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
grammatical subordination of these elements (ÎºÎ±Ï„á½³ÎºÎµÎ¹Ï„Î¿ is introduced
with a relative pronoun and Î´Î¿Î¾á½±Î¶Ï‰Î½ expresses the manner in which the
main verb á¼€Ï€á¿†Î»Î¸ÎµÎ½ is accomplished) this is unlikely. Alternatively, the
imperfect tense (ÎºÎ±Ï„á½³ÎºÎµÎ¹Ï„Î¿) could have been selected because it conveys
continuous action in the past, and the present tense (Î´Î¿Î¾á½±Î¶Ï‰Î½) because
it conveys action concurrent with the main verb á¼€Ï€á¿†Î»Î¸ÎµÎ½. Thus, a more
traditional understanding of the tenses seems to make more sense in this
Raising the widowâ€™s son (7,11-17)
This pericope is widely recognised as a healing story, in which Jesus
raises the dead after the manner of the prophet Elijah (1 Kgs 17,17-24)37.
In the next episode (Lk 7,18-23) Jesus will inform John of his activities,
and raising the dead is among them. Once again Luke seems to be
presenting his stories as evidence that the Messianic manifesto is being
fulfilled. Thus, the climactic juncture is reached at v. 15 when â€œthe dead
boy sat upâ€. Bock notes that the description of the boy as á½ Î½ÎµÎºÏá½¹Ï‚ â€œadds
a note of contrast to stress the healing, since dead people do not usually
move!â€38. Once again the most prominent part of the story is reported
with the aorist tense (á¼€Î½ÎµÎºá½±Î¸Î¹ÏƒÎµÎ½ ... á¼”Î´Ï‰ÎºÎµÎ½) whereas the introduction
(vv. 11-12) contains the only occurrence of the perfect tense (Ï„ÎµÎ¸Î½Î·Îºá½½Ï‚),
the so called â€œfrontground tenseâ€.
Stilling the storm (8,22-25)
This story is also widely recognised as a miracle story in form39, indi-
cating that the main point is v. 24b when Jesus successfully commands the
elements. This is confirmed by the plot in which the threat of perishing,
because of the storm, is quite clearly the complication which is resolved
by Jesusâ€™ rebuke and the subsequent calm. But once again, this climactic
event is grammaticalized in the aorist tense (á¼Ï€ÎµÏ„á½·Î¼Î·ÏƒÎµÎ½ ... á¼Ï€Î±á½»ÏƒÎ±Î½Ï„Î¿
ÎºÎ±á½¶ á¼Î³á½³Î½ÎµÏ„Î¿ Î³Î±Î»á½µÎ½Î·).
Berger has offered an alternative analysis and suggests that this
account is designed to inspire admiration40. This would push the focus
of the story towards the final question in v. 25, where there is a tense
shift from aorist to present. This could be taken as illustrative of Porterâ€™s
hypothesis, but, if this is the climax (unlikely), we must ask whether the
Bultmann, History, 215; Marshall, Luke, 283; Bock, Luke, 1:648.
Bock, Luke, 1:652.
Bultmann, History, 215-6; Bock, Luke, 1:758.
Berger, Formgeschichte, 312, cited by Bock, Luke, 1:758.