Lesson 15: Nouns/The Noun in Context


205. Vocative. The form of the vocative does not, as a rule, occasion difficulties. It is sometimes (less often in hellenistic than in classical) introduced with ὦ: ὦ Θεόφιλε (Acts 1:1); cf. 0 Theophilus in English. It is often identical in form with the nominative; there is a tendency in hellenistic Greek to use the nominative form in place of the vocative. Cf. Bl-D §§146f.

The forms which the vocative may take can be summarized schematically as follows:

205.1 The nominative, accusative and vocative are identical for each number of all neuter nouns.

205.2 In masculine and feminine nouns the vocative is always identical with the nominative in the plural, and often identical with the nominative in the singular.

205.3 Where the vocative singular is not identical with the nominative it may take the following forms:

a) Masculines in -ας, -ης gen. -ου (I.3.).
     1) Stems in -της have vocative in short α, e.g. ὑποκριτά (Mt 7:5), δέσποτα (Lk 2:29).
     2) Other stems of this class in -ας, -ης have vocatives in -α or -η (i.e. the nom. less -ς), e.g. Ἀνανία (Acts 5:2).
b) Masculines in -ας, -ης gen. -α, -η (1.4.) have vocatives which are identical in form with the genitive (i.e. the nom. less -ς), e.g. Σατανᾶ (Mk 8:33).
c) Masculines and feminines in -ος (II.1., II.2.) form a vocative in -ε, e.g. ὤ ἄνθρωπε (Rom 2:3), κύριε (Lk 5:12), Διδάσκαλε (Jn 1:39).
d) Masculines and feminines of the third declension: the vocative is the bare stem (consonants that cannot stand at the end of a word are lost; in stems with vowel gradation, the vocative is often the middle grade). Examples:
     1) ὤ γύναι (Mt 15:28) ( < γυναικ-, Ill.l.b.).
     2) πάτερ (Jn 17:1), θύγατερ (Mt 9:22), ἄνερ (1 Cor 7:16) (III.4.C.).
     3) βασιλεῦ (Acts 26:2) (III.7.C.).

206. Irregular and Partial Declension. Irregularity of declension has been treated for the most part under the several classes; peculiarities noted there provide a fairly comprehensive index to nouns customarily included in the category 'irregular.' Isolated problems are discussed in Bl-D §§43-58. There are, however, a few remaining examples of irregular and partial declension, having to do with proper names, which may be presented in summary form here.

206.1 Ζεύς, Διός, ὁ Zeus, is declined: Διός, Διΐ, Δία, Ζεῦ (vocative). It appears in the New Testament at Acts 14:12, 13.

206.2 Some Semitic proper names are partially declined in that -ς is added to the stem to form the nom. and -ν is added to signal the acc. (i.e. indeclinable and third declension). E.g.:

a) Ἰησοῦς, -οῦ, -οῦ, -οῦν, -οῦ (vocative)
b) Λευίς, -ί, -ί, -ίν

206.3 Μωυσῆς is variable: gen. always Μωυσέως (as if from -εος, III.7.C.); dat. Μωυσεῖ and -η (-ηι); acc. Μωυσέα (III.7.C.) and -ῆν; voc. -ῆ. In the LXX the pattern Μωυσῆς, -η, -ῇ, -ῆν, ῆ predominates (1.4.). Cf. the classical pattern of Ἄρης (ὁ), -εως, -ει, -η, or -ην (Smyth §285.1).

206.4 A few proper names in -ας or -α have an acc. in -αν, but are otherwise indeclinable, e.g. Ἀκύλας, -αν, ὁ; Γολγοθᾶ, -ᾶν, ἡ; Ζηνᾶς, -ᾶν, ὁ.

206.5 Θυάτρια and Λύστρα are apparently declined -α, -ων, -οις, -αν (ἡ and τά? s. B1-D §57); cf. Μύρα, Μύρων, τά. Λύδδα has gen. Λύδδας or -ης, acc. Λύδδα or -αν (Bl-D §56(2)).

