The Aorist Tense
The Kind of Action:
The Aorist tense expresses punctiliar action. It states the action is accruing without indicating continued action. The time element is basically non-existence within the tense, expect for in the Indicative mode, and therefore relies upon the context.
The Constative Aorist
The action is seen as a single whole, without any emphasis on its progress. It may last but a moment, or it may last for a long time. It may have been one act, or it may have been a series of acts. The action is gathered together and presented as a point. The writer sees the whole action in a glance. This use occurs frequently in the New Testament.
The Ingressive Aorist
The action is denoted as having occurred, but the emphasis is placed on the beginning of the action, emphasizing the entrance into a state or a condition.
The Culminative Aorist
(Also may be known as the Consummative Aorist or the Effective Aorist)
This use conveys the results of an event, viewing it in its entirety. The event has occurred, but the emphasis is placed on the end of the action or on the state resulting from the action. It is often used with verbs which signify effort or process.
The Aorist of Historical Narrative
This use denotes past events in narration. It answers the question “what happened next?” This is the normal tense for narratives, unless there was a reason to use some other tense. It occurs frequently in the Gospels and Acts.
The Gnomic Aorist
This use denotes a generally accepted fact or truth which is so fixed in its certainty or axiomatic character that it is described by the Aorist. It does not represent the action as something that did happen, but as something that does happen. This use is rare in the New Testament. It is also difficult to distinguish between this use and the “Culminative Aorist.”
The Epistolary Aorist
The writer projects himself to the time when the letter is to be read by the recipients. He looks back at the letter from the reader’s perspective. One must simply change his point of view from the present and look back to the writer. It may refer to part of an epistle, or to the whole epistle, or to another epistle altogether. It usually will require a present tense translation. The context will decide on the translation.
The Dramatic Aorist
This use conveys an action which has just happened. It describes a present reality with all the certainty of a past event. The effect carries into the present. Adverbs of time are commonly employed to make clear the present relation of time. It was used for emphasis. The English present is used to translate this use.
The Futuristic Aorist
This use expresses a vivid transferal of the action to the future by the timeless Aorist. It is not a change in standpoint of the author and the reader, but the actual vivid transferal of the action to the future. It does not occur frequently in the New Testament. It is sometimes hard to distinguish between this use and the “Gnomic Aorist.”
The Perfective Aorist
This use articulates a present condition resulting from a past action. We would translate it with the English present. There are many examples in the New Testament. These may also be used as simple “Historical Aorist,” or as “Dramatic Aorist.”