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.
20 Jody A. Barnard
Jesus answers John (7,18-23)
This pericope is a fairly typical pronouncement story which culmi-
nates with Jesusâ€™ climactic reply to Johnâ€™s question (v. 22-23)63. Interes-
tingly, Craghan considered Lukeâ€™s addition of v. 21 (cf. Mt 11,1-6) to be
the most prominent point of the Lukan redaction64, but it is probably
better to view it as a summary of Jesusâ€™ ministry which prepares for
Jesusâ€™ climactic pronouncement65. Assuming Matthew and Luke have
a common source for this story, the only noteworthy difference to the
pronouncement concerns Îµá¼´Î´ÎµÏ„Îµ ÎºÎ±á½¶ á¼ ÎºÎ¿á½»ÏƒÎ±Ï„Îµ which are present tenses
in Matthew 11,4. It is highly unlikely, however, that these two verbs are
any less prominent in Luke than they are in Matthew. Indeed, in view of
v. 21, it could be argued that they are more important for Luke, yet they
But it is probably the words that follow Îµá¼´Î´ÎµÏ„Îµ ÎºÎ±á½¶ á¼ ÎºÎ¿á½»ÏƒÎ±Ï„Îµ that are
to be considered central. In view of v. 21, and the importance of Isaianic
soteriological texts for Luke, it would seem that he is drawing particular
attention to the fact that Ï„Ï…Ï†Î»Î¿á½¶ á¼€Î½Î±Î²Î»á½³Ï€Î¿Ï…ÏƒÎ¹Î½, Ï‡Ï‰Î»Î¿á½¶ Ï€ÎµÏÎ¹Ï€Î±Ï„Î¿á¿¦ÏƒÎ¹Î½,
Î»ÎµÏ€ÏÎ¿á½¶ ÎºÎ±Î¸Î±Ïá½·Î¶Î¿Î½Ï„Î±Î¹ ÎºÎ±á½¶ ÎºÏ‰Ï†Î¿á½¶ á¼€ÎºÎ¿á½»Î¿Ï…ÏƒÎ¹Î½, Î½ÎµÎºÏÎ¿á½¶ á¼Î³Îµá½·ÏÎ¿Î½Ï„Î±Î¹, Ï€Ï„Ï‰Ï‡Î¿á½¶
Îµá½Î±Î³Î³ÎµÎ»á½·Î¶Î¿Î½Ï„Î±Î¹ (cf. Is 32,3; 35,5-6; 61,1). Significantly, all these verbs are
present tense, which coheres nicely with Porterâ€™s hypothesis.
It must be asked, however, if any other tense would be plausible. Im-
mediately prior to this pronouncement Luke documents an instance of
healing (7,1-10) and raising the dead (7,11-17), and he will proceed to
give an example of good news announced to the poor (7,36-50). Thus,
the present tense would have been the most obvious tense to use in such
a general statement about activities that were unfolding at the time of
speaking. It is also possible that one of the Greek translations of Isaiah or
one of Lukeâ€™s sources (cf. Mt 11,5) has influenced the use of the present
tense. This may be indicated by the fact that á¼€Î½Î±Î²Î»á½³Ï€Ï‰ occurs in the
present tense only twice in the New Testament (here and the Matthean
parallel), all the other occurrences are aorist.
A sinful woman forgiven (7,36-50)
The form critical issues presented by this pericope are described by
Bultmann as â€œboth difficult and uncertainâ€ but he nevertheless identifies
the statement in v. 47 as the main point66. The fact that Lukeâ€™s account
Bock, Luke, 1:661; Marshall, Luke, 287; Bultmann, History, 23.
J.F. Craghan, â€œA Redactional Study of Lk 7, 21 in the light of Deut 19, 5â€, Catholic
Biblical Quarterly 29 (1967) 357-58.
So Nolland, Luke, 1:329-30.
Bultmann, History, 21; for a discussion of the form critical issues see Marshall, Luke,