Textkit Logo

Present vs Aorist Imperative

Are you learning New Testament Greek with Mounce's Basics of Biblical Greek? Here's where you can meet other learners using this textbook. Use this board to ask questions and post your work for feedback. Use this forum too to discuss all things Koine, LXX & New Testament Greek including grammar, syntax, textbook talk and more.

Present vs Aorist Imperative

Postby uberdwayne » Tue Jul 16, 2013 5:43 pm

In 1 John 2:15, John writes "μη αγαπατε τον κοσμον" how would it change the meaning of the text if he had written "μη αγαπησατε τον κοσμον" instead.

I often hear that the present imperative indicates a cessation of an act already in progress, but in this passage it seems to be more of a general exhortation.

what are your thoughts?
μείζων ἐστὶν ὁ ἐν ὑμῖν ἢ ὁ ἐν τῷ κόσμῳ
uberdwayne
Textkit Fan
 
Posts: 235
Joined: Sun Oct 10, 2010 3:29 am
Location: Ontario, Canada

Re: Present vs Aorist Imperative

Postby C. S. Bartholomew » Tue Jul 16, 2013 6:23 pm

uberdwayne wrote:In 1 John 2:15, John writes "μη αγαπατε τον κοσμον" how would it change the meaning of the text if he had written "μη αγαπησατε τον κοσμον" instead.

I often hear that the present imperative indicates a cessation of an act already in progress, but in this passage it seems to be more of a general exhortation.


Martin Culy I, II. III John Handbook on Greek Text pp.42-43 has a long note on this. The imperfective aspect does not indicate the action prohibited was in progress. Cites S.E. Porter (1994, p. 226) 100 out of 174 examples do not support the traditional understanding. Also suggests present tense is used to foreground material but I don't follow that line of the argument. I don't think Levinsohn would agree with that but I will check and comment later.

Edit: Levinsohn 2000 doesn't discuss aorist/present imperatives in non-narrative texts. The imperfective aspect is discussed[1] within narrative where the imperfective is found in background material but doesn't necessarily mark backgrounding. The perfective (aorist) is used in mainline of the story telling which some call foreground but might be better to consider this middle ground[2] since there are other means of highlighting narration which make it stand out from the main line. None of this applies to aorist/present imperatives in non-narrative texts.

Second Edit: Culy in his introduction p. xviii explains his tentative and cautious approach to identifying semantic or discourse significance of the verb aspect in a hortatory letter. I would agree that imperatives are foreground but the tense aspect suggestions are not very compelling and Culy understands this. He doe not make strong claims concerning the tense aspect of an imperative in I John.

Third Edit: Silva[3] as quoted by Runge[4]

Porter places a good bit of emphasis on the present as the marked aspect, especially in the subjunctive and imperative moods. Part of the argument is that the aorist is more frequent than the present (p. 323). But this distribution is not consistent among the various authors. The present imperative in Paul, for example, is at least three times more frequent than the aorist (the difference is considerably greater if we leave out of account the more than 20 instances of ἀσπάσασθε, most of which occur in Rom. 16).


Culy (introduction p. xviii) makes similar observations and concludes verb aspect alone is "insufficient grounds for isolating foreground and background material."

*********************

[1]Levinsohn 2000: §10.2.1-§10.2.2

[2]other's use the three terms: background, foreground, and frontground

[3]Moises Silva, “A Response to Fanning and Porter on Verbal Aspect.” Pp. 74-82 in Biblical Greek Language and Linguistics: Open Questions in Current Research, edited by Stanley E. Porter and D. A. Carson (Sheffield: JSOT Press, 1993), 79

[4] Runge http://www.ntdiscourse.org/2010/03/more ... and-genre/
C. Stirling Bartholomew
C. S. Bartholomew
Textkit Enthusiast
 
Posts: 656
Joined: Mon Sep 19, 2011 10:03 pm

Re: Present vs Aorist Imperative

Postby Markos » Wed Jul 17, 2013 2:01 am

uberdwayne wrote:In 1 John 2:15, John writes "μη αγαπατε τον κοσμον" how would it change the meaning of the text if he had written "μη αγαπησατε τον κοσμον" instead.


