http://biblehub.com/interlinear/luke/21-32.htm I was having an argument with my friend about this verse and he is saying the aorist tense in Greek means that the last word in this verse does not necessarily mean everything has completed just that everything has started to happen: 1096 [e] genētai γένηται . shall have taken place V-ASM-3S

He got this from looking up the aorist tense in the Merriam Webster dictionary: https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/aorist "an inflectional form of a verb typically denoting simple occurrence of an action without reference to its completeness, duration, or repetition"

However when I look at aorist on this site: http://www.ntgreek.net/lesson22.htm it says: "In English, the tense we use for this is the simple past. If I say, I hit the ball, I do not indicate the action was ongoing or repeated. . . . Consider the first of these pairs of sentences. If I say I was hitting the ball, that suggests I mean to describe a process, perhaps an iterative process, perhaps repeated hitting: I was hitting the ball well yesterday until the 14th hole. But if I say, I hit the ball well yesterday, it may be that I hit the ball only once, or it may be that I hit the ball several times. I conceive of the action as if it were punctiliar, but that doesn't mean it was punctiliar. I may say, I attended college. Most likely, this happened over a period of years. But I describe the action as a single, simple event without reference to the duration."

To me, it just seems to not describe the duration or whether it was repeated it doesn't mean that the action wasn't complete. So does it mean everything has happened or possibly just that everything has started?

EDIT: could this imply that the "all things" talked about here have multiple fulfillments? What are the major variations of the "double-fulfillment" hermeneutic?


3 Answers 3


What your friend seems to be referring to is called an "ingressive aorist" which does not seem to be covered by the lesson you cite but is in fact one of the ways the aorist is used. This is not really terribly different for how we often use the "past tense" in English, such as "In 2018 I entered college". Hopefully I didn't enter only once but rather "began attending" college. Here is Mounce introducing some of the ways the aorist is much more than simply "past tense":

...Because this is the basic genius of the aorist, it can have a phenomenally wide range of usage. You can be looking at the action as a whole but paying special attention to the beginning (“ingressive”) or to the end (“consummative”). It can describes something that simply is regardless of any time reference (“gnomic”).

But my favorite is to proleptic (futuristic) use of the aorist. Because time is secondary, the aorist can describe a future event and emphasize the certainty of the action. It is not a common usage, but it does show how we need to keep the idea of “time” in its proper place...


So your friend appears to be correct, that we might be looking at an ingressive aorist. Context will make it clearer which type of aorist we are dealing with.

The KJV seems to emphasize the completion, suggesting they take it as "consummative":

Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass away, till all be fulfilled.

That seems to be how it is generally rendered:


While I think this is a legitimate reading I might personally translate with a single word such as "until all these things occur" or "happen".

  • Thanks. Let me know if you have any ideas on how to decide from the context. Also is it possible that "this generation" supplies the time limitation not given by the aorist? would that push it towards the consummative aorist?
    – Zendasi
    Commented Jul 15, 2018 at 17:00

I think @Ruminator has answered very well. I also think that the key to understanding this passage is "all [these things]" (Gr: panta). All [these things] are those that Jesus has just been discussing starting at v6 such as: false christs, wars, famines, earthquakes, persecution, betrayals, Jerusalem surrounded, signs in the heavens, etc, etc. In the same discourse as recorded by Matthew 24:6, He says, "The end is not yet". Thus, both semantically and syntactically, there is no sense of a perfect completion as implied is some translations (eg, the NRSV, "have taken place"). Therefore, Ruminator's version I like the best.

  • Thanks. It seems you really have to decide based on context whether it is an ingressive aorist. Are you saying that because it has things in the plural "all things" including "wars," "false Christs" etc . . . that this would lend it to being ingressive? Couldn't it just be unspecific about the number of these type of events to be completed? However, I do understand your argument from Matt 24:6.
    – Zendasi
    Commented Jul 16, 2018 at 0:57
  • I think that Jesus' explicit comment should be noted that "all these things" will continue to occur until He returns. That is, there have been many wars, earthquakes, betrayals, persecutions but "the end is not yet".
    – user25930
    Commented Jul 16, 2018 at 21:51

So one possibility is that the last word in Luke 21:32 is the "aorist ingressive" meaning a change of state or the beginning of an action. The aorist does not imply this, it is just compatible with this: https://hermeneutics.stackexchange.com/a/8275 thanks to David https://hermeneutics.stackexchange.com/users/2215/d%c9%91v%c3%afd and the ingressive is one of the tenses of the aorist. According to Wallace in "Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics" page 768 the tenses of the aorist are:

Constative, Ingressive, Gnomic, Epistolary, Proleptic, Immediate Past/Dramatic


Or, to quote another source: "Aorist. A verb with punctiliar action, having perfective verbal aspect:

i] Constative = the point of action;
ii] Ingressive = the point at which the action begins
iii] Culminative = the point at which the action ends
iv] Gnomic = expressing a universal truth
v] Epistolary = the action is expressed in the time-frame of the reader.
vi] Dramatic = used to express dramatic effect
vii] Futuristic = an action in the future that is certain to occur."


These are treated as grammatical labels or tenses but it really seems to be something derived from the more general context: https://faculty.gordon.edu/hu/bi/ted_hildebrandt/new_testament_greek/text/mathewson-rethinkinggreekverbsaspect-2006html2.htm

Also Daniel B Wallace says Wallace page 558 Wallace page 559


It seems what mostly decides the tense here is what you think the context is and hence what your own eschatology would dictate.

Also, see this post on the same subject on the Christian Forums: https://www.christianforums.com/threads/luke-21-32-and-the-aorist-tense-in-greek.8073305/

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