Greenwood professor of hellenistic greek and indo-european philology in the victoria university of manchester tutor in new testament language and literature

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25. But is this natural, when the

coming of Titus with good news had produced a@nesij so complete? (See p. 288).

ab See p. 248.


(c. Apion. i. 21) has o]lituranni

before P." From the papyri we may cite two exx. (both from

ii/A.D.). OP 478, "I declare that my son . . . has reached


Hadrian . . . and that his father was (gegone

habitant . . . and is now dead (teteleuthke

diabebaioume gegonen pate


in which it is far from easy to trace the distinct perfect force

of ge

try. But aoristic sense is not really proved for any of the

45 NT passages in which ge

great majority it has obviously present time. Lk 1036 and

Jn 625 are unpromising for our thesis. But the first has the

vivid present of story-telling—"seems to have shown himself

neighbour." The second — inevitably translated "when

camest thou hither?"—is only another instance of the perfect

with point of time, dealt with already: it is the combination

of "when did you come?" and "how long have you been

here?" The aoristic use of ge

general in Mt: Blass only admits it in 256. Even this last

is more like a historic present. The remaining passages

mostly belong to the formula which tells us that the abiding

significance of an event lies in its having been anticipated in

prophecy. In general, it would appear that we can only

admit a case of the kind with the utmost caution. K.

Buresch, in his valuable article "GeRhM 1891,

pp. 193 ff.), noting an example of aoristic gego

Alcib. 12 4A,1 observes that this is never found in Greek that

is at all respectable. In later Greek, he proceeds, the use of


it denotes a state of rest, preterite force where it denotes

becoming. Hence in innumerable cases it is quite an

equivalent of ei]mi<, as with exstiti, factus or natus sum,

veni, etc." (p. 231 n.). It may be doubted however

whether this canon will adequately account for the exx.

from Josephus and the papyri with which we began.2

Since the earliest period of Greek, certain perfects pos-

1 But see p. 238. 2 Note geconstative: e]genoingressive.


sessed a present meaning, depending upon the mode of

action belonging to the root, and on that exhibited in the

Perfects with present. Thus the markedly conative present

Present Force. peifect pe

its ancient, perfect pe

early perfects—see below, p. 154), with meaning I trust.

Monro's account of the Perfect in its Homeric stage of

development may be quoted: "If we compare the meaning

of any Perfect with that of the corresponding Aorist or

Present, we shall usually find that the Perfect denotes a

permanent state, the Aor. or Pres. an action which brings

about or constitutes that state. Thus, . . . w@leto was lost,

o@lwle is undone. . . . Thus the so-called Perfecta praesentia,

. . . e!sthka, . . . me

etc., are merely the commonest instances of the rule. . . .

Verbs expressing sustained sounds . . . are usually in the

Perfect" (HG 31). This last remark explains ke

has survived in Hellenistic, as the LXX seems to show

decisively. W. F. Moulton (WM 342 n.) says, " In Jn 115

hath cried seems the more probable meaning," observing that

the pres. kra

in NT, a fact which probably weighed with him in making


so numerous and well distributed, must certainly count as

evidence for the vernacular here; and when we find ke

14 times, sometimes indisputably present, and never I think

even probably perfect--cf esp. Ps 141(140)1 pro>j se> e]ke

. . . pro

pro>j se< (Heb. yxir;qAB;); and Job 3020, where ke

the impf. fUawaxE--, it is difficult to suppose the word used

as a true perfect in NT. It has not however been "borrowed

from the literary language in place of the Hellenistic kra

(Blass 198). Kra

—cf Ps 32(31)3 a]po> tou? kran h[me


differentiated as expressing a single cry. In any case we

cannot treat the LXX as evidence for the literary character

of the survival. One may doubt the necessity of putting

h@lpika and pe

naturally belongs to it; and h!ghmai in Ac 262 (contr. Phil 37)

is one of the literary touches characteristic of the speech

before Agrippa: see Blass in loc. (See further p. 238.)

