David M. Miller wrote:
serunge wrote:There has indeed been a tendency to treat these principles as rules, but they simply don't work.
Perhaps I should add that this is all pretty new to me. As I try the theory on for size, I find it helps to treat the principles as rules. Otherwise, I am liable to continue reading as I always have.
Actually, what I was originally asking—and am still wondering—is whether the connection between the semantic meaning of the imperfect (imperfective aspect + past time) and offline information (the pragmatic function) is consistent enough to be a “rule.”
To get a better feel for how this does (or doesn't) work, I expanded the dataset to include imperfect verbs in Mark’s narrative description in Mark 8-10, many of which are verbs of speaking. I came up with four categories, all of which—to my mind—fit the normal pragmatic “offline” function of the imperfect*:
(1) Scene-setting imperfect verbs that precede the mainline in a pericope. For the most part, these correspond closely to Steve Runge’s description of “offline” as “something that does not advance the discourse.” In other cases, I suspect I have adopted a slightly broader understanding of “offline” to include varieties of less prominent information.
(2) An interlude between a series of mainline events (one example).
(3) Imperfect verbs that follow a series of mainline events, typically either elaborating an earlier event, summarizing it or providing a final “tableau” as the camera shifts elsewhere.
(4) Imperfect verb forms that introduce a dialogue or a speech by Jesus. Often the imperfect verb introduces a question. I was surprised by how many of the imperfects in this section of Mark are verbs of speaking.
*There may be an element of circularity here since I began by assuming that there is a consistent pragmatic effect conveyed by the choice of imperfect verb, and then tried to identify what it might be. The results are interesting nonetheless.
A full listing of the verses in each category follows:
(1) Imperfect verbs that precede the mainline
Mark 9:30-32 31 Κἀκεῖθεν ἐξελθόντες παρεπορεύοντο διὰ τῆς Γαλιλαίας, καὶ οὐκ ἤθελεν ἵνα τις γνοῖ· 31 ἐδίδασκεν γὰρ τοὺς μαθητὰς αὐτοῦ καὶ ἔλεγεν αὐτοῖς ὅτι ὁ υἱὸς τοῦ ἀνθρώπου παραδίδοται εἰς χεῖρας ἀνθρώπων, καὶ ἀποκτενοῦσιν αὐτόν, καὶ ἀποκτανθεὶς μετὰ τρεῖς ἡμέρας ἀναστήσεται. 32 οἱ δὲ ἠγνόουν τὸ ῥῆμα, καὶ ἐφοβοῦντο αὐτὸν ἐπερωτῆσαι.
[*]Clear offline scene-setting conveyed by imperfect verb forms.
[*](To be sure, it also implies that the teaching went on for some time, but this is less a specific event that advances the plot than a summary description of travel and Jesus’ teaching during that time.)
Mark 10:1 Καὶ ἐκεῖθεν ἀναστὰς ἔρχεται εἰς τὰ ὅρια τῆς Ἰουδαίας [καὶ] πέραν τοῦ Ἰορδάνου, καὶ συμπορεύονται πάλιν ὄχλοι πρὸς αὐτόν, καὶ ὡς εἰώθει πάλιν ἐδίδασκεν αὐτούς.
[*]The imperfect verb is part of a description (conveyed mostly by the historical present) that helps set the scene for the discourse that follows. (This example may belong under 2 below.)
Mark 10:13 Καὶ προσέφερον αὐτῷ παιδία ἵνα αὐτῶν ἅψηται· οἱ δὲ μαθηταὶ ἐπετίμησαν αὐτοῖς.
[*]The imperfect describes the scene: They were bringing children to him. This is followed by the disciples’ response—the first mainline action in the pericope—in v. 13.
Mark 10:32 Ἦσαν δὲ ἐν τῇ ὁδῷ ἀναβαίνοντες εἰς Ἱεροσόλυμα, καὶ ἦν προάγων αὐτοὺς ὁ Ἰησοῦς, καὶ ἐθαμβοῦντο, οἱ δὲ ἀκολουθοῦντες ἐφοβοῦντο. καὶ παραλαβὼν πάλιν τοὺς δώδεκα ἤρξατο αὐτοῖς λέγειν τὰ μέλλοντα αὐτῷ συμβαίνειν
[*]A string of imperfect constructions sets the stage for the mainline event of Jesus’ teaching, signalled by ἤρξατο at the end of the verse.
