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Verbal Aspect, the Indicative Mood, and Narrative

Soundings in the Greek of the New Testament

Series:

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 Four: The Aorist Tense-form 103

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CHAPTER FOUR The Aorist Tense-form 1. Introduction The semantic value of the aorist indicative is explored in this chapter, as is the role of this tense-form in mainline narrative proper and discourse. The perfective aspect of the aorist is upheld and a spatial conception of perfective aspect is argued for against temporal descriptions of perfectivity. While seeking to identify the nature of perfective aspect, one major misunderstanding of the aorist, the so-called punctiliar aorist, is critiqued. Our source texts are then examined for patterns of usage of the aorist, concluding that the widespread assertion that the aorist is the dominant narrative proper tense-form is valid. The aorist also has roles within discourse for which traditional understandings of the aorist struggle to account. A theory is postulated in order to explain the usage of the aorist indicative in both narrative proper mainline contexts and discourse situations. 2. Perfective aspect As with the present and imperfect indicatives, the aspectual value of the aorist tense-form is not a controversial issue. Contrary to the present and imperfect tense-forms, however, the aorist is regarded as encoding perfective aspect rather than imperfective aspect. Whereas imperfective aspect is understood as an internal viewpoint, perfective aspect is most simply described as an external viewpoint. As Fanning describes it, ‘the aorist presents an occurrence in summary, viewed as a whole from the outside, without regard for the internal make-up of the occurrence’.1 This description of perfective aspect can be understood as spatial—a point for which Fanning argues insistently;...

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