Tense aorist

Glossary

Aorist - Aorist is a verb tense-form used to express an unspecified kind of action (in other words - only that some form of action has occurred or occurs), without reference to its duration or completeness.

In the indicative mood and aorist participles, the aorist tense generally refers to an unspecified kind of action that occurred in the past. The action is described as a whole (e.g., he wrote).

Example: Table V-TA-1 General example of Aorist tense

V-TA-1 Example Aorist tense John 1:3
πάντα δι’ αὐτοῦ ἐγένετο
panta di’ autou egeneto
all things through him it came into being

All things came into being through him

Article

Overview

The Tense of a verb is used to indicate the speaker’s perspective or viewpoint of:

  1. Aspect - the kind of action of the verb. The kind of action may be unspecified ( also known as simple or simply completed), continuous (also described as imperfective), or completed with an ongoing effect.
  • Aorist tense- In the aorist tense, aspect is used to express an unspecified kind of action (merely that it has occurred or occurs), without reference to its duration or completeness. It therefore may be used to refer to action that occurred in:
  • a moment (punctiliar action), or
  • action that occurred over a period of time (continuous), or
  • repeated action.
  1. Time - the time of action in the Aorist Tense
  • The principle use of the Aorist tense in the indicative mood and with participles is to refer to unspecified action (aspect) that occurred in the past. However, it can be used to describe an event:
  • that is occurring in the present, or has just been completed.
  • This would also include what is sometimes referred to as an epistolary aorist - where the writer describes his letter as already having been completed and delivered, or
  • an event that will occur in the future.
  • the Aorist tense may also be used for a Gnomic aorist which is used to present a timeless general fact that occurs regularly and so can be assumed to have occurred.

Form:

The basic form for a verb in the indicative Aorist tense is given in Table 4 (Primary and Secondary Endings of Verbs) , and Table 7 (Master Verb Tense Chart - The Aorist Tenses) of the Master paradigm.

See also:

The Paradigms also contain forms of verbs in the aorist tense for the subjunctive mood, imperative mood, participles, and infinitives.

See Paradigms:

In this section we will describe the formation of Verbs with a theme vowel in:

  • The 1st and 2nd Aorist Active Indicative
  • 1st and 2nd Aorist Middle Indicative, and
  • 1st and 2nd Aorist Passive indicative
The Koine Greek language has two ways of forming the Aorist Tense.
  • 1st Aorist, and
  • 2nd Aorist

There is no difference in meaning between a 1st Aorist verb and a 2nd Aorist Verb. They are both aorist verbs. If it helps, you may think of it as a room (the Aorist room) and the Aorist room has two doors. It does not matter which door you use to enter the room. In both cases the word is now in the Aorist room.

A 1st Aorist verb uses the same verbal stem that is used in the present tense.

A 2nd Aorist verb is first formed by making a change to the present tense stem for the verb. The change in the stem let’s the reader know that it is a 2nd Aorist verb.

Table V-TA-2 First Aorist Active Indicative for Thematic Verbs

Built on the verb λύω (I loose) and κρίνω (I judge)
Indicative Verbs (with a theme vowel)
Based on an Aorist Active Tense Stem
Table V-TA-2
1st Aorist Liquid Aorist
Singular
1 person ἔλυσα * ἔκρινα
2 person ἔλυσας ἔκρινας
3 person ἔλυσε(ν) ἔκρινε(ν)
Plural
1 person ἐλύσαμεν ἐκρίναμεν
2 person ἐλύσατε ἐκρίνατε
3 person ἔλυσαν ἔκριναν

[Note] * The Aorist tense formative for liquid aorist verbs is “ α ”. The sigma is dropped.
  • 1st person singular (ἔλυσα) - Where one would expect a nu (ν), the personal ending is dropped and so the tense formative stands by itself.
  • 3rd person singular [ἔλυσε (ν)] – The nu (ν) is dropped and the alpha (α) of the tense formative is changed to an epsilon (ε). If the following word begins with a vowel a moveable nu (ν) is added.

