Hair-splitting for the Bald

Carl W. Conrad cwconrad at
Sat Jul 10 17:04:32 EDT 1999

At 10:48 AM -0400 7/10/99, Paul S. Dixon wrote:
>On Sat, 10 Jul 1999 06:03:21 -0400 "Carl W. Conrad"
><cwconrad at> writes:
>>My heartfelt thanks to Daniel for sharing this information. It is
>>for documenting the changes taking place over the course of time in
>>usage of the tenses. It strikes me that another kind of investigation
>>would promote this end is documenting which aorists in the GNT serve
>>function of a pluperfect by indicating time prior to that of the main
>>clause; this is not unrelated, I'm sure, to the usage of the aorist
>>circumstantial participle to indicate time prior to that of a main
>Yes, that was helpful.  Now, let's pool our data together.
>Shouldn't be too hard to do.  You've already run an Accordance
>check on the number of perfects and pluperfects in the GNT,
>and somebody from Multnomah (sorry, his post was accidentally
>deleted; ugh) ran it on the LXX.
>Could somebody run an Accordance check for the number of
>aorists in the narrative sections of the GNT (Gospels, Acts)?
>Then, let's check the ratios of perfects/aorists in the narrative
>sections of the GNT, LXX and Classical works.  If your theory
>holds, Carl, then the ratio diminishes with time.

I don't think that the ratios  of aorists to perfects and pluperfects would
be that significant in themselves; I think analysis is required. Already in
older antiquity the aorist is being used to indicate time prior to some
point of reference in the past: there are aorists in classical narrative
that really need to be translated as pluperfects in certain contexts. I
think the case may be more difficult to demonstrate for present perfects
than for pluperfects in relationship to aorists, BUT I think that in any
particular text or group of texts one needs to analyze the usage in the
aorists and pluperfects to see where an aorist might be PREFERRED to a
pluperfect. When I looked at the data on Genesis and Exodus given by Daniel
Christiansen, it appeared that more of the pluperfects in those books were
of the standard type of OIDA, hESTHKA, and EIWQA even than in the GNT; that
is to say, pluperfects seem to be more negligible in number in Genesis and
Exodus even than in the GNT, and pluperfects are almost negligible in the
GNT. I really do think the perfect tense forms need to be analyzed and
statistics compiled more carefully to ascertain relative usage of the
perfect in "resultative" and in "consummative" functions, after separating
out those verbs like OIDA, hESTHKA and EIWQA that have a "present" sense.
For myself, at any rate, the ratios you're suggesting wouldn't have much
probative value without a close look at how the tense-forms are actually
being used by the authors in question.

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

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