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

From: Micheal Palmer (
Date: Fri Apr 10 1998 - 00:38:21 EDT

At 11:19 AM +0000 4/7/98, clayton stirling bartholomew wrote:
>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?


The use of the present in this context is not really that unusual (though
it is less usual for Luke than for, say, Mark). As you are surely aware,
this is a good example of what the reference grammars call the "historic

        And as he talked with him, he went in and finds that many had

The change from the aorist (EISHLQEN) to the present (EURISKEI) is a little
abrupt, and for that reason sounds much more like something Mark might
write, but it's not out of the question for Luke.
[Editorial Note from the redactor (Same as the real author in this case)]
I just read Edward Hobb's note on this topic while finishing my own... A
Markan source for Acts... Hmm... :-)
[End of editorial note]

Of course this doesn't really address the aspect issue. I'm not convinced
that any of the approaches to aspect have presented a completely
satisfactory account of the 'historical present', especially in contexts
like this one where it seems to replace an aorist rather than an imperfect.
(If Mari is out there I would love to hear from her on this.) The variant
reading in Codex Bezae does suggest that the historical present in the
other manuscripts occupies the place of an aorist. The variant could very
easily have come from a copyist expecting an aorist so strongly that he
wrote one even though the manuscript he was copying had a present. (That
the manuscript in question is Bezae may even suggest that it was a
'correction' rather than an accident.)

I would also concur with Carl's comment about the discourse function of the
historical present here. Like Carl, I have not researched this carefully,
but my impression is that the shift from the aorist (EISHLQEN) to the
present (EURISKEI) could coincide with a shift in focus from the
conversation with Cornelius outside the house to a new episode--Peter's
address to the people inside the house. The historical present is one of
several devices which can mark such local discontinuities (transitions
between local units in the discourse).

Micheal W. Palmer
Religion & Philosophy
Meredith College

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