Re Pluperfect or past perfect tenses

Carl W. Conrad cwconrad at
Mon Aug 20 20:37:11 EDT 2001

At 8:10 PM -0400 8/20/01, Harry W. Jones wrote:
>Dear B-Greekers,
>Does any one know if pluperfect tense actions occur and complete before
>simple past tense actions in NT Greek like aorist and imperfect in the

The answer to this is not quite so simple as it might superficially appear.
For most of the occasions on which English calls for a pluperfect to
indicate action prior to some point in the past Greek uses the aorist. The
pluperfect is relatively rare in Koine Greek and more generally indicates a
state or condition holding valid at some point in the past; moreover, the
two verbs whereof one sees "pluperfect" forms most frequently in the GNT
are from hISTAMAI and OIDA, verbs whose "present perfect" forms hESTHKA and
OIDA mean "I am standing" and "I know" respectively--which is to say, they
have the actual force of present tense forms even though in morphological
terms they are "perfect-tense" forms--so that their "pluperfect" forms
hEISTHKEIN and EIDEIN have more the force of imperfects ("I was standing"
and "I knew"). This may seem puzzling to a novice in Greek, but it is the
way things actually are and one gets used to it gradually.

Accordance shows 86 instances of the pluperfect in the GNT, and a very
great number of these are forms or compounds of hESTHKA and OIDA.

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

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