Mark 10:46 Καὶ ἔρχονται εἰς Ἰεριχώ. Καὶ ἐκπορευομένου αὐτοῦ ἀπὸ Ἰεριχὼ καὶ τῶν μαθητῶν αὐτοῦ καὶ ὄχλου ἱκανοῦ ὁ υἱὸς Τιμαίου Βαρτιμαῖος, τυφλὸς προσαίτης, ἐκάθητο παρὰ τὴν ὁδόν.
[*]The imperfect is clearly offline, setting the scene.
Mark 10:48 καὶ ἐπετίμων αὐτῷ πολλοὶ ἵνα σιωπήσῃ· ὁ δὲ πολλῷ μᾶλλον ἔκραζεν· υἱὲ Δαυίδ, ἐλέησόν με.
[*]Obviously, the beggar kept crying, but this is still offline, setting the scene for Jesus’ response.
(2) An interlude
Mark 8:23-24 καὶ ἐπιλαβόμενος τῆς χειρὸς τοῦ τυφλοῦ ἐξήνεγκεν αὐτὸν ἔξω τῆς κώμης καὶ πτύσας εἰς τὰ ὄμματα αὐτοῦ, ἐπιθεὶς τὰς χεῖρας αὐτῷ ἐπηρώτα αὐτόν· εἴ τι βλέπεις; καὶ ἀναβλέψας ἔλεγεν· βλέπω τοὺς ἀνθρώπους ὅτι ὡς δένδρα ὁρῶ περιπατοῦντας.
[*]Mainline events in this healing narrative are carried by the aorist indicative.
[*]The conversation between Jesus and the blind man is in the imperfect—not, I take it, because Jesus and the blind man were repeating themselves. The choice of imperfect may indicate that the conversation fills in the picture without carrying the storyline forward. It is an interlude.
Mark 8:25 εἶτα πάλιν ἐπέθηκεν τὰς χεῖρας ἐπὶ τοὺς ὀφθαλμοὺς αὐτοῦ, καὶ διέβλεψεν καὶ ἀπεκατέστη…
(3) Imperfect verbs that follow the mainline
Mark 8:21 καὶ ἔλεγεν αὐτοῖς· οὔπω συνίετε;
[*]One could argue that the imperfect advances the narrative—and there may well be an element of sequence after the disciples’ answer in v. 20—but it repeats the question raised already in v. 17, and seems to function as a summary or a “fade-out”* at the end of the scene. *A label apparently coined/used by Randall Buth. I would include Mark 14:31 here as well.
Mark 8:25 εἶτα πάλιν ἐπέθηκεν τὰς χεῖρας ἐπὶ τοὺς ὀφθαλμοὺς αὐτοῦ, καὶ διέβλεψεν καὶ ἀπεκατέστη καὶ ἐνέβλεπεν τηλαυγῶς ἅπαντα.
[*]The verb could be imperfect because it describes the man’s on-going condition after the healing. It is likely also offline information that describes the effects of restored sight without actually advancing the narrative.
Mark 8:32 καὶ παρρησίᾳ τὸν λόγον ἐλάλει. καὶ προσλαβόμενος ὁ Πέτρος αὐτὸν ἤρξατο ἐπιτιμᾶν αὐτῷ.
[*]The imperfect verb form describes how Jesus was speaking as he predicted his death and resurrection (cf. 8:31).
Mark 9:4 καὶ ὤφθη αὐτοῖς Ἠλίας σὺν Μωϋσεῖ καὶ ἦσαν συλλαλοῦντες τῷ Ἰησοῦ.
[*]The imperfect periphrastic describes what Elijah and Moses were doing when they appeared to the disciples. The mainline event (their appearing) is conveyed by the aorist ὤφθη.
Mark 9:15 καὶ εὐθὺς πᾶς ὁ ὄχλος ἰδόντες αὐτὸν ἐξεθαμβήθησαν καὶ προστρέχοντες ἠσπάζοντο αὐτόν.
[*]Note the contrast between the aorist ἐξεθαμβήθησαν and the imperfect.
[*]Arguably, this is an offline event that fills in information about the crowd that Jesus saw (v. 14).
Mark 9:20 καὶ ἤνεγκαν αὐτὸν πρὸς αὐτόν. καὶ ἰδὼν αὐτὸν τὸ πνεῦμα εὐθὺς συνεσπάραξεν αὐτόν, καὶ πεσὼν ἐπὶ τῆς γῆς ἐκυλίετο ἀφρίζων.
[*]The imperfective aspect conveys the process of rolling around, but the description is also background, elaborating what the convulsions (συνεσπάραξεν) looked like.
Mark 10:16 καὶ ἐναγκαλισάμενος αὐτὰ κατευλόγει τιθεὶς τὰς χεῖρας ἐπ᾽ αὐτά.