206.6 Χερούβ, τό and ὁ (כְּרוּב) is indeclinable except that the Hebrew plural is imitated in Greek as Χερουβείν, -βίν, -βείμ, or -βίμ (some of the latter are also taken as singular).

Bl-D §§53-58 treats the declension of foreign words in detail.

207. Indeclinable nouns. There is also a host of foreign names and loanwords which are wholly indeclinable, e.g. Ἀβραάμ (ὁ), Ἰακώβ (ὁ), Ἰσραήλ (ὁ); μάννα (τό), πάσχα (τό). The case of these words is usually made clear in context by the article, other 'qualifiers,' or by the structure in which they appear.

208. The noun in context. It was once the practice to require the student to master the full paradigms for all three declensions before approaching the text. The paradigms can be memorized. They can also be forgotten — and usually are. However much virtue there is in being able to reel off paradigms for the various declension patterns, it is a virtue one can manage very well without, provided one's primary interest is in the ability to read Greek with facility. It is appropriate at this juncture, therefore, to stipulate what is important and what is not.

208.1 It is not important to be able to assign a noun to its proper class, and hence to be able to cite its paradigm in full (unless, of course, one regards that exercise as important).

208.2 It is not important to memorize endless paradigms, although it is unfortunately necessary initially to master the models, ὁ, ἡ, τό and τίς, τί.

208.3 It is important to be able to grasp a noun in its relationship to the word group in which it occurs. To do this one often needs to know its case, number, gender. However, as already observed (§§ 125-129; 146-1471; 174-176), the form of the noun is only one clue. In the vast majority of cases other signals (e.g. article, preposition) will tell the reader what he needs to know about the noun in question, i.e. what relation it bears to the word group.

208.4 It is important to learn to rely on a constellation of signals in identifying the noun in context. One of these signals is, of course, the particular form (case ending) of the noun, and it cannot be ignored. For that reason, the formal aspects of the noun have been set out schematically in relation to the two models; this presentation provides an overview and a convenient summary for reference. Knowledge of the models (the article and τίς, τί), together with a fairly firm grasp of the organization of the nominal system, will make it possible to identify the noun even in isolation. Nevertheless, the form of the noun should be seized, wherever possible, in conjunction with other signals.

208.5 It is important to gain facility in 'reading' word groups, i.e. in determining word relationships within the group, even when one does not know the meanings of individual words. The reason is twofold: a) Without immediate and nearly automatic response to grammatical signals, the reading of a text will remain a laborious and frustrating process; b) the ability to 'read' grammatical signals often makes it possible to fill in lexical blanks (the meaning of words one does not know). Since grammar represents the structure of a language, without it the language remains mute, no matter how many words one knows. Grammatical signals, however, are relatively few in number, highly repetitious, and systematic; they can therefore be learned more readily than vocabulary. Moreover, with a firm grammatical basis, it is easier to expand lexical competence.

209. Grammatical signals. The morphological variables indicating gender, number, case are rudimentary grammatical signals, They function in both noun and article, the combination of which often makes the resolution of word groups materially easier (§§125-129). Prepositions add further clues to the grammatical structure of the word group (§§146-1471). These signals were considered in relation to the structure of nominal word clusters with genitive modifier (§§174-176). This constellation of signals may now be expanded.

2090. It should be noted that grammatical signals which are ambiguous in isolation (some possible confusions are noted in §§1210.2-4, 1320.4, 1360.3-8, 152.2, 168, 170, 197) are often resolved in relation to the constellation in which they appear.

210. Other modifiers as grammatical signals. Other modifiers, either in conjunction with article and/or preposition, or alone, may assist in identifying noun phrases.

