Wednesday, November 06, 2013

"Storing Up Earthly Treasures" and Greek Aspect

“Stop storing up for yourselves treasures on the earth, where moth and rust consume and where thieves break in and steal. Rather, store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes, and where thieves do not break in and steal" (Matthew 6:19-20 Revised NWT).

A friend once asked me if this verse describes a punctiliar event or a durative (ongoing) one. Should Jesus' followers "store up treasures in heaven" once or do it continually?

My answer: θησαυρίζετε is present imperative active 2nd person plural.

Our current knowledge of aspect and Aktionsart leads me to believe that context (or cotext) must determine whether Jesus' words should be understood as denoting continuous action--durative or progressive--over against believing that he had in mind singular or punctiliar action.

It seems likely that Jesus meant the Christian activity of storing up treasures is an ongoing process and not a one-time event. Not only does the present "tense" suggest this understanding, but verses such as Mt 6:33-34 buttress this view.

In conclusion, relational markers in the text must elucidate a speaker's intended meaning along with the morphological forms of Greek verbs.

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