Bill Mounce

For an Informed Love of God

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Thursday, May 7, 2020

Did they continue or start to speak boldly? (Acts 4:31)

Imperfects can be tricky to translate. Do you let the meaning of the word carry the aspect, is it a plain continuous idea, or one of the specialized uses of the imperfect such as the inceptive? Such is the challenge of translating imperfects.


¶ To be consistent, there is another imperfect and also several aorists. The imperfect just denotes incompletion, and an aorist does not denote any time or completion at all, just the fact of it. Again, Greek writers did not have an Englishman's language mindset, and did not write historical narratives with the same frame of reference in mind. They wrote historical narratives with the frame of reference of their being in the past recounting events unfold as though they were observing them unfold, whereas formal English typically uses a frame of reference of being in the present recounting events in the past as they unfolded, using the English past tense, a tense which does not even exist in Greek. ¶ So, telling the story they way they recited it, hyper-literally, ¶ "and, of them praying [aorist participle], the place is shaken [aorist] in to-where they have been being [imperfect], having been gathered [perfect], and all are filled [aorist] of the Holy Spirit, and they have been speaking [imperfect] the word of the god with boldness" ¶ Note also the imperfect verb followed by the perfect verb. The former is not equivalent to an English auxiliary verb (a.k.a. helping verb). That's English grammar, not Greek grammar. They are two main verbs, one imperfect and one perfect. It may seem convenient to translate it into English "were gathered" but that would be one English verb phrase conjugated as the English simple past tense, one main verb. ¶ Again, this is all resolved according to frame of reference, perhaps an odd way of speaking, to an Englishman, but I'm sure normal to a Greek.