Revisiting Present and Aorist Imperative

From: The Vanbibbers (
Date: Sat Oct 31 1998 - 16:49:41 EST

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Hi group. This is Al Mills. April Van Bibber posted a question for me and
I thank you all very much for your responses. If I could speak through
her again ... (I don't have a computer)
<p>Why is this question important? Because we need to know how to translate
the idea behind the use of either the aorist or present imperatives. What
is the writer trying to convey to us? A searching out of the "unimportant"
usages will set the stage for obtaining the correct meaning in the critical
<p>I heard John MacArthur translating Ephesians 5:18 "he being filled with
the Spirit" as if we were a tank with an open valve at the bottom out of
which the Spirit was leaking and had to be continuously refilled. In my
opinion this is a real stretch for the durative aspect of the present.
<p>Going way, way back language came into being to pass on an idea or concept
from one person to another. At first there were only sounds and then these
sounds came to be represented by marks or symbols. This was then expanded
to cover grammar and syntax. Hence, in the Greek a set of rules were set
up for endings to words that made what we call aorist and present imperatives.
Is it not obvious that since we have two different constructions there
must be two different meanings, else why not just have one?
<p>Someone has tied the word "habitually" to the present. I like that.
is what you should do all the time.</u>&nbsp; In 1 Thess 5:14-21 Paul uses
at least nine present imperatives and uses what I call "helper" words to
get his point across. (15) always follow the good, (16) always rejoie,
(17) pray unceasingly, (18) in everything give thanks.
<p>Luke, who probably had the best understanding of the Greek language
of any NT writer, in Luke 11:9 says ask, seek and knock and uses the present.
(Keep asking, seeking and knocking) He then does us a real favor by following
up in 11:10 with the same idea in another form, namely, the present participle
which carries in it continuance. So we have to <i>keep asking</i> and <i>the
one who continues to ask</i> shedding light on each other.
<p>And now to the aorist. Some one has said this is used more than the
present (can anyone confirm this?). Staying with Luke, 4:35 "be muzzled
and depart from him" both aorists - a one time event; 5:4 "put out into
the deep and let down the nets" - both aorists. What you are going to do,
do it right now and then it's over. Luke 5:8 "depart from me" - get away
from me now Lord.
<p>It is clear to me that the present intends for you to do it continually
or always be and the aorist speaks to a single event in time that will
be done and over.
<p>Now we come to the hard part. Luke 5:24 to the crippled man "rise up"
and "go". I see this as a single event "get up and get out of her" but
both are present. Why? Luke 6:8 "rise up and stand forth" rise up is a
present (should be an aorist) and stand is an aorist. Shouldn't it be,
if not both aorists, the other way around? Get up - a single act - and
keep standing in front of the crowd? Luke 7:8 centurion - go (aorist, ok),
come (present - why not aorist like the other two) and do (aorist, ok).
Luke 8:39 return to the house (present - should be aorist) and "tell" then
what God has done for you" (present - proper). Luke 19:13 - a critical
verse. Keep trading until I come (seems to be the force of the message)
but an aorist is used. Why?
<p>Are these possibilities for the intermingling?
<p>&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; 1. To the common man the fine points may be overlooked
and he uses the most common expression on the street.
<br>&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; 2. Did some of the much used words "freeze" into
idioms, e.g. hUPAGE.
<br>&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; 3. At one time there was a clear difference but
over time these faded out to the man on the street.
<p>"Light -- more light"
<br>Al Mills</html>


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