A Classification of Imperatives: A Statistical Study -- By: James L. Boyer

Journal: Grace Theological Journal
Volume: GTJ 08:1 (Spring 1987)
Article: A Classification of Imperatives: A Statistical Study
Author: James L. Boyer

A Classification of Imperatives:
A Statistical Study

James L. Boyer

Much popular exegesis of the Greek imperative mood rests on unwarranted assumptions. Analysis of the actual usage of the imperative in the NT reveals that many common exegetical conclusions regarding the imperative are unfounded. For example, a prohibition with the present imperative does not necessarily meanstop.” And when it does, it is context, not some universal rule of the imperative, that determines the meaning. The imperative mood has a wide latitude of meanings from which the exegete must choose in light of contextual clues. The temptation to standardize the translation of the various imperatival usages should be resisted.

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One of the clearest and simplest statements of the basic significance of the imperative mood is given by Dana and Mantey. “The imperative is…the mood of volition. It is the genius of the imperative to express the appeal of will to will.” They go on to compare it with the other moods. “It expresses neither probability nor possibility, but only intention, and is, therefore, the furthest removed from reality.”1 This study will offer a classification of the

Informational materials and listings generated in the preparation of this study may be found in my “Supplemental Manual of Information: Imperative Verbs.” Those interested may secure this manual through their local library by interlibrary loan from the Morgan Library, Grace Theological Seminary, 200 Seminary Dr., Winona Lake, IN 46590. Also available is “Supplemental Manual of Information: Infinitive Verbs,” and “Supplemental Manual of Information: Subjunctive Verbs.” These augment my articles, “The Classification of Infinitives: A Statistical Study,” GTJ 6 (1985) 3-27 and “The Classification of Subjunctives: A Statistical Study,” GTJ 7 (1986) 3-19. I plan to prepare other supplemental manuals as time permits, beginning with one on participles.

ways the imperative is used in NT Greek, together with statistical information and comparisons, and a discussion of several of the questions related to the understanding of this mood.

Classification Of Imperative Uses

The list of uses proposed here is more detailed than is usually found in the grammars. Many speak of commands and entreaties, or requests; some add permission and condition. This study would add a few that are small in number but interesting enough to merit separate treatment. They will be listed in order of frequency of occurrence.

Commands and Prohibitions


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