Re: Time out !!

From: Carl W. Conrad (
Date: Wed May 31 2000 - 11:42:56 EDT

At 2:38 PM +0000 5/31/00, Emory Pitts wrote:
>Harold R. Holmyard III:
>You wrote:
>Eugene Goetchius, in_The Language of the New Testament_, a beginner's Greek
>>Like the present participle, the aorist participle does not, properly
>>speaking, have "tense"; i.e., it does not necessarily refer to past >time
>>or to any other sort of time. Like the present participle, the >aorist
>>participle indicates as *aspect* of action; more precisely, it >indicates
>>an action conceived as *indefinite*, or as a *simple event*(without
>>reference to its being in progress, or being completed). The >aorist
>>participle may, therefore, refer to any action, whether it be >past,
>>present, or future with respect to the action of the main verb.
>This is confusing to a new Greek student, or at least to me. The reason is
>because I am trying to work my way through _Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics_
>by Daniel B. Wallace.
>In his chapter on the Participle, subheading "The Verbal Side of the
>Participle" section a. Time, he writes:
>Generally speaking, the tenses behave just as they do in the indicative. The
>only difference is that now the point of reference is the controlling verb,
>not the speaker. Thus, time in participles is relative (or dependent), while
>in the indicative it is absolute (or independent).
>The aorist participle, for example, usually denotes "antecedent" time to
>that of the controlling verb. But if the main verb is also aorist, this
>participle "may" indicate contemporaneous time.
>Daniel Wallace has a footnote related to this last statement, where he says:
>>From my cursory examination of the data, the aorist participle is more
>frequently contemporaneous in the epistles than in narrative literature.
>There is also such a thing as an aorist participle of subsequent action,
>though quite rare.
>End quote.
>Having read this, I naturally think of an aorist participle expressing time
>related to the main verb as more than likely "antecedent" and less often
>"contemporaneous." Of course, Daniel Wallace notes that it can denote
>subsequent time, but rarely.
>My question is this: Do these two grammarians agree with one another?
>Wallace seems to state that "time" is denoted with the participle, while
>Goetchius seems to be saying that "aspect," NOT TIME, is inherent in the

They're essentially saying different things about the aorist participle
that are both true. But Goetchius is trying to give a general description
of how the aorist participle differs from the present participle, while
Wallace is trying to say something about temporal reference of the aorist
participle with respect to the governing verb's time. I think that
Goetchius' statement, although not wrong, is so generalized as not to be
very helpful; in this instance Wallace is considerably more helpful.

How participles work is an immense subject and one upon which you'll spend
a large portion of your time and effort to learn Greek upon, precisely
because the participle is the work-horse of expository Greek prose: most of
your verbs in any block of narrative sequence are likely to be participles.


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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