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Verbal Aspect Theory and the Prohibitions in the Greek New Testament


Douglas S. Huffman

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.
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Appendix A—Tracing Aktionsart Views of Prohibitions


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Tracing Aktionsart Views of Prohibitions

Chapter 1 offers a brief history of the traditional Aktionsart view of NT Greek prohibitions and summarizes the general position and various nuances of it. This appendix offers—in the redundant form of grammar citations—the raw data used in formulating that history and summary. We present here in chronological order a survey of statements on Greek prohibitions from nineteenth- and twentieth-century Greek grammars, including both classic reference grammars and popular classroom textbooks from the period (and a few scholarly journal articles). We begin with J. Gottfried J. Hermann as the declared founder of the traditional Aktionsart distinction in 1805, move to James H. Moulton who introduced the distinction to NT Greek studies in 1906, and then focus primarily on NT Greek grammars up to 2010.

We might have halted our survey at 1985 as the date on which, according to some, the death nell rang for the typical Aktionsart distinction.1 But we have noticed that a number of Greek grammars produced in the last 25 years have continued with Aktionsart distinctions nonetheless. So, claiming neither exhaustive completeness or particular selectivity, our survey focuses primarily on the first editions of Greek grammar works between 1805 and 1985, and then at the most recent editions of works in the last 25 years. Grammar texts that intentionally take a verbal aspect approach are not included in the survey as their important place in grammar history is...

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