What replaced the optative in Koine?

Biblical Greek morphology and syntax, aspect, linguistics, discourse analysis, and related topics
Mark Jeong
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Joined: February 6th, 2014, 3:25 pm

What replaced the optative in Koine?

Post by Mark Jeong » February 22nd, 2020, 10:59 pm

I've often heard that the optative gradually disappeared from spoken Koine and was replaced by the subjunctive, but none of the grammars actually list the functions of the optative under the subjunctive, since there don't seem to be any examples.

For example, what takes the role of the potential optative (Smyth 1824) in Koine? How would the following sentence be written/spoken in Koine? τοὺς ἵππους ἂν δοίη (he might give the horses/he should give the horses). I can't see the subjunctive filling the role of the optative here.

Or what about the optative of wish (S 1814)? How would this be said in Koine? τοὺς ἵππους λαβοίμεθα. (would that we could take the horses!)

The sentence examples are from here: https://ancientgreek.pressbooks.com/chapter/47/

It surprises me that the optative seems to be used so infrequently in the NT (except by Luke), but is not that uncommon in John Chrysostom's homilies, since Chrysostom doesn't seem to be much of an Atticizing author. Did the optative actually disappear as much as is often said, or is it that it's just less frequent in texts written by non-native Greek speakers? I know from personal experience working with learners of English that they find it very difficult to use "would" and "were" to express possibility/potentiality in English, so perhaps it was the same in Greek?
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Daniel Semler
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Re: What replaced the optative in Koine?

Post by Daniel Semler » February 23rd, 2020, 12:18 pm

Mark Jeong wrote:
February 22nd, 2020, 10:59 pm

For example, what takes the role of the potential optative (Smyth 1824) in Koine? How would the following sentence be written/spoken in Koine? τοὺς ἵππους ἂν δοίη (he might give the horses/he should give the horses). I can't see the subjunctive filling the role of the optative here.
BDF has this to say on the potential optative.
385. The potential optative.

(1) The optative with ἄν in a main clause denoting what is merely thought has disappeared from the vernacular. The few examples are literary language befitting the occasion; they are all in Lk: A 26:29 (Paul before Agrippa!) εὐξαίμην ἄν (with v.l. εὐξάμην S✱HLP al.; cf. Aeschin. 1.159); also the rhetorical direct questions: πῶς γὰρ ἂν δυναίμην A 8:31 and (as an utterance of the Athenians!) τί ἂν θέλοι ... οὗτος λέγειν 17:18 (17:20 DEHL ψ τί ἂν θέλοι ταῦτα εἶναι; cf. §386(1)). The future indicative is often used in the NT where in Attic a potential optative could have been used: R 3:6 ἐπεὶ πῶς κρινεῖ ὁ θεὸς τὸν κόσμον; The deliberative subjunctive also may substitute for the potential optative (§366(1)), also τάχα with the indicative (R 5:7, cf. Arnim 86; Scham 83).

(2) For the potential optative in hypothetical protases (without ἄν) there are, in addition to the formulaic εἰ τύχοι ‘it may be, for example’ in Paul (1 C 14:10, 15:37), only a few examples in Acts and 1 P (literary language), but it is never combined with a potential optative in the apodosis.

Additional Notes

(1) Fut. for potential (not unclass., §349(1), Buttmann 188) also 1 C 15:35 ἐρεῖ τις. Ἐβουλόμην is used for βουλοίμην ἄν (§359(2)). On the infrequency of the potential in the pap., LXX and Ap. Frs. s. Harsing 28; Reinhold 111; Mayser II 1, 290ff.; R. R. Ottley, A Handbook to the Sept. (London, 1920) 199f. (LXX opt. with ἄν virtually only in Gen and Job and nearly always in questions). The potential opt. can also be replaced by a pres. indic. with the meaning ‘would’ or ‘could’: πῶς ὑμεῖς παιδεύειν θέλετε; Herm Vis 3.9.10, τί ἔχω διψυχῆσαι; ‘how (what) could I doubt?’ 4.1.4. Τάχα: Homil Clem 13.21.2 ‘if it were not a law that no unbaptized person can enter the kingdom of God’, τάχα που τῶν ἐθνῶν οἱ πεπλανημένοι διὰ σωφροσύνην μόνον σωθῆναι ἐδύναντο.

