Sunday, April 04, 2021

Is Receiving Covid-19 Vaccines Derived from Aborted Fetal Cell-lines Morally Acceptable? A Coda to My Reply to Mohler.


I am ardently pro-life. But as a medical professional in clinical practice and as an average Singaporean, I find it difficult to avoid aborted fetal cell-line-derived products, especially vaccines (both childhood and adult ones).

For example, the MMR vaccine is in the national vaccination schedule and it is a requirement for all Singaporean children to take it prior to primary school admission. There are, unfortunately, no ethical alternatives for the MMR vaccine. In fact, many of our food additives, processed food, chewing gum, cosmetics, perfumes, even certain coffee creamers were produced with the usage of such cell lines at least in the research or testing phase.

The less reflective person might consider that problems regarding cooperation with evil can - and perhaps should - be avoided by altogether avoiding cooperation. That, however, is virtually impossible and sometimes inconsistent with doing one’s duty. The average Sheng Siong employee materially cooperates with gluttonous eating, SingPost employees with the use of pornography, and so on; and in many cases, such people need their jobs to support themselves and their families.

Within a sinful and fallen world, cooperation occurs even without our knowledge or choice. A doctor performing a health screening for a man wouldn't have realized that this person, albeit with a clean bill of health, would thereafter convince himself that he is healthy enough to father a child with his adulterous partner. The hardware shop owner would never have guessed that the tools he sold would be used for crimes. The little boy buying a toy from Toys-R-Us would not have known that the company that manufactures the toy funds abortionists. And the list can go on and on.

That said, I am generally against the usage of any medical product that is unethically derived. This includes Covid-19 vaccines that were developed with aborted fetal cell lines, Genetech's Pulmozyme for cystic fibrosis, Amgen's Enbrel for Rheumatoid Arthritis, and Crucell's in-development Ebola vaccine - which by the way has no alternative product for replacement.

On the flip side, I am not saying that a father treating his child with Pulmozyme for cystic fibrosis should stop using the product or be guilty of sin. Nor am I saying that despite all risk-benefit ratios, usage of such tainted products constitutes sin. This is a highly complex ethical matter, and all types of usages of fetal cell-line-derived products are not equal or similar in moral culpability.

I can avoid or choose another soda if I know that one is tainted or tested with such cell lines. But when it comes to medical treatment, things can get emotionally charged as sometimes lives are at stake. In the current Covid-19 vaccine controversy, the moral implications of the remoteness of the original intrinsically evil act and the issue of duress must be taken into account.

The following is just another perspective of the issue at hand. I am fully aware that many ethicists view the usage of vaccines tested with such cell lines as remote and mediate material cooperation. I believe that whatever convictions are held by Christians - be it mediate or immediate material cooperation - we can move away from products tested with such cell lines in order to discourage the future manufacturing of similar products and to encourage more ethical and less suspicious means of production.

The Issue at Hand

I have previously written a reply to Albert Mohler’s opinion piece on the SARS-CoV-2 vaccine.

Both Dr Mohler and several other evangelical and Reformed pastors will likely argue that, as a recipient of the Covid-19 vaccine, the recipient’s act of being vaccinated with aborted fetal cell-lines-derived vaccines is regarded as mediate and remote material cooperation with the original intrinsically evil act of abortion. Therefore, it is morally acceptable for us to use such vaccines.

In the pastoral letter by the Catholic Archbishop of Singapore where he encouraged “all the faithful to get vaccinated for the greater good of the community,” he likewise stated that “the connection of today’s [SARS-CoV-2] vaccines to the original abortions is fairly remote.” Again, in his letter, he wrote that the recipient’s “connection with the past wrongdoing of abortion is so distant that it is morally acceptable for us to use such vaccines if no other ethically-obtained vaccines are available, and if we have sufficiently serious or grave reasons.” Here, the word "distant" should refer to the concept of "remoteness" as well.

But what is this concept of remoteness within the context of mediate material cooperation? In proximate mediate material cooperation, there is little causal distance from the immoral action, as when a pharmacy technician delivers the abortion pill, RU-486, to a patient’s room. In remote mediate material cooperation, there is significant causal distance from the immoral action, as when a janitor cleans the laboratory where he knows that in vitro fertilization takes place. Hence, with regard to proximity and remoteness in cooperation, we are more concerned with the moral concept of causal distance rather than the time of the original acts of intrinsic evil – in this case, the actual abortions.

If we only consider the original intrinsically evil act of abortion of the fetuses where the cell-lines were derived, it is difficult to see why some of us are intuitively uncomfortable with the usage of aborted fetal cell-lines-derived vaccines. We may perhaps only consider the possibility of scandal.

However, in order to produce viable fetal cell-lines, fetal cadavers, tissues, or body parts have to be obtained. Let us now consider the act of procurement of these fetal cadavers, body parts, and tissues. According to the 3 fonts of morality, this act has:

1) Evil intention – The purpose or intended goal of this act is likely to be that of financial expediency through scientific research using fetal body parts and tissues, and the production of viable and lucrative cell-lines. The agent of this act is at the very least implicitly agreeing that the act of abortion is beneficial for his own purpose – that of procuring fetal cadavers and body parts, and subsequent profits from appropriate research and development. This intention is evil because the procurement of fetal parts generates a market for abortionists to sell the cadavers of aborted babies, and finances the abortionists. It provides an attractive incentive for abortionists to perpetuate abortion as the medical procedure itself is not only profitable from the perspective of a medical service provider, but also highly lucrative from the perspective of a fetal body-parts supplier.

2) Evil moral object - Formal cooperation occurs when the act of the cooperator has the moral object of assisting the principal agent in attaining the moral object of his intrinsically evil act. By providing a profitable market for the sale of fetal cadavers for abortionists, and the further motivation for abortionists to deliver their abortion services and to subsequently sell fetal body tissues to the relevant buyers, the procurer of fetal tissue is either in:

I. Explicit or at least implicit formal cooperation with the intrinsically evil act of abortion or,

II. Immediate material cooperation because either

a. the moral object of the act of procurement assists the principal agent in achieving the moral object of his act of abortion or,

b. the consequences (hence, circumstance) of the act of procurement assists the principal agent in achieving the consequences of his evil act.

Immediate material cooperation is an intrinsically evil act and many theologians would agree that it is morally equivalent to implicit formal cooperation. Either way, the procurement of fetal cadavers and tissues is an intrinsically evil act.

3) Evil circumstance - The act of procurement provides the motivation and the market for the sales of fetal products derived from abortions. In other words, this act of procurement fails on all three fonts of morality.


It is notable that even the Catholic Archbishop of Singapore acknowledges that “the original production of these cell-lines involved a grave moral wrongdoing.” As explained above, the act of procurement of these fetal cadavers, body parts and tissues is an intrinsically evil act.

If we support this act of fetal tissue procurement by indiscreetly using vaccines developed from fetal cell-lines thereby providing the market for and supporting the purpose or consequence of the original intrinsically evil act of fetal tissue procurement, we are not merely culpable of mediate material cooperation - which can always be argued as being remote and having proportionately serious reasons for the cooperation while avoiding the danger of scandal.

With full informed consent and knowledge, we might be at least guilty of immediate material cooperation because the available market for such products is essential for the original intrinsically evil act of procurement of fetal parts to take place. Without this financial incentive and market for sales of developed products, there is no longer intent for the original procurement act. This lack of market and buyers deters and discourages the consequences (or circumstance) of the original intrinsically evil act of the procuring agent.

With this said, we must also recognize that the act of immediate material cooperation (i.e. furnishing a market for the original intrinsically evil act) becomes complicated with the problem of duress.

There has been in the Christian tradition a debate about the permissibility of immediate cooperation in immoral acts under "duress." Duress may alter the moral species of certain cooperative acts. When duress restricts the cooperator's autonomy, it reduces his culpability. When individuals are forced under duress (e.g. at gunpoint, threats of loss of job, loss of basic human rights and freedoms etc) to cooperate in the intrinsically evil action of another, they act with diminished freedom.