χαῖρε φίλε!

Without answering your question, let me just point out the quibble that in prohibitions the aorist imperative is almost never used. Instead we find the aorist subjunctive. So, your question should better be how would the meaning have been different if John had written

μὴ ἀγαπήσητε τὸν κόσμον
Markos
Textkit Zealot
 
Posts: 1300
Joined: Sun Jun 21, 2009 8:07 pm
Location: Colorado

Re: Present vs Aorist Imperative

Postby uberdwayne » Thu Jul 18, 2013 3:55 am

ευχαριστω υμιν, Μαρκος και Βαρθολομυ!

Batholomew... I can't say though, that Im entirely sure what you mean by "foregrounding and backgrounding." Is this a concept that Stephen Runge writes about in his discourse grammar (I saw you mention Runge)?

Μαρκος... That begs the question then.... How would the meaning be different if John had said "μη αγαπησητε τον κοσμον" ? :)

παλιν ευχαριστω υμιν
μείζων ἐστὶν ὁ ἐν ὑμῖν ἢ ὁ ἐν τῷ κόσμῳ
uberdwayne
Textkit Fan
 
Posts: 235
Joined: Sun Oct 10, 2010 3:29 am
Location: Ontario, Canada

Re: Present vs Aorist Imperative

Postby C. S. Bartholomew » Thu Jul 18, 2013 5:55 pm

uberdwayne wrote:Batholomew... I can't say though, that Im entirely sure what you mean by "foregrounding and backgrounding." Is this a concept that Stephen Runge writes about in his discourse grammar (I saw you mention Runge)?


I think it was Longacre[1] who used the visual metaphor of a black camels crossing a black desert at night. This captures the notion of background. I just looked at a photograph of camels crossing the Saharh late in the day but still well lighted. The background is golden late sun on the landscape, the camels with riders are backlighted so appear as shadows and stand out vividly. It is kind of a misnomer to call the camels foreground because there is a lot of territory between the camels and the point of view (position of the camera). The camels are the subject that grabs the attention of the viewer.

Backgrounding in discourse has different flavors in different authors who use the term. S.E Porter is different from S. Levinsohn who is somewhat similar to R. E. Longacre but develops it further.

Longacre, Robert E. 1996. The grammar of discourse. 2nd edition. Topics in Language and Linguistics. New York: Plenum Press.
C. Stirling Bartholomew
C. S. Bartholomew
Textkit Enthusiast
 
Posts: 656
Joined: Mon Sep 19, 2011 10:03 pm

Re: Present vs Aorist Imperative

Postby uberdwayne » Thu Jul 18, 2013 6:08 pm

so in your first reply, the act of "μη αγαπατε" is foregrounded against the backdrop of "τον κοσμον"? I understand from your post that this is disputed, but for the sake of my own understanding, this would bring out the seriousness on "μη αγαπατε" and if it was aorist, it would not? Forgive me, I just recently heard of "dicourse analysis" and am having a hard time trying to apply the foregrounding/backgrounding prinicple to the imperative.
μείζων ἐστὶν ὁ ἐν ὑμῖν ἢ ὁ ἐν τῷ κόσμῳ
uberdwayne
Textkit Fan
 
Posts: 235
Joined: Sun Oct 10, 2010 3:29 am
Location: Ontario, Canada

Re: Present vs Aorist Imperative

Postby uberdwayne » Thu Jul 18, 2013 6:08 pm

so in your first reply, the act of "μη αγαπατε" is foregrounded against the backdrop of "τον κοσμον"? I understand from your post that this is disputed, but for the sake of my own understanding, this would bring out the seriousness on "μη αγαπατε" and if it was aorist, it would not? Forgive me, I just recently heard of "dicourse analysis" and am having a hard time trying to apply the foregrounding/backgrounding prinicple to the imperative.
μείζων ἐστὶν ὁ ἐν ὑμῖν ἢ ὁ ἐν τῷ κόσμῳ
uberdwayne
Textkit Fan
 
