Re: perfect tense vs. periphrastic perfect

From: Carl W. Conrad (
Date: Tue May 20 1997 - 13:00:55 EDT

At 11:26 AM -0400 5/20/97, Timo Flink wrote:
>I'm a kind of a newbie on New Testament Greek and I would like to know
>how to best differentiate between the perfect tense and the periphrastic
>perfect. How much and in what way they differ? I know the perfect
>tense as being a complited action done in the past with result in the
>present time, but what about that periphrastic one?

Others may not agree with me but I would make two points in response to
these questions:

(1) I really do not think there's a whit of difference in meaning between
the periphrastic form HN GEGRAMMENON (for example) and the conventional
pluperfect EGEGRAPTO--or between the periphrastic ESTE SESWSMENOI and the
conventional perfect passive SESWSQE;

(2) Regarding perfect and pluperfect tense forms in Koinˇ, I don't think
one can lay down a hard and fast rule regarding what they must mean in
every context. Sometimes the perfect or pluperfect really do seem to be
emphasizing stative aspect in the present or in the past: ESTE SESWMENOI
("You are in a state of salvation"); EGEGRAPTO ("It was in writing"--"It
was a document." On the other hand these forms may on occasion have the
same sense as aorists: EGEGRAPTO = EGRAFH ("It had been written"--in a
context where the verb indicates completion prior to some given point in
the past); ESTE SESWMENOI = ESWQHTE much like a Latin SALVATI ESTIS or
French Passˇ indˇfini:"You got saved." One has to make a judgment based on
context as to which sense better fits in this instance.

>This in mind, how do you translate ESTE SESWSMENOI in Ephesians 2:8
>? Is it some kind of a statement about persistence of the salvation
>through present time?

I think that the context in this instance does indeed imply the present
state: "You are now in a state of salvation."

>Any help appreciated, fellow christians :)

I don't mean to make a big thing of this, but I think it needs to be
repeated from time to time that list members may or may not be Christians,
that Christian faith is not a prerequisite for participation, and that the
range of understandings of Christian faith even among believers on the list
is broad enough that some who profess themselves to be Christian might not
recognize as such others who also profess themselves to be Christian. Our
dialogue here is based fundamentally upon a shared concern with the
Biblical Greek text rather than upon a shared faith.

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

This archive was generated by hypermail 2.1.4 : Sat Apr 20 2002 - 15:38:16 EDT