Re: 1Co 1.18

David L. Moore (
Mon, 06 May 1996 10:39:48 -0400

Shaughn Daniel wrote:
> David:
> >> But, more importantly, how
> >> does one demonstrate what is middle and what is passive in the context? I'm
> >> leaning toward the position that BOTH forms are PASSIVE because of 1.19
> >> APOLW par APOLLUMENOIS and MWRIA par EMWRANEN. Both transitive verbs,
> >> hence, transitive participles, hence, passive objects, hence, one active
> >> person/thing being GOSPEL/CROSS/GOD.
> > Part of the reason for taking APOLLUMENOIS as middle and
> >SWZOMENOIS as passive
> >is that the lexicons classify them in these voices for the sorts of
> >contexts we have
> >here. (Cf. BAGD, s.v. APOLLUMI, #2; and s.v. SWiZO #2,b; L&S s.v.
> >APOLLUMI B; and
> >s.v. SWiZW #1.)
> The discussions have been going in two directions: a. the middle voice and
> the relative reflective nature of such and b. whether APOLLUMENOIS is
> transitive or intransitive. As far as I recall, everyone wants it to be
> middle (German "medium"). If it is middle, then what does that signify? Is
> the middle signifying that it has lost all reflexive meaning in Paul and/or
> never contained reflexive meaning for Paul (too long to go into now and
> perhaps beyond the interest of this list, but Paul's theology in Ro
> supports the idea that "all", both Jew and Gentile, with law and without
> law, are culpable)? If it is middle and NOT passive, then what does that
> signify?
> BAGD (I'm using the latest German version: the 6th edition reworked by Kurt
> and Barbara Aland), has divided the word APOLLUMI into 1. Active and 2.
> Medium and they gloss v. 18 with "d. Verlorenen" ("the lost ones"), which
> is the highest abstraction in language we get, I guess. The simple active
> statement has been transformed into a middle/passive participle. I'm trying
> to reconstruct the simple passive sentence of an ambiguous middle/passive
> participial construction to get to the simple active sentence. That would
> provide three possibilities:
> 1. "the lost ones": people are/become lost as a result of internal cause(s).
> 2. "the lost ones": people are/become lost as a result of external cause(s).
> 3. Both 1 and 2.
> Which result in these active sentences:
> 1. People lose themselves by depending on their own wisdom.
> 2. God destroys people by destroying their wisdom.
> 3. Both 1 and 2.

IMO, Paul is not concentrating on the agent when he says APOLLUMENOIS. His
focus is the state (in eternity) of those referred to. Philosophically, we could
probably say it is ultimately what God does that makes them lost - whether that be by
His construction of the universe at its creation (including its unchangeable moral laws)
or by His sending of Christ to redeem only those who accept the message of the cross.

The participle may have either verbal or substantival properties. I would opt
for a descriptive-substantival meaning here. That may be in part due to my theology,
for one can find in Paul's theology both the idea that God actively brings about the
destruction of the evil (Rom. 9:16-18) and that the lost are lost because they reject
salvation (Rom. 10:1-13).

> > Shaun's insistence on a purely reflexive meaning for the middle
> >voice is to take
> >too far the idea of the middle's calling special attention to the subject
> >(Robertson,
> >804). In fact, Turner indicates that, in Hellenistic Greek, the reflexive
> >middle is
> >relatively rare - especially so in the NT (Moulton, III:54).
> "Insistence" is too strong here. I believe I said that I was "leaning
> towards" the idea that APOLLUMENOIS is PASSIVE in the context as well. What
> I am insisting upon at the moment is that: a. APOLLUMENOIS is ambiguous in
> voice (EITHER middle OR passive as Friberg etal have) AND b. its idea of
> transitiveness/intransitiveness is best found in the context (APOLLUMENOIS
> being construed by vv. 19f) AND c. these participles can be expanded to
> their natural simple active states. APOLW is transitive in v. 19 and has
> GEGRAPTAI GAR which explains the ambiguous intransitive (?) APOLLUMENOIS of
> v. 18. The gloss "to perish" v. "to destroy" has been thrown around.
> "Perish" is "to pass away completely" or "to become destroyed or ruined".
> Webster categorizes that as "intransitive". Etymologically, they have the
> Latin perire, from per "to destruction" + ire "to go". That aside, "to pass
> away completely" and "to become destroyed or ruined" still entail the
> questions: why and by what means do they pass away and/or are becoming
> destroyed or ruined?
> > About the context in v. 19 and its influence on our understanding
> >of v. 18: Paul
> >is not saying here that God is destroying the wise-of-this-world but that
> >He is
> >destroying the worldly kind of wisdom by establishing a new kind of wisdom.
> I would formulate the statement as such: Paul is really saying that God has
> destroyed the worldly-wise (hence, they are APOLLUMENOIS, v. 18) by
> destroying (APOLW, v. 19) their wisdom. Of course, there are fluctuations
> here. Maybe "destroy" is too strong. The ideas range from "bringing to
> nothing" to "frustrate" to outright "destruction" (ranging from immediate
> to delayed or over time).
> > This
> > brings about the downfall of the worldly-wise, since their base of wisdom
> >is taken away.
> > But does that make God the cause of their destruction?
> Yes, in my opinion, it does make God the cause because the message is
> claimed to be of God and in turn destroys the means (worldly wisdom) by
> which the worldly-wise judge themselves, the world, and others. And, btw, I
> wish to express my appreciation for your interaction with me on this
> thread. It is definitely stimulating! =)

This matter is difficult to resolve, since the grammar is somewhat ambiguous. I
think how one interprets APOLLUMENOIS depends a great deal on one's theological
position concerning God's activity in the perdition of the lost. I would observe,
however, that APOLLUMENOIS in v. 18 has a different meaning than APOLW in v.19. The
latter refers to the overturning of a philosophical principle; the former to
all-encompassing loss of the person. APOLW in v. 19 only entails part of what is being
expressed by APOLLUMENOIS in v. 18.

David L. Moore                             Director
Miami, Florida, USA                        Department of Education                     Southeastern Spanish District            of the Assemblies of God