NUN+Aorist, NUN+imperfect

From: Jonathan Robie (
Date: Tue Oct 28 1997 - 14:13:42 EST

At 09:50 AM 10/28/97 -0800, Don Wilkins wrote:
>I should have been more exact; I have found one passage that jumps out at
>me, and vaguely remember having seen similar passages before but I do not
>know where. However, the passage I am speaking of is John 21:10, and the key
>(relative) clause is: hWN EPIASATE NUN. This is one of those passages where
>we *might* have a sufficiently unambiguous view of what happened to be able
>to analyze the exact meaning of the Greek. It is clear from what precedes
>and follows that Jesus is speaking of a past, though very recent, event.

The question here is whether the focus is on the current state that results
from the past event, or on the past event itself. If the focus is on the
current state, then hWN EPIASETE NUN has a meaning very similar to the
perfect (hWN PEPIAKATE? My morphology is lousy, and the form does not occur
in the GNT).

I like the translation "bring some of the fish which you have (now) caught"
for hWN EPIASETE NUN; the focus is on the current state. If the focus were
on the past action, then the translation "bring some of those fish you
caught (just now)" would be better, but I do not think that the Aorist+NUN
really translates this way.

>If we take the approach of assuming that the augment is meaningless and that
>only the punctiliar (an unhappy term, but perhaps as good as anything else
>for the time being) aspect is implied, then we might assume that the NUN
>puts the event in the present (borrowing Mari Broman Olsen's view of the
>"cancellation" effect of adverbs etc., which I find very interesting and
>fairly persuasive).

No, I do not think that this is an accurate portrayal of Mari's theory. She
says that the past reference of the aorist is a "pragmatic implicature",
which means that the aorist implies a past reference, but other factors in
the statement can cancel this implication. So her theory predicts that
NUN+Aorist portrays the current result of a past action, but NUN+Imperfect
portrays the past action - because the past reference of the imperfect can
not be cancelled by the rest of the sentence, the view of the imperfect is
*always* to the past. (Rolf and Micheal would rather abstract time out of
aspect altogether, as would Stan Porter. I am aware of this, but I am
attempting to depict Mari's approach.)

Compare these two phrases:

some of the fish which you have (now) caught"

"Rabbi, just now the Jews were trying to stone you"

Mari states, in both her book and her thesis, that John 11:8 portrays an
event in the recent past, and "just now" is a good translation for that
reason. I infer from her theory that Aorist+NUN portrays the current state
resulting from a past event, much like the perfect. Incidentally, the New
American Standard Version seems to agree with this in its translation of
John 21:10.

By the way, punctiliar aspect is an especially unhappy term, since
"punctiliar" refers to Aktionsart ("kind of action"), not to aspect ("the
view of the state or event"). The two are not synonymous. Of course,
A.T.Robertson earlier argued that the primary meaning of the Greek tenses
was Aktionsart, not time, and that the time element was very secondary even
in the indicative. Today's aspect geeks are arguing the same for aspect, and
see "kind of action" as something that is more a part of the verb's meaning
than the meaning of the tenses.
>Again, taking the
>aspect/no time approach, the construction suggests that we interpret the
>event as a punctiliar present, which would be very handy since there is no
>formal way of specifying a punctiliar present.

Who says this? Punctiliar does not refer to aspect in the writings of
Porter, Fanning, or Olsen. Porter is the only person I know of who seems to
think that there is no element of time in the Greek indicative tenses, but
in past discussion here on B-Greek, nobody has yet defended this view - the
aspect Geeks here tend to be closer to Fanning or Olsen's views.

>it seemed more likely
>that the aorist is pulling NUN, normally a "here and now" kind of idea, into
>the recent past.

Or rather that the view of the event (which is what "aspect" quite literally
means) is a view of the current state which results from the past action.

>No doubt the other side would argue that the clause is
>defined as present,

Strawman alert! Is there anybody here who would argue that? Stand up and be
counted! I certainly wouldn't argue that.
>I have probably said too much, since this is implicity bringing up the
>aspect debate again, so I apologize for that and reiterate that I have no
>desire to reopen the debate.

This is about the third message in which you have delineated various reasons
that people who believe in aspect are wrong and ended by saying that you
don't want to reopen the debate!


Jonathan Robie

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