Aorist vs. present infinitive in Matt 5:32

Jeff Smelser jeffsmelser at
Fri Oct 18 19:50:50 EDT 2002

Dale Noonan wrote:

> In Matt 5:32, what are the implications of the choice of an aorist
> infinitive MOICEUQHNAI in this construction, as compared with the choice
> of a present infinitive (MOICEUESQAI)?  What, if anything, can be learned
from the
> fact that the writer did not stay with the present (gnomic?) tense used in
> prior verb, POIHi, but chose the aorist MOICEUQHNAI instead?
> Similar combinations with POIEW + acc. + infinitive use the present tense,
> such as in hINA PUR POIHi KATABAINEIN in Rev 13:13, and also Mark 7:37.
> Thanks for any comments,
> Dale Noonan
> Southern California

Before commenting on your specific question, let me say a bit about what I
think the passage is saying.

MOICEUW is sometimes used with a transitive sense where a man adulterates a
woman, and thus a woman is adulterated by a man. In this passage, we have
POIEI AUTHN MOICEUQHNAI - the man ~causes~ her to be adulterated. He does
not himself adulterate her, but causes her to be adulterated by another. He
gives her a writing of divorcement by which he intends to enable her to
marry another. For the purpose of the writing of divorcement, see Josephus:

                He who desires to be divorced from the wife who
                is living with him for whatsoever cause - and with
                mortals many such may arise - must certify in writing
                that he will have no further intercourse with her; for
                thus will the woman obtain the right to consort with
                another....  (Antiquities 4.253.)

Why give her a writing of divorcement? "For thus will the woman obtain the
right to consort with another..."

But Jesus repudiates the efficacy of the writing of divorcement and says
that rather than enable her to remarry, the husband causes her to be
adulterated. She is adulterated by the next man who takes her, but the
husband is the one who put her in the position of being adulterated by
sending her out with a document that claimed she was available.

Now, as to the aorist infinitive rather than a present infinitive, I think
it's simply a function of the idea that the woman becomes defiled by a
simple act. She is adulterated by the second man when he marries and has
intercourse with her.

Jeff Smelser
jeffsmelser at

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