Re: Common-sense aorist

Date: Mon Apr 06 1998 - 13:39:55 EDT

Carl W. Conrad wrote: [snips]
> At 12:04 PM -0500 4/5/98, wrote:

> >When Greek wants to indicate past action, it prefixes an E to the verb
> >root.
> ... 'augment' is indeed ...
> consistently used in grammars to refer to the alteration made at the
> beginning of an indicative past tense,

Thank goodness we at least agree on this, Carl. We just might get
some fruit off this vine yet!! The augment, E [or its equivalent]
establishes the indicative past tense.

> ...those aorist stems that are formed in other ways are no less aorist and
> don't bear any different sort of meaning because they have different stem
> forms: HKOUSA and EIDON and EGNWN are each of them aorist active indicative
> first singulars--and despite the difference in their forms each refers to
> past action.

Well, the 'past action' is the point of this 'look-see'. Without the
S, I agree that a past action translation is very much in order. The
purpose of this focus is to take a look at the basic aorist structure
in a very fundamental way so as to see if we can then shed a little
light on the variations.
> >E____ON ____SW E____SA Shows the progression: past, future,
> >aorist, where the aorist has both E and S augments.

To make this even more dirt simple, I would change the above to:

E____- ____S- E____S-A-
Past Future Aorist

An interesting aside is the fact that these sounds are easily
distinguished by the ear ~ An essential feature in the fact that the
textx were read aloud to audiences of, I would imagine, some size.
Could we also assume the majority of them to be illiterate? As
scholars might we be blinded a little by our literacy?

> You appear to be assigning some mystical
> value to the vowel -A- that it simply does not have;

Well, I can see how you might think so. Perhaps I can ease this along
somewhat by simply giving the A its very non-mystical meaning, which
is 'Privative'. But then comes the question, 'Privative of what?',
and HORIZW floods back into the arena of focus, you see...
> ... I think that your notion of what
> "aorist" means is pretty much speculative etymologizing.

Perhaps the greatest cause of the expression, usually thrown up in
despair of understanding, together with one's hands, "I don't know ~
It's GREEK to me!!" is our scholarly approach to the Greek aorist, and
the failure of that approach. I really believe it needs a fundamental
'rethink'. It simply cannot be as fundamentally esoteric as GNT
scholarship seems to make it out to be. Which leads to your next
point ~

> "Aorist" is
> probably best not translated into English, but it comes closest to
> "Indefinite"

I agree. AHORIZW is indefinite = A [of E____S-A-.]

 ELUSA will mean "I untied," or "I unleashed," or even "I exploded"
> (in the right context) but it canNOT mean "I am untying" or "I will untie
> tomorrow." And to assert that it can bear these meanings is just simply
> wrong.

Carl, I could not agree with you more. The aorist does not 'mean' ANY
of them 'definitely', and means ALL of them 'indefinitely'... "I
untie... I loose... I explode", but never "I am untying... etc."
> >This is, admittedly, a simplified understanding for the intellectually
> >impoverished, yet it seems to work very well in practice. The Rom
> >8:30 [AV] reads "Moreover, whom He did predestinate, them he also
> >called; and whom he also called, them he also justified; and whom he
> >justified, them them he also glorified." I don't think anyone takes
> >this translation as it stands in the past tense in all the verbs
> >[aorist].

You see, if the aorists above are all past tenses, as you suggest,
then no one WILL be predestinated, no one WILL be called, no one WILL
be justified. How could they be? It all happened in the past. When
we read this in English, the power of the original meaning simply
overwhelms our English ears as we read it in the past tense. We don't
HEAR it as a past tense, except, perhaps, the 'predestinates'.

> >How much more smoothly it reads as 'whom He
> >predistinates...He calls...whom He calls...He glorifies.' Other
> >examples abound....

>... as Euclid told the prince about geometry, "there
> is no royal road to learning."

Amen to that thought!! And I would like to stress here that this is
an issue of the fundamentals of the Greek aorist, not of a panaceatic
short-cut to knowledge. There is great subtlety and complexity in
Greek verb usage and forms, which must rest on, be grounded in, solid
fundamentals of understanding. Those fundamentals do not exist when
it comes to our understanding of the aorist. I was taught, so many
years ago, to translate it just as you say, as in the past, generally
speaking, just as I was taught that the middle voice is the one that
is about half way 'between' the active and passive, but tending toward
passive, which is the way to translate it. Both these understandings
lack the basic, dirt simple, cognitive grasp out of which the rich
complexity of their usage arises.

> They will not readily be reduced to a least common denominator.

Reductio ad absurdum is not the purpose of this approach, nor the
chopping off of subtlety or complexity, nor even the dumbing down of
the Greek. This is an issue of fundamentals in ordinary
understanding. Thousands upon thousands of multinational illiterates
had no trouble understanding the GNT being read to them in gatherings,
and here we are 2000 years later developing arcane mysteries and
scholarly debates around the aorist tense. 'There is something rotten
in the state of Denmark', my friend, and I would be overjoyed to see
GNT scholars take the 'look-see' that I, in my lack of scholarship
ability, cannot. I am easily 'proved wrong', but such 'proof'
ignores the fundamentals that I am so inarticulately trying to

Grace and warmth to you, Carl, in this the time of Easter...


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