'Aorist Imperative' Interpreting I Jn 5:21

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'Aorist Imperative' Interpreting I Jn 5:21

Post by NuGrkStu » Tue Mar 14, 2017 3:51 am

Hello All -
Having trouble understanding 'Aorist Imperative' and how it affects the interpretation of I Jn 5:21 ". . . φυλάξατε εαυτα απο τωον ειδωλων’’.

Can anyone share how this should be interpreted in the context of I Jn?

Regards,

Tony

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Re: 'Aorist Imperative' Interpreting I Jn 5:21

Post by jeidsath » Tue Mar 14, 2017 2:12 pm

You have an error at τῶν:

Τεκνία, φυλάξατε ἑαυτὰ ἀπὸ τῶν εἰδώλων.

You are asking why John didn't use a present imperative? To the extent there is any difference, present imperatives tend to be more suited for general commands, while the aorist is more specific or direct. In this case, it makes John's statement more personal and concrete than the English makes it sound.

In fact, in keeping with the direct and personal nature of this parting exhortation, I wonder if τὰ εἴδωλα is a concrete set, rather than idols as a general class.
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Re: 'Aorist Imperative' Interpreting I Jn 5:21

Post by C. S. Bartholomew » Tue Mar 14, 2017 3:28 pm

jeidsath wrote: You are asking why John didn't use a present imperative? To the extent there is any difference, present imperatives tend to be more suited for general commands, while the aorist is more specific or direct. In this case, it makes John's statement more personal and concrete than the English makes it sound.
How is Μὴ ἀγαπᾶτε different?

1John 2:15 Μὴ ἀγαπᾶτε τὸν κόσμον μηδὲ τὰ ἐν τῷ κόσμῳ. ἐάν τις ἀγαπᾷ τὸν κόσμον, οὐκ ἔστιν ἡ ἀγάπη τοῦ πατρὸς ἐν αὐτῷ·
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Re: 'Aorist Imperative' Interpreting I Jn 5:21

Post by jeidsath » Tue Mar 14, 2017 4:15 pm

You are right that we can't read too much into aorist versus present here, but I think that 1 John 2:15 would be an example of the tendency that I mentioned. The general, almost undirected, prohibition gets the present imperative. The final exhortation, addressed specifically to John's beloved τεκνια, gets the more specific aorist tense.
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Re: 'Aorist Imperative' Interpreting I Jn 5:21

Post by C. S. Bartholomew » Tue Mar 14, 2017 5:05 pm

Westcott (Epist. of St John p197) says the use of the Aorist Imperative is "remarkable" but then doesn't tell us why. It is used in 1Jn 3:1. In the gospel of John and the Apocalypse it is used frequently. Martin Culy:2004 (Handbook 1,2.3 John xv1-xviii) tells us why S.E. Porter was wrong about the aorist (imperfective) as indicator of discourse background. I came to the same conclusion in the late 90s after some vain attempts to use the S. E. Porter and J. Reed "framework" using as my guide Reed's dissertation on Philippians. My conclusion after a year or less, like the Spruce Goose (Howard Hughes airplane), Reed-Porter vintage mid 90s was huge, impressive but didn't fly.

I wonder why Westcott and Culy consider the Johannine Epistles a valid sample for testing any notion pertaining to imperative verb aspect.

Edit:

I took a look at Alford and Huther (Meyer's Handbook) and they had no comments on the Aorist Imperative Jn 5:21. Also looked at F.F. Bruce and J.R.W. Stott, understanding that they are not commenting on the greek text, just to see what they would say about the passage. Everyone seemed to focus attention on the nature of threat τῶν εἰδώλων without much attention to the meaning or the aspect of φυλάξατε.
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Re: 'Aorist Imperative' Interpreting I Jn 5:21

Post by C. S. Bartholomew » Tue Mar 14, 2017 7:04 pm

There is a closely related discussion of markedness and the verb at this site: http://ibiblio.org/bgreek/forum/viewtop ... 5fc5c2a01e

M. Aubery suggests we abandon the term markedness altogether. Paul Nitz doesn't agree nor do I agree. The misuse of the term doesn't render it useless. I am not convinced that it has been seriously abused in the serious literature. The popular use of metalanguage is often imprecise. But we don't throw away the metalanguage because of popular usage. This is directly relevant to the question about the Aorist Imperative. Westcott claims the φυλάξατε is "marked" (Aorist Imperative is "remarkable"). I question this because the sample is too small. If we use the traditional Johannine Canon as the sample we get different results.


