Mark 14:60 καταμαρτυροῦσιν - past-referring present?

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Mark 14:60 καταμαρτυροῦσιν - past-referring present?

Postby Stephen Carlson » October 16th, 2012, 1:23 pm

Mark 14:60 wrote:Mark 14:60 καὶ ἀναστὰς ὁ ἀρχιερεὺς εἰς μέσον ἐπηρώτησεν τὸν Ἰησοῦν λέγων · οὐκ ἀποκρίνῃ οὐδὲν τί οὗτοί σου καταμαρτυροῦσιν;

Then the high priest stood up before them and asked Jesus, “Have you no answer? What is it that they testify against you?” (NRSV)


The NRSV's decision to treat Mark 14:60b as two questions instead of one as NA27 punctuated it is interesting in and of itself, but I'm wondering about the sense of the present καταμαρτυροῦσιν. Fanning p. 200 labels it as a progressive / descriptive / specific presents, indicating that it is currently on-going. But this can't be right. The false witnesses have already made their testimony and the high priest is interrogating Jesus about their claims. They're not talking over the high priest's question(s) to Jesus.

So, my question is: why is the present καταμαρτυροῦσιν referring to past statements?
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Re: Mark 14:60 καταμαρτυροῦσιν - past-referring present?

Postby Jason Hare » October 16th, 2012, 9:46 pm

Whether they are speaking right now or not, they are right now serving as witnesses against him (in the trial). I don't see a problem with the aspect of this verb as it is used here.
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Re: Mark 14:60 καταμαρτυροῦσιν - past-referring present?

Postby David Lim » October 16th, 2012, 10:23 pm

Jason Hare wrote:Whether they are speaking right now or not, they are right now serving as witnesses against him (in the trial). I don't see a problem with the aspect of this verb as it is used here.


I doubt that this is a sufficient explanation, because in general we don't have such agreement in lexical meaning. For a similar example with a different verb:
[Matt 17:10] και επηρωτησαν αυτον οι μαθηται αυτου λεγοντες τι ουν οι γραμματεις λεγουσιν οτι ηλιαν δει ελθειν πρωτον
Here we see the disciples asking Jesus why the scribes say that Elias must first come.
I think both cases are adequately explained by considering the present tense to simply be a generic present, denoting the time of speaking itself.
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Re: Mark 14:60 καταμαρτυροῦσιν - past-referring present?

Postby Stephen Carlson » October 17th, 2012, 4:30 am

Jason Hare wrote:Whether they are speaking right now or not, they are right now serving as witnesses against him (in the trial). I don't see a problem with the aspect of this verb as it is used here.


That's an interesting idea and it seems to have some validity to it, but isn't the question being asked of Jesus more about the content of their past, completed testimony than their status as accusers?
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Re: Mark 14:60 καταμαρτυροῦσιν - past-referring present?

Postby Stephen Carlson » October 17th, 2012, 4:33 am

David Lim wrote:I think both cases are adequately explained by considering the present tense to simply be a generic present, denoting the time of speaking itself.


Since we don't seem to often agree in understanding of terminology, could you explain what you mean by a "generic present." To me, it means something like the present tense in "Birds fly," which does not seem to be what you mean here.
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Re: Mark 14:60 καταμαρτυροῦσιν - past-referring present?

Postby Stephen Carlson » October 17th, 2012, 6:09 am

Stephen Carlson wrote:So, my question is: why is the present καταμαρτυροῦσιν referring to past statements?


By the way, this is not discussed in Porter's monograph on verbal aspect (though he does discuss the participles that introduce the statement).
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Re: Mark 14:60 καταμαρτυροῦσιν - past-referring present?

Postby David Lim » October 17th, 2012, 7:17 am

Stephen Carlson wrote:
David Lim wrote:I think both cases are adequately explained by considering the present tense to simply be a generic present, denoting the time of speaking itself.


Since we don't seem to often agree in understanding of terminology, could you explain what you mean by a "generic present." To me, it means something like the present tense in "Birds fly," which does not seem to be what you mean here.


Okay I should use examples to clarify what I mean:

"They always say that I am wrong."
(I consider "say" to be a generic present.)

"It does not seem to be what you mean here."
(I consider "mean" to also be a generic present; "meant" would have indicated a single past "event" but "mean" shifts the reference time to the point at which I said it.)

"Birds fly"
(I consider gnomic presents to be a subset of generic presents.)

