temporal deixis in Acts 8:18

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temporal deixis in Acts 8:18

Postby davidmccollough » July 18th, 2012, 6:02 am

I am a research student at London School of Theology working on Christian initiation in Luke-Acts. I would like to ask about how best to understand δίδοται in Acts 8:18. Can it be translated as "is given"? Bernard Comrie (Tense, 115) gives the sentence, "John said he is ill", vs. "John said he was ill", as an example of where the normal English sequence of tenses is not followed because the illness continues into the present from the perspective of the speaker. I can add the examples:

1)"Yesterday our boss finally recognized the company is in danger." Again, the present tense is used to denote the danger is present from the perspective of the speaker.
2)"Judah, having seen that the Romans are superior, surrendered." From the perspective of the narrator, the Romans are superior and Judah has recognized this present fact.

I have noted that this is a ὅτι clause and therefore does not directly describe, but rather represents the thoughts/perceptions of Simon.

I also understand the Koine does not have tense sequence. But, as in the above examples, would it allow for the possibility of Simon recognizing a principle presently real to the narrator, that the Spirit "is given" in a certain way? Is there ambiguity here? Or must δίδοται take its temporal reference from the main verb, ἰδὼν, and be translated as "was given"? Is temporal deixis grammaticallized, or is it based on context?

ἰδὼν δὲ ὁ Σίμων ὅτι διὰ τῆς ἐπιθέσεως τῶν χειρῶν τῶν ἀποστόλων δίδοται τὸ πνεῦμα, προσήνεγκεν αὐτοῖς χρήματα (Act 8:18)

Any insight anyone might have would be greatly appreciated!

David
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Re: temporal deixis in Acts 8:18

Postby Jonathan Robie » July 18th, 2012, 10:57 am

First off, a main verb is always a finite verb in Greek, so it cannot be the participle ἰδὼν. The time of the participle is interpreted relative to the main verb. Let's look at Funk's Grammar:

845.2 wrote:The 'tenses' of participles do not, strictly speaking, represent time but denote only aspect (Aktionsart, §§309f.). The temporal relation of the participle to the main verb is derived from the context. Since, however, the action expressed by the circumstantial participle customarily precedes that represented by the main verb, the aorist participle came to be associated to a certain degree with relative past time. Yet the aorist participle may express present and even future time (Bl-D §339(1)) relative to the main verb. The present participle, likewise, may be used for a variety of times relative to the main verb. Only in the case of the future participle is there a temporal nuance (used to express purpose, §846.5). It is appropriate to hold only the aspect of the various tenses of the participle in view in interpreting the circumstantial participle, unless there is specific indication to the contrary. Bl-D §339.


Here, we have an aorist participle that precedes the main verb, and the time of ἰδὼν is relative to the main verb. So which verb is the main verb? There are two finite verbs to choose from, marked in blue:

ἰδὼν δὲ ὁ Σίμων ὅτι διὰ τῆς ἐπιθέσεως τῶν χειρῶν τῶν ἀποστόλων δίδοται τὸ πνεῦμα, προσήνεγκεν αὐτοῖς χρήματα (Act 8:18)


The person who is seeing is ὁ Σίμων, because ἰδὼν is a nominative participle that agrees with ὁ Σίμων in gender, number, and case. The main verb is προσήνεγκεν, which is what ὁ Σίμων did in response to seeing this. The main verb for ἰδὼν is not δίδοται, that's part of the ὅτι clause that describes what it is that ὁ Σίμων was seeing.

Note this part of what Funk said:

Since, however, the action expressed by the circumstantial participle customarily precedes that represented by the main verb, the aorist participle came to be associated to a certain degree with relative past time.


So there's a sense that he saw this (ἰδὼν), then offered (προσήνεγκεν) money. "When Simon saw ... he offered them money".

ἰδὼν is frequently used in this way. Matthew 5:1 comes to mind:

Matthew 5:1 wrote:Ἰδὼν δὲ τοὺς ὄχλους ἀνέβη εἰς τὸ ὄρος
ἐξίσταντο δὲ πάντες καὶ διηποροῦντο, ἄλλος πρὸς ἄλλον λέγοντες, τί θέλει τοῦτο εἶναι;
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Re: temporal deixis in Acts 8:18

Postby davidmccollough » July 18th, 2012, 12:10 pm

Jonathan Robie wrote:First off, a main verb is always a finite verb in Greek, so it cannot be the participle ἰδὼν. The participle is interpreted relative to the main verb. Let's look at Funk's Grammar:

