The Paroikos Bible Blog exists as a resource to those interested in Biblical studies and Koine Greek. It is hoped that this blog will simultaneously provide food-for-thought to the reader while pointing him or her in the direction of valuable resources, both in print and on the internet, that will further help his or her studies in the Word.

Jul 11, 2015

Apologies! Correcting a statistical mistake (footnote 45 of my FilNet article), plus some more thoughts on verbal aspect theory

Of all the peer-reviewed journals that focus on the New Testament, Filologia Neotestamentaria has pride of place for focusing on the technical details of the New Testament, namely Greek studies (grammar, lexicography, the verb tense debate,) and textual criticism. A few years ago I had the privilege of having a paper of mine published in this excellent journal; it wasn't until just a few days ago that I realized I had committed a rather glaring statistical error in a footnote--since it's obviously too late to correct it in print, I shall offer my mea culpa here in the blogosphere.

"The Use of the Aorist Imperative in the Pastoral Epistles," Filologia Neotestamentaria vol. 23 (2010), page 83, footnote 45, makes the very odd (and incorrect statement) as follows: "The reader should note that 1 Tim only has a total of 4 aorists, regardless of mood (Accordance search, command line [VERB aorist] <AND> [VERB 2aorist]) as opposed to 203 occurrences of the present tense (command line [VERB present]). If anything, one could almost argue that the present tense is functioning as the background tense rather than the foreground tense." The mistake is in saying "4 aorists."

Now anybody familiar with search syntax can spot my embarrassing mistake. Instead of <AND>, I should have used <OR>. In other words, I ended up looking for only those verses that contained both Aorist and 2nd Aorist!

So my apologies to the editors of FilNet and any readers of my article (all 5 of you! :). This was sloppy.

Fortunately, my main point still holds, and I was not guilty of such sloppiness in the main data on page 81 (since I looked at every single imperative, regardless of tense).

Furthermore, I do believe my point in the footnote is valid, because when I used the <OR> in the command line, I found that present tense, regardless of mood, occurs 370 times in the Pastoral Epistles, roughly twice as many times as the Aorist and 2nd Aorist combined (182), which raises my original question on whether or not the "Aorist" functions as background while the "Present" functions as foreground, since I would think that the "foreground" would lose its "foreground status" by virtue of outnumbering the so-called "background" tense (though one could argue that this is a matter of idiolect of the PE, not general Koine or general NT usage). I do agree that the Aorist is the "default" tense (and I argue as much in this article), but in my opinion that's a different matter from calling it the "background" tense in contrast to "foregrounded" and "frontgrounded" tenses.

My curiosity was piqued, however--the Pastoral Epistles are definitely an anomaly in their ratio of Present to Aorist verbs (2-1). Within the NT as a whole, all Aorists number 11651 (both 1st and 2nd),while present tenses of all moods number 11547--so almost a 1-1 ratio. Likewise, in Josephus, 34,621 Aorists versus 35363 Present tense verbs, almost 1-1 again. Surprisingly, in the LXX, these translators used the Aorist much more, for a ratio of 49,410 to 21,888, so over 2-1 in favor of Aorist verbs!

So what does that tell us? Not sure, actually! But at least it's food for though. I still maintain that the Aorist is the default tense, the tense you use when you're not trying to make a point (building off of Stagg's key article "The Abused Aorist"), so preachers beware! (I.e., the Aorist tense does not in of itself mean "once-for-all" action. It may, if context indicates so, but it does not have to).

The Verbal Aspect debate still continues to rage. Recently Steve Runge launched a challenge against Stanley Porter in one of the newest issues of Novum Testamentum. Various authors continue to put verbal aspect theory to the test in a variety of journals with a variety of results. At this point, what is probably the main factor holding me back from going over to Dr. Porter's side on VAT is an excellent article by Jody A. Barnard, "Is Verbal Aspect a Prominence Indicator? An Evaluation of Stanley Porter's Proposal with Special Reference to the Gospel of Luke," in Filologia Neotestamentaria vol. 19 (2006), available here. For articles that can introduce you to the whole debate, click here and here. The one by Naselli is more readable, but Picirilli offers a better critique and dialogue with the literature out there.

One final note: an error that actually was not my fault! On page 73, footnote 2 of my article, it states, "Except for the statistics in the first parafraph . . ." Now "parafraph" sounds like something you'd order at Starbucks ("I'd like one hot caramel parafraph please!"), but this one was not my fault, and I have the article proofs to prove it! Still, misspelling a word is much less significant than giving the reader faulty statistics, so once again, mea culpa.

No comments:

Post a Comment