The Syntax of the Periphrastic Progressive in the Septuagint and the New Testament

in Novum Testamentum
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In this article, I discuss the use of the periphrastic progressive construction of εἰµί with present participle in the Septuagint and the New Testament. I argue that a broad distinction can be made between two main uses, called “durative progressive” and “focalized progressive.” In both cases, a number of syntactic frames can be specified in which the periphrastic construction occurs. I conclude the article by discussing the relationship between the Septuagintal and the New Testamental use of the periphrastic construction, arguing that while there are many similarities, this relationship should not be conceived of in terms of imitation, as some scholars have suggested.

The Syntax of the Periphrastic Progressive in the Septuagint and the New Testament

in Novum Testamentum




See e.g. H.S.J. ThackerayA Grammar of the Old Testament in Greek according to the Septuagint (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press1909) 195; F.C. Conybeare and S.G. Stock Grammar of Septuagint Greek (Boston MA: Hendrickson Publishers 1995[1905]) 68-69; F. Blass and A. Debrunner Grammatik des neutestamentlichen Griechisch. Bearbeitet van Friedrich Rehkopf (15th ed.; Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht 1979) 285-287; J.W. Voelz “The Language of the New Testament” ANRW II 25.2 (1984) 962.


A. VerboomenL’imparfait périphrastique dans l’Évangile de Luc et dans la Septante (Louvain/Paris: Peeters1992) 24-71; T.V. Evans Verbal Syntax in the Greek Pentateuch: Natural Greek Usage and Hebrew Interference (Oxford: Oxford university Press 2001) 220-257; K. Hauspie “Periphrastic Tense Forms with eimi and gignomai in the Septuagint of Ezekiel” in Et sapienter et eloquenter: Studies on Rhetorical and Stylistic Features of the Septuagint (ed. E. Bons and T.J. Kraus; Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht 2011) 127-152.


S.E. PorterVerbal Aspect in the Greek of the New Testament with Reference to Tense and Mood (SBG 1; New York: Peter Lang1989) 454-455 480.


JohnsonDiscourse Analysis103.


P.M. Bertinetto“Vers une typologie du progressif dans les langues d’Europe,” MLing 16 (1995) 37-61; P.M. Bertinetto “The Progressive in Romance as Compared with English” in Tense and Aspect in the Languages of Europe (ed. Ö. Dahl; Berlin/New York: Mouton de Gruyter 2000) 559-604; P.M. Bertinetto K.H. Ebert and C. de Groot “The Progressive in Europe” Tense and Aspect in the languages of Europe (ed. Ö. Dahl; Berlin/New York: Mouton de Gruyter 2000) 517-558.


Bertinetto Ebert and de Groot“The Progressive” 565.


Cf. B.M. FanningVerbal Aspect in New Testament Greek (OTM; Oxford: Clarendon1990) 206. It should be noted however that durative progressives can also denote events occurring in a more narrow time-frame. In the following example (borrowed from Bertinetto “The Progressive” 571) the event indicated by the durative progressive occurs between two well-defined points in time: “[Yesterday during my sleep] Ann was playing for two hours all by herself.”


See FanningVerbal Aspect244-249; P.M. Bertinetto II dominio tempo-aspettuale: Demarcazioni intersezioni contrasti (Torino: Rosenberg and Sellier 1997) 227 n. 8.


L. AmentaPerifrasi aspettuali in greco e in latino: Origini e grammaticalizzazioni (ML 38; Milano: Franco Angeli2003) 81.


Cf. K. BeyerSemitische Syntax im Neuen Testament (SUNT 1; Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht1968) 29: “allgemeine Zeit- bzw. Situationsangabe . . . oder begleitende Nebenumstände.” See also M. Johannessohn “Das biblische καὶ ἐγένετο und seine Geschichte” KZ 53 (1925) 161-212; S.H. Levinsohn Discourse Features of New Testament Greek (2nd ed.; Dallas: SIL 2000) 177-180.


VerboomenL’imparfait périphrastique27-48. Cf. also Cohén La phrase nominale 323.


See e.g. Ceglia“L’evoluzione della costruzione perifrastica” 30-33 35-36. Perhaps the use of the periphrastic form in these examples could be compared to what Rijksbaron calls the “immediative imperfect” (A. Rijksbaron The Syntax and Semantics of the Verb in Classical Greek [3rd ed.; Chicago/London: The University of Chicago Press 2006] 17-18). Cf. also Fanning Verbal Aspect 252-253.


Cf. BeyerSemitische Syntax57.


Johannessohn“Das biblische καὶ ἰδού” 36 48 55.


Johannessohn“Das biblische καὶ ἰδού” 54-55.


Cf. Johannessohn“Das biblische καὶ ἐγένετο” 205-206; Beyer Semitische Syntax 48-52. Typically the more general circumstances come first (i.e. ἐν µιᾷ τῶν ἡµερῶν).


Cf. Johannessohn“Das biblische καὶ ἰδού” 52. In other words (17) should not be understood as “And behold two men were carrying on a sickbed a man who was paralyzed” but rather “And behold two men who were carrying on a sickbed a man who was paralyzed.”


AertsPeriphrastica55-56. Aerts is almost forced to such a strong claim since he considers the use of the periphrastic progressive in the NT a “Septuagintalism” rather than a natural development (following Tabachovitz Die Septuaginta und das Neue Testament; cf. also Verboomen L’imparfait périphrastique). For an entirely different view see Björck Die periphrastischen Konstruktionen; W. Dietrich “Der periphrastische Verbalaspekt im Griechischen und Lateinischen” Glotta 51 (1973) 188-228.

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