The Increasing Weight of the Sin of Gluttony

Some folks built like this
Built like that
Don’t you holler at me
Dontchoo call me fat
Ya know I’m built for comfort
I ain’t built for speed

So sings bluesman Taj Mahal in his rendition of the Willie Dixon tune usually associated with blues legend Howlin’ Wolf (Dixon had played bass in Wolf’s band).1 It is a somewhat playful and humorous song; however, the subject of gluttony is a serious one. In America the problem of overeating is increasing – along with the collective girth of the population in general, and the Church in particular.

This is going to be somewhat of a rant, rather than any sort of well-researched article. This issue has been on my mind for a while now; but, the idea to actually write this article came when I went to an Italian restaurant for lunch this past week.

It’s a restaurant I go to only sporadically. It’s a bit far from my office; so, when I do go it’s usually on the weekend. I’d been there a few times during the week, but this particular time was different. I noticed that the restaurant was a bit busier than usual; however, it wasn’t until I sat down that I noticed something was out of the ordinary. There was a spread of food by the bar area. “What’s that?” I asked, pointing. “It’s our buffet,” came the reply from my waiter. An Italian buffet? Sounded oxymoronic to me. This was not a pizza joint; this was a somewhat respectable Italian restaurant. Apparently, they instituted a Tuesday and Thursday buffet somewhat recently.

I tend to stay away from any buffet. It’s too tempting to eat too much just to “get your money’s worth.” But, this is precisely why some frequent buffets. They come to enjoy “all you can eat.” Like the individuals who ordered the buffet at the Italian restaurant mentioned above. Not one was what I’d term “trim” or “thin.” A few might be considered of normal weight; however, most were overfat. Some were probably obese.

About a year ago I began going to a particular Chinese restaurant for lunch. I usually eat lunch alone, bringing material with me to read as I eat. I now go to this particular establishment about two or three times a month. When I first began going there, the restaurant had just ceased their all-you-can-eat buffet. Apparently, they were losing money with it. Yet, I witnessed countless patrons asking about the buffet. A few left upon hearing what they perceived as bad news. Most would eat their lunch, but I don’t think these individuals would come back, as I noticed the clientele decrease with each passing month. Frankly, I don’t know how the restaurant stays in business.

America is overfat. In San Antonio, the city in which I live, we have the distinction of being the 2nd fattest large city in America.

I’ll try to be precise with my terminology here. The term “fat” comes with baggage. It’s viewed as not “politically correct.” It’s just not nice to call another “fat.” “Overfat” seems better, as we all have a certain amount of fat, even highly-conditioned athletes. “Overweight” does not seem helpful, since body builders, most especially males, can exceed the BMI (body mass index) limit for height. Moreover, all things being equal, one with a large skeletal frame will necessarily weigh more than another person of similar height who is small-framed. Hence, the key is one’s body fat percentage.

BMI tables can be used as a guide; however, these must be put in proper context. For example, I am thin – though not exceedingly so (and quite healthy, thank the Lord) – in part because of exercise and a balanced diet; however, according to the BMI table I can gain another 30 pounds and still be of “normal” weight. Yet, if I were 30 lbs. heavier, I’d be very much overfat!

Eating is a necessary part of life. And, it’s used for celebrating. In the Church many gatherings are associated with food. There’s the “pot-luck” dinner in which everyone brings one food item, for example. A somewhat recent Purdue study found a correlation between persons of faith and an increase in both BMI and obesity. Church members were found to be more overfat than the general population, with Baptists having the distinction of being the most overweight religious group.2 We’re setting a very poor example.

We can and should do better than this. Being overfat increases the risk for certain diseases and maladies. It shortens our lifespans. But, more importantly, gluttony is a sin. Overeating indicates a lack of self-control, which illustrates that one is not walking in the Spirit (Galatians 5:16-26). Moreover, one can argue that it defiles the body, the temple of the Holy Spirit.

As a Church body, let’s endeavor to become more physically fit. Start slowly if you haven’t exercised in a while (and consult your health care professional). Let’s eat a more balanced diet. Cut down on the junk food (stop drinking sodas, both diet and regular!). Add more fresh veggies and fruits. The money saved can go to the poor and/or missions.


1 Lyrics from “Built for Comfort,” Taj Mahal Oooh So Good ‘n Blues, 1973, Columbia Records, C 32600.
2 See Wendy Ashley, “Obesity in the Body of Christ,” SBC Life, June 2007:

Newsweek Publishes Dr. Michael Brown’s Response to Eichenwald’s Article

I have to admit that this caught me totally by surprise.  Credit must be given to Newsweek for affording a professed Christian to rebut the Eichenwald piece from last month.  And, Dr. Brown did a fine job!

Please read A Response to Newsweek on the Bible.

I may append some snippets from the article later.

Predictable Christmas fare: Newsweek’s Tirade against the Bible


Newsweek on the Bible: An Article So Slanted it’s Dizzying

Dr. Daniel B. Wallace, on his blog, critiques a current Newsweek article, written by Kurt Eichenwald, in which the author, among other things (such as making sweeping generalizations), makes misleading claims about text critical issues in the New Testament. Eichenwald’s comments regarding John 7:53-8:11 – the woman caught in adultery – is one blatant example of the shoddy journalism permeating the piece:

…Unfortunately, John didn’t write it. Scribes made it up sometime in the Middle Ages. It does not appear in any of the three other Gospels or in any of the early Greek versions of John. Even if the Gospel of John is an infallible telling of the history of Jesus’s ministry, the event simply never happened

My current position is with most current Christian scholarship that this is not Johannine (penned by John). According to Metzger (A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament), and other sources, this pericope is inserted in various places in Greek manuscripts (mss), such as appended at the end of John’s Gospel, placed after John 7:36, after John 7:44, though predominately located after John 7:52; however, it IS extant in some Greek mss situated in Luke’s Gospel, just before chapter 22.

To comment briefly on the bolded portions of the above quote from the Newsweek article:

Scribes made it up and the event simply never happened: Unless Eichenwald is claiming omniscience, he simply cannot know for certain that the event did not ever happen. To claim that scribes simply “made it up” is to pass judgment (and note the author’s closing “Don’t judge”). This by itself calls into question the author’s objectivity and motive. Most scholars identifying as Christian are of the opinion that this pericope was part of an oral tradition, which was later inserted into Scripture at various places. However, there are a few bona fide NT scholars and/or textual critics (Zane Hodges, W. Pickering, Maurice Robinson, David Alan Black) who argue for this pericope’s originality in John’s Gospel, situating it just after 7:52.

It does not appear in any of the three other Gospels and scribes made it up sometime in the Middle Ages: As to the former, I could be generous and assume the author meant there are no parallel passages in Matthew, Mark, or Luke; but, I’ll take his statement on its face. While I’m not aware of any translation locating this pericope anywhere other than after John 7:52, there are extant Greek mss with this account in Luke’s Gospel, just before Luke 22 (after Luke 21:38), as noted above. But, more important is his misleading claim that there are no “early Greek versions of John” containing this pericope before the Middle Ages. While there are no extant Greek mss containing this account before the Middle Ages, there are Old Latin mss with this variant, two of which are from the 5th century. In addition, Jerome “knew many Greek as well as Latin mss” (C.K. Barrett, The Gospel According to St. John, 2nd ed. {Philadelphia: Westminster, 1978} p 589) evidencing this pericope, as testified in part by Jerome’s Adversus Pelagianos II, 17, (Against the Pelagians), thus providing further proof that this account was known as early as the 5th century, possibly even late 4th. Moreover, some extant 2nd and 3rd century Greek mss leave a space between John 7:52 and 8:12, though the spacing does not allow for the full text – one can speculate from there.

