Re: Pluperfect in John 7:30

From: Carl W. Conrad (
Date: Tue Feb 09 1999 - 11:58:28 EST

At 8:03 AM -0800 2/9/99, George Blaisdell wrote:
>The thing about this 'present' [hHKW] that gets my attention, aside from
>the obvious anomaly in Greek of a 'perfective present', is the simple
>fact that it FEELS like an aorist!

Not having ever been in an aorist or tasted one, I'm not sure what an
aorist is supposed to FEEL like. My loss, I'm sure.

>If there were such a thing as a
>past, present and future aorist, this might qualify as the present
>aorist. But it turns out that not only is there no such aorist past,
>present and future in Greek, [we ALL know that!!] but as Carlton points
>out, this verb indeed has its own aorist [hHXA], whereas the aorist for
>ERCOMAI is HLQON. Is the kappa in hHKW morphologically perfective and
>not aorist related? I show the perfect of ERCOMAI as ELHLUQA. Are
>there two stem systems involved?

Not so fast. In classical Attic hHKW means "I have arrived"; the imperfect
hHKON means "I had arrived." So yes: the present is equivalent to a
perfect tense of ERCOMAI, the imperfect to a pluperfect, the future to a
future perfect.

>So how on earth would it translate [in Attic, I am presuming] as an
>imperfect?? I can see it in the future being translated as a future
>perfect, but an 'imperfect perfective'? The imperfect, present and
>future could be translated "was, is and will be come", but then what to
>do with the aorist??

It is noteworthy that in classical Attic one does not find an aorist or
perfect of this verb. My impression is that when it comes to take those
forms in later Greek, hHKW has lost its distinctive perfective sense and
comes to mean more simply "arrive."

There is something neatly illustrated by this, I think: the parallelism
that really exists between the perfect and present (or durative) systems:
present indicatives denote an action now in progress, perfect indicatives
denote a state or condition now obtaining; imperfect indicates denote an
action set into motion in the past; pluperfect indicates denote a state or
condition obtaining at some point in the past.

The aorist simply doesn't have those parallels; the aorist indicative can
be used of actions performed or completed in the past and, in the right
combination, of actions completed prior to a time indicated by another
element in a sentence: e.g. EIDOMEN AUTON EPEI HLQEN, "We saw him when he
came (i.e. had come)."

Carl W. Conrad
Department of Classics/Washington University
One Brookings Drive/St. Louis, MO, USA 63130/(314) 935-4018
Home: 7222 Colgate Ave./St. Louis, MO 63130/(314) 726-5649 OR

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