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Verbal Aspect Theory and the Prohibitions in the Greek New Testament

by Douglas S. Huffman (Author)
Monographs XXIV, 571 Pages
Series: Studies in Biblical Greek, Volume 16

Summary

The end of the twentieth and the beginning of the twenty-first centuries have involved much discussion on overhauling and refining a scholarly understanding of the verbal system for first-century Greek. These discussions have included advances in verbal aspect theory and other linguistic approaches to describing the grammatical phenomena of ancient languages. This volume seeks to apply some of that learning to the narrow realm of how prohibitions were constructed in the first-century Greek of the New Testament.
Part 1 «The Great Prohibition Debate» seeks to demonstrate that verbal aspect theory has a better explanation than traditional Aktionsart theory for authorial choices between the negated present imperative and the negated aorist subjunctive in expressing prohibitions in the Greek New Testament.
Part 2 «All the Prohibitions in the Greek NT» continues to examine prohibitions, but is more of an exercise in functional linguistics. That is, rather than apply verbal aspect theory to the grammar of prohibition constructions, Part 2 seeks only to survey the (initially surprising) wide variety of ways prohibitions can be expressed in koine Greek: more than a dozen different constructions. To do this, the NT prohibitions are grouped in their varying grammatical-syntactical and/or pragmatic constructions, all of which function – in varying degrees – in a prohibitory fashion. This taxonomy may prove to be the beginnings of further investigations into how biblical Greek communicates commands.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the author(s)/editor(s)
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Contents
  • List of Tables
  • Editor’s Preface
  • Author’s Preface
  • Abbreviations
  • Part 1: The Great Prohibition Debate
  • Introduction to Part 1 —Understanding Prohibitions
  • Chapter 1—The Aktionsart View of Greek Prohibitions: “Stop doing that.” vs. “Do not start that.”
  • 1.1 A Brief History of the General Aktionsart Verbal Theory
  • 1.2 Various Aktionsart Understandings of Greek Prohibitions
  • 1.3 Initial Conclusions about Aktionsart on Prohibitions
  • Chapter 2—The Failures of the Aktionsart View: Verb Tense-Forms ≠ Kind of Action
  • 2.1 Contextual Incongruence
  • 2.2 Unparallel Synoptic Parallels
  • 2.3 Contextual Grammatical Interchanges
  • 2.4 Conclusion on the Failures of the Aktionsart View
  • Chapter 3—Verbal Aspect Theory & Greek Prohibitions: “Do not be doing that.” vs. “Do not do that.”
  • 3.1 A Brief History of General Verbal Aspect Theory
  • 3.2 Various Aspectual Understandings of Greek Prohibitions
  • 3.3 Initial Conclusions about Verbal Aspect on Prohibitions
  • Chapter 4—The Successes of a Verbal Aspect View: Verb Tense-Forms ≈ Author’s Perspective
  • 4.1 Contextual Congruence
  • 4.2 Unparallel Synoptic Parallels
  • 4.3 Contextual Grammatical Interchanges
  • 4.4 Conclusion on the Success of the Verbal Aspect View
  • Part 2: All the Prohibitions in the Greek New Testament
  • Introduction to Part 2—Lots of Ways to Say, “Don’t do that.”
  • Chapter 5—The Negated Present Tense Prohibitions
  • 5.1 The Negated Present Imperative: “Do not be doing that.”
  • 5.2 An Assessment of the Negated Present Constructions
  • Chapter 6—The Negated Aorist Tense Prohibitions
  • 6.1 The Negated Aorist Subjunctive: “Do not do that.”
  • 6.2 The Negated Aorist Imperative: “He must not do that.”
  • 6.3 An Assessment of the Negated Aorist Constructions
  • Chapter 7—Prohibitions Using Other Negated Verb Constructions
  • 7.1 The Negated Future Indicative: “You shall not do that.”
  • 7.2 The Negated Hortatory Subjunctive: “Let us not do that.”
  • 7.3 The Negated Optative: “May it not be!”
  • 7.4 The Negated Infinitive: “I am telling you not to do that.”
  • 7.5 The Negated Participle: “... not doing that.”
  • Chapter 8—Prohibitions Using Negated Dependent Clause Constructions
  • 8.1 Negated Object Clauses: “... that you not do that.”
  • 8.2 Negated Final Clauses: “... in order that you not do that.”
  • Chapter 9—Lexical Prohibitions: “Refrain from that.”
  • 9.1 Prohibitions Using Lexically Negated Imperative Verbs
  • 9.2 Lexically Negated Terms in Other Prohibitory Contexts
  • 9.3 Lexical Prohibitions in Indirect Discourse
  • 9.4 Lexical Reports of Prohibitions
  • 9.5 Lexically Implied Indirect Discourse Prohibitions
  • Chapter 10—Prohibitory Emulation Statements: “We do not do that.”
  • 10.1 Negated Statements of Lawfulness or Obligation
  • 10.2 Negated Verbs of Will or Desire
  • 10.3 Other Prohibitory Emulation Statements
  • 10.4 Prohibition Reports Using Negated Verbs of Permission
  • Chapter 11—Prohibitory Questions: “Why are you doing that?”
  • Chapter 12—Warnings & Promises as Prohibitions: “Those who do that will be punished.”
  • 12.1 Prohibitory Woes
  • 12.2 Prohibitory Warnings
  • 12.3 Prohibitory Promises
  • Chapter 13—Other Negative Expressions as Prohibitions: “No, don’t!”
  • 13.1 Negatives Dependent upon Earlier Prohibitions
  • 13.2 Miscellaneous Negated Adverbial Phrases
  • 13.3 Miscellaneous Negated Complements
  • 13.4 Miscellaneous Prohibitory Exclamations
  • Chapter 14—Conclusion: Summary & Prospects
  • 14.1 Summary of Findings
  • 14.2 Prospects for Future Research
  • 14.3 A Final Word
  • Appendix A—Tracing Aktionsart Views of Prohibitions
  • Appendix B—Comparing Verbal Aspect Models
  • Appendix C—Guidelines for Counting NT Prohibitions
  • Appendix D—All the Perfect Imperatives in Biblical Greek
  • Bibliography
  • Scripture Index
  • Author Index
  • Series Index