Originally posted on Daniel B. Wallace:

Every year, at Christmas and Easter, several major magazines, television programs, news agencies, and publishing houses love to rattle the faith of Christians by proclaiming loudly and obnoxiously that there are contradictions in the Bible, that Jesus was not conceived by a virgin, that he did not rise from the dead, ad infinitum, ad nauseum. The day before Christmas eve (23 December 2014), Newsweek published a lengthy article by Kurt Eichenwald entitled, “The Bible: So Misunderstood It’s a Sin.” Although the author claims that he is not promoting any particular theology, this wears thin. Eichenwald makes so many outrageous claims, based on a rather slender list of named scholars (three, to be exact), that one has to wonder how this ever passed any editorial review.

My PDF of this article runs 34 pages (!) before the hundreds of comments that are appended. Consequently, I don’t have…

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Thomas Nelson Amends “Jesus’” Words with Nary a Sound

For if someone comes to you and preaches a Jesus other than the Jesus we preached, or if you receive a different spirit from the Spirit you received, or a different gospel from the one you accepted, you put up with it easily enough (2 Corinthians 11:4, NIV).

Apparently, quite a few noticed a number of unbiblical issues with the hugely popular Jesus Calling by Sarah Young, published by Thomas Nelson (recently acquired by secular publishing house HarperCollins).  Perhaps the most vocal critic has been Warren Smith, who wrote an expose on Young’s book in his Another Jesus Calling.  Smith, a former New Ager, was quick to note that Young’s professed inspiration for Jesus Calling, the similarly titled God Calling (credited in the introduction to Young’s book), was an overtly New Age book channeled through the authors a la the Alice Bailey works, though Young took pains to explain that she deemed her work was/is Biblically-based. It isn’t.

Young claims that through contemplative prayer she received “messages” directly from Jesus Himself, writing these words in a journal, resulting in her Jesus Calling. However, some of these “messages” contradicted Scripture. Young’s “Jesus” claimed that Abraham was guilty of idolatry in his “son-worship” of Isaac.  This “Jesus” also explicitly contradicted Acts 1:7-9 by stating: ‘I AM WITH YOU ALWAYS.’ These were the last words I spoke before ascending into heaven.

Obviously becoming aware of these problems, Thomas Nelson, employing literary sleight of hand, simply made ‘corrections’ to the 10th anniversary edition of the book, including these purported direct quotes from Jesus Himself, with no explanation whatsoever – as if that fixes the problems.

Perhaps the most interesting aspect of this ongoing ordeal is the fact that the secular media is also taking Thomas Nelson to task for deleting the reference to God Calling as the book’s inspiration, as well as the other emendations noted above, with no reason provided for doing so within the pages of Young’s book. Ruth Graham in The Daily Beast writes, “A skeptical reader, comparing the two introductions, would see an effort by a publisher to bring an increasingly controversial but lucrative best-seller into line with mainstream evangelical orthodoxy” (see footnote 8 at link referenced just below).

Read more here:

Free on PDF! Redeeming Philosophy: A God-Centered Approach to the Big Questions by Vern Poythress


This is just too good to pass up: A free pdf download of a new philosophical book from a Christian worldview. Dr. Poythress, current editor of the Westminster Theological Journal and former member of the translation committee for the ESV, writes from the perspective of the Reformed tradition. This work, like some of his others, is written at a more conversational level, that is to say, at a level understandable to the general layperson. Each time he brings up a term which may be unknown to the average reader, Poythress defines it. Download and enjoy!

Originally posted on The Domain for Truth:

I just posted a few minutes ago but this is too good not to share right now!

Redeeming Philosophy A God-Centered Approach to the Big Questions

Dr. Vern Poythress of Westminster Theological Seminary has just had his book Redeeming Philosophy published just a few weeks ago last month.  Apparently he has made this book available for free online as a PDF!

You can download the file if you click HERE.

Here’s the book’s description from the publisher’s website:

Who am I? Why am I here? Where do I find meaning?

Life is full of big questions. The study of philosophy seeks to answer such questions. In his latest book, prolific author Vern Poythress investigates the foundations and limitations of Western philosophy, sketching a distinctly Christian approach to answering basic questions about the nature of humanity, the existence of God, the search for meaning, and the basis for morality.

For Christians eager to engage with the timeless philosophical…

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Appendix: Proposal for a Possible New Conception of the Plu/Perfect Forms

[In this appendix to the multi-part “A Somewhat Brief Explanation of Verbal Aspect Theory as it Pertains to Koine (NT) Greek, with Focus on Temporal Reference” we’ll be dispensing with the cumbersome practice of adding “tense-form” to each of the verb names.]

We must continue to ask questions of our methodologies as well as of the text.[102]

The following will be speculative. It may provide a possible way toward a consensus among the various positions on the plu/perfect, or it may prove to have no merit whatsoever. Since this writer lacks the requisite knowledge base to fully test out the following theory, it will not be rigorously argued.[103] The focus here – as in this work as a whole – is on the indicative mood.

Could it be that all the current views on the plu/perfect possess some form of the truth with respect to verbal aspect, yet none capture it in its entirety? That is, is it possible that Fanning is correct that both forms are perfective, Campbell is right that both are imperfective, that Porter and Decker are correct that both forms are a third category altogether, and the traditional view found in most grammars is true in that the plu/perfect are both essentially perfective and imperfective (though some use different terminology)?

Randall Buth, in a blog post late last year[104] – in part recapping a portion of the 2013 SBL (Society of Biblical Literature) meeting in which Porter, Fanning, and Campbell restated their respective views on the perfect – illustrates how the morphology of the perfect emanates diachronically from both aspects.[105] Though apparently adhering to the traditional view including that the perfective (aoristic) portion reflects an anterior event, while the imperfective (present) constitutes ongoing relevance,[106] Buth approaches the theory proposed here:

The Greek perfect is an aspectual category and its morphology reinforces the viewpoint that it is not only an ‘imperfective’ like Campbell, nor is it simply a third aspect category like Porter’s stative, but that it is an aspect that has a perfective element inside it, like Fanning…The perfect is a complex, fused category that includes two ordered parameters that may be labelled {+perfective, +imperfective}. The perfective parameter explains why the perfect includes a complete action.[107]

What if Buth is correct in that the perfect is a “fused category,” consisting of both perfective and imperfective aspects – not that the perfective portion depicts an antecedent verbal action (VA),[108] while the imperfective illustrates ongoing relevance of that VA,[109] but that the two aspects are superimposed one over the other? In other words, rather than two separate VAs in which the imperfective follows the perfective, the perfect is portraying one VA expressed both perfectively and imperfectively simultaneously. Stated yet another way, the expressed viewpoint of the perfect is concurrently perfective and imperfective, as opposed to a sequencing of perfective then imperfective. This is the proposal presented here.

