negated imperative expresses prohibition. As is true generally outside the
indicative mood, μή
rather than οὐ
will typically be used to negate an imperative.
Μὴ θησαυρίζετε ὑμῖν
θησαυροὺς ἐπὶ τῆς γῆς
Do not store for
yourselves treasure on the earth
embedded in μηκέτι
in the following examples:
EXAMPLE 1, 2nd person (two
imperatives, on affirmed and one negated)
πορεύου, καὶ ἀπὸ τοῦ
νῦν μηκέτι ἁμάρτανε.
Go and from now on
no longer sin.
EXAMPLE 2, 3rd person
ὁ κλέπτων μηκέτι κλεπτέτω
The one who steals, no longer may he steal
Prohibition may also be expressed using
an aorist subjunctive. The
semantic difference between the negated aorist subjunctive and the
negated present imperative has been
exaggerated in not a few grammars including some notable ones.
(Robertson , p. 851, Moulton, p. 240, D&M, etc.) Specifically, it
has been said that the present imperative is used in prohibition
when the intent is "Stop what you are doing," and the aorist
subjunctive is used in prohibition when the intent is "Don't start
doing it." For a less simplistic but more accurate analysis, see
McKay (NovT 27  201-26) Naylor (Classical Review 19, 
26-30), and Mounce (p. 309), Wallace (p. 715), or Fanning
If we keep in mind the fact that the
present tense is fundamentally characterized by ongoing action and
the aorist tense is used without defining kind of action, we will
discern what distinction there is.
PRESENT TENSE IN PROHIBITION
Given that the present tense is
fundamentally characterized by ongoing action, a negated present
imperative verb could be used to prohibit the continuation of an
activity that is already in progress, but it could also be used to
prohibit the habitual activity though it is not in progress.
The former is clearly indicated in
John 8:11 because of the presence of
ἀπὸ τοῦ νῦν μηκέτι ἁμάρτανε.
From now on, sin no more!
[Cease doing what you have been doing]
But in 1 Peter 4:15 there is no
need to suppose the readers were presumed to be suffering already
as murderers, thieves, evildoers, and meddlers in other men's
matters, even though a present imperative is used in the
μὴ γάρ τις ὑμῶν πασχέτω ὡς φονεὺς ἢ κλέπτης ἢ κακοποιὸς
let none of you suffer as a murderer, or a thief, or an evildoer
AORIST TENSE IN PROHIBITION
In Greek generally, the aorist
imperative was rarely used in prohibitions (Smyth, p. 409,
§1840). It is found in the New
Testament (e.g. Mt. 24:17), but not often. In prohibitions, the
aorist subjunctive usually takes its place. The aorist imperative
as a prohibition
gives no hint of whether or not the activity is actually in
progress. (However, see Robertson, top of p. 852)
Μὴ νομίσητε ὅτι ἦλθον βαλεῖν εἰρήνην ἐπὶ τὴν γῆν.
Do not think that I came to cast peace upon the