Tuesday, November 11, 2008

On Conjugating Greek Verbs and Assessing their Aspects

I have asked one of my doctoral students, Brad Johnson to give a good concise review of a new title provided by Zondervan on the issue of some of the aspects of how verbs work in Greek, and how they differ from the way verbs work in English. The review, offered below, speaks for itself.

The thing most often mishandled in the translation of Greek into English is the proper way to deal with Greek verbs. Greek verbs tend to give us a sense of what the Germans call Aktionsart--- that is, a kind of action (complete, incomplete, in progress, finished etc.) rather than primarily giving us a sense of the timing of an action. For example, an action can be past in its inception but still ongoing now (often expressed by an imperfect tense verb). An action can begin in the present and continue on into the future (which can be expressed either in a present or an imperfect tense verb). An action can be punctiliar, completed in a moment in the past or the present or even the future (e.g. the aorist does not always refer to something in the past). And even when one is referring to a future action, one must ask, is it punctiliar or progressive, and more importantly how do the forms of the Greek verbs help us to make such distinctions? It is thus always useful to have more and better tools to help us with Greek verbs. See what you think of Brad's review.

BW3


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Constantine R. Campbell, Basics of Verbal Aspect in Biblical Greek (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2008)

I arrived at my office one day last week to discover a "hot off the press" copy of Constantine Campbell’s Basics of Verbal Aspect in Biblical Greek, graciously provided to me by Dr. Ben with a request that I draft a short review of the work. As a biblical languages teaching fellow at Asbury seminary, I often have the opportunity to see such new releases. This one in particular struck my attention because of its treatment of verbal aspect: an ongoing conundrum for Greek grammarians. With great enthusiasm I quickly began skimming through its pages at the expense of pressing matters already piling up on my desk. The concept of verbal aspect continues to be a daunting matter from an instructional standpoint, so it was with anticipation that I engaged the work.
A slim volume of 133 pages (excluding the glossary of terms, a Scripture Index, and answers to exercises), the text immediately evinces itself as a member of the larger Zondervan family of Greek resources, the flagship of which is William Mounce’s Basics of Biblical Greek. Zondervan has developed a veritable armada around this very standard introductory Greek grammar, and the title of Campbell’s volume -- along with its cover artwork -- clearly place it in the family portrait.
The text is broadly arranged around two primary parts: the first dealing with verbal aspect theory, and the second with verbal aspect in the New Testament text. The chapters are short (five in each larger division), the prose is conversational without being either patronizing or obtuse, and the pages are replete with copious examples and visual illustrations. The book begins with an initial overview of traditional understandings of verbal aspect, then segues into a short history of the treatment of verbal aspect, highlighting recent contributions to the field of study. From there, the text dives into a discussion of aspect in the various tenses, moods, and alternate constructions (i.e., participles and infinitives). Much of the second part of the book involves practical applications of the skills and concepts developed in the earlier part.
In assessing the book, three primary descriptors come to mind. First, the book is helpful in terms of painting in broad strokes a picture of the landscape of the issue. Campbell's treatment of the constituent elements of verbal forms and meanings in Greek is a useful introduction to the discussion. Moreover, his explanation of aspect as consisting of a variety of elements (both pragmatic and semantic in variety) offers the reader a useful guide to engaging the concept. In an effort to demystify verbal aspect, Campbell is bold in critiquing previous attempts, innovating at times his own conceptual formulations and terminologies to buttress his presentation. It is in this innovating that I come to my next descriptor
