Re: 1Co 1.18

Carl W. Conrad (
Sun, 5 May 1996 08:42:21 -0500

At 10:30 PM -0500 5/4/96, Shaughn Daniel wrote:
>>There's no question that SWZOMENOIS c o u l d be middle here, but it seems
>>to me that what is implied here is that the GOSPEL is the instrument
>>whereby we are being saved.
>AND IF this instrumental function is there, then is it not also "equally"
>implied that the LOGOS=GOSPEL is the instrument whereby others are
>destroyed? The Gospel is one thing (DUNAMIS) to one group of people
>(SWZOMENOIS) and another thing (MWRIA) to another group of people
>(APOLLUMENOIS). And it seems that the scripture quoted in 1.19 also bares
>this out: APOLW (transitive verb) THN SOFIAN (direct object) TWN SOFWN KAI
>THN SUNESIN (direct object) TWN SUNETWN AQETHSW (transitive verb). In other
>words, the LOGOS/GOSPEL/GOD is instrumental in forming two groups:
>destroyed ones and saved ones. It's theological nitpicking at this point, I
>suppose, but Paul talks about this all over the Hauptbriefe: branches being
>cut off and others grafted in, divine election with no accountability to
>man (Jacob I loved, Esau I hated), etc. My question: from the theological
>side, does this make sense and is it LOGICALLY argued from
>grammatical/syntactical grounds?
>>In sum, APOLLUMAI is closer to what we
>>traditionally deem "intransitive" than to a real middle voice, while SWZW
>>really does have all three traditional voices (even if the Passive IS a
>>secondary development out of the Middle, in synchronic terms the verb is
>>used in all three voices in the Hellenistic period).
>Fundamentally, how does one demonstrate that APOLLUMAI is "intransitive"
>here in 1Co 1.18? If it is "intransitive" or "transitive" is not something
>I'm going to die for, but it is important for demonstrating a couple of
>things at the moment: a. the destruction/cursing effect of the gospel and
>b. the dualism of Pauline theology in the Hauptbriefe. I know that this is
>taking a turn on things: in my original post, I may have been seeking to
>demonstrate that SWZOMENOIS was more middle than passive, but now it seems
>that APOLLUMENOIS is more passive than middle. Sorry for any confusion this
>may be causing.

Shaughn, I think that you have a fascinating hypothesis here, but I still
think that it is dubious precisely for the reason I offered above:
APOLLUMAI is intransitive. I don't have adequate reference works here with
me at home, but what I have doesn't seem to show ANY PASSIVE morphology for
this verb: can you find attested a form such as *APWLOQHN or *APWLOQHSOMAI?

Theoretically it may be argued (and I expect that you, Shaughn, will be the
very FIRST to argue it!) that APOLLUMAI may be PASSIVE IN MEANING even if
not in form; that is, in fact, what one of the reference books I DO have at
hand seems to indicate: Schmoller's Handkonkordanz offers under heading #2
a number of passages which it says are "vi passiva"--=in passive sense--and
equivalent to Latin PERIRE and DEPERIRE (which ARE, of course,

The more I look at this, the more it appears that your proposition holds
water (as opposed to being waterlogged--is that intransitive or passive?
;-) ). We would have to understand the form as morphologically middle but
passive in sense. Greek does these peculiar things which we learn as
idioms: KEIMAI is the form used to supply the pf.pass. of TIQHMI; PIPTW
serves as the passive of BALLW, etc.

It appears to me increasingly that our traditional language to describe
voice phenomena in Indo-European (or at least Greek and Latin) verbs is not
really serviceable for the phenomena we're talking about. A couple weeks
ago (or longer) on the Classics list there was reference to a new feminist
linguistic theory about "ergative" verbs--arguing that the distinctions
between active, middle, and passive are all governed by what was termed
"PHALLOGOCENTRISM"--evidently a feminist coinage for men who think with the
penises. Any linguist out there know more about this?

Carl W. Conrad
Department of Classics, Washington University
One Brookings Drive, St. Louis, MO, USA 63130
(314) 935-4018 OR