Bible, New Testament, Greek, Koine, Aorist, Smith, Grace

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Grace Theological Journal 2.2 (Fall 1981) 205-26.
     [Copyright  1981 Grace Theological Seminary; cited with permission;
            digitally prepared for use at Gordon College]




                         ERRANT AORIST
                          INTERPRETERS
                             CHARLES R. SMITH


        The thesis of this essay is that exegesis and theology have been
plagued by the tendency of Greek scholars and students to make their
field of knowledge more esoteric, recondite, and occult than is
actually the case. There is an innate human inclination to attempt to
impress people with the hidden secrets which only the truly initiated
can rightly understand or explain. Nowhere is this more evident than
in the plethora of arcane labels assigned to the aorist tense in its
supposed classifications and significations. Important theological dis-
tinctions are often based on the tense and presented with all the
authority that voice or pen can muster. It is here proposed that the
aorist tense (like many other grammatical features) should be "de-
mythologized" and simply recognized for what it is--the standard
verbal aspect employed for naming or labeling an act or event. As
such, apart from its indications of time relationships, it is exegetically
insignificant: (1) It does not necessarily refer to past time; (2) It neither
identifies nor views action as punctiliar; (3) It does not indicate once-
for-all action; (4) It does not designate the kind of action; (5) It is not
the opposite of a present, imperfect, or perfect; (6) It does not occur
in classes or kinds; and, (7) It may describe any action or event.
                                  * * *

                           THE ABUSED AORIST

        In 1972 Frank Stagg performed yeoman service in publishing an
article titled "The Abused Aorist."1 A number of the illustrations
referred to in the following discussion are taken from his article. His
was not the first voice, however, nor the last, to be raised in objection
to the disservice rendered to this most useful servant in the Greek
tense system. But the warnings have largely gone unheeded.
        During a recent automobile trip the author listened to two
successive sermons (one on tape and one on radio) in which an aorist
       1
           Frank Stagg, "The Abused Aorist," JBL (1972) 222-31.
206           GRACE THEOLOGICAL JOURNAL

tense was grossly perverted in "proving" a point of theological conten-
tion. In the first case, a well-known and gifted pastor argued that the
use of an aorist form of the verb ni
        
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