Re: historical present

From: Carl W. Conrad (
Date: Wed Jun 03 1998 - 15:05:56 EDT

At 11:51 AM -0400 6/03/98, Jonathan Robie wrote:
>At 11:08 AM 6/3/98 -0400, Jim West wrote:
>>In order to justify the claim, Dale must examine every use of estin which
>>occurs in the NT. I would be very curious to read it if you have written it
>>up somewhere, Dale.
>Or you could just provide us with an exception or two to disprove his
>claim. No writeup that explores every example proves anything if even one
>exception can be found. But someone has to find that exception to prove him
>wrong. Anything come to mind?
>So far, it looks like a bold claim that nobody has been able to contradict.

Ah--it has come so far, has it, that we're squabbling over who has the
right to make bold claims? Oh brave new world!

At 11:08 AM -0400 6/03/98, Jim West wrote:
>Dale's claim that estin is NEVER used as a historical present drove me to
>look again at Moulton, who says about the present in reported speech
>referring to the past: "Not only after verbs of speaking, but also
>perception and belief, the NT prefers the pres. tense in indirect discourse"
>(vol 3, p. 64).

I will admit that it was inaccurate to label the ESTIN of OUK HDEI POQEN
ESTIN an "historical present" or "narrative present." But I've been
meditating on the Moulton citation Jim's given. I think it is essentially
right that an indirect question or indirect statement remains in the TENSE
of the direct citation; in Attic dialect the fact that the question or
finite verb statement is indirect is signaled by switching it into the
optative as a marker of subordination. Since the optative, for practical
purposes, is a dead letter in NT Koine, that marker of subordination is
lacking and the indirect statement or indirect question LOOKS LIKE (but
ISN'T) a "historical" or "narrative" present.

Carl W. Conrad
Department of Classics, Washington University
Summer: 1647 Grindstaff Road/Burnsville, NC 28714/(828) 675-4243 OR

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