Verbal Aspect

At the recommentation of my Greek teacher, I recently bought and am just getting round to reading Con Campbell’s new book on Verbal Aspect in New Testament Greek. Here (and in a few following posts) are some notes thereon.

On of the first things Con does is to summarise where the debate on aspect is up to and who the major players are. I’ve heard all these names before, so I found it really useful to have helpful summaries of their work.

Curtius (1880): the first to spot that there was no temporal reference outside the indicative mood. Curtius also sowed the seed of Aktionsart (which he termed zeitart) by distinguishing different types of meaning in the aorist and present (durative vs “quickly-passing”).

McKay (1965): suggests that aspect is primary in Greek and tense (time) is not semantically encoded within the verb. McKay also suggests that there are four aspects: perfective (aorist), imperfective (present and imperfect); future (future) and stative (perfect).

Porter (1989): Follows and builds on McKay’s work. Aspect over time. Tense is not at all semantically encoded. Any temporal reference is pragmatic and due to context rather than tense-form.

Fanning (1990): More traditional. Aspect is primary, but tense is still semantically encoded, although only secondarily.

Decker (2001): Decker set out to test Porter’s thesis and did so rigorously (and affirmed it) in Mark’s gospel.

2 thoughts on “Verbal Aspect

  1. I’d advise to not take Decker’s work as suggesting a consensus against Tense as a verbal category. While some might argue that there currently is consensus, the vast majority of scholars reject Porter, Decker, et al. and their claim against Tense as being absent even in the indicative.

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