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New Testament Greek
Course III
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  Lesson 3 Aorist Participles: Morphology, Syntax  

First, let's generalize our understanding of the endings used by active voice participles in all tenses, including aorist active participles. They are also the endings we will see in the aorist passive participles. (These are in fact the endings that we saw in the present active participles. Variations that occur in perfect active participles will be noted later.)

Endings used in Aorist Active and Passive Participles

    masculine    feminine   neuter
N/V   ν , ς1    σα   ν
G   ντος   σης   ντος
D   ντι   σῃ   ντι
A   ντα   σαν   ν
N/V   ντες   σαι   ντα
G   ντων   σων   ντων
D   σι   σαις   σι
A   ντας   σας   ντα

1 ν in present, 2nd aorist, and future; σ in 1st aorist and perfect

A Recap of how these were used in Present Active Participles

In the present active participles, the coupling vowel followed this rule: ο before μ or ν and ε otherwise. What that means of course is that the coupling vowel in present active participles is always ο inasmuch as it always precedes ν.

However, because of a loss of τ in the masculine nominative singular and in the masculine and neuter dative plural, there is a compensatory lengthening of the connecting vowel. (Click here to review this.)

In the masculine nominative singular, the ο lengthens to ω as in λύων.

In the masculine and neuter dative plural, dental τ drops out before σ, the ν also drops out, and there is compensatory lengthening of the exposed stem vowel, ο, to ου.

In the feminine forms of all cases (both singular and plural), ντ drops out, σ is added, and the preceding ο is lengthened to ου.

2nd Aorist Active Participles

2nd aorist active participles will look just like present active participles except that they will use the 2nd aorist stem. As noted previously, the augment associated with past time only occurs in the indicative mood. Accordingly, aorist participles will have no augment.

1st Aorist Active Participles

1st aorist participles, both active and passive (not middle) use the same endings, but they don't use the same connecting vowel. This is because 1st aorist participles have the σα that is characteristic of 1st aorist active indicative verbs. The endings from the table above are affixed to the 1st aorist stem after the characteristic σα

1st aorist active participles are formed as follows:

aorist stem + participle ending

Again, notice the absence of an augment.

In connection with the table of endings given above, consider aorist active participles formed on the aorist stem λυσα-:

    masculine   feminine   neuter
N/V   λύσα + ς   λύσα + σα   λῦσα + ν
G   λύσα + ντος   λυσά + σης   λύσα + ντος
D   λύσα + ντι   λυσά + σῃ   λύσα + ντι
A   λύσα + ντα   λύσα + σαν   λῦσα + ν
            The α is short throughout
the neuter singular, hence
the circumflex accents
N/V   λύσα + ντες   λύσα + σαι   λύσα + ντα
G   λυσά + ντων   λυσα + σῶν   λυσά + ντων
D   λύσα + σι   λυσά + σαις   λύσα + σι
A   λύσα + ντας   λυσά + σας   λύσα + ντα


Aorist Passive Participle

The aorist passive participle is built on the 6th principle part. Rather than being characterized by θη as in the indicative mood, the aorist passive participle is characterized by θε. Just as in the present active participle, consonants drop out and compensatory lengthening occurs in the masculine nominative singular and in the dative plural of the masculine and neuter forms as well as throughout the feminine forms. But where the connecting vowel of the present active participle is lengthened to either ω or  ου, the aorist passive participle is lengthened from ε to ει. But notice again that the endings (in blue) are the same as those we have already learned.

    masculine   feminine   neuter
N/V   λυθείς   λυθεσα   λυθν
G   λυθέντος   λυθείσης   λυθντος
D   λυθέντι   λυθείσῃ   λυθντι
A   λυθέντα   λυθεσαν   λυθν
N/V   λυθέντες   λυθεσαι   λυθντα
G   λυθέντων   λυθεισῶν   λυθντων
D   λυθεσι(ν)   λυθείσαις   λυθεσι(ν)
A   λυθέντας   λυθείσας   λυθντα


Aorist Middle Participle

Aorist middle participles do not use the endings given in the table at the beginning of this lesson. However, they do use the very familiar 1st and 2nd declension endings that you know so well by now. 1st aorist middle participles will have σα. 2nd aorist middle participles will have a connecting vowel. To the aorist stem (plus connecting vowel if 2nd aorist) is added the μεν which we saw in the present middle/passive participles, and then the appropriate 1st or 2nd declension ending is added.

