Why is the indefinite aorist tense used in Luke 22:15 And he said unto them, With desire I have desired to eat this passover with you before I suffer... I am most interested in the hebraism used here as Ἐπιθυμίᾳ ἐπεθύμησα and why Luke chose to indefinitely render this verbage thus?

Please allow context of scripture to dictate the answer of specific Greek grammatical points. You deserve to have your answer voted down if you cut and paste general lexical information not relative to the exact phrase Ἐπιθυμίᾳ ἐπεθύμησα . Thanks

  • I can't contribute any great wisdom, except to note that it is almost a precise quotation (except for a change in the verb's person) of Genesis 31.30 LXX. Apr 16, 2019 at 19:46
  • Good thoughts, I will check into that as a source of information, but I'm specificly interested in why this grammatical tense is used.
    – Lowther
    Apr 16, 2019 at 21:15
  • I'm not even sure the "indefinite aorist" is a thing. It's just the aorist with an unusual, Hebraic modifier. Apr 18, 2019 at 12:45

1 Answer 1


It is indeed capturing a Hebraism. In Hebrew they would use the infinitive plus the relevant verb to express to a greater degree the action or emotion.

In Genesis 2:17, for the earliest example I'm aware of in Scripture, the Hebrew is מות תמות ("dying thou shalt die;" lit. "to die thou shalt die"). This is translated in Greek as θανάτῳ ἀποθανεῗσθε in the Greek Old Testament (dative, indicating "by" or "with" or "to," followed by the relevant tense verb, here future) which is best translated "thou shalt die the death."

The New Testament authors are no stranger to Hebraisms—the New Testament is almost written in a Greek unto itself, quite distinct from normal Koine Greek (inasmuch as Hebrew concepts and usages of words are imported to the point of making it quite difficult to understand for someone ignorant of Hebrew culture—it's probably best called Jewish Greek: a non-Jew would perhaps not know what's going on here with "with desire I have desired," and might consider it butchered Greek!).

For example, prayers or songs or sentences uttered in Hebrew, in order to indicate that they were spoken in said language, are usually recorded with the omission of the usual grammatical functors (most often the verb "to be").

E.g. "Hail, favored one! the Lord is with thee; blessed art thou among women" in Luke 1:28 in Greek lacks any "to be" verbs, and uses simply "μετα" ("with") to mimic the fact that in Hebrew, you would also omit the "to be" verb when saying "the Lord is with thee" and simply say "The Lord immak" ("the Lord with-you").

Therefore, if Christ spoke Hebrew, he would have said, "נכסף נכסףתי" (nikhsof nikhsafti) (desiring I have desired) which means, "I have greatly desired." Or in modern English, "I've been waiting so long to eat this Passover with you!"

The aorist is simply used because it denotes in Greek what Jesus did "with desire."

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