Here, the matter of their action remains objectively evil, but they do not intend this object with true freedom. In such cases, the matter remains objectively evil as such, but the subjective culpability of the cooperator is diminished. The more the duress, the lesser the moral culpability of the cooperator.

In our current discussion on the cooperator's contribution to the market which encourages the fetal parts procurement industry to continue and flourish, some may argue that the cooperator's act of receiving the vaccine propagates the market that allows such an illicit industry to continue. In this sense, the consequences of the cooperator's act contribute essentially to the principal agent's attainment of the consequences of his intrinsically evil act (i.e. that of fetal parts procurement).

But we understand that the cooperator, under duress of loss of his livelihood and basic human rights, isn't cooperating with the fetal parts procurement industry so much as preserving his own livelihood and freedom. The cooperator under duress is confronted with a different and possibly greater evil than the procurement of fetal parts - that of loss of his job, freedom, and rights.

Many Christian ethicists have argued that immediate material cooperation is excusable if it is commissioned under threat of greater harm than that threatening the so-called third party. The moral reasoning here is fairly straightforward: the "threat of greater harm or evil" often furnishes the cooperator with a legitimate moral object - and in the current issue at hand, that of self-preservation. The procurement of dead baby parts is morally repugnant, but the loss of one's livelihood, freedom, and rights is arguably a greater evil especially when the consequences of such a loss are tied to the loss of income, sustenance, and freedom for the cooperator's entire family. So when the cooperator is coerced into taking the vaccine, the moral object of his action is not that of assisting the fetal parts procurement industry; the moral object of his cooperative act is that of self-preservation and the preservation of his family.

Another example of duress would be this: a military platoon commander is captured together with his platoon. The enemy demands that he kill his platoon sergeant with the threat that the entire platoon would be executed if he fails to do so. Under duress, the platoon commander pulls the trigger and kills the sergeant. He is morally culpable for the killing of the sergeant, but his culpability is significantly reduced, and within the court of law, his crime would likely be that of manslaughter instead of murder.

Should we disagree with some of our brothers that this act of cooperation is merely mediate material cooperation (contra immediate material cooperation)? Some would argue that the consequences of the cooperative act (i.e. the act of receiving the vaccine) are not essential to the attainment of the consequences of the principal agent's intrinsically evil act (i.e. that of fetal parts procurement). In mediate material cooperation, the cooperative act is not essential or necessary for the original intrinsically evil act to occur. Nonetheless, the cooperator may or may not be morally culpable.

Even if we grant that this act of cooperation is mediate material cooperation (which is debatable and controversial), mediate material cooperation with an immoral act might only be justifiable under three conditions:

  1. If there is a proportionately serious reason for the cooperation (i.e., for the sake of protecting an important good or for avoiding a worse harm); the graver the evil the more serious a reason required for the cooperation;
  2. The importance of the reason for cooperation must be proportionate to the causal proximity of the cooperator’s action to the principal agent’s act (the distinction between proximate and remote);
  3. The danger of scandal (i.e., leading others into doing evil, leading others into error, or spreading confusion) must be avoided.

Some would argue that the good consequences outweigh the bad in the final analysis. Lives are being saved with such medical technologies, and especially the Covid-19 vaccines. Economies could be revived. Normalcy could be restored.

I believe this point of argument has been marred and confounded with many opposing clinical data. This is really a factual argument for a moral conclusion. The proposition that good consequences outweigh the bad has yet to be definitively proven amongst the scientific community, and the censorship of alternative narratives has not helped.

And what about remoteness? Is this act of cooperation sufficiently remote to count as mediate material cooperation? Of course, greater remoteness brings lesser moral weight. This is the point of contention for many, with some arguing that being a consumer in this vaccine industry is sufficiently remote from the original act of abortion. But when we look at the original intrinsically evil act of fetal tissue procurement, and the fact that each of us constitutes the market which essentially assists the principal agent in achieving the consequences of his act, we are very close to - if not actually participating in - immediate material cooperation.

Finally, the danger of scandal must be avoided. The principles of Christian adiaphora and liberty are key here. Everyone's conscience is differently informed or misinformed and should be corrected with biblical truths and facts surrounding this ethical controversy. The knowledge that one's brother had utilized the Pfizer vaccine might be scandalous to some, but arguably, the majority of the Church has no problem with such vaccine usage. In fact, the refusal to be vaccinated might constitute a scandal for the vaccinated! Hence, this issue of scandal works both ways and is inconclusive.


I would see this act of cooperation with the original intrinsically evil act of fetal cadavers, body parts, and tissue procurement as a probable act of immediate material cooperation while the possibility of mediate material cooperation (with lower culpability) is not excluded. Nevertheless, with current draconian restrictions and laws in many countries throughout the world, duress is significantly high, and moral culpability is substantially lowered even in immediate material cooperation.

I believe both my Protestant and Catholic friends will agree with me that our immediate material cooperation with the intrinsically evil act of procurement of fetal parts would be morally abhorrent and blameworthy. At the very least, "the consequence of the use of fetal tissue from elective abortions is desensitization of beneficiaries to the original illicit act of abortion thereby obscuring the value of all human life and potentially leading to scandal." (1)

I hereby appeal to fellow Christian ethicists to reconsider their endorsement of vaccines derived from aborted fetal cell-lines. We should avoid supporting such products as far as possible, encouraging medical research to seek out ethical means, but with great sensitivity and grace to all those who have chosen to take the vaccine due to duress. We must also avoid falling into legalism whereby our lives are governed by a list of products that should or shouldn't be used. At this stage, we fall into the error of Pharisaism.


1. Kyle Christopher Mckenna, "Use of Aborted Fetal Tissue in Vaccines and Medical Research Obscures the Value of All Human Life," The Linacre Quarterly 85, No 1 (2018): 13-17.

Monday, December 14, 2020

A Brief Critique of "Vaccines and the Christian Worldview: Principles for Christian Thinking in the Context of COVID" by Dr Albert Mohler

Dr Mohler's recent contribution to the bioethical discussion on vaccines and vaccination is a welcomed opinion piece, his political affiliation notwithstanding.

At the outset, I would like to state that I appreciate his effort in elaborating his “seven points for considerations” clearly and unequivocally. However, there are some brief comments that must be made. I am hereby writing this from the perspective of a Christian medical professional who administers vaccines as part of my practice – so let no one accuse me of being anti-vaccination.

Dr Mohler’s first point is relatively uncontroversial amongst evangelicals. I do agree that generally speaking, “Christians do not believe in medical non-interventionism.” And neither do I, or else I wouldn’t be a medical doctor.

In point 2, Dr Mohler addresses the concerns of the usage of foetal cell-lines derived from aborted foetuses in the manufacture of Covid-19 vaccines. He writes, “In most of the major COVID-19 vaccines, there was a use of foetal cell lines, which are known as HEK-293. The original cells for that line were taken from tissues derived from an abortion in the Netherlands in the 1960s.” Other cell-lines derived from aborted foetuses used in Covid-19 vaccines are PER.C6 and E.C7.

Dr Mohler argues that “the vaccine’s structure relied upon the cell line of HEK-293, which originated with an aborted foetus. This is a tragedy of history. A horrifying wrong was done—but that does not mean that good cannot come from that harm, even as it is a good tainted by the realities of a sinful world. This idea is expressed, for Christians, as the doctrine of double effect. Some actions have more than one effect. For Christians, the primary intention must aim at virtue and good. The intention behind an act must never seek harm or evil or any moral reality and outcome against God’s will. We must never be complicit in intending sin, and certainly, this applies to every dimension of abortion. But the Christian also acknowledges a potential double effect, for every moral act can lead to consequences not intended, but unavoidable. If the abortion of even a single human baby was required for this vaccine, or if abortion-derived materials were included in the vaccine, Christians would be rightly outraged. This is not the case. The vaccine can be taken by pro-life Christians with legitimacy.”