Whereas the book certainly is helpful in some regards, it also has a tendency to be confusing. Campbell's approach deviates in a significant way from that of Mounce and Daniel Wallace (Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics, the syntactical counterpart to Mounce’s grammatical text) in terms of understanding and treating verbal aspect. The traditional approach to verbal aspect as taken by the likes of Mounce and Wallace has been to understand it as occurring in one of three varieties: progressive, summary, and resultative (or, in more traditional terminology, imperfective, aoristic, and perfective respectively). Campbell opts instead for a dual understanding of aspect that virtually eliminates traditional understandings of summary/aoristic aspect. The break from the Mounce/Wallace model can be clearly seen by a conspicuous absence of footnotes referencing either of them. In fact, only two footnotes are attributed to either, and both of those are to Wallace. (Mounce’s description of the text as “an excellent place to start investigating this important issue" perhaps reveals an underlying hesitation to fully embrace it.)
Confusion grows as one encounters curious statements that Campbell makes consistently throughout, only a few of which will be addressed here. Consider, for example, "The present tense-form is universally regarded as being imperfective in aspect” (40). This is a fundamentally different perspective than is found in Basics of Biblical Greek, where Mounce says, “The present tense indicates either a continuous or undefined action. You can translate either ‘I am studying’ or ‘I study.’ Choose the aspect which best fits the context" (BBG, 135). To make his point concerning the imperfective nature of the present tense, Campbell cites an example from Mark 4:14-20 where not only are the verbal examples in Greek clearly to be understood aoristically, but he also translates them for the reader using aoristic aspect. Further, he repeatedly cites various forms of the verb oida to indicate how traditional renderings of perfective aspect fail to work. The confusion comes in the fact that the forms he uses as representing the perfect tense are not perfect tense forms: oida, although it bears minor resemblance to perfect tense formation, is a present tense form. In addition, many of the examples he uses of the perfect tense--errors regarding oida notwithstanding--actually disprove his premise (see his treatment on p. 48 of the verb dedwken as it occurs in John 7:22). And finally, Campbell's attempt to assign semantic value to verbs with respect to transitivity is a hazardous enterprise. On the one hand, he states that "If a lexeme is not transitive, it must be intransitive" (56). At the bottom of the same page, he then reverses himself by saying "there are certain lexemes that can be either transitive or intransitive." He then takes a more centrist and tenable position where he states, "for the sake of specific analysis in the following chapters, [some] lexemes will be described as either transitive or intransitive depending on whether or not they act upon an object in specific contexts" (58-59).
A third descriptor that characterizes his work is misleading. Although I very much appreciate Campbell's attempt to demystify the entire verbal aspect conundrum, his approach has a tendency to be mechanical and programmatic. The exercises he offers the reader indicate his propensity to seek “right” answers. In his introduction, he states that his aim is in fact "to get verbal aspect right" (16). This is indeed an ambitious position, and one that may deceive a student of the Greek New Testament into thinking that there are in reality "right answers" that can be attained simply by means of the "right methodology". One of the real disappointments of his book is his lack of consideration of matters of genre, especially as genre relates to and informs one's understanding of verbal aspect. Specifically, should one's understanding of, for example, imperfective aspect in narrative material be treated in the same standardized way as imperfective aspect in epistolary discourse?
When distilled down to its essence, Basics of Verbal Aspect in Biblical Greek is a less-than substantial work. White space between chapters, diagrams, New Testament examples in both Greek and English, and in-text exercises consume an enormous portion of this already very slight work. When also considering the fact that much of the second part of the book is a restatement (at times verbatim) of the material from the first part, one begins to realize that the work is little more than an introduction to the concept, and perhaps not an entirely helpful one at that. Although Campbell's performance certainly has some memorable moments, it in large measure disappoints when considered alongside the enormous contributions of its siblings; and for that reason, this is not a text I will recommend for use by my students.

Brad Johnson

21 comments:

Dr. Rod Decker said...

I'd suggest that there are serious problems here. Campbell's proposals may not be perfect (I have at least one major disagreement with his aspect system), but there are more problems with this review than with the book under consideration. I won't note them all, but some of the issues are as follows.

