Re: neuter plurals

Carl W. Conrad (
Thu, 28 Nov 1996 10:08:35 -0500

At 9:08 AM -0600 11/28/96, bill starkey wrote:
Mr. Conrad thank you for you reply. I was talking about NT Grk
>and the collective nature of the neuter plural sub and sing. verb.
>especially in John.

I'm not sure that there's a definitive answer to this question. In Classical Attic Greek all neuter plural subjects take singular verbs, and the reason MAY be that the neuter plural is thought of as a collectivity, comparable perhaps to the way we use terms like "the medical profession" when we are speaking collectively about all physicians rather than about the "profession" as such--and we use a singular verb for "the medical profession." I do know that Latin has a way of creating new 1st declension nouns out of what were originally neuter plural present active participles: e.g. ABUNDANTIA is a n. pl. ptc. of the Latin verb ABUNDARE, "to abound" and will mean something like "things abounding"--but later Latin turns that into a 1st declension fem. sg. noun ABUNDANTIA from which our word "abundance" derives and meaning, in fact, "the state or condition of abounding or overflowing in plenty." So I'm inclined to think that there's probably an Indo-European predilection for thinking of a as a collectivity constituting a singular subject that calls for a singular verb. I can't prove it, but that's what I think.

> Also, I am intrigued by the translation of ta as "things." For
>instance, how can "things" in 1C 2:12 ("the things freely given") be
>defined (enumerated) unless one knew the preceding verses or had
>remembered all the "things" Paul had told them. Once the "things" taught
>by human wisdom were defined then the spiritual "things" maybe defined.
> I maybe straining the gnat here, but before all the theological
>musings present themselves it seems to me that the grammatical aspects
>need defining.

Perhaps I can help you here--IF I understand your question rightly. First of all, TA doesn't mean "things"; rather, the article turns any kind of expression into a substantive: hOI NUN, = "men now" or "men of the present" ("men" because the article hOI is m. and plural, so it means "masculine ones now"); hAI TOTE, = "women at that time" ("women" because the article hAI is f. and plural, so it means "feminine ones at that time"); TA AGAQA = "good things" ("things" because the article is n. and pl., so it means "things, good ones").

Now in 1 Cor 2:12 XARISQENTA is n. pl. nom/acc, in this instance acc. because the article-participle phrase is the object of EIDWMEN. XARISQENTA as an aorist passive participle means "freely given," but it is the TA that makes it clear that we are talking about PARTICULAR ITEMS (even though they are not here defined) which are "freely given." Actually there is not much in the preceding verses in 1 Cor that will tell the reader just what things Paul is talking about (I don't think he really gets to it until chapter 12), but presumably the reader whom Paul is addressing in a Christian congregation can make an intelligent guess about those "spiritual gifts" that believers do not have by birth. Outside of that context of the readership, however, an ordinary person reading Paul's text would gather nothing from the phrase, TA XARISQENTA hHMIN, more than "things that were bestowed on us as a favor"--and it could refer to such presents as donated books, ten one-dollar bills--you name it. It's
"things" because the neuter plural article is used rather than the masculine, in which case you'd assume "male persons/creatures" or things referred to be masculine nouns, such as "words" (LOGOUS) or "garments" (XITWNAS).

Does that help any?

>Pfafftown (suburb of Winston-Salem), NC.