Aorist Indicative: The Aorist For The (English) Pluperfect


(1) The Aorist Indicative is frequently used in narrative passages of a past event which precedes another past event mentioned or implied in the context. In English it is common in such a case to indicate the real order of the events by the use of a Pluperfect for the earlier event. Cf. ENGLISH EQUIVALENTS OF THE GREEK AORIST INDICATIVE (1),(2).

John 19:30; ὅτε οὖν ἔλαβεν τὸ ὄξος ὁ Ἰησοῦς εἶπεν· τετελέσται, when therefore Jesus had received the vinegar, he said, It is finished.

Matthew 14:3; Ὁ γὰρ Ἡρῴδης κρατήσας τὸν Ἰωάννην ἔδησεν αὐτὸν, for Herod having laid hold on John had bound him. See also Matt. 27:31; Mark 8:14; Luke 8:27; John 12:17; 13:12.

REMARK. It has been much disputed whether ἀπέστειλεν in John 18:24 is to be assigned to this head. The valid objection to this is not in any inappropriateness of the Aorist tense to express an event antecedent to one already mentioned, – the Aorist is the only form that can be used if the event is thought of simply as an event (cf. Mey. ad loc., contra), – but in the presence of οὖν, which is, in John especially, so constantly continuative, and in the absence of any intimation in the context that the events are related out of their chronological order.

(2). From the general principles of indirect discourse in English and in Greek it results that an Aorist Indicative in indirect discourse after a verb of past time must usually be rendered into English by a Pluperfect. Cf. INDIRECT DISCOURSE IN ENGLISH AND IN GREEK (3). These cases form a class entirely distinct from those that are included above under the term Aorist for the English Pluperfect.

(3) Both the Aorist and the Perfect are sometimes used proleptically, but this is rather a rhetorical figure than a grammatical idiom.

1 Cor. 7:28; ἐὰν δὲ καὶ γαμήσῃς, οὐχ ἥμαρτες, but even if thou shalt marry, thou hast not sinned. See also John 15:8; Jas. 2:10.

(4) For the Aorist in a condition contrary to fact, see B. Supposition contrary to Fact in MOODS IN CONDITIONAL SENTENCES. For the Aorist expressing an unattained wish, see THE IMPERFECT OF REPEATED ACTION (4).

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