Although I would reserve judgment now concerning his conclusion that it might not be immoral for Christians to take a vaccine made from foetal cell-lines derived from abortion, his use of the doctrine of double effect is erroneous.

With respect to the intrinsically evil act of abortion by the principal agent (i.e. the abortionist), the moral object of that act has determined the morality of the principal agent’s act. The act of abortion is always morally wrong, an intrinsic evil because the moral object is evil.

However, patients receiving vaccines are not principal agents performing a questionable moral act with potentially good and evil effects, and hence, the doctrine of double effect does not apply in this regard. Dr Mohler should have discussed the principle of cooperation (with evil) instead. In other words, is the patient who receives a Covid-19 vaccine guilty of cooperation with an evil act (abortion)?

Very succinctly, the act of receiving a vaccine based upon cell lines derived from aborted foetuses is considered to be a remote, mediate material cooperation based upon the three fonts of morality of intention, moral object and circumstances.

The problem of scandal is the main ethical consideration – based upon the third font – that I am cautious about. If the act of receiving the vaccine gives other believers or non-believers the impression that termination of pregnancy is acceptable, it would be unacceptable morally speaking (no pun intended).

I do give credits to Dr Mohler for explaining the remoteness of the cooperative act of receiving a vaccine from the intrinsically evil act of the principal agent (i.e. abortion by the abortionist). I believe the explanation and information furnished by Dr Mohler should suffice to avoid stumbling other Christians concerning the issue of abortion, but the point remains – it has nothing to do with the doctrine of double effect.

Furthermore, even though "the vaccine’s structure relied upon the cell line of HEK-293, which originated with an aborted fetus," and even though "that does not mean that good cannot come from that harm, even as it is a good tainted by the realities of a sinful world," we may never commit evil so that good may come, which is a condition required for the principle of double effect to be valid.

In his third point, he claims that “the medical community demonstrates enormous confidence in the vaccine.” This is patently inaccurate. Although the general narrative allowed by Big Tech is that Covid-19 vaccination is safe and effective, there had been issues raised which – from a medical perspective – are valid concerns. These had been vigorously censored on various social media platforms.

For example, on December 1, 2020, Dr. Michael Yeadon (former Vice President Respiratory & Chief Scientific Advisor, Pfizer) and Dr. Wolfgang Wodarg (lung specialist and former head of the public health department) filed an application with the EMA, the European Medicine Agency responsible for EU-wide drug approval, for the immediate suspension of all SARS CoV 2 vaccine studies, in particular, the BioNtech/Pfizer study on BNT162b (EudraCT number 2020-002641-42).

Dr. Wodarg and Dr. Yeadon demand that the studies – for the protection of the life and health of the volunteers – should not be continued until a study design is available that is suitable to address the significant safety concerns expressed by an increasing number of renowned scientists against the vaccine and the study design.

Also, a video that is banned on Facebook and YouTube compiles the concerns of several medical professionals on the Covid-19 vaccine's safety, some of which I do not agree with. America's Frontline Doctors have likewise presented their significant concerns regarding this experimental vaccine.

It is also generally acknowledge by vaccine experts that for a safe, effective vaccine to be produced, the time from start to finish with all the necessary clinical trials is about 20 years. Do also note that Medscape (the website in the related link) is a Continuing Medical Education (CME) provider for doctors and health professionals. The person interviewed is a vaccine specialist.

It is absolutely legitimate for medical professionals to be cautious with any hastily produced vaccine as the most basic ethical principle in medicine is primum non nocere (i.e. first, do no harm). The patient’s interests come first for a conscientious doctor.

Mohler’s fourth point deals with governmental coercion in regard to vaccination. I generally agree with Dr Mohler on his analysis, and I would like to add that from a local perspective, similar concerns might also arise in Singapore. As Dr Mohler had written, “Christians will have to judge these policies as they come.” At present, Covid-19 vaccination is not mandatory in Singapore, and I hope it wouldn’t be. I also pray that there will be no unreasonable restriction of liberty even for the unvaccinated individual.

Dr Mohler’s fifth point is regrettably flawed. Let me explain why. He writes, “vaccines deals with the common good—the issue of love of neighbour. Some people might approach the issue of vaccination through self-defined terms. Such a person might say, “If a vaccine is available, then people can take it who want it. I’m not taking it. I pose no threat to anyone. I’ll deal with the consequences of my own actions.” Here is the problem with this kind of moral equation: There are third parties—people who cannot take the vaccine or do not yet have access to it that could still be infected by those who refuse to take the vaccine.”

Firstly, the science is incorrect. There is a reasonable risk of asymptomatic transmission of Covid-19 even in vaccinated individuals. Hence, governments (including ours in Singapore) recommend the wearing of masks even after vaccination.

Mohler’s argument here is therefore a moot point. Vaccination cannot prevent asymptomatic transmission. It’s that simple. So even if you are vaccinated, you are still able to transmit the virus to your loved ones.

Secondly, there are Christians who would be cautious with taking the vaccine because of inconclusive data concerning vaccine safety. The safety information at present is admittedly very limited, and it wouldn’t be fair to accuse fellow brethren of refusing to love their neighbours by their failure to receive the vaccine.

The factual error committed by Dr Mohler imposes an unnecessary burden upon the conscience of Christians. These brethren who refuse the vaccine are not disobeying the 2nd greatest commandment, and therefore, guilty of sin. They have the responsibility to protect themselves from harm, and it is reasonable from both a medical and ethical perspective to wait until further data emerge.

Mohler’s sixth point is likewise flawed because of his third and fifth points. He writes, “Reasonable Christians and Christian parents will differ over whether or not to take the vaccine. But, speaking personally, I will take this vaccine as soon as it is available to me. I will take it not only for what I hope will be the good of my own health, but for others as well. I will seek to encourage others to take the vaccine. Encouragement, however, is very different from coercion.”

As explained above, the vaccine protects the individual who receives the vaccine from Covid-19. This does not directly protect non-vaccinated individuals. Asymptomatic transmission is a real possibility.

On the other hand, it was mentioned by certain experts that “six in 10 people in Singapore would need to get vaccinated against COVID-19 for the country to achieve herd immunity.” Herd immunity, however, does protect the population at large against Covid-19 indirectly. Vaccine herd-effects indirectly protect even unvaccinated individuals by reducing the population prevalence of vaccine-targeted pathogens. This herd-effect occurs at the level of the vaccine-targeted pathogen and indirectly impact the population at large, including unvaccinated bystanders.

But the achievement of herd immunity needs to be balanced against the limited safety data we have at the moment and waiting for such data to emerge is not an unreasonable or unethical option. This is all part of weighing the consequences of our action based upon the third font of morality. Indeed, we have to refrain from imposing such vaccination requirements upon the consciences of believers, at least in this stage of vaccine development.

Nevertheless, I do heartily agree with Dr Mohler that “we ought to be wary of any government or other intrusion into the family structure—in this case, we should stand against government policies that give vaccines to children and adolescents over and against (or without the knowledge of) the convictions of their parents.”

I also stand with Dr Mohler on his final point that, presupposing that the vaccine is not morally dubious, “those who are at greater risk or serving on the frontlines of this pandemic ought to be the first in line to receive the vaccine.”

There is a temptation for spiritual leaders to take sides during the current Covid-19 pandemic on issues that they might not be an expert in. I would advise all of us to be guarded in dispensing our so-called medical advice and to be aware of our limitations, especially when it comes to complex ethical issues which intersect with immunology, virology, bioethics and theology.

Monday, December 23, 2019

An Analysis of the Temptation of Jesus in Matthew and Luke with Respect to Verbal Aspect.

