I have read answers to the question posed on this site "How should "gnorise" be translated in Romans 9:23?"

I would appreciate a little more insight into this Aorist Subjunctive verb. I'm no Greek scholar, so I'm a bit confused: Aorist is always past tense; there are the ideas of tense, time, and aspect; and Subjunctive has a hypothetical nature to it (v22 "what if God bore with patience... v23 ... in order that He might make known...").

I'm trying to ascertain if this "making known" refers to a one-time event (not continuing) that occurred in the past (like to Israel), or refers to a one-time event that will occur in Paul's present (first century Christians), or a one-time event in future (at the resurrection).

I'm thinking it's option 1 (all past): What if God bore with patience vessels of wrath so that He might make known riches upon vessels of mercy. (A hypothetical which describes God working in the past... what if He bore Pharaoh's obstinance so that He could make known mercy/glory to Israel).

This option might explain why Paul then says "even us"/"including us" in v24, to say "this was not just to make riches known in the past, but also to make them known to us right now."

  • Aorist is always past tense - No; the aorist is basically (the equivalent of) a gerund acting as an attribute, rather than a complement; e.g., the sentence he came at us guns blazing, with tears running down his face contains two aorist constructions.
    – Lucian
    Commented Oct 11, 2021 at 18:45
  • Thanks. I read Aorist is always past tense here: ancientgreek.pressbooks.com/chapter/31 "While both the IMPERFECT and AORIST tenses refer to past actions, and so are past tenses, they differ in ASPECT."
    – andrew g
    Commented Oct 12, 2021 at 16:18
  • Romans 9:27, for instance, provides three aorist constructions, accurately translated into English as attributes expressed through a gerund (right hand column).
    – Lucian
    Commented Oct 12, 2021 at 17:08
  • The aorist is not a tense. It is an aspect.
    – curiousdannii
    Commented Oct 14, 2021 at 0:01
  • @andrewg The aorist does not always mean past time - see these articles on the aorist by Bill Mounce. The aorist has several different uses (blueletterbible.org). In Rom 9:22-23, the gnomic aorist is likely in view.
    – Nhi
    Commented Oct 23, 2023 at 16:59

2 Answers 2


OP: Aorist is always past tense.

False. Aorist indicative is usually past tense.

Berean Literal Bible Romans 9:

23 that He might also make known the riches of His glory upon the vessels of mercy, which He prepared beforehand for glory,

Does Aorist Subjunctive "might make known" in Romans 9:23 refer to the past?

No, not necessarily. Aorist subjunctive relates to aspect, not time. It has to do with completion.

A better way to understand this particular verse is via hina subjunctive. This is not just aorist subjunctive but hina subjunctive.

ἵνα (hina)
Strong's 2443: In order that, so that. Probably from the same as the former part of heautou; in order that.

γνωρίσῃ (gnōrisē)
Verb - Aorist Subjunctive Active - 3rd Person Singular
Strong's 1107: To make known, declare, know, discover. From a derivative of ginosko; to make known; subjectively, to know.

This combination indicates a purpose clause: doing something in order that something else might happen. NIV Romans 9:

23 What if he did this [in order] to make the riches of his glory known to the objects of his mercy, whom he prepared in advance for glory

  • Up-voted +1. But references to Strong are not the best to make in regard to the finer points of Greek grammar, such as this particular question. Strong's is a concordance, not really even a lexicon and is not a Greek grammar. I would rather see reference made to such as Daniel B Wallace Beyond the Basics (for example). This is my own preference and opinion which may not be shared by others.
    – Nigel J
    Commented Oct 11, 2021 at 18:56
  • 2
    Is Wallace available online? I'd use whatever that is free and online :)
    – user35953
    Commented Oct 11, 2021 at 19:01
  • I doubt it. But it is well worth having in your private library. I am not a fan of the man himself (having enjoyed brief emails) and particularly regarding his views on textual criticism, but his grammar is very useful and in the top of its class (in my view). Not wasted money.
    – Nigel J
    Commented Oct 11, 2021 at 19:03
  • Soft copy or hard copy? How much?
    – user35953
    Commented Oct 11, 2021 at 19:06
  • I have no idea. I suggest trying Abe Books or Amazon.
    – Nigel J
    Commented Oct 12, 2021 at 2:24

Here is how Daniel Wallace summaries subjunctive with respect to time.

         Subjunctive, Optative, Imperative, Infinitive

Except in indirect discourse, time is not seen with these moods. Thus an aorist subjunctive would have a futuristic (or potential) flavor, while in the indicative it would have a past idea. We can say, then, that for the most part time is irrelevant or nonexistent in the oblique (nonindicative) moods.