Consider 1st aorist λυσάμενος:

aorist stem + μεν + 2nd declension ending

λυσα       +    μεν         +        ος                 


    masculine   feminine   neuter
N/V   λυσάμενος   λυσαμένη   λυσάμενον
G   λυσαμένου   λυσαμένης   λυσαμένου
D   λυσαμένῳ   λυσαμένῃ   λυσαμένῳ
A   λυσάμενον   λυσαμένην   λυσάμενον
N/V   λυσάμενοι   λυσάμεναι   λυσάμενα
G   λυσαμένων   λυσαμένων   λυσαμένων
D   λυσαμένοις   λυσαμέναις   λυσαμένοις
A   λυσαμένους   λυσαμένας   λυσάμενα


Consider 2nd aorist γενόμενος:

2nd aorist stem + connecting vowel + μεν + 2nd declension ending

   γεν        +           ο         +   μεν    +      ος        


  masculine feminine neuter
N/V γενόμενος γενομένη γενόμενον
G γενομένου γενομένης γενομένου
D γενομένῳ γενομένῃ γενομένῳ
A γενόμενον γενομένην γενόμενον
N/V γενόμενοι γενόμεναι γενόμενα
G γενομένων γενομένων γενομένων
D γενομένοις  γενομέναις γενομένοις
A γενομένους γενομένας γενόμενα



It is tempting to say that, whereas the present participle is used of action that is coincident with that of the main verb, the aorist participle is used of action that is antecedent to that of the main verb. However...

What we know of tense in general and of the aorist tense in particular remains true in the participle. Tense in Greek primarily has to do with kind of action, not time of action. And in the case of the aorist tense, even kind of action is left an open question. The aorist tense treats the action as a simple fact. Remember, "aorist" means indefinite.

So the aorist participle can be of service in many situations, whether the action in view is prior to or coincident with the action of the main verb, and whether the action denoted by the participle itself is punctiliar or ongoing. The aorist participle does not stipulate any of these; it allows for all of these.

That having been said, as a practical matter, the aorist participle is most often used of action that is in fact antecedent to the time of the main verb. (Ernest De Witt Burton discussed reasons for this in Moods and Tenses of New Testament Greek. See below.) But if context indicates the action was not antecedent to the time of the main verb, don't feel that the aorist participle forces you to translate it as if it were.

Action Prior to that of the Main Verb

Again, as a practical matter, most of the aorist participles you will encounter in this lesson, and indeed in the New Testament, can be well translated using language that sets the indicated action prior to the time of the action of the main verb.


ὁ θεὸς ὁ ποιήσας τὸν κόσμον καὶ πάντα τὰ ἐν αὐτῷ, οὗτος οὐρανοῦ καὶ γῆς ὑπάρχων κύριος οὐκ ἐν χειροποιήτοις ναοῖς κατοικεῖ  Ac. 17:24
The God who made the world and all the things in it, this one, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in a temple made with hands.

In this example, the making of the world, which is described using an aorist participle ποιήσας, occurred in the past relative to the present tense verb κατοικεῖ.

When an aorist participle is used adverbially, you will often find it appropriate to translate into English using the word "after," or perhaps "when," with the auxiliary verb "had" (e.g. "when he had looked up"), or simply the auxiliary verb "having" (e.g. having looked up). Each of these devices helps to set the action of the participle prior to the action of the main verb.


καὶ ἀναβλέψας ἔλεγεν, Βλέπω τοὺς ἀνθρώπους, ὅτι ὡς δένδρα ὁρῶ περιπατοῦντας. Mk. 8:24
And having looked up, he was saying, I see the men because as trees I perceive them walking.

The main verb is ἔλεγεν. The aorist participle is ἀναβλέψας. Either "when he had looked up" or "having looked up" indicates that the man looked up and thereafter, was saying something about what he saw.