| xi →

—LIST OF TABLES

1.1 A TIME-BASED OUTLINE OF THE GREEK TENSE-FORMS, 1848

1.2 THE GREEK TENSE-FORMS BY KIND OF ACTION & TIME, 1740

1.3 THE GREEK TENSE-FORMS BY KIND OF ACTION & TIME, 1852

1.4 THE GREEK TENSE-FORMS BY KIND OF ACTION & TIME, 1902

1.5 THE TYPICAL AKTIONSART OUTLINE OF THE GREEK TENSE-FORMS

1.6 THE TRADITIONAL AKTIONSART PROHIBITION DISTINCTION

1.7 THE VARIETY OF AKTIONSART PROHIBITION DISTINCTIONS

1.8 A SURVEY OF GREEK GRAMMAR STATEMENTS SINCE 1805

2.1 ASSESSING THE CONTEXTS OF NT Μή + PRESENT IMPERATIVE

2.2 REASSESSING THE CONTEXTS OF NT Μή + PRESENT IMPERATIVE

2.3 AKTIONSART CONTEXTUAL CONGRUENCE FOR NT PRESENT IMPERATIVE PROHIBITIONS

2.4 AKTIONSART CONTEXTUAL CONGRUENCE FOR NT AORIST SUBJUNCTIVE PROHIBITIONS

2.5 AKTIONSART CONTEXTUAL CONGRUENCE FOR NT AORIST PROHIBITIONS (SUBJUNCTIVE + IMPERATIVE)

2.6 AKTIONSART CONTEXTUAL CONGRUENCE FOR NT PRESENT & AORIST PROHIBITIONS

3.1 THE GREEK TENSE-FORMS IN GENERAL VERBAL ASPECT THEORY ….

3.2 BASIC PROHIBITIONS IN GENERAL VERBAL ASPECT THEORY

5.0 COUNTING THE PROHIBITIONS OF THE GREEK NEW TESTAMENT

5.1 NT PROHIBITIONS USING THE NEGATED PRESENT IMPERATIVE

5.2 AKTIONSART CONTEXTUAL CONGRUENCE FOR NT PRESENT IMPERATIVE PROHIBITIONS ← xi | xii →

6.1 NT PROHIBITIONS USING THE NEGATED AORIST TENSE

6.2 AKTIONSART CONTEXTUAL CONGRUENCE FOR NT AORIST SUBJUNCTIVE PROHIBITIONS

6.3 AKTIONSART CONTEXTUAL CONGRUENCE FOR NT AORIST IMPERATIVE PROHIBITIONS

7.0 NT PROHIBITIONS USING OTHER NEGATED VERB CONSTRUCTIONS

7.1 NT PROHIBITIONS USING THE NEGATED FUTURE INDICATIVE

7.2 NT PROHIBITIONS USING THE NEGATED HORTATORY SUBJUNCTIVE

7.3 NT PROHIBITIONS USING THE NEGATED OPTATIVE

7.4 NT PROHIBITIONS USING THE NEGATED INFINITIVE

7.5 NT PROHIBITIONS USING THE NEGATED PARTICIPLE

8.0 NT PROHIBITIONS USING NEGATED DEPENDENT CLAUSES

8.1 NT PROHIBITIONS USING NEGATED OBJECT CLAUSES

8.1.1 NT PROHIBITORY OBJECT CLAUSES WITH VISION VERBS

8.1.2 NT PROHIBITIONS IN INDIRECT DISCOURSE

8.1.3 NT PROHIBITORY OBJECT CLAUSES WITH FEARING VERBS

8.2 NT PROHIBITIONS USING NEGATED FINAL CLAUSES

8.2.1 NT PROHIBITIONS USING NEGATED FINAL CLAUSES WITH ἵνα

8.2.2 NT PROHIBITIONS USING NEGATED FINAL CLAUSES WITH μήποτε

9.0 LEXICAL PROHIBITIONS IN THE NT

9.1 NT PROHIBITIONS USING LEXICALLY NEGATED IMPERATIVE VERBS

9.2 NT PROHIBITIONS USING OTHER LEXICALLY NEGATED TERMS

9.3 NT LEXICAL PROHIBITIONS IN INDIRECT DISCOURSE

9.4 NT REPORTS OF PROHIBITIONS

10.0 NT PROHIBITORY EMULATION STATEMENTS ← xii | xiii →

11.0 NT PROHIBITORY QUESTIONS

12.0 NT WARNINGS & PROMISES AS PROHIBITIONS

12.3 WARNINGS & PROMISES: EXHORTATIVE VS. PROHIBITORY

13.0 OTHER NEGATIVE EXPRESSIONS AS PROHIBITIONS IN THE NT

13.3.1 NT PROHIBITIONS INVOLVING (OR PRESUMING) VERBS OF BEING

13.3.2 NT PROHIBITIONS USING DIRECT COMPLEMENTARY CONSTRUCT

13.4 MISCELLANEOUS PROHIBITORY EXCLAMATIONS IN THE NT

A.1.7 THE VARIETY OF AKTIONSART PROHIBITION DISTINCTIONS

B.1 PORTER’S VERBAL ASPECT MODEL

B.2 FANNING’S VERBAL ASPECT MODEL

B.3 OLSEN’S VERBAL ASPECT MODEL

B.4 CAMPBELL’S VERBAL ASPECT MODEL

B.5 HUFFMAN’S VERBAL ASPECT MODEL