1. Campbell's views are misrepresented at several points. E.g., he does not "virtually eliminate traditioanl understandings of summary/aoristic aspect"---unless by that one means that he rejects punctiliar *Aktionsart* as an aspect category. His definition of perfective aspect (the aspect of the aorist tense) is external, in summary, etc.--the same essential definition as used by Fanning, Porter, and Wallace. (See p. 34.) [That he argues for two aspects instead of three is different from the others, but his def. of perfective is standard.]

2. The "curious statement" that the present tense is "universally regarded as being imperfective in aspect" that is regarded as "fundamentally different" from Mounce's statement in BBG is itself curious. One would not normally appeal to a first year grammar in such matters. The major works on aspect (McKay, Fanning, Porter, and secondary works like Wallace) *all agree* that the present tense expresses imperfective aspect [AKA "internal"]. In this case Mounce is the odd man out, not Campbell.

3. The complaint that Mk 4:14-20 uses "aoristic" present forms to illustrate imperfective aspect to be faulty because they are translated perfectively misses the point that aspect is not judged by its translation into English, but by the Greek viewpoint. Regardless of how they are represented in natural English, the point is that Greek uses imperfective aspect. Related, to insist that OIDA is "a present tense form" despite having "minor resemblance to perfect tense formation" is just plain wrong. It may best be translated like an English present (many perfects are!) proves nothing about Greek, and certainly cannot be justified morphologically.

4. The complaint regarding the transitive/intransitive misunderstands Campbell. His statements *are* consistent; he does not "reverse himself."
Other problems could be noted. I'd suggest that the reviewer ought to read McKay, Fanning, and Porter---along with the two previous vols from Campbell's pen before criticizing a student's basic intro text for being inaccurate in these regards.

Ben Witherington said...

Thanks to Prof. Decker for his comments, but one thing struck me as very odd about these comments.

He mentions none of the actual and older standard works that deal with grammar and syntax and verbal aspect and these sorts of matters in general--- I refer to Moulton, Howard, Turner, Blass, Debrunner, Funk, Robertson and the like. My own assessment of some of these more recent works, though not Dan Wallace's or Bill Mounce's, is that there is an insufficiently broad knowledge of the various forms of ancient Greek that actually existed in the era relevant to the study of the NT.

By this I mean the study of Asiatic Greek as well as Koine and Attic, not to mention the issue of Semitic influenced Greek or Greek experiencing Semitic interference.

BW3

Greg said...

So, what should a student of Greek use to become more familiar with the idea of verbal aspect and at what point in his study of Greek should he introduce this?

Ben Witherington said...

In view of how important verbal aspect is to even basic translating, I would assume it would be discussed at the elementary level. I think in general the problem lies in isolating NT Greek from the wider realm of Greek, and honestly the best way to remedy this is to continue to gain competency in reading the primary source texts with the help of a lexicon.

By this I mean that while you are reading the NT, you should also read some selections from the following: 1) Josephus; 2) Philo; 3)4 Maccabees; 4) the Didache; 5) Clement's first letter to the Corinthians; 6) the Wisdom of Solomon; 7) the LXX; 8) Greek fragments from Qumran; 9) some Plutarch; 10) some Epictetus. I could go on, but this is enough.

And in fact the elephant in the room no one is mentioning is rhetoric. These ancient cultures were oral cultures, not text driven or text based cultures, and what most determined the use of language including the use of verbs was the way that language was used idiomatically, and often rather freely to persuade people in different ways about different things. On this latter subject, see my new little guide book, NT Rhetoric, which is just out from Wipf and Stock.

Blessings

BW3

jimmorrow said...

I had Brad for my Comprehensive Greek series and he was very helpful.

I wonder, does Brad find Mounce and the Zondervan group lacking in it's Greek texts as a whole or am I drawing a wrong conclusion from that statement?

Dr. Rod Decker said...

