Meaning of the perfect tense

Rodney J. Decker rdecker at
Tue Jan 9 10:18:02 EST 2001

At 09:07 AM 1/9/01 -0800, you wrote:
once-for-all").  When I first learned Greek, I learned that the perfect
tense indicates "completed action with abiding results."  As I've studied
further, I find Stanley Porter saying, "the action is conceived of by the
language user as reflecting a given (often complex) state of affairs"

You will probably get a diversity of answers in this forum. The traditional 
view is as you have summarized it. Personally, I don't think that is 
adequate and it clearly doesn't work in many instances. A newer approach is 
that argued extensively by K. L. McKay in a number of journal articles and 
in his two grammars. It is McKay's explanation that Porter has adopted. It 
is not adequate to stop with just the def. that you have cited without 
adding some of the other qualifications that McKay discusses. It is very 
important to realize that this def. is a *semantic* one, not a *pragmatic* 
one. That is, it argues that the semantic force of the perfect form by 
itself, without any contribution of the context, carries only the force of 
an existing state/condition. This means that the traditional def. has gone 
too far and read pragmatic factors into the semantic value. Any reference 
to a previous action (which produced the state) must come from the context. 
Such factors are very often present, so the statements often made are in 
many cases true, but the claim that this is because of the perfect form is 
an overstatement.

You can find most of McKay's articles listed in my bibliography:
<>. Porter has an entire chapter 
on the subject in his larger work (*Verbal Aspect...*), as do I as applied 
to Mark <>.

Rodney J. Decker, Th.D.       Baptist Bible Seminary
Assoc. Prof./NT  PO Box 800, Clarks Summit, PA 18411
rdecker at
XNS Universal Address: =RodDecker
The *Resources for NT Study* site is accessible at:

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