210.1 Adjective in conjunction with article:

(1) ἡ κρίσις ἡ ἐμὴ (fem. nom. sing.) Jn 8:16           
(2) ὁ λόγος ὁ ἐμὸς (masc. nom. sing.) Jn 8:37
(3) τὴν λαλιὰν τὴν ἐμὴν (fem. acc. sing.) Jn 8:43
(4) τὸν λόγον τὸν ἐμόν (masc. acc. sing.) Jn 8:43
         With (4) cf.
(5) τὸν ἐμὸν λόγον (masc. acc. sing.) Jn 8:51
(6) ἡ ἐπιστολὴ ἡ παλαιά (fem. nom. sing.) I Jn 2:7
(7) τὸ φῶς τὸ ἀληθινὸν (neut. nom. or acc. sing.) I Jn 2:8
(8) ταῦτα τὰ σημεῖα (neut. nom. or acc. plur.) Jn 3:2
Note (1) and (7) where third declension nouns do not follow the declension pattern of the article.

210.2 Adjective in conjunction with article and preposition:

(9) ἐν τῷ νόμῳ (δὲ) τῷ ὑμετέρῳ (masc. or neut. dat. sing.)                 Jn 8:17              
(10) ἐκ τοῦ κόσμου τούτου (masc. or neut. gen. sing.)                 Jn 8:23              

210.3 Adjective in conjunction with preposition:

(11) ἀπὸ πάσης ἁμαρτίας (fem. gen. sing.)                            I Jn 1:7
(12) ἀπὸ πάσης ἀδικίας (fem. gen. sing.)                            I Jn 1:9

210.4 Adjective alone:

(13) ἐπιστολὴν καινὴν (fem. acc. sing.)                          I Jn 2:7
(14) ἐπιστολὴν παλαιὰν (fem. acc. sing.)                          I Jn 2:7

In most instances the modifier merely reinforces the clues provided by other elements in the phrase. However, the repetition of clues makes it possible to seize the phrase as a whole more easily.

211. Other items in the phrase are of more assistance where, e.g., a third declension noun like πόλις city (III.7.b., §200) is involved.

(15) εἰς τὴν ἁγίαν πόλιν Mt 4:5
(16) πᾶσα ἡ πόλις Mt 8:34
(17) τὰς πόλεις πάσας Mt 9:35
(18) εἰς πόλιν Mt 10:5
(19) ἐν ταῖς πόλεσιν Mt 11:1
(20) ἀπὸ πόλεως εἰς πόλιν Mt 23:34

Gender, number and case are signaled in (15) , (16) , (17) and (19) by items other than the noun, i.e. one does not need to know the declension pattern of the noun to be able to identify it. Case is signaled by the prepositions in (18) and (20). There are relatively few appearances of πόλις in the New Testament where at least the case is not signaled by some other item in the phrase.

212. Parallel structures as grammatical signals. In addition to the article, preposition, and other modifiers, parallel structures often provide handy clues to noun identification. Parallel structures vary from the simple and obvious, e.g. two nouns as objects of the same verb, to the more oblique and complex, e.g. the repetition of the same basic sentence structure. When the full range is taken into account, parallelisms will be found to abound in any text since the grammar of a language is highly repetitious. Attention is confined initially to a few relatively obvious types of parallel structures.

213. Nominal items as objects of the same verb.

(21) εἶδεν / Σίμωνα (καὶ) Ἀνδρέαν // τὸν ἀδελφὸν Σίμωνος Mk 1:16
  he saw Simon and Andrew the brother of Simon

In (21) Σίμωνα and Ἀνδρέαν are objects of the same verb, εἶδεν; they are linked together by the conjunction of καί. τὸν ἀδελφὸν Σίμωνος stands in apposition to Ἀνδρέαν (indicated by //). There are thus three items which stand in the relationship of object to εἶδεν. The identification of any one of these items is also the identification of the other two — so far as case is concerned (case is the primary signal of grammatical function). In this instance, τὸν ἀδελφὸν provides an easy resolution: τὸν = masc. sing. acc. of the article; the ending -ον confirms the identification (ἀδελφός = II.1., §136.1). With this clue there is no need to labor over Σίμωνα and Ἀνδρέαν: they must be accusative as well. Ἀνδρέαν looks first declension (it is, in fact, a noun of I.3., §132.3). The acc. Σίμωνα, when compared with Σίμωνος, which must be genitive, is almost certainly third declension (acc. in -α, gen. in -ος, stem ending in ν, long vowel, -ω-, in both instances: III. 5.a., §187, with nom. Σίμων).

