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Verbal Aspect, the Indicative Mood, and Narrative

Soundings in the Greek of the New Testament

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Constantine R. Campbell

Verbal aspect in Ancient Greek has been a topic of significant debate in recent scholarship. In this book, Constantine R. Campbell investigates the function of verbal aspect within New Testament Greek narrative. He argues that the primary role of verbal aspect in narrative is to delineate and shape the various ‘discourse strands’ of which it is constructed, such as mainline, offline, and direct discourse. Campbell accounts for this function in terms of the semantic value of each tense-form. Consequently, in the search for more effective conclusions and explanations, he challenges and reassesses some of the conclusions reached in previous scholarship. One such reassessment involves a boldly innovative approach to the perfect tense-form.

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Introduction 1

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. The problem of verbal aspect Verbal aspect refers to the manner in which verbs are used to view an action or state. An author/speaker will portray an event either from the inside, as though it is seen as unfolding, or from the outside, as though it is seen as a whole. Discussion concerning verbal aspect in Ancient Greek, and in particular Koine Greek, has caused a good degree of unrest among those who seek to read, understand, and teach this ancient language. Part of this unrest stems from the way in which it is perceived that verbal aspect threatens to undermine traditional analyses of Greek. So much has been built on these analyses that to undermine them could (it is imagined) have incalculable consequences for the status and conclusions of research that has been accepted for generations. As Guthrie aptly comments, ‘We do not care for people messing with our paradigms.’1 Part of the unrest stems from the highly complicated and technical nature of the issue and the academic discussion concerning it. The debate is considered by some to be inaccessible, out of reach, and too difficult to comprehend, let alone synthesize. As such, a natural suspicion may arise if the conclusions of scholarship are to be accepted at face value simply because one is barred from the debate. Part of the unrest stems from the fact that scholarship is divided on the issue, and there is no clearly accepted position that trumps the rest. Furthermore, part of the unrest...

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