In reply to Ben's objections to my comments, have you looked at the Reference indices of Porter? 13 pgs triple col refs to *extra-biblical Greek.* Campbell's first SBG vol includes corpus-wide study of not only Luke and John but also Vita Aesop, Chariton, select Oxy Papyri, 41 chs of Peloponnesian War (Thusydides), and a major section in Lysias. Likwise McKay is a classicist and he's worked extensively in texts outside the NT (see his bibliog of articles). My copy of Fanning is at home, so I can't refer to his work in this regard. All of them are sustantially far more sensitive to extra-NT usage than Wallace or (esp.) Monce. (Not that these men aren't up on this, but their published works do not come even close to discussing this material in print as do the aspect scholars noted.) As to "Moulton, Howard, Turner, Blass, Debrunner, Funk, Robertson and the like," the discussion of aspect and Aktionsart, though indebted to them, has moved well beyond their early steps re. aspect. (Moulton, if I remember right, basically says, there's this new discussion of aspect, but I don't know much about it.) The other older grammarians did not distinguish between aspect and Aktionsart--but if anything is well established by now it is that these two categories must be distinguished.

Ben Witherington said...

Thanks Rod: I was thinking of more of the popular level discussions like Black, but I am glad to hear about Porter's lists of texts. The problem still is not merely listing texts or looking at texts, but recognizing the differences say between Asiatic Greek and other forms.

Blessings,

BW3

Brad Johnson said...

In reply to Dr. Decker, first I say thanks for the hearty response. As a fledgling PhD student, I regret that my depth and breadth of Greek grammar is hardly fully orbed.

Your points are well made in many respects, but you may be under-addressing the market position of the book. In the first place, it is self-identified as an entry-level work. As such, we need to recognize that the sphere of resources typically accessed by beginning-level students will not be the likes of Fanning, Porter, etc., but rather by the standard grammarians. Thus, treatments of verbal aspect need to be essential, rather than nuanced (and so caveated).

In the second, BVABG is a companion volume to BBG. And much of my focus is upon how Campbell's work deviates from Mounce. The net effect on a student would be, well, confusion.

Campbell's position does in fact seem to eliminate Mounce's (and others') view of aoristic aspect as simply being a writer's choice to refrain from commenting on the internal-/externality of an action. Thus, Mounce calls the aoristic aspect "undefined" in this regard...a category that does not enter Campbell's discussion.

With respect to Campbell's use of oida as an almost paradigmatic perfect tense form, I can only maintain that: a) it was indeed a perfect tense form in the Attic era, b) it was almost exclusively "used" as a present tense form in the Koine era (you were right to correct my overstatement of oida as a present tense "form"), c) the irregular nature of the word makes it a poor example for Campbell to repeatedly use.

I stand by my earlier comments regarding his treatment of transitivity. The quoted excerpts illustrate the tension between his comments, and--in my mind--create an inconsistency (the likes of which can also be seen in his treatment/definition of "tense" which, at times is a morphological phenomenon, at others is a temporal dimension, and at still others is a composite construct).

I'm curious, though, what you have identified as your "at least one major disagreement with his aspect system"...are you willing to share?

(And as a sidebar, I'm doing dissertation work on Mark 1, and am looking forward to resourcing your work on temporal deixis in Mark.)

Glenn said...

Dr. Witherington,

I would like to offer my agreement with Dr. Decker. I felt that the most telling part of the review was the absence of noting Con's distinction between aspect and aktionsart. This is key to understanding his work and realizing that he's not doing away with the concepts and ideas that people like Mounce and Wallace have done well to present.

The key to understanding Greek aspect, according to Con Campbell, is the concept of viewpoint and NOT "type of action" (i.e. - "aktionsart"). The semantic or unchanging part of a Greek verb is found in the characteristic of Greek aspect/viewpoint.

I should also be noted, if I'm not mistaken, that Campbell's primary thesis about Greek aspect is in regards to the indicative mood. I'm not sure that his work extends a great deal past that into participles, infinitives and other forms, even though his book addresses those issues in the final chapter. But that's another matter. Just something to point out.

