Translation Of The Aorist Tense In The Indicative Mood -- By: Anonymous

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 041:162 (Apr 1884)
Article: Translation Of The Aorist Tense In The Indicative Mood
Author: Anonymous

Translation Of The Aorist Tense In The Indicative Mood

The translation of this Greek tense is not always easy. In a true translation the aim is to express in one language as exactly as possible thought which has already been expressed in another language, and to give that thought as nearly as possible the same dress that it originally had. One can commonly carry out this purpose when translating the Greek Present, Future, Perfect, and Pluperfect. It is somewhat more difficult when translating the Imperfect. Often this tense may be rendered by the English progressive Imperfect. Yet in some verbs it is doubtful whether the form of the Imperfect had any different meaning from the Aorist. Again, in some contexts the English progressive form would lumber up the discourse, rather than give the nice descriptive touch that the Greek tense does, therefore the more vivacious narrative Preterite is to be employed. All this, however, is comparatively slight labor to the student; but he is often sorely perplexed about the rendering of the Greek Aorist. Must it always be by the English Preterite V It was not so translated by the Revisers of 1611, nor has it been by the Revisers of 1881. Yet no one seems to have given any principle which shall defend the occasional use of the English Perfect as the proper translation of the Aorist. There seems no defence but the “ear,” which in some contexts revolts against translating the Aorist by the English Preterite. Thus as far as the argument goes, the literalists, such as the author of the Emphatic Diaglott and Robert Young (whose suggestions about the Revised Version have been sent over from Scotland), all have their own way.

A careful study of the tenses in each language would show on what principles we might proceed. Some suggestions have been made by Rev. J. A. Beet in the Expositor (First Series, Vol. 11. pp. 191 f., 296 f., 3 72 f.). The discussion is capable of further development, which may be briefly outlined as follows:

1. In general, the English Preterite corresponds to the Greek Aorist, and the English Perfect to the Greek Perfect.

2. In English the Preterite commonly needs some definite temporal or contextual limitation to specify the date of the act in past time. In Greek the Aorist has no such need.

3. If the Preterite is used without such a modifier it emphasizes the fact of occurrence, yet has no reference to the completion of the act. The

Aorist has no necessary reference to the completion, nor does it by itself emphasize the fact of occurrence. The context may give such emphasis.

4. The English Perfect denotes the completion of an act, and holds that fact in some sort of relation to the p...

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