Re: More on Participles . . .

From: Carl W. Conrad (
Date: Wed Oct 29 1997 - 10:13:08 EST

At 8:31 AM -0600 10/29/97, Thomas Bond wrote:
>While we are on the topic of participles . . .
>The grammars I have read indicate that, with particples, it is the "kind"
>or action, not "time" that is most important. But, they also indicate that
>generally an aorist participle indicates action prior to that of the main
>verb, a present contemporaneous, etc. However, this later "rule" -- I know
>this is a loaded term -- is not always applied. What grammars indicate
>"when" these options are not to be applied?
>In this regard, I am currently doing research in Philippians, and when
>reading the "hymn" -- some suggest it is -- in 2:6 ff, I was intrigued by
>the use of participles: hOS EN MORFHi QEOU hUPARXWN . . . hHGHSATO . . .
>ALLA hEAUTON EKENWSEN . . . LABWN . . . GENOMENOS, etc. These particples
>are "normally"
>translated as contemperaneous to the actions of the various verbs. Is
>there any grammatical reason for doing so? Or, is this something akin to
>the discussion taking place regarding Jn. 1? I admit to being a novice in
>Greek and am not trying to raise a theological issue. It just seems to me
>that there is inconsistency in determining when an aorist participle is
>considered as indicating something as happening prior to the action of the
>main verb, or when it is to be understood as contemperaneous.

I'm sorry to keep responding with what are intense feelings rather than
principles I can demonstrate, but the fact is that I don't really think one
can formulate a universal principle about when an aorist participle must
necessarily refer to action prior to that of the main verb. My inclination,
however, is to think that it most commonly has this sense of indicating
prior action when it PRECEDES the main verb; when it FOLLOWS the main verb,
the aspect may well be much more important than any indication of time or
they may not be any indication of time at all. Now the Christ Hymn in Phil
2 is not so much straightforward narrative but it does seem to set forth a
clear temporal sequence. Of the participles you've cited, hUPARCWN is
present tense and is coordinated with OUC hHGHSATO, implying, I think
simultaneity of the state indicated by hUPARCWN and the OUC hHGHSATO clause
is indicated--which is why I think it's often translated as a concessive
clause: "although he was ...." On the other hand LABWN and GENOMENOS would
seem to be adverbial explainers of hEAUTON EKENWSEN and indicating what he
did in this self-emptying process. Sometimes there's ambiguity in a
preceding aorist participle; I remember one vivid example in Plato: GELASAS
EIPEN ... "He said with a smile" -- rather than "He smiled and then said

In sum then, I think I'd say that an aorist participle preceding a main
verb in narrative very common indicates action prior to that of the main
verb--but not necessarily is this always the case--and that it is less
likely to be the case when you have a participle FOLLOWING the main verb.

Carl W. Conrad
Department of Classics/Washington University
One Brookings Drive/St. Louis, MO, USA 63130/(314) 935-4018
Home: 7222 Colgate Ave./St. Louis, MO 63130/(314) 726-5649 OR

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