RE: Aspect Specifics

From: S. M. Baugh (
Date: Sat Apr 12 1997 - 19:56:08 EDT

Jonathan raised another point worth considering. I interpret the aorist
after OU MH as the "unmarked" (better "default") form. Since the aorist
is required in this construction, it has little semantic value beyond
the semantics of the lexeme (the word's basic meaning). Jonathan writes:
>How do you know whether the aorist is required by grammatical
>convention or by the meaning associated with OU MH? OU MH is a very
>strong negation, and it just may be that in this kind of clause, the
>basic meaning is "lest it"

(No, "lest it" is a negative purpose clause not future negation; "We
should patch the ship lest it sink" means "We should patch the ship in
order that it might not sink.")

>and is expected to be followed by a verb that expresses "should come
>to X", which might force the aorist subjunctive. That wouldn't mean
>that the aorist subjunctive is meaningless, it would mean that its
> meaning is constrained by the rest of the sentence, and that the
>proper form is chosen to express this meaning. Naturally, I'm going to
>have to read 85 sentences carefully to come to my own conclusion on >this, and I haven't done so (nor will I any time soon...)

(I've read all 85 carefully; save yourself the trouble!)

>However, if every use of this emphatic negative forces one particular
>grammatical form, that may be a vital clue to the meaning of that
>grammatical form. You may be writing off a lot of valuable data by
>ignoring constructions that do not occur.

(I ignore whole worlds of things which do not occur! <grin>) This is a
profound point and one worth more careful presentation than time now
allows. But my abbreviated response is that in the 85 OU MH
constructions (I don't include all that I've read outside the NT--I
haven't recorded all that, but it influences my understanding) the
aorist was used even with verbs which usually occur in their *present*
subjunctive forms in other constructions. In other words, there is a
pattern of expectation for some verbs to occur in their present forms
("atelic" verbs representing a state of being ["I exist"], condition ["I
am sick"], or a relationship ["I love"; "I have"; "I know"]). Secondly
this is not the only construction which constrains a writer to use one
"tense form" rather than another (Fanning has a lot of this sort of
data). Finally, the question of why the aorist came to be used with OU
MH is interesting from a theoretical perspective of historical
linguistics, but for interpretive work, my opinion is that it was just
"proper" in NT times. The aorist here presents the event "simply": "You
will certainly not *be judged*" (simply with no further reflection on
the nature of the judgment event).

Well, that's my opinion now anyway. But a very astute question Jonathan.


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

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