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

Carl W. Conrad cwconrad at
Mon Jul 5 19:57:32 EDT 1999

At 8:58 AM -0700 7/5/99, dixonps at wrote:
>On Mon, 5 Jul 1999 06:49:18 -0400 "Carl W. Conrad"
><cwconrad at> writes:
>>At 8:35 PM -0500 7/4/99, James S. Murray wrote:
>>>Carl Conrad wrote (snip):
>>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
>>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
>>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
>>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.
>The question some of us had raised was rather there is any basis for
>taking such a construction as found in Acts 13:48 (periphrastic perfect
>participle attending an aorist main verb) as anything other than denoting
>prior, completed action of the participle with reference to the action of
>the main verb.
>If I read you properly, your words, "the periphrastic form ought more
>properly to be understood as a past stative with a time simultaneous
>to that of the main verb," suggest something to the contrary.  There is
>question that an aorist participle can denote time simultaneous to that
>of the main verb, but I've never heard of a perfect participle doing the
>Can you supply an example of this?

I think you have just about totally misunderstood me, Paul--at least you've
misunderstood the primary point I was trying to make. Perhaps I ought not
to have phrased it as "the periphrastic form" which might suggest that, had
Luke written ETETACATO instead of TETAGMENOI HSAN, the meaning might be
different. I should have said quite simply "the pluperfect passive ought
properly to be understood as a past stative with a time simultaneous to
that of the main verb."

I am NOT saying something about the time of the PARTICIPLE, TETAGMENOI. I
AM saying that the pluperfect and the imperfect both refer to time prior to
the present, that the present perfect and the present indicative both refer
to present time, the present indicative describing what is happening, the
present perfect describing a condition or state currently obtaining.

An English sentence analogous to the one under consideration is this:
"Those who were dead did not respond to the morning bugle call." I think
that "those who were dead" would be expressed in Greek commonly as hOSOI
TEQNHKOTES HSAN, although perhaps we might see hOSOI ETEQNHKESAN. I think
that hOSOI ETEQNHKESAN might theoretically be translated as "as many as had
died" but better would be "as many as were dead"; the sense of the English
pluperfect is more commonly expressed in Greek narrative prose with an
aorist, and in this instance it would be: hOSOI APEQANON. The difference
I'm arguing for is that the aorist is more like the English pluperfect
because it emphasizes completion prior to a certain point in the past,
while the Greek pluperfect emphasizes a state obtaining at some point in
the past.

idiomatic version of this would be, "And as the Gentiles heard, they went
on to rejoice and to glorify the word of the Lord and those who were
destined for everlasting life came to believe." I'm translating HSAN
TETAGMENOI as "were destined"; if it were ETACQHSAN, I'd be more inclined
to translate it "had been destined." I think the aorist emphasizes the
completion of the act, whereas I think the pluperfect emphasizes the status
obtaining for those who believed.

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

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