Perfect outside the indicative
jonathan at texcel.no
Sat Jun 6 10:06:11 EDT 1998
I've continued thinking about the relationship between the past event and
the current state in the perfect. The two explanations I'm most familiar
1. Mari Olsen's suggestion that the tense of the perfect is present,
referring to the current state, and the aspect is perfective, referring to
the complete event.
2. Fanning's suggestion that the perfect combines stative Aktionsart with
I think that clear thinking about the perfect always requires attention to
what it might say about a past event and what it might say about the
current state. Since tense disappears outside the indicative, and aspect
remains, I thought I'd see how non-indicative perfects relate to the past
event and the current state.
I chose to explore examples that Robertson had classified as referring to
past events or current states. He says these examples represent states:
John 4:6 hO OUN IHSOUS *KEKOPIAKWS* EK THS hODOIPORIAS EKAQEZETO hOUTWS
EPI TH PHGH
John 4:6 Now Jesus, *having been wearied* from the journey, sat thus upon
I do not mean to imply that "having been wearied" is a great translation
into English, but it is the most woodenly literal translation of a perfect
participle that I could find, so I thought I would inflict it on yall.
Although Robertson uses this as an example that refers to the current state
- Jesus is tired - the perfect in this example doesnt work without
reference to a past event, tiring himself out from the journey. Suppose I
left out the prepositional phrase EK THS hODOIPORIAS ("from the journey") -
my guess is that the result still implies a past event:
hO OUN IHSOUS *KEKOPIAKWS* EKAQEZETO hOUTWS EPI TH PHGH
Now Jesus, *having worn himself out*, sat thus upon the well.
Im surprised that Robertson uses this as an example:
Luke 4:16 KAI EISHLQEN KATA *TO* *EIWQOS* AUTW
Luke 4:16 and he went in according to the *having-been-accustomed* of him
Im not sure that I want to read must aspect into this articular participle
- doesnt this just mean "according to his custom"? Even if we read this
with significant verbal force, though, the past ongoing custom is as much a
part of the meaning as the current custom, so both past event and current
state are intact.
Robertson suggests that the following two verses refer to past events, not
on the resulting state:
Matt 25:24 PROSELQWN DE KAI hO TO hEN TALANTON *EILHFWS*
Matt 25:24 Then the one who *has received* the one talent came up
The past perfect "had received" feels more natural in English here, but
nevertheless, the person is in the state of having received the one talent,
which is why he is now held accountable. It seems to me that the current
resulting state is very much in focus!
Heres the last example Im looking at in this message:
John 18:18 EISTHKEISAN DE hOI DOULOI KAI hOI hUPHRETAI ANQRAKIAN
*PEPOIHKOTES*, hOTI YUCOS HN
John 18:18 now the servants and the police were standing around *having
made* a fire, for it was cold.
Again, the current state may be the most relevant detail - that there was a
fire - but to me, the verb also clearly implies the past event of making
My tentative conclusion: both the past event and the current state are
retained in non-indicative use of the perfect. In participles, at least,
the force of the perfect itself is virtually unchanged from its force in
the indicative. Therefore, neither the relationship to the past event or
the current state is really a tense, since absolute time exists only in the
indicative. Im inclined to think we have two true aspects here.
jonathan at texcel.no
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