A. Introduction to Greek Verbal Aspect
Within the Greek verbal system, Rodney Decker explains that, “Aspect is the category that tells us how the author portrays the situation (as a whole, as a process, or as a state). It is a subjective category in that a writer may choose to portray the same situation either as a complete event or as a process or as a state.”[1]

Stephen Levinsohn agrees with this understanding, reaffirming that the “Verbal aspect is a way of portraying an event.”[2] It is the “the speaker’s subjective view of a process or event,”[3] and it “reflects the subjective conception or portrayal by the speaker.”[4]
In the current analysis of the narrative on the temptation of Jesus in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke, there are two verbal aspects that we encounter frequently in the discourse, namely, the imperfective and the perfective aspects.
1. Imperfective Aspect
Levinsohn elucidates that, “When the imperfective aspect is used to describe an event, the event is portrayed as not completed.”[5] According to Buist Fanning, “this is the “internal” aspect, since it views the action “from a reference-point within the action, without reference to the beginning or end-point of the action.”[6] Steven Runge further states that “both the imperfect and the present tenses grammaticalize imperfective aspect, depicting action that is ongoing or incomplete.”[7]
2. Perfective Aspect
Levinsohn continues, “When the perfective aspect is used to describe an event, the event is portrayed as a whole.”[8] Quoting Fanning, he explains that “this is the “external” aspect, which views the action “from a vantage-point outside the action … without reference to its internal structure.”[9] Runge adds, “The aorist conveys “perfective” aspect, portraying the action as “a complete and undifferentiated process.’”[10]
B. Aspect in Narrative Discourse
In the narrative genre of the Synoptic Gospels, we generally distinguish between mainline/offline (also known as foreground/background) events and information. “The foreground is understood to be the main event line of the narrative, one that often forms something of a connected chain of events. These foreground events advance the plot of the narrative. In contrast, background information does not advance the story; instead it fleshes out needed detail.”[11] Runge further explains that, “Foreground events are the mainline and advance the plot; background information is offline and represents a pause or interruption of the plot.”[12] Background information may assist the reader in understanding the mainline events as the plot advances.
In the Greek verbal system, the aorist verb conveys the “perfective” aspect, which portrays an action or event as a complete and undifferentiated process. “It is the default form used for the mainline of the narrative; it is unmarked for any special features in narrative.”[13]
On the other hand, “[b]oth the imperfect and the present tenses grammaticalize imperfective aspect, depicting action that is ongoing or incomplete. Imperfective aspect is generally associated across languages with offline, nonevent information in narrative. In contrast, salient main events typically are communicated using the aorist or “perfective” aspect.”[14]
A significant natural correlation between verbal aspect and the foreground/background distinction has been noted by Foley and Van Valin as well.[15]
Runge writes:
“Since the perfective conceptualizes the action as complete or as a whole, it is not surprising that completed, past-time events are most often portrayed using perfective aspect. This is not to say that perfective action is always past tense, but simply notes the natural correlation. In contrast, imperfective aspect portrays the action as incomplete, but without the same kind of natural correlation with time. The imperfective aspect allows the writer or speaker to establish a state of affairs in which perfective action takes place. This could be in a past- or present-tense context.”[16]
In the following, Constantine Campbell further elucidates upon the relationship between background and foreground events, and explains that while the mainline events represent the foreground of the narrative, the background or offline information typically represents a hiatus in the progression of plot:
“The mainline of the narrative text is concerned with the major events, actions, and developments that project the narrative in the direction it is going. Without the sequence of mainline events and actions, offline information, such as supplemental information, inside information, speech and so forth, will not make sense; these require the mainline to provide context and to enable the reader to understand how the narrative arrived at the location where such offline material is meaningful. Offline material is contingent and dependent upon the mainline events.”[17]
Runge concludes that “the aorist tense-form is understood to be the default form for narrative proper, prototypically used for mainline events to advance the storyline. In contrast, the use of the imperfect marks the action as imperfective in nature, often providing offline description or states-of-affair, but not advancing the narrative.”[18]
C. Verbal Tense and Time
Before we proceed to discuss the functions of the Historical Present (HP) in the “Temptation of Jesus” narratives of Matthew’s and Luke’s Gospels, it is appropriate to mention an ongoing debate concerning this question: “Do the Greek verbal tense forms in the indicative mood grammaticalize time?” Constantine Campbell has commented that “one of the best-known debates regarding verbal aspect has been whether Greek tense-forms semantically encode temporal reference alongside aspect.”[19]
Runge has also noted that, “[in] the last twenty years a proposal has been popularized that Koine Greek verbs do not grammaticalize tense in any mood, including the indicative.”[20]
So generally speaking, there is a camp of Greek grammarians which agrees with Steven Runge that “Koine Greek is best understood as a mixed tense-aspect verbal system, grammaticalizing both in the indicative.”[21] For this camp, although Greek verbs are primarily aspectual, Greek verbal tense forms do grammaticalize time. As Runge has aptly stated, “Koine Greek is indeed an aspect-prominent language, with kind-of-action regularly trumping matters of temporal reference in the indicative mood.”[22] The absence of absolute tense does not disprove presence of any tense.
There is likewise a dissenting camp of Greek grammarians which contend that Greek verbs do not grammaticalize tense as time, even in the indicative mood. For this camp, verbal tense forms only grammaticalize aspect. “While this debate is not resolved, a growing number of aspect scholars have indicated that they do not believe temporal reference to be a core constituent feature of verbs in the indicative mood. Included in this camp are [K. L. ] McKay, [Stanley E.] Porter, [Rodney J.] Decker, [Mari Broman] Olsen (for some tense-forms), [Constantine R.] Campbell (except for the future tense form), [David L.] Mathewson, [Wally V.] Cirafesi, and [Douglas S.] Huffman.”[23]
But Christopher J. Thomson “argued that the denial by [Stanley] Porter, [Buist] Fanning, and [Constantine] Campbell that aspect is a temporal concept is at odds with the prevailing understanding within general linguistics.”[24]
In this brief paper, I shall quote Stanley Porter as the representative of this “aspect-only” camp, as he apparently holds the most aggressive position in this regard.
For Porter, “each [Greek verbal] tense-form plays a consistent grounding role (i.e. background aorist, foreground present, and frontground perfect), regardless of genre considerations.”[25] According to Runge, “Porter uses foreground/background to refer to "planes of discourse," which in his view are different levels of prominence.”[26]
As previously noted, Porter disagrees that verbal tense-forms grammaticalize time, or have any temporal semantics. He believes that “the tense-forms grammaticalize verbal aspect, and these morphologically-based verbal aspects serve the discourse function of indicating various levels of prominence.”[27] Therefore, “prominence is not derived from the discourse role in a given genre, but from the unchanging semantic characteristic of the aspect.”[28]
However, Runge is adamant that Porter’s “claim that each tense-form is part of an unchanging cline of prominence or always conveys a particular plane of discourse [or levels of prominence] is to be rejected.”[29] This is because grounding roles of tense forms vary by genre and context, and prominence is derived from the role played in a particular genre and context. Hence, the “grounding roles and prominence are context-dependent; they are not global.”[30]
D. The Historical Present (HP)
As Steven Runge understands that Greek verbs do grammaticalize both aspect and time, his views (or discourse explanations) of the HP is radically different from Porter’s.
For Runge, the present grammaticalizes present time and imperfective aspect. Hence, the “present tense-form is differentiated from the aorist by virtue of its aspect, and from the imperfect tense-form by virtue of its tense/proximity.”[31]
With regard to verbs with the imperfective aspect, Runge explains that the imperfect “is the default means of signalling the offline information in a past-time setting, freeing the present-tense form for use as a prominence marker.”[32] This is especially so since the imperfect-tense form is already associated with past time, and the present tense form with present time.
Furthermore, “the HP represents a mismatch of aspect compared to the perfective aorist. The HP also stands out in narrative proper because of its tense/proximity.”[33] The HP, therefore, stands out in a historical narrative for two reasons: 1) present time is used within a past-time context, and 2) an imperfective aspect is used to describe a perfective action. Contra Porter, Runge denies that the prominence of the HP is due to some hidden semantic meaning of the Greek verb form.
In historical and Gospel narratives, Runge argues that the HP is used as a prominence marker, and “the function of HP is to highlight an event or speech that follows.”[34] He writes:
“I contend that the use of the present tense-form in narrative proper is always intended to mark the presence of a pragmatic feature of discourse, namely highlighting the presence of a natural discontinuity. … Use of the present tense-form in narrative proper is a non-default usage of the form.”[35]
