[B-Greek] Present Imperative

John Sanders john.franklin.sanders at gmail.com
Tue Jan 5 01:11:44 EST 2010

I apologize for not responding earlier, but conditions did not permit me to
do so.  I observe that no one has responded to your request, at least
publicly.  I would like to do so.

You write “present imperative denotes continual action....”

Assuming this to be accurate and assuming that the aorist imperative denotes
the lack of continual action, then I think one can claim that all
imperatives will fall into one of two categories: those that will be
continually done and those that will not be continually done.

But there are several instances where this proposition is violated.  Let me
give two examples, one from the NT and the other made up.

Luke, in citing the Lord’s prayer uses the present imperative:


Whereas Mathew uses the arorist imperative:


Let me now present a made up scenario:  suppose you are a teenager in rural
America and your father has made plans for your weekend to include digging
50 to 100 post holes for a new fence.  You are now leaning up against a
shovel, prepping yourself for the task ahead.  Your father comes backs and
looks at the spot where he had expected to see a hole but instead sees
undisturbed dirt.  He orders:  ORUCON (dig).  Or perhaps you father comes
back and sees you leaning upon the shovel whereas he expected to see the
shovel in some form of rhythmic motion.  He orders:  ORUSSE (get digging).

The same situation can be represented in either voice.

Actually, any command given in the aorist imperative can be reworked to be
in the present imperative.  The reverse is not quite so.  The aorist voice
requires that the end result be known because the aorist imperative views
the doing along with the end result as a unit.  The present imperative only
views the doing of the command, not with the end result in mind.  So if a
command is given in a general way, without any specifics as to the end
result (help the poor, build up the country, support the troops, free the
peasants, etc., where there is no specification given as to what constitutes
helping the poor, or what builds up the country, or what will support the
troops, or what frees the peasants, etc.), then the present imperative will
need to be given.

In general, one can say that the aorist imperative and the present
imperative are alternate ways of giving a command.

On Wed, Dec 23, 2009 at 12:14 PM, Mark Spitsbergen <awakesd at mac.com> wrote:

> > I could use some help on the present imperative. First year Greek
> > taught us that thee present imperative denotes continual action and
> > thus something that is continuously happening. Therefore, the
> > present imperative in Ephesians 5:18 for example PLHROUSQE, would
> > mean to "be continually filled."  I started sorting through the 1013
> > occurrences in the New Testament of the present imperative verbs and
> > in some cases it is is not very clear if a continual action would
> > make sense. In some cases like Matthew 6:1 and 6:9 the idea of
> > "continually pay attention" or "continually pray" does makes sense.
> > Yet, in other instances such as Matthew 3:2 it is a little harder to
> > make the continual process of the present imperative fit-
> > "continually repent." Are there instances then that one should not
> > regard the present imperative as an on-going action with no
> > assessment of completion?  Or am I simply over extending the meaning
> > of the present imperative? K.S. Wuest says of Ephesians 5:18-  The
> > verb is in the present imperative; “Be constantly being filled with
> > the Spirit.” (Wuest's word studies from the Greek New Testament).
> Thanks and Merry Christmas,
> MArk Spitsbergen
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John Sanders
Suzhou, China

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