Sunday, January 27, 2013

Porter's "Three Planes of Discourse"

Stanley Porter is famous for the work he's done on Greek aspect. His Idioms of the Greek New Testament outlines the "three planes of discourse." I summarize Porter's discussion below; the full treatment of aspect prominence can be found in Idioms. I include the relevant bibliographical information at the conclusion of this post.

1. The aorist is supposedly the background tense: it's analogous to a bookshelf since the aorist "forms the basis for discourse" or it structures narratives and sketches background events.

2. Porter reckons that the present is the foreground tense. It is analogous to one shelf rather than the whole bookshelf. Present tense verbs evidently introduce significant characters within narratival material and they make "appropriate climactic references" to particular circumstances.

3. Finally, the perfect is the frontground tense. It's comparable to a book. This tense introduces elements of a narrative in "an even more discrete, defined, contoured and complex way." See how the perfect functions in Matthew 4:2 (epeinasen).

Robertson thinks that the aorist verb in Matthew 4:2 functions ingressively.

Stanley Porter. Idioms of the Greek New Testament (Sheffield: JSOT, 1992), 23ff.

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