Date: Mon Nov 23 1998 - 11:57:39 EST
Subject: Re: Re. The aorist!
Date: Mon, 23 Nov 1998 11:56:08 EST
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In a message dated 11/23/98 5:46:27 AM Mountain Standard Time,
> Help me out here. I am really afraid to ask this question for fear of
> striking up a re-ignition of the great aspect discussion of '96! However, I
> am interested in an opinion.
> In taking basic first year Greek I was told that the aorist was a
> punctilliar (spelled correctly?) tense signifying past action completed in
> the past. However, after many years of NT study (I should know more), I
> come across many grammars that bill the aorist as the generic tense which
> says nothing particular about the action it describes. The theory seems to
> be that if the writer wished to say something special about the action of a
> verb he would choose a tense other than the aorist. Obviously I have
> discovered that the aorist is only a past tense in the indicative or
> imperative moods. If the aorist is a a punctilliar tense, describing past
> completed action, it would be little different from the prefect, because
> obviously done is done and the results would persist.
I am personally uncomfortable with describing the aorist as "punctiliar",
because it feels too close to the misunderstanding about the aorist that
seemed to be rife when I first took Greek: that the aorist was, without
exception, a single point on the time line, representing punctilliar action
(like a hammer blow). I have since become rather indignant about certain
theological points that were expounded in an authoritative manner based upon
this misrepresentation of the aorist. However, as the development of this
discussion has supported, it is like a single point, in that it represents a
snap shot of completed action without differentiating the process.
It seems better to describe the aorist as well as the perfect as "perfective"
(indicating completed action). Both represent completed action, but the
perfect stresses the process while the aorist has no stress or marking beyond
the comleted action.
While this may seem as though the perfect and the aorist have little
distinction between them, the significance of the use of each becomes apparent
above the sentence level. If there are three consecutive finite verbs, for
instance, and one is imperfect, one is aorist, and one is perfect, the perfect
is generally connected with the main point or action, the imperfect describes
setting, and the aorist provides the 'background' or support for the main
PhD Student, Roehampton
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