Aspectual interpretation of ἐβουλήθη in Matt 1:19?

Aspectual interpretation of ἐβουλήθη in Matt 1:19?

Postby Stephen Carlson » November 26th, 2012, 9:57 am

Matt 1:19 wrote:Ἰωσὴφ δὲ ὁ ἀνὴρ αὐτῆς, δίκαιος ὢν καὶ μὴ θέλων αὐτὴν δειγματίσαι, ἐβουλήθη λάθρᾳ ἀπολῦσαι αὐτήν.


What is the interpretation of this aorist ἐβουλήθη in Matt 1:19? How would its meaning or function differ from an imperfect ἐβούλετο?
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Re: Aspectual interpretation of ἐβουλήθη in Matt 1:19?

Postby Eeli Kaikkonen » November 26th, 2012, 1:32 pm

Stephen Carlson wrote:
Matt 1:19 wrote:Ἰωσὴφ δὲ ὁ ἀνὴρ αὐτῆς, δίκαιος ὢν καὶ μὴ θέλων αὐτὴν δειγματίσαι, ἐβουλήθη λάθρᾳ ἀπολῦσαι αὐτήν.


What is the interpretation of this aorist ἐβουλήθη in Matt 1:19? How would its meaning or function differ from an imperfect ἐβούλετο?


The aorist has an easy explanation if LSJ is correct: "take counsel, deliberate, in past tenses, determine or resolve after deliberation"... "3. c. inf., take counsel, resolve to do". So, he had made up his mind. But would it differ at all from an imperfect if "in past tenses" it means the same?
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Re: Aspectual interpretation of ἐβουλήθη in Matt 1:19?

Postby Stephen Carlson » November 26th, 2012, 6:06 pm

Eeli Kaikkonen wrote:The aorist has an easy explanation if LSJ is correct: "take counsel, deliberate, in past tenses, determine or resolve after deliberation"... "3. c. inf., take counsel, resolve to do". So, he had made up his mind. But would it differ at all from an imperfect if "in past tenses" it means the same?


I think this definition comes from βουλεύω, while the verb in Matt 1:19 is a form of βούλομαι.
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Re: Aspectual interpretation of ἐβουλήθη in Matt 1:19?

Postby Vasile Stancu » November 26th, 2012, 6:36 pm

Stephen Carlson wrote:
Matt 1:19 wrote:Ἰωσὴφ δὲ ὁ ἀνὴρ αὐτῆς, δίκαιος ὢν καὶ μὴ θέλων αὐτὴν δειγματίσαι, ἐβουλήθη λάθρᾳ ἀπολῦσαι αὐτήν.

What ...? How ...?

Perhaps an alternative way to approach the matter is to ask the question, 'Why does this bother me, anyway? Is it the English language filter which triggered the question, or is it the Greek grammar rules that I have come to being accustomed with?' I am proposing this because I (as a Romanian native speaker) would feel no need to analyse such a matter, simply because my language would accept verbs like 'I want' as a fair equivalent for 'I did'. For instance, a conversation in Romanian like this, 'Why did you not come to the party?' 'Because I wanted to spend the evening with my family' makes perfect sense, with no additional questions like, 'Well, I understand that you wanted that, but did you actually do so?' The ἐβουλήθη of Joseph's might have a meaning which is quite close to 'he decided', which is 'he almost did it' - at least he was ready to do that; it describes anyway a certain strong state of mind. The aorist ἐβυλήθη would 'cut' the tendency of δίκαιος ὤν... and μὴ θέλων... into a turnig point: because he was so... and so... he came to the decision of leaving her secretly. If an impefective form had been used, then another form of a 'cut' should be expected in oder to describe Joseph's mind (or iminent action) at that moment.
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Re: Aspectual interpretation of ἐβουλήθη in Matt 1:19?

Postby Iver Larsen » November 27th, 2012, 5:16 am

Stephen Carlson wrote:
Matt 1:19 wrote:Ἰωσὴφ δὲ ὁ ἀνὴρ αὐτῆς, δίκαιος ὢν καὶ μὴ θέλων αὐτὴν δειγματίσαι, ἐβουλήθη λάθρᾳ ἀπολῦσαι αὐτήν.


What is the interpretation of this aorist ἐβουλήθη in Matt 1:19? How would its meaning or function differ from an imperfect ἐβούλετο?


That is a very nice example of the difference between the completive/perfective aspect of the aorist and the incompletive/imperfective aspect of the imperfect.

It can be illustrated by the other places where we have an aorist or imperfect of the same verb.

We find the imperfect in
Acts 5:33 they were wishing/intending to do away with him but that wish had not yet been fulfilled.
Acts 15:37 Barnabas was intending to take Mark along, but Paul wanted otherwise, so the question was not settled.
Acts 15:22 I have been wanting to hear him myself, but he had not yet seen that intention fulfilled.
Acts 28:18 They were wishing/desiring to release him, but the wish was not fulfilled.
2 Cor 1:15 I was wanting/desiring to come to you, but I didn't manage.
Phm 1:13 I was intending to keep him here, but I did not want to reach a decision without your consent.

We find the aorist in
Mat 1:19 Joseph intended and had decided to divorce her. From his point of view the decision was final. Before he had time to implement the decision, an angel came to him and overturned his decision.
2 John 1:12 Although there are many things I would want to write, I have decided not to use paper and ink but rather visit you.

So, the aorist with its perfective aspect indicates the completion of the thinking so that it corresponds to English: I have decided.
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Re: Aspectual interpretation of ἐβουλήθη in Matt 1:19?

Postby Stephen Carlson » November 27th, 2012, 6:51 am

That's very helpful, Iver. I wonder if one can look at it a slightly different way as "to decide" is the ingressive of "to intend", in that if you begin to intend doing something, you have decided to do it.
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Re: Aspectual interpretation of ἐβουλήθη in Matt 1:19?

Postby Stephen Carlson » November 27th, 2012, 6:57 am

Vasile Stancu wrote:Is it the English language filter which triggered the question, or is it the Greek grammar rules that I have come to being accustomed with?' I am proposing this because I (as a Romanian native speaker) would feel no need to analyse such a matter, simply because my language would accept verbs like 'I want' as a fair equivalent for 'I did'. For instance, a conversation in Romanian like this, 'Why did you not come to the party?' 'Because I wanted to spend the evening with my family' makes perfect sense, with no additional questions like, 'Well, I understand that you wanted that, but did you actually do so?'


I don't know Romanian, but I speak other Romance languages. If I wanted to say "Because I wanted to spend the evening with my family" in Italian or French, I would use the imperfect, as in Italian volevo or French je voulais. Would Romanian not use an imperfect for your example?
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Re: Aspectual interpretation of ἐβουλήθη in Matt 1:19?

Postby Vasile Stancu » November 27th, 2012, 4:34 pm

Stephen Carlson wrote:... Would Romanian not use an imperfect for your example?


Of course, the imperfect can be used, but the sense of the statement would be different:

With the imperfect, the sense would be something like, '[When the proposition was made for me to attend the party] I was already wanting to do someting else... [and I did not change my mind];

With the 'composite perfect' (wich is a Romanian equivalent for the Greek aorist), the sense would be more likely a conscious reaction to the proposition; it may imply a choice/decision made in relation with the two options at hand.

And even in Italian or French, we may find sentences like these:

Volevo passare le vacanze a Rimini, pero la mia moglie non e stata d'accordo.
Ho voluto condividere con voi questa frase. [And, ἰδού, I have just done it.]

Elle a voulu aller trop vite [implying that she did indeed do so] et a été forcée à vendre ses intérêts.
Il voulait simplement vivre sa vie.
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