Posts: 235
Joined: Sun Oct 10, 2010 3:29 am
Location: Ontario, Canada

Re: Present vs Aorist Imperative

Postby Markos » Thu Jul 18, 2013 6:22 pm

uberdwayne wrote:Μαρκος... That begs the question then.... How would the meaning be different if John had said "μη αγαπησητε τον κοσμον" ? :)

παλιν ευχαριστω υμιν


The short answer is that I don't think the meaning would be any different. The choice is likely to have been euphonic, not semantic. For the longer answer, take a look at the second half of this thread:

viewtopic.php?f=22&t=42676

χάρις τέ σοι καὶ σοῖς ἐν ὀνόματι Ἰησοῦ.
Markos
Textkit Zealot
 
Posts: 1300
Joined: Sun Jun 21, 2009 8:07 pm
Location: Colorado

Re: Present vs Aorist Imperative

Postby C. S. Bartholomew » Thu Jul 18, 2013 6:24 pm

uberdwayne wrote:so in your first reply, the act of "μη αγαπατε" is foregrounded against the backdrop of "τον κοσμον"? I understand from your post that this is disputed, but for the sake of my own understanding, this would bring out the seriousness on "μη αγαπατε" and if it was aorist, it would not?


There are different types of clause/sentence articulation. I don't think the imperative "μη αγαπατε τον κοσμον" is particularly well suited to the kind of analysis I was using. It isn't narrative nor is it expository. I don't think background and foreground have much usefulness in analysis of "μη αγαπατε τον κοσμον". Could be wrong. I was objecting to one specific suggestion that the present form of the verb would foreground the whole proposition (not just the verb). I think imperatives, hortatory subjunctives, and verbs of command have a high level of "natural salience" in a discourse. So the whole clause would be of higher salience than non-command constituents. But the kind of foreground and background I was talking about in Longacre was specific to narrative.

According to some analysts, in narrative the perfective aspect carries the backbone of the storyline. Imperfective aspect is used for background and/or contextualization. This isn't really the same thing as salience marking. You could argue that main storyline is more salient than the background but it doesn't follow that perfective aspect is MARKED for salience. The main storyline just has salience (natural) without any marking being necessary.
Last edited by C. S. Bartholomew on Thu Jul 18, 2013 11:25 pm, edited 2 times in total.
C. Stirling Bartholomew
C. S. Bartholomew
Textkit Enthusiast
 
Posts: 656
Joined: Mon Sep 19, 2011 10:03 pm

Re: Present vs Aorist Imperative

Postby IreneY » Thu Jul 18, 2013 6:32 pm

I would say that, in general, the difference is between specific or general, whether that is related to how many times something happens or some other aspect.

"Don't tie him up tightly this time" would be aorist , whereas "don't tie him up tightly from now on" would be present.

In this particular case, I would say the difference is between "Don't love"/"You shouldn't love" (present) and "do not, in the future, fall in love". Or, in other words, general principle (present) vs. specific act (aorist).

Say, "As a principle, don't tie him up" would be present whereas "in the future, don't tie him up" would be aorist.

That's my take anyway. A bit vague, I know, but I'm mainly working from how things work on modern Greek to tell you the truth. All the theoretical books I've read only confused me more :D :oops:
User avatar
IreneY
Textkit Zealot
 
Posts: 800
Joined: Thu Feb 16, 2006 8:27 am
Location: U.S.A (not American though)

Re: Present vs Aorist Imperative

Postby uberdwayne » Fri Jul 19, 2013 4:00 am

Ireney, I see what your getting at... You've basically made a distinction between a gnomic present and punctiliar aorist, I see it now :) John uses the present tense because its an action in continuance without view of an end, although not exactly obvious to the english mind! Had he used an aorist Imperative... Or aorist subjunctive, he would've considered it a one time thing. As if the receiver of the command could fullfill his obligation, then go back to "αγαπων το κοσμον." As a present tense, its not seen as a fulfillable act, but rather a state we're required to be in, and stay in. I wonder how that would stack up against other present imperatives in koine literature.