Comrie notes that in Bulgarian, another Proto-Indo-European language, there are the seemingly self-contradictory ‘imperfective aorist’ and ‘perfective imperfect’ forms, each combining both aspects into one.[110] One use of the ‘imperfective aorist’ is, “to indicate an action which is presented as a single whole (whence the Aorist as marker of perfectivity), but with internal complexity (whence the Imperfective as marker of imperfectivity).”[111] In the Bulgarian system it is the tense-form’s aspect that predominates over the added aspectual feature, i.e. with the ‘perfective imperfect’ it is the imperfective aspect of the imperfect that prevails over the perfective aspect.[112] In other words, the imperfective aspect is superimposed over the perfective. Similarly, with the ‘imperfective aorist’ it is the perfective aspect of the aorist which is superimposed over the imperfective aspect.[113] Therefore, the two forms are not redundant, as one has the imperfective dominant, while the other has perfective dominant, thus differentiating the one from the other.[114] In both cases, it seems that the purpose is to emphasize the VA by the use of both aspects.[115]

Is it possible that the Koine Greek perfect and pluperfect resemble the Bulgarian here?[116] Let’s investigate how this might work out after making a few preliminary assumptions.

It seems pretty clear that what is commonly known as the pluperfect exhibits the remoteness feature of the imperfect, which we’ll call remote imperfectivity. Of course, remoteness is not a necessary part of the imperfective aspect, as the present form well illustrates. Therefore, if the Bulgarian schema were to apply to Koine,[117] it seems best to understand the pluperfect as a ‘perfective imperfect’ (PI), with remote imperfectivity the dominant aspectual feature.[118] Hence, borrowing from the Bulgarian model, it superimposes its intrinsic remote imperfectivity over its perfectivity.

But what of the perfect? It appears it could function either as an ‘imperfective aorist’ or a ‘perfective present.’ For now we’ll assume that it’s an ‘imperfective aorist’ (IA) and proceed to argue the case for it, in part because it matches the Bulgarian system; but, more importantly, this seems to provide for the best explanation and outworking of this morphological form, as will be discussed below. Hence, for our purposes here, the IA will be portrayed as superimposing its presumed inherently dominant perfective aspect over its imperfectivity. Since the imperfectivity of the IA is different from that of the PI, we could term it non-remote imperfectivity, or, perhaps better, proximate imperfectivity, in order to distinguish between the two.

Using Isachenko’s parade analogy,[119] we can restate our relative positions on the two forms:

The IA primarily views the VA of the parade in its entirety from the helicopter, yet concurrently views it in progress at street-level of the parade, a proximate imperfective perspective akin to the present. The concurrent perfective and proximate imperfective VA in the IA likely has the effect of semantic emphasis, as compared to single-aspect forms.

The PI primarily views the VA in progress from a remote imperfective perspective, the parade view from the grandstand (a bit more remote from street-level), while simultaneously viewing the VA in its entirety, from start to finish, from the helicopter. The concurrent remote imperfective and perfective VA in the PI likely has the effect of semantic emphasis, as compared to single-aspect forms.

Once again adapting Campbell’s helpful diagrams, graphically the IA and PI could resemble the figures below (these are composites of the diagrams from the third part of this article, with the IA combining the aorist + present graphs, and the PI the aorist + imperfect). The viewpoints in the figures should be understood as ‘looking at’ the VA which resides on T1 – T2. This is not intended to depict a ‘time distance’ from or to the T1 – T2; the distance between the viewpoints and the timeline is depicting remoteness, or non-remoteness/proximity, from the VA. Both T1 and T2 should be understood as adapting to the temporal reference of the specific context. For example, with past temporal reference, both T1 and T2 will be in the past, whereas with present temporal reference (and an omnitemporal, or gnomic, implicature), T1 will represent the past while T2 will represent the future.

Alternatively, the current position in each figure could be seen is illustrating a present-time perspective, envisioning each viewpoint as a ball on a pendulum with its fixed point directly above it on T1 – T2 representing the VA. Swinging to the right (towards T2) will depict a past-time perspective, while swinging to the left (towards T1) will exhibit a future-time perspective. In other words, swinging to the right illustrates the viewpoint to the right of the VA, looking ‘back’ at the VA, looking at the past; swinging to the left illustrates the viewpoint to the left of the VA, looking ‘ahead’ to the VA, peering into the future. Of course, by necessity, each individual figure’s two viewpoints will ‘swing’ in tandem, i.e. the perfective and imperfective viewpoints in each individual figure will always be identical in temporal reference (hence the connecting dotted line).

Stated in previous segments and worth repeating here is that remoteness does not necessarily entail past temporal reference. Also, one must bear in mind that perfectivity, the helicopter view, is inherently more remote than imperfectivity. To differentiate from remote imperfectivity, we could call it perfective remoteness, with the understanding that its remoteness feature is amplified as compared to that of the PI (and the imperfect).

Imperfective Aorist To reiterate, as we are proposing here, the IA is predominately a perfective perspective with added proximate imperfectivity (shown above), whereas the PI is superimposing its remote imperfective viewpoint over perfectivity (shown below). Note that the arrows of the respective perfective viewpoints are placed both further left (at T1) and further right (at T2) of the imperfective arrows, thus illustrating that perfectivity encompasses both the inception and the termination of the VA while imperfectivity does not.

 Perfective Imperfect

In testing this hypothesis we’ll begin with the IA (perfect), since it is much more prevalent in the NT as compared to the PI (pluperfect).

Imperfective Aorist

Colossians 1:17; συνέστηκεν: Most agree that this signifies the continuous holding together of the cosmos by Christ – in other words, imperfective aspect. Taking the traditional understanding of the perfect, what would be the anterior VA in view here?[120] One cannot say it’s the advent of creation (that would be κτίζω from v 16), for this particular verb says nothing about the initial act of creating, but rather sustaining that which has already been created. Applying our theory of the perfect as an IA, this verb is depicting the VA in its entirety, perfectively – an omnitemporal implicature, encompassing the entire temporal realm, from its inception to termination (or to infinity) – while concurrently conveying the VA in its particulars, with its intrinsic proximate imperfectivity. In other words, Paul is communicating that in Christ all things have always been continuously held together, are currently being held together, and will continue to be held together. Admittedly, it’s a bit difficult to translate simultaneous perfectivity and imperfectivity.

John 5:33; ἀπεστάλκατε: This is the first of two perfects in this verse, both of which Campbell opines are difficult to reconcile with Porter’s stative view, asking if this one is reflecting the Jewish leaders as being in “a state of having-sent-to-John-ness?”[121] While this doesn’t necessarily negate Porter’s stance, it does point to a lack of clarity in his rather vague description of this morphological form as constituting “a given (often complex) state of affairs,”[122] as mentioned in the previous segment. This example also seems to create difficulty for the traditional view, as what would be the continuing relevance of the Jewish leaders having sent (messengers) to John (cf. v 35)?[123] Employing our hypothesis here, the IA is illustrating the entire VA of the Jews having sent (messengers) from inception until termination, while simultaneously depicting that they kept sending (messengers). By the context this is evidencing past temporal reference (cf. v 35: ὑμεῖς δὲ ἠθελήσατε ἀγαλλιαθῆναι πρὸς ὥραν ἐν τῷ φωτὶ αὐτοῦ – and you were willing to rejoice in his light for a time).

