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.
Is Verbal Aspect a Prominence Indicator?
tense has been chosen to mark it as such or was it just the most natural
tense to use for this kind of generalizing utterance?
The use of the genitive absolute construction (v. 23) in this passage is
also intriguing. According to Levinsohn â€œthe employment of the G[enitive]
A[bsolute] with the same subject as the previous clause ... gives natural
prominence to the event described in the following nuclear clauseâ€41. In v.
23, however, the genitive absolute employs a present tense, Porterâ€™s fore-
ground tense, whereas the following nuclear clause employs an aorist (cf.
9,57; 13,17; 17,12). Porterâ€™s theory of aspectual prominence, therefore,
clashes with Levinsohnâ€™s observation; they cannot both be correct.
Exorcism of the Gerasene demoniac (8,26-39)
This account not only displays all the typical features of an exorcism42
but also deliberately dwells upon the manâ€™s plight by including more de-
tail than is characteristic for Luke. Although the whole of vv. 26-29 could
be classified as introductory, it would be a loss to conclude that this is all
it is. Verse 26 assumes the same participants as those who survived the
storm in 8,22-25, i.e. Jesus and the disciples, and identifies a new location
for the following story.
Verse 27 introduces one of the main participants and provides a fairly
detailed description of him, which also anticipates the problem to be
resolved. The detailed description and the plural Î´Î±Î¹Î¼á½¹Î½Î¹Î± serve to inten-
sify the gravity of the problem and so the story is infused with tension
from the outset. Verse 28 selects one of those whose presence is assumed
by explicitly naming him (á¼¸Î·ÏƒÎ¿á¿¦Î½) and then proceeds to document the
initial meeting of the two main participants. Thus, the stage is set; the
two main participants have been introduced and brought together.
Verse 29, however, interrupts the chronological sequence, by providing
an explanatory flashback. This background information not only explains
the conflict reported in v. 28, but also further elucidates the gravity of the
problem thereby increasing the importance of the solution. It is unlikely
that the discovery of the demonsâ€™ name (v. 30) had anything to do with
the belief that knowing the demonâ€™s name unlocked the power to perform
the exorcism43. Rather, it further intensifies the severity of the problem
since a Legion denoted a military unit of approximately six thousand
soldiers. Luke has presented this manâ€™s condition as virtually impossible
Levinsohn, Discourse, 182.
Bultmann, History, 210; Bock, Luke, 1:769.
So Nolland, Luke, 1:409.