Re: Article-Article-Noun-Noun

M. Palmer (
Sun, 15 Dec 1996 22:43:10 -0500

Because I was suddenly disconnected yesterday (or was it the day
before?), I thought I had lost the message included below. When I logged
on today, though, it was waiting for me as a postponed message, . . . so
here it is. . .

On Fri, 13 Dec 1996 wrote:

> I'm curious if anyone has some information or references on the construction
> in Greek in which a genitive article and noun is sandwiched between another
> article and noun.
> An example of this would be the righteousness of God in Rom 10:3
> thn tou qeou dikaiosunhv

It is important to distinguish between what we can say about the SYNTAX
of such constructions and what we can say about the SEMANTICS involved in
understanding their meaning.

First the syntax: The genitive article and noun function as a phrase
level modifier of the second noun (which I will call the *head* noun). The
genitive phrase is directly tied to the head noun and does not function
as a modifier of any other element in the sentence unless the head noun
also modifies that other element. [I have much more to say about
this--and with much more technical precision--in _Levels of Constituent
Structure in New Testament Greek_.]

Now for the semantics: The genitive phrase may hold any of several
different semantic roles (meanings) in relation to the head noun,
depending in large part on the meaning of that head noun. The example you
have chosen has a head noun (DIKAIOSUNH) which has the semantic force of
a verb (loosely speaking). The genitive noun could, in certain contexts,
hold the relationship of a subject to a verb. The phrase


could have a meaning (in certain contexts) which would imply a
relationship shared by "God" and "righteousness" in the clause "God is
righteous." (In the major grammars this reading is called a *subjective*

In other contexts, and sometimes even in the same context, TOU QEOU may
hold a relationship to DIKAIOSUNH which is much more closely related to
the phrase "from God" in the clause "Righteousness is from God."
(Strictly speaking, this is not exactly an *objective* gentive, but
something which we might call a genitive of source or one of the other
similar designations found in the grammars.)

I suspect that you would like to hear some of us defend one reading over
the other. To do that we would have to examine the context of Romans 10:3
carefully, and we should start by acknowledging that many have done so
before us and the debate is alive and well. The NRSV takes TOU QEOU in the
first example of THN TOU QEOU DIKAIOSUNHN as an expression of source:
"the righteousness that comes from God. . ." but takes the second example
(THi DIKAIOSUNi TOU QEOU) as expressing a subjective relation "they have
not submitted to *God's righteousness*." Here, "God's righteousness seems
to indicate the the way in which God is righteous (subjective genitive).

This reading seems reasonable to me, but I would have to do much more
study of the context to give a certain answer.

Micheal Palmer