In his critique of Porter’s understanding of the HP, Runge reiterates that for Porter, “the HP stands out not because of the mismatch with the “historical” context, but based on the inherent markedness and prominence of the present tense-form compared to the background aorist and less-foregrounded imperfect.”[36] Therefore, according to Porter’s model, “the inherent prominence of the present brings about the pragmatic effects, not the mismatch of the form to the context. … [Porter] appeals to the foregrounding prominence of the present to explain the effects associated with the HP, not the contextual mismatch of the non-remote form in the remote context. This conclusion leads him to claim that the present tense-form is always inherently more marked than either the aorist or imperfect.”[37]
Runge concludes that Porter’s “failure to recognize the mismatch in aspect and remoteness/tense leads Porter to describe the effects associated with the historical usage as prototypical.”[38]
A note must be made here to distinguish “present time” from “proximity,” and “past time” from “remoteness.” For grammarians who believe that Greek verbs do not grammaticalize tense in any mood, including the indicative, some of them adopt a spatial approach in place of tense or time.
Campbell writes, “Remoteness refers to the metaphorical value of distance. This fits nicely with perfective aspect, in the way we have already described the perfective aspect as the view “from afar.” It goes hand in hand with viewing the parade from the helicopter; the view is a summary view precisely because the parade is viewed from a distance.”[39] So according to Campbell, the aorist does not represent past time, but remoteness – a summary view of a parade which an observer has as though he is viewing the parade from far.
For Campbell, the present tense form does not represent present time, but rather non-remoteness or proximity. He explains that “nonremoteness, which is absence of remoteness, should be replaced by proximity. Proximity is not simply the absence of remoteness, but is a positive value of its own, which is opposite to remoteness.”[40] Hence, Campbell regards the present as representing proximity – a view of a parade which an observer has as though he is standing right before it.
E. The HP and its Function in the Gospel of Matthew and Luke
Runge has noted that “Matthew, Mark, and John are best known for using the HP, while in Luke-Acts HPs are only sparsely found.”[41] Indeed, in the temptation of Jesus, Matthew (Matt. 4:1-11) uses four non-speech HPs and two speech HPs, whereas Luke (Lk. 4:1-13) uses none.
1. Processing Function of the HP: Segmentation for Easier Processing.
Runge explains that HPs are often associated with discourse boundaries or paragraphing by virtue of their “processing function.” He elucidates further that “[most] discourse boundaries are identified based on thematic discontinuities—for example, changes in time, place, participants or action. Generally speaking, the more discontinuities that are present, the higher the level of the discourse boundary.”[42] HPs can assist in segmenting “the discourse into smaller chunks for purpose of easier processing by the reader or hearer.”[43] In these cases, functioning as a processing device, the HPs enable “the discontinuity that naturally existed stand out even more as a guide to the reader or hearer.”[44]
Stephen Levinsohn notes that, “In Matthew’s Gospel, nearly every non-speech HP occurs at a generally recognized paragraph boundary.”[45] Runge adds that Matthew “regularly utilizes the HP at discourse boundaries to aid the reader in recognizing the transition.”[46]
Where HPs are found at discourse transitions, “HPs tend to highlight some kind of discontinuity in the discourse. Usage of the HP at a boundary attracts extra attention to it, helping the reader process the transition to a new topic or pericope. Usage before a significant event or speech accomplishes the same processing task.”[47] Runge emphasizes that “HPs do not create a discontinuity; they simply accentuate what discontinuity is already present. The break in the discourse would exist with or without a marker.”[48]
Levinsohn also observes that “… the non-speech HPs that are found at the beginning of episodes and subsections … indicate that the events concerned are part of a larger whole.”[49] In fact, “HPs are used at the beginning of episodes only when the episode concerned is a new subsection of a larger episode.”[50]
Therefore, in lieu of what we have just discussed concerning the processing function of HPs at discourse boundaries, we find non-speech HPs at Matt. 4:5 (παραλαμβάνει), Matt. 4:8 (παραλαμβάνει), and Matt. 4:11 (ἀφίησιν), but no HP at Matt. 4:3 where the devil tempted Jesus to command stones to become bread. It is because Matt. 4:3 begins the first round (out of three rounds) of the Temptation of Christ pericope. Levinsohn affirms that, “This explains the absence of a HP in the first round of … [the] three-round episode [of] … the temptation of Jesus by the devil.”[51]
In other words, a HP is used at the beginning of the second round of the temptation of Jesus when the devil took (παραλαμβάνει) him to the holy city and set him on the pinnacle of the temple (Matt. 4:5). At this point, there is a clear discourse boundary of a change in scene (place), time, and action of the participants. Participants, however, remain the same.
Another HP is used at the beginning of the third round of temptation of Jesus when the devil took (παραλαμβάνει) him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. Again, we find here a change in place, participants action, and time at this new round of temptation, marking a discourse boundary within the pericope. And finally, at the close of this pericope, another HP is used when the devil left (ἀφίησιν) him.
Levinsohn also notes that non-speech HPs “move activated participants to the location of the next significant events.”[52] This is true of παραλαμβάνει used at the beginning of Matt. 3:5 and Matt. 3:8, where the HP is used to move Jesus and the devil to a new scene of temptation.
Levinsohn explains, “Sometimes, when Jesus has been interacting with other people, a HP is used to bring all the participants to the location of the next significant events in which they are involved. The HP gives prominence to the following events that take place at that location, or even to the location itself because of its significance for subsequent events.”[53] This provides another clue as to why Matthew didn’t use a HP in Matthew 4:1. Just prior to the “temptation of Jesus” pericope, John the Baptist was at the baptism of Jesus. But “in 4:1, a HP is not used to move Jesus to the wilderness because he goes alone, leaving John behind.”[54] A simple aorist verb ἀνήχθη is used instead, which is the default aspect (perfective) in narratives for mainline events.
Luke, on the other hand, does not use HPs at the boundaries of the three-round episode of the temptation of Jesus. At the beginning of all three rounds, aorist verbs are used (Lk. 4:3 Εἶπεν, Lk. 4:5 ἔδειξεν, and Lk. 4:9 Ἤγαγεν) instead. An aorist verb (ἀπέστη) is likewise used in Lk. 4:13 to describe the devil departing from Jesus “until an opportune time.”
2. Discourse-Pragmatic Function of the HP
In addition to its processing function, the HP acts as a forward-pointing device, namely, highlighting or prominence marking. It has a cataphoric function. Runge explains that the HP “highlight[s] a significant speech or event that immediately follows. It is not the action of the HP verb itself that is prominent, but that which follows.”[55]
The non-speech HP can also be used to “activate a participant who has a significant role to play by introducing him or her to the scene of a previous interaction between participants.”[56] However, this function of the HP is not found within the “temptation of Jesus” pericope.
Runge clarifies, “Usage that is unneeded for processing serves the pragmatic function of highlighting the speech or event that follows. It directs the reader to pay closer attention to something important. The HP achieves this effect by standing out in its context, on the basis of both temporal reference and aspect.” In other words, the HP is marked on the basis of both tense (proximity) and aspect.
A non-speech HP is used in Matt. 4:5 (παραλαμβάνει) when the devil took (HP) him to the holy city. This serves to point forward to the subsequent temptation event when Jesus was set on the pinnacle of the temple; it also serves to highlight the devil’s actual speech which follows in Matt. 4:6.
It is also noteworthy to mention that the non-speech HP in Matt. 4:5 (παραλαμβάνει) is unnecessary for processing function, as the development marker τότε is present. Τότε confirms the presence of a discourse boundary with the added constraint of indicating a generic change in time.
It is interesting to note that in Matthew, “τότε as an adverbial conjunction is used both at subsections of an ongoing story and “at a peak in a paragraph or as a concluding event.’”[57] The τότε in Matt. 4:5 thereby indicates the boundary of the second subsection of the current pericope.
Levinsohn continues, “Most commonly, τότε occurs at subsections of an ongoing story. However, it is used also to introduce conclusions that achieve the goal of one of the participants involved in the episode.”[58] This is significant when we discuss the concluding event described in Matt. 4:11.
In Matt. 4:6, we also find a speech HP (λέγει) used to introduce the devil’s speech. Runge observes that “HP verbs of speaking typically introduce direct discourse in contexts where they are semantically required, such as changes of speaker or at the beginning of shorter speeches. … More broadly speaking, HPs predominately recount mainline action rather than offline action characterizing the imperfect indicatives.”[59]
Levinsohn further notes that “[such] speech HPs are cataphoric, in that they point forward to one or more significant events that are the result of or follow from the speech.” This speech HP (λέγει) serves to highlight the devil’s speech itself, and points forward to Jesus’ answer to him in Matt. 4:7 (“You shall not put the Lord your God to the test”). In Matt. 4:7, Jesus’ speech is introduced with an aorist verb (ἔφη), which is the default aspect in narratives.
In Matt. 4:8, a non-speech HP (παραλαμβάνει) is used at the transition to a new scene of interaction between Jesus and the devil, namely, a very high mountain. Παραλαμβάνει points toward the next action by the devil, that is, when the tempter showed (HP) him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. Δείκνυσιν (HP), in turn, highlights and points forward to the devil’s speech in Matt. 4:9, which was introduced with a default aorist (εἶπεν).
In Matt. 4:10, a speech HP (λέγει) is used in conjunction with the development marker τότε. “The use of the HP in combination with narrative τότε helps the reader identify the boundary in the discourse by attracting more attention to it than it would otherwise have received.”[60] It must be noted that Jesus’ reply to the devil in Matt. 4:10 closes the verbal exchange in this pericope. The devil leaves him in the next verse.
