Re: Matt 19:9 & the Present Tense

From: Carl W. Conrad (
Date: Mon Oct 11 1999 - 10:55:04 EDT

At 8:59 AM -0500 10/11/99, Steven Craig Miller wrote:
>I find it interesting that at Matthew 19:9 we have three verbs, two are
>aorist and one is present tense.
>"And I say to you, whoever divorces [aorist] his woman, except for
>infidelity [or: prostitution [?]), and marries [aorist] another lives in
>adultery [present]."
>If the Matthean Jesus wanted to suggest that the act of adultery was a
>punctiliar act as opposed to a linear act, why didn't he keep to the aorist
>tense, why the switch to the present tense? The statement seems very clear
>to me. The Greek verb translated as "divorces" is in the aorist tense
>because it is viewed as a punctiliar act. The Greek verb translated as
>"marries" is in the aorist tense because it is viewed as a punctiliar act.
>But the verb translated as "lives in adultery" (or "commits adultery") is
>in the present tense because it is viewed as a linear act. Why else the
>switch to the present tense?

to me that this is not really a "switching" of aspects but rather a matter
of how the actions are conceived aspectually: the divorcing and remarrying
are efficaciously conclusive actions, while the adultery is not an act but
a continuing condition or state: it's not really "commits adultery" but
indeed "is engaged in (ongoing) adultery, or, as you say, "lives in

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

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