Re: Perfect outside the indicative

Date: Sun Jun 07 1998 - 18:01:28 EDT

Carl W. Conrad wrote:

> Then to George:
> At 10:51 AM -0400 6/06/98, wrote:
> >The only way I have been able to make sense of this issue is to see
> >the Greek perfect as 'conclusive', because it talks about an action
> >that is concluded. [Likewise the Greek present is 'progressive'
> >because it talks about an action that is in progress, and the aorist
> >is inceptive because it talks about an action that has begun.]
> >Actions begin, progress, and conclude, and the Greek seems to have a
> >verb form for each of these 'aspects' of an action ~ The aorist, the
> >'progressive' system of verbs, and the 'perfective' system of verbs.

> You want to see the "aspects" simplified as "present"--action viewed from
> within, "aorist"--action viewed as a whole from the beginning of it, and
> "perfect"--action viewed as a whole from its conclusion--but I think this
> endeavor brings things into a relationship that isn't their real one,
> except, perhaps, for the "present"--action viewed from within. But the
> other two are not to be contrasted with each other at all:

Well, the approach I am taking very much desires to understand the
Greek verb forms as a systemic whole, and from the perspective of
wholeness of system, the aorist must in some way proceed from the
beginning point of an action, because the perfect proceeds from the
ending point of the action. [We agree on what is in between these two
points: 'progressive' ongoingness of the action that begins and

Now the symmetry, although obvious, may indeed in practice, in Koine,
NOT be totally consistent, because the language is, after all,
evolving. The perfect is looking more and more like an adjective, and
the aorist is coming to be understood as a past tense. [I assume this
to be true, though I do not know it to be so.] But the point remains
that the aorist is inceptive in its force, even as a past tense,
because it asserts and affirms the existence of an action, irreligious
of when that action might occur!! :-)

Without the aorist connecting to the inception of the action in some
way, there is no balance to the perfect connecting to the conclusion
of the action, and the wholeness of the indicative Greek verb system
does not exist. I very much believe that Greek verbs are systemically
whole, which requires, much against your better judgement, that the
perfect and the aorist forms be compared and contrasted and understood
in terms of each other in some way.

> Aorist is action
> viewed as a whole, while Perfect is more state consequent upon action or
> change--and perfect and pluperfect really are analogous to present and
> imperfect, as is evident in the pluperfect of John 18:18 EISTHKEISAN DE hOI
> DOULOI cited by Jonath
> an above and translated (correctly) like an imperfect, "were standing."

Well, we agree on the parallelism of the tenses here, but disagree on
the translation, for I would have the servants "had stood" instead of
standing. "They had stood" around the fire ~ A simple past action ~
with no further existence in the present, as would have been the case
in the perfect. By the bye, this feels emphasized here by John,
almost with a tinge of outrage, in the pluperfect ~ I could easily be
wrong... for it is an easy context sense to have.

George Blaisdell

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