Aorists in Matt 25:35

Aorists in Matt 25:35

Postby Stephen Carlson » January 23rd, 2013, 4:40 pm

Matt 25:35 wrote:ἐπείνασα γὰρ καὶ ἐδώκατέ μοι φαγεῖν, ἐδίψησα καὶ ἐποτίσατέ με, ξένος ἤμην καὶ συνηγάγετέ με,
for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, (NRSV)

Fanning, Verbal Aspect, pp. 137-138, notes that state verbs in the aorist tend to get two main interpretations: (a) entry into the state (ingressive) or (b) summary view of the whole situation (usually called constative or complexive). So far so good. This is a pretty standard grammatical analysis.

However, he goes on to classify the two aorist state verbs ἐπείνασα and ἐδίψησα in Matt 25:35 as constative but the parataxis with a following aorist suggests to me an ingressive interpretation: I got hungry and you fed me (when I was still hungry), not I was hungry for a while and after that you fed me.

Thoughts?
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Re: Aorists in Matt 25:35

Postby Alan Patterson » January 24th, 2013, 7:43 am

Stephen,

I'll offer a simple reply.

Matt 25:35 wrote:ἐπείνασα γὰρ καὶ ἐδώκατέ μοι φαγεῖν, ἐδίψησα καὶ ἐποτίσατέ με, ξένος ἤμην καὶ συνηγάγετέ με,
for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, (NRSV)


When you examine the temporal nature of a proposition, you first have to ask: is it to be taken as a temporal proposition. For example, the Aorist used in the phrase found in 1 Peter:

23 ἀναγεγεννημένοι οὐκ ἐκ σπορᾶς φθαρτῆς ἀλλὰ ἀφθάρτου, διὰ λόγου ζῶντος θεοῦ καὶ μένοντος: 24 διότι πᾶσα σὰρξ ὡς χόρτος, καὶ πᾶσα δόξα αὐτῆς ὡς ἄνθος χόρτου: ἐξηράνθη ὁ χόρτος, καὶ τὸ ἄνθος ἐξέπεσεν: 25 τὸ δὲ ῥῆμα κυρίου μένει εἰς τὸν αἰῶνα. τοῦτο δέ ἐστιν τὸ ῥῆμα τὸ εὐαγγελισθὲν εἰς ὑμᾶς.

The idea here is not that the grass withered IN THE PAST. A better translation here is The Grass Withers (but not in the sense of the grass withers now). We can not always think of an Aorist as Past Tense, Present as Present Tense, etc.

This may be very well what is going on in your passage above. The idea is not that he Hungered IN THE PAST. It's a universal statement, one that is true without reference to time, and is not meant to be taken in a temporal sense. Again, we would not understand the Aorist as a Past Tense (ἐξηράνθη ὁ χόρτος) IN EVERY USAGE. We've brushed up against this in our previous discussions on the DC. It adds another layer of complexity to researching the grammar of a text, but such is language.

I realize this is a basic answer, but I thought I'd throw it out there for consideration.
χαρις υμιν και ειρηνη,
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Re: Aorists in Matt 25:35

Postby Ken M. Penner » January 24th, 2013, 8:56 am

I appreciate your choice of words, Stephen, when you speak of an ingressive "interpretation." I take it that you are interested in the reception rather than the production of the aorist form. I just wanted to clarify this important distinction for other readers.
Recognizing this doesn't answer your question, I can speak to the production of the form. The example Alan provides is appropriate here because it exhibits the same phenomenon. These are translations from a Semitic language, and we are seeing linguistic interference from the source language. The reason the Greek author chose the aorist form in Isaiah 40:7 is simply because the underlying Hebrew used a suffix conjugation (/perfect/qatal) form of the verb. Qatals as a rule are translated as aorists. It seems to me the same explanation applies to Matthew 25:35.
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Re: Aorists in Matt 25:35

Postby Stephen Carlson » January 24th, 2013, 10:36 am

Alan Patterson wrote:When you examine the temporal nature of a proposition, you first have to ask: is it to be taken as a temporal proposition.


Thanks for your comment, Alan. Actually, I'm not interested in the temporal interpretation at all but in their aspectual interpretation, i.e, ingressive or constative. So I don't really see the gnomic (?) aorists in 1 Peter being too relevant here to Matt 25.
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Re: Aorists in Matt 25:35

Postby Stephen Carlson » January 24th, 2013, 10:44 am

Ken M. Penner wrote:I appreciate your choice of words, Stephen, when you speak of an ingressive "interpretation." I take it that you are interested in the reception rather than the production of the aorist form. I just wanted to clarify this important distinction for other readers.
Recognizing this doesn't answer your question, I can speak to the production of the form. The example Alan provides is appropriate here because it exhibits the same phenomenon. These are translations from a Semitic language, and we are seeing linguistic interference from the source language. The reason the Greek author chose the aorist form in Isaiah 40:7 is simply because the underlying Hebrew used a suffix conjugation (/perfect/qatal) form of the verb. Qatals as a rule are translated as aorists. It seems to me the same explanation applies to Matthew 25:35.


Thanks, Ken. I tend to follow Trevor V. Evans, Verbal Syntax in the Greek Pentateuch, who holds that the translations of the verbs in the Pentateuch are not really un-Greek though the frequency of the some forms is unusual for Greek. So I think it still makes sense to me to look, at least initially, for intra-Greek understandings of the verb forms, even in translated literature. Needless to say, I haven't really looked at Isaiah in general or Isa 40:7 in particular, though.

As for Matt 25:35, I don't know what its Hebrew original is. There are some similarities with Isa 58:7, but the differences are such that it does not look like a translation of that text.
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Re: Aorists in Matt 25:35

Postby Ken M. Penner » January 24th, 2013, 11:56 am

Stephen Carlson wrote:As for Matt 25:35, I don't know what its Hebrew original is. There are some similarities with Isa 58:7, but the differences are such that it does not look like a translation of that text.

Sorry for the ambiguity; I wasn't explicit that I think Matthew 25:35 preserves not a scripture but a saying translated from Hebrew.
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