| xv →

—EDITOR’S PREFACE

Studies in Biblical Greek is an occasional series of monographs designed to promote and publish the latest research into the Greek of both Testaments. The Series does not assume that biblical Greek is a distinct dialect within the larger world of koine: on the contrary, the assumption is that biblical Greek is part and parcel of the Hellenistic Greek that dominated the Mediterranean world from about 300 B.C. to A.D. 300. If the Series focuses on the corpora of the Old and New Testaments, it is because these writings generate major interest around the world, not only for religious but also for historical and academic reasons.

Research into the broader evidence of the period, including epigraphical and inscriptional materials as well as literary works, is welcome in the Series, provided the results are cast in terms of their bearing on biblical Greek. In the same way, the Series is devoted to fresh philological, syntactical and linguistic study of the Greek of the biblical books, with the subsidiary aim of displaying the contribution of such to accurate exegesis.

The present volume, Verbal Aspect Theory and the Prohibitions in the Greek New Testament, breaks ground on several fronts. Dr Huffman pushes back by about a century the history of an Aktionsart approach to prohibitions. His analysis also demonstrates that Aktionsart theory in prohibitions has never been just one thing: there are three different analyses that claim the rubric. More importantly, in demonstrating the superior explanatory power of aspect theory in analyzing the differences between negated present imperatives and negated aorist subjunctives, Dr Huffman nestles the conversation within a much broader discussion: there are approximately 175 for the former prohibitions in the New Testament, and 89 of the latter, but the total number of prohibitory statements in the New Testament is about 1416. Huffman’s taxonomy will provide a starting place for all future discussion. It is a pleasure to welcome this important work to the SBG series.

D. A. Carson
Trinity Evangelical Divinity School

| xvii →

— AUTHOR’S PREFACE

At the outset, I have several things to say about this volume that will hopefully anticipate a few questions regarding its origins and approach.

A Word about the Origins of this Study

The original work on this project began when I was a student in D. A. Carson’s “Advanced Greek Grammar” course at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in the fall term of 1988. Coming into that course as a master’s level student, I already had a love for studying the Greek New Testament, and the course expanded my horizons by exposing me to verbal aspect theory. That 1988 term was just prior to the publication of the important works by Stanley Porter and Buist Fanning, reinvigorating the application of verbal aspect theory to the Greek of the New Testament.1 In fact, since Carson was serving at that time as a reader for Porter’s dissertation work, my fellow classmates and I felt like we were on the cutting edge of Greek language study.

