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

From: Daniel L Christiansen (
Date: Tue Jun 29 1999 - 15:49:50 EDT

"He settled hoti's business . . ." Well, not quite, it seems:)

    I do get a kick out of the way we can discuss at length issues which
were "solved" many decades before any of us were born. However, with
regard to this discussion, mea culpa. I spent some time looking over
all the occurrences of hOTI in the NT, first getting rid of the
"recitatives," and then the clearly causal uses. There aren't all that
many left . . . And I must now admit to being too quick on the keyboard
with the term "relative pronoun." The best choice does seem to be the
clarification use (called by some the epexegetical), as suggested, I
by Moon-Ryul Jung, and by Carl. Although, there is still something
this construction which makes me wonder: most of the exegetical hOTI
have a verb of saying or of knowing, while Mark 8:24 has a verb of
Of course, knowing and seeing are both perceptive, and saying and seeing
certainly be closely related to the communicative process, but this just
seems to be a bit outside the normal usage.

    Now, before I go have myself flogged for carelessly introducing this
mess about hOTI, I would like to add a note I neglected to send once I
began looking up all those hOTI passages.

Moon-Ryul Jung wrote: [snipped]

> Daniel wrtoe:
> > . . . The imperfects are indicating action which takes place
> concurrently with
> > that of the participles.
> [Moon]
> This statement seems to imply that Jesus's speaking
> was already in progress when Jesus laid his hand upon the man.
> It is true of
> "When she entered the room, he was reading the book".
> But in our cases, the events described by the participles ( EPIQEIS,
> ANABLEYAS) take place before the event described by the main
> verbs in imperfect, according to our world knowledge.
> So, Daniel's explanation does not seem to reveal what is
> going on in these verses.

Daniel replies:
    I'm not certain I understand why we should assume that the action of
the aorist participle is antecedent to the main--non-aorist--verb.
Blass seems to deny such a conception entirely; Moulton, Burton, and
Wallace note that such is usually, but certainly not always the case;
Robertson explicitly argues (Historical Research, p. 112ff) that
simultaneous action is the original and primary sense of the aorist
participle. From the standpoint of the grammars, it seems to me that
idea of simultaneous action is supported at least as well as that of
prior action.
    As far as context goes, it doesn't seem clear to me, either. You
seem to refer to the relation between the participles EPIQEIS and
ANABLEYAS; however, the discussion was actually over the relation of
each of these participles separately with their corresponding imperfect
finite verbs. Clearly, the action of the ANABLEYAS clause takes place
subsequent to the EPIQEIS clause; but this does not address the question
of activity order within the separate clauses. Jesus may have laid
hands on the man, took them off and asked his question; alternatively,
he may have asked the question in the act of laying on hands. Likewise,
the man's response may have been to look up, stop, and answer;
alternatively, he may have responded to Jesus while in the process of
looking up.
    Of course, I don't think there is any theological distinction to be
made . . . not even a great communicative distinction. If the
participles had been Perfects or Presents, I doubt there would be any
question on the matter of sequence, since the relative time or causation
is fairly clear in those instances. However, the action depicted by an
aorist participle cannot be assumed as completed, any more than it can
be assumed to be punctiliar.

Daniel L. Christiansen
Department of Bible
Multnomah Bible College
8435 NE Glisan Street
Portland, OR  97220
(Also Portland Bible College, Prof of Biblical Languages)

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