Lesson 57: The Verb/Infinitive


0830. The simple infinitive as subject and a word cluster headed by an infinitive as subject were previously noted (§§543.6, 545.6). The function of the infinitive in forming verb chains was sketched in §§565-576, 580-585. It is now appropriate to outline the full range of functions of the infinitive and to specify some functions in greater detail.

830. The infinitive is a verbal noun. As a substantive it is an indeclinable neuter, although it may be used with the article to show case. As a verbal noun, it may appear in structures in which nouns appear: as subject, object, modifier, object of preposition, with the article, and at one place in the New Testament an infinitive is modified by an adjective (διὰ παντὸς τοῦ ζῆν, through their entire life, Heb 2:15). As a verbal noun, it has tense (present, aorist, perfect, and occasionally future), i.e. aspect (§0309), but not time (except in indirect discourse where it represents a finite verb); voice (active, middle, passive); and may "govern" a case (gen., dat., acc.). It is not strictly speaking a mood, although it may represent a finite verb in some constructions.

8300. All classical usages of the infinitive appear in hellenistic Greek in spite of the fact that constructions with ἵνα and ὅτι have become rivals of the infinitive (Bl-D §388). Only in the case of τοῦ with the infinitive has its use been enlarged. The infinitive is used about half as frequently, relatively speaking, in the Septuagint as it is in the New Testament. The infinitive appears approximately 2,276 times in the New Testament, of which 1,957 are anarthrous (unaccompanied by article), 319 articular (accompanied by article). Of the New Testament authors, Luke has the most varied use; it is used least in the Gospel of John. The articular infinitive is confined chiefly to Luke and Paul.

Except for its use with auxiliary verbs, the infinitive is dying out in late hellenistic Greek (it is being replaced by the finite verb), a trend consummated in modern Greek where the infinitive has virtually disappeared.

831. Range of functions. In the following presentation, this outline of the functions of the infinitive will be followed:

831.1 The simple infinitive or word cluster headed by an infinitive as subject (or object). Cf. Nominal Word Clusters, §§680-779.

831.2 The infinitive in verb chains, including the infinitive in p-clusters to express purpose, etc.; the infinitive with nouns and adjectives, where the verb and noun (or adjective) function as a complex verb. Cf. Verb Chains, §§565-585.

831.3 The infinitive (articular, in p-clusters; with πρίν) with complements as adverbial clause. Cf. §§643.3, 674 and the treatment of temporal clauses, §873, and the circumstantial participle, §846.1.

831.4 The infinitive in explanatory (appositional, epexegetical) word clusters.

831.5 The absolute infinitive (no grammatical connection to rest of sentence).

8310. There is no clear line of demarcation between the functions of the anarthrous infinitive and those of the articular infinitive, except that the anarthrous infinitive never occurs in p-clusters as the object of a preposition, and the articular infinitive does not occur in verb chains of Group I (§§567-573).

832. The infinitive as subject (object). The simple infinitive or a word cluster headed by an infinitive may appear in the structure of subject (cf. §§543.6, 545.6). The infinitive appears most often as subject with impersonal verbs, e.g. δεῖ it is necessary, ἔξεστιν it is lawful, πρέπει it is fitting. Examples may conveniently be divided into groups depending on the complements that appear with the infinitive.

832.1 The simple infinitive as subject:

(1) δεῖ γενέσθαι Mk 13:7
It is necessary [for these things] to take place
(literally, to take place is necessary [for these things is understood])

This usage is rare; normally the infinitive has some complements.

832.2 The infinitive with its own subject accusative as subject:

(2) δεῖ ὑμᾶς γεννηθῆναι ἄνωθεν Jn 3:7
It is necessary for you to be born from above (or: again)

832.3 The infinitive with its own subject in the dative case as subject:

(3) ἐπετράπη τῷ Παυλῷ μένειν καθ' ἑαυτὸν Acts 28:16
Paul was permitted to stay by himself

832.4 The infinitive may, of course, take any of the complements in its own predicate that the corresponding finite verb may take. The following are random examples.