F. Blass, A. Debrunner, and Robert W. Funk, A Greek Grammar of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature, Accordance electronic ed. (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1961), 194.
https://accordance.bible/link/read/BDF_Greek#4365
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Stirling Bartholomew
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Re: What replaced the optative in Koine?

Post by Stirling Bartholomew » February 23rd, 2020, 1:26 pm

optative... is not that uncommon in John Chrysostom's homilies, since Chrysostom doesn't seem to be much of an Atticizing author.
Athanasius occasionally uses the optative.

1. ATHANASIUS Theol. Expositiones in Psalmos {2035.061} Volume 27 page 313 line 50
τοιεν, φησὶν, οἱ τῆς ἐμῆς σφαγῆς ἐφιέμενοι, καὶ τὴν
ἐντεῦθεν αἰσχύνην καρπώσαιντο. (50)
Ἀποστραφήτωσαν εἰς τὰ ὀπίσω, κ.τ.λ. Καὶ πάλιν
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Stephen Carlson
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Re: What replaced the optative in Koine?

Post by Stephen Carlson » February 23rd, 2020, 6:07 pm

Stirling Bartholomew wrote:
February 23rd, 2020, 1:26 pm
optative... is not that uncommon in John Chrysostom's homilies, since Chrysostom doesn't seem to be much of an Atticizing author.
Athanasius occasionally uses the optative.
Papias used the optative (ἔλθοι).
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RandallButh
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Re: What replaced the optative in Koine?

Post by RandallButh » February 24th, 2020, 3:34 am

The optative is listed with a couple hundred verbs in the Greek Morphology book available at BiblicalLanguageCenter.com

For practical starters, a person can cover a lot of ground with εἴη and ἔχοι. Even σχοίη.
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MAubrey
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Re: What replaced the optative in Koine?

Post by MAubrey » February 24th, 2020, 4:14 pm

Mark Jeong wrote:
February 22nd, 2020, 10:59 pm
I've often heard that the optative gradually disappeared from spoken Koine and was replaced by the subjunctive, but none of the grammars actually list the functions of the optative under the subjunctive, since there don't seem to be any examples.

For example, what takes the role of the potential optative (Smyth 1824) in Koine? How would the following sentence be written/spoken in Koine? τοὺς ἵππους ἂν δοίη (he might give the horses/he should give the horses). I can't see the subjunctive filling the role of the optative here.

Or what about the optative of wish (S 1814)? How would this be said in Koine? τοὺς ἵππους λαβοίμεθα. (would that we could take the horses!)
Have you considered searching some grammars for the word "wish"?

Robertson, for example, has a discussion of the use of the aorist indicative being used for "wishes about the past and conditions determined as unfulfilled."

Reading his discussion on special uses of the indicative in chapter 19 (Mode) might be worthwhile.

There are also ways for Koine speakers to "wish" via lexical means rather than grammatical.
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Mark Jeong
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Re: What replaced the optative in Koine?

Post by Mark Jeong » February 26th, 2020, 10:34 am

Thanks for your responses. Based on what you've said and what I found in Robertson, what do you think about these Koine alternatives?

τοὺς ἵππους ἂν δοίη = τοὺς ἵππους τάχα δίδωσι / δεῖ αὐτὸν τοὺς ἵππους δοῦναι / ὀφείλει τοὺς ἵππους δοῦναι.

τοὺς ἵππους λαβοίμεθα = ὄφελον τοὺς ἵππους ἐλαμβάνομεν (Robertson says ὄφελον with an imperfect expresses a present wish, cf. 2 Cor 11:1; Rev 3:15).
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Stirling Bartholomew
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Re: What replaced the optative in Koine?

Post by Stirling Bartholomew » February 27th, 2020, 1:44 pm

Mark Jeong wrote:
February 26th, 2020, 10:34 am
Thanks for your responses. Based on what you've said and what I found in Robertson, what do you think about these Koine alternatives?

