re: Periphrastic construction "EIMI + Participle" in Acts

From: yochanan bitan (
Date: Wed May 03 2000 - 07:06:26 EDT

some notes, re: Periphrastic construction "EIMI + Participle" in Acts

Georgih egrapsen:
> But what actually interests me is the question: For what
>purpose does Luke use such periphrastic constructions? What makes him to
>apply a phrase instead of a single word? Is it just a mean of stylistics?

Check out the frequencies of the true periphrastic constructions
(non-perfect passive). Check the Gospel, check Acts 1-15, then check Acts
16-28. What kind of frequencies do you find? (2Acts has a frequency below
50% of the rest of Luke's writings. The question rises, which is the real
Luke and was his arm being twisted elsewhere? (See Moulton, Grammar v.2, p.
452 for a table of NT occurrences. also a closing comment below)

Some history and linguistics is easier to deal with.
Greek was HIGHLY aspectual.
You can't use an infinitive, subjunctive or participle in Greek without
making an aspectual commitment.
Hebrew and Aramaic were NOT highly aspectual.
(Backwards from what is commonly bandied around, and probably due to
misleading metalinguistic terminology [grammatical terms] in pedagogical
grammars (e.g. a 'Greek tense', a 'Hebrew aspect'.)
Cf. the Lord's prayer, where a simple, undifferentiated Hebrew imperative
"give" [ten lanu] must be either continuative DIDOU (LK) or aorist DOS (MT)
in Greek dress.

Post-Alexander, when Heb and Aram came in heavy contact with Greek, bi-
and tri-lingual speakers became much more sensitized to ASPECT through
using Greek and started to greatly increase periphrastic
'be'-plus-participle constructions in both Hebrew and Aramaic. Cf. Mishnah
Avot 1.6: "be judging everyone for acquital [veheve dan et kol ha-adam lxaf
Jewish writings with these Semitic periphrastics, in turn, can be literally
put back into Greek and create a style that misses the genius of the Greek
language itself, like in some of Luke and Acts.

What kind of iceberg could be under this tip? On Luke-Acts: the speech
"originally" in Hebrew in Acts 22 is good Koine Greek(!), but throughout
the Gospel he goes in and out of Semitic styles. The non-LXX's in his
Semitisms show that his uneven style reflects sources (not related to
Mark!). When the impact of all this gets digested by gospel scholars . . .

Randall Buth

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