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.
8 Jody A. Barnard
might also be considered: can the theory be falsified? Are there examples
that are not explainable on the basis of the theory? Which contradict the
Deckerâ€™s comments are well observed and point towards a possible
means of testing Porterâ€™s proposal, namely, does the supposed promi-
nence value of the different verbal aspects cohere with Lukan peaks and
points of emphasis?
In a personal communication from Professor Porter on this subject
he noted that there are a variety of means by which prominence is indi-
cated and stressed the importance of asking how aspect works alongside
these other features. Thus, by taking note of more widely recognised and
uncontroversial means of establishing prominence one can identify the
most probable points of emphasis in Lukeâ€™s stories and observe whether
Porterâ€™s hypothesis conforms to the data or if the data offers examples
which contradict the theory. In other words, is there an aspectual shift
from perfective to imperfective or stative at prominent points in Lukeâ€™s
Every story has at least one climactic juncture, the point for which
the rest of the discourse exists. Thus, identifying the peak of a story will
provide a natural benchmark from which to test Porterâ€™s proposal. The
discipline of form criticism, which attempts to classify the subgenres
within the gospels and establish the purpose for which they were pre-
served, is a helpful place to start in this regard. Of special relevance to
the evaluation of Porterâ€™s proposal are the miracle and pronouncement
stories since they both contain a fairly obvious climactic juncture.
3. Miracle Stories
With miracle stories the focus tends to fall upon the supernatural act
of Jesus and, in contrast to pronouncements, they are characterised by
a lack of teaching material23. It has often been thought that they had an
apologetic purpose and were used to establish the superiority of Jesus over
rival supernatural powers24. Luke also seems to consider the successful
R.J. Decker, Temporal Deixis of the Greek Verb in the Gospel of Mark with Reference
to Verbal Aspect (New York 2001) 61.
D.L. Bock, â€œForm Criticismâ€, in D.A. Black and D.S. Dockery (eds.), New Testament
Criticism and Interpretation (Grand Rapids 1991) 182-83.
S.H. Travis, â€œForm Criticismâ€, in Marshall (ed.), Interpretation, 156; cf. R. Bultmann,
History of the Synoptic Tradition, Translated by John Marsh (Oxford 1963) 368.