Thanks for posting a critical evaluation of the book though!

Glenn
Biblical Greek

Andy Naselli said...

I agree with Dr. Rod Decker's comments above.

For those unfamiliar with Decker, it is worth noting that he has contributed an outstanding scholarly volume on verbal aspect in D. A. Carson's Studies in Biblical Greek series. That volume is the published form of his dissertation. More info is available on his website here:
http://ntresources.com/grammar.html#Verb

Brad Johnson said...

Greg: Good question! And one that I would appreciate other responses to.

Jim: Great to hear from you! And related to the above, I do like the Mounce materials more so than any that are currently available. He introduces topics methodically, thoroughly (although at times a little pedantically for a beginning Greek grammar), and consistently. My primary critique is with his sometimes innovative approach to treating traditional concepts (e.g., re-naming the basic categories/function of aspect).

At Asbury, we use Black's "Learn to Read NT Greek" (Broadman & Holman) which is fine for a very, very concise introduction, but lacks the in depth analysis and collateral resources of the Zondervan camp.

Glenn: Your comments are appreciated. However, you might note that:

1. my lack of mention of Campbell's treatment of Aktionsart was due in part to space limitations (Ben asked for a page...I gave him two) and the fairly unremarkable treatment Campbell gives to the topic. I would classify his engagement of Aktionsart under the "helpful" descriptor.

2. I believe Campbell's oversight of non-indicative mood forms (and their statistical and exegetical significance in the NT) is a weakness of the text. His primary treatment of the indicative mood is also, I believe, found in another of his works.

BTW, Glenn, kudos to you on your web site. What a terrific enterprise!

Glenn said...

Brad,

I would like to say that I agree with you about the confusion the book would cause those reading Mounce and Campbell at the same time. I'm integrating Campbell's work into my teaching while still using the Mounce book.

The only way I can make it clear is to always distinguish Aktionsart from Aspect. That helps them categorize what they are reading with respect to Campbell's categories in his book.

I really believe that Campbell's made this very clear in his book and that it will not be too much of a strech to integrate it with Mounce's work. But the possibility for confusion is still fairly high depending on the aptitude of the students in the class.

Brian said...

"we use Black's "Learn to Read NT Greek" (Broadman & Holman) which is fine for a very, very concise introduction, but lacks the in depth analysis and collateral resources of the Zondervan camp."

which I think is fine since one should not be trying to go too deep in first year Greek - seems to me like half the stuff offered up in Mounce should be saved for the intermediate level.

mike said...

I have to say that I'm with Decker on this one, but I think the bigger issues is the dependency on translation for determining aspect.

"To make his point concerning the imperfective nature of the present tense, Campbell cites an example from Mark 4:14-20 where not only are the verbal examples in Greek clearly to be understood aoristically, but he also translates them for the reader using aoristic aspect."

The fact that the 'present' tense-form of a given verb can either be translated with an English imperfective/continuous or an English perfective/aorist has absolutely nothing to do with the aspect of the Greek form. The 'present' is imperfective

And this is exactly the problem with Mounce's grammar in general (and actually the teaching of Greek in western academia). Grammar needs to be taught on a cross-linguistic basis not on a translational basis.

If as John Lee (A History of New Testament Lexicograhpy) has shown us that glosses are an inadequate means of determining meaning in a lexicon, then it is just as inadequate to use translation as a means of determining meaning in grammar. Translation is just a whole lot of glosses strung together.

Dr. Rod Decker said...

A few last comments:

Re.: “Campbell's position does in fact seem to eliminate Mounce's (and others') view of aoristic aspect as simply being a writer's choice to refrain from commenting on the internal-/externality of an action. Thus, Mounce calls the aoristic aspect "undefined" in this regard...a category that does not enter Campbell's discussion.”