845.2 wrote:The 'tenses' of participles do not, strictly speaking, represent time but denote only aspect (Aktionsart, §§309f.). The temporal relation of the participle to the main verb is derived from the context. Since, however, the action expressed by the circumstantial participle customarily precedes that represented by the main verb, the aorist participle came to be associated to a certain degree with relative past time. Yet the aorist participle may express present and even future time (Bl-D §339(1)) relative to the main verb. The present participle, likewise, may be used for a variety of times relative to the main verb. Only in the case of the future participle is there a temporal nuance (used to express purpose, §846.5). It is appropriate to hold only the aspect of the various tenses of the participle in view in interpreting the circumstantial participle, unless there is specific indication to the contrary. Bl-D §339.


Here, we have an aorist participle that precedes the main verb, and the time of ἰδὼν is relative to the main verb. So which verb is the main verb? There are two finite verbs to choose from, marked in blue:

ἰδὼν δὲ ὁ Σίμων ὅτι διὰ τῆς ἐπιθέσεως τῶν χειρῶν τῶν ἀποστόλων δίδοται τὸ πνεῦμα, προσήνεγκεν αὐτοῖς χρήματα (Act 8:18)


The person who is seeing is ὁ Σίμων, because ἰδὼν is a nominative participle that agrees with ὁ Σίμων in gender, number, and case. The main verb is προσήνεγκεν, which is what ὁ Σίμων did in response to seeing this. The main verb for ἰδὼν is not δίδοται, that's part of the ὅτι clause that describes what it is that ὁ Σίμων was seeing.

Note this part of what Funk said:

Since, however, the action expressed by the circumstantial participle customarily precedes that represented by the main verb, the aorist participle came to be associated to a certain degree with relative past time.


So there's a sense that he saw this (ἰδὼν), then offered (προσήνεγκεν) money. "When Simon saw ... he offered them money".

ἰδὼν is frequently used in this way. Matthew 5:1 comes to mind:

Matthew 5:1 wrote:Ἰδὼν δὲ τοὺς ὄχλους ἀνέβη εἰς τὸ ὄρος



Thank you very much for your reply! Right, προσήνεγκεν is the main verb, I had that wrong. What then is the temporal relationship between δίδοται and ἰδὼν? If, in the case of participles, temporal relation to a main verb is derived from context, is that also the case in a ὅτι clause? Surely it is. I know that there are many examples of a verb of perception plus ὅτι plus a present tense verb in which the present tense verb must be related back to the time of the verb of perception. But that is because of context. If the context is amenable, then I am thinking that the present tense verb does not have to be temporally related to the verb of perception.

I am thinking that the best translation would be, "Simon, having seen that through the laying on of the hands of the apostles the Spirit is given, offered them money...." Here, I have made it like a proverb, "Simon saw that it is good to enjoy one's work," or Eccl 3:22, καὶ εἶδον ὅτι οὐκ ἔστιν ἀγαθὸν...

Am I missing something, though?
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Re: temporal deixis in Acts 8:18

Postby MAubrey » July 18th, 2012, 12:44 pm

Jonathan, that doesn't exactly answer his question as to why δίδοται is a present. The participle may not be the main verb of the clause, but it is still the matrix verb for the complement in question:
ὅτι διὰ τῆς ἐπιθέσεως τῶν χειρῶν τῶν ἀποστόλων δίδοται τὸ πνεῦμα

So on to the actual question...
davidmccollough wrote:I also understand the Koine does not have tense sequence. But, as in the above examples, would it allow for the possibility of Simon recognizing a principle presently real to the narrator, that the Spirit "is given" in a certain way?

I think your first suggestion fits well. However, I don't think its necessary that it be that Simon recognizes this fact. Narrative texts, by definition, involve two speakers and the author may insert his own perspective if he wishes. It's a reasonable hypothesis, but it would require testing.

There is an alternative view, though, that I'm inclined to prefer. Max Zerwick suggests this ὅτι clause should be viewed as a variant of direct speech, so that the clause should be read as:
When Simon recognized, "Through the laying of the apostles hands the Spirit was given," he offered them money.

In this approach, the ὅτι clause introduces the thought that Simon had at what he saw. When you do a search for instances of ἰδὼν with ὅτι complement clauses, it becomes rather clear that it isn't merely that a particular situation continues to be true at the time of writing of the narrative.

