Friday, June 01, 2012

More on the Greek Tense (Aorist)

For years, exegetes, pastors and Biblical translators "abused" the aorist tense by emphasizing the once-for-all-time understanding of the Greek tense. That was until Frank Stagg's groundbreaking article in JBL ("The Abused Aorist." Journal of Biblical Literature 91 (1972) 222-231.

Donald A. Carson highlights some of these abuses and briefly discusses the scholarship that resulted in a demythologization of the aorist. We now know that the AORISTOS generally delineates action as a whole and does not necessarily portray one act for-all-time over against the continuous action of the present tense, although the present tense (imperfective aspect) may at times depict continuous action (note how the aorist is also used in John 3:16 when the apostle stresses the Father's love manifested in sending His only-begotten Son for the sake of humanity).

Other factors such as context and lexis will also help us to discern the aspect or Aktionsart of a particular verb instead of loading a certain "tense" with a meaning such as the one discussed above.

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