[B-Greek] Once For All Time - Luke 18:9-14

Mark Lightman lightmanmark at yahoo.com
Fri Jul 10 19:22:46 EDT 2009

I think I understood Richard’s question
the first time he asked it.  I sent him a reply
which was off-list because (1) I had nothing
new to say about the Greek and (2) I wanted 
to express my own theological opinion on the verse. 
I am reprinting my reply below with all the theology
taken out, and then I will add a few comments as a postscript. 
<Hi Richard,
I'm replying off-list because I really don't have much to add and
because I may venture off a bit into off-list subjects.  Your question is
good and I hope we hear from folks who really have something new to
say about aspect.  My own theological understanding of this verse is that
[THEOLOGY DELETED] and I feel very strongly that anyone who
believes that [THEOLOGY DELETED] is way off base and really needs to
[THEOLOGY DELETED]   I would just say that I think the commentator that
you quote is pretty much on target with what he says.  The aorist 
imperative does not necessarily rule out on going or repeated action,
but in using the aorist, Luke certainly is not EMPHASIZING a
request for repeated mercy.  I think you can decide on theological
grounds that we only need to ask for mercy one time, and there is
nothing in this text that contradicts that.  Anyone who has read any
Calvin or who has been to a [THEOLOGY DELETED] readily understands
how important it is to [THEOLΟGY DELETED.]  Same with the perfect
DEDIKAIAWMENOS.  While Carl is correct that you can find many
examples of perfect passive participles where it's not necessarily
being stated that the action persists, here on theological grounds
you can believe that once you are made righteous you stay that
way, and nothing in this text disproves that.  I think it is George S
who warns us that we have to be careful of establishing
a "theology of tenses."  Personally, I would argue strongly that
[THEOLOGY DELETED] and furthermore would insist that
[THEOLOGY DELETED.]  But once we have the theology, there is
no reason that tenses as traditionally understood can not be
brought in to support this.
As far as asking for forgiveness more than once, I happen to believe
that [THEOLOGY DELETED] and concerning speaking in tongues, since
my response is off list, let me just add that [THEOLOGY DELETED] and
if anyone disagrees with me they can go [THEOLOGY DELETED. 
theological story, and I am sticking to it.   But there is something a
 little creepy about using the Greek tenses to make this point.
But again, your question is good.  I think the traditional view
of the tenses support what you quote here.  I look forward to
hearing from others.

I don’t think Richard meant to challenge anyone.  
His question is sincere because I have the same question.   Per
what I wrote above, I think in this case the aorist hILASQHTI
more or less does indicate a one time request, and the perfect
DEDIKAIAWMENOS does indicate that the effects of the action persist.
This is the traditional way to understand aspect.  Richard is
asking if anyone who has a different view of aspect would
say anything different about this passage. I honestly don’t
know the answer to that, and I await a reply, not trying
to prove or disprove anything about aspect.  Maybe I
shouldn't’t speak for Richard, but only for me.  I happen to
think that aspect, as say Machen teaches it, does help us 
understand these verses, but would love to hear from anyone who
has a different take.  Or not.

Mark L



--- On Fri, 7/10/09, Carl Conrad <cwconrad2 at mac.com> wrote:

From: Carl Conrad <cwconrad2 at mac.com>
Subject: Re: [B-Greek] Once For All Time - Luke 18:9-14
To: "Richard Ghilardi" <qodeshlayhvh at juno.com>
Cc: b-greek at lists.ibiblio.org
Date: Friday, July 10, 2009, 6:43 AM

On Jul 9, 2009, at 5:54 PM, Richard Ghilardi wrote:

> Hello Folks,
> Carl Conrad wrote:
>> (1) hILASQHTI. It's true that more recent aspect theory (and I think
>> this applies to all flavors, whether "vanilla" or "plain brown
>> wrapper"or Porter or Fanning or Campbell) looks with disfavor on the
>> notion that the aorist indicates a "once for all time" act. In fact,
>> however, we need only consider such standard aorist imperatives as
>> EIPE MOI or ASPASASQE AUTHN to discern actions that are to be
>> accomplished in a particular instance.
> RG: Fine. I agree.
> CC: > (2) DEDIKAIWMENOS. I've expressed my opinion previously that the
>> Koine
>> aorist and perfect tenses are in process of assimilation; I'm not
>> convinced that DEDIKAIWMENOS carries a meaning differing
>> substantially
>> from that of DIKAIWQEIS. Perhaps Richard's friend thinks similarly,
>> since he speaks of the perfect participle implying "a once for all
>> time justification." But we can readily find instances of the
>> perfect
>> wherein completion is clearly implicit but there's no indication of
>> the permanence of the action completed: Mk 3:1 tells of
>> an?????p?? ????aµµ???? ???? t??
>> state of the man's hand, but subsequent verses tell of the
>> restoration
>> of the man's hand (3:5 ???e? t? ?????p?·
>> ??te???? t?? ?e??a. ?a? ???te??e?
>> ?a? ?pe?atest??? ? ?e?? a?t??. LEGEI
>> CEIR AUTOU]. (We may note in this verse also that the command to
>> hold
>> out the hand hardly implies that the hand should be held out
>> forever.
> RG: Agreed. (But I implicitly agreed with all of the above in my  
> original
> post. cf. below)
> Evidently I stated my question so unclearly that the only answers I  
> got
> were non-responsive. So let me try it this way.
> 1) Repeat my question.
> 2) Elaborate a bit.
> 3) Rephrase my question.
> 1) Repeat my question.
> If the author's claims about the aorist and
> perfect cannot be substantiated, what CAN we claim about these two
> verbal forms that will help us understand what Jesus is teaching in  
> this
> parable?
> 2) Elaborate.
> My author (he/she shall remain nameless) made explicit certain  
> meanings
> of the aorist of hILASKOMAI and the perfect of DIKAIW that he/she
> BELIEVES are implicit in the Gospel writer's use of those tenses for
> these verbs in this context. We are now all (or mostly) ageed that the
> implications he/she drew from the use of those specific tenses are  
> wrong
> (probably) based on a newer and presumably better theory of verbal
> aspect. So I should think it would be possible to draw new and  
> different
> implications from Luke's use of aor. hILASTQHTI and perf.  
> so as to form a partly new basis for exegesis. My author used English
> paraphrase to draw out the implicit meaning of the aorist and  
> perfect. It
> should be possible to do the same under the newer verbal aspect  
> theory.
> 3) Rephrasing the Question.
> What are the NEW and DIFFERENT implications of Luke's use of aorist  
> and
> perfect tenses for the verbs in question in this text? How do they  
> alter
> the exegesis? Can they be put into English paraphrase just as my  
> author
> has done?
> I trust I have stated my questions more clearly now.

Well, yes, after a fashion. It's almost as if you've said, "I'm going  
to tell you a shaggy dog story, as follows ... " -- and then, after  
you've finally finished telling it, you say, "But my question doesn't  
co;ncern the shaggy dog story, really. What I want to know is, if you  
ignore the shaggy dog story, what do you by calling it a shaggy dog  
story?" Almost, but, of course, not really.

You say, "We are now (or mostly) agreed that the implications he/she  
drew from the use of those specific tenses are wrong (probably) based  
on a newer and presumably better theory of verbal aspect." That is to  
say, you hem and haw and hint in such a way as to challenge the rest  
of us to demonstrate that the tense-aspect usage here does NOT mean  
what your exemplary commentator claims, as if to suggest, maybe that's  
the way it ought to be understood after all. I'm not sure that a  
challenge of that sort can be answered to your satisfaction.

I don't think that there' are especially NEW and DIFFERENT  
implications of the tense-aspect usage of the verbs in question that  
weren't there all along. It is not as if our understanding of this  
parable hinges upon the tense-aspect of these two verbs. We're dealing  
with a parable portraying contrasting attitudes or spiritual  
commitments of "Pharisee" and "Publican," figures which are almost  
caricatures in Luke's gospel for the self-righteous practitioner of  
ostentatious piety and for one who displays authentic self-abasing  
penitence. The parable exaggerates and caricatures the two stances/ 
attitudes and comments on them. The tax-collector asks for God's mercy  
because he is repentant; Jesus pronounces a judgment upon the tax- 
collector' and his prayer: it is the prayer of a man whose worship is  
not tainted by hypocrisy and self-exaltation who asks for God's mercy  
in this moment (hILASQHTI): he is a man of demonstrated righteousness  
or a man who has demonstrated his righteousness (DEDIKAIWMENOS). We  
are commended to be like the tax-collector and not like the Pharisee.  
I don't think that an appreciation of Paul's exposition of Romans 3 is  
required for the proper understanding of this parable.

Carl W. Conrad
Department of Classics, Washington University (Retired)

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