Table V-TA-2a Formation of First Aorist Active Indicative Thematic Verbs

Table V-TA-2a
Formation of 1st Aorist Active Indicative

for Thematic Verbs
Augment + 1st Aorist
Active
Tense Stem
+ Tense
Formative
+ Secondary
Active
Personal Ending
ε + λυ + σα /(α) + μεν -> ἐλύσαμεν
We loosed

The 1st Aorist Active Indicative for a verb is formed by using:

  1. Augment
  • for vowels that begin with a consonant the augment is ε
  • for vowels that begin with a vowel the beginning vowel lengthens and becomes:
  • an eta (η) for verbs beginning with an alpha (α) or an epsilon (ε), or
  • an omega (ω) for verbs beginning with an omicron (ο)
  • α -> η
  • ε -> η
  • ο -> ω
  1. plus the 1st aorist active tense stem (usually the same as the present tense stem)
  2. plus the aorist tense formative (“σα” or “α” with liquid verbs). Because the 1st aorist tense formative ends with a vowel no connecting vowel is required before adding the secondary personal ending.
  3. plus the appropriate secondary personal ending.
[Note]
  • Liquid verbs are verbs whose stem ends with a λ,μ.ν, or ρ.]
  • The Secondary Active personal endings are shown in the upper right quadrant (Quadrant 3) of the Verb Master Chart Table 4. (see below)

Table 4 Verb Master Chart Table 4 Primary and Secondary Endings of Verbs

Primary and Secondary Endings of Verbs
Table 4
Primary personal endings Secondary personal endings
regular alternate regular alternate
Active c.v. p.e. c.v. p.e.
1 singular λύω ο - μι ἔλυον ο ν
2 singular λύεις ε ς ἔλυες ε ς
3 singular λύει ε ι σι (ν) ἔλυε (ν) ε -
1 plural λύομεν ο μεν ἐλυόμεν ο μεν
2 plural λύετε ε τε ἐλύετε ε τε
3 plural λύουσι(ν) ο νσι (ν) ασι (ν) ἔλυον ο ν σαν
Middle/
passive
1 singular λύομαι ο μαι ἐλυόμην ο μην
2 singular λύῃ ε σαι ἐλύου ε σο
3 singular λύεται ε ται ἐλύετο ε το
1 plural λυόμεθα ο μεθα ἐλυόμεθα ο μεθα
2 plural λύεσθε ε σθε ἐλύεσθε ε σθε
3 plural λύονται ο νται ἐλύοντο ο ντο

Table V-TA-3 – Second Aorist Active Indicative

Build on the verb λάμβανω (I take, I receive)

Table V-TA-3
2nd Aorist Indicative verbs with a theme vowel
Based or Aorist Active Tense stem
2nd Aorist
Singular
1 person ἐλαβόμην
2 person ἐλάβου
3 person ἐλάβετο
Plural
1 person ἐλαβόμεθα
2 person ἐλάβεσθε
3 person ἐλάβοντο


Table V-TA-3a Formation of Indicative Verbs with a Theme Vowel Based on the Second Aorist Active Tense Stem

Table V-TA-3a
Formation of 2nd Aorist Active Indicative
for Thematic Verbs
Augment + 2nd Aorist
Active
Tense Stem
+ * Tense
Formative
+ Secondary
Active
Personal Ending
ε + * λαβ + ο/ε + μεν -> ἐλάβομεν
We took or We received

Note: * The present tense stem for λἀμβανω (λαμβαν-) has been changed to λαβ- to form the second aorist tense stem.

  • Because the second aorist active stem ends with a consonant, a connecting vowel is required.
  • No tense formative is required, because the change in the stem notifies the reader that this is a second aorist verb.
  • The second aorist uses the same connecting vowels as the present active indicative.

Form – Aorist Middle indicative verb

Table V-TA-4 illustrates the formation of typical Middle Aorist Active verbs with a Theme Vowel

Built on the verb λύω I loose) and γίνομαι (I become, I exist)
Table V-TA-4
Middle Voice
Aorist Indicative verbs with a theme vowel
Based or Aorist Active Tense stem
1st  Aorist 2nd Aorist
Singular
1 person ἐλυσάμην ἐγενόμην
2 person ἐλύσω ἐγένου
3 person ἐλύσατο ἐγένετο
Plural
1 person ἐλυσάμεθα ἐγενόμεθα
2 person ἐλύσασθε ἐγένεσθε
3 person ἐλύσαντο ἐγένοντο


Table V-TA-4a Formation of 1st Aorist Middle Indicative Thematic Verbs

Form: 1st Aorist Middle Indicative Verb is formed by:

Table V-TA-4a
Formation of 1st Aorist Middle Indicative Verbs
with a Theme Vowel
Augment + Active Aorist
Tense Stem
+ Tense
Formative
+ Secondary
Middle/Passive
Personal Ending
ε + λυ + σα + μεθα -> ἐλυσάμεθα
We loosed ourselves

[Note]: The First Aorist Middle Indicative verb is formed by:

  1. an Augment
  2. plus the First Aorist Active tense stem
  3. plus the Aorist Tense Formative,
  4. plus the appropriate secondary middle/passive personal ending

Table V-TA-4b Formation of 2nd Aorist Middle Indicative Verb

Table V-TA-4b shows how a Second Aorist Middle indicative verb is formed.

