Fundamentally flawed?

From: Richard Lindeman (
Date: Wed Mar 18 1998 - 14:29:21 EST

I am beginning to wonder whether or not our fundamental concept of
Aktsionsart isn't flawed. Ever since the recent discussion on this topic
began I have been reading passages of scripture and consciously attempting
to note the interplay of Aspect and Aktsionsart. My conclusion is this...
I question whether there really is such a thing as Aktsionsart. Please bear
with me on this thought for a moment.

I am finding it extremely difficult to classify *any* verb by its
Aktsionsart. The same verbal root can always freely be used to express
simple action, ongoing action, or completion *within different contexts*.
Do you know of a single example where a verbal root can only express one
type of action? Even "to hit" a ball, depending upon context, can be
expressed as punctiar or as ongoing or as completed action. If this is
true, then how can we say that the Aktsionsart of a verb can possibly
demand or dictate the aspect of a verb?

But on the other hand, I do find that there are certain verbs which are
*normally used in contexts* which express a particular type of action. When
I use the verb "hit" I normally use it in contexts which would require a
punctiliar understanding of the verb. But it is the context which is at
work in this and not some kind of inner quality or magic of the verb "to
hit". Maybe there is another world out there where people use the word
"hit" and they customarily intend this to be pictured as ongoing or
completed action. I don't know.

But I would suggest that something similar is happening in Greek. Rather
than calling it the *Aktsionsart* of the verb I would probably call it the
customary usage of the verb. In other words, if a particular verb is
normally used in contexts which require an understanding of ongoing action,
then that becomes the *customary* aspect of the verb. And people get used
to using the verb in this way.

Now comes the question of verbal aspect as expressed by *tense* when it
encounters one of these verbs which *customarily* is used to express a
particular type of action. The question is... which comes first? The
chicken or the egg? Is the author using the verb in this tense because
he/she intends to convey a particular aspect with this tense? Or is the
author using the verb in this tense simply because it is the customary tense
to be used with this verb? In the former case the expression of aspect is
emphatic. In the latter case aspect may very well not be emphatic. In the
latter case it isn't some magical quality of Aktsionsart which is at work
negating the quality of tense, but rather it may be just be the result of a
habit or custom that one has acquired in using a certain verb.

I do not find it helpful to look at a verb to try to discover some inner
quality of Aktsionsart at work in it. Doing this only gives me headaches.
But I do find it helpful to examine verbs to see how they are customarily
used within the contexts of the New Testament era. The real question which
we need to ask is this... to what extent is the emphasis of aspect
prominent in the New Testament? Do the writers more often use the tenses
because of the customary usage of verbs? Or do they more often use the
tenses to express the nuances of aspect with which we are all so enamored
and which make our translations so colorful?

Just my 2 cents worth.

Rich Lindeman

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