Some have claimed that aorist indicative is unmarked in narrative which would mean that while reading narrative we should be asking about questions about the present, imperfect and perfect since they are all "marked" aspects. Aubery wants to dump all this in the trash bin. I think that is an extreme reaction.
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Re: 'Aorist Imperative' Interpreting I Jn 5:21

Post by mwh » Tue Mar 14, 2017 8:13 pm

Hi Tony. For a NuGrkStu the important thing to grasp is that this is a matter of what’s called “aspect.” The aorist here does not refer to the past. The aorist is very common with imperatives, it's used unless there's a particular reason to use the present.

“Mind the gap,” for instance, the warning announcement on the London Underground in stations where there’s a gap between the train doors and the platform, would be aorist, just as φυλαξατε here.

The best way to get a handle on aspect is to read more Greek—any Greek—and observe present/aorist usage in imperatives and infinitives. Or consult a Greek grammar (preferably not a NT grammar) and contemplate the examples given. Then you’ll be able to understand why μη αγαπατε at 1 Jn 2:15 is not aorist and why ιδετε at 3:1 is.

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Re: 'Aorist Imperative' Interpreting I Jn 5:21

Post by NuGrkStu » Tue Mar 14, 2017 8:51 pm

What a treasure of information you guys are. Yes you've cleared it up for me.

It was re-affirming that many of you quoted the same references that I went to: Stott, Robertson, Wuest, Culy and thank you mwh for the laymans reply and the real world example 'watch the gap!'. The difference between present Imperative and aorist imperative being aorist imperative probably refers to an immediate crisis (like standing waiting for the subway) rather than a more general exortation.

Very re-afirming gentlemen. Looking forward to this wonderful Greek journey.

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Re: 'Aorist Imperative' Interpreting I Jn 5:21

Post by Alison Rowan » Sun Mar 26, 2017 1:51 pm

The explanation given of the more immediate "aspect" is very helpful - thanks mwh. I think I can understand why you say "preferably not a NT grammar," since the theology can interfere with interpretation ... or can it actually help???

On that line, I have another suggestion over the usage of the aorist imperative here, but more from a theological point of view, but would like to know if it is grammatically viable, as well, please.

I have observed Paul's quite frequent use of the aorist imperative, especially in Eph 4:20-24

ὑμεῖς δὲ οὐχ οὕτως ἐμάθετε τὸν Χριστόν, εἴ γε αὐτὸν ἠκούσατε καὶ ἐν αὐτῷ ἐδιδάχθητε, καθώς ἐστιν ἀλήθεια ἐν τῷ Ἰησοῦ, ἀποθέσθαι (to have put off) ὑμᾶς κατὰ τὴν προτέραν ἀναστροφὴν τὸν παλαιὸν ἄνθρωπον τὸν φθειρόμενον κατὰ τὰς ἐπιθυμίας τῆς ἀπάτης, ἀνανεοῦσθαι δὲ τῷ πνεύματι τοῦ νοὸς ὑμῶν, καὶ ἐνδύσασθαι (to have put on) τὸν καινὸν ἄνθρωπον τὸν κατὰ Θεὸν κτισθέντα (having been created) ἐν δικαιοσύνῃ καὶ ὁσιότητι τῆς ἀληθείας.

Surely this ought to be understood in the context of Jn 15:4, μείνατε ἐν ἐμοί - in that the new birth of the believer's spirit (Jn 3:3,6) and immersion by the Holy Spirit into Christ's Body εἰς ἓν σῶμα ἐβαπτίσθημεν (1 Cor 12:13) are a "single point" (aorist) events, in the benefit of which we are then exhorted to remain?

