What ARE the clues for sequence in BH?

peter_kirk at sil.org peter_kirk at sil.org
Mon Dec 27 16:50:40 EST 1999

Yes, I did say more or less what you remember, but perhaps I need to 
qualify it. The aorist participle after the verb can indicate a prior 
event, as in:

1) John 20:20: echaresan hoi mathetai idontes ton kurion
2) Hebrews 2:3: pws hemeis ekfeuxometha telikautes amelesantes 

On the other hand it can also indicate a following event, as in:

3) Acts 8:27: hos eleluthei proskuneswn eis Ierousalem.

(Examples selected from J.A. Brooks and C.L. Winbery "Syntax of New 
Testament Greek", University Press of America 1979/1988 pp.147-8)

Brooks and Winbery classify 1) as a causal use of the participle, 2) 
as conditional, and 3) as telic. All of their examples of (purely) 
temporal use of the participle have the participle before the main 

So it is clear that in NT Greek the order of events is rigidly 
determined neither by the participle and main verb relationship nor by 
the word order. I think the order cannot be determined by syntax or 
morphology, or even the two working together, but has to be 
determined, if at all, from the context.

In Russian it seems the situation is similar. The perfecive gerund 
(which corresponds to the Greek adverbial aorist participle) 
"describes an action which is completed prior to the action denoted by 
the main verb... may also denote a state resulting from the completion 
of an action" (T. Wade, "A Comprehensive Russian Grammar", Blackwells 
1992 p.389). For this, the only example Wade gives with the gerund 
after the main verb is:

4) On sidel, vyt'anuv nogi
   He sat, stretching out (=having stretched out) his legs

Note that the English "having stretched out" implies prior action even 
when after the main verb.

But Wade later notes (p.391) that "occasionally the action denoted by 
the verb in the main clause precedes that denoted by the gerund... 
This construction should not, however, be regarded as the norm." His 

5) On vyshel, khlopnuv dveryu
   He went out, slamming the door

I am not sure if this helps with Hebrew or not. I still suspect that 
we have something similar to the Russian: wayyiqtols are normally, 
prototypically sequential, but occasionally may be out of sequence.

Peter Kirk

______________________________ Reply Separator _________________________________
Subject: Re[3]: What ARE the clues for sequence in BH?
Author:  <JoeFriberg at email.msn.com> at Internet
Date:    26/12/1999 16:45


Note: on the Gk aor. ptcs., I believe Peter later indicated that the order 
did not matter: either preceding or following main V, the ptc indicated 
action prior to the main V.  (I cannot find that this latter email right 
now, so I may be remembering wrong.)

Nevertheless, in the case of the Gk aor. ptc., I am convinced it must 
precede the main V to indicate prior action.  I came across two nice 
contrastive exs. in the same passage this last week:
Lk 2.17 IDONTES DE EGNWRISAN 'After they witnessed this sight, they spread 
the word'
Lk 2.16 KAI HLQAN SPEUSANTES --where the aor. ptc. characterizes the main 
action in an adverbial manner: 'So they hurried off'
I know of no exceptions to this contrast, neither a case in which an aor. 
ptc. preceding the main V does NOT imply preceding/preparatory action to the 
main V, nor of a case in which an aor. ptc. following the main V DOES 
indicate prior action, although I would not be too terribly surprised to 
find an exception to the latter.

Hence, it appears that it is the syntax working with the morphology that 
provides the sequential meaning: aor. ptc. *preceding* main V.


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