first and second aorist confusion

Carl W. Conrad cwconrad at
Thu Jul 15 06:30:15 EDT 1999

At 6:05 AM +0000 7/15/99, Charlie Trimm wrote:
>I came across something interesting the other day in Matthew that I was
>wondering about regarding the aorist endings on PROSERCOMAI.
>In Matthew 4:11 it is PROSHLQON, the second aorist ending, as it is
>usually found.
>But in Matthew 5:1 and Luke 13:31, it is PROSHLQAN, the first aorist
>ending. Anyone know why in these two cases the first aorist endings are

While it is probably true that every living language is a "language in
flux," this is particularly true of Koine Greek. From a diachronic
perspective, it is the case that from the earliest literary texts--the
Homeric epics--the Greek language is evolving in the direction of Modern
Greek usage wherein the Alpha endings (-A/-AS/-E/-AMEN/-ATE/-AN) are the
standard active (or I'd prefer to say 'default', since these endings are
used for many intransitive verbs, such as PROSERCOMAI) endings for all past
tenses, including the imperfect.

Already in Homer there are two verbs that are commonly conjugated in the
aorist with Alpha endings: ECEA from CEW ('pour') and HNEGKA from FERW
('bear,' 'endure')--but in Homer one also finds the standard thematic
('second') aorist endings for FERW: HNEGKON, HNEGKES, HNEGKE, KTL. In the
case of FERW then, there are concurrent "first" and "second" aorist endings
already in Homer, and that continues on through all of ancient Greek.

By the period of NT Koine several more verbs are being conjugated with both
"first" (Alpha) and "second" (thematic) aorist endings. Particularly common
are such forms as HLQA for older HLQON and EIDA for older EIDON. The
existence of these concurrent "first" and "second" aorist conjugational
forms can be disconcerting, but it's a fact that learners of NT Greek need
to become aware of at an early point.

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

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