Re: Perfect Tense

From: Carlton Winbery (
Date: Wed Sep 02 1998 - 13:11:17 EDT

Jonathan Robie responded;
>At 10:36 PM 9/1/98 -0300, Christian Naaktgeboren wrote:
>> Somebody can explain to me what is the perfect tense and how I
>>can translate a verb in this tense, for example:
>The Greek perfect designates action that began in the past, resulting in a
>current state. **Either the action continues into the present, or the action
>has effects that still continue into the present.**

Only rarely does the perfect indicate that the action of the perfect
continue. What continues, it seems to me, is the result or state of being.
>The perfect "tense" is
>more complex than the Aorist, Imperfect, or Present tenses. Fortunately, it
>is rather similar to the English perfect tense, so it is fairly easy for
>English speakers to grasp. (Note: I used to think that they were quite
>different, but I am beginning to see more and more similarity - since this
>is the first time I've voiced this view in public, I'm curious to see how
>others respond!) Consider the following sentences:
>1. Carl taught Greek for forty years. (past tense)
>2. Carl has taught Greek for forty years. (present perfect)
>The first sentence, which uses a simple past tense, implies that Carl is no
>longer teaching Greek. The second sentence, which uses the perfect, implies
>that Carl is still teaching Greek.((((I would say that the second
>indicates that Carl has the experience to be a much better Greek

> The perfect, in both Greek and English,
>involves both a past action and a present state. If Carl had not taught in
>the past, this sentence clearly would not be true, because the past event
>would not be fulfilled. If Carl were no longer teaching Greek, it would not
>be true because the perfect implies that in the current state of things,
>Carl is still teaching.
>Consider the following example.
>Matt 3:2 (NIV) "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near."
>Matt 3:2 (NRSV) "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near."

In this case the perfective nature of the perfect has faded into the
background. However, it is still there for what is called for is a
reaction to the present state that results from the presence of the kingdom
in Christ.

>The verb translated "has come near" or "is near" means "to approach", but
>because it is used in the perfect tense, there is also an focus on the
>current state: the kingdom has come to us and is now here. The perfect
>implies both the past event and the current state. ((((Amen)))

Carlton L. Winbery
Fogleman Professor of Religion
Louisiana College
Pineville, LA 71359

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