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Verbal Aspect, the Indicative Mood, and Narrative

Soundings in the Greek of the New Testament


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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Chapter Two: The Present Tense-form 35


CHAPTER TWO The Present Tense-form 1. Introduction In this chapter, the semantic value of the present indicative tense-form is investigated, as is the usage of this form in narrative texts. Since the most discussed characteristic of the present indicative is its appearance in past- referring contexts, there is an extended discussion on the historical present, how it is used in text, and how the semantic value of the present accounts for this phenomenon. First, while the semantic value of imperfective aspect is an element of the present indicative upon which all agree, it is necessary to define this aspect precisely. Second, the source texts adopted in this book, Luke, John, Vita Aesopi G, Chariton’s Callirhoe book 1, selected Oxyrhynchus Papyri, Thucydides 1.89–118, 128–38, and Lysias’ Against Eratosthenes, are examined for patterns of usage of the present tense-form. Once these patterns are recognized, a theory is postulated as to how the semantic value of this tense-form perpetuates such macro-patterns. The second half of this chapter is given to the debate concerning the historical present. The four main theories regarding the phenomenon are explored and tested against the evidence, and our postulated theory regarding semantic value and its patterned expression is shown to have considerable power of explanation. 2. Aspectual value The imperfective aspectual value of the present tense-form in the Greek of the New Testament is uncontested in recent literature; it is one of the few areas in which there is complete agreement. Porter summarizes: ‘imperfective aspect is the...

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