To sum up: In general, time is absolute in the indicative, relative in the participle, and nonexistent in the other moods. -- Wallace, D. B. (1996). Greek Grammar beyond the Basics: An Exegetical Syntax of the New Testament (p. 498). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

"he has prepared" προητοίμασεν - aorist indicative is past

thus the purpose ἵνα (in order to) took was planned in the past, but

"make known-" γνωρίσῃ - aorist subjunctive was subjunctive because it was yet to happen in relation to "he has prepared." Present subjunctive would tend to indicate a continuous action. While "make known" wasn't a single even, they did occur as a group of single evens. That is snap shots:

What is meant by such verbiage is not that the aorist describes the action as occurring at a point (a notion that gave rise to the “once and for all” aorist), but that the aorist’s mode of presentation is punctiliar. In other words, the aorist takes something of a snapshot of the action. The action itself may be iterative, durative, progressive, etc., but the aorist refrains from describing such intricacies. -- Wallace, D. B. (1996). Greek Grammar beyond the Basics: An Exegetical Syntax of the New Testament (p. 11). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

While at least some events (Esau, Pharaoh) happened in the past, some of the events will be potentially during the second coming.

24, according to which the vessels of mercy are only partly among the Jews. Meyer must also here mix up the second coming of Christ, which he everywhere brings in, just as Dr. Baur does Clemens Romanus. “If, namely, God had not so patiently endured the σχεύη ὀργῆς, but had already permitted His penal judgment to be inflicted upon them (which must be regarded together with the second coming), He would have had no period to declare His glory to σχεύεσι ἐλέους.” That is, the final judgment, as the end of the period of mercy, would have been present with the complete penal judgment of Israel. The destruction of Jerusalem has certainly become a type of the end of the world, but not the end of the world itself. The Apostle presents us with an excellent exegesis of his own language, in chap. 11:11, 25; Acts 13:46, and also in other passages. -- Lange, J. P., Schaff, P., Fay, F. R., Hurst, J. F., & Riddle, M. B. (2008). A commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Romans (p. 321). Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

Further commentary:

Up to this point Paul had been speaking conditionally and objectively, but in verse 24 he was more direct—even us—because he and his readers were some of the vessels of mercy sovereignly chosen by God. God not only chose them but He also called them, including Jews and Gentiles. The point is that God’s sovereign choice was manifested not only in the Jews’ ancestry (in Isaac and Jacob, vv. 6–13), but also in Paul’s generation and today. To back up his conclusion and particularly the part about Gentiles, Paul quoted two verses from Hosea (2:23; 1:10). God directed Hosea to give his children symbolic names—one son Lo-Ammi (not my people) and the daughter Lo-Ruhamah (not … loved). These represented God’s abandonment of the Northern Kingdom of Israel to the Assyrian Captivity and Exile (Hosea 1:2–9). God was not permanently casting away the people of Israel, however. In the verses quoted by Paul God promised to restore them as His beloved and as His people. By ethnic heritage the Gentiles were not God’s people, so Paul was led by the Spirit of God to apply these verses to Gentiles—and Jews also—who were sovereignly chosen by God and called to be His people in Christ. The quotation of Hosea 2:23 is rather free with the order of the clauses reversed to fit the application to Gentiles. Paul was applying these verses from Hosea to the Gentiles, not reinterpreting them. He was not saying that Israel of the Old Testament is part of the church. -- Witmer, J. A. (1985). Romans. In J. F. Walvoord & R. B. Zuck (Eds.), The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures (Vol. 2, pp. 478–479). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.

P.S. Pardon my extensive quoting of Daniel Wallace. My Greek education was about the same time he took his. Thus, I didn't have the advantage of his studies as a Greek educator and the insight of his grammar. So, when I first started contributing here, it was with the mistakes he mentions in his grammar. Thus, I learned about Dr. Wallace's grammar here. Consequently, I need to depend on his grammar to update my Greek grammar.

  • To further clarify my original question, I believe this Subjunctive is used in a purpose clause (hina subjunctive as noted above). I have read that If the subjunctive mood is used in a ‘purpose’ (or in a ‘result’) clause, then the action should not be thought of as a possible result, but should be viewed as the stated outcome that will happen (or has happened) as a result of another stated action. So the construct is: What if God did (a) in order that (b) might result. My question is: is the stated outcome (might make known) something that will happen, or something that has happened.
    – andrew g
    Commented Oct 12, 2021 at 16:48
  • Might is probably the best way to express subjunctive of God's purpose. However what God purposes is more than possiblity.
    – Perry Webb
    Commented Oct 12, 2021 at 17:14
  • 1
    " My question is: is the stated outcome (might make known) something that will happen, or something that has happened. " It may well be both. From the context it has at least partially already happened.
    – Perry Webb
    Commented Oct 13, 2021 at 18:45
  • Agree - it may well be both... 1 Jn 3:5 - "He appeared so that He might take away sins". This is a past, present, and future activity.
    – andrew g
    Commented Oct 14, 2021 at 15:03

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