Re: Why an instantaneous imperfect in Mark 8:24?

From: Daniel L Christiansen (
Date: Sat Jun 26 1999 - 14:46:50 EDT

Jay Adkins wrote: [snipped]

> let me ask does the imperfect in the prior
> verse bare any support to the idea that the man have been repeating
> himself. The word I am referring to is EPHRWTA, which is the same sort of
> thing I would guess . . . My question here is, since there are two imperfects
> this close in
> context, with one directly contextually connected to the next, would that
> make the verbal aspect merely the same or draw on its foundational
> meaning?

    I think that the major indicator here, as to the strength of the imperfect, may
be found in the similar construction in verses 23 & 24. The imperfect finite verbs
are both in tandem with aorist participles: EPIQEIS + EPHRWTA . . . ANABLEYAS +
ELEGEN. The imperfects are indicating action which takes place concurrently with
that of the participles. Thus, we might render these lines as "while he laid hands
upon him, he was asking him 'Do you see anything?' Looking up, he was saying 'Not
very well . . . .' So, he touched his eyes again . . ." In other words, the
imperfects are providing a continuously-moving dialogue against which the action of
the participles take place. Jesus and the man "were speaking/questioning" all
along, while the conversation was being punctuated by actions of unspecified

    More directly in response to your question: yes, I do think that close
repetition of the imperfect should be taken into consideration. Whenever an author
(or speaker?) uses a construction over and over, we ought to apply the same
understanding to each of the occurrences. Unless, of course, there are over-riding
considerations (lexical, contextual) for seeing a change in the use of the
construction. That is, if the author uses 3 imperfects in a row, we should not
lightly say that we have "an instantaneous, an iterative, and a pluperfective."
Chances are that we have 3 progressive uses. It all goes back to the idea that
language is, at heart, simple--it is an attempt to communicate, and not to

> Also does the perfect (BLEPESIS) have any effect?

    This is one of the "over-riding considerations" I mentioned. Since EI TI
BLEPEIS is direct quotation, it is effectively separated from the syntax of the
surrounding passage. No, I don't think that the use of the present, here, has any
effect on our interpretation of the force of the surrounding imperfects. Of course,
some might argue that the Evangelist chose which tense to place in Jesus' mouth, and
thus it is still Mark's grammar we are dealing with. While that is possible, it is
still a more difficult way to approach the communication.

> Thank you for your assistance. Please bear with my own stubborn stupidity
> and ignorance. I hope that you will allow for it.

Jay, you certainly do not need to feel that way. It seems that people are forever
apologizing onlist for their "lack of understanding": if we all understood what we
were doing, we wouldn't be onlist batting ideas back and forth, and picking the
brains of people such as Carl :) Besides, in my opinion, you are clearly asking all
the right questions of your text.

    God bless you,

Daniel L. Christiansen
Department of Bible
Multnomah Bible College
8435 NE Glisan Street
Portland, OR  97236
(Also Portland Bible College, Prof of Biblical Languages)

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