John 5:33; μεμαρτύρηκεν: This one is very similar to the immediately preceding. Implementing the IA, the sense would be he has borne witness (perfective) and he was bearing witness (imperfective) – past temporal reference. While some may argue that John’s testimony still had some validity at the time of Jesus’ utterance, this seems more of a pragmatic implicature drawn out from the context rather than a part of the aspectual semantics.

Coming from a different angle on this subject of continued relevancy, the VA in the aorist ἐνίκησεν (has conquered) in Revelation 5:5, for example, certainly has ongoing importance, but this is borne out by the context (pragmatics), not necessarily from the perfective aspect (semantics) of the aorist.[124] Could the same be true for some perfects; i.e. could it be the context providing the continuing relevance rather than the presumed semantics of the perfect? Moreover, keeping the traditional understanding of the perfect in mind, the use of the aorist for νικάω in Rev 5:5 begs the question: Why wasn’t the perfect used here instead of the aorist?

Many have noted that there are a number of perfects which some think are merely aoristic, retaining only the perfective aspect.[125] Revelation 5:7 contains one such example in εἴληφεν (He took). Yet Porter notes that John the Revelator uses the aorist form of this verb in the very next verse,[126] thereby indicating that there must be some sort of aspectual distinction between them.[127] On the surface, “took” would seem to be strictly punctiliar, but, as Comrie notes, a verb commonly considered punctiliar can be construed as having duration, albeit very short duration.[128] More importantly, the fact that λαμβάνω is existing in the NT in the present, to include Revelation (14:9, 14:11, 17:12), indicates it can and is used as an imperfective. Hence, εἴληφεν can work as an IA, concurrently perfective and imperfective. Assuming so, John the Revelator describes the taking of the scroll in its entirety, while also illustrating that action in progress. The effect of the added imperfectivity intrinsic to the IA seemingly would be to heighten the significance of the taking of the scroll.

2 Cor. 2:13; ἔσχηκα: While providing his own reasons why some seemingly aoristic perfects actually function as ‘true perfects,’[129] Robertson nearly concedes the usage here is a “preterit punctiliar,” i.e. merely aoristic.[130] However, he goes on to reject both the aorist and imperfect as unsuitable for the presumed literary purpose of Paul who “wished to accent the strain of his anxiety up to the time of the arrival of Titus.”[131] Then Robertson hints at our proposal here: “It was durative plus punctiliar.”[132] Our position on the IA works well in this instance (I did not have rest in my spirit), as Paul is conveying his overall discontent perfectively – from inception to termination – while focusing on the state of his feeling of unrest at that time (imperfectivity). Porter renders this I was not in the state of having, i.e. possessing, rest in my spirit.[133]

1 Cor. 15:4; ἐγήγερται: We’re stepping a bit outside our self-imposed parameters by using an example of a perfect middle indicative, as Porter seems to stand alone in his interpretation of 1 Corinthians 15:4.[134] Even McKay departs from Porter, adhering more closely to the traditional understanding in that though he affirms stativity, McKay asserts that the state continues.[135] Porter, on the other hand, finds the perfect in this context deictically limited by τῇ ἡμέρᾳ τῇ τρίτῃ (on the third day):

…Many commentators extrapolate an unhealthy amount of exegetical insight from the Perfect…claiming that it means that Christ was raised and the results of his being raised continues. This may be good theology, but it cannot be argued for solely on the basis of the stative aspect. In this context temporal deixis (τῇ ἡμέρᾳ τῇ τρίτῃ) specifically limits the temporal implicature to the state of raisedness that was in existence three days after the burial…Cf. 1 Cor 15:12, 13, 14, where this specific state is referred to, twice in conditional sentences…[136]

Yet it would seem possible that τῇ ἡμέρᾳ τῇ τρίτῃ is descriptive rather than limiting, i.e. the Apostle Paul is describing the point at which the state of risen-ness began. On the other hand, if Paul is recounting events chronologically, this may provide more credence to Porter’s position.[137] A final resolution is not necessary, as the IA will work in either case. As regards the traditional understanding, the perfective reflects the beginning of the state of risen-ness on the third day and its extending to infinity, with the imperfective ‘looking at’ the state itself up close in its particulars. As to Porter’s perspective, perfectively the IA signifies the beginning and endpoint of the VA as on the third day; its imperfectivity is the same as in the traditional view, though of much shorter duration.

Matthew 4:4 (cf. 6, 7, 10; Luke 4:4, 8, 10); γέγραπται: One more perfect middle was chosen, for, on the surface at least, this particular example does not appear to work with our hypothesis. Imperfectivity is plainly evident, but perfectivity seems to be an anterior event, thus, by appearances, tipping the scales toward the traditional interpretation. Perhaps Buth is correct in that it is due to “the reduced focus on the causative action [ED: perfective VA] in the perfect middle.”[138] But, on the other hand, this is no different from our immediately preceding example in this regard. In keeping with our conception here, it is not that the initial handwriting is in “reduced focus,” just as the actual raising of Jesus is not a reduced focal point in 1 Cor. 15:4. Neither the actual writing nor the initial raising is in view at all, but rather, implied.[139] In both cases it is stativity that is the sole focus. In other words, the inception of the state, signified before the ink was dry, so to speak in this case, and a nanosecond after Christ’s raising in the Corinthians passage, is the beginning point of the perfective VA in the IA, which follows the immediately preceding implied action, and so the lexemes here should be understood as stative rather than dynamic/actional. Hence, the perfective VA for γέγραπται is the entire state of ‘written-ness,’ which, after inception, is unbounded temporally, with the imperfective VA the continuing stativity itself. Thus, it seems best to translate the verb as it stands written, or perhaps something akin to it is on record.

Could it be that, in general, a concurrently perfective and imperfective form such as the IA aspectually transforms dynamic/actional lexemes to stative ones, whether in the passive or active mood? Both verbs in John 5:33 above – sending and bearing witness – are actional lexemes, yet the IA has the effect of converting each into stative verbs, as in the Jews were in a state of continuously sending messengers to John and John was in a state of continuously bearing witness about Jesus.   Συνίστημι in Col 1:17 appears to make a similar lexical transformation. It’s too premature to conclude anything definitive given our limited sampling above, but if it be determined that all dynamic/actional lexemes are converted to stative in the IA (perfect), this would provide explanatory force to Porter’s position on the stative aspect. Moreover, this would provide a more firm foundation to counter those who oppose Porter’s position of stative aspect on the basis that stativity is strictly an Aktionsart function, for this would indicate that stativity is subjectively chosen by the writer in his use of the IA (perfect), no matter the lexeme, which in turn would lead to objectively stative Aktionsarten. To put it succinctly, assuming our analysis from the small sampling above holds true universally, in the IA (perfect) it is the concurrent perfective and imperfective VA providing the means by which the Aktionsart values are necessarily stative.

We’ll see if this resulting stative Aktionsart works out in the PI (pluperfect) in the next section.

