How to Identify a Permissive/Causative Middle Voice Verb?

Grammar questions which are not related to any specific text.
R. Perkins
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How to Identify a Permissive/Causative Middle Voice Verb?

Post by R. Perkins » February 11th, 2018, 6:12 am

Hope this is an acceptable location to place this, but, just a quick question.

I heard an assertion from a Greek student yesterday that κείρασθαι in I Cor. 11.6 appears as either a permissive or causative middle voice. Having only Greek I under my belt I am not clear on how to identify the various forms of the parsings (e.g., voice, mood, tense, case, etc.).

That is, how does one determine what form the middle voice takes in this text? I am assuming context, but, as we know, what one person view as a particular context another person views as another context.

And, I rarely read of these various forms in the exegesis’s that I have. Most of the time I simply read the syntactical relationships - but not much about various forms of the morphological tags (e.g., genitive of origin, etc.).

Finally, this same student asserted that κείρασθαι in this passage (I Cor. 11.6) is not a “true middle”...which I have not read anywhere (of course, that doesn’t mean he’s not correct). Again, my query would be how can we recognize whether this is accurate or not?

Love reading on this forum & the willingness to help those like myself.

Robert Emil Berge
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Re: How to Identify a Permissive/Causative Middle Voice Verb?

Post by Robert Emil Berge » February 11th, 2018, 7:34 am

Interpretation is always subjective since there is no way of being certain where there is ambiguity, and there is always ambiguity. I often find that such technical terms can be useful for analysing how the language itself works, but that they become obstacles when trying to understand an actual text. Here the text is silent on whether the hypothetical woman cuts her own hair or if she has someone do it for her, so we must assume that this distinction is beside the point. What matters is that the hair is short in the end. That said, if you check a dictionary you might get a sense of the most usual senses the middle has for this specific verb. For κείρασθαι one normal sense seems to be "to have a haircut".

Barry Hofstetter
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Re: How to Identify a Permissive/Causative Middle Voice Verb?

Post by Barry Hofstetter » February 11th, 2018, 9:43 am

Well, with all due respect to the Greek student, there is no such thing as a "permissive/causative middle voice verb." One could argue that a particular usage might be permissive or causative from context, but nothing in the form of the verb tells you that. Similarly, to use your example, nothing is "morphologically tagged" for "genitive of origin." The genitive, yes, that's morphology. Origin, however, would have to be determined from context.

Generally, when people start talking like this, there is an underlying theological point they either want to justify or destroy. While at the right place and time such discussion may be valuable, it's important to remember the distinctions between language, exegesis, hermeneutics and theology. Each has something major to contribute, but problems ensue when they are confused, such as creating exegetical categories to fit certain verses.
N.E. Barry Hofstetter
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Jack M. Barrack Hebrew Academy
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Stirling Bartholomew
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Re: How to Identify a Permissive/Causative Middle Voice Verb?

Post by Stirling Bartholomew » February 11th, 2018, 1:05 pm

Barry Hofstetter wrote:
February 11th, 2018, 9:43 am
there is no such thing as a "permissive/causative middle voice verb."
It appears to be a semantic functional category employed by some grammarians. There's no problem finding references to and discussions[1] of the permissive and/or causative middle voice verb in grammatical literature. Apparently Wallace GGBB talks about it but didn't invent it. There's no formal marking involved. Semantic functional categories have been considered topics suitable for inclusion in grammatical discussions for eons. Identification involves exegesis.



[1]A search on: permissive causative middle voice unearthed numerous resources including discussions of Slavic languages and biblical Greek.
Neither is the permissive label particularly lucid. The permissive sense of the middle is considered as closely allied to the causative and approaches the passive.2 This permissive middle has been more clearly defined as representing the agent as voluntarily yielding himself to the results of the action, or seeking to secure the results of the action, or seeking to secure the results of the action in his own interest.3 Simply stated, the action takes place by order or with permission of the subject.4
https://faculty.gordon.edu/hu/bi/ted_hi ... oice01.pdf
C. Stirling Bartholomew

timothy_p_mcmahon
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Re: How to Identify a Permissive/Causative Middle Voice Verb?

Post by timothy_p_mcmahon » February 12th, 2018, 1:34 am

Barry Hofstetter wrote:
February 11th, 2018, 9:43 am
Generally, when people start talking like this, there is an underlying theological point they either want to justify or destroy.
Barry has hit the nail on the head.

It's possible that in a particular instance the middle voice carries the idea of the subject interacting with another agent in a way that involves causation, permission or some other sort of bringing influence to bear. But it's not a grammatical category, and certainly not a morphological one. It's frustrating how many times you'll hear or read someone asserting that one possible interpretation of a Greek text is the only possible one.

