Bache’s Linguistic Framework and Selected Contrastive Examples: Runge on Contrastive Substitution and the Greek Verb (Part 4 of 6)

Early this week, Brian Renshaw and I began a six-part series on Steven Runge’s recent article, “Contrastive Substitution and the Greek Verb: Reassessing Porter’s Argument,” Novum Testamentum 56 (2014): 154–73. (see here)

In part I, we introduce the problem and define contrastive substitution.

In part II, Brian highlights the background and the reason Runge reexamines Stanley Porter’s analysis of contrastive substitution.

In part III, I highlight how Stanley Porter misrepresents Curtius and Collinge, two of three sources Porter uses to confirm contrastive substitution.

In the following post, I engage Stanley Porter and his final of three sources (Carl Bache). Prior to fully engaging Porter and Runge, I help clarify Bache’s four-fold linguistic framework for verbal semantics. As Steven Runge demonstrates, Porter fails to use Bache’s linguistic framework. When Porter provides his examples for atemporal semantics and contrastive substitution, Porter (1) conflates Bache’s final two categories and (2) is selective with his evidence to favor of his view.

Carl Bache’s Linguistic Principles

Carl Bache[1] is the final source Stanley Porter cites to support his theory of contrastive substitution.[2] However, in Verbal Aspect, Porter only provides the following information for Bache’s text: “Bache, Aspect, 1”[3] and “Bache, Aspect, 1ff.”[4] So, if perusing Bache’s text, one is left wondering how much to assume in the expression “ff.” In §1.1 and §2.2, Bache outline’s his linguistic principles for contrastive substitution. Also, in the same year, Bache published an article simplifying the same information[5]; however, this did not make Porter’s bibliography.[6]

The following is a simplified version of Bache’s basic framework. It is a “rough” classification framework to test a theory for semantic substitutional relationships.[7]

Bache1. –opposed

These forms have no clear counterpart.[8] In such cases, then, the speaker or author has no choice available for him to chose one aspectual form or another.[9] If no choice is available, then no special meaning can be assigned to such forms.[10] For example, stative verbs would be in this category. Also, according to Runge, the Aorist has no other non-past correspondent and it is no wonder the present verbal form is sometimes used.[11]

2. +opposed, –substitutable

This form does have a counterpart (hence +opposed), but it may not be substituted with another form. If substitutable, it then is “ungrammatical or unacceptable in the context of the sentence.”[12] In this category, perfective and imperfective categories would make a dramatic shift in meaning. Instantaneous, sudden, or complete actions prohibit any form of substition represented by an imperfective aspect.

Here is one example of a shift in meaning. Note the differences between perfective and imperfective aspect.

1a. She snatched up a sharp fruit knife.

1b. She was snatching up a sharp fruit knife.[13]

So, even though it is “theoretically” acceptable to have substitution, it is not free and would disrupt what is grammatically acceptable in the context.[14]

3. +opposed, +substitutable, +distinctive

In Bache’s third category, the distinguishable element is whether a clear distinction (+distinctive) is present. Here, ask yourself, “If I change verbal forms, will the replacement of aspect produce a visible change in meaning.” According to Bache, the substitution will result in a “definite change of propositional meaning.”[15]

Porter introduces his theory with two sets of three examples using the same word in three different aspects. Here he, rightly, provides one set.

Luke 21:10—τότε ἔλεγεν αὐτοῖς (then he was speaking to them)

Luke 20:31—εἶπεν δὲ πρὸς αὐτούς (he said to them)

Acts 20:38—τῷ λόγῳ ᾧ εἰρήκει (the word which he had spoke)[16]

Although the examples are brief, one can note the +distinctive between all three examples. The changes in aspect are clear enough to communicate differences in meaning.

4. +opposed, +substitutable, –distinctive

Bache’s final category hinges upon an inability to note a clear distinction (–distinctive) between verbal forms. If a verb form can be substituted with another verbal form with no clear distinction in meaning, then it is –distinctive. The historical present is great example for this category because of its mutual relationship with the aorist. As Bache clarifies, “the substitution of forms results in a notional change of a propositionally more or less neutral kind” so that the two variants are “really ‘saying the same thing but in different ways’.”[17]

Stanley Porter’s Conflation and Methodological Fallacy

Stanley Porter’s method begins to crumble by failing to utilize Bache’s four-fold framework. Bache serves as one of three authors used to support his position on contrastive substitution[18], but Porter fails to use the framework or distinctions discussed by Bache. So, Porter uses examples reflective of category 4 (–distinctive)—forms lacking a clear distinction—to argue for atemporal semantic features in Greek.[19] Consequently, Porter has two flaws: (1) conflating Bache’s third and forth categories and (2) using data only pertinent to category four to argue his position.

