Another Perplexing Aspect Article, Part I

So I’ve been working through a relatively recent (2008) article on Aspect in Revelation 5, criticizing and critiquing it. And I had planned to post my comments online this weekend. The Article is David Mathewson’s “Verbal Aspect in the Apocalypse of John: An Analysis of Revelation 5″ (NovT 50 [2008]: 58-77), which I only found via Café Apocalypsis’ recent post praising the article: Mathewson on Verbal Aspect and Revelation 5. I have far less praise. In fact, I would say that Mathewson has thoroughly failed in his article. He’s too dependent on Porter & Porter’s absolutely incredibly misreading of the literature (see my posts HERE, HERE, HERE, HERE, & HERE <— in chronological order).

The article is currently available via Ingenta (though the PDF for the article is listed under the title for the following one): HERE.

But as I was reading through it once more this afternoon, I realized that Mathewson’s thesis is, in of itself, circular.

But before I show you this particular sentence, you need to remember a few points:

  1. Mathewson accepts Porter’s claim that Greek verbs don’t have tense – i.e. verbs only express aspect (page 61).
  2. Mathewson continues to use the word “tense” to refer to the wordforms – i.e. aorist tense (Ibid). But since in his view verbs only express aspect, we basically have this bizarre situation where “tense” = aspect.

Okay, now with those two points in mind, read this sentence:

It is the contention of this analysis that verbal aspect can sufficiently explain John’s usage of the tenses in chapter 5, and that appeals to temporal values (Mussies) or underlying Semitic substrates (Lancellotti, Thompson) are unnecessary, raising the need for further application of verbal aspect to other sections of the Apocalypse (page 62).

Now aside from the fact that Mathewson appears to have strangely misrepresented Mussies (his quote of Mussies view several pages [page 59] earlier is rather odd and somewhat slanted, but we’ll deal with that in another post), let’s look at this particular quote.

Remember Mathewson takes an Verbal Aspect only approach to the Greek verb & uses “Tense” to refer to the wordforms. In light of this, let’s re-read the sentence with that explicitly shown:

It is the contention of this analysis that verbal aspect can sufficiently explain John’s usage of the [Aspectual word-forms] in chapter 5, and that appeals to temporal values (Mussies) or underlying Semitic substrates (Lancellotti, Thompson) are unnecessary, raising the need for further application of verbal aspect to other sections of the Apocalypse (page 62).

That’s right, Verbal Aspect can explain John’s use of Verbal Aspect in Revelation 5!

It’s Perfect!! Why didn’t anyone think of this before???

In my next post, which because of this one will be delayed, we’ll deal more in depth with the theoretical underpinning’s Mathewson’s article, which I will show to be thoroughly flawed because of his dependence upon Porter & his minons.

As for the body of the article itself, well, it’s actually just fine even with the theoretical problems. And more importantly, it fits well with Mussies’ analysis which really has very little to do with tense and much more do to with genre (I haven’t read Thompson or Lancellotti, so I can’t speak for them).

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