For example:
Matt 27:24 wrote:Ἰδὼν δὲ ὁ Πιλᾶτος ὅτι οὐδὲν ὠφελεῖ ἀλλὰ μᾶλλον θόρυβος γίνεται, λαβὼν ὕδωρ ἀπενίψατο τὰς χεῖρας ἀπέναντι τοῦ ὄχλου λέγων· ἀθῷός εἰμι ἀπὸ τοῦ αἵματος τούτου· ὑμεῖς ὄψεσθε.

Gal 2:14 wrote:ἀλλʼ ὅτε εἶδον ὅτι οὐκ ὀρθοποδοῦσιν πρὸς τὴν ἀλήθειαν τοῦ εὐαγγελίου, εἶπον τῷ Κηφᾷ ἔμπροσθεν πάντων...

There are ten instances of aorist εἶδον that have a complement clause in the present.
davidmccollough wrote:Or must δίδοται take its temporal reference from the main verb, ἰδὼν, and be translated as "was given"? Is temporal deixis grammaticallized, or is it based on context?

Temporal deixis is grammaticalized (though there is a small, vocal minority who would claim otherwise). However, clauses involving complements with speech and perception verbs function differently that other clause types. Non-standard constructions shouldn't be used for determining basic usage of a morphological form or instance of grammatical meaning, such a tense.

By the way, if you ask a question here, you don't need to also do it on the "About" page of my website/blog.
Mike Aubrey
Canada Institute of Linguistics & Trinity Western University Graduate School
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Re: temporal deixis in Acts 8:18

Postby davidmccollough » July 18th, 2012, 1:27 pm

Thank you! Yes, this must be Simon's thought/perception. I have looked at Stephen H. Levinsohn on this point:

“When ὅτι occurs as a complementizer, this indicates that the propositional content of the complement is not the author’s description of a state of affairs, but rather the representation of a character’s thought or inference about that state of affairs.”
(Stephen H. Levinsohn, “Is ὅτι an Interpretive Use Marker?” Stanley E. Porter and Matthew Brook O’Donnell, eds., The Linguist as Pedagogue: Trends in the Teaching and Linguistic Analysis of the Greek New Testament New Testament Monographs 11 (Sheffield: Sheffield Phoenix Press, 2009), 161-180; 179-180).

So temporal deixis is determined by grammar, but in this case it seems that whether Simon thought to himself, "Through the laying on of the hands of the apostles the Spirit was given" or "is given" is a matter that is not decisively determined by the text.

The only parallel to this that I could find was Ecc 3:22 καὶ εἶδον ὅτι οὐκ ἔστιν ἀγαθὸν εἰ μὴ ὃ εὐφρανθήσεται ὁ ἄνθρωπος ἐν ποιήμασιν αὐτοῦ ὅτι αὐτὸ μερὶς αὐτοῦ

As an unusual construction, I definitely cannot generalize from it.

Thank you again!

David
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Re: temporal deixis in Acts 8:18

Postby Jonathan Robie » July 18th, 2012, 1:57 pm

I think you've got it at this point, but just to be excessively clear, the main verb is προσήνεγκεν, ἰδὼν is subordinate to προσήνεγκεν, δίδοται is subordinate to ἰδὼν.

davidmccollough wrote:Thank you! Yes, this must be Simon's thought/perception. I have looked at Stephen H. Levinsohn on this point:

“When ὅτι occurs as a complementizer, this indicates that the propositional content of the complement is not the author’s description of a state of affairs, but rather the representation of a character’s thought or inference about that state of affairs.”
(Stephen H. Levinsohn, “Is ὅτι an Interpretive Use Marker?” Stanley E. Porter and Matthew Brook O’Donnell, eds., The Linguist as Pedagogue: Trends in the Teaching and Linguistic Analysis of the Greek New Testament New Testament Monographs 11 (Sheffield: Sheffield Phoenix Press, 2009), 161-180; 179-180).

So temporal deixis is determined by grammar, but in this case it seems that whether Simon thought to himself, "Through the laying on of the hands of the apostles the Spirit was given" or "is given" is a matter that is not decisively determined by the text.


I think that's true, if you're interpreting the English the same way I am.

We don't know whether Simon thought this was how the Holy Spirit was given at that particular moment, or how the Holy Spirit was given in general. The text doesn't tell us that. Is that the distinction you are making with "is" and "was"?
ἐξίσταντο δὲ πάντες καὶ διηποροῦντο, ἄλλος πρὸς ἄλλον λέγοντες, τί θέλει τοῦτο εἶναι;
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Re: temporal deixis in Acts 8:18

Postby davidmccollough » July 18th, 2012, 2:55 pm

Jonathan Robie wrote:I think you've got it at this point, but just to be excessively clear, the main verb is προσήνεγκεν, ἰδὼν is subordinate to προσήνεγκεν, δίδοται is subordinate to ἰδὼν.