In addition to the resurgence of verbal aspect theory as applied to the Greek of the New Testament, in the 1980’s GRAMCORD was in its infancy as a computer application for the study of the New Testament. As part of the course work, Professor Carson required each student to use GRAMCORD to assess a different Greek construction in the New Testament. Thus, I learned to use GRAMCORD before Windows® software made it more user-friendly; rather, I wrote “command files” in DOS code in order to search GRAMCORD’s morphologically tagged Greek New Testament to find all the prohibitions for my contribution to the course. I am grateful for the labors of Paul Miller who brought GRAMCORD to the scholarly world of biblical studies, building upon the grammatical tagging system of James L. Boyer.2 ← xvii | xviii → Now the power of GRAMCORD has been enhanced and made accessible to the Apple® world with a product called Accordance. These tools I have used to check, refine, and expand my previous work. We can add here, too, that beyond the more tedious gathering of examples from classical grammars, concordances, and lexicons (how did those scholars do their massive work prior to computers?!), I have occasionally accessed Thesaurus Linguae Graecae—a helpful and ever-growing electronic database of Greek texts dating from the ancient world up to the Byzantine period—to explore prohibition constructions in extra-biblical Greek.3

A Word about the Greek Language in View in this Study

This book is aimed at discussing “New Testament Greek,” that is, the Greek of the New Testament, which was written in the first century A.D. This language study is, in turn, set in the broader literary environment of what some call “biblical Greek.” “Biblical Greek” is so named because the Hebrew Bible—the Old Testament Scriptures—was translated into Greek about 250–300 years B.C., called the Septuagint (abbreviated LXX).4 Thus, after the New Testament documents were collected, the entire Bible could be ← xviii | xix → read in Greek. This does not imply that “biblical Greek” is to be considered as its own dialect of the Greek language. Rather, it should be understood in the broader cultural environment of “Hellenistic Greek,” the Greek language that Alexander the Great made the lingua franca of the world beginning in about 300 B.C. and that remained internationally significant even into the Roman era (particularly in the eastern part of Roman empire) when Latin began to gain international influence.5

In discussing the Greek language, it is sometimes possible to forget that Greek, like all other human languages, has a tendency to undergo changes over time. The various forms of the language can be labeled according to their time periods with such descriptions (and approximate dates) as Linear B (1500–1200 B.C.), Archaic (800–500 B.C.), Classical (500–330 B.C.), Post-classical (330 B.C.A.D. 330), Medieval (A.D. 330–1453), and Modern (A.D. 1453–present). Some scholars use more culturally related labels roughly corresponding to the time periods just mentioned: Mycenaean, Epic, Attic, Hellenistic, Byzantine, and Neohellenic. Some use labels given to various dialects and/or dialectic stages of the language: e.g., Achaic, Attic, Ionic, Doric, Æolic, Koine, and Demotic. Finally, some are more concerned with particular authorial corpi: e.g., Homeric Greek, Platonic Greek, poetic Greek, and biblical Greek. Our use of “biblical Greek” is in this authorial corpus sense, all the while acknowledging that the New Testament falls into the post-classical, Hellenistic time period of koine Greek.

Recognition of the evolution of the Greek language leads us to refer to scholarship on classical Greek grammar because of its impact on scholarship regarding biblical Greek.6 The focus here is not to discuss the differences between various periods of the Greek language nor to reconstruct in great detail how certain constructions came to be used in Greek over time. The ← xix | xx → focus is on the prohibition constructions as they stand in the biblical Greek of the New Testament.7

A Word about Secondary Literature Citations in this Study

I have tried for some consistency in quoting old grammar and syntax texts. What the authors have emphasized in their texts, I have kept so emphasized by their methods (italics or bold or underline). Where they insert footnotes or parenthetical references to other sections of their own works (e.g. “§123”), however, I have removed such items without notation for more smooth flowing quotation. The same goes for outline letters and numbers, if the inclusion of them is disruptive for our purposes here. Naturally, if their ← xx | xxi → notes are more than section references but inconsequential to the reason for my citing the quotation, I generally use ellipses (…) as expected.

Most writers have used accents with their Greek citations, but some have not; when including their examples of Greek text, I simply cite the scholars as they have written. Likewise, I try to keep to their use of capitalization: some authors capitalize the tenses and moods while others do not. I also try to keep to their vocabulary and spelling. For example, some of the old grammars refer to the subjunctive mood as the “conjunctive” and/or the “primary conjunctive”; some prefer the term “mode” instead of “mood.” All in all, however, I aim for this book to be understood by those who have already mastered an understanding of Greek achieved at the second-year-level of study; thus, I only rarely provide editorial glosses in brackets [ ] where I deem such to be helpful.