What are your(υμετερος) thoughts?

ευχαριστω υμιν!
μείζων ἐστὶν ὁ ἐν ὑμῖν ἢ ὁ ἐν τῷ κόσμῳ
uberdwayne
Textkit Fan
 
Posts: 235
Joined: Sun Oct 10, 2010 3:29 am
Location: Ontario, Canada

Re: Present vs Aorist Imperative

Postby IreneY » Sun Jul 21, 2013 2:50 am

Hello there uberdwayne!

I'm afraid I'm not much of a scholar when it comes to the Bible so I can't think of any other examples out of hand. Perhaps we should search for some? :)
User avatar
IreneY
Textkit Zealot
 
Posts: 800
Joined: Thu Feb 16, 2006 8:27 am
Location: U.S.A (not American though)

Re: Present vs Aorist Imperative

Postby uberdwayne » Sun Jul 21, 2013 3:01 am

Perhaps we should search for some?


That is a great idea! I lack tools such as accordance or gramcord, but maybe if someone out there has one of these, they could search for negative prohibition imperatives in the new testament. Otherwise, it will be the old fashioned way of page by page searching! Then we can compare... In the meantime, if I come across any I'll post them....

Maybe we should create a new thread for this, called "A survey of negative imperatives" First one to find it starts the thread.
μείζων ἐστὶν ὁ ἐν ὑμῖν ἢ ὁ ἐν τῷ κόσμῳ
uberdwayne
Textkit Fan
 
Posts: 235
Joined: Sun Oct 10, 2010 3:29 am
Location: Ontario, Canada

Re: Present vs Aorist Imperative

Postby Markos » Sun Jul 21, 2013 4:23 pm

uberdwayne wrote:
(quoting Irene) Perhaps we should search for some?




χαῖρε φίλε, χαῖρε φίλη!

Here are two:

John 3:7 used the aorist:
μὴ θαυμάσῃς ὅτι εἶπόν σοι, Δεῖ ὑμᾶς γεννηθῆναι ἄνωθεν.


John 5:28 used the present:
μὴ θαυμάζετε τοῦτο, ὅτι ἔρχεται ὥρα ἐν ἧ πάντες οἱ ἐν τοῖς μνημείοις ἀκούσουσιν τῆς φωνῆς αὐτοῦ


What's the difference in meaning between these two? Look, I'm not denying that, IF THE CONTEXT SUPPORTS IT, there can be a difference. IF THE CONTEXT SUPPORTS IT, we could say that in the first instance Jesus is objecting to a short, punctiliar amazement, whereas in the second instance, Jesus has in mind an amazement that would last longer. Or it's possible, IF THE CONTEXT SUPPORTS IT, that in the first instance Jesus is stopping Nicodemus from doing something that he has not started yet, whereas in the second place the Judeans have already begun to marvel. Or, IF THE CONTEXT SUPPORTS IT, we can say that in the first instance Jesus is giving a specific prohibition limited to one occurrence, while in the second instance Jesus is banning something in general that he expects to be an on-going problem.

But the context supports none of these distinctions. And if the context did, we would not need the tenses to provide this information. I think that Smyth puts it best:

Smyth, Greek Grammar, 1841e:
The distinction (between μὴ γράφε and μὴ γράψῃς) is often immaterial, often a difference of tone rather than of meaning; sometimes too subtle for dogmatic statement.


I call this approach to Greek grammar semantic minimalism. I'm not denying that there are some general guidelines about the tenses that one can learn from the textbooks, but applying these to any actual instance of real Greek almost always involves reading more meaning into a passage than the author intended. If we tried to do this with a language that we know really well, like say, English, we would immediately realize that we are going astray. I have heard, as I'm sure you have, Uberdwayne, different preachers express the idea behind 1 John 2:15 in different ways. One guy might say

Don't start loving the world, now.


Another guy might say

I want you to stop loving the world!


