Imperative Mood: Present vs. Aorist

Don Wilkins dwilkins at
Sun Oct 25 18:13:09 EST 1998

At 3:54 PM -0000 10/24/98, Jonathan Robie wrote:
>However, Porter also questions the "traditional" aspectual distinction
>between aorist and present imperatives, citing the following examples as
>> Luke 19:13 PRAGMATEUSASQE EN hWi ERCOMAI - aorist imperative for ongoing
>This one I do find confusing. I wonder if PRAGMATEUSASQE means to "set up
>business" rather than to "engage in business". Or is there a better way to
>resolve this?

This one may be a *little* problematic due to the question of Aktionsart,
but examine the facts and then decide whether we need to redefine the
grammar (as Porter, et al.?). I have nothing decisive to offer,
unfortunately, because I had time only for a quick look at LSJ entries,
which were inconclusive. A global search of the verb would be a necessity.
However, consider the following: (1) there is a textual problem here with
readings divided between all combinations of aorist v. present and
indicative v. infinitive. The best manuscripts have one or the other mood
with the aorist, which indicates that the copyists involved were not
concerned about the aor. tense here, even though one might expect them to
be, depending upon one's expectations for the text. (2) The -euw ending is
added to nouns, and denotes a condition or activity; moreover, the middle
voice indicates that the subject is doing or being whatever is signified by
the verb root (Smyth), in this case "engaging in action". Thus the meaning
of the verb itself involves a continuous state, and it should not
necessarily surprise us to find a writer using the aorist of this verb in
regard to what would appear to be continuous action. Moreover, the aorist
is the simple or default tense to use with the imperative, and one departs
from it to make a special point. Now of course we might detect some clear
patterns with a global search of the word, but in the absence of such a
search (I'm assuming Porter's conclusion isn't based on one), the facts
presented above seem to me to provide an adequate explanation without the
need to rewrite grammar.

Don Wilkins

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