Re: hEURISKEI in Acts 10:27 - Present Tense?

From: Rolf Furuli (
Date: Wed Apr 08 1998 - 10:43:03 EDT

Dear Clay,

When we discuss Greek verbs we take for granted particular premises which
are adopted from the Germanic or Slavic languages. I have questioned some
of these premises as regards aspectual discussion and your post lends
itself to a questioning of one of the basic Aktionsart premises. (Your
posts betray a fine critical mind so I think you grant me to be critical
too.) Playing l`enfant terrible I ask: "Is the term punctiliarity
(punctuality) really meaningful?" "Can we take for granted that ANY verb in
Greek is punctiliar?"

Punctiliarity is viewed as something instantaneous which lacks inner
constituency. Fanning (p 157 ) has a list of such verbs. I have studied the
Hebrew counterparts of these verbs and also other similar verbs, and
because most of these also are realized as participles or have imperfective
aspects without any evident itearative, habitual or similar force, I have
concluded that we cannot take for granted that ANY Hebrew verb is intrinsic
punctiliar. I suspect that the same is true of Greek verbs.

I do not suggest that we discard the term "punctiliar" altogether. There
are situations both in Hebrew and Greek which the writer conveys to the
reader as instantaneous, without an inner constituency. But I strongly deny
that this instantaneous character is a property of aspect, and I also
suspect that this is not a property of the Aktionsart of several Greek
verbs which are classified as punctiliar. I do not deny that some verbs,
such as APOQNHSKW, KATALUW, TELEW and others. have a strong attraction
towards punctiliarity, and that the action they signal will be interpreted
as punctiliar if the context does not signal something else. My point is
that, while some of these verbs may have an uncancellable punctiliar
quality, this is not the case with others. Thus we cannot at the outset
take for granted that any such verb is punctiliar. This is a very important
point when we discuss aspect.

I do not speak philosophically, arguing that according to the intervals of
an atomic clock must any event take some time, but I argue conceptually, on
the basis of the old Greek mind, that any verb could possibly express an
event viewed as having an inner constituency or being resultative, and
thereby indicate non-punctuliarity. (This is a fine subject for a thesis).
A good test is to look for punctiliar verbs realized as present participles
or with imperfective aspect, particularly in past contexts. Any
imperfective verb where subject and object are singular, and where an
interative or habitual interpretation is not posssible ought to have an
inner constituency or be resultative, and the same is true with present

Your example of Acts 10:27 has an almost perfect counterpart in 1 kings
19:19. Se also 1 Kings 21:36,37. In the NT we find hEURISKW in John
1:41,43;45 and 5:14; and being surrounded by aorists these forms can hardly
represent historic present. See also Matt 12:44 and Luke 11:25 where we
find aorist participles.

Let me apply my "peep-hole" aspects on Acts 10:27: I am inclined to view
the augment as a token of past time, although I also find Mari`s view
appealing (I need to do more work here). The verb EISHLQEN is aorist,
indicating a view from some distance covering a large area of the action.
What I see through the lense opening is a durative action (in the past):
Peter takes several steps, walks through the door opening and into the
room. Because the scope is aoristic and broad, and we have we have
SUNOMILWN as a background, both the beginning and end is probably
encompassed, but the details (his steps) are not made visible for the
reader. The scope of the imperfective hEURISKEI is close and narrow, but
the nature of this verb is different from the preceding one. If the author
viewed the verb as punctiliar, the combination with this scope (the
imperfective) could mean iteratitivy or frequency, but this is hardly the
case here. Another possibility could be that because of the plural object,
its different memebers were found one at a time. This interpretaion is also
unlikely. I see only two other possibilities: (1) The verb hEURISKW has an
inner constituency and the focus is on a small part of this constituency,
or (2) The event is resultative, and what is focussed upon is the act of
finding and the following state of having been found, from which vantage
point Peter speaks. The present is used rather than the imperfect because
the two actions are closely related in time. I think (2) is the more likely

For the traditional aspectual view is it quite ironic that EISHLQEN
(perfective) expresses the durative action and that hEURISKEI
(imperfective) expresses the "punctiliar" action.


Rolf Furuli
Lecturer in Semitic languages
University of Oslo

>After reading Carl and Carlton's posts on the Aorist this morning I was doing
>my morning study in Acts and ran across a present hEURISKEI in Acts 10:27 that
>left me scratching my head. I did some research on the problem but all I was
>able to discover was that Codex Bezae reads hEUREN instead of hEURISKEI.
>Could someone explain to me why hEURISKEI is a present in this context?
>Clayton Stirling Bartholomew

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