[b-greek] Aorist Tense

From: RUSSELL RANKIN (rrankin@isd.net)
Date: Thu Nov 16 2000 - 03:25:26 EST

RE: Aorist Tense in Koine New Testament Greek

To what extent is the time of the Aorist definitely past?
To what extent is the action definite or indefinite?
Is the Aorist an ambiguous tense that cannot be rendered accurately because
it is so indefinite in time?
Is there any essential difference between the Aorist verb and the Aorist
participle in regard to past time?

Please expand on this quote from Syntax of The Moods and Tenses of the Greek
Verb [William W. Goodwin, 1888]:

        "The Aorist Indicative expresses the simple momentary occurence of an
action in past time....
        "This fundamental idea of simple occurence remains the essential
characteristic of the Aorist through all the dependent moods, however
indefinite they may be in regard to time."

My questions were prompted by the following response in a discussion of
Colossians 1:23.
In Col. 1:23 Paul uses the Aorist Passive Participle, 'keruchthentos'
("proclaim"). The Aorist tense says nothing about the state of
the action whether complete or in process. The Aorist only
sees the action as a whole but without reference to the state of
the action and is thus defined by some grammarians as an
'indefinite' tense. An Aorist Participle says nothing about the
time of action. It could be in the past or simultaneous with
the speaker. The Aorist Participle is notoriously difficult to
render accurately in English. It could be rendered, "having
been preached," but that English rendering implies a state of
completion that the Aorist Participle does not. Or it could be,
"being preached" but that implies action in progress which the
Aorist also does not but probably comes closest to Paul's
point. As in the previous point this could only be taken to
indicate the process was complete if Paul had used a Perfect
or Pluperfect tense.

Thanks for your comments,

Russell Rankin
Church of God [Abrahamic Faith]
Maple Grove, Minnesota, USA

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