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? 25
of rhetorical questions90 highlighting what did not happen (discourse
irrealis)91 makes it all the more likely that we have reached the climactic
pronouncement. These questions, however, contain only aorist tense
forms, whereas the initial orientation contains a cluster of present and
imperfect tenses (vv. 11-12a).
It could be argued that the final sentence â€œyour faith has saved (perfect)
youâ€, is the most important detail. Indeed, the fact that Luke repeatedly
employs this phrase (e.g. 7,50; 8,48; 18,42) clearly indicates its promi-
nence. It must be asked, however, if this is due to the use of the perfect
tense; would it not be equally prominent, by virtue of the repetition, if
Luke had used the aorist? Furthermore, it may be significant that Luke
typically conjugates Ïƒá¿´Î¶Ï‰ in the perfect when it is preceded by á¼¡ Ï€á½·ÏƒÏ„Î¹Ï‚
ÏƒÎ¿Ï…. The perfect Ïƒá½³ÏƒÏ‰ÎºÎµÎ½, therefore, may owe more to a pattern of usage
than to an alleged desire to indicate prominence, which is adequately
communicated by the repetition.
The salvation of Zacchaeus (19,1-10)
Bultmann identified the saying of v. 9 as the climactic point of the
story92, which may have been the case in the oral tradition, but does not
adequately account for the Lukan redaction. Not only is v. 9 reported
indirectly, which tends to â€œbackground the speech with respect to what
followsâ€93, but the statement in v. 10 is â€œa fitting climax to a paradigmatic
account of Jesusâ€™ mission and ministry of salvationâ€94. It is both the cli-
mactic pronouncement of the pericope and a climactic pronouncement
of Lukeâ€™s entire gospel.
Although the sentence includes the perfect á¼€Ï€Î¿Î»Ï‰Î»á½¹Ï‚ this can hardly
be separated from the main verb (á¼¦Î»Î¸ÎµÎ½) and its complements (Î¶Î·Ï„á¿†ÏƒÎ±Î¹
ÎºÎ±á½¶ Ïƒá¿¶ÏƒÎ±Î¹), which are aorist. It is intriguing that the final word of the
discourse is a perfect tense form, but it is the sentence as a whole that is
contextually climactic and this includes three aorists and one perfect.
Jesus warns the daughters of Jerusalem (23,27-31)
Bultmann et al. have identified this episode as a pronouncement, the
main point being Jesusâ€™ declaration in vv. 28b-3195. Interestingly, Jesusâ€™
speech is introduced with aorist tense forms (ÏƒÏ„ÏÎ±Ï†Îµá½·Ï‚ ... Îµá¼¶Ï€ÎµÎ½) but
reported with present tense forms (ÎºÎ»Î±á½·ÎµÏ„Îµ, á¼”ÏÏ‡Î¿Î½Ï„Î±Î¹), which is accom-
Longacre, Grammar, 42.
Dooley and Levinsohn, Discourse, 82.
Bultmann, History, 34.
See Levinsohn, Discourse, 262.
Bock, Luke, 2:1523.
Bultmann, History, 37; Fitzmyer, Luke, 2:1494-95; Bock, Luke, 2:1839.