From this, I would gather that the putting off of the old man and the putting on of the new are not meant to be regarded as a gradual process of renewal (unlike that of the mind, which is) but one of maintaining an attitude of faith, resting in the virtue of God's action having placed us into Christ (1 Cor 1:30). Therefore because Christ ἐγενήθη "has been made" unto us everything we need, God henceforth views us "in Him" - His perfection, in the Spirit, not according to our natural flesh (2 Cor 5:16-17). We are in God's favour and free access to his permissions, promises and provision by virtue of being a new creation in Christ, "(already) created in righteousness and holiness of truth" as Paul teaches in Eph 4:24.

He emphasizes that this is a PAST, one time accomplishment in the parallel passage, Col 3:9-10

μὴ ψεύδεσθε εἰς ἀλλήλους, ἀπεκδυσάμενοι (having divested yourself) τὸν παλαιὸν ἄνθρωπον σὺν ταῖς πράξεσιν αὐτοῦ, καὶ ἐνδυσάμενοι (having clothed yourself) τὸν νέον τὸν ἀνακαινούμενον εἰς ἐπίγνωσιν κατ’ εἰκόνα τοῦ κτίσαντος (having created) αὐτόν.

Also we can see from οὓς δὲ προώρισεν, τούτους καὶ ἐκάλεσεν· καὶ οὓς ἐκάλεσεν, τούτους καὶ ἐδικαίωσεν· οὓς δὲ ἐδικαίωσεν, τούτους καὶ ἐδόξασεν (Rom 8:30) that this single point (aorist) action applies to all of these, too. It is the same for our sanctification ἀλλὰ ἡγιάσθητε, ἀλλὰ ἐδικαιώθητε ἐν τῷ ὀνόματι τοῦ Κυρίου Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ καὶ ἐν τῷ Πνεύματι τοῦ Θεοῦ ἡμῶν (1 Cor 6:11).

Could it be said that all of the aorist imperatives can be justifiably interpreted as "remain, having done it (or having had it done to you)"?

In other words, the English translations, which render the aorist in the PRESENT imperative form, of Eph 4:20-24 miss the point of remaining in God's favour since we (as born-again spiritual creations, "joined with the Lord, [as] one spirit" - 1 Cor 6:17) are already in the position of "perfection" granted through faith in Christ's accomplishment and virtues. Instead, the English versions make conforming to Christ's new man, a matter of "becoming more Christ-like", an ongoing (unachievable) effort of Christian disciplines --- not unlike the previous system of an ongoing effort of adherence to the Jewish Law ... done "in the flesh." Unlike the OLD Covenant where fulfilment of promises and granting of blessings were conditional on the Jew's adherence to the Law's requirements, the New imputes the righteousness of Christ to us, rather than relying on our own. Of course, there is a practical outworking, but is that not meant to be "not I but Christ alive in me" (Gal 2:20) with His love - which keeps all Law - shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who is FREELY given to us (Rom 5:5) ... when we ASK (Lk 11:13) and regularly go to Christ to drink the Living Water (Jn 7:37-9, Rev 22:17) so that Christ-like living is the outflow of our being aware of the presence of the Spirit of the God of Love in us. Fruit of His life, not effort of our own.

Having laid out all of this theology of Christ's words, "abide in me" - spoken to John, himself - is it therefore not surprising that he applies the same principle of the aorist imperative to φυλάξατε in 1 Jn 5:21? Is he perhaps saying here, "Now as saints in Christ, draw on the same vigilance of Christ within you which he exercised in his single-minded devotion to His Father (his sanctification unto the Father's will - to worship Him, alone) and keep yourselves from idols"? (- the worst idol being our own egocentric self-determination, independent of God's presence, which Adam chose in the first place!)

Any comments on the grammatic/theological compatibility?

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Re: 'Aorist Imperative' Interpreting I Jn 5:21

Post by Victor » Sun Mar 26, 2017 7:28 pm

Alison Rowan wrote:I think I can understand why you say "preferably not a NT grammar," since the theology can interfere with interpretation ... or can it actually help???...Any comments on the grammatic/theological compatibility?
Theology should be able to help with interpretation occasionally. In practice it helps far too often only to bolster a particular interpretation that was arrived at before analysis of the Greek even began.

