Re: Philippians 3:7-8 and Aspect Theory

From: Carl W. Conrad (
Date: Wed Apr 30 1997 - 06:22:59 EDT

At 2:39 PM -0500 4/29/97, Dan Deckard wrote:
>One of the challenges of Aspect Theory (for me at least) is how to bridge
>the gap between theory and exegesis. The verb HGEOMAI in Philippians 3:7
>and 8 seems to provide a good test case. The verb is used frequently in
>this book (relatively) and appears mostly in the Present and Aorist tenses.
>Here however, in verse 7, Paul switches to the perfect tense (stative)
>followed by a present in verse 8. What is the significance of the perfect
>in verse 7? According to aspect theory, the perfect (& PluP)
>grammaticalizes the stative aspect. How does one understand the stative
>aspect of Paul's "reckoning" or "considering" especially in light of the
>present (i.e. imperfective) occurrence of the same verb in verse 8? In
>short, what is the significance of Paul's use of the stative and the switch
>to the imperfective??

I think that the contrasting perfect and presents in this passage are quite
deliberate and forceful. In 3:7 hATINA HN MOI KERDH TAUTA hHGHMAI DIA TON
CRISTON ZHMIAN, the perfect has the full traditional force of the perfect:
yes, it is stative: it is the present condition resultant from an absolute
determination of worth; it's like OIDA which is regularly perfect but which
might (and actually is, in some grammars) listed as a present tense, but
which signals the inner vision of the root meaning as absolute. In 3:8,
have a durative or even iterative force: "I continue to account/I
repeatedly account ..."

I don't think this analysis departs one whit from a traditional
understanding of aspect. I will add, however, that the thing about the
perfect tense in Koiné that I'd like to look much closer at is the
variation between the authentic traditional aspectual sense of the perfect
and the assimilation of it in many instances to the aorist--the process
which seems to have culminated even prehistorically for Latin in a perfect
tense which is a fusion of perfect and aorist.

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

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