Aorist never codes an open situation? - to Kimmo

Kimmo Huovila kimmo at
Tue Dec 26 04:02:48 EST 2000

Rolf Furuli wrote:


> A distinction as the one above is almost never made in aspectual studies or
> definitions. For instance, when the words 'bounded' and 'complete(d)' are
> used, to what do they refer? Do they refer to the real, objective event or
> state, or just to the part of the event or state that the author has made
> visible?

They refer to the speaker's conceptualization of the event.

> In other words, Can we say that any event that is expressed by an
> aorist factually is terminated?

No, not in my view. Language allows for many things, including lying.
We cannot simply read reality
off a verbal form. The speaker is communicating a mental concept. An
aorist describes it as bounded, and the nature of the bounding can vary.
Thus we cannot even say that the event is necessarily portrayed as
terminated. Bounding can even be pragmatic, sort of hanging in the
context type of thing.
It does not always mean that the situation
changed, as expressed by the analysis of Rom 5:14 by both of us (though
on a different basis). Yet, there are situations when the point of
the perfective aspect is precisely to express the termination of an
event. But before making such a claim one must analyze the nature of
bounding in that particular context. This throws us into doing
pragmatics. It will often give a clear answer to the nature of bounding
in a particular passage.

Earlier I wrote:
> If nesting is not
> considered, the analysis of aspect becomes much more problematic, in
> this case to the point of losing its meaning (as if aorist described an
> open aspect).

> The analysis would be different if one saw the layers differently:
> reigning first bounded and only then the bounds described temporally.
> Then the reigning would have ended at Moses. But there is no need to
> take it this way. The bounded interpretation still stands. So this verse
> is a good example of the importance of looking at layers when studying
> aspect.

By this I did not mean that temporal bounding is the only kind. There is
room to debate if the alternative way of layering would carry the
implication of reigning ending with Moses. It would be a pragmatic
implication, though a reasonble one.

> In my view the perfective and imperfective
> aspects play about the same role in relation to events and states
> (signalled by verbs) as the context does in relation to things and
> qualities (expressed by substantives). The aspects do not generate new
> meaning, but they make visible (by the interplay of several other factors)
> a particular side of the events and states. It is from this point of view
> meaningless to define aspects with words such as 'bounded', 'not bounded',
> 'punctiliar', 'durative' etc. This does not mean that 'aspect' is a
> metaphysical concept or is so elusive that it cannot be defined. MH
> GENOITO! But to get a meaningful understanding we should analyse aspects in
> a similar way as words ara analysed, as mentioned above.

Would it not be more consistent from your perspective to see aspects as
contributing meaning, not like the context, but meaning of its own, if
you want to treat them parallel to words? Or did I misunderstand you?

> I use three
> parameters to distinguish between the aspects: 1) The kind of focus
> (closeup/distance, details visible or not),2) the area of focus (length of
> section of Event time intersected by Reference time), and 3) The angle of
> fucus i relation the the nucleus (before/after nucleus, beginning/end
> included or not).
> If we differentiate between the factual situation and what is made visible
> of  it (as I did in my previous post) I claim that perfective and
> imperfective aspects (and the 'tense' perfect) can describe situations
> which both are  factually terminated and which are not factually
> terminated.

I agree. This has to do with the nature of bounding and the kind of
aspectual layering in the sentence. But the aorist is not pragmatically
capable of communicating a non-terminated event in all contexts.

> It is true that the imperfective aspect often makes visible a
> part of a situation which is not terminated and the perfective aspect makes
> visible the terminated situation, but this is not allways the case. So we
> cannot by the aspect alone know whether the situation referred to factually
> is terminated or not.

Agreed. But we should go further and look at the way different layers
are used to signal this. Adding some pragmatics, we can often come
to a conclusion of the possible termination of the event by the aspect.
> An interesting example of the same verb used in parallel clauses, but with
> different aspects, is Hebrews 11:17 The perfect PROSENHNOCEN is
> paralellized with the imperfect PROSEFEREN. The event referred to was not
> terminated. To try to convey through translation what the author wanted to
> make visible, I would translate: "as good as offered up" and "tried to
> offer".

You found an interesting passage. The imperfect carries the nuance of
not completing the event, but the perfect views the same thing as
completed. I think the point is that the bounding is not similar: with
the perfect, the point is more that he did offer him in a sense, but not
physically (the imperfect).

> Your arguments are consistent and logical, but we use completely different
> systems of analysis. Each system may hava advantages and disadvantages. But
> I believe that it is important for any system to differentiate between the
> 'reference' (the real objective situation), and what can be compared to
> 'word/concept' (which part of the situation that is made visible.


> As to Romans 5:14, it is correct as you say that 'to Moses' marks an end.
> But this is only the end of the part of the state 'reigning' that is made
> visible.


>  My point, however, was that the objective state 'death was
> reigning' had not come to its end.

This is obviously true, but it was not really Paul's concern (he did not
make this visible) in this sentence.

> And similarly with God's rest. In
> Genesis chapter 1 it is not stated that the seventh day reached its end as
> was the case with the previous six days. But it is said that God rest(ed)
> (I take imperfect consecutives as imperfective) on the seventh day, so the
> aorist of KATAPAUW in Genesis 2:2,3 LXX can hardly cover just a point of
> time. And the argument of Hebrews chapter 4 is that the day of rest still
> continued (See "Hebrews" by J. Moffat in "The International Critical
> Commentary"). So both verses do show that the aorist can be used of states
> which are not objectively terminated.

To the matter at hand, (and to
stick with Greek on this forum), the Hebrew verb is quite irrelevant. We
can analyze
the Greek in its own terms. KATAPAUW (lexically) does not describe a
state, and the
verbal reference does cover just point of time, namely the entrance into
the rest. The lexical meaning of KATAPAUW is not like English rest. Yes,
the implication is continued rest, but the aorist is explained precisely
by the aspectual meaning of KATAPAUW. The continuation of the rest is
irrelevant as far as the aspect is concerned.

Kimmo Huovila

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