I think you’re missing the point here. Perfective aspect (what some call aoristic aspect or undefined aspect) is not a “null value.” The writer choses to a perfective form (i.e., aorist tense) to view the action as a whole (or to use Fanning’s term, externally). This is one choice of two (in Campbell’s system) or three (in Porter and some others of us) that the speaker/writer could chose. It is a “default” form in, e.g., narrative, but that doesn’t mean it has no meaning. It functions as the “storyline” form for recounting a historical narrative.

Re.: ”With respect to Campbell's use of oida as an almost paradigmatic perfect tense form, I can only maintain that: a) it was indeed a perfect tense form in the Attic era, b) it was almost exclusively "used" as a present tense form in the Koine era (you were right to correct my overstatement of oida as a present tense "form"), c) the irregular nature of the word makes it a poor example for Campbell to repeatedly use.”

You’ll discover that this isn’t as simple as it might seem. That OIDA is typically *translated* as a simple present in English says nothing about its aspectual value in Greek. (Mike’s point above is well taken in this regard.) I would argue that it carries stative aspect and despite being an incomplete form, is used in opposition with GINWSKW as the suppletive form to provide the full range of aspect value. (Note that GINWSKW is rarely used in perfect; see my discussion in TDM, p. 142-3 & refs there.)

”I'm curious, though, what you have identified as your "at least one major disagreement with his aspect system"...are you willing to share?”

This is implied just above; Campbell wants to make the perfect (& pluperfect) imperfective aspect, thus disagreeing with Porter, Fanning, and Wallace. I am not persuaded by his argument in this regard (for reasons I summarized here: ntresources.com/blog/?p=35), but even that is not crucial at the functional level since Campbell’s view results in the same narrative function for the perfect the same as Porter (whom I follow on this point).

I am not aware of a first year grammar that does a good job handling aspect. Mounce is the best I’ve seen, but has problems and it isn’t integrated as well as I’d like after ch 15. (And yes, it is a bit ironic that Campbell is in the same series; I suggest that you follow him instead of Mounce on this subject--and those using BBG need to revise his material to incorporate into the first year of study--which should be *more* detailed & rigorous [at least at the seminary level] than it usually is, not less!) Black’s treatment is not as satisfactory. FWIW, here’s a link to my re-write of Mounce ch 15 to incorporate aspect more fully. The document also includes a summary section from TDM that may be of interest: http://ntresources.com/documents/MounceCh15rev.pdf
I’ve since reworked it even more carefully, but this earlier ed. is what’s posted on my website.

One last note, I just discovered that Campbell has a series of posts on Zondervan's blog discussing his book. I haven't read them yet, but it is a multi-part series:

zondervan.typepad.com/koinonia/

yuckabuck said...

Brad said,
"At Asbury, we use Black's "Learn to Read NT Greek" (Broadman & Holman) which is fine for a very, very concise introduction, but lacks the in depth analysis and collateral resources of the Zondervan camp."

First of all, I agree with Ben that the best way to learn Greek is to learn it broadly instead of just looking at the small world of New Testament Greek. But unless or until God opens a door for me to go to seminary, I feel like I should begin learning Greek somehow or somewhere.

So, I began learning Greek with a book by someone named Dobson, who did not tell you what any of the parts of speech that you were learning were called until halfway through the book. So, I began reading Black's book at the same time so I could learn what it was that I was actually learning. As Black is very brief, I then would turn to an older grammar by Dana and Mantey for more in depth discussion

As this became tedious, I am now plowing through Mounce, along with all the "collateral resources of the Zondervan camp." I really enjoy how Mounce begins his chapters teaching some English grammar first and then connecting it to Greek grammar

Am I wasting my time? Short of signing up for any Ashland Seminary extension courses offered in Columbus, OH, how may I properly learn Greek on my own at home?

Thanks,
Chuck
Ps. Before Ben marvels that yuckabuck is still alive, I should say that I have kept up reading this site but am usually too busy to comment. It still is a must-read, though.
God bless you.

