In Acts 13:48 why the [effective] pluperfect?

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Bill Ross
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In Acts 13:48 why the [effective] pluperfect?

Post by Bill Ross » February 23rd, 2019, 7:57 am

Acts 13:48 ἀκούοντα δὲ τὰ ἔθνη ⸀ἔχαιρον καὶ ἐδόξαζον τὸν λόγον τοῦ ⸀κυρίου, καὶ ἐπίστευσαν ὅσοι ἦσαν τεταγμένοι εἰς ζωὴν αἰώνιον·

As I understand things, imperfect ειμι + perfect participle = pluperfect. However, it seems most translations of Acts 13:48 have a straight perfect sense in their reading and do not reflect any continuous action ("had been appointed" rather than "had been being appointed").

Am I being too pedantic in reading Luke's words by expecting some kind of continuous aspect in the pluperfect? Is the effective result in this case of eimi+perfect participle a simple perfect?

The NET Bible is representative of English translations in its perfective ending:

NET Acts 13:48 When the Gentiles heard this, they began to rejoice and praise the word of the Lord, and all who had been appointed for eternal life believed.

The answer is probably in this article by Wallace but I'm not seeing it: https://bible.org/article/participle
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Robert Emil Berge
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Re: In Acts 13:48 why the [effective] pluperfect?

Post by Robert Emil Berge » February 23rd, 2019, 9:49 am

"Had been" is the sense here, and translates the pluperfect correctly. "Was appointed" would also have worked, I think. The pluperfect gives a state in the past which was established even before. "Had been being" makes little sense, it seems you want some imperfect aspect as in "who kept on being appointed", but that is not the sense of the pluperfect. And a perfect could not have been used here, since the story is about something in the past. The perfect gives a state in the present, established in the past.
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Bill Ross
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Re: In Acts 13:48 why the [effective] pluperfect?

Post by Bill Ross » February 23rd, 2019, 9:58 am

Robert Emil Berge wrote:
February 23rd, 2019, 9:49 am
"Had been" is the sense here, and translates the pluperfect correctly. "Was appointed" would also have worked, I think. The pluperfect gives a state in the past which was established even before. "Had been being" makes little sense, it seems you want some imperfect aspect as in "who kept on being appointed", but that is not the sense of the pluperfect. And a perfect could not have been used here, since the story is about something in the past. The perfect gives a state in the present, established in the past.
So there is nothing continuous implied in the pluperfect?
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Robert Emil Berge
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Re: In Acts 13:48 why the [effective] pluperfect?

Post by Robert Emil Berge » February 23rd, 2019, 10:41 am

Bill Ross wrote:
February 23rd, 2019, 9:58 am
So there is nothing continuous implied in the pluperfect?
Not in the way you imply. It doesn't say anything of the duration of the action, only that it is still in effect. So ἐτεθνήκειν doesn't say anything about how I died, if I died from a long lasting illness or if someone hit me in the head. But it means, however I died, I was still dead, at some time in the past. The normal translation would be "I was dead", instead of "I had died" (a bad example, of course, since how could I then talk about it?). So, the same with the appointed ones, they had been appointed in the past, and at the point of narration, they were still appointed.
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Re: In Acts 13:48 why the [effective] pluperfect?

Post by MAubrey » February 23rd, 2019, 7:09 pm

A better word than "continuous" in the context of the meaning of the prefect would be "persistent."

'Continuous' can unintentionally imply a degree of dynamic action that doesn't exist for the perfect.
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Philip Arend
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Re: In Acts 13:48 why the [effective] pluperfect?

Post by Philip Arend » February 24th, 2019, 11:00 am

Acts 13:48 ἀκούοντα δὲ τὰ ἔθνη ἔχαιρον καὶ ἐδόξαζον τὸν λόγον τοῦ θεοῦ, καὶ ἐπίστευσαν ὅσοι ἦσαν τεταγμένοι εἰς ζωὴν αἰώνιον·

From what I have read using a perfect links the effect to the event described. Is that what you mean, Mike, when using the word "persistent' or are you referring to something else?