Levinsohn, quoting Callow, points out, “While most speech HPs are cataphoric … when a speech HP closes off a verbal interchange … the content is important in itself.”[61] The speech HP (λέγει) highlights the actual content of Jesus’ final rebuke and answer to the devil.
John Nolland, commenting on Jesus’ final rebuke of the devil, writes:
“Matthew marks a climax as Jesus speaks for the last time in the account using τότε (‘then’) and a historic present (‘says’). He will mark the departure of the devil in v. 11 in the same way. The devil is now called ‘Satan’, using a Grecized form of the Hebrew or Aramaic word for ‘adversary’. In line with the sense of climax noted above for this third temptation, here we find Jesus’ decisive repudiation of Satan: ‘Get away, Satan!’”[62]
Matt. 4:10 marks the climactic closure to the verbal exchange between the two participants. It indicates Jesus’ ultimate victory over Satan’s temptations. Satan, the tempter, is decisively defeated, and the “command to Satan to begone is the announcement of victory on the part of Jesus. Satan is ordered to begone because he has been utterly vanquished.”[63]
Furthermore, Levinsohn argues that, “even in such instances, the HP continues to have cataphoric overtones.”[64] The speech HP (λέγει) also points forward to the concluding event of the pericope (Matt. 4:11), when the devil leaves the scene with the proverbial tail between his legs.
The τότε used in Matt. 4:10 is also significant, especially in conjunction with the speech HP (λέγει). Levinsohn notes that “τότε is used also to introduce the concluding event or speech to which an episode has been building up, even though the conclusion does not constitute a separate subsection. This may be thought of as a marked (rhetorical) usage of τότε, treating the conclusion as though it were a separate subsection in order to highlight it.”[65]
So, according to Levinsohn, the τότε in Matt. 4:10 has a marked usage, just like the speech HP (λέγει). The “τότε introduces and highlights a concluding speech, while the speech HP points forward to the result of that speech.”[66]
He continues, “Sometimes the first verb of a subsection that begins with τότε is λέγει. A speech that is introduced in this way is significant in its own right in that it represents a new initiative on the part of the speaker, usually in the light of the preceding events. At the same time, the resulting event(s) are even more significant than the speech.”[67]
Therefore, in Matt. 4:10, the τότε highlights Jesus’ concluding speech, treating it as though it were a separate subsection, while the speech HP (λέγει) highlights the content of Jesus’ answer to the devil and points forward to the concluding event of the pericope in Matt. 4:11.
The current pericope ends in Matt. 4:11 when “the devil left (HP) him,” and subsequently “angels came and were ministering to him.” Here, we find another τότε plus non-speech HP (ἀφίησιν) construction. Levinsohn has noted that non-speech HPs in Matthew can be used to “describe the conclusion of an interaction between participants when significant event(s) are still to follow.”[68]
Here, besides being a development marker and indicating the presence of a discourse boundary with the added constraint of a change in time, τότε is also used “to introduce conclusions that achieve the goal of one of the participants involved in the episode,” namely, the defeat and departure of Satan.[69] Also, “τότε is used also to introduce the concluding event or speech to which an episode has been building up.”[70]
Thus clearly, the non-speech HP ἀφίησιν is not needed for processing function. Levinsohn reminds us that “[on] two occasions, a HP is used in Matthew in connection with the concluding event of an interaction between participants. In both, the HP appears to be used not to highlight the concluding event itself but to point forward to and give prominence to the events that follow.”[71] The conclusion to the current “Temptation of Jesus” pericope constitutes one of those two episodes (Matt. 4:11), with the other episode found in the “Baptism of Jesus” pericope (Matt. 3:15).
The non-speech HP ἀφίησιν therefore “concludes the interaction between the devil and Jesus, and points forward to the arrival of the angels to serve him.”[72]
In contrast, Luke does not use any historical present in this pericope. As a matter of fact, there are only 3 non-speech HPs in the entire Gospel of Luke (Lk. 8:49; 16:23; 24:12).[73] In the current pericope, Luke uses an aorist verb (ἀπέστη) in the concluding event (Lk. 4:13) to indicate the devil’s departure from Jesus.
F. The Usage of Multiple HPs in the Temptation of Jesus Pericope of Matthew’s Gospel
There are three rounds within the “Temptation of Jesus” pericope. We have noted the absence of any HP in the first round in Matthew’s Gospel, whereas two HPs are found in round two, and three HPs are found in the climactic third round. The episode ends with a non-speech HP (ἀφίησιν) which marks the departure of the defeated tempter.
Runge explains that the “repeated use of the HP here has the effect of building to a dramatic peak. … The net effect is to slow the discourse flow and build anticipation. Each one also highlights the next event, only to have the resolution deferred by the presence of another HP.”[74] The gradual increase in the number of HPs used by Matthew indicates a deliberate overuse of the device by the author, and serves to build the episode to a crescendo.
Even Stephanie Black, applying Porter’s model of verbal aspect, observes a similar discourse pragmatic effect of the multiple usage of HPs in this pericope. She writes:
“In Jesus’ temptation in the wilderness, Matthew moves from fewer to more instances of the historic present in subsequent sections of the passage to convey increasing drama as the narrative builds to a climax. In the first exchange between Jesus and the devil, no present tense-forms are used; in the second exchange two appear; in the climactic third exchange, three present tense-forms appear. Intermixed with other tense-forms in a balanced structure, these make his storytelling more vivid.”[75]
G. The Temptation of Jesus Pericope in Luke’s Gospel
As noted above, Luke does not use any HP in the “Temptation of Jesus” pericope. The mainline events are advanced mainly through the use of the default aorist verb with its perfective aspect and past-time (or remoteness). Excluding discourse proper, there are a total of 13 aorist indicative verbs used in the mainline (foreground) events.[76]
However, we notice that Luke uses two redundant quotative frames (ἀποκριθεὶς) as forward-pointing devices, one in Lk. 4:8, and the other in Lk. 4:12. “The pragmatic effect [of the redundant quotative frame] is to accentuate a discontinuity or transition in the dialogue, thereby directing attention to the speech that follows.”[77] Also, the “choice to use a second verb has the effect of slowing the discourse like a speed bump, attracting attention to what follows.”[78]
In both occurrences of the redundant quotative frames in Luke, there is a change in speaker from the devil to Jesus. In comparison, Matthew uses τότε with a speech HP (λέγει) in Matt. 4:10, while Luke uses a redundant quotative frame in Lk. 4:8.
Likewise, while Luke uses a redundant quotative frame in Lk. 4:12, Matthew uses an aorist verb (ἔφη) to introduce Jesus’ reply to the devil.[79]
H. Conclusion
Matthew has a preference for the use of the HP within narrative literature to bring out discourse pragmatic effects as discussed above. The HP also has the processing function of accentuating discourse boundaries within the narrative genre.
It is also remarkable that, despite the marked usage of the HP, neither the tense nor aspect of the present is cancelled. “It is these very things that make [the HPs] stand out as marked in the first place.”[80] Usage of the present tense-form in narrative genre is the non-default usage of the form.
Luke, on the other hand, does not choose to use the HP in the current pericope. Using mainly aorist verbs – which is unmarked for any special features in the narrative genre – to advance the foreground events, he chooses to utilize the narrative default of the aorist verb with its perfective aspect and past-time (remoteness) reference.
In this paper, I have not explored “the suspicion of scholarship that the HP is one strategy for indicating thematic prominence,”[81] for example, in the clustering of HPs in Matthew’s Gospel. Elizabeth Robar explains,
“At least in Matthew, the HP is an editorial device to indicate thematic prominence: an aid to the reader or listener to discern the hierarchy of themes present, and in particular to know which themes are of intrinsic interest to the author himself. It is a simple strategy that does not require additional words, such as discourse-pragmatic adverbs or particles, but instead modifies the form of a verb that is required anyway. It takes advantage of the nature of a narrative in which the tense and aspect are already clear and so do not need to be specified again, which frees up the form of the verb to other, nontemporal and nonaspectual, information.”[82]
An understanding of the “scope of an HP” and its relationship to thematic prominence would assist exegesis.[83] This would be an interesting area for future research and study with regard to the Temptation of Jesus narrative.
In closing, Runge reminds us that “the HP is best construed as non-typical usage” of the present.[84] Also, the “pragmatic effects derived from the historical use of the present tense-form in Greek are also consistent with HP usage in older Indo-European languages, making Porter’s claims of the present’s global prominence all the more implausible.”[85] I therefore believe that Runge is correct to say that Koine Greek is undeniably best understood as a mixed tense-aspect verbal system, grammaticalizing both in the indicative, contra Porter, Decker and Campbell, amongst others.
However, with Campbell, I would also like to maintain a stance of epistemological humility. As Campbell has aptly stated:
“The issue of whether Greek verbs are tenses remains unresolved. Do Greek verbs encode temporal reference at the semantic level, or is temporal reference a pragmatic category created through the combination of semantic features and context? How many aspects are there? Everyone agrees that there are at least two (perfective and imperfective), but what about a third (stative) aspect?”[86]
Indeed, I look forward eagerly to the future contributions from linguists and scholars in this area of verbal aspect.