τοὺς ἵππους ἂν δοίη = τοὺς ἵππους τάχα δίδωσι / δεῖ αὐτὸν τοὺς ἵππους δοῦναι / ὀφείλει τοὺς ἵππους δοῦναι.

τοὺς ἵππους λαβοίμεθα = ὄφελον τοὺς ἵππους ἐλαμβάνομεν (Robertson says ὄφελον with an imperfect expresses a present wish, cf. 2 Cor 11:1; Rev 3:15).
Our friends who were involved with S.E. Porter at Roehampton Institute in the late 1990s had an expression, the exact wording I can't recall so I will paraphrase it: "Where you find a difference in surface structure, you will find a difference in meaning."

The way I would go about addressing the question "how is the optative employed in Koine would be a study of examples from texts in the Koine period. TLG has an open corpus which anyone can use. You need to register as a visitor. I used this to look at ἂν δοίη. Here is what I found.
5. APOLLONIUS DYSCOLUS Gramm. De constructione {0082.004} Part 2 volume 2 page 392 line 5
σθαι, κείρω—κερῶ, φθείρω—φθερῶ. καὶ εἰ τοῦτο, πῶς οὐκ ἂν
δοίημεν τὸ ἐὰν νείμω καὶ ἐὰν δείρω ὡς δὴ μόνου ἐστὶν ἀορίστου,   (5)
ὅπου γε τὸ ἀνεφικτότατον τοῦ μέλλοντος παρέλαβεν, λέγω δὲ τὴν
 
6. CHARITON Scr. Erot. De Chaerea et Callirhoe {0554.001} Book 1 chapter 1 section 9 line 3
⸢ἀκούσας καὶ “οἴχῃ⸣ δή μοι, τέκνον” <ἔφη>· “δῆλον γάρ ἐστιν ὅτι
Ἑρμοκράτης οὐκ ἂν δοίη σοὶ τὴν θυγατέρα ⸢τοσούτους ἔχ⸣ων μ̣ν̣η-
στῆρας ⸢πλουσίους⸣ κ̣α̣ὶ̣ βασιλεῖς. οὔκουν οὐδὲ πειρᾶσθαί σε δεῖ,
 
7. GREGORIUS NAZIANZENUS Theol. Contra Julianum imperatorem 1 (orat. 4) {2022.018} Volume 35 page 664 line 26
ἀδικοῦντας, οἷς καρτεροῦμεν πάσχοντες; Καίτοι κἂν    (25)
εἰ κακίαν δοίημεν αὐτοὺς κολάζειν ταῖς τοῦ
πλάσματος παραινέσεσι, ποῦ τὸ φθάσαι πρὸς τὰ
 
8. GREGORIUS NAZIANZENUS Theol. Contra Arianos et de seipso (orat. 33) {2022.041} Volume 36 page 232 line 31
ανθρώπου φιλάνθρωπα, ὡς δὲ καὶ τῶν Χριστοῦ πα-   (30)
θημάτων, οἷς τί τῶν μειζόνων ἂν δοίημεν, εἰ
Θεοῦ καὶ θανατωθέντος ὑπὲρ ἡμῶν, αὐτοὶ τοῖς
 
9. ORIGENES Theol. Selecta in Ezechielem (fragmenta e catenis) {2042.062} Volume 13 page 784 line 27
σάρκας μου· καὶ ἐκ τοῦ Ἰὼβ λέγοντος· Εἰ δὲ καὶ
εἶπον αἱ θεράπαιναί μου· Τίς ἂν δοίη ἡμῖν τῶν
σαρκῶν αὐτοῦ φαγεῖν, λιμοῦ χρηστοῦ ὄντος; Τοιαῦ-
 
10. JOANNES CHRYSOSTOMUS Scr. Eccl. In epistulam ii ad Corinthios (homiliae 1-30) {2062.157} Volume 61 page 495 line 29
καὶ τούτου χαλεπώτερον. Ὁ μὲν γὰρ ὠμὸς οὐκ ἂν
δοίη τῷ δεομένῳ· σὺ δὲ τούτου πλέον ποιεῖς· τοὺ
βουλομένους δοῦναι κωλύεις. Ὅταν γὰρ ἐκπομπεύῃς    (30)