Porter lists the following present indicatives to argue for atemporal semantics:

Matt 8:25—Κύριε, … , ἀπολλύμεθα (Lord, … , we are perishing)

Mark 11:27—ἔρχονται πάλιν εἰς Ἱεροσόλυμα (They were coming again into Jerusalem)

Matt 26:18—πρὸς σὲ ποιῶ τὸ πάσχα μετὰ τῶν μαθητῶν μου (with you I am going to make the Passover with my disciples

Matt 7:19—πᾶν δένδρον μὴ ποιοῦν καρπὸν καλὸν ἐκκόπτεται καὶ εἰς πῦρ βάλλεται (every tree not making good fruit is cut off and thrown into the fire)

2 Cor 9:7—ἱλαρὸν γὰρ δότην ἀγαπᾷ ὁ θεός (for God loves a joyful giver)[20]

According to Runge, these examples “represent a collection of anomalies”[21], besides the first one. Mark 11:27 is a historical present which is a purposeful choice on behalf of the writer to communicate an aspectual mismatch for pragmatic reasons.[22]

Porter fails to adhere to the past/non-past temporal distinctions—reflective of modern linguistic discussions. Matt 26:18 reflects a futurative referent. The example does reflect the present as a non-past temporal idea. “His failure to adopt the more standard treatment of the Greek presents as ‘non-past’,” argues Runge, “effectively creates a straw man which enhances his argument.”[23]

The final two examples (Matt 7:19; 2 Cor 9:7) reflect a perfective present, and is already noted in Bache’s –opposition (category 1). Timeless/gnomic ideas reflect a –substitutable (category 2) “where the writer did not have a non-past perfective option.”[24]

Steven Runge’s Response

As opposed to Porter’s (1) conflation of categories and (2) selective examples, Runge argues that –distinctive examples (category 4) need to be discussed in relation to time, but not at the exclusion of +distinctive examples (category 3) with identifiable temporal distinctions.[25] Runge critiques Porter for beginning and ending his discussion of temporal semantic features only using –distinctive examples (category 4). Bache warns against such oversimplification of intertwining linguistic complexities.[26] Porter’s absolute categories silo such overlap of temporal and aspectual semantic features.

Second, Runge critiques Porter for lacking a “linguistically informed theoretical framework.”[27] Porter leads his readers to believe Collinge, Curtius, and Bache affirm his theory of contrastive substitution, but after part III and Bache’s theoretical discussion, Porter lacks such affirmation. A linguistic framework, according to Runge, would have kept Porter from using –distinctive examples (category 4) to argue against temporal semantics.

*     *     *     *     *

Porter’s authorial appeal to three authors (Collinge, Curtius, and Bache) fail to support his theory of contrastive substitution. As seen in this post and part III, Porter has not only misrepresented his sources, but also failed to adhere to a framework established by his sources. If Runge is correct, and we collectively think he is, one has to wonder if the same type of analysis holds true when Porter discusses “planes of discourse”, prominence, and other foundational elements of Porter’s theory.

Continue to stay tuned as Brian Renshaw interacts with Stephen Wallace, Runge, and Porter later this week. Wallace argues how it is nearly impossible to separate tense and aspect at the semantic level.


[1]Carl Bache, Verbal Aspect: A General Theory and Its Application to Present-Day English (Odense, DK: Odense University Press, 1985).

[2]Stanley E. Porter, Verbal Aspect in the Greek of the New Testament, with Reference to Tense and Mood, Studies in Biblical Greek 1 (New York: Peter Lang, 1989), 77, 83.

[3]Porter, Verbal Aspect, 77.

[4]Porter, Verbal Aspect, 83.

[5]Carl Bache, “The Semantics of Grammatical Categories: A Dialectial Approach,” Journal of Linguistics 21, no. 1 (1985): 51–77.

[6]Steven E. Runge, “Contrastive Substitution and the Greek Verb: Reassessing Porter’s Argument,” Novum Testamentum 56 (2014): 159.

[7]Bache, “Semantics of Grammatical Categories,” 64.

[8]Bache, “Semantics of Grammatical Categories,” 64.

[9]Runge, “Contrastive Substitution,” 159.

[10]Runge, “Contrastive Substitution,” 159.

[11]Runge, “Contrastive Substitution,” 159.

[12]Bache, “Semantics of Grammatical Categories,” 64–65.

[13]This is part of an example supplied by Bache, “Semantics of Grammatical Categories,” 65.

[14]Runge, “Contrastive Substitution,” 160.

[15]Bache, “Semantics of Grammatical Categories,” 65.

[16]Porter, Verbal Aspect, 83.

[17]Bache, “Semantics of Grammatical Categories,” 65 (emphasis in original).

[18]Porter, Verbal Aspect, 77, 83.

[19]Runge, “Contrastive Substitution,” 161.

[20]Porter, Verbal Aspect, 75.

[21]Runge, “Contrastive Substitution,” 162.

[22]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: Logos Bible Software, 2011), 191–223. Shawn J. Wilhite, “Revisiting the Historical Present: John 13 as a Test Case for the Prominence of Discourse Features” (presented at the ETS Southeast Regional Meeting, Birmingham, AL, 2014).

[23]Runge, “Contrastive Substitution,” 162.

[24]Runge, “Contrastive Substitution,” 163.

[25]Runge, “Contrastive Substitution,” 163.

[26]Bache, Verbal Aspect, 92.

[27]Runge, “Contrastive Substitution,” 163.


2 thoughts on “Bache’s Linguistic Framework and Selected Contrastive Examples: Runge on Contrastive Substitution and the Greek Verb (Part 4 of 6)

  1. Pingback: Porter’s Claims from Contrastive Substitution: Runge on Contrastive Substitution and the Greek Verb (part 5 of 6) | Doctrinae Coram Deo

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