Selected Bibliography
Campbell, Constantine R. Advances in the Study of Greek: New Insights for Reading the New Testament. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2015.
____________________. Basics of Verbal Aspect in Biblical Greek. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2008.
Decker, Rodney J. Reading Koine Greek: An Introduction and Integrated Workbook.  Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2014.
Lenski, R. C. H. The Interpretation of St. Matthew’s Gospel. Minneapolis, MN: Augsburg Publishing House, 1961.
Levinsohn, Stephen H. Discourse Features of New Testament Greek: A Coursebook on the Information Structure of New Testament Greek. 2nd ed. Dallas: SIL International, 2000.
Nolland, John. The Gospel of Matthew: A Commentary on the Greek Text, New International Greek Testament Commentary. Grand Rapids, MI; Carlisle: W.B. Eerdmans; Paternoster Press, 2005.
Robar, Elizabeth. “The Historical Present in NT Greek: An Exercise in Interpreting Matthew.” In The Greek Verb Revisited: A Fresh Approach for Biblical Exegesis. Edited by Steven E. Runge and Christopher J. Fresch. Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2016.
Robertson, A. T. A Grammar of the Greek New Testament in the Light of Historical Research. Logos Bible Software, 2006.
Runge, Steven E. Discourse Grammar of the Greek New Testament: A Practical Introduction for Teaching and Exegesis. Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2010.
_____________. “Verbal Aspect and Discourse Prominence: A Reassessment of Porter’s Linguistic Model.” Paper presented in the “Greek Grammar and Exegesis” Section of the ETS Annual Meeting, Atlanta, GA, Nov. 17-19, 2010. Accessed October 21, 2019. Aspect and Discourse Prominence-presentation.pdf.
_____________. “The Verbal Aspect of the Historical Present Indicative in Narrative.” Discourse Studies & Biblical Interpretation: A Festschrift in Honor of Stephen H. Levinsohn. Edited by Steven E. Runge. Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2011.