While our position is that the form known as the perfect is in actuality an ‘imperfective aorist,’ we’ve not yet addressed why it could not be a ‘perfective present’ instead, though we shall do so forthwith, using the following very brief rationale. It is known that the perfect later took on a strictly ‘aoristic’ meaning before it eventually disappeared altogether.[140] Hence, it seems more logical that the form was a perfective-dominated one, with the imperfective portion somewhat subsidiary, rather than an imperfective-prominent form.[141]

Perfective Imperfect

The PI (pluperfect) is only occasionally used in the NT. In keeping with its relative scarcity, fewer examples will be chosen as compared to the IA. Due to the remote imperfective quality of the imperfect, the PI is intrinsically more remote than the IA. This does not necessarily mean the PI will be reflecting past temporal reference, but in many cases it does so.

John 6:17; ἐγεγόνει: This is the first of two PI forms in this particular verse. It had become dark. Once again, we have a normally dynamic lexeme[142] with stative Aktionsart as a result of the use of the two aspects concurrently. The setting is such that it was in a state of having become dark. Because of the overriding thrust of the imperfect, the inherent meaning of the lexeme, and the presence of ἤδη, there is focus on the arrival of darkness.   Here the imperfective VA is the continuing state of darkness which had just begun. The perfective VA is circumscribing the entire VA to the scene depicted in the boat on the water. There is no antecedent event; the entire VA is encompassed in its perfective imperfectivity.

John 6:17; ἐληλύθει: Έρχομαι is also an inherently dynamic/actional lexeme. Jesus had not yet come – here it appears that, once again, the lexeme is transformed into a stative. The point seems not merely that Jesus had not come down to them on the boat, but more in the sense of Jesus had not come and remained with them on the boat. If this is a correct interpretation, then our hypothesis on lexical transformation of the IA and PI holds in this particular case, as well.

Mark 15:7; πεποιήκεισαν: Here we have another dynamic/actional lexeme. Barabbas had brought about murder, or had committed murder, but the focus is not on the initial action. This is more to make an identification of the insurrectionist as a murderer, as one in a state of having committed murder. The Gospel writer could have just chosen the nominative φονεύς or ἀνθρωποκτόνος (murderer). Could it be that the PI was chosen because it carries more weight, perhaps because of its dual-aspectual character? The imperfective VA is the focus on the past and yet-present (at that time) state, while the perfectivity is circumscribing this state to the time encompassing the point immediately following his committing murder to the then-present.

Luke 4:29; ᾠκοδόμητο: Another verb in the middle voice was chosen to determine if it acts the same as the IA examples above. Οἰκοδομέω, building a house, is another dynamic/actional lexeme, and here it is indeed similar to the middle IAs. Once again, it is not the actual building of the city in view; it is the fact that the city is standing. Hence, the sense here is on which their city stood built. The PI’s imperfectivity is the standing of the city, its perfectivity encompasses the time period just after it was built to the then-present.

John 8:19; ᾔδειτε: This verse was chosen because it contains the same verb used in slightly different ways. If you knew Me, you would also know My Father. The first usage seems akin to what Robinson calls a “polite idiom,”[143] which in English is rendered as past tense for the present, as it is here. The second is also present temporal reference. This is an example of the inherent remote imperfectivity of the imperfect portion of the PI being used in a non-past context.


While recognizing that our sampling is inadequately small and the argumentation insufficiently rigorous, we have posited that the perfect and pluperfect forms may well have been intended as ‘imperfective aorists’ and ‘perfective imperfects,’ respectively, in view of the Bulgarian. Assuming so, these morphological forms encode the verbal action as concurrently – as opposed to sequentially – perfective and imperfective. Employing Isachenko’s parade analogy, this is akin to viewing the parade from the helicopter while simultaneously viewing it at street level – a dual perspective. This simultaneity in these dual-aspectual forms inherently produces a stative implicature. Moreover, it appears that normally dynamic/actional lexemes are transformed to stative verbs by the use of these forms, thus resulting in stative Aktionsart. This supports Porter’s stance of stative aspect regarding these morphological forms, while potentially providing specific methodological bases for Porter’s position.


[102]   Guthrie, “Boats in the Bay,” in Porter, Carson, eds. Linguistics and the New Testament: Critical Junctures, p 25. For the purposes of this appendix I’ve taken Guthrie a bit out of context here, but his larger point is what I’m after: We must be willing to continually ask questions of the methodologies used to extract meaning from the NT texts, and studies in the discipline of linguistics may provide a possible way forward in finding a solution to the disparate opinions on the function of the perfect and pluperfect.

[103]   Perhaps there’s a really good reason why the following theory will not work, eluding me due to lack of expertise. I humbly and sincerely welcome any feedback/criticism.

[104]   Randall Buth, “Getting the Right Handles on the Greek Perfect,” Biblical Language Center website, (November 29, 2013), retrieved from, as accessed 9/23/14.

[105]   ibid, paragraphs 5-8. Buth notes that both reduplication, a marker of imperfectivity, and a κ from aorists “preserving an archaic feature of Greek morphology” (par 6), signifying perfectivity, are/were present in the perfect.

[106]   Using ἐμήμεκα (translated as “I have vomited”) as an example (“Getting the Right Handles,” para 4), and adding, “[o]ne could use the label ‘stative’ to describe the ongoing relevance, as long as the ‘completeness’ parameter was also included” (para 4), Buth appears to support the traditional view in this context. Elsewhere (“Verbs Perception and Aspect,” in Taylor, Lee, et. al., eds. Biblical Language and Lexicography) he affirms, “…I, like most Greek grammarians, feel that time intersects with aspect in the indicative. However, I would not disagree with those who would point out that an aspect that is (+ perfective, + imperfective) implies a certain temporal sequencing” (p 192 n 30; emphasis added). This is contrary to the findings of Porter and Decker, which indicate that this does not always work out in practice, as summarized in the fourth part of this series. See also footnote 65.

[107]   ibid, par 3-4.

[108]   The term “verbal action” here is meant as a shorthand, collective descriptor, used for either perfective or imperfective aspect, substituted for “event” (for dynamic/actional lexemes in the perfective), “process” (for dynamic/actional lexemes in the imperfective), and “state” (for stative lexemes in the imperfective, and for stative lexemes in the perfective, which are not merely stative, but typically seen as both incepting and terminating), for brevity. See Comrie, Aspect, pp 48-51.

[109]   Even the presumed perfective VA followed by imperfective VA in the traditional view is not applied universally, as the so-called “extensive perfect” (see Robertson, Grammar, pp 895-896), aka “consummative perfect” (see H. E. Dana and Julius R. Mantey, A Manual Grammar of the Greek New Testament, (New York: Macmillan Publishing, 1955), pp 202-203) are explained as the converse, reflecting imperfective followed by perfective.

[110]   Comrie, Aspect, pp 23, 31-32

[111]   ibid, p 23

[112]   ibid, p 32

[113]   ibid.

[114]   In addition, the imperfectivity of the ‘imperfective aorist’ is intrinsically more proximate than the imperfectivity of the ‘perfective imperfect.’ Conversely, the imperfectivity of the ‘perfective imperfect’ is more remote than the imperfectivity of the ‘imperfective aorist.’ More on this below.

[115]   This is my own conclusion, based on the fact of each form’s dual-aspectual value. This seems to comport with the traditional view of the perfect and pluperfect.

