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 something known as the "three planes of discourse." I summarize Porter's discussion below. The full treatment of aspect prominence can be found in the work referenced above. I will include the bibliographical data at the conclusion of this post.

1. The aorist is supposed to be 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. The present is the foreground tense (according to Porter). It is analogous to one shelf (rather than the whole bookshelf). A present tense verb evidently introduces significant characters within a narrative and makes "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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