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

Carl W. Conrad cwconrad at
Thu Jul 8 08:03:02 EDT 1999

At 2:20 PM -0700 7/6/99, dixonps at wrote:
>On Tue, 6 Jul 1999 14:44:21 -0400 "Carl W. Conrad"
><cwconrad at> writes:
>>Yes; moreover, I think that this understanding of the way aorist and
>>pluperfect work in Koine (I can't really prove it, but I believe it)
>>explain the rarity of both the perfect and the pluperfect in Koine.
>>The aorist has effectively assumed their functions in narrative and they
>>are used, when they are used, more fundamentally to emphasize that
>>existing result.
>Would you suspect then that the ratio of perfects/aorists in Classical
>is higher than in the Koine?  Would this also suggest the ratio of
>aorists/constative aorists is greater in the Koine?  My feel for the
>aorists in the
>Greek NT is that the vast majority are constative and relatively few are
>or consummative.   Is it even less so in the Classics?

Paul, this deserves a fuller and fully documented answer based on much more
thorough research than I've been able to carry out. Let me say rather

(1) I do believe (but am not prepared at present to document) that the
ratio of perfects/aorists is indeed considerably higher in classical
narrative Greek than it is in Koine. Probably this is something that HAS
been documented, but I can't put my hands on it now.

(2) From Accordance, I find the following numbers for Perfect and
Pluperfect tense forms in the GNT:

Perfect tense forms in GNT: 1573
Mt 113
Mk 93
Lk 171
Jn 284
Acts 164
Pauline letters 329
Deutero-Pauline 43
Pastorals 53
Heb 87
Catholic letters 137
Revelation 117

Pluperfect tense forms in GNT: 86
Mk 8 (HiDEI 3, EIWQEI)
Lk 16 (HiDEI 5, hEISTHKEI 3)
Jn 34 HiDSEI 15, hEISTHKEI 7
Acts 17 (HiDEI 5, hEISTHKEI 1)
Pauline letters 1 (HiDEIN)
Pastorals: 0
Heb: 0
Catholic letters 1
Revelation 1 (hEISTHKEISAN)

I think it is noteworthy that so many of these pluperfect forms are of
perfect tenses normally used with present meaning: hESTHKA ("I am
standing"), OIDA ("I know"), and EIWQA ("I am accustomed"). I definitely
believe that when a pluperfect sense is required in narrative it is
generally expressed in Koine with an aorist.

(3) I am content with the description of functions of these tenses at:

The Perfect Tense
1. Intensive (Resultative) Perfect
2. Extensive (Consummative) Perfect
3. Perfect with a Present Force

The Pluperfect Tense
 1. Intensive (Resultative) Pluperfect
2. Extensive (Consummative) Pluperfect
The perfect and pluperfect tenses are identical in aspect though different
in time. Thus both speak of an event accomplished in the past (in the
indicative mood) with results existing afterwards - the perfect speaking of
existing results in the present, the pluperfect speaking of existing
results in the past.

There's a fuller description of each as well as examples at that site.

For Classical Greek, see Smyth at the Perseus web site, ##1945-1954.

When I say "I am content with that description," I mean that I accept that
some GNT perfects and pluperfects are consummative, but I think that the
resultative usage is far more common when the perfect or pluperfect appear
in the GNT; I think this is particularly true of the very common GEGRAPTAI
and of such Johannine verb-forms as Pilate's hO GEGRAFA GEGRAFA and Jesus'
final word: TETELESTAI.

Nevertheless, I want to underscore that I don't consider this a full or
satisfactory answer to your question, Paul.

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