[116]   It should be noted that Comrie describes the ancient Greek perfect as per the traditional view: “[T]he Perfect, although referring to a past situation, is still treated as a primary (i.e. non-past) tense for the purpose of determining the sequence of tenses” (Aspect, p 53). However, it seems the author is merely ‘reporting,’ i.e. Comrie is only parroting the positions in typical grammars.

[117]   There is one important difference: In the Bulgarian model each of these forms are past tense, for past temporal reference, according to Comrie (Aspect, p 23). As illustrated in previous sections of this article, Porter has demonstrated that the Koine perfect is reflecting both past and non-past contexts, and the pluperfect, though mostly reflecting past temporal reference, is not exclusively so.

[118]   This would not seem to work as an ‘imperfective aorist,’ as we would most likely assume the imperfectivity in such a form would be akin to the present, i.e. it would be non-remote.

[119]   See Porter, VAGNT, p 91

[120]   Robertson (Grammar) claims the verb here “has lost the punctiliar [ED: aoristic VA, perfective aspect] and is only durative” (p 896).

[121]   Campbell, Verbal Aspect, p 171; cf. 169-175. The same specific example is cited in Campbell, Basics, p 49. Campbell’s difficulty here lies in his confusion of Porter’s position of the subjective use of the perfect to connote a “state of affairs,” as opposed to the objective stativity of Aktionsart.

[122]   Porter, Idioms, p 22

[123]   Robertson (Grammar, pp 896-897) calls this a “vivid” historical present perfect, meaning the VA was actually in the past, but conveyed as if present in order to provide emphasis.

[124]   I state “not necessarily” here since perfective aspect may or may not include durativity, as Comrie notes (Aspect, p 22). One example illustrating durativity is found in the aorist of βασιλεύω in 1 Cor. 4:8: ἡμῶν ἐβασιλεύσατε (You have become kings). Porter (VAGNT), apparently with durativity in mind, renders ἐνίκησεν in Rev 5:5 as the present-referring “stands victorious” (p 228). Osborne (Grant R. Osborne, Revelation: Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament, Moises Silva ed. (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 2002)) recognizes a possible present temporal reference here, but ultimately concludes past: “[T]he aorist refers to his life as a victory over the powers of evil (global aorist) or, more likely in this context, to his sacrificial death as the great “victory” over Satan (punctiliar force)” (p 253; parentheses in orig.). At first blush this appears to better fit the context (see ἀρνίον ἑστηκὸς ὡς ἐσφαγμένον in Rev 5:6), agreeing with Thomas (Robert L. Thomas, Revelation 1-7: An Exegetical Commentary, Kenneth Barker gen. ed. (Chicago, IL: Moody Press, 1992)): “The purpose of Jesus’ victory is expressed by anoixai (“that He may open”). This is a shade different from calling the opening a result of His victorious redemptive work…The opening of the scroll is best seen as the object or purpose of Jesus’ conquest” (p 388). On the other hand, David Aune (Word Biblical Commentary, 52A: Revelation 1-5, David A. Hubbard & Glenn W. Barker gen. eds. (Dallas, TX: Word, 1997)) observes that the verb νικᾶν here “is used without an object limiting the scope of victory [which] suggests that his victory is unlimited and absolute” (p 349). While Aune translates the aorist has conquered (pp 321, 349), his understanding suggests then-present and perhaps even current-present reference (similar to Porter?). In other words, this means that Aune understands has conquered as an English present perfect to include the then-present, whereas Thomas and Osborne understand has conquered as an English present perfect which only includes the past on up to but excluding the then-present – see footnote 94.

Robertson (Grammar) calls the usage in Rev 5:5 an application of the “effective aorist,” with a focus on the “end of the action” (pp 834-835). But this seems a bit forced, as if he wants to retain the presumed past tense feature of the aorist – “…because of the time-element in the indicative (expressed by the augment and secondary endings),” (p 835) – while somehow providing a present-time application in order to fit the context here.

[125]   See Robertson, Grammar, pp 898-902; McKay, Syntax, p 50; Mathewson, “Rethinking Greek Verb Tenses,” pp 20-22; Wallace, Grammar, pp 578-579; H. E. Dana and Julius R. Mantey, A Manual Grammar of the Greek New Testament, (New York: Macmillan Publishing, 1955) pp 202-205.

[126]   Porter, VAGNT, pp 264-265; cf. Mathewson (“Rethinking Greek Verb Tenses”) in which the author observes that Rev 5:9 also contains the aorist form of λαμβάνω (p 20). Robertson (Grammar) calls the usage here a “vivid dramatic colloquial historical perfect” (p 899). Dana and Mantey (Manual Grammar, p 204) follow Robertson.

[127]   Robertson (Grammar) notes this: “The mere fact of the use of the aorists and perfects side by side does not prove confusion of the tenses. It rather argues the other way” (p 901).

[128]   Comrie (Aspect, pp 42-43) uses the example of “cough” – not as iterative (a series of coughs), but as a semelfactive (one single cough) – in a situation in which a film of an individual’s single cough is slowed down to where it is revealed as having very brief duration. It seems one may even be able to argue that “kick” can be imperfective, taking into account the individual’s swing of the foot leading up to the actual point of impact, and perhaps even including its follow-through.

[129]   Robertson, Grammar, pp 898-902

[130]   Robertson, Grammar, p 901. Robertson uses “punctiliar” rather loosely in describing perfectivity throughout.

[131]   ibid.

[132]   ibid. Though Robertson opines that the perfect or pluperfect could work here, he ultimately interprets Paul’s usage as a “(historical dramatic) present perfect” (p 901; parenthesis in original).

[133]   Porter, VAGNT, p 258

[134]   This is according to the works surveyed here.

[135]   McKay (New Syntax) asserts: “[T]he event producing the state may be implied strongly enough for the addition of an adverbial attachment which applies particularly to the event: e.g. 1 Cor. 15:4 καὶ ὅτι ἐγήγερται τῇ ἡμέρᾳ τῇ τρίτῃ, and that he rose on the third day (and remains risen). The emphasis is still on the state rather than the event, but the flexibility of the language permits the addition of an adverbial phrase which would usually accompany the aorist which might have been used here” (p 32). Cf. pp 40, 50; McKay “The Use of the Ancient Greek Perfect,” pp 12-13.

[136]   Porter, VAGNT, p 262

[137]   That is, if verse 4 is seen as the beginning of a chronological series of events describing Christ’s death and resurrection and the ramifications of His atoning work (“Christ died for our sins” in v 3), then we have 1) He was buried, 2) He was raised on the third day, 3) He appeared to Peter, 4) then to the Twelve, etc., which could be construed as limiting ἐγήγερται to Easter.

[138]   Buth, “Getting the Right Handles,” par 10

[139]   McKay (“The Use of the Ancient Greek Perfect”) suggests this regarding the Corinthians passage: “But the context is that Christ is risen, a continuing condition which has given rise to a new state of affairs. A more strict grammarian would no doubt have used the aorist at this point and introduced the perfect later, but Paul is less concerned with the respective provinces of aorist and perfect than with his theological purpose: the past facts of death, burial, resurrection and attestation are to him subsidiary to the significance of the fact that Christ continues in the risen state” (p 12; italics in original, bold added for emphasis).