Now, if you stopped and analyzed each word, you would realize that different constructions are used, and you could infer that in the first instance the preacher is talking to people who have not started to love the world and in the second instance the audience has already started to love the world. But think about it. Grammar aside, does this distinction make any sense? Is there any Christian who is in danger of loving the world, but has not started loving it? Of course we have here just two different manners of expressions that are saying the same thing. What we would not do to English I see no reason to do to Greek.

βούλομαι δὴ ὑμῖν ἐρρῶσθαι!
I am writing in Ancient Greek not because I know Greek well, but because I hope that it will improve my fluency in reading. I got the idea for this from Adrianus over on the Latin forum here at Textkit.
Markos
Textkit Zealot
 
Posts: 1300
Joined: Sun Jun 21, 2009 8:07 pm
Location: Colorado

Re: Present vs Aorist Imperative

Postby Paul Derouda » Sun Jul 21, 2013 9:51 pm

John 3:7 used the aorist:
μὴ θαυμάσῃς ὅτι εἶπόν σοι, Δεῖ ὑμᾶς γεννηθῆναι ἄνωθεν.


John 5:28 used the present:
μὴ θαυμάζετε τοῦτο, ὅτι ἔρχεται ὥρα ἐν ἧ πάντες οἱ ἐν τοῖς μνημείοις ἀκούσουσιν τῆς φωνῆς αὐτοῦ

In English doesn't have, or at least I don't find them, two different expressions that would convey the difference between the aorist and the present here. Perhaps aorist "don't be surprised" and present "don't wonder"? But compare:

Don't fall in love with him! (aorist)
Dont love him! (present)

Here I agree with Markos that the difference is irrelevant for the meaning.
Paul Derouda
Textkit Zealot
 
Posts: 823
Joined: Fri Nov 05, 2010 9:39 pm

Re: Present vs Aorist Imperative

Postby uberdwayne » Tue Jul 23, 2013 11:41 pm

IF THE CONTEXT SUPPORTS IT


This has definitely been drilled in to my head like crazy, I think you said in a previous post that you would take context over grammar 10 out of 10 times. this is good advise :)

here's another negative present imperative
Matthew 19:6
ὥστε οὐκέτι εἰσὶ δύο, αλλα σaρξ μία. ὃ οὖν ὁ Θεὸς συνέζευξεν, ἄνθρωπος μὴ χωριζέτω


taken in context, it looks as though this is something that is never permitted to happen. again as in 1 John, we can't just fullfill this command for a short time and then do it, but we are expected to continually observe the command. Is there an aorist example of continually observed command?

Is it a good "general" rule to say that a present infinitive prohibition is used to state a prohibition that needs to be continually observed?
μείζων ἐστὶν ὁ ἐν ὑμῖν ἢ ὁ ἐν τῷ κόσμῳ
uberdwayne
Textkit Fan
 
Posts: 235
Joined: Sun Oct 10, 2010 3:29 am
Location: Ontario, Canada

Re: Present vs Aorist Imperative

Postby Markos » Thu Jul 25, 2013 5:52 am

uberdwayne wrote:Is there an aorist example of continually observed command?


Five come to mind right off hand...

Mark 10:19:
τὰς ἐντολὰς οἶδας: Μὴ φονεύσῃς, Μὴ μοιχεύσῃς, Μὴ κλέψῃς, Μὴ ψευδομαρτυρήσῃς, Μὴ ἀποστερήσῃς...


but of course the aorist here may have something to do with the underlying Hebrew.

Is it a good "general" rule to say that a present...prohibition is used to state a prohibition that needs to be continually observed?


Yes, as far as general rules go, this is fairly good, by which I mean that there are lots of exceptions and in any given case something else may be going on.
Markos
Textkit Zealot
 
Posts: 1300
Joined: Sun Jun 21, 2009 8:07 pm
Location: Colorado


Return to Koine Greek And Mounce's Basics of Biblical Greek

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: Andrew Chapman, Google Adsense [Bot], Isaac Newton and 22 guests