Μετὰ ταῦτα χωρισθεὶς ἐκ τῶν Ἀθηνῶν ἦλθεν εἰς Κόρινθον. Ac. 18:1
After these things, having departed out of Athens, he came unto Corinth.


καὶ στήσαντες αὐτοὺς ἐν τῷ μέσῳ ἐπυνθάνοντο, Ἐν ποίᾳ δυνάμει ἢ ἐν ποίῳ ὀνόματι ἐποιήσατε τοῦτο ὑμεῖς;  Ac. 4:7
And having stood them in the midst they were inquiring, "By what power or in what name do you do this?"

Note that the aorist participle could indicate action that will be future from the perspective of the speaker, though still prior to the time of the main verb.


ὁ εὑρὼν τὴν ψυχὴν αὐτοῦ ἀπολέσει αὐτήν  Mt. 10:39
The one who finds his life will lose it.

Action Coincident with that of the Main Verb

However, the aorist participle is often used in contexts where there is no indication of time prior to the action of the main verb. Let's consider a particular participial phrase in several contexts. The phrase is ἐκτείνας τὴν χεῖρα. In Acts 26:1, it might be argued that Paul extended his hand as he began speaking (taking the imperfect ἀπελογεῖτο as inceptive):

τότε ὁ Παῦλος ἐκτείνας τὴν χεῖρα ἀπελογεῖτο Ac. 26:1b
Then Paul, extending [his] hand, began making his defense

In Mt. 8:3, should we regard extending the hand as preliminary to the action of touching, or is it perceived as part and parcel of the action of touching?

καὶ ἐκτείνας τὴν χεῖρα ἥψατο αὐτοῦ  Mt. 8:3a (cf. Mk. 1:41, Lk. 5:13)
and extending his hand, he took hold of him

In Mt. 14:31, the adverb εὐθέως ("immediately"), used to describe Jesus' rescue of Peter, suggests that all of the action, extending the hand and taking hold of Peter, is conceived as having occurred in an instant. Here we have little choice but to construe the extending of the hand as the means whereby Jesus caught him:

εὐθέως δὲ ὁ Ἰησοῦς ἐκτείνας τὴν χεῖρα ἐπελάβετο αὐτοῦ  Mt. 14:31a
and immediately Jesus, extending [his] hand, caught him

In the next example of ἐκτείνας τὴν χεῖρα, we also see another aorist participle:

καὶ ἰδοὺ εἷς τῶν μετὰ Ἰησοῦ ἐκτείνας τὴν χεῖρα ἀπέσπασεν τὴν μάχαιραν αὐτοῦ καὶ πατάξας τὸν δοῦλον τοῦ ἀρχιερέως ἀφεῖλεν αὐτοῦ τὸ ὠτίον. (Mt. 26:51)
And behold, one of those with Jesus, extending his hand drew his sword and striking the slave of the high priest he took off his ear.

Surely the striking of the slave (πατάξας τὸν δοῦλον) was the means of taking off his ear rather than some action accomplished prior to the removal of his ear. Similarly, extending the hand was the means of drawing the sword. And so in the end, we see that the aorist participle may be used of action coincident with that of the main verb just as is the present participle.


Burton on the Aorist Participle

(The following may be skipped for the time being, but at some point, it would be worth your while to come back and read this section.)

A cursory look at what some of the grammars say about the aorist participle may yield more confusion than enlightenment. The following statements are found in A Greek Grammar of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature, F. Blass and A. Debrunner, translated by Robert W. Funk.

"...the idea of relative past time became associated to a certain degree with the aorist participle" � 339, p. 174

"The notion of relative past time, however is not at all necessarily inherent in the aorist participle"  � 339,  p. 175

Similar seemingly divergent statements can be found in A Grammar of the Greek New Testament in the Light of Historical Research, by A. T. Robertson on pp. 1112ff. But if you look closely, what these statements are saying is that while antecedent action is not inherent in the aorist participle, it came to be routine to use the aorist participle for such, so much so that the idea of antecedent action was often associated with the aorist participle. Ernest De Will Burton explained this more thoroughly than some.

