Re: Silva pans Aspect for Exegesis

From: Edgar Foster (
Date: Sun May 17 1998 - 16:44:19 EDT

---"Carl W. Conrad" wrote:

> At 2:26 PM -0400 5/17/98, Edgar Foster wrote:

> >---"Carl W. Conrad" wrote:

> >> I'm not sure how much the above statements actually imply (and I
> >> REALLY want to get caught up in Paul's--Dixon's, that
is--argument about what IMPLIES means, although I'll agree with the
common-sense people that reasonable guesses may be made as to
intention even where they are not strictly implied): they do say that
considerations of aspect won't govern the exegesis primarily, but they
don't seem to me to rule out secondary "aspects" in interpretation.
The particular case in point for me is
the Jesus-saying in Mk 8:34par: EI TIS QELEI OPISW MOU AKOLOUQEIN,
I'm not even sure that the passage can be translated properly in a way
that conveys the difference between the first two imperatives as
aorist and the third one as a present imperative; it is a powerful
statement in any case, but I can't really believe that the fact that
the first two imperatives are aorist and the last one progressive is a
negligible one for full understanding
of what the Greek is saying.<<

> >The way I read Silva is: aspectual distinctions in themselves NEVER
> >provide any true materials for exegesis. CONTEXT must control how the
> >reader construes any present or aorist forms.

> >"In conclusion, we may say that an interpreter is unwise to emphasize
> >an idea that allegedly comes from the use of a tense (or some other
> >subtle grammatical distinction) unless the context as a whole clearly
> >sets forth that idea" (Silva, Moises. _God, Language, and Scripture_.
> >Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1990. P. 118)

> That's all very fine, and indeed probably worth saying; my own
feeling is
> that some of the "exegetical insights" that Mounce uses to start his
> chapters in _Beginning Biblical Greek_ involve just such excessive
> of the meaning of a distinct grammatical feature. But again I ask:
> regard to Mark 8:34par would we really want to say that the fact
that two
> of the three 3rd-person imperatives are aorist and the third one is
> progressive is NEGLIGIBLE? Regardless of what Silva may say, I think
> to ignore this question is to stop short of a complete exegesis--which
> doesn't mean that the exegesis of this passage DEPENDS on how one
> that difference in tenses, simply that it is not a NEGLIGIBLE
element for
> exegesis.

Personally, I don't think that the contrast between aorist imperatives
and a progressive imperative is NEGLIGIBLE. But I think it is
misrepresentative of Silva's thought to say that he rules out tense
distinction altogether: he does not. What he warns against is failing
to take context into consideration, when analyzing aspectual
distinctions and tense forms.

In _God, Language, and Scripture_, Silva uses the example of Matt. 7:7
to illustrate his viewpoint concerning the aorist/present distinction.
In this part of his work, Silva cites the oft heard view that the
utilization of the present imperative in Matt. 7:7 means that the
verse in question should be translated with the emphasis on
continuity. Silva does not deny that this **may** be the case.
However, he adds: "the distinction [between present and aorist] does
not ALWAYS hold up" (117-118). He therefore insists that Matt. 7:7 is
to be understood as a command to pray incessantly. According to Silva,
this is not because of the present imperative, but due to the context
of Matthew which emphasizes persistence in prayer.

All of the above is not to say that I agree with Silva in toto. I just
wish to express his view accurately, correctly demonstrating the
raison d'etre of his conclusions. Exegetically, however, I agree with
your view of the present imperative/aorist.


Edgar Foster

L-R College

Classics Major

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