Discourse function of Imperfective Tense (Mark: 1:4-8)

Iver Larsen iver_larsen at sil.org
Wed Jan 1 04:02:42 EST 2003


After having considered the topic a bit more, let me add a couple of points
to my own post:

> Your example from
> > Matthew 14:2-3 KAI *EIPEN* TOIS PAISIN AUTOU, hOUTOS ESTIN IWANNHS hO
> > BAPTISTHS. AUTOS HGERQH APO TWN NEKRWN KAI DIA TOUTO hAI DUNAMEIS
> > ENERGOUSIN
> > EN AUTWi. hO GAR hHRWiDHS KRATHSAS TON IWANNHN **EDHSEN** [AUTON] KAI EN
> > FULAKHi **APEQETO** DIA hHRWiDIADA THN GUNAIKA FILIPPOU TOU
> ADELFOU AUTOU
> > [Herod] *said* ktl.   For he **had** bound John and imprisoned him.
>
> is a flashback where English requires a pluperfect tense. Does
> Greek always
> use aorist to indicate flashbacks? Or maybe I should rather ask: Are
> flashbacks never overtly marked in the tense system, but indicated by GAR
> and context?
> I would be interested in more detail about how Greek indicates flashback.
> Flashbacks are also off the story-line.

Although I have not had time to do a comprehensive discourse study of
flashback in Greek, I did make a quick search of the use of pluperfect tense
in relative clauses in the GNT to see if such a construction indicates
flashback. This form is used to describe a person or thing prior to the
current time reference in the story, but it was interesting to me that it
was only used in Luke and Acts (plus once in the added ending in Mark 16:9).
This makes me wonder whether Biblical Greek is different from secular Greek
in this respect.
>
> You have also noted that the Greek tenses used in relative clauses are
> different from English. Yes, this is a very important aspect to
> be aware of.
> Verbs in relative clauses are never on the story-line, so different rules
> apply.

This last statement is an overstatement. Whereas I think it is generally
true for most languages, it is not always true for Greek because of the two
different types of relative clauses in Greek. For the ordinary descriptive
relative clause I still think the statement holds, but it does not hold for
the continuative relative clause (which I would prefer to call topical
relative clause.) If anyone wants an example of such a relative clause, the
first one I could quickly find was in Mat 13:48.

Iver Larsen




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