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Re: 'Aorist Imperative' Interpreting I Jn 5:21

Post by C. S. Bartholomew » Sun Mar 26, 2017 7:44 pm

Any comments on the grammatic/theological compatibility?
Alison,
A general comment. Verb Aspect as it is understood by NT linguists isn't very useful for arguing dogmatics. What you are you are doing here is adopting something akin to the Mounce-Wallace exegetical model which should be avoided. Any argument about dogma that depends on minute details at the code level is a weak argument. The Mounce-Wallace exegetical model isn't anything new, Mounce-Wallace didn't invent it. It was a popular method used to demonstrate the importance of biblical language study. It became entrenched over generations of use.

Treating verb aspect as if it were some sort of magical key to an encrypted text is the result of a lot of fuss and bother over the last 30 years in the technical papers and PhD dissertations. There isn't much to be gained by reading three decades of publications on the topic. The hoopla is pretty much over with. No point in revisiting it. Look at the archives in b-greek for the 1990s. site:www.ibiblio.org perfective Imperfective
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Re: 'Aorist Imperative' Interpreting I Jn 5:21

Post by mwh » Sun Mar 26, 2017 9:28 pm

The Ephesians passage nicely illustrates the difference between present and aorist. Aorist (αποθεσθαι, ενδυσασθαι) for the one-off acts of taking off and putting on clothes or a snake shedding its skin, present (ανανεουσθαι) for setting about a process of renewal.

Paul’s use is perfectly ordinary, as you’ll come to see if you do some reading outside of the NT.

Theological interpretation must proceed from the Greek, not the other way round.

I said "preferably not a NT grammar” because there’s no such thing as NT Greek. The NT contains various kinds of Greek; it’s a small corpus but a highly diversified one. By the same token, my advice would be to avoid “NT linguists" and to learn something about Greek.
Could it be said that all of the aorist imperatives can be justifiably interpreted as "remain, having done it (or having had it done to you)"?
No, not at all.
In other words, the English translations, which render the aorist in the PRESENT imperative form, of Eph 4:20-24 miss the point
No. The English imperative (what you call “the PRESENT imperative form,” as if there were any other) is almost always the best way of translating an aorist imperative. It’s the sense of Greek present imperatives (and infinitives and subjunctives) that English is not well equipped to capture.

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Re: 'Aorist Imperative' Interpreting I Jn 5:21

Post by jeidsath » Sun Mar 26, 2017 11:45 pm

The grammars that I've looked at don't have much to say (but see Κühner below). Smyth's discussion is limited to negative commands, but hopefully applies to what we're talking about as well:
The difference between μὴ γράφε and μὴ γράψῃς is virtually a difference of tenses, the present denoting an action continuing, in process; the aorist, an action concluded, summarized. So μὴ φοβοῦ don't be fearful, μὴ φοβηθῇς don't be frightened. In maxims μή with the present imperative is preferred: μὴ κλέπτε don't be a thief, μὴ κλέψῃς don't steal this or that. μηκέτι may be used in either construction. The distinction is often immaterial, often a difference of tone rather than of meaning; sometimes too subtle for dogmatic statement. (emphasis mine)


My statement about general versus specific came from Morwood, and is all he has to say on the matter. His grammar is silent on the topic, but his reader had included a discussion of the imperative. I think that this advice also tends to agree with Smyth's statement about maxims.

I wasn't able to find a discussion in Kaegi or Goodwin.

