Re: Accusative Absolute

Randy Leedy (
Mon, 20 Jan 1997 08:58:53 -0500

I've enjoyed reading Carl(ton) on the accusative absolute. A couple
more comments of my own.

Carlton wrote:

>>>The key question in an absolute construction is its relatedness to
a main clause. Basically it is "unrelated" (except in thought) to a
main clause. In the case of Eph. 1:18 James Brooks and I had
different ideas. It the relatedness is to the preceeding clause, it
looks a bit more like an absolute, but even there the indirect object
of the verb is the owner of the heart which is enlightened. If the
following clause is the one related (per NRSV), then it is clearly

It appears to me that Carlton is being much too vague in defining
"relatedness to a main clause." The first two Genitive Absolutes in
the NT might be defined otherwise if "relatedness" could be so
loosely understood. In Matt. 1:18, the subject of the absolute (THS
MHTROS) also "appears" in the main clause, as the understood subject
of hEUREQH. In v. 20, the Absolute's subject (AUTOU) refers to
Jospeh, who also appears in the main clause as AUTWi. Yet nobody will
argue that these are not clear instances of the Genitive Absolute.
The rule is follow is this: Does the WORD functioning as the
participle's subject also function within the governing clause? If it
does, then the construction is not absolute. An example is Mt. 1:22
(TOU PROFHTOU LEGONTOS), where the subject of the participle is
genitive due to its use as the object of DIA, not because the writer
wished to set off it and its participle as an absolute. I have found
this to be the best way to identify the absolute reliably.

To me, one important and natural sequence of questions in ptcp
analysis is this: Why is the ptcp in the case it is? (The answer is
that it agrees with the case of its "subject.") Why is the subject in
the case it is? If its case is determined by its use in the governing
clause, then I'm not looking at an absolute. If its case has no
grammatical connection with the governing clause, then an absolute it

So the question in Eph. 1:18 (and all other debated passages) is
whether the accusative noun 1) is actually the subject of the
participle and, if so, 2) whether its case is required by its use
withing the governing clause.

Here is where Carl's analysis of TOUS OFQALMOUS comes in:

OFQALMOUS are in apposition, parallel ways of expressing the same
notion alternatively, comparable to the poetic principle of Hebrew
liturgical poetry to which the style of this whole sequence seems
very much akin.

It had never occurred to me to take OFQALMOUS as an appositive to
PNEUMA, but it does indeed appear to be plausible. Carlton's example
from Acts 26:3 (GNWSTHN ONTA SE), though, sure looks to me like an
incontrovertible instance. I don't think I've seen Carl's alternative
explanation of that one yet, and even Carlton stopped short of
calling it the real McCoy. I apologize if in my haste I'm forgetting
something that's already appeared on the list, but I'm not yet ready
to give up the Accusative Absolute as a valid NT category of usage,
and I won't until I see all the potential examples explained
otherwise. I do agree, by the way, with Carl's understanding of Eph.
2:1 (hUMAS ONTAS NEKROUS); I think the key is in v. 5, where Paul
(*himself*, I believe) finally expresses what would have been the
main clause: ONTAS hMAS NEKROUS ... SUNEZWOPOIHSEN, where hMAS serves
as direct object of the main clause to which the pctp. is

In Love to God and Neighbor,
Randy Leedy
Bob Jones University
Greenville, SC