Aorist Indicative: The Historical Aorist

(1) The Aorist Indicative is most frequently used to express a past event viewed in its entirety, simply as an event or a single fact. It has no reference to the progress of the event, or to any existing result of it.

John 1:11; εἰς τὰ ἴδια ἦλθεν, καὶ οἱ ἴδιοι αὐτὸν οὐ παρέλαβον, he came unto his own and they that were his own received him not.

(2) Since any past event without reference to its duration or complexity may be conceived of as a single fact, the Historical Aorist may be used to describe

(a) A momentary action.

Acts 5:5; ἐξέψυξεν, he gave up the ghost.

Matt. 8:3; καὶ ἐκτείνας τὴν χεῖρα ἥψατο αὐτοῦ, and having stretched forth his hand he touched him.

(b) An extended act or state, however prolonged in time, if viewed as constituting a single fact without reference to its progress.

Acts 28:30; Ἐνέμεινεν δὲ διετίαν ὅλην ἐν ἰδίῳ μισθώματι, and he abode two whole years in his own hired dwelling.

Eph. 2:4; διὰ τὴν πολλὴν ἀγάπην αὐτοῦ ἣν ἠγάπησεν ἡμᾶς, because of his great love wherewith he loved us.

(c) A series or aggregate of acts viewed as constituting a single fact.

Matt. 22:28; πάντες γὰρ ἔσχον αὐτήν, for they all had her.

2 Cor. 11:25; τρὶς ἐναυάγησα, thrice I suffered shipwreck.

(3) These three uses of the Historical Aorist may for convenience be designated as the Momentary Aorist, the Comprehensive Aorist, and the Collective Aorist. But it should be clearly observed that these terms do not mark distinctions in the functions of the tense. An Historical Aorist, whatever the nature of the fact affirmed, affirms it simply as a past fact. The writer may or may not have in mind that the act was single and momentary, or extended, or a series of acts, but the tense does not express or suggest the distinction. The purpose of the subdivision into momentary, comprehensive, and collective is not to define the force of the tense-form, but to discriminate more precisely the nature of the facts to which it is applied as shown by the context or the circumstances. Cf. G.MT. 56.

REMARK. The term Historical Aorist is applied to the use of the Aorist here described only by pre-eminence. In strictness the Inceptive and Resultative Aorists are also Historical. Compare what is said concerning the term Indefinite under THE AORIST INDICATIVE.

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