Re: Aorist Aspect

From: Mark O'Brien (
Date: Wed Jan 07 1998 - 12:02:33 EST

At 07:07 AM 1/6/98 -0500, you wrote:
>2. The present "tense" describes an action from the inside, as though you
>had a television camera following the action. This is probably easiest to
>see in the historical present, which describes a past event as though it
>were occuring now: "So yesterday I was sitting in a bar, and this woman
>walks in wearing a duck costume, and she says to the bartender...". The
>verbs "walks" and "says" are present tense verbs, and invite us to view the
>action one step at a time, from the inside, together with the narrator who
>has projected himself back to the time of the action. The historical
>present is common, especially in Mark. In Greek, the present tense does not
>tell you when the action *happened*, it tells you about the time the
>speaker is viewing the action from in telling the story.

Actually, the historical present may not be the best example of the normal
aspect inherent in the present tense. In some research done by myself and
a couple of fellows some time ago, we compared the use of the HP in the
synoptic gospels with that found in the parallel passages in the other
gospels, and found that most of the time the HP is replacing the aorist
form found in the parallel passages, and usually appears to be functioning
in the same way as the aorist in the narrative. I think Wallace has
something to say on this along the lines of the aspect of the present tense
being "flattened" in the HP. Anyway, all that to say that the HP is not a
good example of *internal aspect* (or whatever terminology you prefer).



"When we consider a book, we mustn't ask ourselves what it says but what it
                -- Brother William of Baskerville
                        (Umberto Eco, "The Name of the Rose")
Rev. Mark B. O'Brien
Assoc. Pastor, Subiaco Church of Christ, Western Australia
Lecturer, South Perth Christian College, Western Australia

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