Jody A. Barnard, «Is Verbal Aspect a Prominence Indicator? An Evaluation of Stanley Porter’s Proposal with Special Reference to the Gospel of Luke.», Vol. 19 (2006) 3-29
The purpose of this article is to evaluate Stanley Porter’s theory of
aspectual prominence. According to Porter the three verbal aspects of the
Greek language (perfective, imperfective and stative) operate at a discourse
level to indicate prominence (background, foreground and frontground). This
theory will be tested against the points of emphasis and climactic junctures
evident in a selection of Luke’s miracle and pronouncement stories.
Jody A. Barnard
In place of Markâ€™s historical present Î»á½³Î³Î¿Ï…ÏƒÎ¹Î½ (Mk 1,30), Luke has
á¼ Ïá½½Ï„Î·ÏƒÎ±Î½, which is a more clearly defined action than Î»á½³Î³Î¿Ï…ÏƒÎ¹Î½, but
aorist tense27. Finally, the fever is rebuked (aorist) yet its climactic de-
parture is reported in the aorist tense (á¼€Ï†á¿†ÎºÎµÎ½). The healing is further
highlighted by Lukeâ€™s Ï€Î±ÏÎ±Ï‡Ïá¿†Î¼Î± Î´á½² á¼€Î½Î±ÏƒÏ„á¾¶ÏƒÎ±, which draws attention
to the instantaneous effectiveness of the healing (cf. Mk 1,31)28, yet it is
an aorist tense.
A miraculous catch of fish (5,1-11)
Bultmann identified this pericope as a miracle story29 whereas Fitz-
myer considered it a pronouncement in view of the key saying in v. 1030.
But perhaps Bock is closer to the truth when he states that â€œthere is no
need to insist that a form must be simple and have only one point of fo-
cusâ€31. Having said this there are several indicators that Luke considered
the catch of fish as the central point of the episode.
The phrase â€œwhen he had finished speakingâ€, (v. 4) forms a â€œtail-head
linkageâ€ with v. 3, that is; â€œthe repetition in an adverbial or participial
clause at the beginning (the head) of a new sentence, of the main verb and
other information that occurred in the previous sentence (the tail)â€32. It
is unnecessary, since a simple Î´á½³ would have been sufficient to introduce
the next event. But by employing this superfluous temporal clause, Luke
recalls vv. 1-3 and slows down the pace of the narrative. This is also
achieved by Simonâ€™s remark in v. 5 which prolongs the story further and
heightens the anticipation.
Finally, we are brought to the edge of our seats with the words â€œwhen
they did this ...â€œ and then satisfied with â€œ... they caught a great multitude
of fishâ€ (v. 6). The story then continues to dwell upon the catch and the
commotion it caused until v. 8, again encouraging the reader to ponder
the miraculous event. Longacre describes such features as â€œrhetorical un-
derliningâ€ and explains that they are employed to ensure that the reader
does not miss the main point33. Even as the story draws to a close, it is
the miracle that dominates the scene since it is when Simon saw this that
he confessed his sinfulness (v. 8) and it is because everyone witnessed the
miracle that they were amazed (vv. 9-10).
See BDAG, 395.
See Dooley and Levinsohn, Discourse, 84.
Bultmann, History, 217.
J.A. Fitzmyer, The Gospel According to Luke (New York 1981; 1985) 1:562.
D.L. Bock, Luke 1:1-9:50; 9:51-24:53 (Grand Rapids 1994-96) 1:452.
Levinsohn, Discourse, 197.
R.E. Longacre, The Grammar of Discourse (New York 1996) 39-40.