Wally V. Cirafesi, «Tense-Form Reduction and the Use of 'epoiesate' in Codex Bezae Matthew 21,13//Mark 1,17.», Vol. 26 (2013) 61-68
This short study employs the concept of tense-form reduction from the perspective of Hellenistic Greek aspectology to explain the reading epoiesate in Codex Bezae Matthew 21,13//Mark 11,17. The article suggests that the Bezen scribe has chosen (consciously or unconsciously) to reduce the aspectual semantics of the verb poieo from the imperfective Present (Matt) and the stative Perfect (Mark) to the perfective Aorist. The textual effect of this choice is that Jesus’ pronouncement of judgment on those buying and selling in the temple is emphasized less in the text of Bezae, since it stands in the background of Jesus’ speech frame. This finding has significant implications for proposals regarding the anti-Judaic bias of Codex Bezae, particularly as demonstrated by its version of the Markan temple cleansing episode.
66 Wally V. Cirafesi
occurred as a more marked form in a similar linguistic context16. In
the case of the Matthean and Markan temple cleansing episodes in
Codex Bezae, tense-form reduction occurs in Jesus’ pronouncement of
judgment on those buying and selling in the temple through the codex’s
use of ἐποιήσατε17: whereas the original tense-forms used in these texts
were likely the more marked imperfective ποιεῖτε (Matt) and the most
marked stative πεποιήκατε (Mark)18, a reduction of the level of aspectual
semantics has occurred through the use of the least marked perfective
ἐποιήσατε. This aspectual reduction suggests two things about the
discourse structure and textual emphasis of the Bezan scribe at Matt
21,13//Mark 11,17. First, the Aorist ἐποιήσατε in Bezae places Jesus’
pronouncement of judgment into the background against which the
first portion of his statement is intended to be read. That is, the least
marked Aorist ἐποιήσατε portrays the actions of those in the temple
as less linguistically prominent than Jesus’ quotation from Scripture19.
Second, the use of the highly marked Perfect γέγραπται to introduce
Jesus’ quotation from Scripture represents a “maximal foregrounding” of
the entire quotation, and portrays the most textually significant element
of the discourse20. Thus, the textual emphasis of Bezae at this point in
On this and for discussion about tense reduction in relation to the so-called “historic
Present” in Greek, see S.E. Porter, Verbal Aspect in the Greek of the New Testament, with
Reference to Tense and Mood (SBG 1; New York 1989) 190-192.
On the markedness values of Greek tense-forms and criteria for establishing such,
see Porter, Verbal Aspect, 178-181 and more recently, Cirafesi, Verbal Aspect in Synoptic
Parallels, 59-68. On the linguistic notion of “grounding”, see H.A. Dry, “Foregrounding:
An Assessment”, in S.J.J Hwang and W.R. Merrifield (eds.), Language in Context: Essays
for Robert E. Longacre (Dallas 1992) 435-450; P.J. Hopper, “Aspect and Foregrounding in
Discourse”, in T. Givón (ed.), Discourse and Syntax (New York 1979) 213-241; P.J. Hopper,
“Aspect between Discourse and Grammar: An Introductory Essay for this Volume”, in P.J.
Hopper (ed.), Tense-Aspect: Between Semantics and Pragmatics (Amsterdam 1982) 1-18;
R. Longacre, “Discourse Peak as a Zone of Turbulence”, in J.R. Wirth (ed.), Beyond the
Sentence: Discourse and Sentential Form (Ann Arbor, MI 1985) 81-98; S. Wallace, “Figure
and Ground: The Interrelationships of Linguistic Categories”, in Tense-Aspect: Between
Semantics and Pragmatics, 201-223; S.E. Porter, Idioms of the Greek New Testament (BLG
2; 2nd ed; Sheffield 1994) 23.
I follow Porter’s three-aspect model for the Greek verbal system. For extended
interaction with other proposals, particularly Constantine Campbell’s proposal of a
two-aspect model, see S.E. Porter, “Greek Linguistics and Lexicography”, in Andreas J.
Köstenberger and Robert W. Yarbrough (eds.), Understanding the Times: New Testament
Studies in the 21st Century: Essays in Honor of D.A. Carson on the Occasion of his 65th
Birthday (Wheaton, IL 2011) 46-54.
I note here that these linguistic observations are valid whether or not the Bezan scribe
knew of the variants for Matthew (ποιεῖτε) and Mark (πεποιήκατε) and thus consciously
down-shifted the tense-form to the Aorist.
The phrase “maximal foregrounding” is from Brita Wårvik, “What Is Foregrounded
in Narratives? Hypotheses for the Cognitive Basis of Foregrounding”, in Tuija Virtanen