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?
a condition of having been clothedâ€47. This underscoring, however, may
owe more to the former (Lukan) detail that the man had not worn clothes
for a long time (8,27, absent in Mk 5,1-5), than to the use of the perfect.
Besides, the perfect tense would have been the most conducive tense for
expressing the resultant state of the man and so might not have anything
inherently to do with â€œfrontgroundâ€ prominence.
The same could be said for the remaining two uses of the stative aspect
Ï„á½¸ Î³ÎµÎ³Î¿Î½á½¹Ï‚ in vv. 34-35. It would seem that this was the most conducive
aspect to use since the herdsmen were not so much concerned about
the exorcism as they were about the resultant state. This is indicated by
the fact that the herdsmen and the others â€œsee what happenedâ€ (v. 35).
They did not see the exorcism since that had already happened, but they
did see the results, i.e. the restored man and absence of pigs, hence the
perfect tense. The nature of what they saw, therefore, might have been
more determinative of the perfect tense than an alleged desire to indicate
Feeding the five thousand (9,10-17)
The extent to which the aorist tense is used in this passage is striking
and, in itself, raises questions for Porter since his hypothesis would lead
us to the unlikely conclusion that virtually everything is backgrounded!
Nevertheless this phenomenon would seem to make any changes in tense
all the more significant. In view of Porterâ€™s proposal the most interesting
feature of this passage is v. 16 when the tense changes from aorist to
imperfect (á¼Î´á½·Î´Î¿Ï…). The aspect of á¼Î´á½·Î´Î¿Ï… suggests that Jesus continued
giving, and implies, or is at least consistent with, the idea that Jesus was
in the process of multiplying food.
If it is legitimate to interpret the verb in this way then this is the
closest the passage comes to describing the miracle itself and Luke could
have marked the climactic point of the story by selecting the imperfect
tense form instead of the aorist48. However, if verbal aspect is indicating
prominence, what are we to make of the fact that the majority of the
imperfective verbs appear in the introductory episodes? Is it an adequate
analysis of the text to say, for example, that Luke is foregrounding the
time (v. 12), whereas the fact that â€œeveryone ate and was satisfiedâ€ (v. 17)
is receiving no attention?
Klutz, Exorcism, 108.
Cf. Matthewâ€™s á¼”Î´Ï‰ÎºÎµÎ½ (13,19), though it is unlikely to be any less prominent than