Re: Common-sense aorist

Date: Tue Apr 07 1998 - 12:57:44 EDT

Carl W. Conrad wrote:
> At 9:11 PM -0500 4/6/98, wrote:
> >List members ~
> >
> >This will be my last posting on this matter unless someone wishes
> >further discussion.
> >
> >There are only three 'times' known to us ~ The Past, The Present, and
> >the Future. These are indicated in the Greek by the use of the
> >Augment [E] (or its equivalent) for the Past, the Root [____-] (plus
> >person endings) for the present, and the sigma [S], popularly called
> >the punctiliar morph, following the root, for the future.
> >
> >Thus we have:
> >
> >E____- ____- ____S- E____SA-
> >Past Present Future Aorist
> >
> >The elements of the Aorist comprise of ALL 3 TENSES, followed by -A-
> >Privative, which removes the time element from the verb. It's that
> >dirt simple.
> But this is quite simply not true. The -S- element that is used to form the
> future is not the same -S- that is used to form the aorist, and the -A-
> that appears with the -S- in most sigmatic aorists is NOT a privative
> alpha. It is simply not true that the aorist "includes the elements of the
> other tenses." It is very different from them. It isn't even right to refer
> simply to a "past" tense, because there are three indicative tenses that
> are "past," and the aorist is one of them--the imperfect and pluperfect
> being the others.

     E____ ____ ____S
     Past Present Future

Hi Carl ~

It's hard to look at this diagram and not draw the blaring

And the assertion that S is not S when one is future and one is aorist
IS TRUE, but it is true BECAUSE OF the A privative. S, therefore, is
not non-S. Makes very direct sense to me. To say that the two sigmas
are different because of their etymology will have us off in the
boonies chasing down that squirrel of skivvydom that we were all after
like like a bunch of enthusiatic hounds recently! :-) The process
becomes arcane and esoteric, with all the 'experts' having differring
opinions, [or all the same one!] based on long chains of reasoning and
voluminous data. This E____SA construction was understood orally by
multinational illiterate audiences, and you can 'bet yer skivvies'
that every one of them understood perfectly well the difference
between past, present and future, just like you and I do. And they
understood, just as easily as you and I, the usage of a verb form that
does not specify past, present or future, that simply denotes the fact
of the action of the verb. That is what the aorist does, and I offer
that the diagram above shows HOW it does it. These basic meanings are
imbedded in the Greek verb, and tie up with aspectual issues. Hence
our scholarly focus on the aorist as an aspect form, when in fact it
does not specify aspect at all. It can be ongoing, completed,
previously completed, past ongoing, future ongoing, future completed ~
The aorist doesn't specify... That is bedrock solid, and forms the
foundation upon which the profound subtlety of meaning that the aorist
so easily carries can take its stand.

Granted, this is the classic, Sigmatic Aorist, and does not cover what
scholarship would then call the Asigmatic Aorist. [Nonsigmatic
Aorist??] God, you, and I all know that I am not enough of a scholar
to address this issue. I can only raise it... But as of now, for
practical purposes, I do just as you do: I translate the non-sigmatic
'aorist' as a past tense. It has given me little difficulty so far...
And because it lacks the SA element, and only has the augment [E], it
indeed SHOULD be a past tense. [What stumbles me in the GNT is my
utter newness to the text... And my brashness!! If I could just not
be so STRIDENT about things...:-)]

> What
> distinguishes the fundamental meaning of the aorist from the fundamental
> meaning of the two other major aspect stems is that the aorist lacks the
> durative, repetitive, unfinished character that is the central feature of
> the present as it also lacks the completed or state-of-being that is the
> central feature of the perfect. I'd draw the comparison thus:
> Present: APOQNHiSKEI "he is dying"
> Aorist: APEQANEN "he died"
> Perfect: APOTEQNHKEN "he is dead"
> To this you could add the "past" tense of the present:
> Imperfect: APEQNHiSKEN "he was dying"
> and the "past" tense of the perfect:
> Pluperfect: APETEQNHKEI "he was dead"

I am simply noting in each and every one of the above examples the
presence or absence of E augment, and the translation into the past in
some way... Imperfect, perfect, pluperfect, and non-sigmatic 'aorist'
all have it, and the present does not. There is not much difference,
in this accounting, between the 'aorist' and the perfect. John 11:15
has Jesus speaking very plainly in this 'aorist' when he says to the
disciples "Lazarus is dead." To carry this thought farther, we could
say that he was dying [impf] several days ago, he died [perf] (say)
yesterday, and when we are finished here, we will be able to say that
he had died [pluperfect] but now lives.
So I would, on this reading, reverse your translations of the aorist
and the perfect. The 'aorist' would seem to carry the state-of-being
feature that the perfect does not. The perfect just carries the
historical fact [past] that Lazarus died, while the 'aorist' is used
to tell the disciples in no uncertain terms that he IS dead!

> What I object to most profoundly in your presentation is the notion in your
> diagram that somehow the elements in ONE form (of three forms that exist)
> of the aorist combine the elements of past, present, and future and
> therefore carries all of those meanings. I think it is a fundamental
> mis-construction of the function of those formative elements of augment,
> future marker, sigmatic aorist marker, and your notion that somehow that
> -A- in the sigmatic aorist is an "alpha privative" that takes away the
> specificity of the other markers. That is not, in fact, the function of the
> A in the sigmatic aorist, and if it were, one would have to suppose that
> those aorists that are not formed with -S(A)- must have some different kind
> of aorist meaning--but they don't.

Well, my friend, that is, after all, the whole point of this
discussion... And I would submit to you that in truth and in fact, it
[A] does, and they [the non-sigmatic aorists] DO.

> It still seems to me that you are
> wanting to bestow on that -A- some mystic sense that it doesn't have, some
> power of indefinitizing the verb's "time" reference.

The only power the A has is privative in this understanding, and I
understand your reticence, and your desire to avoid hairy-fairy
mysticism. I do too...

> And I think I'll let this pass as my final effort at clarification of these
> distinctions.

I'm trying to do the same thing, Carl!! But this is interesting and
important, in a very fundamental way. I have been struggling through
it as best I can, given only the basic insight I had into the
'timelessness' of the aorist. I'm learning a lot in the very
sophmoric process of bringing that insight into words. I'd like to
think that Socrates might have a friendly nod for these efforts...
:-) I started out thinking, hairy-fairy wise, that the sigmatic
aorist spanned some kind of a non-temporal and expanded 'present'...
And ended up seeing that it simply does not specify past, present or
future, or aspect either, for that matter. It is simply AhORIZW,
meaning non-selective.


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