Ben Witherington said...

Howdy Yuckabuck: You neeed not move from right in front of your present computer. You can take Asbury's online course in Greek and sharpen your skills on our EXL program. Easy Peasy.

BW3

Brad Johnson said...

Yuckabuck: I teach the course Dr. Ben mentioned, and would love to have you join us!

Mike said: "If as John Lee (A History of New Testament Lexicograhpy) has shown us that glosses are an inadequate means of determining meaning in a lexicon, then it is just as inadequate to use translation as a means of determining meaning in grammar. Translation is just a whole lot of glosses strung together."

Mike's point is well made. The difficulty from my perspective, however, is how to introduce beginning students of Greek to the language: a)in ways that avoid a mechanical, categorical approach, and b)in the absence of a cultural immersion experience. At an introductory level, it seems to me that one cannot bypass the vehicle of translation as a portal into the language. The only approach I can envision and deliver at the introductory level is to find English grammatical "analogues" to which to connect Greek concepts. Admittedly, the enterprise is tenuous; however, when properly caveated, the initial foray into the language can be appropriate if students understand from the outset that the English grammatical framework does not comport perfectly with that of the Greek. As students grow and mature in their understanding of both the language and culture, a re-mapping of one's framework can and should take place to compensate for the lack of precision commensurate with a translational approach.

As a biblical languages instructor, I welcome any and all inputs regarding how we might deliver this instruction.

Perhaps my foundational concern with Campbell's work is that it presents itself as both an introductory and a "right" methodology with regard to the reading of the text. I fear that these may be mutually exclusive tenets.

Because of other pressing matters (namely, the need to pass a theological German competency exam in 12 days), I need to bow out of the discussion. Thank you so much -- truly -- for the vigorous and helpful replies each of you have made. In significant ways, perhaps, each of you has contributed to my ongoing growth as both an instructor of the language and a student of the text.

mike said...

Brad, I know you're studying for your German test right now, but I wanted to give some thoughts on language learning.

I think that people like Randall Buth have demonstrated that its possible to adopt modern language learning methods (modern methods, that is) to the teaching of Greek. His "Living Greek" course is a step in the right direction.

There is also a professor at Criswell College (I don't know his name) who is doing something similar. He teaches the language by telling stories in Koine and the student of his that I know has told me that he's working on a completely pictorial dictionary of Greek vocabulary. If such a tool sees the light of day, it would go a long way in correcting a translation method of language learning.

Mark said...

As a new student of Biblical Greek, I find all these discussions on the Greek verb, aspect and time, mystifying, for no one seems to agree.

Furthermore, no one refers to what Greek professors think of their own native language! Do we ask Greek scholars to comment on the English verb?

The only article I could find that refers to Greek writers view on the Greek verb is from the following internet comment:
htttp://lists.ibiblio.org/pipermail/b-greek/2008-November/048024.html

What is your opinion of this?

Mark

mike said...

Actually, among the grammarians and linguists, there's quite a bit of agreement. There's really only debate about one or two points:

1) The status of the Perfect.

2) The status tense expressed within inflectional morphology

The good news is that in reality (whether either side would admit it or now), both those debates are debates that are more focused on terminology rather than actually semantic content of the Greek verb forms.

In practice, Campbell is basic agreement with the *function* of the perfect with others, but protests the use of the term "stative" to describe it.

Likewise, when we look at Porter and Caragounis, they're basically at each other's throats about whether verb denote Tense or Proximity and would go the rounds with each other over the issue, but the truth is that they're in basic agreement: The verb *does* express some sort of distancing. The question is whether that "distancing" is temporal or spacial. Caragounis say the former; Porter, the latter.

As to the issue of native speakers, that kind of data/evidence needs to be carefully handled. And I don't think that Caragounis does it well (see my review of his own book HERE).