[B-Greek] Mark 6:41

Iver Larsen iver at larsen.dk
Sat Jun 10 05:12:20 EDT 2006

Webb wrote:

> However, the imperfect does indeed say more than that it just happened. It
> suggests some kind of extension in time. Whether that be by repetition, by
> getting started ("inception"), by the notion that something went on "for a
> while", in any case the idea of extension does come in.
> My rendering of Mark 6:41 takes care to convey the force of the imperfect:
> And he broke up the loaves, and was giving them to his followers, so they
> could serve the people.

The imperfect tense has the imperfective aspect which is much broader than continuous aspect. I agree with Webb that 
this aspect can in general cover repetition, continuity, extended period as well as other things like marking background 
It can also cover a distributive event in what is sometimes called "verbal plurality". Verbal plurality describes when 
one person does the same act either repeatedly or with different recipients, or it can be several people doing the same 
act together or simultaneously. Some languages have different affixes to indicate this types of aspects, but Greek and 
English do not. However, Greek has a wider use of the imperfective aspect than English. In this case, I think there is 
focus on the distribution to the disciples, namely that Jesus handed out the broken pieces of bread to his 12 disciples 
one by one as they stood around him. The details of the multiplication miracle are not explained.

Concerning how to translate it, you can say "he was giving them", but that is not what is normally called translation. 
It is an attempt to represent the Greek grammar in Greekish English.

There are various options for translation. Most English versions use a simple past "he gave them". In this case the 
distribution is implicit in the fact that we know there were 12 disciples, so it is understood that he gave them one 
after another.
Other English versions try to indicate the aspect as the NLT "he kept giving the bread". IMO, that is not the best 
Another possibility is to chose a word that has an inherent distributive quality. CEV has "he handed it to his 
disciples". I might suggest: "he distributed them to his disciples" or "he handed them to the disciples one after 

When it comes to distributing the two fish, the aorist is used which indicates that there is no longer focus on the 
distributive aspect although it is the same kind of action.

Iver Larsen 

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