Table V-TA-4b
Formation of 2nd Aorist Middle Indicative Verbs
with a Theme Vowel
Augment + Active Aorist
Tense Stem
+ Connecting
Vowel
+ Secondary
Middle/Passive
Personal Ending
ε + γεν + ο + μεθα -> ἐγενόμεθα
We became

[Note]: The Second Aorist Middle Indicative verb is formed by:

  1. an Augment
  2. plus the Second Aorist Active tense stem
  3. plus the Connecting Vowel,(a tense formative is not needed because of the change in the stem from the present tense)
  4. plus the appropriate secondary middle/passive personal ending

Form – Aorist Passive indicative verb

Built on the verb λύω - I loose/untie/destroy; χαίρω - I rejoice

Table V-TA-5 Aorist Passive Verbs with a theme vowel

Table V-TA-5
Aorist Passive Verbs
with a Theme Vowel
based on the Aorist Passive Tense Stem
1st Aorist 2nd Aorist
Singular
1 person ἐλύθην ἐχάρην
2 person ἐλύθης ἐχάρης
3 person ἐλύθη ἐχάρη
Plural
1 person ἐλύθημεν ἐχάρημεν
2 person ἐλύθητε ἐχάρητε
3 person ἐλύθησαν ἐχάρησαν

Form: Table V-TA-5a Formation of 1st Aorist Passive Indicative for Thematic Verbs [based on λύω (I loosed)]

Table V-TA-5a
Formation of 1st Aorist Passive Indicative Verbs
with a Theme Vowel
Augment + Aorist Passive
Tense Stem
+ Tense
Formative
+ Secondary
Active
Personal Ending
ε + λυ + θη + ν -> ἐλύθην
I was loosed

The First Aorist Passive Indicative verb is formed by:

  1. an Augment
  2. plus the First Aorist Active tense stem
  3. plus the Tense Formative,
  4. plus the appropriate secondary active personal ending

[Note] - There is no need for a connecting vowel because the tense formative ends in eta (η).

[Note] – The aorist passive uses Secondary Active personal endings instead of the expected middle and passive endings.

Table V-TA-5b Formation of 2nd Aorist Passive Indicative for Thematic Verbs [Based on χαίρω (I rejoice)]

Table V-TA-5b
Formation of 2nd Aorist Passive Indicative Verbs
with a Theme Vowel
Augment + Aorist Passive
Tense Stem
+ Tense
Formative
+ Secondary
Active
Personal
Ending
ε + χαρ + η + ν -> ἐχάρην
I was glad

[Note] The θ is dropped from the tense formative.

[Note] The aorist passive uses Secondary Active endings instead of the expected middle and passive endings.

Table V-TA-6 Upper Right Hand Quadrant of Verb Master Chart 4

Table V-TA-6
Quadrant 2 of
Master Verb Chart 4
Active
Singular Connecting
Vowel
Primary
Personal
Ending
Alternative
Personal
Ending
1 person ἔλυον ο ν
2 person ἔλυες ε ς
3 person ἔλυε (ν) ε -
Plural
1 Person ἐλύομεν ο μεν
2 Person ἐλύετε ε τε
3 Person ἔλυον ο ν σαν

Table V-TA-6a Lower Right Hand Quadrant of Verb Master Chart 4

Table V-TA-6a
Quadrant 4 of
Master Verb Chart 4
Middle/Passive
Singular Connecting
Vowel
Primary
Personal
Ending
Alternative
Personal
Ending
1 person ἐλύομην ο μην
2 person ἐλύου ε (σ)ο
3 person ἐλύετο ε το
Plural
1 Person ἐλυόμεθα ο μεθα
2 Person ἐλύεσθε ε σθε
3 Person ἐλύοντο ο ντο

[Note]

  • The “-” in Table V-TA-6 indicates there is no personal ending.
  • The (σ) in the second person singular middle/passive endings in Table V-TA-6a is in parenthesis because it often is intervocalic (between two vowels) and therefore drops out. The resulting two vowels will then contract. “ε” and “ο” contract to “ου” as in ἐλύου.
  • ε + λυ + ε + σο then becomes
    ε + λυ + ε + ο (the sigma drops out) and then
    ε + λυ + ου (the ε and ο contract to form ου)

Examples:

Aorist as an indication of events having occurred in the past

  • Aorist indicative- 50 percent of the aorist verbs in the New Testament are Aorist indicative verbs.
  • Aorist verbs in the indicative mood generally represent an event that has occurred in the past with an unspecified aspect.