[1] Rodney J. Decker, Reading Koine Greek: An Introduction and Integrated Workbook (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2014), 223.
[2] Stephen H. Levinsohn, Discourse Features of the New Testament: A Coursebook on the Information Structure of New Testament Greek (Dallas: SIL International, 2000), 173.
[3] Jeffrey Reed and Ruth A. Reese, “Verbal aspect, discourse prominence, and the letter of Jude,” Filologia Neotestamentaria IX (1996):183. Quoted in Levinsohn, Discourse Features, 173.
[4] Buist Fanning, Verbal Aspect in New Testament Greek. Oxford Theological Monographs (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1990), 31. Quoted in Levinsohn, Discourse Features, 173.
[5] Levinsohn, Discourse Features, 173.
[6] Fanning, Verbal Aspect, 84-85. Quoted in Levinsohn, Discourse Features, 173.
[7] Steven E. Runge, Discourse Grammar of the Greek New Testament: A Practical Introduction for Teaching and Exegesis (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2010), 129.
[8] Levinsohn, Discourse Features, 173.
[9] Buist Fanning, Verbal Aspect, 84-85. Quoted in Levinsohn, Discourse Features, 173.
[10] Runge, Discourse Grammar, 129. Quoting Stanley E. Porter, Idioms of the Greek New Testament. 2nd ed. (Sheffield: Sheffield Academic, 1999), 21.
[11] Steven E. Runge, “The Verbal Aspect of the Historical Present Indicative in Narrative,” in Discourse Studies & Biblical Interpretation: A Festschrift in Honor of Stephen H. Levinsohn, ed. Steven E. Runge (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2011), 208.
[12] Runge, “Historical Present,” 208.
[13] Runge, Discourse Grammar, 129.
[14] Runge, Discourse Grammar, 129-130.
[15] See William A. Foley and Robert D. Van Valin, Functional Syntax and Universal Grammar. Cambridge Studies in Linguistics 38 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1984), 371. Quoted in Runge, “Historical Present,” 209n43.
[16] Runge, “Historical Present,” 209.
[17] Constantine R. Campbell, Verbal Aspect, the Indicative Mood, and Narrative: Soundings in the Greek of the New Testament (New York: Peter Lang, 2007), 116. Quoted in Runge, “Historical Present,” 210.
[18] Runge, “Historical Present,” 213.
[19] Constantine R. Campbell, Advances in the Study of Greek: New Insights for Reading the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2015), 114.
[20] Runge, “Historical Present,” 196.
[21] Runge, “Historical Present,” 191.
[22] Steven Runge, “Verbal Aspect and Discourse Prominence: A Reassessment of Porter’s Linguistic Model,” Paper presented in the “Greek Grammar and Exegesis” Section of the ETS Annual Meeting, Atlanta, GA, Nov. 17-19, 2010, accessed October 21, 2019, Aspect and Discourse Prominence-presentation.pdf, 7.
[23] Campbell, Advances, 114. Concerning his position in this debate, Campbell writes, “I follow McKay, Porter, and Decker on the issue of tense: it is not regarded as a semantic value of verbs in the indicative mood (except for the future indicative), even though each tense-form has a characteristic temporal reference on the pragmatic level.” Campbell, Advances, 112–113.
[24] Christopher J. Thomson, “What Is Aspect? Contrasting Definitions in General Linguistics and New Testament Studies,” in The Greek Verb Revisited: A Fresh Approach for Biblical Exegesis, ed. Steven E. Runge and Christopher J. Fresch (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2016), 70.
[25] Runge, “Verbal Aspect,” 2. Emphasis mine.
[26] Runge, “Verbal Aspect,” 5. Emphasis mine. Campbell explains further, “Porter argues that the aspects contribute to planes of discourse in text, in which three planes may be discerned: background, foreground, and frontground. Porter’s model accordingly attributes least significance to perfective aspect (aorist tense-form), which provides background information; greater significance to imperfective aspect (present and imperfect), which provides foreground information; and greatest significance to stative aspect (perfect and pluperfect), which provides frontground information.” Campbell, Advances, 127.
[27] Stanley E. Porter, “Prominence: An Overview,” in The Linguist as Pedagogue, ed. Stanley E Porter and Matthew Brook O'Donnell (Sheffield: Sheffield Phoenix Press Ltd, 2009), 57. Quoted in Runge, “Verbal Aspect,” 5.
[28] Runge, “Verbal Aspect,” 5. Emphasis mine.
[29] Runge, “Verbal Aspect,”7.
[30] Runge, “Verbal Aspect,” 7.
[31] Runge, “Historical Present,” 213.
[32] Runge, Discourse Grammar, 130.
[33] Runge, “Historical Present,” 213.
[34] Runge, Discourse Grammar, 130.
[35] Runge, “Historical Present,” 214.
[36] Runge, “Historical Present,” 197.
[37] Runge, “Historical Present,” 198.
[38] Runge, “Historical Present,” 199.
[39] Constantine R. Campbell, Basics of Verbal Aspect in Biblical Greek (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2008), 37.
[40] Campbell, Basics, 41–42.
[41] Runge, Discourse Grammar, 141.
[42] Runge, Discourse Grammar, 135.
[43] Runge, Discourse Grammar, 132.
[44] Runge, Discourse Grammar, 133.
[45] Levinsohn, Discourse Features, 202.
[46] Runge, Discourse Grammar, 134.
[47] Runge, Discourse Grammar, 142.
[48] Runge, Discourse Grammar, 134.
[49] Levinsohn, Discourse Features, 245.
[50] Levinsohn, Discourse Features, 245. Emphasis mine.
[51] Levinsohn, Discourse Features, 245.
[52] Levinsohn, Discourse Features, 204.
[53] Levinsohn, Discourse Features, 205. Emphasis mine.
[54] Levinsohn, Discourse Features, 245.
[55] Runge, Discourse Grammar, 137.
[56] Levinsohn, Discourse Features, 204.
[57] Levinsohn, Discourse Features, 94. Quoting R. Buth, “’Edayin/Τότε – Anatomy of a Semitism in Jewish Greek,” Maarav 5-6 (1990):46.
[58] Levinsohn, Discourse Features, 96.
[59] Runge, “Historical Present,” 202.
[60] Runge, Discourse Grammar, 135. Runge also notes, “There are twenty-four other instances in Matthew’s gospel where the HP and τότε co-occur, all used in narrative proper.” Runge, Discourse Grammar, 135.
[61] Levinsohn, Discourse Features, 203. Quoting John Callow, The Historical Present in Mark, Seminar Handout, 1996.
[62] John Nolland, The Gospel of Matthew: A Commentary on the Greek Text, New International Greek Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI; Carlisle: W.B. Eerdmans; Paternoster Press, 2005), 168.
[63] R. C. H. Lenski, The Interpretation of St. Matthew’s Gospel (Minneapolis, MN: Augsburg Publishing House, 1961), 157.
[64] Levinsohn, Discourse Features, 203.
[65] Levinsohn, Discourse Features, 97.
[66] Levinsohn, Discourse Features, 97.
[67] Levinsohn, Discourse Features, 97.
[68] Levinsohn, Discourse Features, 204.
[69] Levinsohn, Discourse Features, 96
[70] Levinsohn, Discourse Features, 97.
[71] Levinsohn, Discourse Features, 206.
[72] Levinsohn, Discourse Features, 206.
[73] It is interesting to note that Matthew’s gospel employs a total of 89 HPs, while Luke has only 12 HPs. See Campbell, Advances, 138-139.
[74] Runge, Discourse Grammar, 141
[75] Stephanie L. Black, “The Historic Present in Matthew: Beyond Speech Margins,” in Discourse Analysis and the New Testament: Approaches and Results (ed. Stanley E. Porter and Jeffrey T. Reed; JSNTSup 170; Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 1999), 135. Quoted in Runge, “Historical Present,” 198-199.
[76] “Discourse proper consists of direct discourse, which reports speech as though it is unfolding in real time; indirect discourse, which reports the content of speech or thought; and authorial discourse, which consists of the direct communication of the author to the reader by way of appeal or explanation.” Campbell, Advances, 125. Aorist verbs in Luke 4:1-13, excluding discourse proper, are as follow: Luke 4:1 ὑπέστρεψεν; 4:2 ἔφαγεν, ἐπείνασεν; 4:3 Εἶπεν; 4:4 ἀπεκρίθη; 4:5 ἔδειξεν; 4:6 εἶπεν; 4:8 εἶπεν; 4:9 Ἤγαγεν, ἔστησεν, εἶπεν; 4:12 εἶπεν; 4:13 ἀπέστη.
[77] Runge, Discourse Grammar, 150.
[78] Runge, Discourse Grammar, 154.
[79] In Matthew 4:7, Jesus’ answering, ἔφη, is parsed as an aorist active indicative 3rd person singular of φημί (I say, affirm), and not an imperfect. Robertson writes, “If one is surprised to see this verb put under the list of second aorists, he can turn to Blass, who says that it is “at once imperfect and aorist.” It is common in the N. T. as aorist (Mt. 4:7, for instance, ἔφη).” A. T. Robertson, A Grammar of the Greek New Testament in the Light of Historical Research (Logos Bible Software, 2006), 310–311.
[80] Runge, “Historical Present,” 220.
[81] Elizabeth Robar, “The Historical Present in NT Greek: An Exercise in Interpreting Matthew,” in The Greek Verb Revisited: A Fresh Approach for Biblical Exegesis, ed. Steven E. Runge and Christopher J. Fresch (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2016), 341.
[82] Robar, “The Historical Present,” 350.
[83] Robar defines “the scope of an HP as the discourse unit which it opens.” Robar, “The Historical Present,” 350.
[84] Runge, “Historical Present,” 219.
[85] Runge, “Historical Present,” 219.
[86] Campbell, Advances, 130.