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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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12.3 Prohibitory Promises


It might be helpful at this juncture to contrast the nature of prohibitory promises over against that of exhortative promises, prohibitory warnings, and exhortative warnings. These contrasts are laid out in Table 12.3. While prohibitory warnings alert a person to the undesired consequences of bad behavior, exhortative warnings alert a person to the undesired consequences of avoiding good behavior. Conversely, while exhortative promises give assurance of some reward for good behavior, prohibitory promises give assurance of some reward for avoiding bad behavior. Exhortative promises need little explanation, but “Honor your father and mother" is an oft-repeated example (Exod 20:12; Eph 6:2; et al.). An example of an exhortative warning ← 431 | 432 → is found in John 8:24, “For if you do not believe [μὴ πιστεύσητε] that I am he, you will die in your sins.” This is certainly a warning, yet rather than prohibitory, it is exhortative and amounts to a positive command to believe. Thus, exhortative promises and exhortative warnings both function as positive commands to do good behavior. But with regard to warnings and promises, our task of collecting the NT prohibitions has led us to focus only on prohibitory warnings and prohibitory promises as these function as commands to void some behavior. In the previous section we list 172 NT prohibitory warnings; in this section we list a contrastingly much smaller number of only seven NT prohibitory promises.51 As with the prior section, the citations of this subcategory are offered with no phrases in bold...

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