The Pluperfect The Pluperfect, which throws the Perfect

into past time, was never very robust in

Greek. It must not be regarded as a mere convenience

for expressing relative time, like the corresponding tense in

English. The conception of relative time never troubled

the Greeks; and the aorist, which simply states that the

event happened, is generally quite enough to describe what

we like to define more exactly as preceding the time of the

main verb. A typical case of a pluperfect easily misunder-

stood is Lk 829, which we referred to on p. 75 in connexion

with the concurrent ambiguity of polloi?j xro

(p. 113) in connexion with the perfectivising force of su

Since vernacular usage so clearly warrants our rendering the

former "for a long time," we are free to observe that to

render "oftentimes it had seized him" (RV text) involves a

decided abnormality. It would have to be classed as the

past of the "perfect of broken continuity" which we discussed

above (p. 144) on 2 Co 1125. But it must be admitted that

the extension of this to the pluperfect is complex, and if there

is a simple alternative we should take it; RVmg is essen-

tially right, though "held fast" would be better than "seized."

We need not examine further the use of this tense, which

may be interpreted easily from what has been said of Perfect

action. It should be noted that it appears sometimes in

conditional sentences where an aorist would have been pos-

sible: e.g. 1 Jn 219 memenh

the continuance of the contingent result to the time of speak-

ing. In Mt 127 e]gnw

present e@gnwka, in which the perfect form has the same

rationale as in oi#da; and in Jn 1911 e]do

pictured the original gift and not the presence of it with

Pilate at the moment.

The Future :— Last comes the Future. The nature of

Its Action. its action may be looked at first. This may

be examined in the history of its form. Its

1 On the periphrastic pluperfect, h#n dedomeTHE VERB: TENSES AND MODES OF ACTION. 149

close connexion with the sigmatic aorist act. and mid., and

the two aorists pass., is obvious. Except in the passive, in

fact, the future was mainly a specialised form of the aorist

subjunctive.1 As such it will naturally share the point action

of the aorist. We cannot however decisively rule out the

possibility that another formation may have contributed to

the Greek future, a formation which would be originally

linear in action. The Aryan (Indo-Iranian) and Letto-Slavonic

branches of the Indo-Germanic family have a future in -syo,

which however was very moderately developed in these con-

tiguous groups before they separated. Greek, geographically

contiguous with Aryan on the other side in prehistoric times,

may have possessed this future but the existing Greek future

can be very well explained without it, though it might be

safest to allow its probable presence. In any case there is no

question that the action of the Future is in usage mixed.

@Acw is either "I shall lead" or "I shall bring"—the former

durative, the latter effective. Thus in Mk 1428 proa

is probably "I shall go before you," while a@cwn (Ac 225) "to

bring," and a@cei (1 Th 414) "he will bring," refer to the end of

the action and not its progress. An ingressive future may

probably be seen in u[potagh28: the to

to show that the Parousia is thought of as initiating a new kind

of subordination of the Son to the Father, and not the per-

petuation of that which had been conspicuous in the whole of

the mediatorial aeon. The exposition of this mystery must

be taken up by the theologians. We pass on to note

another example of the ingressive future, to be found in

Jn 832. ]Eleuqerou?n, appears to be always punctiliar in

NT, but it is not necessarily so: cf Sophocles OT 706 to< g ]

ei]j e[auto>n pa?n e]leuqeroi? stokeeps his

lips wholly pure" (Jebb). (It is true Sir R. Jebb uses "set

free " in his note, but the durative force of his translation

seems more suitable.) It is therefore noteworthy that in v. 33

we have the paraphrase e]leu

(ingressive) point action of the future that precedes. Some-

times the possession of two future forms enabled the language

to differentiate these meanings. Thus e!cw was associated

1 See Giles, Manual2 446-8.


with e@xw, and meant "I shall possess"; sxhand so meant "I shall get."1 There is one possible ex.

in NT: in 1 Pet 418 fanei?tai may well be durative as in

Attic—note the durative s&

clause; while fanh30) has obviously point action.

See the classical evidence marshalled in Kuhner-Gerth i. 114 ff.,

170 ff.: add the note in Giles, Manual2 483 n. Since Hellen-

istic generally got rid of alternative forms--even sxh

entirely obsolete,2—this distinction will not be expected to

play any real part in NT Greek. Indeed even those futures

which by their formation were most intimately connected with

the aorist, such as fobhqh

durative fobh

which was attached to the tense as a whole: cf Heb 136,

where "be afraid" (durative) seems to be the meaning, rather

than "become afraid." This question settled, we next have

Shall and Will. to decide between shall and will as the

appropriate translation. The volitive future

involves action depending on the will of the speaker or of the

subject of the verb: in I will go, you shall go, it is the former;

in will you go? it is the latter. Side by side with this

there is the purely futuristic we shall go, they will go.

