Re: Aorist Morphology

Date: Mon Apr 13 1998 - 11:14:32 EDT

Ward Powers wrote:

> George, in
> almost all you say, you are simply wrong.

Dear Ward ~

Thank-you for you very helpful post. I most certainly could be wrong,
and as you have probably noted, if I am, I want to be wrong big enough
so that I can see my error through my very myopic eyes.

> The most recent focus of the discussion has been a distinction that George
> sees between a sigmatic and non-sigmatic aorist (e.g., George raises the
> non-sigmatic aorist of John 1:6, KATELABEN; then on April 11 he puts the
> same point of view again in a post headed Re hEURISKEI in Acts 10:27).

Well, actually, I originally just took the non-sigmatic aorists to be
some special form of the past tense, just as they are commonly
translated. They still could be... It's just that when I tried them
out in Acts 10, according to the sense of NOT having the signification
of future timelessness, it seemed to work extraordinarily well in
conjunction with the theme of that passage, where a very holy man
[Peter]is being brought to a new understanding by God, and is written
by another very holy man [Paul], who us uniquely qualified to
understand the process from the inside, being both Jewish and the
previous beneficiary of a similar, though much more radical, divine
intervention in his attitude/understanding. The power of the past
there, the power of tradition, training, habits, repetition and
acquired virtues, all of these in Peter are being transformed by
divine intervention so that the future will be different within
Peter's understanding. So the sigmatic absence in the aorists leading
up to God's action would seem consistent with a 'past timelessness'
understanding of them.

 It's just ONE passage, Ward. I could easily be wrong. I DO tend to
look at one acorn so as to understand the oak tree, whereas good
scholarship tends to look at the whole tree with all its acorn to
understand the one I am looking at. I am taking a different look now
at non-sigmatic aorist usage in the light of this reading of Acts 10.

> George (and others interested): the fact of the matter is that there are
> four ways that an aorist form is constructed in Greek. The first two are
> closely related:
> 1a: By adding -SA- (and NOT just -S-, as I pointed out at some length in a
> previous post). This is the normal situation, and occurs in some 90% of all
> NT Greek verbs.
> 1b: By adding just -A-. This occurs in a specific situation only: where the
> preceding phoneme ("letter" of the alphabet, when writing it) is a liquid.
> What has happened here is that the -SA- has been added in the usual way,
> and the -S- has not held on the liquid, and has slid off, leaving just the
> -A-. When the vowel before the liquid is epsilon, compensatory lengthening
> (for the loss of the sigma of the standard -SA-) makes this epsilon become
> -EI-

This was especially valuable, Ward ~ Thank-you...
> Thus both of the above are actually variants of the one method of forming
> the aorist, and both are "regular" (that is, "predictable in accordance
> with the rules"), the difference between them being explicable by a
> linguistic rule. This type of aorist has traditionally been called the
> "first aorist". NOTE: this term refers to THE METHOD OF CREATING THE AORIST
> FORMS. The first aorist
> method can be formulated as a rule, thus: "To form the aorist, add -SA- to
> the verb's lexical morph. If this morph ends in a liquid phoneme, the -S-
> of the -SA- will slide off the liquid and disappear from the verb form. If
> the liquid is preceded by -E-, this will lengthen to -EI-."
> [For those who have my "Learn To Read the Greek NT", a complete listing of
> the liquid verbs of the NT, with their aorist forms, will be found in
> paragraph C1.89 (pages 229-230).]

And now you've got me heading for you book!!
> 2. By adding -O- or -E- to the verb root. Some grammarians refer to this
> -O/E- as the "thematic" vowel; I designate it the neutral morph. The aorist
> stem, thus formed, then takes the same set of pronoun endings as the
> imperfect (and they are different from the set for the first aorist). Which
> verbs will use this method of forming the aorist is unpredictable, and they
> have to be noted individually. There are 34 of these second aorist verbs in
> the GNT (they are set out in my Grammar on pages 231-233).
> 3. There is also another pattern: by adding a set of pronoun endings
> directly to the verb root. These are sometimes treated as being irregular
> second aorists, or referred to as athematic aorists. We should note though
> that the set of pronoun endings added is not identical with those of either
> the first or second aorists, and from a linguistic perspective this
> paradigm is to be identified as a third aorist (i.e., a third method of
> forming an aorist, with a third and distinctive set of pronoun endings).
> The most commonly-found third aorists are EGNWN (from GINWSKW), EBHN (from
> BAINW), and ESTHN (from hISTHMI).
> The major point to be noted though is that these are simply three different
> ways of forming an aorist, and that all three aorist, howsoever formed, are
> identical in meaning.

Well, this is the whole point, you see... Simply asserting it as truth
is not proof, except by reference to authority, of which yours is
great, and mine is nil, obviously. I ran into the same 'argument'
when I was told, on excellent authority, that the sigma in ____S is
different from the sigma in E____SA, whereas the epsilon in E____ is
the same as the one in E____SA. And I understand that these
assertions are backed up by long and arduous chains of very arcane [to
me] reasonings. The language of these reasonings is arcane to the
uninitiated ~ I am not an initiate. So what I am asking for, in plain
language that my 10 year old can understand the words of, is WHY? I
really do have difficulty abandoning common sense and accepting the
authority of what seems to be emerging here as a kind of linguistic
priesthood, comprised of excellent people who have been initiated into
the language and teachings of the Mysteries of the Greek Verb. Ward,
there has simply GOT to be a normal way for you to show this, where an
ordinary student can understand the reason[s] why.
> George's distinction between sigmatic and non-sigmatic aorists is totally
> invalid.

See above.

Thank-you for taking the time and caring enough to respond to this


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