A Word of Gratitude for Help with this Study

Many people have been helpful to me in the production of this volume. I revived this twenty-five-year-old project during a sabbatical from my teaching and administrative duties at University of Northwestern—St. Paul, Minnesota, and I am grateful for the support of my institution and my colleagues there. A good piece of the work on this project was performed at Tyndale House in Cambridge, England, and I am grateful to them for their kind hospitality and willing service in support of biblical research. I have now completed the work while a new faculty member at the Talbot School of Theology at Biola University in La Mirada, California, and I am freshly grateful for the support and encouragement of my new colleagues. My gratitude extends to five student workers who helped me with some of the tedious tasks in this project: Catherine J. Rivard, Lance M. Kramer, and David D. Danielson II at University of Northwestern—St. Paul, and Isaac D. Blois and Jamie N. Hausherr at the Talbot School of Theology of Biola University. At Peter Lang Publishing, executive editor Heidi Burns and production supervisor Jackie Pavlovic have merited grateful kudos for their extreme patience with multiple delays in this project. Of course, I owe gratitude to D. A. Carson, who saw this project at its very beginning days and now at its culmination these twenty-five years later has accepted it into the Studies in Biblical Greek series that he has edited for almost that entire length of time. In all of this, for my wife Deb’s partnership in life and her enduring support during the years of labor over grammatical minutae, I am inadequately grateful. And finally, for the pleasures of wrestling with understanding the Bible better, I may not yet be satisfied, but I am grateful to our Lord Jesus Christ. ← xxi | xxii →

A Word about the Positive Purpose of this Study

At one point in contemplating various titles for this publication, I considered the possibility of using the rather negative but simple phrase “Don’t Do That!” as the main title (and using as a subtitle what has turned out to be the book’s main title).8 “Don’t Do That!” would be constructed with the Greek aorist subjunctive as “μὴ ποιήσῃς.” This construction actually occurs in the Greek New Testament as a variant reading at Rev 19:10 and again at Rev 22:9.9 In the contexts of both these passages, the writer John has fallen down to worship before an angel and the angel instructs him not to do so: “See that you don’t do that; I am a fellow servant with you and your brethren” (ρα μή· σύνδουλός σού εἰμι καὶ τῶν ἀδελφῶν σου). The “brethren” in these two passages are described as those “who hold the testimony of Jesus” (τῶν ἐχόντων τὴν μαρτυρίαν Ἰησοῦ; Rev 19:10) and as “the prophets” (τῶν προφητῶν; Rev 22:9), and in the latter passage the group is expanded to include “those who keep the words of this book” (καὶ τῶν τηρούντων τοὺς λόγους τοῦ βιβλίου τούτου; Rev 22:9). In both passages the angel instructs John, “Worship God” (τῷ θεῷ προσκύνησον).

While the “this book” of Rev 22:9 quoted above is about Scripture, this book—i.e., the book in your hands—will certainly not measure up to the accuracy of Scripture. Its errors are mine, and I will gladly receive corrections. While a technical work for scholars and students of NT Greek, my prayer is that it would nevertheless somehow benefit the broader group of those who hold to the testimony of Jesus and that it would thus eventually impact our worship of God. Yes, that’s right, even though the book is about negative commands, my prayer is that it will have positive effects.

Soli Deo gloria

Talbot School of Theology at Biola University
Douglas S. Huffman

La Mirada, California
August 2013

1 Stanley E. Porter, Verbal Aspect in the Greek of the New Testament, with Reference to Tense and Mood (Studies in Biblical Greek 1; New York: Lang, 1989; 2nd ed. 1993) = VAG; Buist M. Fanning, Verbal Aspect in New Testament Greek (Oxford Theological Monographs; Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1990) = VANT.

2 Also noteworthy is Boyer’s initial statistical work on various Greek constructions (published in Grace Theological Journal, 1984–88), which was somewhat ground-breaking and impacts our work here. As we move along, our research will be compared to Boyer’s.

3 See particularly the grammars in the bibliography by P. Buttmann, W. W. Goodwin, L. Radermacher, A. T. Robertson, H. W. Smyth, J. M. Stahl, F. E. Thompson, J. Thompson, among works like those by E. A. Sophocles.

Thesaurus Linguae Graecae is based at the University of California–Irvine and has made the current database available on CDs for searching virtually all extant ancient Greek texts from Homer (8th century B.C.) to A.D. 600 and a large number of texts deriving from the period between A.D. 600 and 1453. This amounts to more than 80 million words of literature. For more information, go to the Web page for Thesaurus Linguae Graecae (a.k.a. TLG) at http://stephanus.tlg.uci.edu/canon/fontsel.