Yes, that is very clear. There is a hierarchical structure.

Jonathan Robie wrote:
davidmccollough wrote:Thank you! Yes, this must be Simon's thought/perception. I have looked at Stephen H. Levinsohn on this point:

“When ὅτι occurs as a complementizer, this indicates that the propositional content of the complement is not the author’s description of a state of affairs, but rather the representation of a character’s thought or inference about that state of affairs.”
(Stephen H. Levinsohn, “Is ὅτι an Interpretive Use Marker?” Stanley E. Porter and Matthew Brook O’Donnell, eds., The Linguist as Pedagogue: Trends in the Teaching and Linguistic Analysis of the Greek New Testament New Testament Monographs 11 (Sheffield: Sheffield Phoenix Press, 2009), 161-180; 179-180).

So temporal deixis is determined by grammar, but in this case it seems that whether Simon thought to himself, "Through the laying on of the hands of the apostles the Spirit was given" or "is given" is a matter that is not decisively determined by the text.


I think that's true, if you're interpreting the English the same way I am.

We don't know whether Simon thought this was how the Holy Spirit was given at that particular moment, or how the Holy Spirit was given in general. The text doesn't tell us that. Is that the distinction you are making with "is" and "was"?


Yes! That is exactly the distinction I am trying to identify! I am looking for some grammatical cue to take the interpretation one way or the other.

I have the same problem when I take my model sentence, "Simon, having seen that the Romans are superior, surrendered," and try to put it into rough Greek, ἰδὼν δὲ ὁ Σίμων ὅτι καθυπέρτερος εἰσιν οἱ Ῥωμαῖοι ἐνέδωκεν.

I have to ask - is it ambiguous? Does the intent of the "original English" come through in the Greek? I do not know yet.

Many thanks for your answer,
David
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Re: temporal deixis in Acts 8:18

Postby Stephen Carlson » July 18th, 2012, 3:46 pm

davidmccollough wrote:Yes! That is exactly the distinction I am trying to identify! I am looking for some grammatical cue to take the interpretation one way or the other.


There isn't one in this case. All the present tense of δίδοται means is that the state of affairs of the spirit being given held at the time of its matrix verb ἰδών. All the imperfective aspect of δίδοται means is that this state of affairs may or may not extend beyond the time of Simon's seeing. How far beyond this time is not indicated by the grammar but by the context.

The various options for the present are:
  • Progressive: the state of affairs was in the process of happening at the very instant.
  • Iterative: the state of affairs happened multiple times in this particular scene.
  • Habitual/Customary: the state of affairs is the general practice at that time.
  • Gnomic: the state of affairs is true for all time.

The tense form of the verb does not distinguish which option to use. I'm inclined to take the one that covers at least the particular apostles identified by the expression τῶν ἀποστόλων.
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Re: temporal deixis in Acts 8:18

Postby David Lim » July 18th, 2012, 11:13 pm

davidmccollough wrote:[...]

I have the same problem when I take my model sentence, "Simon, having seen that the Romans are superior, surrendered," and try to put it into rough Greek, ἰδὼν δὲ ὁ Σίμων ὅτι καθυπέρτερος εἰσιν οἱ Ῥωμαῖοι ἐνέδωκεν.

I have to ask - is it ambiguous? Does the intent of the "original English" come through in the Greek? I do not know yet.


Didn't we just discuss this a while ago? (viewtopic.php?f=53&t=1315) ;) But I too would like to know if the suggestions Mark and I made earlier are the proper ways to convey your English example in Greek, because I certainly think that the present tense in a subordinate clause never implies present tense beyond that clause. Any suggestions, Carl? :)
δαυιδ λιμ
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Re: temporal deixis in Acts 8:18

Postby Jonathan Robie » July 19th, 2012, 9:23 am

MAubrey wrote:
When Simon recognized, "Through the laying of the apostles hands the Spirit was given," he offered them money.


Here, the English "recognized" seems to convey that Ἰδὼν is a stative verb, the aorist is ingressive, so he "came to see".
ἐξίσταντο δὲ πάντες καὶ διηποροῦντο, ἄλλος πρὸς ἄλλον λέγοντες, τί θέλει τοῦτο εἶναι;
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