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Verbal Aspect Theory and the Prohibitions in the Greek New Testament

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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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Chapter 14—Conclusion: Summary & Prospects

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— CHAPTER 14 —

Conclusion: Summary & Prospects

We have divided this volume into two parts. Part 1 investigates the functional distinction between the negated present imperative and the negated aortist subjunctive in NT Greek constructions. In particular, we have sought to demonstrate that verbal aspect theory has a better explanation than traditional Aktionsart theory for why the NT authors would choose one grammatical construction over the other to express a given prohibition.

Part 2 offers a comprehensive listing of all the prohibitions in the Greek New Testament, treating them in their different grammatical-syntactical, lexical, and pragmatic constructions. Rather than apply verbal aspect theory to all of these various constructions—a task that goes beyond the scope of this volume—we have sought merely to list the prohibitions in an exercise that some might call descriptive functional linguistics. The result for the Greek New Testament is a complex taxonomy of fifteen different prohibitory constructions (with a total of more than twice that many subcategories).

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