Verbal Aspect and Imperatives

From: Ed Gorham (
Date: Tue Sep 29 1998 - 13:52:04 EDT

The concept of verbal aspect is a new one to me (as someone who was raised
on "temporal significance", then Aktionsart) so please bear with me.
I'm trying to get a handle on how aspect plays into moods such as the
imperative, especially when you have a tense shift. For example, in
Colossians 3:8-9, there is a shift from the aorist imperative ("put to
death these things") to the present ("don't lie against one another").

Why the shift? Is Paul using the aorist imperative of "apotithemi" as a
backdrop against which he wants to single out lying, using the present
imperative of "pseudomai"? Or does he want to emphasize that the not-lying
is to be durative?

Or am i just thinking about this too much?

Porter's "Idioms" is a good book for showing how the tenses are not
necessarily temporal...he catalogs many instances, for example, where the
aorist is used in a present sense. But I wish he'd explain a little more
on the positive side of the argument for aspect, rather than simply de-bunk
the older paradigms.

Your thoughts would be welcome, on or off list.

-Ed Gorham

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