[B-Greek] John 4:28. Aorist and present verbs
randallbuth at gmail.com
Fri May 11 04:25:42 EDT 2007
>Hey Anthony, I'm thinking this may be a historical present.
>From: "Anthony" <anthony.rimell at orcon.net.nz>
>> At the end of her discourse with Jesus, the Samaritan woman AFHKEN
>> (aorist) her pitcher, APHLQEN (aorist) into the city and LEGEI (present)
>> to the people.
>> The aorists are straightforward, from an aspect point of view, but why the
>> present instead of an imperfect? To fit into the narrative in an
>> Enlgishing way, I've translated it, "The woman let go of her pitcher, went
>> back into the town, and began to say to the people". I see the NIV simply
>> translates LEGEI as "said". Am I on track here?
>> Anthony Rimell
These are a literary phenomenon where something that is 'aoristic'
a.k.a. perfective within the narrative context is presented
'open-ended-ly', even though it was not open-ended. Note that this
continues a phenonmenon is the preceding verse 4:25 LEGEI and 4:26
LEGEI, all completed events within the story-flow.
This phenomenon is one of the Achilles' heels of the 'aspect-only'
approach to the Greek verbs. How so? Because this verb usage is a
purposeful inversion of norms for literary effect. The narrator talks
about a completed event within a chain of completed events as though
it were on-going. [[ Incidentally, the same thing would be true if the
past imperfective was used ELEGE. That would have been
backgrounding-demoting the statements for a later cresendo effect
within the overall dialogue. ]] That means that the Greeks were
playing with their tense-aspect system for literary effect. And that
means that the millenia-old, native, internal-to-the-users view of
Greek verbs as having 'time' within their verbs is on target. The view
that Greek verbs include time in the indicative tenses has always
called these narrative present tenses a special literary use, an
inversion of its normal reference for literary effect. Some persons
in the last few decades have pointed to this literary explanation of a
present tense for a past tense as a reason for abandoning a view that
Greek indicatives have tense. But such an explanation becomes a
boomerang by returning to where the context undermines the aspect-only
This is a literary effect. These are completed past events within
their narrative context that are being presented to the audience as
'open-ended' AND as 'present' -- both the tense and the aspect are
being used for literary effect.
Translation is a different issue from understanding the Greek. You may
translate as befits the target language. The NIV 'said' is good
English but loses the literary play. 'began to say' is not the intent
of the Greek, it could work in English for one of the LEGEI-events but
is adding a specification. That is why the proverb says that
translators are traitors. There is no exact translation here that
captures what the Greek is doing. That is why people read literature
in the original language.
The NIV has translated according to English norms.
ERRWSQE (be well)
ybitan at mscc.huji.ac.il
randallbuth at gmail.com
More information about the B-Greek