The Greek Verbal System And Aspectual Prominence: Revising Our Taxonomy And Nomenclature -- By: Nicholas J. Ellis, Michael G. Aubrey, and Mark Dubis

Journal: Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society
Volume: JETS 59:1 (Mar 2016)
Article: The Greek Verbal System And Aspectual Prominence: Revising Our Taxonomy And Nomenclature
Author: Nicholas J. Ellis, Michael G. Aubrey, and Mark Dubis


The Greek Verbal System And Aspectual Prominence: Revising Our Taxonomy And Nomenclature

Nicholas J. Ellis, Michael G. Aubrey, and Mark Dubis*

* Nicholas Ellis is research fellow and faculty member of the BibleMesh Institute and visiting research scholar at Duke University, Durham, NC 27708. Michael Aubrey is language editor at Faithlife Corporation, 1313 Commercial St., Bellingham, WA 98225. Mark Dubis is professor of biblical studies at Union University, 1050 Union University Dr., Jackson, TN 38305.

Abstract: Verbal systems can give prominence to tense, aspect, or mood. The morphology of the verbal system within biblical Greek provides important evidence to suggest that Greek is an aspect-prominent language, though one that also incorporates tense within the indicative mood. Certain traditional grammatical labels inappropriately treat Greek as though it were instead a tense-prominent language like English (e.g. the use of “present” or “tense formative” outside of the indicative mood). We need to reform our descriptive labels and general conception of Greek accordingly. In doing so, the simplicity and beauty of the Greek verbal system emerges, offering pedagogical advantages for teachers of Greek and challenging exegetes to properly account for Greek’s particular configuration of tense, aspect, and mood.

Key Words: Greek grammar, aspect, tense, morphology, linguistics

I. Introduction

Our task will be to set out clearly the aspect prominence of the Greek language and propose a morpho-syntactical system that is coherent with this aspect prominence.1 First, let us consider a question that arises from the Greek text of Matt 2:20:

ἐγερθεὶς παράλαβε τὸ παιδίον καὶ τὴν μητέρα αὐτοῦ καὶ πορεύου εἰς γῆν Ἰσραήλ· τεθνήκασιν γὰρ οἱ ζητοῦντες τὴν ψυχὴν τοῦ παιδίου.

“Arise and take the child and his mother, and go into the land of Israel; for those who were seeking the child’s life have died.”

In the phrase τεθνήκασιν γὰρ οἱ ζητοῦντες τὴν ψυχὴν τοῦ παιδίου, we find the substantival participle οἱ ζητοῦντες. Traditionally, ζητοῦντες would be labeled a “present participle.” But is there anything in the se...

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