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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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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.

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