(21) is followed in the text shortly by

(22) εἶδεν / Ἰάκωβον // τὸν τοῦ Ζεβεδαίου (καὶ) Ἰωάννην // τὸν ἀδελφὸν αὐτοῦ Mk 1:19
  he saw James the son of Zebedee and John his brother

Καί again connects the two objects of εἶδεν, both of which have a phrase in apposition (καί comes between the two complete items). Since τὸν ἀδελφὸν is acc., Ἰάκωβον and Ἰωάννην must also be accusatives, and probably second and first declensions, respectively. In the appositional phrase τὸν τοῦ Ζεβεδαίου, τὸν is masc. acc. sing., but τοῦ Ζεβεδαίου is gen. The whole phrase must therefore run: James, the something or other of Zebedee (supply son; cf. Bl-D §162(1)).

Compare the parallel sentences in Matthew:

(23) εἶδεν / δύο ἀδελφούς, // Σίμωνα // τὸν
λεγόμενον Πέτρον (καὶ) Ἀνδρέαν // τὸν ἀδελφὸν αὐτοῦ
Mt 4:18
  he saw two brothers, Simon the one called Peter and Andrew his brother
(24) εἶδεν ἄλλους δύο ἀδελφούς, // Ἰακωβον // τὸν
τοῦ Ζεβεδαίου (καὶ) Ἰωάννην // τὸν ἀδελφὸν αὐτοῦ
Mt 4:21
  he saw two other brothers, James the son of Zebedee and John his brother

Note the position of καί in each case. In the Matthean form, the names of the two men in each case stand in apposition to ἀδελφούς (masc. acc. plur.), in addition to having appositional phrases of their own. 214. Apposition and καί frame an even more elaborate example of parallel structures in 1 Jn 2:16:

  (25a)  πᾶν τὸ ἐν τῷ κόσμῳ //  
  (25b)  ἡ ἐπιθυμία τῆς σαρκὸς (καὶ)
  (25c)  ἡ ἐπιθυμία τῶν ὀφθαλμῶν (καὶ)
  (25d)  ἡ ἀλαζονεία τοῦ βιοῦ /
  (25e)  οὐκ ἔστιν ἐκ τοῦ πατρός ἀλλὰ ἐκ τοῦ κόσμου ἐστίν

Three phrases, identical in structure and connected by καί (25b-d), stand in apposition to the first phrase, which is the subject of the sentence (the head terms are all therefore nom.). In (25e), moreover, οὐκ . . . ἀλλὰ, not . . . but frame negative and positive contrasting statements involving two parallel phrases: ἐκ τοῦ πατρός, ἐκ τοῦ κόσμου. For another example of the latter, cf.

(26)  οὐκ ἐξ αἱμάτων / οὐδὲ ἐκ θελήματος σαρκὸς / οὐδὲ θελήματος ἀνδρὸς / ἀλλ᾿ ἐκ θεοῦ Jn 1:13

where three negative phrases introduced by οὐκ (οὐδέ) and ἐκ are contrasted with a positive phrase introduced by ἀλλά and ἐκ.

Parallel grammatical structures may thus be connected by καί and, or framed by οὐκ . . . ἀλλά, not . . . but. Such structures may involve the object, the subject, or some other grammatical item in the sentence. There are other types of grammatical parallelism, to be introduced subsequently, which will also assist in noun identification.