11. JOANNES CHRYSOSTOMUS Scr. Eccl. Synopsis scripturae sacrae [Sp.] {2062.213} Volume 56 page 365 line 9
Ἐλεήσατέ με, ἐλεήσατε, ὦ φίλοι. Διατί με διώκετε,
ὥσπερ ὁ Κύριος; Τίς γὰρ ἂν δοίη γραφῆναι τὰ ῥή-
ματά μου; Παρὰ Κυρίου ταῦτά μοι συνετελέσθη.   (10)
 
13. CYRILLUS Alexandrinus Theol. Thesaurus de sancta consubstantiali trinitate {4090.109} Volume 75 page 45 line 11
θεοποιούμεθα. Εἰ τοίνυν Θεοῦ μετασχόντες κατὰ χά-   (10)
ριν, υἱοὶ Θεοῦ κεκλήμεθα, τίνος ἂν δοίημεν μετέχειν
τὸν Λόγον, ἵνα γένηται Υἱὸς ἢ Θεός; Ἡμεῖς μὲν γὰρ,

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C. Stirling Bartholomew

Mark Jeong
Posts: 12
Joined: February 6th, 2014, 3:25 pm

Re: What replaced the optative in Koine?

Post by Mark Jeong » February 27th, 2020, 11:22 pm

Stirling Bartholomew wrote:
February 27th, 2020, 1:44 pm
Mark Jeong wrote:
February 26th, 2020, 10:34 am
Thanks for your responses. Based on what you've said and what I found in Robertson, what do you think about these Koine alternatives?

τοὺς ἵππους ἂν δοίη = τοὺς ἵππους τάχα δίδωσι / δεῖ αὐτὸν τοὺς ἵππους δοῦναι / ὀφείλει τοὺς ἵππους δοῦναι.

τοὺς ἵππους λαβοίμεθα = ὄφελον τοὺς ἵππους ἐλαμβάνομεν (Robertson says ὄφελον with an imperfect expresses a present wish, cf. 2 Cor 11:1; Rev 3:15).
Our friends who were involved with S.E. Porter at Roehampton Institute in the late 1990s had an expression, the exact wording I can't recall so I will paraphrase it: "Where you find a difference in surface structure, you will find a difference in meaning."

The way I would go about addressing the question "how is the optative employed in Koine would be a study of examples from texts in the Koine period. TLG has an open corpus which anyone can use. You need to register as a visitor. I used this to look at ἂν δοίη. Here is what I found.
5. APOLLONIUS DYSCOLUS Gramm. De constructione {0082.004} Part 2 volume 2 page 392 line 5
σθαι, κείρω—κερῶ, φθείρω—φθερῶ. καὶ εἰ τοῦτο, πῶς οὐκ ἂν
δοίημεν τὸ ἐὰν νείμω καὶ ἐὰν δείρω ὡς δὴ μόνου ἐστὶν ἀορίστου,   (5)
ὅπου γε τὸ ἀνεφικτότατον τοῦ μέλλοντος παρέλαβεν, λέγω δὲ τὴν
 
6. CHARITON Scr. Erot. De Chaerea et Callirhoe {0554.001} Book 1 chapter 1 section 9 line 3
⸢ἀκούσας καὶ “οἴχῃ⸣ δή μοι, τέκνον” <ἔφη>· “δῆλον γάρ ἐστιν ὅτι
Ἑρμοκράτης οὐκ ἂν δοίη σοὶ τὴν θυγατέρα ⸢τοσούτους ἔχ⸣ων μ̣ν̣η-
στῆρας ⸢πλουσίους⸣ κ̣α̣ὶ̣ βασιλεῖς. οὔκουν οὐδὲ πειρᾶσθαί σε δεῖ,
 
7. GREGORIUS NAZIANZENUS Theol. Contra Julianum imperatorem 1 (orat. 4) {2022.018} Volume 35 page 664 line 26
ἀδικοῦντας, οἷς καρτεροῦμεν πάσχοντες; Καίτοι κἂν    (25)
εἰ κακίαν δοίημεν αὐτοὺς κολάζειν ταῖς τοῦ
πλάσματος παραινέσεσι, ποῦ τὸ φθάσαι πρὸς τὰ
 
