Re: Common-sense aorist

From: Carl W. Conrad (
Date: Tue Apr 07 1998 - 20:08:34 EDT

At 7:02 PM -0500 4/7/98, wrote:
>Carl W. Conrad wrote:
>> At 5:15 PM -0500 4/7/98, wrote:
>> >Carl W. Conrad wrote:
>> >> 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"
>> >>
>> >
>> >Another non-sigmatic aorist is found in John 1:6, KATELABEN. This
>> >usage would as well seem to indicate the state-of-being of TH SKOTIA.
>> >It's not just a past, where the darkness simply 'missed the train'
>> >once upon a time, but is a Truth about the darkness. It ALWAYS
>> >'misses that train' ~ Yes?? And in it's subtlety, it calls to mind
>> >the original sin of Adam. 'In Adam we all are dying...' [Acts? I
>> >forget...] If John had meant the simple historical fact that the
>> >darkness had 'missed the train' at some time past, he would have used
>> >the perfect...
>> The perfect? is now the tense of indefinite past action? I stand in total
>> awe before this new vision of the Greek verb. EGW DE EN THi SKOTIAi MENW;
>Sorry Carl ~
>I wrote that in a hurry ~ Should have said 'at some particular time in
>the past', [say last Tuesday at 3:18PM.] a very definite time indeed.
>It seemed clear by context, at the time I wrote it.
>There is some truth in the idea that you seem to want to use the
>Perfect in the way that I want to use the non'sigmatic [past] aorist.
>The thrust in 1:6, above, [KATELABEN] is that in the past up till now,
>the darkness has not 'caught the train' that is the Light, but in a
>way that makes this a timeless state-of-being, which is my
>understanding of the aorist tense, of darkness. It is an enduring and
>qualitative state of being that characterizes darkness. Only the
>aorist can convey this. Had KATELABEN been written in the perfect, it
>could not carry this permanence. The aorist, being timeless, carries
>the power to evoke our understanding of the sin of Adam, as well as
>the enduring quality of darkness. [That train is ALWAYS in the
>station, and the darkness is ALWAYS missing it!!]

You see, I would have said that ONLY had KATELABEN been written in the
perfect could it carry that permanence: in the form KATEILHFE--as when
Jesus uses the perfect on the cross and says, TETELESTAI in a tense form
that expresses finality beyond compromise.

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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