However Kühner has a decent discussion in his elementary grammar, which I have only found just now, and no doubt a better one in his full grammar:
The difference between the Pres. and Aor. Imp., is, that the Pres. generally denotes a continued, oft-repeated action, while the Aor. denotes a single, instantaneous action; e.g. πειθου τοῖς σοφωτέροις, obey those wiser than yourself, a direction to be observed at all times; ἀνατεινάτω τὴν χεῖρα, let him raise his hand, βλέψον εἰς τὰ ὄρη, look upon the mountains, single, instantaneous acts. So ἄκουσον, ἀκούσατε, λέξον, λέξατε. Comp. § 152, 12, b.––The Perf. Imp., which is of rare occurrence, is used to indicate that the consequences of the action are to remain or be permanent; e.g. κεκλείσθω ἡ θύρα, let the door be shut (and remain shut). It will be evident, therefore that neither the Aor. nor Perf. Imp., expresses any relation of past time, as the Ind. of these tenses does, but only such modifications of action as are stated above.
Still, Kühner's very prescriptive discussion seems to disagree with the vagueness expressed by Smyth and Morwood.
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Re: 'Aorist Imperative' Interpreting I Jn 5:21

Post by mwh » Mon Mar 27, 2017 12:29 am

I think this jibes well with what I’ve said, and as I indicated it's useful to see more examples.
The difference (sometimes strong, sometimes not) goes way beyond negative imperatives.

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Re: 'Aorist Imperative' Interpreting I Jn 5:21

Post by C. S. Bartholomew » Mon Mar 27, 2017 12:56 am

Alison Rowan wrote: I have observed Paul's quite frequent use of the aorist imperative, especially in Eph 4:20-24

ὑμεῖς δὲ οὐχ οὕτως ἐμάθετε τὸν Χριστόν, εἴ γε αὐτὸν ἠκούσατε καὶ ἐν αὐτῷ ἐδιδάχθητε, καθώς ἐστιν ἀλήθεια ἐν τῷ Ἰησοῦ, ἀποθέσθαι (to have put off) ὑμᾶς κατὰ τὴν προτέραν ἀναστροφὴν τὸν παλαιὸν ἄνθρωπον τὸν φθειρόμενον κατὰ τὰς ἐπιθυμίας τῆς ἀπάτης, ἀνανεοῦσθαι δὲ τῷ πνεύματι τοῦ νοὸς ὑμῶν, καὶ ἐνδύσασθαι (to have put on) τὸν καινὸν ἄνθρωπον τὸν κατὰ Θεὸν κτισθέντα (having been created) ἐν δικαιοσύνῃ καὶ ὁσιότητι τῆς ἀληθείας.
First off, in NA27-Eph 4:20-24 there are no aorist imperatives: ἀποθέσθαι, ἀνανεοῦσθαι, ἐνδύσασθαι are infinitives. ἀνανεοῦσθαι tagged[1] a present passive. The others are tagged[1] as aorist middles.
Alison Rowan wrote: From this, I would gather that the putting off of the old man and the putting on of the new are not meant to be regarded as a gradual process of renewal (unlike that of the mind, which is) but one of maintaining an attitude of faith, resting in the virtue of God's action having placed us into Christ (1 Cor 1:30).
Not a valid observation. The aorist says nothing either way about the nature of the process. It is the unadorned event, unmarked for process. The present is marked for process.

[1] semantically they should be understood as Self-Affected.
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Re: 'Aorist Imperative' Interpreting I Jn 5:21

Post by mwh » Mon Mar 27, 2017 2:41 am

The aorist says nothing either way about the nature of the process. It is the unadorned event, unmarked for process. The present is marked for process.
Or as I more concretely put it:
Aorist (αποθεσθαι, ενδυσασθαι) for the one-off acts of taking off and putting on clothes or a snake shedding its skin, present (ανανεουσθαι) for setting about a process of renewal.
Stirling’s talking in terms of unmarked/marked corresponds to my saying
The aorist is very common with imperatives, it's used unless there's a particular reason to use the present.
And when he says that αποθεσθαι and ενδυσασθαι are “tagged as aorist middles” he means they are aorist middles, he doesn’t mean tagging as defined in the urban dictionary: “When you have sex with a girl and then take a picture of her naked, then wait a few days and post it to Facebook and tag her and all your mutual friends.”
Incidentally, all the verbs in that sentence would be aorist in Greek.
(E.g. ὅταν κόρῃ συμμιγείς τις εἰκόν’ αὐτῆς ποιήσηται γυμνῆς οὔσης κᾆτα ἡμέρας τινας ἐπισχὼν ταύτην ἐς τὸ κοινὸν πορεύσῃ καὶ τῇ κόρῃ τ’ ἀπαγγείλῃ καὶ ἅπασι τοῖς φίλοις αὐτῶν.)

