attempt
>to overthrow standard Greek descriptive grammar in any historical time
>period, including Classical. Homer, as you can guess that I would say, has
>little or no comparative value for either Classical (Attic) Greek--which is
>much closer to Homer in time than is koine--or koine (which is essentially
>Attic in dialect compared to Homer's old Ionic). This is not to say that
>Homer is not wonderful Greek, of course.
>At last Dec's APA convention I couldn't resist the temptation to go into
>temporary bankruptcy by purchasing a new work on the grammar of Greek
>inscriptions. One reason is that I was interested in the use of the aorist
>augment, and the book seemed to affirm what I had already suspected: that
>the augment is generally used the same in inscriptions as it is in other
>Greek, following established descriptive grammar. I am writing in my office
>at the moment and have the book at home, but I would be happy to offer
>references if anyone is interested. Another significant fact is that the
>augment is quite persistent historically in the inscriptions, indicating
>clearly (to me at least) that it does not lose its normal force until well
>after the koine period (contra some opinions expressed recently on the list
>and quoted from linguistics-oriented publications). I should add that
>inscriptions, provided of course that they are both legible and
>stylistically and dialectically relevant, are very significant sources
>because they are literally etched in stone and not subject to
>transcriptional problems. Moreover, with the recent publication of PHI's CD
>7 we have a wealth of sources for inscriptions and papyri at our
>fingertips, so that further research is not only justified but also
>practicable (incidentally, I am almost finished with the next version of my
>computer program, and one of the things it will do is search the new CD's;
>you can also do this with Pandora, etc.). That said, I would again plead
>for more research before we jettison the augment as a meaningful indicator
>of time in the indicative.

What do you say, Don, about the augment on an imperfect indicative
verb--both protasis and apodosis--in a present counter-factual condition as
a time indicator?

For my own part, inasmuch as I have spoken pretty enthusiastically about
those aorists and McKay's interpretation of them (nor do I feel otherwise
now), I feel myself more somewhere in the middle of the spectrum between
the hard line you have laid down in favor of the so-called traditional
view of the "tenses" and the "brave new world" espoused by the adherents of
the aorist as a non-tense. I do not think that the "tradition" is nearly so
solid as has been claimed regarding the augmented aorist indicative as
having clear and unvarying reference to past time. I think it may well be
some time before the dust really settles on the questions of the
Hellenistic aorist and I am certainly eager to see the results of computer
searches of the inscriptions, as you suggest. On the other hand, I would
sort of expect inscriptions of any official sort to be dealing with actual
events, apart from what is in verse form, and verse form is subject to
numerous factors.

As for the argument that Homer is the last refuge of a scoundrel trying to
prove strange theories about the aorist, that, it seems to me is a
double-edged blade. The Homeric texts may be centuries earlier than even
classical Attic and still earlier than the Koine of the NT, but there was
no time in antiquity that Homer was not read and recited aloud and listened
to by Greek-speaking peoples. Consequently the echoes of Homer in Greek of
all periods are like the echoes of Shakespeare and the King James Bible in
the English of all periods since the 16th century. Without pre-judging the
matter, I'd be curious about the use of aorists in Greek choral lyric,
including the choruses of Greek tragedy and Greek comedy, and also in the
whole epigrammatic tradition from Archilochus up to the end of antiquity.
And yes, I know that there are significant generic differences between
poetry and prose, but nevertheless poetry and prose impact upon each other
considerably, and as Edgar Krentz nicely called attention this morning,
there's a dactylic hexameter not normally recognized as such in James 1:17.

If you would, Don, I'd very much like the data on that book on the grammar
of Greek inscriptions; it does sound interesting. I'm also looking forward
to the latest version of Prometheus. Whatever we may disagree on, you make
me proud to be a Mac-user in these days of Apple's low tide.

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

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