In other words, I consider the tense of the present verb to be always present with respect to some time in focus, which is often set in the present time of speaking, but is sometimes set in the past (what is also called "historical present"), sometimes set in the future, and sometimes essentially undefined. In the last case I consider it to be a "generic present". In all cases the audience automatically identifies the time in focus based on the context and the tense of the verb, and when there is no definite time in focus with respect to the surrounding context, the time in focus becomes the time of the verb itself.
Last edited by David Lim on October 17th, 2012, 7:28 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Mark 14:60 καταμαρτυροῦσιν - past-referring present?

Postby Jason Hare » October 17th, 2012, 7:26 am

Stephen Carlson wrote:
Jason Hare wrote:Whether they are speaking right now or not, they are right now serving as witnesses against him (in the trial). I don't see a problem with the aspect of this verb as it is used here.


That's an interesting idea and it seems to have some validity to it, but isn't the question being asked of Jesus more about the content of their past, completed testimony than their status as accusers?


Are you suggesting that it might be more sensible had it been written with a perfect instead of a present? It seems that both are sensible. Look at the mix of tenses thrown into the opening words of Socrates' apology:

ὅτι μὲν ὑμεῖς, ὦ ἄνδρες Ἀθηναῖοι, πεπόνθατε (perfect) ὑπὸ τῶν ἐμῶν κατηγόρων, οὐκ οἶδα· ἐγὼ δ᾽ οὖν καὶ αὐτὸς ὑπ᾽ αὐτῶν ὀλίγου ἐμαυτοῦ ἐπελαθόμην, οὕτω πιθανῶς ἔλεγον (imperfect). καίτοι ἀληθές γε ὡς ἔπος εἰπεῖν οὐδὲν εἰρήκασιν (perfect).


His accusers, states, "have said nothing true" and the audience "has undergone" something, and the accusers "were speaking" convincingly when Socrates almost forgot even who he was was and what he was really like, swayed along by their words.

It seems to me, though, that the inquisitor is standing in front of Jesus asking about the charges that are right now being brought against him by witnesses. It seems absolutely natural to place it in the present tense.
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Re: Mark 14:60 καταμαρτυροῦσιν - past-referring present?

Postby Stephen Carlson » October 17th, 2012, 8:42 am

Jason Hare wrote:Are you suggesting that it might be more sensible had it been written with a perfect instead of a present? It seems that both are sensible.


Well, there is this category of a "perfective present" mentioned in some grammars (e.g., BDF), where the grammar basically states that though a present is used, the perfect was really meant. Personally, I'm very skeptical of explanations that transgress the categories. I think we should think about how the aspect can be imperfective, rather than emending it to a more convenient category.

Jason Hare wrote:It seems to me, though, that the inquisitor is standing in front of Jesus asking about the charges that are right now being brought against him by witnesses. It seems absolutely natural to place it in the present tense.


But it seems to me that the charges were not being brought right then, though the charges are in some sense currently before the high priest. The contrary witnesses had their say and Jesus is asked to answer them. To me, the perfect or aorist would seem more natural unless there's some nuance of the present tense to be suggested.
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Re: Mark 14:60 καταμαρτυροῦσιν - past-referring present?

Postby Stephen Carlson » October 17th, 2012, 8:53 am

David Lim wrote:Okay I should use examples to clarify what I mean:

"They always say that I am wrong."
(I consider "say" to be a generic present.)

"It does not seem to be what you mean here."
(I consider "mean" to also be a generic present; "meant" would have indicated a single past "event" but "mean" shifts the reference time to the point at which I said it.)

"Birds fly"
(I consider gnomic presents to be a subset of generic presents.).


OK, I sort of see what you're getting, but these examples usually get assigned to different categories. The first would be a habitual present; the second would be a "perfective present" (ugh), and the last a generic present. There may be a common thread.

David Lim wrote:In other words, I consider the tense of the present verb to be always present with respect to some time in focus, which is often set in the present time of speaking, but is sometimes set in the past (what is also called "historical present"), sometimes set in the future, and sometimes essentially undefined. In the last case I consider it to be a "generic present". In all cases the audience automatically identifies the time in focus based on the context and the tense of the verb, and when there is no definite time in focus with respect to the surrounding context, the time in focus becomes the time of the verb itself.


I should also point out that not only is the tense an issue (the statements are past), but more importantly the aspect is an issue too, for these statements are complete(d). I regret that my original post only pointed out the temporal mismatch.
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