Re: exegetical significance

From: Jonathan Robie (
Date: Tue Aug 12 1997 - 07:35:42 EDT

At 02:21 PM 8/12/97 +0930, Andrew Kulikovsky wrote:
>I have a challenge to all the great Greek exegetes on this list.

I'm not a "great Greek exegete" or a Greek scholar or anything, but I'll put
in my two denarii anyways, and trust the more experienced folks to correct
me where I'm wrong. They are generally willing to cooperate ;->

>I would like to compile a list of Greek elements that have real exegetical
>significance, so that those of us who are relatively new to Greek
>exegesis have a good idea of what parts of the text are signicant and
>what may simply be attributed to idiom, style or basic syntax.

I suspect that this may often differ from passage to passage. *Any* element
of the Greek language may be of exegetical significance in a particular
passage. The same grammatical construction which may be extremely
significant in one passage may be insignificant in another.

>To start the list off here are few that I believe are significant:
>- the use of the perfect or pluperfect tenses

Perfect is extremely significant in John's writings, but is used with much
less care in many other books of the NT, where it may be not much different
from an aorist. The pluperfect often carries a lot of weight, but not
always. What is the signfificance of the pluperfect EISTHKEI in the
following passage:


I'm generally leery of a cookbook approach to this. Incidentally, I also
have problems with Porter's "background, foreground, frontground" approach,
which seems to say, e.g., that the aorist is a background tense and the
pluperfect is a frontground tense. I think you need the context to determine
that. Consider Luke 16:4 EGNWN TI POIHSW. It is an aorist, but it sure feels
like a "frontground" verb to me!

>- the use of a double negative for emphasis (OU MH)
>- starting a rhetorical question with MH implying a negative response
>- starting a rhetorical question with OU implying a positive response

These are all an example of Greek idiom that doesn't translate easily, and
are worth noting.

>- changing tenses in close proximity

This is quite common. Historical narrative frequently starts with, say, an
imperfect, changes to largely aorist, with historical presents or perhaps
imperfects sprinkled in. The way the tenses are used seems to vary with the
type of writing - expository, historical, prophetic, parables...


Jonathan Robie
POET Software, 3207 Gibson Road, Durham, N.C., 27703

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