8. GREGORIUS NAZIANZENUS Theol. Contra Arianos et de seipso (orat. 33) {2022.041} Volume 36 page 232 line 31
ανθρώπου φιλάνθρωπα, ὡς δὲ καὶ τῶν Χριστοῦ πα-   (30)
θημάτων, οἷς τί τῶν μειζόνων ἂν δοίημεν, εἰ
Θεοῦ καὶ θανατωθέντος ὑπὲρ ἡμῶν, αὐτοὶ τοῖς
 
9. ORIGENES Theol. Selecta in Ezechielem (fragmenta e catenis) {2042.062} Volume 13 page 784 line 27
σάρκας μου· καὶ ἐκ τοῦ Ἰὼβ λέγοντος· Εἰ δὲ καὶ
εἶπον αἱ θεράπαιναί μου· Τίς ἂν δοίη ἡμῖν τῶν
σαρκῶν αὐτοῦ φαγεῖν, λιμοῦ χρηστοῦ ὄντος; Τοιαῦ-
 
10. JOANNES CHRYSOSTOMUS Scr. Eccl. In epistulam ii ad Corinthios (homiliae 1-30) {2062.157} Volume 61 page 495 line 29
καὶ τούτου χαλεπώτερον. Ὁ μὲν γὰρ ὠμὸς οὐκ ἂν
δοίη τῷ δεομένῳ· σὺ δὲ τούτου πλέον ποιεῖς· τοὺ
βουλομένους δοῦναι κωλύεις. Ὅταν γὰρ ἐκπομπεύῃς    (30)

11. JOANNES CHRYSOSTOMUS Scr. Eccl. Synopsis scripturae sacrae [Sp.] {2062.213} Volume 56 page 365 line 9
Ἐλεήσατέ με, ἐλεήσατε, ὦ φίλοι. Διατί με διώκετε,
ὥσπερ ὁ Κύριος; Τίς γὰρ ἂν δοίη γραφῆναι τὰ ῥή-
ματά μου; Παρὰ Κυρίου ταῦτά μοι συνετελέσθη.   (10)
 
13. CYRILLUS Alexandrinus Theol. Thesaurus de sancta consubstantiali trinitate {4090.109} Volume 75 page 45 line 11
θεοποιούμεθα. Εἰ τοίνυν Θεοῦ μετασχόντες κατὰ χά-   (10)
ριν, υἱοὶ Θεοῦ κεκλήμεθα, τίνος ἂν δοίημεν μετέχειν
τὸν Λόγον, ἵνα γένηται Υἱὸς ἢ Θεός; Ἡμεῖς μὲν γὰρ,

Thanks Stirling. I have access to TLG and have seen ἂν δοίη in Koine texts, but I'm specifically interested in how these same ideas would have been communicated when the optative fell out of general use in the spoken vernacular. I know there are tons of examples of the optative in Josephus, for example, but Robertson and other grammars say these are "literary" uses that don't reflect the vernacular spoken Koine. The fact that the optative is not very common in Epictetus I take to be good evidence of this. If people don't agree that that's true then I'm open to learning more in that regard. Surely, people in the Koine period still expressed wishes and such when they no longer used the optative outside of certain set phrases (μὴ γένοιτο, εἴη, etc.), so I'm wondering what replaced it.
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Peng Huiguo
Posts: 93
Joined: April 28th, 2019, 2:02 am

Re: What replaced the optative in Koine?

Post by Peng Huiguo » February 28th, 2020, 6:51 am

Bare subjunctive maybe. In Oxyrhynchus Papyri IV 744, a letter from a workman in Alexandria to his wife, circa 1 BC:

εἴρηκας... ὅτι μή με ἐπιλάθης. πῶς δύναμαί σε ἐπιλαθεῖν; ἐρωτῶ σε οὖν ἵνα μὴ ἀγωνιάσης.

Note: fill in the iota subscripts. I copied it as it is.
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