The SBL 2013 “Perfect Storm” Debate about the Perfect Tense to be Published

The SBL 2013 “Perfect Storm” Debate about the Perfect Tense to be Published April 1, 2014

For me one of the highlights of SBL 2013 was the “Perfect Storm” session featuring Stan Porter, Con Campbell, and Buist Fanning.  It was a discussion about the nature of the biblical Greek’s perfect tense-form in relation to verbal aspect. It was a cracker of a discussion! I’m friends with both Stan and Con so I felt a little torn in deciding who got the better of the debate.

In a nutshell, Fanning argued for something close to the traditional view, that is, the perfect is a past event with an on-going significance. Porter argued that the perfect is aspectivally stative and highlights the state of an action (my default view I have to say). Campbell questioned whether stativity can properly be thought of as a type of aspect when stativity might more properly belong to aktionsart, instead arguing that the perfect tense conveys imperfective aspect (i.e., the present tense on steroids).

Any way, I learned from Con Campbell on FB that the proceedings of the debate is going to published, I’m guessing by Peter Lang in the Studies in Biblical Greek series edited by D.A. Carson.

If you want to know what all the fuss is about and what difference it makes exegetically, then please read Ben Reynolds and Madison Pierce, “The Perfect Tense-Form and the Son of Man in John 3.13: Developments in Greek Grammar as a Viable Solution to the Timng of the Ascent and Descent,” NTS 60.1 (2014): 149-55.

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  • Carl Mosser

    Mike, the article you cite was co-authored by Ben Reynolds, not Ben Blackwell.

  • Jeff Martin

    I hope John 3:13 does not play a part in this debate. The “has ascended into heaven” is an expression that means “one who has earned the right to the prerogatives of being King”, so a discussion of the perfect is a red herring. John Calvin writes similarly about this passage. Both Calvin and Plummer see it as others who who have not been there to know and see the things that Christ is talking about, and so only one whose home is there can know these things. What might be better is a discussion of how “ei mh” is used in contexts like this one.