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?
prominence was not even a consideration in Lukeâ€™s appropriation of
4. Pronouncement Stories
Also known as apophthegms and paradigms, pronouncement stories
are â€œshort stories about an action of Jesus whose primary purpose is to
lead up to a climactic pronouncement on a given topicâ€57. It has often
been thought that they had a didactic purpose and were probably used
as â€œedifying paradigms for sermonsâ€58. It is important to bear in mind
that Luke has reworked the pronouncement stories and appropriated
them in accordance with his theological purposes. Therefore, although
the climactic pronouncement is often the same in Luke as it was in the
supposed oral tradition, sometimes Luke has constructed the story in
such a way that the climax does not correspond to the earlier tradition.
The Centurionâ€™s faith (7,1-10)
Although this story is concerned with the healing of the centurionâ€™s
servant, as Nolland says, â€œthe actual healing is anticlimacticâ€59. Most
commentators, therefore, identify this pericope as a pronouncement
story, the main point being Jesusâ€™ commendation of the centurionâ€™s faith
(v. 9)60. The emphatic nature of this statement is further signalled by the
presence of Î»á½³Î³Ï‰ á½‘Î¼á¿–Î½, which adds significance to the words that follow.
The main verb, however, which is positioned at the end of the senten-
ce61, is in the aorist tense (Îµá½—ÏÎ¿Î½), Porterâ€™s â€œbackground tenseâ€, the tense
which is â€œrelied upon to carry a narrative along when no attention is
being drawn to the events being spoken ofâ€62. But in view of Lukeâ€™s his-
torical context (i.e. the controversy concerning the inclusion of Gentiles),
it is unlikely that such a statement was intended to receive no attention
(see Ac 10-11, 15).
C.L. Blomberg, â€œForm Criticismâ€ in J.B. Green, S. McKnight and I.H. Marshall (eds.),
Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels (Downers Grove, Illinois 1992) 244.
Bultmann, History, 61; cf. Bock, â€˜Form Criticismâ€™, 181-82.
Nolland, Luke, 1:319.
Bultmann, History, 38-9; Fitzmyer, Luke, 1:649; Bock, Luke, 1:633; Nolland, Luke,
J. Duff considers this an emphatic position (Elements of New Testament Greek
[Cambridge 2005] 61).
Porter, Idioms, 23, 35.