By Constantine Campbell / Zondervan
This book is a very important, although short, book. This book is an introduction to the idea of aspect. Wht is aspect, you might ask? To put it simply, aspect is viewpoint. The difficulties that Greek scholars have faced over the past hundred years or so is in achieving a description of Greek tenses that accounted for all the variety present in the Greek language. For instance, what does the aorist mean, intrinsically? Does it mean “point-like action?” Campbell says no. He gives examples of aorists that do not describe “point-like action.” He argues that such an idea can be part of what an aorist means, but that people who claim the above are confusing Aktionsart with aspect. Aktionsart is an exegetical conclusion, not a starting point. It refers to characteristics that verbs can have regard the nature of the action. Is the action point-like, repetitive (iterative), progressive, ingressive (initiatory), etc. Aspect, however, refers to viewpoint.
The two viewpoints are perfective aspect and imperfective aspect. He makes sure that this concept is not to be confused with the time of the action. Rather, it has to do with how the action is being described. His analogy is that of a reporter describing a parade. Perfective aspect is the view from the helicopter. It is a summary, and it is viewed from the outside. Imperfective aspect, on the other hand, is more vivid. It is the reporter being on the ground level describing the parade as it is happening. He argues, then, that the aorist has perfective aspect. It is a summary tense. The perfect tense, however, is imperfective in aspect (!). The difference is that the perfect tense describes a closer view, like a zoom lense. The pluperfect is also imperfective. However, it is much more remote. Similar evaluations of all the Greek tense-forms are presented in clear, non-jargonic language.
Why is this book so important? It offers a way to understand Greek tenses that makes sense of all the data, not just part of it. Furthermore, is offers clear conceptual categories with which we can understand Greek verbs. My own understanding was much sharpened by reading this book. Also, my ability to critique commentaries has been improved as well. This book will help prevent many unfortunate exegeses that base their erroneous conclusions on faulty understandings of the Greek tense-forms. It will help prevent over-reading the much abused aorist tense.
The reader must be proficient in Greek to get much out of the book. However, it is a perfect book for intermediate Greek students, as it includes a workbook within its pages (and an answer key, but don’t tell anyone!).
The reason why this book will transform commentaries is not so much that his conclusions are wholly original. It is not so much that as that he is able to explain this important theory in easy to understand language, and will thus influence pastors, not just scholars. For anyone who thinks he knows Greek, this book will be a big help.