[140]   See, e.g. Rodney J. Decker, Koine Greek Reader: Selections from the New Testament, Septuagint, and Early Christian Writers, (Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publications, 2007), p 236; McKay, “The Use of the Ancient Greek Perfect,” pp 1-2. Perhaps the dual-aspect quality of the form proved too confusing.

[141]   Moreover, with two other imperfectives – namely the present and the imperfect – the decision to use it ‘aoristically,’ rather than imperfectively, makes sense. It would make an interesting study to see if, upon its adoption as a strictly perfective, the ‘perfect’ was used predominantly, or even solely, in one temporal sphere as opposed to another, in order to differentiate it from the aorist, before the ‘perfect’ eventually disappeared.

[142]   Γίνομαι is used to denote a change from one state to another by some sort of process or event. Thus, the verb is dynamic, signifying the act of transition. This differentiates it from, e.g. εἰμί. That it results in a new state does not negate that it is inherently dynamic/actional.

[143] Robertson, Grammar, pp 918-919. See footnote 68 above.

A Somewhat Brief Explanation of Verbal Aspect Theory as it Pertains to Koine (NT) Greek, with Focus on Temporal Reference (pt 4)

[See part 1, part 2, and part 3.]

Stative Aspect

This brings us to the perplexing perfect and pluperfect tense-forms. While there are different understandings as regards the outworking of the plu/perfect forms, there is general agreement that the relationship between the perfect and the pluperfect bears resemblance to the relationship between the present and imperfect tense-forms.

Traditionally the perfect tense-form has been described as a past action with present results, or present continuing relevance. Julius R. Mantey, co-author with H. E. Dana of A Manual Grammar of the Greek New Testament, notes the following about the perfect tense-form: “The perfect tense is the most difficult of Greek tenses to understand and to interpret. This is true chiefly due to the fact that it has been explained as being a combination of the two tenses, the aorist and the present.”83 Obviously, this view is time bound, to include the understanding that the aorist tense-form necessarily encodes past time, while the present tense-form encodes present time. This is what is reflected in most Koine Greek grammars, i.e. that the perfect tense-form encodes a past action with presently existing results (sometimes understood as extending beyond the time of the writing to include the modern day present time). It is also fraught with troubles when applied universally, as we shall see.

Fanning identifies the perfect tense-form as a complex consisting of past time with present results, stative Aktionsart, and perfective aspect.84 As noted earlier, Campbell claims the plu/perfect forms encode imperfective aspect. Porter, following McKay, asserts that the plu/perfect tense-forms constitute a third aspect, stative aspect. As a Proto-Indo-European language, Porter’s position that Koine Greek includes a stative aspect comports with the Encyclopedia Britannica: “The Proto-Indo-European verb had three aspects: imperfective, perfective, and stative…The stative aspect, traditionally called ‘perfect,’ described states of the subject…‘be in a standing position’…‘have in mind.85 And as with the perfective and imperfective, Porter asserts that the time element of the stative aspect is not intrinsic.

Going back to the parade analogy, Porter describes the stative aspect thusly:

…[I]f I am the parade manager considering all of the conditions in existence at this parade, including not only the arrangements that are coming to fruition but all the accompanying events that allow the parade to operate, I view the process not in its particulars [imperfective aspect] or its immediacy [perfective aspect] but as “stative,” i.e. as a condition or state of affairs in existence.86

Porter defines it more simply elsewhere as “the action is conceived of by the language user as reflecting a given (often complex) state of affairs.”87 One could criticize Porter’s definition as too vague, and perhaps rightly so.88 Importantly, Porter does not mean that the plu/perfect forms encode stative Aktionsart – i.e. lexical (objective) stativity, as stative verbs such as ἔχω (I possess/have), μένω (I remain/stay), etc. convey stativity with any aspectual form – but instead a “state of affairs” portrayed subjectively by the writer/speaker in the use of these morphological forms, and by this understanding of stativity, either stative or dynamic (actional) lexemes in the plu/perfect tense-forms produce a stative implicature.

As mentioned earlier, according to Porter, the perfective aspect is the least marked aspect, with the aorist carrying the narrative, the story-line, being the “background” tense-form.89 The present tense-form (imperfective) slows down the narrative by bringing in “selected or highlighted events,” and is termed the “foreground” tense-form.90 The perfect is the most heavily marked,91 defined as the “frontground” tense-form, “reserved for selective mention of a few very significant items.”92

As the previous sections above have shown with the aorist and the present tense-forms, the following will illustrate that the perfect tense-form is found in all temporal spheres. We’ll begin with Mark 9:13, which exhibits past temporal reference of the perfect tense-form:93

Ηλίας ἐλήλυθεν, καὶ    ἐποίησαν    αὐτῷ     ὅσα    ἤθελον
Elias come,        and     they do  to him as much as they want
Elijah has come, and they have done to him everything they wanted

Jesus is speaking of John the Baptist here who had been beheaded earlier (cf. Mark 6:14-29). Importantly, note that this ‘coming’ of John is completely in the past; i.e. there are no continuing results of his coming, as he’s not still alive at the time Jesus spoke those words. Moreover, the context clearly indicates past temporal reference as “they” (Herod and Herodias) had already “done to him everything they wanted.” This is clearly a past state/condition best translated as an English present perfect (has come), indicating an unspecified time before the present (at the time of the speaker). While the English present perfect may indicate either past action at some unspecified time before the present or past action on up to and including the present,94 the overall context here, including personal deixis (“Elijah” – John the Baptist), indicates the former.

Because it is assumed that the Koine Greek perfect tense-form refers to present and/or continuing states, we’ll provide two more examples of past-referring perfects, the first from John 6:32:

οὐ Μωϋσῆς δέδωκεν ὑμῖν τὸν ἄρτον ἐκ τοῦ οὐρανοῦ
not Moses      give       you the bread from the heaven
Moses did not give you the bread from heaven

In this context, it is, once again, personal deixis (Moses) indicating a past reference. Obviously the ‘giving’ of the bread has not continued beyond the time of the Exodus.

The next example of past temporal reference is found in John 8:57, in which the Pharisees are astounded by Jesus’ claim in the previous verse that Abraham saw Him (and, by implication, vice versa) – with personal deixis (Abraham) yet again, plus the overall context, illustrating past implicature:

πεντήκοντα ἔτη    οὔπω   ἔχεις καὶ Ἀβραὰμ  ἑώρακας
Fifty             years not yet have and Abraham you see!
You have (are) not yet fifty years (old), and you have seen Abraham?!

The above example cannot be referring to present time, as the Pharisees’ point is that, from their perspective, Jesus is not possibly old enough (not yet fifty years) to have been a contemporary of Abraham in order to have seen him.

Porter cautions against necessarily reading past actions into the perfect form: “Whether a previous event is alluded to or exists at all is a matter of lexis in context and not part of aspectual semantics.”95 Decker makes note of this, providing Mark 6:14 as an example: “Here the point is not that a past action has taken place, but on the present state that exists: the people are convinced that John’s resurrected state accounts for his [Jesus’] power.”96 In other words, in this verse the thought was that a supposed resurrected John the Baptist was providing Jesus’ powers, thereby implicating present temporal reference. Moreover, since one cannot ascertain whether or not the perceived risen state of John extends beyond the time identified by the immediate context, it would seem dubious to claim continuing relevance:

Ιωάννης ὁ βαπτίζων ἐγήγερται ἐκ νεκρῶν καὶ διὰ    τοῦτο ἐνεργοῦσιν αἱ δυνάμεις ἐν αὐτῷ.
John     the Baptist   raise      from dead and through this   he works   the powers in/through him.
John the Baptist is risen from the dead, and by this he performs miracles in Him.