The assumption that the Aorist Participle properly denotes past time, from the point of view either of the speaker or of the principal verb, leads to constant misinterpretation of the form. The action denoted by the Aorist Participle may be past, present, or future with Reference to the speaker, and antecedent to, coincident with, or subsequent to, the action of the principal verb. The Aorist Participle, like the participles of the other tenses, may be most simply thought of as a noun or adjective, the designation of one who performs the action denoted by the verb, and like any other noun or adjective timeless. The distinction of the Aorist Participle is not that it expresses a different time-relation from that expressed by the Present or Perfect, but that it conceives of the action denoted by it, not as in progress (Present), nor as an existing result (Perfect), but as a simple fact. Such an adjective or noun will not ordinarily be used if contemporaneousness with the action of the principal verb is distinctly in mind, since contemporaneousness suggests action in progress, and action in progress is expressed, not by the Aorist, but by the Present tense. Nor will it be used when the mind distinctly contemplates the existence of the result of the action, it being the function, not of the Aorist, but of the Perfect, to express existing result. Nor, again, will the Aorist noun be used if the writer desires distinctly to indicate that the doer of the action will perform it in time subsequent to that of the principal verb, the Aorist being incapable in itself of suggesting subsequence or futurity.  But, when these cases have been excluded, there remains a considerable variety of relations to which the Aorist is applicable, the common mark of them all being that the action denoted by the participle is thought of simply as an event.  Among these various relations the case of action antecedent to that of the principal verb furnishes the largest number of instances. It is thus, numerically considered, the leading use of the Aorist Participle, and this fact has even to some extent reacted on the meaning of the tense, so that there is associated with the tense as a secondary, acquired, and wholly subordinate characteristic a certain suggestion of antecedence.  Yet this use is no more than the other uses a primary function of the tense, nor did it ever displace the others, or force them into a position of subordination or abnormality. The instances in which the action denoted by the participle is not antecedent to the action of the principal verb are as normal as that in which it is so, and were evidently so recognized alike in classical and in New Testament Greek. The Aorist Participle of Antecedent Action does not denote antecedence; it is used of antecedent action, where antecedence is implied, not by the Aorist tense as a tense of past time, but in some other way. [as found online at www.dabar.org/BurtonMoodsTenses/15-AOR-part.htm#132.]

Let's summarize what Burton has said in bullets, modifying his language for simplicity:

  • It is not accurate to say the Aorist Participle properly denotes past time.
  • The action denoted by the Aorist Participle may be past, present, or future either with reference to the speaker or relative to the leading verb. [Robertson denies that it is ever future relative to the leading verb, A Grammar of the Greek New Testament, p. 861ff.]
  • The Aorist Participle is distinguished from the present or perfect participle in terms of  kind of action, not time of action, in that it conceives of action not as in progress (Present), nor as an existing result (Perfect), but as a simple fact.
  • The aorist participle will not ordinarily be used when one wishes to indicate action as coincident with the leading verb, because that idea necessitates ongoing activity and is therefore better described by the present tense.
  • Nor will the aorist participle be used when the result of the action is especially in view, because that idea is best expressed by the perfect tense.
  • Nor will the Aorist be used if the writer desires distinctly to indicate that the doer of the action will perform it in time subsequent to that of the principal verb, the Aorist being incapable in itself of suggesting subsequence or futurity.
  • Excluding these instances, the aorist is useful in many instances when the action denoted by the participle is thought of simply as an event.
  • Action antecedent to that of the principal verb furnishes the largest number of these instances.
  • So it can be said action antecedent to that of the principal verb is the most frequent use of the Aorist Participle

If we continue with Burton, he goes on to suggest that in fact this usage may have had an impact on the meaning of the aorist participle itself. But in saying this, he seems to contradict the statement with which he began. From the perspective of descriptive grammar, it is either true that the aorist participle is characteristically used of antecedent action or it isn't true. I think we end up having to agree that it isn't true. It is true that the aorist participle is often used in this way; we can even say more often than not. But we cannot say it is characteristically so. Its use with antecedent meaning is not sufficiently consistent that we could say the meaning of the aorist participle (as opposed, say, to the present) is antecedent action. We can say that if one wishes to use a participle to describe antecedent action, the aorist is often better suited for such use than the present.

  Assignment for Lesson 3