It has been claimed that in New Testament (NT) Greek the aorist infinitive is not used in declarative infinitive clauses (DInf). This observation goes back to Burton (1898:53) and is repeated in several modern studies (Fanning 1990:401; Thorley 1989:295–296). In addition, DInf are characterized in NT Greek by 1) significantly frequent use of the perfect infinitive as well as of the present infinitives of stative verbs, and 2) avoidance of non-stative present infinitives in DInf (Fanning 1990:401; Kavčič 2009).
This article investigates whether any such tendencies appear in the language of the contemporary non-literary papyri. The corpus analyzed consists of non-literary papyri dating to the first and early second centuries AD (around 30,000 words). If the aorist was avoided in DInf, it seems reasonable to assume that it was used in their syntactic variants; namely, in finite complement clauses. It is argued that the aorist is significantly more common in finite complement clauses than in DInf. In interpreting these data, the paper points out the complexity of their relation to other developments in Hellenistic and Roman Greek, especially highlighting the development of the Ancient Greek synthetic perfect and its relation to the aorist.
It seems established that infinitives used in declarative infinitive clauses (DeclarInfCl) convey relative temporality in Classical Greek, with the aorist infinitive referring to anteriority, the present infinitive to simultaneity, and the future infinitive to posteriority. In Hellenistic/Roman Greek and in Early Byzantine Greek, by comparison, DeclarInfCl do not display the same variety of infinitive forms. These periods appear to avoid the aorist infinitive while manifesting a very common use of perfect infinitives and stative present infinitives in DeclarInfCl. These tendencies stand in a complex relation to other developments in the post-Classical period. This paper accounts for what appears to be the decline of the aorist infinitive in DeclarInfCl, claiming that this phenomenon is most likely related to the perfect infinitive adopting the function of conveying anteriority in DeclarInfCl.