Re: Article-Article-Noun-Noun

M. Palmer (
Tue, 17 Dec 1996 11:53:33 -0500

On Sun, 15 Dec 1996, Paul Zellmer wrote:

> Micheal,
> Please help me out here, because my memory of my intermediate greek
> course must be failing me, and I am separated from my library. Please
> contrast the "subjective genitive" and the "genitive absolute." My
> faulty memory is trying to make these synonymous, and I cannot see how
> the "genitive absolute" fits for an adjectival use of the genitive.

Several others have already beat me to answering this request, but since
it was directed to me I will give my own version. If you've already read
enough on this topic, just delete this message and go on reading the
other b-greek posts!

Well. . .

The SUBJECTIVE GENITIVE is where (1) a noun, pronoun, or even an
adjective is used as a modifier of another noun in any case form, (2)
that other noun is what is often called a 'verbal' (or 'deverbal') noun
(i.e. one which expresses a verbal idea), and (3) the genitive case noun
bears a relationship to this verbal noun similar to the relationship a
subject would bear to the verb which expresses the same verbal idea.

For example:

2 Cor. 5:14 H. . . AGAPH TOU CRISTOU

where we may read TOU CRISTOU as the one who loves (the verbal idea
expressed by the noun AGAPH), or

from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus

It is clear here that TOU QEOU is related to AGAPHS in the same way that
O QEOUS would be related to AGAPAW in a parallel construction using a
verb. TOU QEOU, then, may be called a SUBJECTIVE genitive because it
functions like a SUBJECT would in relation to a verb.

The GENITIVE ABSOLUTE is a very different matter (though there is
potential for some overlap in certain examples). The genitive absolute is
a construction which in the New Testament occurs almost exclusively with
a participle. The participle is stated in the genitive case and its
SUBJECT is also stated in the genitive case. A good example is found in
Matthew 2:13

Now after they had left, an angel appeared in a dream to Joseph

Here the participle ANACWRHSANTWN is stated in the genitive case. The
pronoun AUTWN (also stated in the genitive case) serves as its subject.
Notice that the pronoun AUTWN is not coreferential with (does not refer
to the same person or thing as) any noun in the mail clause. "They" are
not the subject, direct object, or indirect object of the main clause
verb FAINETAI. While there are a few exceptions to this, I would estimate
that it is true in over 95% of the examples in the NT that the subject of
the genitive absolute construction bears no relation to the subject,
direct object or indirect object of the main clause. This is WHY it is
expressed in the genitive case. If it were coreferential with the
subject, the participial construction would be nominative. If it
referred to the same person as the direct object, the participial
construction would match the direct object in case, and so on. The
gentive is the 'default' case which is used when the participial
construction has no coreferent to determine its case.

The few exceptions to this may either be explained as lapses in grammar
or abrupt constructions designed to draw particular attention to the
coreferential noun in the main clause (by creating the false expectation
that there will not be one, then providing one). I think the lapse in
grammar explanation works best in most cases, but then again I can't go back
and ask the authors if they would reword their sentences if they had the

Micheal Palmer