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Re: How to Identify a Permissive/Causative Middle Voice Verb?

Post by Eeli Kaikkonen » February 12th, 2018, 4:05 am

I agree with other criticisms here. Also it's good to be careful about how these statements are express, both when saying them and when seeing/hearing them. A good, responsible exegete would never say "this is a permissive middle, therefore...". Unfortunately you will often see even good exegetes expressing things so that it's not clear that they have decided by interpreting the context (co-text and historical, cultural etc. context) that something can be categorized as such-and-such. Not-so-good "exegetes" then interpret what have been said and think that "this is such-and-such, therefore this action involved..." While the original thought was "in this context this specific action involved this and that, therefore it can be said to be such-and-such..."

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Re: How to Identify a Permissive/Causative Middle Voice Verb?

Post by Eeli Kaikkonen » February 12th, 2018, 4:18 am

is not a “true middle”
This reflects inadequate understanding of the Koine voice system. Basically at the core of the meaning of the middle voice (or even middle-passive or mediopassive voice!) is "subject-affectedness". The words which can't easily be interpreted through this framework are very rare. This word seems to be a very true middle because the grammatical subject is affected by the event, i.e. his/her hair is physically affected.

R. Perkins
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Re: How to Identify a Permissive/Causative Middle Voice Verb?

Post by R. Perkins » February 12th, 2018, 4:48 am

Wow. Just as I suspected. Although only Greek I (just beginning to tamper w. Greek II) - red flags are already going up when I hear assertions like this since I realize there's absolutely nothing in the actual morphology to demand this.

However, as mentioned above, I think Wallace, Robertson, et al. do indeed reference the permissive or causative middle voice (as the verbs βάπτισαι, ἀπόλουσαι & ἐπικαλεσάμενος used in Acts 22.16 indicate from what I have read :?:).

Still, my question is answered inasmuch as, if I am understanding right, there is absolutely nothing grammatically nor exegetically that demands the permissive middle of κειράσθω in I Cor. 11.6.

But, this then begs the next logical question (for me at least), how then can it be distinguished when the permissive/causative middle is truly used? I am assuming context - which can be slippery at times depending on what theological persuasion the individual is who's reading a particular text.

When I heard him state that κειράσθω is "not a true middle" I thought, "On what grammatical basis can he make such a claim?" Are we free to stand over the biblical text & simply chose what we deem as a "true" parse...esp. when the morphological tag is clear?

Appreciate every single response (will go back & reread them to get a more firm grasp :oops:).

Stephen Carlson
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Re: How to Identify a Permissive/Causative Middle Voice Verb?

Post by Stephen Carlson » February 13th, 2018, 5:53 am

Often when some people say "not a true a middle," what they mean is "not (directly) reflexive." But scholars of the middle have known for a long time that the reflexive is just one of several senses of the middle, and not the most frequent for that matter. So part of the problem is that people mean different things by the term middle.

The drive to identify how the affected subject of the middle relates to the agent (if there is one) spurs the creation of such categories as "reflexive" (you do it to yourself), "permissive" (you let someone do it to you), "causative" (you cause someone to do it to you), "autobenefactive" (you do it for yourself), "reciprocal" (you do it to someone who does it to you), etc. But I would submit that this exercise in semantics is beside point of the middle, which is in fact to deprofile the agent. It doesn't matter to Paul's logic in 1 Cor 11:6 who cuts her hair.
Stephen C. Carlson, Ph.D.
Melbourne, Australia

R. Perkins
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Re: How to Identify a Permissive/Causative Middle Voice Verb?

Post by R. Perkins » February 14th, 2018, 5:23 am

Stephen Carlson wrote:
February 13th, 2018, 5:53 am
Often when some people say "not a true a middle," what they mean is "not (directly) reflexive." But scholars of the middle have known for a long time that the reflexive is just one of several senses of the middle, and not the most frequent for that matter. So part of the problem is that people mean different things by the term middle.

The drive to identify how the affected subject of the middle relates to the agent (if there is one) spurs the creation of such categories as "reflexive" (you do it to yourself), "permissive" (you let someone do it to you), "causative" (you cause someone to do it to you), "autobenefactive" (you do it for yourself), "reciprocal" (you do it to someone who does it to you), etc. But I would submit that this exercise in semantics is beside point of the middle, which is in fact to deprofile the agent. It doesn't matter to Paul's logic in 1 Cor 11:6 who cuts her hair.
Excellent.

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