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Re: 'Aorist Imperative' Interpreting I Jn 5:21

Post by jeidsath » Mon Mar 27, 2017 6:47 am

Zeus tells Hera to sit down and shut up (and stay like that). ἀκέουσα κάθησο (A 565). She does it. ἀκέουσα καθῆστο (A 569).
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Re: 'Aorist Imperative' Interpreting I Jn 5:21

Post by NuGrkStu » Mon Mar 27, 2017 7:37 am

This comment is in regards to mwh's comment about 'read more greek' and 'consult a grammar preferably NOT a NT Grammar.' What would be your recommendations?

I do have several volumes of 'Polybius the Histories' from the Loeb Classic Library. Is that a good starting place for a 2nd year self taught greek student. I will admit all I've read to this point is I, 2, 3 John and his gospel. And the only grammars I have are Mounce, Wallace, Robertson. What 'non NT Grammar' would you recommend?

Any other tips?

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Re: 'Aorist Imperative' Interpreting I Jn 5:21

Post by Alison Rowan » Mon Mar 27, 2017 7:12 pm

Thanks again guys for clearing up my own confusion with the Eph 4 passage. I even wrote in brackets the infinitive forms, but had an (autistic) fixation that they were imperatives!

You are all so helpful with your access to so many good resources and your own great working knowledge of the language.

Can I ask whether the present imperative, like the present infinitive, takes on more the nature of a noun than a verb? For instance, the usual way Luke 11:9-10 is explained is "ask and keep on asking" for αἰτεῖτε, etc. Is it meant to be almost a characterisation of the person - such a habitual adherence to the command - that the command could be described in a similar way to the present infinitive, as "be an asker, a seeker, a knocker"?

Just musing here ... trying to grasp the fineries of the language.

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Re: 'Aorist Imperative' Interpreting I Jn 5:21

Post by mwh » Wed Mar 29, 2017 3:23 am

Alison, You’re now much closer, but you overstate the force of the present. It characterizes the nature of the asking/seeking/knocking itself, not of the person doing the asking etc.

Smyth in his Greek Grammar describes the difference in terms of “continuous”~present vs. “simple occurrence”~aorist (paras.1859-72, esp.1864), after Kühner quoted by jeidsath above. You’ll best appreciate it by considering the examples offered and others that you come across (including in this thread, esp. the Eph.4 passage—imperative or infinitive, makes no difference).

NuGrkStu. For self-learners such as yourself, hard-and-fast distinctions between 1st 2nd and 3rd year students don’t make much sense. Different people learn at different rates, and you don’t have to follow a systematic progression. I see you posed the same question in another thread and elicited some responses. I think you may find jeidsath’s useful.

The grammar book which still dominates the field in English is Smyth, see above. It’s old, but then ancient Greek grammar doesn’t change (though linguistics does); and it’s not very user-friendly for beginners, or indeed for anyone. I have no personal experience of Morwood, but that may well be best for you (certainly better than Smyth), even though classical Greek and koine are not identical in all respects. The main difference is that koine has little use for the optative. I don't know your NT grammars at all well, but think Mounce is dreadful, Wallace tiresome, Robertson excellent but much more than you need. But that's just me.
Just remember you’ll never learn Greek by reading about it: it’s your own Greek reading that will benefit you most, with a grammar consulted where necessary.
Zeus tells Hera to sit down and shut up (and stay like that). ἀκέουσα κάθησο (A 565).
That’s true enough, but the form καθησο is neither present nor aorist but perfect, strictly meaning something like “Be in a seated position.” You won’t find many perfect imperatives.
“Sit down” in ordinary Greek is καθισον (aor.), while καθιζε (pres.) would mean “stay sitting down.”

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