(4) ἔξεστιν δοῦναι κῆνσον Καίσαρι ἢ οὔ; Mk 12:14
Is it lawful to give tribute to Caesar or not?

(4) is S-IV with direct and indirect object.

(5) τὸ δὲ ἀνίπτοις χερσὶν φαγεῖν οὐ κοινοῖ
τὸν ἄνθρωπον
Mt 15:20
But to eat with unwashed hands does not
defile a man
(6) ἀνένδεκτόν ἐστιν τοῦ τὰ σκάνδαλα μὴ ἐλθεῖν Lk 17:1
It is impossible that temptations to sin not come

τοῦ with the infinitive (the function of the case has entirely faded); literally, the not to come with respect to temptations to sin is impossible.

(7) μηδενὶ μηδὲν ὀφείλετε, εἰ μὴ τὸ ἀλλήλους ἀγαπᾶν Rom 13:8
Owe nothing to no one, except to love one another

The infinitive with its complements is object of the verb.

0833. Variations on the simple infinitive in verb chains. The infinitive appears in verb chains as the second (or third) term (§566) in a variety of constructions. The use of the infinitive with catenative verbs of Groups I-IV and VI has already been sketched (§§567-583, 585) and need not be treated here. It remains to note variations on these constructions.

833. The simple infinitive may be employed in verb chains to express purpose (Group II, §§574-576; Group III, §580). The infinitive may be used to express purpose in correlative constructions in which the infinitive is not simple.

833.1 The genitive of the articular infinitive may also be used to express purpose:

(8) ἰδοὺ ἐξῆλθεν ὁ σπείρων τοῦ σπείρειν Mt 13:3
Look, a sower went out to sow
(9) τότε παραγίνεται ὁ Ἰησοῦς ἀπὸ τῆς Γαλιλαίας
ἐπὶ τὸν Ἰορδάνην πρὸς τὸν Ἰωάννην τοῦ
βαπτισθῆναι ὑπ' αὐτοῦ
Mt 3:13
Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan, to
John, to be baptized by him

There is no distinction in meaning between (8) and (9) above and the examples of the simple infinitive of purpose given in §575.

833.2 The accusative of the articular infinitive following εἰς or πρός is also a means of expressing purpose.

(10) ἔπεμψα εἰς τὸ γνῶναι τὴν πίστιν ὑμῶν 1 Thess 3:5
I sent that I might know your faith
(11) πάντα δὲ τὰ ἔργα αὐτῶν ποιοῦσιν πρὸς τὸ
θεαθῆναι τοῖς ἀνθρώποις
Mt 23:5
They do all their deeds in order to be seen of men

These constructions are grammatically synonymous with τοῦ and the infinitive (§833.1) and the simple infinitive of purpose (§575).

833.3 The infinitive is occasionally used with ὥστε or ὡς to express purpose. Examples may be found in Mt 10:1 and Lk 9:52, Cf. §834.1 and Bl-D §391(1).

833.4 All these constructions with the infinitive to express purpose are of course agnate to final clauses with ἵνα (§656).

834. The infinitive of result has not been previously noted. In classical idiom ὥστε and the infinitive indicated probable result, ὥστε and the indicative actual result. In the New Testament the infinitive is employed for both; there are only two examples of ὥστε and the indicative (Jn 3:16, Gal 2:13). The line between intended or probable result and purpose is often fine. There is thus some overlapping between consecutive (result) clauses with the infinitive and final (purpose) clauses with the infinitive. Bl-D §391.

