Is ELEGEN(imperfect) used almost as aorist (EIPEN)?

Iver Larsen iver_larsen at
Fri Jan 3 12:05:50 EST 2003

> As I read through Mark, I noticed that ELEGEN is used a lot.
> When it introduces a parable, the imperfect aspect makes sense
> because what is said is a prolonged discourse. But when it
> introduces just a single or two utterances as in Mark 2:16, 2:24 and
> 2:27, I do not understand why it is used.
> Is there any reason why the imperfect ELEGEN is used in these
> cases?

There is probably no single answer for the use of the imperfective that will
cover all usages. Just a couple of thoughts:
For some reason Mark uses the imperfective of LEGW much more than Matthew
and Luke. Quite often, Mark will use the imperfective where the others use
the aorist (EIPAN/EIPEN), e.g. 2:24. This may be Semitic influence.

At other times, the imperfective may indicate that a speech by the same
person continues after an interruption.

Or it may indicate verbal plurality, that is, several people are saying the
same thing or one person is saying the same thing to several people or
several times.

Or maybe different people are joining in the conversation and each saying
their piece.

I would expect that the imperfective either indicates a continuation, a
repetition or something unfinished. It would be interesting, but time
consuming, to make a comprehensive study of this. For reliable results, one
should study texts by mother tongue speakers of Greek rather than texts
translated from another language or texts written by people who were not
native speakers of the language. So, I would start with Acts rather than
Mark if we are dealing with the NT. There are
12 instances of ELEGON/ELEGEN in Acts as compared to 50 in Mark, 12 in Matt,
23 in Luke and 48 in John. Of those in Acts, the majority seem to be
connected with verbal plurality.

Iver Larsen

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