Example

V-TA-7 John 4:18
πέντε γὰρ ἄνδρας ἔσχες
pente gar andras esches
five for husbands you had

for you have had five husbands

V-TA 7a Rm 10:9
Θεὸς αὐτὸν ἤγειρεν ἐκ νεκρῶν
ho Theos auton ēgeiren ek nekrōn
The God him he raised from/out of dead

God raised him from the dead

Aorist Participles in the indicative

Participles in the Aorist indicative generally represent events that have occurred in the past.

Example:

V-TA 8 Acts 21:7
καὶ ἀσπασάμενοι τοὺς ἀδελφοὺς ἐμείναμεν ἡμέραν μίαν παρ’ αὐτοῖς.
kai aspasamenoi tous adelphous emeinamen hēmeran mian par’ autois.
And after we had greeted the brothers we remained day one with them.

and having greeted the brothers, we stayed with them for one day

[Note] This verse could also be translated “… after greeting the brothers, we stayed with them one day.”

In this example, ἀσπασάμενοι is an aorist middle participle; and ἐμείναμεν is an aorist active indicative.

It should also be remembered that the aspect is undefined. The greeting could have been short in duration or prolonged. In this case we know the duration of the stay. It was one day, because we are given this as additional information.

Aorist tense used for punctiliar action:
The Aorist tense may be used for action that occurs in an instant or moment.

Example:

Background for Mark 14:64: When the High Priest asked Jesus if He was the Christ, the Son of the Blessed one, Jesus responded with a simple “I am”. He also added a comment that they would see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of power. The High Priest then responds.

V-TA-9 Mark 14:64
ἠκούσατε τῆς βλασφημίας
ēkousate tēs blasphēmias
you heard the blasphemy

You heard the blasphemy.

The time frame for this action was very short. It was over in a second. That was all the time it took for Jesus to say Ἐγώ εἰμι (I am).

Aorist tense - action occurring over period of time

The aorist tense may also be used for events that occurred over a long period of time. Οἰκοδομήθη (it was built) is an aorist passive indicative verb.

Example:

V-TA-10 John 2:20
τεσσεράκοντα καὶ ἓξ ἔτεσιν οἰκοδομήθη ναὸς οὗτος
tesserakonta kai hex etesin oikodomēthē ho naos houtos
forty and six years was built the temple this

This temple was built in 46 years

Aorist Tense - repeated action

The Aorist tense can be used for action that is repeated.

Example:

V-TA-11 Matthew 7:22
Κύριε‘ Κύριε οὐ τῷ σῷ ὀνόματι ἐπροφητεύσαμεν
Kyrie‘ Kyrie ou onomati eprophēteusamen
Lord Lord not in your name we prophesied.

Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name

Aoristic - present

The aorist tense may be used to describe an event occurring in the present, or just completed. This also includes an Epistolary aorist where the writer describes his letter as already having been completed and delivered.

Example:

John the Baptist tells his followers while they are at the river being baptized.
V-TA-12 Mark 1:8
ἐγὼ ἐβάπτισα ὑμᾶς ὕδατι
egō ebaptisa hymas hydati
I I baptized you with water

I baptized you with water

Aoristic – future

The Aorist tense may be used to describe action that will occur in the future. Some have referred to this as the prophetic future (or an event that is so certain that it is described as if it had already occurred.) This may be overstating the case as the aorist tense simply presents an event as a completed action. Yet, using the aorist tense, which describes completed action, for something to occur in the future instead of the future tense does add a sense of certainty to the event.

Example:

V-TA-13 Romans 8:30
οὓς δὲ ἐδικαίωσεν τούτους καὶ ἐδόξασεν
hous de edikaiōsen toutous kai edoxasen
whom and he justified these also he glorified

And those whom he justified, these he also glorified.

Gnomic aorist

The Gnomic Aorist describes a generally accepted truth or fact that occurs regularly and so can be assumed to have occurred.

Example

V-TA-14 James 1:11
ἀνέτειλεν γὰρ ἥλιος καὶ ἐξήρανεν τὸν χόρτον
aneteilen gar ho hēlios kai exēranen ton chorton
it rises for the sun and it dries up the grass

For the sun roseand dried up the grass,

Note: [Or this can be translated “For the sun rises… and dries up the grass” It is not describing a single event that occurred one time in the past but just as this happens on a regular basis, “Thus also the rich will wither…” ]