aorist-ac 14.11

yochanan bitan ButhFam at
Tue Nov 2 14:36:43 EST 1999

g'day, mate. 
strelan writes:
>The aorist form KATEBHSAN in Acts 14:11 indicates what:That the gods have
>come down and are still with us? the gods came down in the recent past but
>are not currently with us? the gods are ones who come down to us? or what?

This is a delightful question because it lands in a "grey area" of Acts.
The simple answer, of course, is that a Greek simple past is being used in
a context where a perfect would be more applicable, "(they have become like
men) and they have come down". 

Now in the Gospels when this happens, we immediately wonder if there isn't
some substratum influence. We actually do the same here, because Acts 14
falls in the section of 1-15 where many have wondered about Luke's picking
up source stories.

Now we all know that in colloquial speech imprecise statements may slip
One problem here is that an aorist in place of a perfect is somewhat
against the main flow of the language. That is, there was actually a koine
tendency for the perfect to be increasingly used and even to be used for
the aorist (a bit like in romance languages and exemplified in the extreme
in spoken french today). However, in Greek, this process seems to have
generated a parallel phenomenon, the aorist started to be used more and
more like the perfect, which was then used even more and more like the
aorist. The process ended in the fourth century AD when the perfect was
dropped from use as unnecessary.
Acts 14.11 is this 'opposite phenomenon', the aorist used for the perfect,
but on the early end of the process. 

My vote? 
By itself, I'll just attribute it to a loose colloquialism. Especially
since I don't know Lycaonistikhn glwssan. It's possible Luke even got
mileage out of leaving a rough colloquial feel here for the foreign speech.

But this is a problem that needs more work in the gospels. 
[I suspect that there is still room for someone inclined towards grammar to
do a dissertation/monograph tracing translation style in LXX in different
books between aorist/perfect and then comparing with papyri, NT and
Josephus. This would need a biblio check.]

randall buth
H en ierosolUmois scolH 
prOs tHn Eravnan tWn synoptikWn evaggelIwn

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