The Semantic Range of νῦν in the Gospels as Related to Temporal Deixis -- By: Rodney J. Decker

Journal: Trinity Journal
Volume: TRINJ 16:2 (Fall 1995)
Article: The Semantic Range of νῦν in the Gospels as Related to Temporal Deixis
Author: Rodney J. Decker


The Semantic Range of νῦν in the Gospels as
Related to Temporal Deixis

Rodney J. Decker *

I. Introduction

In his magisterial work on verbal aspect, Stanley Porter argues that Greek verbs do not grammaticalize time.1 Instead he proposes that temporal reference is expressed by deictic indicators in the context. For Porter, the primary value of the Greek tense forms is aspect.2 Three aspects form his aspectual system: perfective (aorist forms), imperfective (present and imperfect forms), and stative (perfect and pluperfect). Aspect is related to (though not determinative of) time reference through temporal implicature—an aspect of pragmatics that focuses on the significance of a particular form of a given word in a specific context. The total meaning of any verbal form is a composite of aspect, lexis, deixis, and context.

This article addresses one of those factors, the temporal deixis of anarthrous νῦν, in a limited corpus of NT literature: the gospels. (Because the articular form of νῦν has a different function and force, it will not be considered in this study.) This focus has been selected to examine the validity of one portion of Porter’s theory. Attention is directed to νῦν due to the weight that Porter places on this word as a

*Rodney J. Decker is Assistant Professor of New Testament at Calvary Theological Seminary, Kansas City, Missouri. The author would like to thank W. Edward Glenny of Central Baptist Seminary, Minneapolis, for reading several drafts of this article and providing suggestions in a number of areas that have helped sharpen the focus of my conclusions.

key deictic indicator of present time regardless of the verb form. His explanations of this will be discussed at the end of the next section.

II. Background to the Contemporary Discussion of Verbal Aspect

The issues that underlie this article evidence a contrast between traditional explanations of the Greek verb and more recent discussion that has arisen from modern linguistic study. Before considering the relevance of νῦν to the ongoing debate it will be helpful to survey several related facets of the verb: tense, Aktionsart, and aspect. Readers who received their training in Greek a number of years ago may find the differences substantial.

A. Tense

Tense may be defined as “the grammaticalised expression of location in time.”3 “Tens...

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