Zerwick vs. Objective & Subjective Genitive

Jonathan Robie (jwrobie@mindspring.com)
Fri, 24 Jan 1997 09:52:33 -0500

While wrestling with genitives one more time, I was struck by the
differences between Wallace's treatment of genitive and the discussion in
Zerwick or BDR, especially with respect to subjective and objective
genitive. I see the same kinds of differences in our discussions here.

Wallace's grammar almost always takes a strongly analytical approach. He
sees subjective and objective genitive as clear categories, and suggests
litmus tests, e.g. "When an objective genitive is suspected, attempt to
convert the verbal noun to which the genitive is related into a verbal form
and turn the genitive into its direct object. Thus, for example, 'a
demonstration of his righteousness" in Rom 3:25 becomes "demonstrating his
righteousness'." (Wallace, p. 117)

Zerwick tends to be more synthetic. He does not list separate categories for
subjective and objective genitive. Instead, he refers to the "general
genitive". He mentions the two different possible meanings of phrases like
hH AGAPH TOU PATROS, but he says that "In interpreting the sacred text,
however, we must beware lest we sacrifice to clarity of meaning part of the
fulness of the meaning. For example, in hH GAR AGAPH TOU XRISTOU SUNEXEI
hHMAS (2 Cor 5.14), is XRISTOU an objective or a subjective genitive? We
must answer that neither of these alone corresponds fully to the sense of
the text; the objective genitive (Paul's love for Christ) does not suffice
for, apart from the fact that Paul usually renders the objective-genitive
sense by EIS (cf. Col 1.4), the reason which he adds speaks of the love
which Christ manifested for us in dyning for all men; nor is the subjective
genitive (Christ's love for us) fully satisfactory by itself, because the
love in question is a living force working in the spirit of the apostle. In
other words, we cannot simply classify this genitive under either heading
without neglecting a part of it's value" (Zerwick, p. 13)

So I looked up 2 Cor 5.14 in Wallace, and found that Wallace quotes Zerwick,
and creates a *new* category, the "plenary genitive", which describes
genitives that are simultaneously subjective and objective. And here,
Wallace suggests the possibility of intentional ambiguity, pregnant meaning,
double entendre. However, the "plenary genitive" neatly incorporates only
the combination of subjective and objective genitive. Zerwick's discussion
implies that it isn't that clean-cut: "...the fundamental force of the
genitive, namely the indication of the appurtenance of one notion to
another. The exact nature of that appurtenance, of the relation between the
notions, depends upon context and subject matter, so that of itself the use
of the genitive may have as many varieties as there are ways in which two
notions may be associated." (Zerwick, p. 14)

So I turned to BDR for an authoritative answer, and read: "Division into
objective genitive, subjective genitive, etc. is merely an attempt to
emphasize some of the many possible uses of the adnominal genitive".

Jonathan Robie
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