[*]Fade-out summary or “tableau” at the end of the pericope.
Mark 10:22 ὁ δὲ στυγνάσας ἐπὶ τῷ λόγῳ ἀπῆλθεν λυπούμενος· ἦν γὰρ ἔχων κτήματα πολλά.
[*]As we would expect, the explanatory clause uses an imperfect construction (ἦν…ἔχων).
Mark 10:52 καὶ ὁ Ἰησοῦς εἶπεν αὐτῷ· ὕπαγε, ἡ πίστις σου σέσωκέν σε. καὶ εὐθὺς ἀνέβλεψεν καὶ ἠκολούθει αὐτῷ ἐν τῇ ὁδῷ.
[*]The imperfect is a natural choice for the process of following (but not a necessary choice). My guess: It describes the result. Possibly also a summary.
(4) Imperfect verb forms used to introduce a dialogue or speech
Mark 9:11-12 11 Καὶ ἐπηρώτων αὐτὸν λέγοντες· ὅτι λέγουσιν οἱ γραμματεῖς ὅτι Ἠλίαν δεῖ ἐλθεῖν πρῶτον; 12 ὁ δὲ ἔφη αὐτοῖς· Ἠλίας μὲν ἐλθὼν πρῶτον ἀποκαθιστάνει πάντα· καὶ πῶς γέγραπται ἐπὶ τὸν υἱὸν τοῦ ἀνθρώπου ἵνα πολλὰ πάθῃ καὶ ἐξουδενηθῇ;
[*]One could argue that the question carries the narrative forward in the sense that Jesus’ answer responds to the question. But the question (and questioner) is less significant than the reply by Jesus introduced by ἔφη (2nd aorist) in v. 12. The question is placed in the background. It could also be imperfect because it depicts the process. (These options are not mutually exclusive.)
Mark 9:24 εὐθὺς κράξας ὁ πατὴρ τοῦ παιδίου ἔλεγεν· πιστεύω· βοήθει μου τῇ ἀπιστίᾳ.
[*]This is the man’s response after Jesus’ retort (introduced by εἶπεν) that all things are possible for the one who believes in v. 23, and before Jesus’ healing (in the aorist) in v. 25.
Mark 9:28 Καὶ εἰσελθόντος αὐτοῦ εἰς οἶκον οἱ μαθηταὶ αὐτοῦ κατ᾽ ἰδίαν ἐπηρώτων αὐτόν· ὅτι ἡμεῖς οὐκ ἠδυνήθημεν ἐκβαλεῖν αὐτό;
[*]The disciples’ question is introduced by the imperfect. Again, Jesus’ response is introduced by εἶπεν (v. 29).
Mark 9:33 33 Καὶ ἦλθον εἰς Καφαρναούμ. Καὶ ἐν τῇ οἰκίᾳ γενόμενος ἐπηρώτα αὐτούς· τί ἐν τῇ ὁδῷ διελογίζεσθε; 34 οἱ δὲ ἐσιώπων· πρὸς ἀλλήλους γὰρ διελέχθησαν ἐν τῇ ὁδῷ τίς μείζων.
[*]Jesus’ question and the disciples’ response of silence sets the background for Jesus’ teaching in vv. 35f.
Mark 10:2 Καὶ προσελθόντες Φαρισαῖοι ἐπηρώτων αὐτὸν εἰ ἔξεστιν ἀνδρὶ γυναῖκα ἀπολῦσαι, πειράζοντες αὐτόν.
[*]Imperfect introducing speech (or possibly still setting the scene after 10:1).
Mark 10:10 Καὶ εἰς τὴν οἰκίαν πάλιν οἱ μαθηταὶ περὶ τούτου ἐπηρώτων αὐτόν.
[*]Imperfect introducing speech. Here followed by historical present.
Mark 10:17 Καὶ ἐκπορευομένου αὐτοῦ εἰς ὁδὸν προσδραμὼν εἷς καὶ γονυπετήσας αὐτὸν ἐπηρώτα αὐτόν· διδάσκαλε ἀγαθέ, τί ποιήσω ἵνα ζωὴν αἰώνιον κληρονομήσω;
[*]Imperfect introducing speech.
Mark 10:26 οἱ δὲ περισσῶς ἐξεπλήσσοντο λέγοντες πρὸς ἑαυτούς· καὶ τίς δύναται σωθῆναι;
[*]Tricky: The amazement is background. The adverbial participle that follows indicates their speech, to which Jesus responds in the historical present (v. 27). Either offline indicating the response of the crowd or another example of the imperfect introducing speech (of less important characters)—or both.
David M. Miller
Briercrest College & Seminary