834.1 The infinitive of result introduced by ὥστε:

(12) καὶ ἐθεράπευσεν αὐτοὺς
ὥστε τὸν ὄχλον θαυμάσαι.
Mt 15:31
And he healed them,
so that the crowd marveled

834.2 Less commonly, τοῦ and the infinitive may express result:

(13) ὑμεῖς δὲ ἰδόντες οὐδὲ μετεμελήθητε
ὕστερον τοῦ πιστεῦσαι αὐτῷ
Mt 21:32
But even when you saw it, you did not
subsequently repent and believe him (= so
that you believed)

834.3 The simple infinitive is occasionally used to express result:

(14) διὰ τί ἐπλήρωσεν ὁ Σατανᾶς τὴν καρδίαν σου
ψεύσασθαί σε;
Acts 5:3
Why has Satan filled your heart so that you lie?

Only in context is it possible to distinguish the simple infinitive of result from the simple infinitive of purpose.

835. The infinitive with certain nouns and adjectives meaning ability, fitness, need, etc. is also related to the infinitive in verb chains. Combinations of εἶναι with adjectives like δυνατός (able), ἄξιος (worthy), ἱκανός (fit), ἕτοιμος (ready) are actually complex verbs. The same thing can be said of the combinations of verbs and certain nouns, e.g. ἐξουσίαν ἔχειν (to have authority), χρείαν ἔχειν (to have need).

Both anarthrous and articular infinitives occur in these constructions, without difference in meaning.

835.1 The infinitive with adjectives:

(15) οὐκέτι εἰμὶ ἄξιος κληθῆναι υἱός σου Lk 15:19
I am no longer worthy to be called your son
(16) ἕτοιμοι ἐσμεν τοῦ ἀνελεῖν αὐτόν Acts 23:15
We are ready to kill him
(17) οὐκ εἰμὶ ἱκανὸς καλεῖσθαι ἀπόστολος 1 Cor 15:9
I am not fit to be called an apostle
(18) καὶ ἐκ νεκρῶν ἐγείρειν δυνατὸς ὁ θεός Heb 11:19
God is able to raise even from the dead

835.2 The infinitive with nouns:

(19) πάλιν χρείαν ἔχετε τοῦ διδάσκειν ὑμᾶς τινὰ Heb 5:12
You need someone to teach you again
(20) ἔδωκεν αὐτοῖς ἐξουσίαν τέκνα θεοῦ γενέσθαι Jn 1:12
He gave them the right to become children of God
(21) ὀφειλέτης ἐστίν ὅλον τὸν νόμον ποιῆσαι Gal 5:3
He is obligated to keep the whole law

835.3 In most of these cases, an agnate construction with ἵνα and the subjunctive may substitute. The following examples are illustrative:

(22) οὐκ εἰμὶ ἱκανὸς ἵνα μου ὑπὸ τὴν στέγην εἰσέλθῃς Mt 8:8
I am not worthy for you to come under my roof
(23) καὶ χρείαν ἔχετε ἵνα τις διδάσκῃ ὑμάς 1 Jn 2:27
And you need no one to teach you

836. The infinitive and its complements may function as an adverbial clause (temporal, causal) when introduced by a preposition or πρίν (πρὶν ἤ).

836.1 The articular infinitive appears with prepositions in temporal clauses as follows: ἐν τῷ and the infinitive are used of contemporaneous time, μετὰ τό for subsequent time, πρὸ τοῦ for previous time, ἕως τοῦ of future time, all in relation to the time of the main verb. Bl-D §§402-404.

(24) μετὰ δὲ τὸ παραδοθῆναι τὸν Ἰωάννην ... Mk 1:14
Now after John was arrested ...
(25) ἐν τῷ ἐλθεῖν αὐτὸν εἰς οἶκον τινος
τῶν ἀρχόντων ...
Lk 14:1
When he went into the house of one of the rulers ...
(26) πρὸ τοῦ ἐγγίσαι αὐτὸν ... Acts 23:15
Before he draws near ...
(27) ἕως τοῦ ἐλθεῖν αὐτὸν εἰς Καισάρειαν ... Acts 8:40
Until he came to Caesarea ...

