Re: Tenses in Mark 11:24

From: Rolf Furuli (
Date: Fri Nov 13 1998 - 10:21:30 EST

Greg Kilbrai wrote:

>I'm just a little greeker - only my third semester. I hope this question
>isn't too basic, but I guess this is how we all learn so here goes...
>I'm having trouble understanding the reason for the aorist tense of
>ELABETE in Jesus' words in Mark 11:24:
>PROSEUCHESQE ...present [all things] you pray for
>AITESQE... present [and] you ask for
>PISTEUETE... present you believe
>ELABETE...Aorist you received [them] (past tense?)
>ESTAI...future they will be granted [to you].
>The logic puzzles me...if I already had something why would I pray for
>it? Or is that simply the point about faith that Jesus is teaching? Or
>are there some finer grammar points about the aorist I'm not fully
>appreciating in this verse?
>Thanks for any comments on this.

Dear Greg,

The first step to understand verbs is to differentiate between time (which
is construed from the context) and tense (which is a factor inherrent in
the verb). The verb ESTAI of the verse is future tense, and there can be
little doubt that ELABETE represent future time. I see three possible
explanations of the problem: (1) Aorist codes for the perfective aspect and
not for past time (Porter, Olsen against Fanning), (2) The text is corrupt,
and (3) The Semitic idiom shines through.

I have just finished a comparison of the Syriac and Greek text of Mark 14
where it is evident that a Hebrew (or Aramaic) Vorlage plays a role. This
makes (3) more likely. If Jesus used a Hebrew ( or Aramaic) perfect, and
this was rendered by a Greek aorist, we have a solution. Hebrew perfect
(without prefixed waw) can be used with future meaning (not necessarily
future perfect). In Isaiah 9:6 we have two perfects ("be born" and "give")
with future meaning. The LXX translates both with aorist passive. I would
not hesitate to translate the line as follows: "For a child will be born
and a son will be given"


Rolf Furuli
Lecturer in Semitic languages
University of Oslo

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