Re: Philippians 3:7-8 and Aspect Theory

From: Dan Deckard (
Date: Thu May 01 1997 - 10:21:01 EDT

Carl Conrad wrote:

>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.
think we have a durative or even iterative force: "I continue to account/I
repeatedly account ..."

I appreciate your answer as it pertains to traditional aspect/aktionsart
(these terms seem to be somewhat slippery). I came to a similar
conclusion. However, what is of interest to me is not so much how to
understand the tense switch from the traditional theory of the Gk. verb as
much as from the aspect theory advocated by Stan Porter and others. On a
pragmatic level, if the new aspect theory doesn't provide any new insights
to the exegetical process AND is not easily accessible to the exegete, then
of what practical value is it? Hence, my question, "what is the
significance of the switch in tense in Phil. 3:7 & 8?" (I must confess
that I'm only familiar with Porters' strain of the new Aspect Theory and am
only vaguely familiar with Fanning and McKay).

Also, I'm not sure I understand the your comments on the similarities
between HGEOMAI and OIDA. As you said, OIDA is the regular or default form
of this particular verb. For HGEOMAI, however, the perfect only appears
here in the NT (I believe). ??

In Porter's aspectual scheme (and I may be wrong), the stative aspect is
the most heavily marked of the tenses (with the exception of PluP), and as
you noted indicates a deliberate emphasis in Paul's thought. The switch to
the present in v. 8 (the less heavily marked tense) seems odd in that the
context seems to indicate that the present has greater emphasis than the
perfect. In this instance, is the present (the less marked) building on
the perfect - bringing the action out even further in the mind of the
author? As you can tell I'm grappling with several things: Porter's
concept of markedness as it relates to switches in verb tense; and the
practical significance of this type of aspect theory all together. At
least I can understand the old system. I'm struggling to understand, so
pardon any ignorance on my part.

-Dan Deckard
Trinity Evangelical Divinity School

This archive was generated by hypermail 2.1.4 : Sat Apr 20 2002 - 15:38:14 EDT