836.2 The infinitive with διὰ τό may be used in an adverbial clause of cause. Bl-D §402(1).

(28) καὶ διὰ τὸ μὴ ἔχειν ῥίζαν ἐξηράνθη Mk 4:6
And because it lacked root it withered away

836.3 The articular infinitive in the dative case without preposition appears once. It denotes cause. Bl-D §401.

(29) οὐκ ἔσχηκα ἄνεσιν τῷ πνεύματί μου,
τῷ μὴ εὑρεῖν με Τίτον
2 Cor 2:13
My spirit had no rest because I did not find Titus

836.4 πρίν (πρὶν ἤ) is used with the infinitive in a temporal clause meaning before. Bl-D §395.

(30) κατάβηθι πρὶν ἀποθανεῖν τὸ παιδίον μου Jn 4:49
Come down before my child dies
(31) πρὶν ἤ συνελθεῖν αὐτούς Mt 1:18
Before they came together

837. The explanatory (epexegetical) infinitive may be appended to a demonstrative pronoun, a noun, a verb, or more loosely to other elements in the sentence. It is difficult to draw sharp lines between and among various constructions. Both articular and anarthrous infinitives appear. Some of these infinitives are related to infinitives in verb chains, infinitives with nouns, etc. For some an agnate construction with ἵνα and the subjunctive is possible. Cf. Bl-D §394.

The following examples illustrate the range of the explanatory or epexegetical infinitive.

837.1 The simple infinitive appended to a demonstrative pronoun:

(32) θρησκεία καθαρὰ καὶ ἀμίαντος ... αὕτη ἐστίν,
ἐπισκέπτεσθαι ὀρφανοὺς καὶ χήρας ἐν τῇ
θλίψει αὐτῶν
Ja 1:27
Pure and undefiled religion is this,
to visit the orphans and widows in
their affliction

837.10 A ἵνα-clause may be substituted for this infinitive:

(33) αὕτη γάρ ἐστιν ἡ ἀγάπη τοῦ θεοῦ,
ἵνα τὰς ἐντολὰς αὐτοῦ τηρῶμεν
1 Jn 5:3
For this is the love of God,
that we keep his commandments

837.2 An articular infinitive appended to a demonstrative pronoun:

(34) ἔκρινα γὰρ ἐμαυτῷ τοῦτο,
τὸ μὴ πάλν ἐν λύπῃ πρὸς ὑμᾶς ἐλθεῖν
2 Cor 2:1
For I made up my mind to this,
not to pay you another painful visit

837.3 An infinitive (anarthrous or articular) appended to a noun:

(35) ἐξῆλθεν δόγμα παρὰ Καίσαρος Αὐγούστου
ἀπογράφεσθαι πᾶσαν τὴν οἰκουμένην
Lk 2:1
A decree went out from Augustus Caesar
to enroll the whole world
(36) ἐπλήσθη ὁ χρόνος τοῦ τεκέιν αὐτήν Lk 1:57
The time for her to give birth came

837.4 An infinitive (anarthrous or articular) appended to a verb:

(37) παρέδωκεν αὐτοὺς ὁ θεὸς εἰς ἀδόκιμον νοῦν,
ποιεῖν τὰ μὴ καθήκοντα
Rom 1:28
God gave them up to a base mind,
to do what was not proper
(38) ἐπικατάρατος πᾶς ὅς οὐκ ἐμμένει πᾶσιν τοῦς
γεγραμμένοις ἐν τῷ βιβλίῳ τοῦ νόμου τοῦ
ποιῆσαι αὐτά
Gal 3:10
Cursed be everyone who does not abide by all
things written in the book of law, to do them

838. The infinitive absolute (so called because it sustains no grammatical connection to the sentence in which it appears) occurs once in the New Testament, in a classical idiom with ὡς:

(39) ὡς ἔπος εἰπεῖν Heb 7:9
so to speak