A second question: Could the completed action of a perfect such as τεταγμένοι have occurred at any time, from ages before up to immediately prior? In other words is it true there is no other information in the tense except that the event described by the perfect occurred prior to and had some effect on ἐπίστευσαν?
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Re: In Acts 13:48 why the [effective] pluperfect?

Post by MAubrey » February 25th, 2019, 10:06 pm

Philip Arend wrote:
February 24th, 2019, 11:00 am
Acts 13:48 ἀκούοντα δὲ τὰ ἔθνη ἔχαιρον καὶ ἐδόξαζον τὸν λόγον τοῦ θεοῦ, καὶ ἐπίστευσαν ὅσοι ἦσαν τεταγμένοι εἰς ζωὴν αἰώνιον·

From what I have read using a perfect links the effect to the event described. Is that what you mean, Mike, when using the word "persistent' or are you referring to something else?

A second question: Could the completed action of a perfect such as τεταγμένοι have occurred at any time, from ages before up to immediately prior? In other words is it true there is no other information in the tense except that the event described by the perfect occurred prior to and had some effect on ἐπίστευσαν?
I'm not a particularly big fan of traditional descriptions of the perfect. I think their semantics are more complicated than what is typically said.

Here's my take on the perfect:

With a couple caveats, perfects in the Koine involve two things: (1) a participant (either the subject or the object, depending on the voice and transitivity of the verb) that undergoes and complete change from one state to another state and (2) that resulting state from that process holds at the time of speech--that's what I mean by 'persistant.'

Within that context, it's possible for a speaker to draw attention to either that final sense of completion of the process or to the resulting state.

A good example of the first is Pilate's response to the Jewish leaders in John 19.22:
John wrote:ἀπεκρίθη ὁ Πιλᾶτος· Ὃ γέγραφα γέγραφα.
Here, yes, the charges against exists in a state of having been written certainly continues to hold to the point of Pilate answering the Jews, but that's less the point for him. What matters for Pilate is that the act of writing is finished and he's certainly not going to write anything else/more.

This contrasts with the perfect participles of γράφω just a few verses before in vs19-20:
John wrote:ἔγραψεν δὲ καὶ τίτλον ὁ Πιλᾶτος καὶ ἔθηκεν ἐπὶ τοῦ σταυροῦ· ἦν δὲ γεγραμμένον· Ἰησοῦς ὁ Ναζωραῖος ὁ βασιλεὺς τῶν Ἰουδαίων. τοῦτον οὖν τὸν τίτλον πολλοὶ ἀνέγνωσαν τῶν Ἰουδαίων, ὅτι ἐγγὺς ἦν ὁ τόπος τῆς πόλεως ὅπου ἐσταυρώθη ὁ Ἰησοῦς· καὶ ἦν γεγραμμένον Ἑβραϊστί, Ῥωμαϊστί, Ἑλληνιστί.

Here we have the same event: the charges undergo a change of state from not having been written to existing in writing, but here using the middle voice, the writer profiles the resulting state rather than the completion of the process. That's what's happening also in Acts 13:48. The perfect τεταγμένοι refers to a state that was achieved by the process of appointing/order and that state still exists at the time of speaking.
  • Transitive active perfectstend to be used to profile an event where a agent-subject causes a change of state in an object-patient and that process of change is fully completed/finished.
  • Intransitive active perfects and middle perfects from normally transitive actives tend to be used to profile an event where the subject has undergone a change of state and is presented as currently existing still in that state.
Verbs that are naturally stative are a caveat, they're a little weird with the perfect, for both diachronic and synchronic reasons depending on the verb.
Another caveat is ἵστημι and its derivatives in the perfect (ἕστηκα), they're also a little weird for diachronic reasons.
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Matthew Longhorn
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Re: In Acts 13:48 why the [effective] pluperfect?

Post by Matthew Longhorn » February 26th, 2019, 8:09 am

Hey Mike, do you have any suggestions as to where I could look at these diachronic reasons?
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