It is impossible to lay down rules for the rendering of the

Greek future—the case is almost as complicated as are the

rules for the use of shall and will in standard English.

Not only are the volitive and the futuristic often hard to

distinguish, but we have to reckon with an archaic use of

the auxiliaries which is traditional in Bible translation. For

instance, in such a passage as Mk 1324-27 we have shall

seven times where in modern English we should undeniably

use will.3 But in v.18 ("the same shall be saved") the

substitution of will is not at all certain, for the words may

be read as a promise (a volitive use), in which shall is

1 See Brugmann, Kurze vergl. Gramm. 568, for this as seen in kalw?j sxh

and kalw?j e!cei: also his Gr. Gram.3 480.

2 It occurs in OGIS 751 (ii/B.C.) a]sqenw?j [sxh<]sete--see note—and in the

archaising Lp P 41 (iv/A.D.) par[asx] hex suppl.

3 The use of shall when prophecy is dealing with future time is often par-

ticularly unfortunate. I have heard of an intelligent child who struggled under

perplexity for years because of the words "Thou shalt deny me thrice": it

could not therefore be Peter's fault, if Jesus commanded him! The child's

correct. Speaking generally, it may fairly be claimed that

unless volitive force is distinctly traceable from the context,

it would be better to translate by the futuristic form. The

modernising of our English NT in this respect would involve

the sacrifice of a very large number of shalls in the 3rd

person, for our idiom has changed in many dependent

clauses, in which neither shall nor will is any longer correct.

In Mk 1414, for example, we should certainly say, "Follow

him, and wherever he goes in. . . ." It is one of the points

in which modernising is possible without sacrificing dignity

—a sacrifice too palpable in some of the attempts to render

the NT into twentieth century English.

Moods of the What remains to be said about the

Future. Future will most appropriately come in when

we discuss categories such as Commands and

Prohibitions, Conditional Sentences, etc. It will suffice to

remark here that the moods of the Future have in Hellenistic

Greek receded mostly into their original non-existence, as

experiments that proved failures. The imperative and sub-

junctive never existed: a few lapsus calami like kauqh

or analogically formed aorist subjunctives like o@yhsqe, dw

(WH App2 179), will not be counted as efforts to supply the

gap. The optative, which only performed the function of orat.

obl. substitute for fut. indic., has disappeared entirely. The

infinitive, originally limited in the same way, except for the

construction with me1 has shrunk very considerably, though

not obsolete. With me

e@sesqai. The innumerable confusions in the papyri, where a

future form often is a mere blunder for an aorist, show that

the tense was already moribund for most practical purposes:

see Hatzidakis 190 ff. Finally the participle, the only modal

form which may claim prehistoric antiquity, retains a limited

though genuine function of its own. The volitive force (here

final or quasi-final) is the commonest, as Brugmann remarks,2

and the papyri keep up the classical use; but futuristic forms

are not wanting—cf 1 Co 1537, Heb 35, Ac 2022.
determinism is probably more widely shared than we think; and a modernised

version of many passages like Mk 1430—e.g. "you will be renouncing me three

times"—would relieve not a few half-conscious difficulties.

1 Goodwin MT § 75. 2 Gr. Gram.3 498.


Voice :— THE phenomena of Voice in Greek present

us with conditions which are not very easy

for the modern mind to grasp. Active we know, and Passive

we know, nor can we easily conceive a language in which

either is absent. But nothing is more certain than that the

parent language of our family possessed no Passive, but only

Active and Middle, the latter originally equal with the

former in prominence, though unrepresented now in any

language save by forms which have lost all distinction of

History of the meaning. What the prehistoric distinction

Middle. was, we can only guess. It is suggestive

that in the primitive type which is seen

in the Greek ti

tion (Ablaut) will account for -qe- as a weakening of -qh-,

and -mi as a weakening of -mai, if we posit an accent on the

root in one form and on the person-ending in the other.

Such an assumption obviously does not help with ti


of the variation, we have enough to suggest a tentative inter-

pretation of the facts. If such be the origin of the two forms,

we might assume a difference of emphasis as the starting-

point: in the active the action was stressed, in the middle

the agent. We may illustrate this by the different emphasis

we hear in the reading of the sentence in the Anglican liturgy

which reminds the penitent of the Divine forgiveness. One

reader says "He pardoneth," wishing to lay all stress on

the one Source of pardon, another "He pardoneth," the pardon

itself being the uppermost thought with him. We could easily

suppose the former represented by a]fi

by a]fi

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