John 1:18 is one example of a timeless application of the perfect tense-form, again with no previous event in view:

Θεὸν οὐδεὶς ἑώρακεν πώποτε…
God no one see         ever/at any time…
No one sees God ever…

In this clause, the verb seems best translated as “no one sees God ever” (cf. Ex 33:20), rather than as an English present perfect (“no one has ever seen God”) as per most English translations, since πώποτε connotes unrestricted temporal deixis, indicating no specific temporal sphere.97 The Gospel writer’s point is that the λόγος (Logos: word, message), Who came from the Father, became flesh (Jn 1:14) and this enfleshed λόγος, Jesus Christ (Jn 1:17), was the One who revealed the Father to us (Jn 1:18b-d), and though no one ever sees God (Jn 1:18a), we have seen God in a sense, in the Person of Jesus Christ (cf. Jn 14:7, 9-11).

In translating ἑώρακεν as “has ever seen” the temporal reference is strictly limited to the time preceding and on up to and including the Incarnation (past + then-present), or the time the words were narrated by the Gospel writer, rather than leaving it open-ended, timeless. To provide an analogy by way of another example of the English present perfect: Making the claim that no one has ever run a marathon faster than 2 hours does not preclude someone from breaking this perceived barrier at some point in the future. Similarly, stating “no one has ever seen God” does not prohibit the possibility that someone will see God in the future – a statement that violates other Scripture (Ex 33:20; 1 Tm 6:16; 1 Jn 4:12).

An omnitemporal implicature is found in 2 Peter 2:19, according to Porter:98

ᾧ                        γάρ      τις      ἥττηται    τούτῳ δεδούλωται
who/which/what for a certain overcome  that/this enslave
for by what someone is overcome, by this he is enslaved.

In the immediate context, Peter is illustrating the fact that these unregenerate individuals (false teachers, cf. 2:1) are continually overcome and therefore enslaved by their sins.

James 5:2 (and 5:3) provides examples of future temporal reference of the perfect tense-form:

ὁ πλοῦτος ὑμῶν σέσηπεν καὶ τὰ    ἱμάτια    ὑμῶν σητόβρωτα γέγονεν
the riches  your rot    and the garments   your moth-eaten become
your riches will rot and your garments will become moth-eaten99

These perfects are traditionally rendered as either past or present temporal reference (proleptic or prophetic); however, Porter asserts these should best be translated as future. Certainly it would seem that the earthly rich described by James here have their riches unrotted temporally, but they won’t have them to enjoy eternally.

Similar to the perfect, traditionally the pluperfect has been asserted as being a combination of the aorist and the imperfect tense-forms. Porter identifies some problems with the traditional view, noting that there are occasions in the NT in which 1) “the aoristic past is not of importance,” 2) “the result is lacking,” and 3) “the context is not past-referring.”100 As to the first, Porter cites John 6:17 as one example,101 for Jesus had not yet come:

καὶ σκοτία    ἤδη ἐγεγόνει καὶ οὔπω ἐληλύθει πρὸς αὐτοὺς ὁ Ἰησοῦς
and darkness now become and not yet   come   to   them the Jesus
Now it had become dark and Jesus had not yet come to them.

The second point is evidenced in Acts 23:5:

ἔφη τε ὁ Παῦλος· οὐκ ᾔδειν,      ἀδελφοί, ὅτι ἐστὶν ἀρχιερεύς
said so the Paul   not understand brothers that be   high priest
So Paul answered, “I did not realize, brothers, that he was the high priest.”

The pluperfect, like the imperfect, is used predominately in past-referring contexts, yet not exclusively so. Thus, the final point above is found in John 8:19, with its implicature indicating present temporal reference:

εἰ ἐμὲ ᾔδειτε,    καὶ τὸν πατέρα μου ἂν    ᾔδειτε
if me you know also the father my would you know
If you knew Me, you would also know My Father

Summing Up

Porter contends that temporal reference is not intrinsic to the Koine Greek verb, with aspect being the sole semantic property encoded into the verb’s morphological form, while temporal reference, a pragmatic implicature, is found via the accompanying context. To claim that a specific temporal reference is a feature of the verb that can be cancelled out based on context is to allow for exceptions when it would seem best to minimize exceptional cases to the extent possible in a given system. This somewhat brief survey supports Porter’s position of the non-temporality of the Koine Greek verb, by illustrating that the aorist, the present, and the perfect tense-forms can be found in the full range of temporal spheres (past, present, omnitemporal, timeless, and future), while even the imperfect and pluperfect tense-forms are available in other than the traditionally presumed past temporal reference.

(Also see Appendix)


83  Julius R. Mantey “Evidence that the Perfect Tense in John 20:23 and Matthew 16:19 is Mistranslated” in Journal of Evangelical Theological Society (JETS), 16-3 (September 1973), p 129.

84   Decker (Temporal Deixis, p 108) sketches Fanning’s position, as does Trevor V. Evans (“Future Directions for Aspect Studies in Ancient Greek,” in Taylor, Lee et al eds. Biblical Greek Language and Lexicography, p 205). Campbell (Verbal Aspect, p 189) also defines Fanning’s conception, rightfully criticizing it as “a modern restatement of the classic view,” which then “admits too many exceptions” (p 189; cf. 189-190 for additional, more specific critique).

85   Encyclopaedia Brittanica online:

86   Porter, VAGNT, pp 91. Bracketed explanation is mine.

87   Porter, Idioms, pp 21-22; original is italicized. This exact verbiage is also found in Porter’s newest grammar (Fundamentals, p 315).

88   See e.g. Campbell, Verbal Aspect, pp 170-171.   In the appendix a possible alternate understanding of the perfect and pluperfect forms will be proposed, which may or may not provide a more adequate methodological approach and explanation, though this position will not be rigorously argued.

89   Porter, Idioms, p 23. It should be noted that Porter’s terminological distinctions are at odds with other linguists (and Fanning).

90   ibid.

91   Porter, VAGNT, p 258. For background on markedness, see Comrie, Aspect, pp 111-122.

92   Porter, Idioms, p 23

93   This example found in Decker, Temporal Deixis, p 109

94   Following are examples illustrating ‘past excluding present’ and ‘past including present’ usages of the English present perfect. Past time, excluding the present: Dr. Brown has been to Antarctica on expeditions many times over the past 30 years (but he is not currently in Antarctica, and no further expeditions are scheduled). In a different context, with Dr. Brown currently on an expedition in Antarctica, the statement would convey – excluding the parenthetical portion, of course – both past and present. For past time including the present: Jorge has lived in San Antonio his entire life (and he remains a resident of San Antonio).

95   Porter, VAGNT, p 259

96   Decker, Temporal Deixis, p 109

97   See Porter, VAGNT, p 269

98   Porter, VAGNT, p 268

99   Porter (VAGNT, p 267) renders these are going to rot and are going to become moth-eaten.

100   Porter, VAGNT, p 288

101   ibid.


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