epistolary aorist

From: Edgar M. Krentz (emkrentz@mcs.com)
Date: Mon Apr 28 1997 - 22:20:14 EDT

I do not want to get into the discussion between Jonathon and Carl. I do
want to call attention to a couple of items.

I. A citation from <i>A Grammar of New Testament Greek<i/>, by James Hope
Moulton: vol III: Syntax, by Nigel Turner (Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1963):
pp. 72-73:
"4. The aorist in <i>Epistolary<i/> style (as in Latin) is logical, since
the action so described will be past at the time the letter is read
(Schwyzer II 281). Ac[ts] 23:30 etc. EPEMYA (APESTEILA in the papyri Mayser
II 1,144), Eph 6:22, Ph 2:23, Col 4:8, Philem 12. It is notable, however
that one never finds EGRAYA (Koine) but always GRAFW, and always ASPAZETAI.
1 Cor 5:9 EGRAYA probably refers to an earlier letter; 1 Co[r] 5:11, Ro[m]
15:15 to an earlier place in the same letter. In Ga[l] 6:11 it might be
taken wither way: if epistolary, the picture is of P. taking his pen and
finishing the letter himself. Note that he does not use the epistolary aor.
in 2 Co[r] 13:10 (GRAFW). It may be epistolary in 2 Co[r] 8:17, 18,22; 9:3,
5. In 1 Jn 2:12, 14 GRAFW occurs three times, then EGRAYA three times
(perhaps for the sake of variety; the author of Jn is fond of varying his
tenses) which may refer back to some earlier writing." (I did some editing
of this, since I could not reproduce his superscript numbers.)

II. I did a quick survey of Milligan's collection of Greek papyri, of S.
Witkowski, <i>Epistulae Privatae Graecae quae in papyris aetatis lagidarum
servantur <i/> (Leipzig: B. G. Teubner, 1911), and found no examples of
GRAFW as an epistolary aorist. A quick glance at John White, <i>Light from
Ancient Letters<i/> (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1986) had an aorist, EGRAYOMEN
coupled with the word PROTERON, clearly referring to an earlier letter (No.
4, line 1, PYale 33=PHib I 44). Moulton and Milligan's Lexicon contains no
reference to an epistolary aorist s.v. GRAFW. In short what I found
supports Nigel Turner above--but the sample was very, very small, given the
SOROS of papyrus documents that survive. Someone should search through the
PHI disk to see if they can turn up examples of epistolary aorists of the
term GRAFW. (I put that term SOROS in to add, just possibly, another Greek
term to readers' vocabulary stock. To put the sense of the term in your
head permanently, discover what the ancients meant by the "fallacy of the

NB: Turner does call attention to epistolary aorists with other terms.

This will only muddy the waters a bit more. Oh well, muddy waters sometimes
make for catching good channel cats! My Missouri years betray me.

Edgar Krentz, New Testament
ekrentz@lstc.edu OR HOME: emkrentz@mcs.com
Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago
1100 East 55th Street
TEL.: 773-256-0752 FAX: 773-256-0782

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