Re: genitives

Randy Leedy (
Fri, 24 Jan 1997 09:25:13 -0500

Micheal Palmer wrote:

>>>At 9:03 AM -0500 1/22/97, Randy Leedy wrote in response to Lee

>I would modify your model so it reads like this:
> A B C D
>the praise of the glory of the grace of him
>B, as I take it, is the abstraction modifying A, so I get "glorious
>praise." "Grace" could, I suppose, be taken as an abstraction, but
>certainly doesn't modify "praise," and it seems awkward to me to
>it as modifying "glory." Your "gracious glory" just doesn't cut it
>with me, but I can't quite put my finger on the reason. Rather,
>"grace" seems to me to be best taken as an objective genitive after
>"praise," and "His" as adnominal to "grace." The phrase ends up, in
>my view, as signifying "the glorious praise of His grace."

This proposal looks really interesting to me. I was myself about to
point out that one of the genitives might be taken as an objective
genitive when I read Randy's response. Randy's own proposal raises a
question for me, however. Do we have any clear examples where a
genitive must be taken as a "adjectival" genitive modifying a
deverbal noun like EPAINON ("glorious praise" in Randy's proposal)?

I'm not implying that we don't. I just can't remember them right off

I think there are some. I don't have a whole list ready, but in a
previous post I mentioned Hebrews 1:3, "The word of his power" i.e.,
"His powerful word." While "word" isn't purely verbal, it certainly
has a strong verbal element to it that can allow "his" to be
understood as a subjective genitive.

>>>What factors would argue for seeing DOXHS as a modifier of EPAINON
rather than THS CARITOS?

If I'm asking about something which has already been discussed, just
refer me to the archives. I've just started following this thread.

The archives may indeed be of help, but I'll comment anyway. I gather
you're suggesting the possibility of taking the phrase as "the praise
of his glorious grace," with DOXHS THS CARITOS back-transformed into
"grace is glorious," parallel to the back-transformation of "hardness
of heart" into "the heart is hard." I suppose this is possible. The
more I think about these genitive strings in Ephesians, the less
certain I am that Paul intended us to dissect them; I wonder whether
he just wants to create mental images that can be conveyed only by
stringing together several high-sounding words that, taken together,
form a more fully rounded concept than any single word could do.

To close, I'll re-post part of a message I sent in response to
Jonathan Robie's similar question. Though it contains some repetition
of what I've said above, it contains a few additional ideas that may
be of help.

The key to this use of the genitive is the fact that the genitive
word in question is semantically an abstraction that can be taken as
attributing a quality to the pre-genitive, and the second genitive
can also be construed with the original pre-genitive. When the first
genitive (the abstraction) is anarthrous, which is not always the
case, then the reasons for construing the grammar this way are all
the more convincing.

Another point: as best I recall, this construction usually ends with
a possessive pronoun, reflecting the pronominal suffix in Hebrew,
which cannot attach to the original pregenitive. A noun with a
pronominal suffix cannot be in construct to another noun (putting a
noun in the construct state, which is something roughly akin to a
case inflection, is Hebrew's way of indicating that the following
word is to be understood as a genitive). So if the Hebrew writer
wants to say "His powerful word," and he doesn't have an adjective
meaning "powerful," he's in a dilemma. He can say "his word," but he
can't put that expression in construct to the noun "power" in order
to say "his word of power." He has to leave the suffix until the end
of the expression and say "the word of the power of him"; i.e., "the
word of his power" or "his powerful word." Notice that the expression
"of his power" should not be taken as a topical genitive explaining
the content of the message represented by "word." Rather, "word"
represents the act of speaking; "his" is a subjective genitive, and
"of power" is descriptive. The context of the Hebrews passage I cited
earlier (1:3) demands this understanding of the phrase.

In a nutshell, with any given string of genitives involving an
abstraction in the middle position and ending with a personal
pronoun, try taking the abstraction as an adjective and construing
any subsequent genitives with the original pre-genitive. If this
construction seems to yield good sense, you're grammatically
justified in taking it that way. I hope this is clear enough and
accurate enough to be of help. If refinements or corrections are in
order, I'm sure someone will step in.

Here ends my previous post, and I'll add a correction of my own. I
think I was too provincial in saying that the Hebrew speaker/writer
faced a dilemma; I doubt that he felt any dilemma at all, since the
kind of construction I described is common. It's awkward and unclear
only to us non-Semitic speakers to whom that sort of phraseology is

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