4 For a brief and yet thorough introduction to the Septuagint, see Stanley E. Porter, “Septuagint/Greek Old Testament,” in DNTB (2000), 1099–106. The classic book-length introduction to the Septuagint is Henry Barclay Swete, An Introduction to the Old Testament in Greek: With an Appendix Containing the Letter of Aristeas (rev. Richard Rusden Ottley; ed. Henry St. John Thackeray; reprinted in the Cambridge Library Collection–Religion; Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2010 [1st ed., 1900]); see also Henry St. John Thackeray, A Grammar of the Old Testament in Greek According to the Septuagint, Vol. 1: Introduction, Orthography and Accidence. Cambridge: University Press, 1909. For updated introductions to the Septuagint see the works of Karen H. Jobes and Moisés Silva, Invitation to the Septuagint (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2000); Natalio Fernandez Marcos, The Septuagint in Context: Introduction to the Greek Version of the Bible (trans. Wilfred G. E. Watson; Leiden: Brill, 2000); and Jennifer M. Dines, The Septuagint (Understanding the Bible and Its World; London: T&T Clark, 2004). See also the project conducted by the International Organization for Septuagint and Cognate Studies (IOSCS) and their “NETS” product: A New English Translation of the Septuagint (New York: Oxford University Press, 2007).

5 On biblical Greek, see Adolf Deissmann, Light from the Ancient East: The New Testament Illustrated by Recently Discovered Texts of the Graeco-Roman World (trans. Lionel R. M. Strachan; 4th ed.; London: Hodder & Stoughton, 1927 [1st ed., 1908]) and the classic essays collected together in Stanley E. Porter, ed. The Language of the New Testament: Classic Essays (JSNTSup 60; Sheffield, England: JSOT Press, 1991).

6 We appreciate the warning of James Swetnam, who qualifies his own observations of the NT Greek verbal system by realizing that “at the time of the New Testament the Greek language had a long history of change and development. The interpretation which searches for general patterns should always be ready to take into account the factor of unique phenomena. … there is no guarantee that the New Testament authors all used the Greek verbal system in exactly the same way”; James Swetnam, An Introduction to the Study of New Testament Greek, Part One: Morphology (2 vols.; 2nd ed.; Subsidia Biblica 16; Rome: Pontificio Istituto Biblico, 1998), 1:463.

7 Regarding the development of the Greek language over time, some of the more technical grammatical works often have brief treatments of the language’s progression: e.g., BDF 1–6; MHT 1:1–41; DM 1–15; and ATR 1–139. For brief and readable introductions, see also Stanley E. Porter, “Greek of the New Testament,” in DNTB (2000), 426–35; idem, “The Greek Language of the New Testament,” in Handbook to Exegesis of the New Testament, ed. Stanley E. Porter (NTTS 25; Leiden: Brill, 1997), 99–130; and Murray J. Harris, Prepositions and Theology in the Greek New Testament (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2012), 25–26.

For more thorough investigations of the history of the Greek language, we recommend Antonius N. Jannaris, An Historical Greek Grammar: Chiefly of the Attic Dialect as Written and Spoken from Classical Antiquity Down to Present Time: Founded upon the Ancient Texts, Inscriptions, Papyri and Present Popular Greek (London: Macmillan, 1897; reprint, Hildesheim: Georg Olms, 1987); Carl Darling Buck, The Greek Dialects: Grammar, Selected Inscriptions, Glossary (rev. ed.; Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1955); Procope S. Costas, An Outline of the History of the Greek Language: With Particular Emphasis on the Koine and the Subsequent Periods (Chicago: Ukrainian Society of Sciences of America, 1936; reprint, Chicago: Ares, 1979); Leonard Robert Palmer, The Greek Language (The Great Languages; Atlantic Highlands, N.J.: Humanities Press, 1980); Geoffrey C. Horrocks, Greek: A History of the Language and Its Speakers. 2nd ed. Malden, Mass.: Wiley-Blackwell, 2010); Chrys C. Caragounis, The Development of Greek and the New Testament: Morphology, Syntax, Phonology, and Textual Transmission (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2006); Pascale Hummel, De Lingua Graeca: Histoire de L’histoire de la Langue Grecque (Bern: Lang, 2007); and the massive tome edited by Anastassios-Fivos Christidis, A History of Ancient Greek: From the Beginnings to Late Antiquity (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007 [original in Greek, 2001]).

For specific elements of language development more closely related to our subject here, see such works as B. Forssman, “Der Imperativ im Urindogermanischen Verbalsystem,” in Grammatische Kategorien: Funktion und Geschichte (ed. B. Schlerath; Wiesbaden: Reichert, 1985), 181–97; K. Strunk, “Zur Diachronischen Morphosyntax des Konjunktivs,” in In the Footsteps of Raphael Kühner: Proceedings of the International Colloquium in Commemoration of the 150th Anniversary of the Publication of Raphael Kühner’s Ausführlihe Grammatik der Griechischen Sprache, II. Theil: Syntaxe (ed. Albert Rijksbaron et al.; Amsterdam: J. C. Gieben, 1988), 291–312; and Laurence Stephens, “The Origins of a Homeric Peculiarity: μή Plus the Aorist Imperative,” TAPA 113 (1983): 69–78.

