Conference papers I’m giving this year

4 05 2009

italy-rome-colosseumjpgFor those who may be interested, I’m giving the following papers at the following conferences this year. Come and say hi if you’re around.

In Sydney:

The Paradox of Paul Conference, Society for the Study of Early Christianity, Macquarie University

A Disconnected Epilogue?: The Relation of Ephesians 6:10–17 to the Rest of the Epistle.

Ephesians 6:10–17 has sometimes proved a conundrum for scholars who seek a coherent reading of the epistle. The main themes of the letter–participation with Christ, salvation, unity, church–do not appear to intersect with the picture of spiritual battle that is found in its closing section. Is 6:10–17 an epilogue that bears little inherent correspondence to the preceding five chapters? Or does it consist of subtle ties that require elucidation? This paper will argue that 6:10–17 is, in fact, inextricably woven from the fabric of the Epistle to the Ephesians. By exploring the notions of eschatology, corporate personality, and participation with Christ, this paper will seek to demonstrate that 6:10–17 not only coheres with the rest of the letter, but is in fact a compelling and masterful conclusion to this magisterial epistle.

In Rome:

Society of Biblical Literature International Meeting: Hellenistic Greek Language and Linguistics

Breaking Perfect Rules: The Traditional Understanding of the Greek Perfect

For some time, scholars have questioned the traditional Aktionsart understanding of the Greek perfect tense-form. The understanding that the Greek perfect communicates a past action with present consequences has come under fire from various quarters and for various reasons. While Greek scholarship is yet to reach a consensus on what the perfect does communicate, one issue that has almost reached the level of consensus is that the Aktionsart understanding is flawed. This paper will suggest that, as a community of scholars who are engaged with Greek, now is the time to leave the old behind. We may not yet see eye-to-eye on what the successor should be, but, it will be suggested, we now know enough to agree on this point. Rather than rehearse the various arguments that have been leveled against the Aktionsart approach to the perfect, most of which are easily accessible, this paper will mount a new type of argument against it. The argument is simple: translators choose to translate the Greek perfect “against the rules” most of the time.

Society of Biblical Literature International Meeting: Paul and Pauline Literature

A Disconnected Epilogue?: The Relation of Ephesians 6:10–17 to the Rest of the Epistle.

(same as above)

In New Orleans:

Society of Biblical Literature Annual Meeting: Biblical Greek Language and Linguistics

Verbal aspect in the Synoptic Gospels: idiolect, genre, and register

The Synoptic Gospels employ verbal aspect with varying patterns. From Mark’s frequent use of the historical present through to Luke’s sparing of the perfect indicative, the Synoptics provide a valuable case study through which to examine the use of verbal aspect within Greek narrative. This paper will explore the nexus between idiolect, genre, and register with respect to verbal aspect as it is employed within the Synoptics.

Posted by Con Campbell


Vale Ken McKay

14 03 2009

Kenneth L. McKay was the grandfather of Greek verbal aspect. First writing on the subject in 1965, he published numerous articles over the following thirty years, and was the author of A New Syntax of the Verb in New Testament Greek: An Aspectual Approach. Without a doubt, his was the major influence behind the ‘new aspect era’, launched by the works of Stanley Porter and Buist Fanning in 1989/90.

Ken died yesterday morning in Sydney of a sudden heart attack.

Ken was a lovely Christian man, who for 26 years lectured in classics at the ANU in Canberra, and was for many years the area chairman of AFES in that region. He leaves behind his wife Margaret, seven adult children, and a tribe of grandchildren.

His contribution to the study of New Testament Greek will, in time, be seen as one of the most important of the twentieth century. He will be greatly missed.

Posted by Con Campbell

Basics of Verbal Aspect (2)

30 11 2008



Well, it was great fun to blog at Zondervan’s Koinonia site a couple of weeks ago about Greek verbal aspect (check out the posts to get up to speed). Following that, I enjoyed meeting and talking to a number of Greek professors and teachers at the SBL conference in Boston. Most of the responses to my new book, Basics of Verbal Aspect in Biblical Greek, have been positive, and it was great to learn that several teachers in the US and UK will be using the book with their students. I hope this all goes towards bringing verbal aspect into the mainstream of Greek teaching and learning. 

There has, however, been some resistance to a “primer” on verbal aspect. The main reason seems to be that the “dust has not settled” on various aspect issues within academia, and so, it is claimed, a textbook that takes a particular “line” may be premature. Below I include one of my (slightly edited) responses to this kind of objection (see here for the original review and reply).

While some are concerned that the “dust has not settled” on verbal aspect, it has been pointed out that there a number of areas where a good consensus has been reached. These include a definition of verbal aspect, the role of Aktionsart categories, and the fact that aorist, present, and imperfect tense-forms are aspectually perfective and imperfective respectively. Yes, there is still some debate about the perfect and pluperfect, but all the aspect theorists agree that aspect provides a much more robust analysis than the old Aktionsart approach to the perfect, of a past action with present consequences. So even for the perfect there is agreement that aspect offers a better approach.
This leads me to my next observation, which is that the standard grammars that we all use (and, by the way, for which I have great respect) were all based on the new theories of their day. Aspect and Aktionsart studies had not “settled” when Robertson wrote his masterful tome. There was not a consensus at that time, and yet he dared to author an authoritative work, drawing on theories he believed to be best at the time. Nowadays some Greek users are so committed to the “traditional” way of understanding Greek, that they are reluctant to adopt the new theories of our day, even though that’s exactly what the earlier grammarians did. The heart of the problem is that waiting for all the answers is not the solution. Curtius didn’t have all the answers. Robertson didn’t have the answers. Chantraine didn’t have all the answers. But they were not claiming perfection; rather they were interested in improvement; in advancing our understanding. And so, in my humble opinion, waiting till “all the dust has settled” is a vain hope, and is expecting more than we’ve ever had before. We should be interested in advancing our understanding, and there is no doubt whatsoever that verbal aspect offers a genuine advance, even while some issues remain unresolved. My books are not intended to be the last word, neither are Porter’s, Fanning’s, Olsen’s, or Decker’s. But we need to listen carefully to each voice as each one offers enhanced understanding, continuing the legacy of the great ones before, who transformed the understanding of their day.

Con Campbell