Aorist vs Present

Warren Fulton warren at
Tue Sep 11 12:17:48 EDT 2001

Mark Wilson wrote:

> In Romans 12:1, we have the Aorist PARASTHSAI...
> Elsewhere in Romans, the Present tense is used, as in:

Yes, and in the next breath, Paul goes right back to the aorist use of
the same verb, PARISTHMI.


These two imperatives side-by-side in 6:13 offer a convenient contrast
to highlight the question you were asking:

> My question is trying to zero in on the Aspect of the Present tense
> compared to the Aspect of the Aorist with this verb in particular, since
> they both are being used in the same letter.

You have already received a number of answers explaining the aspectual
coloring of PARISTHMI in its various contexts in Romans. I just wanted
to add that we might also want to look at the wide-ranging semantics
of this verb. It is used repeatedly in chapter 6, in connection with
slaves, weapons, and body members. What I'm curious about is if the
aspect aligns itself with any of the verb's typical collocations.

Besides the general sense of "putting at s.o.'s disposal," BAGD lists
PARISTANAI QUSIAN as "a technical term in the language of sacrifice."
Romans 12:1 is cited under this special usage. By its nature, an act
of sacrifice is a one-time, once-and-for-all, non-retractable und
unrepeatable gift. As Kimmo Huovila pointed out, "the emphasis is more
on the completeness of the offering."

On the other hand, putting oneself at the disposal of sin, or
"yielding" to it in the wording of the RSV, seems to refer to an
habitual state of submission, an idea that the NASB tries to bring out
with "go on presenting the members of your body to sin." Of course,
there is no image more apt for a continuous state of submission than

> I am somewhat skeptical of the gloss "keep on..." for the Present Aspect,
> especially because I would certainly think that we ought to "keep on
> presenting our bodies a living sacrifice."

Certainly, but with this word picture Paul is conjuring up the
sacrifical act at the altar with all its uniqueness and fullness of
commitment. I think, too, that in the second half of Romans 6:13, he
evokes the same picture, thus accounting for the switch to aorist. The
picture is brought into focus by hWSEI EK NEKRWN ZWNTAS, a motif from
the previous discussion in 6:1-11 on the new life from the sacrifical
death of Christ. This altar image, once established, persists all the
way down to the second use of PARASTHSATE in 6:19. Throughout the
chapter, it is set against the contrasting image of slavery.

Paul may even have had the same sacrificial imagry in mind with
EUCARISTIAN ANTAPODOUNAI in 1 Thess 3:9, another one-time offering to
God, this time of thanks. It may be significant that three of these
aorists we've been talking about (Rom 12:1, 6:13b, 1 Thess 3:9) are
used with TWi QEWi as recipient of the giving. In Rom 6:19 it's a
personified THi DIKAIOSUNHi. Perhaps it is the divine addressee that
shades the verb with this technical sense of sacrifice and shifts it
into aorist. Note, too, the repetition of TWi QEWi in 6:13b.

Warren Fulton
Inlingua School of Languages
Vienna, Austria

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