[b-greek] Re: Present vs. Aorist Imperative

From: Carl W. Conrad (cwconrad@artsci.wustl.edu)
Date: Sat Sep 09 2000 - 08:10:33 EDT

Just a couple qualifications to what Mark has written here:

At 2:46 AM +0000 9/9/00, Mark Wilson wrote:
>E.A. Mills wrote:
>>I would have expected all of the imperatives to be aorist, but no, the
>>and third verbs are present. It makes no sense to me . . . "keep getting up
>>and keep going home" (although the latter is more understandable).
>You will have to wait to hear from others to get the definitive word on
>this, but I would simply say here that you have a misunderstanding of the
>Present Tense.
>The Present Tense does NOT denote "continuous and repetitive actions" as
>your "keep getting up and keep going" home implies.

I'd qualify this to indicate that Present (not tense really, in the
imperative, but aspect) MAY indicate continuous or repeated action, but it
more simply indicates action begun without indicating completion, so
"INITIATED" action might be a better way to put it.

>The Present Tense merely views that action as THEN in PROGRESS. In the
>Imperative, the command is to initiate the process. The Present Tense makes
>no claims as to the "future" or "on-going" nature of the event or action,
>implied in your translations by "keep on..."
>The concept of "keep getting up" or "keep going home" would imply both
>repetition and continuous actions, neither of which the Present Tense itself
>denotes. However, that does not mean the a "continuous or repetitive" action
>can not be communicate in Greek; it simply means that the Present Tense BY
>ITSELF is incapable of that. In other words, for a continuous or repetitive
>action to be denoted, other grammatical features would have to be employed
>by the writer (perhaps some as subtle as the lexical use). I think Fanning
>has done very excellent work on integrating how the specific word chosen
>(lexical use) within a given context has implicit meaning itself.
>Your translation then, "keep on" is not a meaning that the Present denotes.
>I think my response only addresses a portion of your concern, but a critical
>one indeed.

The qualification I'd add here is that a MH with a present imperative might
suggest, "Don't continue ..."--and my own sense of Jesus' negative present
imperative to Mary Magdalene in John 20:17, MH MOU hAPTOU, probably should
be understood in the sense, "don't keep holding on to me" or "don't cling
to me" rather than "Don't touch me" (which might perhaps better be
expressed with an aorist, in my opinion).

>I would then suggest something more like:
>"at this very moment, initiate the process of going home"
>The reason I have inserted "at this very moment" is to indicate the
>"present." And I have expanded the going home action to "initiate the
>process" to indicate that the Present Tense is only concerned with the
>present. In this case, the Present Tense would not even address whether or
>not the individual completed the action of "getting all the way home." The
>reason for this is because that would look ahead to the "future." And the
>Present Tense is addressing the "here and now."

Or "Now you should get up (present)--pick up (aorist) that pallet--and
start going home (present)."

>I might make the disclaimer here that I have only been at Greek for "not
>quite two years." That would mean, give my response the appropriate
>consideration, as compared to, for example, Dr. Conrad, who has almost two
>hundred years under his belt :o )
>OK, maybe not 200 hundred, but it sure seems like that!!

And STILL haven't quite got it right! Less than 50, actually; I started
Greek as a Freshman at Tulane in September of 1952, and I've just this week
started teaching my last formal class in Greek in my final semester before
retiring and moving on to more "informal" teaching.


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
WWW: http://www.artsci.wustl.edu/~cwconrad/

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