Tense/Mood in Gal. 4:15

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Charlie Johnson
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Joined: June 1st, 2011, 6:44 am

Tense/Mood in Gal. 4:15

Post by Charlie Johnson » July 20th, 2011, 8:34 am

Galatians 4:15 ποῦ οὖν ὁ μακαρισμὸς ὑμῶν; μαρτυρῶ γὰρ ὑμῖν ὅτι εἰ δυνατὸν τοὺς ὀφθαλμοὺς ὑμῶν ἐξορύξαντες ἐδώκατέ μοι.

Paul here is describing the past desire or hypothetical desire of the Galatians that was, of course, not realized. I was surprised to come across the aorist indicative here. I'm used to seeing imperfects in places like this:

Luke 1:59 καὶ ἐκάλουν αὐτὸ ἐπὶ τῷ ὀνόματι τοῦ πατρὸς αὐτοῦ Ζαχαρίαν.

Romans 9:3 ηὐχόμην γὰρ ἀνάθεμα εἶναι αὐτὸς ἐγὼ ἀπὸ τοῦ Χριστοῦ ὑπὲρ τῶν ἀδελφῶν μου τῶν συγγενῶν μου κατὰ σάρκα,

Is there a reason why Paul chose the aorist in this case? And, since we're here, would any other tense/mood combinations be possible in this sort of situation? I've started to become more sensitive to these things now that I'm composing Greek on ΣΧΟΛΗ
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cwconrad
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Re: Tense/Mood in Gal. 4:15

Post by cwconrad » July 20th, 2011, 9:57 am

Charlie Johnson wrote:Galatians 4:15 ποῦ οὖν ὁ μακαρισμὸς ὑμῶν; μαρτυρῶ γὰρ ὑμῖν ὅτι εἰ δυνατὸν τοὺς ὀφθαλμοὺς ὑμῶν ἐξορύξαντες ἐδώκατέ μοι.

Paul here is describing the past desire or hypothetical desire of the Galatians that was, of course, not realized. I was surprised to come across the aorist indicative here. I'm used to seeing imperfects in places like this:

Luke 1:59 καὶ ἐκάλουν αὐτὸ ἐπὶ τῷ ὀνόματι τοῦ πατρὸς αὐτοῦ Ζαχαρίαν.

Romans 9:3 ηὐχόμην γὰρ ἀνάθεμα εἶναι αὐτὸς ἐγὼ ἀπὸ τοῦ Χριστοῦ ὑπὲρ τῶν ἀδελφῶν μου τῶν συγγενῶν μου κατὰ σάρκα,

Is there a reason why Paul chose the aorist in this case? And, since we're here, would any other tense/mood combinations be possible in this sort of situation? I've started to become more sensitive to these things now that I'm composing Greek on ΣΧΟΛΗ
These constructions are traditionally called "Counterfactual" or "Unreal" or "Contrary to face conditions." In earlier Greek the most common forms of these involved imperfect indicatives for a Present CF condition: εἰ κύων ἥμην, ἐβαύζον ἂν ἔγωγε ("I would yelp, if I were a dog"), aorist indicatives for a Past CF condition: εἰ κύων ἐγενόμην, ἔβαυσα ἂν ἔγωγε ("I would have yelped, if I had been a dog." Cf. Smyth, §§2302ff. However, in later Hellenistic Greek, in the Koine of the GNT, the ἄν is often omitted: cf. BDF § 360.
The unreal (contrary-to-fact) indicative in conditional sentences (protasis and apodosis) has been retained according to classical norms. (1) But the addition of ἄν to the apodosis is no longer obligatory. [Blass, F., Debrunner, A., & Funk, R. W. (1961). A Greek grammar of the New Testament and other early Christian literature (182). Chicago: University of Chicago Press.]
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οὔτοι ἀπ’ ἀρχῆς πάντα θεοὶ θνητοῖς ὑπέδειξαν,
ἀλλὰ χρόνῳ ζητέοντες ἐφευρίσκουσιν ἄμεινον. (Xenophanes, Fragment 16)

Carl W. Conrad
Department of Classics, Washington University (Retired)

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