8 The publisher and series editor, however, have wisely suggested that I drop this idea and that I employ as the book’s main title what I had proposed as the (more positive and informative) subtitle. This advice I have eagerly followed.

9 Cf. in LXX Gen 22:12; Jer 47:16; Sir 8:16, 18; 33:30. The accepted readings of the critical texts at both Rev 19:10 and 22:9 lack the verb ποιήσῃς (“do”) and have merely the negative μή (“not”) as the object of the present impv. ρα (“see to it”); see in section 8.1.1 of Chapter 8. If I had followed this as a model for the title of this book, it would be “See to It that You Don’t!” or more simply—and more harshly—“Don’t!” See also section 13.4 of Chapter 13 for other prohibitory exclamations in the NT.

| xxiii →

— ABBREVIATIONS

Unless otherwise noted here, this volume uses the standard abbreviations outlined in Patrick H. Alexander et al., The SBL Handbook of Style: For Ancient Near Eastern, Biblical, and Early Christian Studies (Peabody, Mass.: Hendrickson, 1999). When referring to published sources, the listing below uses shortened titles and provides the publication years; see the bibliography for full bibliographic entries.

Bibliographic Abbreviations:

ANRW Temporini & Haase, Aufstieg und Niedergang der römischen Welt (1972–)
ATR Robertson, A Grammar of the Greek NT in the Light of Historical Research (1914)
BAGD Bauer, Ardnt, Gingich & Danker, A Greek-English Lexicon of the NT (1979)
BDAG Bauer, Danker, Ardnt & Gingich, A Greek-English Lexicon of the NT (2000)
BDF Blass, Debrunner & Funk, Greek Grammar of the NT (1961)
DM Dana & Mantey, A Manual Grammar of the Greek NT (1955)
DNTB Evans & Porter, Dictionary of NT Backgrounds (2000)
EDNT Balz & Schneider, Exegetical Dictionary of the NT (1990–93)
GGBB Wallace, Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics (1996)
LN Louw & Nida, Greek–English Lexicon of the NT: Based on Semantic Domains (1988)
MHT Moulton, Howard & Turner, Grammar of NT Greek (1908–76)
TDNT Kittel & Friedrich, Theological Dictionary of the NT (1964–74)
VAG Porter, Verbal Aspect in the Greek of the NT (2nd ed., 1993)
VANT Fanning, Verbal Aspect in NT Greek (1990) ← xxiii | xxiv →

Bible Texts and Versions:

ESV English Standard Version (2001)
HCSB Holman Christian Standard Bible (2003)
LXX Septuagint, à la Rahlfs, ed., Septuaginta (2 vols. in 1, 1979)
MT Masoretic Text, à la Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia (4th ed., 1997)
NA27 / 28 Nestle–Aland, Novum Testamentum Graece (27th ed., 1993; 28th ed., 2012)
NASB New American Standard Bible (1995)
NIV New International Version (1984 and 2011)
NKJV New King James Version (1982)
NLT New Living Translation (1996)
NRSV New Revised Standard Version (1989)
SBLGNT Holmes, The Greek NT: SBL Edition (2010)
UBS4 Aland, et al., The Greek NT (4th ed.; United Bible Societies, 2001)

Other Terms:

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PART 1:

THE GREAT PROHIBITION DEBATE

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—INTRODUCTION TO PART 1—

Understanding Prohibitions

Prohibitions are a primary form of human interaction in both spoken and written communication. In fact, for many children, the repeated use of the single-word prohibition “No!” results in that term becoming their first spoken vocabulary word. As children grow, prohibitions become more complex in grammatical formulations and more nuanced in intensity as well.

Prohibitions are part of everyday life for adults, too. Even our faith practices are not devoid of negative commands, and this is with good precedence: eight of the Ten Commandments written by God himself are expressed as prohibitions (see Exod 20:1–17 and Deut 5:6–21).1 So we take up here an investigation of prohibitions, and for reasons of space and time constraints, we are limiting the investigation to the Scriptures of the New Testament.

There are several ways to think about and examine the prohibitions in the New Testament. One way is to consider them in their literary contexts. This would result in two categories. Ethical prohibitions are those that readers should consider incorporating into their own lifestyles, such as Paul’s instruction in Rom 12:21, “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” Narrative prohibitions are those found in historical accounts that may have no immediate ethical bearing on lives of the readers. For example, the demoniac’s request of Jesus, “Do not torment me,” in Luke 8:28 is reported as directed to Jesus and not to the readers of Luke’s Gospel.

