[B-Greek] Aorist as Verbal Aspect

Randall Buth randallbuth at gmail.com
Sun May 11 05:06:22 EDT 2008

mitch hrwthse
>I am reading a book by Dr. Campbell (Verbal Aspect,
the Indicative Mood, and Narrative). It seems to me
that I'm just not able to follow a certain line of
reason. I've read it before in McKay (and Porter who
expands on McKay's ideas).

How can it be argued that Aspect is a subjective (how
the writer chooses to portray the event) portrayal of
an event, not how an event ACTUALLY occurs/occurred,
and then not expect to see a much higher number of
Aorists being used in Present and Future situations?

In other words, why doesn't a Greek writer hardly ever
want to portray a current event from an external
viewpoint? If it is indeed a subjective means of
portraying an event by a writer, who surely portrays
events for literary effect at times, why do we not see
far more Aorists used in present circumstances?

The more I think about it, it would seem to me that we
ought to see the Aorist as often as we see any other
tense for present events. Why do writers almost always
want to present Present events from an internal
perspective? It almost sounds as if it is not a
subjective choice based on the percent of Aorists used
for present events.
Mitch Larramore>

Good observation, Mitch.
though I don't know the book.

It might be that the English authors you are reading are
wrong,  if they are teaching you that there is no time
component in the aorist indicative. The aorist indicative
does contain the 'whole' aspect, but it also contains a
'past' component. Ancient and modern Greek authors
agree on this.

As we said on this list a few years back, the following is
not said in Greek, (classical, koine, Byzantine, modern):
*tomorrow he came (?)[sic]

Theorists with a "timeless" Greek verb system have
extrapolated from examples in omnitemporal contexts,
and have also ignored the 'aoristic' aspect of the historical
present, not to mention the most reasonable explanation of
the AYKSHSIS (past-augment). I call this approach
"aspect-only". We find it in biblical Hebrew studies, too,
where it is equally wrong.

I would challenge such people to start using their
"language" because I think that sooner or later it will dawn
on them that they are generating lots of structures that
don't occur. Something like your observation above:
If they could, why didn't they?
What was restraining them, if it wasn't some sense of
TIME? And after letting time constrain them for a few
thousand times, TO FWS LAMPSEI.
And students you like can proceed with acquiring
Greek. You will find that Greek has a wonderfully
wide aspect system, but it has some time, too, in
the indicative verbs.

Randall Buth

Randall Buth, PhD
randallbuth at gmail.com
Biblical Language Center
Learn Easier - Progress Further - Remember for Life

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