Hair-splitting (was Tense of TETAGMENOI in Acts 13:48)

Carl W. Conrad cwconrad at
Mon Jul 5 06:49:18 EDT 1999

At 8:35 PM -0500 7/4/99, James S. Murray wrote:
>Carl Conrad wrote (snip):
>> On 07/01/99, ""James S. Murray" <jsmurray at>" wrote:
>> > "Carl W. Conrad" wrote:
>> > Carl,  Just to clarify, would it be true, then, that the verb tense in
>>any kind
>> > of dependent clause is generally relative to the main verb; i.e. a present
>> > tense would denote action taking place at the same time as the action
>>of the
>> > main verb, an aorist would denote action prior to the action of the
>>main verb,
>> > and so forth?  I understand that this is generally true with participles,
>> > unless it is an aorist participle describing attendent circumstances.  My
>> > question is if this is also true of any verb form in a dependent
>>clause? Hope
>> > this makes sense?
>> This question cannot be answered with a generalization that will cover all
>> types of dependent clauses, because infinitives, participles, subjunctives,
>> and optatives depend more on aspect than on time information.
>Oops!  I was thinking of the indicative, and I can see where I made this
>too broad to
>answer.  Mea culpa.  Like Abraham, I'll risk trying your patience with a
>more limited question :) .
>What I'm really trying to understand is why HSAN TETAGMENOI in Acts 13:48
>is action
>prior to the main verb EPISTEUSAN.  The options I've considered are:
>1. The pluperfect periphrastic, as a participle, is still time relative to
>the main
>verb.  Based on subsequent posts and further reading in Wallace, I suspect
>this is
>2.  The periphrastic should be understood as equivalent to a pluperfect
>and that the action (and its results) have been completed in the past
>relative to the
>writer.   If this is the case, would it be the fact that it is imbedded in a
>substantive clause that puts it prior to the Gentiles believing, as it is
>action that
>helps define the subject of EPISTEUSAN?  Or is it semantics?  It seems to
>me this is
>the gist of Paul Dixon's post.

As I tried to state in my first response to this question, there is ONLY
the periphrastic form of the pluperfect to be found at the time of the
writing of Acts 13:48 (I certainly haven't done a search of the TLG, but
I'd wager that the Homeric equivalent 3d pl. inflected pluperfect,
ETETACATO, is not to be found). So there's not really any point in
attempting to differentiate meanings of the periphrastic and inflected

More to the point, I think, is the question whether there's a semantic
difference at the time of composition of Acts 13:48 between an aorist
passive ETACQHSAN and this form before us, HSAN TETAGMENOI. There may be
real difference of opinion on this; my own judgment is that ETACQHSAN is
the one that ought properly to be translated as a pluperfect passive in
English ("had been destined/ordained") while the periphrastic form ought
more properly to be understood as a past stative with a time simultaneous
to that of the main verb ("were--at that time--destined/ordained"). I think
that the upshot is the same in any case, but I think there's this
difference: the aorist would underscore the completion of the
destining/ordaining (prior to the time of the main verb) while the
periphrastic pluperfect would underscore the status quo of the believers at
the time they believed. Some may well think that this is splitting hairs
too much to no purpose, but it is worth noting, I think, that the aorist is
generally used in narrative Greek where English uses a pluperfect to convey
time of a verb relative to time of another verb, and that the perfect and
pluperfect, where they are used at all, tend to indicate state or condition
obtaining at a particular time. Frankly, I don't think this distinction has
any bearing upon the theological questions posed by this verse, which
cannot be discussed here.

With regard to the other hair-splitting question, whether hOSOI HSAN
TETAGMENOI is a relative clause or a substantive clause, I'd place myself
firmly on the fence: I do think that there's an implicit partitive TWN
EQNWN to be understood with the hOSOI and I think that one could argue that
this is an instance of the antecedent assimilated to the relative, so that
we might amplify the phrasing as EKEINOI EPISTEUSAN hOSOI TETAGMENOI HSAN.
At several points in Koine texts, one gets the impression that hOSOS/-H/-ON
is already the relative pronoun replacing hOS/hH/hO that it has become in
Modern Greek.

Carl W. Conrad
Department of Classics, Washington University
Summer: 1647 Grindstaff Road/Burnsville, NC 28714/(828) 675-4243
cwconrad at

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