Revisiting Present and Aorist Imperative
stuart.vanbibber at gte.net
Sat Oct 31 16:49:41 EST 1998
Hi group. This is Al Mills. April Van Bibber posted a question for me
and I thank you all very much for your responses. If I could speak
through her again ... (I don't have a computer)
Why is this question important? Because we need to know how to translate
the idea behind the use of either the aorist or present imperatives.
What is the writer trying to convey to us? A searching out of the
"unimportant" usages will set the stage for obtaining the correct
meaning in the critical texts.
I heard John MacArthur translating Ephesians 5:18 "he being filled with
the Spirit" as if we were a tank with an open valve at the bottom out of
which the Spirit was leaking and had to be continuously refilled. In my
opinion this is a real stretch for the durative aspect of the present.
Going way, way back language came into being to pass on an idea or
concept from one person to another. At first there were only sounds and
then these sounds came to be represented by marks or symbols. This was
then expanded to cover grammar and syntax. Hence, in the Greek a set of
rules were set up for endings to words that made what we call aorist and
present imperatives. Is it not obvious that since we have two different
constructions there must be two different meanings, else why not just
Someone has tied the word "habitually" to the present. I like that. This
is what you should do all the time. In 1 Thess 5:14-21 Paul uses at
least nine present imperatives and uses what I call "helper" words to
get his point across. (15) always follow the good, (16) always rejoie,
(17) pray unceasingly, (18) in everything give thanks.
Luke, who probably had the best understanding of the Greek language of
any NT writer, in Luke 11:9 says ask, seek and knock and uses the
present. (Keep asking, seeking and knocking) He then does us a real
favor by following up in 11:10 with the same idea in another form,
namely, the present participle which carries in it continuance. So we
have to keep asking and the one who continues to ask shedding light on
And now to the aorist. Some one has said this is used more than the
present (can anyone confirm this?). Staying with Luke, 4:35 "be muzzled
and depart from him" both aorists - a one time event; 5:4 "put out into
the deep and let down the nets" - both aorists. What you are going to
do, do it right now and then it's over. Luke 5:8 "depart from me" - get
away from me now Lord.
It is clear to me that the present intends for you to do it continually
or always be and the aorist speaks to a single event in time that will
be done and over.
Now we come to the hard part. Luke 5:24 to the crippled man "rise up"
and "go". I see this as a single event "get up and get out of her" but
both are present. Why? Luke 6:8 "rise up and stand forth" rise up is a
present (should be an aorist) and stand is an aorist. Shouldn't it be,
if not both aorists, the other way around? Get up - a single act - and
keep standing in front of the crowd? Luke 7:8 centurion - go (aorist,
ok), come (present - why not aorist like the other two) and do (aorist,
ok). Luke 8:39 return to the house (present - should be aorist) and
"tell" then what God has done for you" (present - proper). Luke 19:13 -
a critical verse. Keep trading until I come (seems to be the force of
the message) but an aorist is used. Why?
Are these possibilities for the intermingling?
1. To the common man the fine points may be overlooked and he uses
the most common expression on the street.
2. Did some of the much used words "freeze" into idioms, e.g.
3. At one time there was a clear difference but over time these
faded out to the man on the street.
"Light -- more light"
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