Appreciating the differences between the “context of situation” from the “co-text” of a given prohibition (i.e., the storyline’s historical environment for a prohibition vs. the surrounding words used by the author to frame the prohibition in his particular cultural setting), allows us to combine the above categories to form two more categories, which are perhaps subsets of the first two.2 Ethical prohibitions in narrative contexts are those given in historical ← 3 | 4 → accounts but that have on-going ethical implications. For example, Jesus’ ethical instruction about following false messiahs in the narrative context of Luke 17:23, “Do not go and do not follow,” was clearly applicable to Jesus’ first listeners in the narrative, but it is still ethically applicable to any follower of Jesus reading Luke today. The second subset is similar and can be labeled conversely, narrative prohibitions in didactic contexts. For example, Paul’s narrative instructions about Timothy in the didactic context of 1 Cor 16:10– 11, “No one should refuse to accept him,” are hardly applicable to modern readers of Paul. Despite the complexity of these subsets, they are simply combinations of the two main categories with one type of prohibition found in the context of the other kind of literature.3

While unable to extricate itself completely from the concerns of literary contexts and the content of the NT prohibitions, such concerns are nonetheless, not the primary interest of this volume. Rather, this volume examines the NT prohibitions in their grammatical-syntactical and semantic contexts.

Closer to our concerns here, and cutting across the categories mentioned above, is another two-fold taxonomy for prohibitions. Direct prohibitions are statements that actually make a negative command, whether in narrative or in didactic settings. So by this reckoning, the prohibitory remarks in all four passages quoted above are direct. On the other hand, indirect prohibitions are statements that report negative commands having been made or that otherwise indicate prohibitions. Indirect prohibitions can also occur in narrative literature (e.g., “… we threatened them not to speak again in this name to anyone,” Acts 4:17) or in didactic literature (e.g., “And it is not fitting for the Lord’s servant to quarrel but to be gentle with all,” 2 Tim. 2:24).4 ← 4 | 5 →

So in this volume we are asking not “What is prohibited?”, but “How are prohibitions expressed?” Asking this latter question produces about fifteen different categories—although admittedly there is some category overlap, with a single complex prohibition falling into more than one category.5 Part 2 of this volume attempts an exhaustive survey of the NT prohibitions in their various grammatical-syntactical, lexical, and pragmatic constructions.

Of the various ways a NT author could construct a prohibition, two of the most used grammatical categories—those in the negated present tense (imperative mood) and those in the negated aorist tense (subjunctive mood) —have traditionally been defined and interpreted in counter-distinction to one another. As has been observed, “Since imperatives in general refer to the future, it is clear that the mere sequence of time—past, present, and future—cannot account for the Greek use of two tenses.”6 So, then, what is the difference? The primary purpose of Part 1 of this volume is to examine the traditional distinction between these two constructions in the light of verbal aspect theory. The main thesis is that a verbal aspect understanding of these NT prohibition constructions can, in fact, refine and replace the traditional understanding. This, then, is “the Great Prohibition Debate.”

Put more plainly, the two primary grammatical constructions of prohibitions in the Greek New Testament have often been thought to correspond exactly with two modern English grammaticalizations of prohibitions. On the one hand, the negated aorist subjunctive construction is equated with the broad command not to do something and/or, more specifically, not to start something (e.g., “Don’t [begin to] steal”). On the other hand, the negated present imperative construction is equated with the command to cease from doing something that is already underway (e.g., “Stop stealing”). The native English speaker hears immediately the difference between “Don’t [begin to] steal,” and “Stop stealing,” and it has been presumed that the first-century reader of the Greek New Testament would hear immediately the same difference between μ κλέψς (aor. subj.) and μ κλεπτέτω (pres. impv.).7 ← 5 | 6 → Our question here is whether this traditional Aktionsart (“kind of action”) understanding best accounts for the distinction between these two prohibition constructions, and if this distinction was at work for first-century readers. Part 1 seeks to address these matters.

Details

Pages
XXIV, 571
ISBN (PDF)
9781453914007
ISBN (ePUB)
9781454195863
ISBN (MOBI)
9781454195856
ISBN (Softcover)
9781433107634
ISBN (Hardcover)
9781433123580
Language
English
Publication date
2014 (July)
Published
New York, Bern, Berlin, Bruxelles, Frankfurt am Main, Oxford, Wien, 2014. 571 pp., num. tables

Biographical notes

Douglas S. Huffman (Author)

Douglas S. Huffman (PhD, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School) serves as Professor and Associate Dean of Biblical and Theological Studies at the Talbot School of Theology at Biola University in La Mirada, California, where he teaches courses in New Testament and Greek. His research interests include Luke-Acts, worldview and apologetics, and New Testament Greek. Huffman is author of several scholarly articles in books and journals, co-editor of God Under Fire: Modern Scholarship Reinvents God (2002), contributing editor of How Then Should We Choose? Three Views on God’s Will and Decision Making (2009), and contributing editor of Christian Contours: How a Biblical Worldview Shapes the Mind and Heart (2011).

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Title: Verbal Aspect Theory and the Prohibitions in the Greek New Testament