Meaning of ἀπέθανον ([all] died) in 2 Cor. 5:14

Semantic Range, Lexicography, and other approaches to word meaning - in general, or for particular words.
Shirley Rollinson
Posts: 347
Joined: June 4th, 2011, 6:19 pm
Location: New Mexico

Re: Meaning of ἀπέθανον ([all] died) in 2 Cor. 5:14

Post by Shirley Rollinson » April 18th, 2019, 5:52 pm

Friedrich de Wet wrote:
April 17th, 2019, 3:57 am
Thanks for the feedback!

This text just is a hard nut to crack. Sometimes I want to despair and wonder why God made some parts of the Bible so difficult to understand.
It keeps us from spiritual pride :-)
and it stops the brain from turning into a cabbage
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Barry Hofstetter
Posts: 1794
Joined: May 6th, 2011, 1:48 pm

Re: Meaning of ἀπέθανον ([all] died) in 2 Cor. 5:14

Post by Barry Hofstetter » April 19th, 2019, 8:27 am

Friedrich de Wet wrote:
April 18th, 2019, 8:01 am
I was wondering: So some people interpret ἀπέθανον as a potential death and others as an actual death (all are potentially saved or actually saved; @ Paul Nitz all have an actual meal or a potential meal)

Can one make an argument that since ἀπέθανον is in die indicative mood, that it is more plausible that Paul means an actual death; If he wanted to portray it as a potential death he could have used the subjuncive mood (ἵνα or ὥστε ἀποθάνωσι)?
We all feel your pain... :) Seriously, this is a good reminder that a knowledge of the Greek doesn't solve all the thorny theological problems, and it's possible to be quite good at Greek and still get it wrong (Arius is a good example from ancient times). Having said that (notice my English equivalent of a genitive absolute here), I think the Greek and helps a little and the context helps a lot.

 ἡ γὰρ ἀγάπη τοῦ Χριστοῦ συνέχει ἡμᾶς, κρίναντας τοῦτο, ὅτι εἷς ὑπὲρ πάντων ἀπέθανεν, ἄρα οἱ πάντες ἀπέθανον 15 καὶ ὑπὲρ πάντων ἀπέθανεν, ἵνα οἱ ζῶντες μηκέτι ἑαυτοῖς ζῶσιν ἀλλὰ τῷ ὑπὲρ αὐτῶν ἀποθανόντι καὶ ἐγερθέντι.

You raise a good point. ἀπέθανεν and ἀπέθανον and ἀπέθανεν, the main verbs carrying the weight of the passage, so to speak, are all indicative. The indicative mood doesn't deal with potentials. Greek uses the subjunctive and the optative for those sorts of statements. Paul uses the indicative for a reason -- he is presenting the action as confirmable past action. When in Greek someone wants to say something happened in the past, the indicative is your mood of choice.

Contextually, how does the Bible represent Christ's death? Well, it really happened, historically, in a way that if you were present at the cross, you could touch the cross and feel blood and splinters. Why then would ἀπέθανον be any different? The death of all is linked to the very real death of Christ, and is expressed in the same historic past narrative indicative as the Christ's death.

I am not sure at this point what "potential" death even means. To use your example above, when I'm hungry, I don't want a potential meal, I want a real one. I'm sure that people who argue "potential" are trying to preserve what they see as some sort of theological truth, but that doesn't seem to agree with the actual language or the overall context. Does the text raise theological problems? Sure, but theological problems have to be dealt with at the theological level, starting with the data of individual texts, and then looking at the biblical presentation on the topic as a whole (well beyond the purview of this forum, by way of reminder).
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N.E. Barry Hofstetter
Instructor of Latin
Jack M. Barrack Hebrew Academy
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