Re: Mark 7:24: form of dunamai

From: Carl W. Conrad (
Date: Mon Nov 27 1995 - 07:18:41 EST

At 5:30 AM 11/26/95, Kenneth Litwak wrote:
> I'm having difficulty deciding upon the proper reading of Mark
>7:24 in regard to the original form of dunamai. These both appear to be
>Aorist passvies, but realistically, one would expect a verb to only have
>one form of its AOrist passive. Q quick check of oen one of my lexicons
>left me
>unillunminated about which it shold be. Can anyone help me out here?
>Was spelling that free-form that either hdunasqa or hdunhqh are equally
>probably in that respect? Thanks.

Ken, I can't answer the text-critical question, but I may be able to
illuminate the grammatical one. We confront in Hellenistic Greek forms that
are dialectal or are common in different parts of the Mediterranean world.
The real question is what is the normal form of the aorist of DUNAMAI. I
don't find HDUNASQA anywhere, and I think that you must have misquoted and
probably mean HDUNASQH.

On looking at the apparatus in NA27 I see HDUNHQH in the printed text with
variants listed as HDUNASQH and HDUNATO. The last of these would be an
imperfect, of course, rather than an aorist. The sigma in the form HDUNASQH
is one that develops in several vowel-stem verbs before the endings,
particularly in the perfect MP and in the aorist passive. It is probably by
analogy from dental stems in D, T, and Q that would normally shift to S to
assimilate before an ending such as MAI, TAI, MEQA. The S of the 2nd plural
MP ending -SQE may also be a factor. At any rate, these forms with S added
are fairly common in Attic dialect, less common, I think, in Ionic. Ionic
happens to be the source of more Koine forms simply because it was the
dialect of Alexander's army and most of the civil servants that settled
into the new cities founded by Alexander and his successors. But other
dialect forms also appear, and for that matter, in Egyptian papyri you can
find a wide variation in spelling of forms of Greek words depending upon
the level of education of the writer. The peculiarity in these forms of
DUNAMAI is that the long alpha has been retained in the form HDUNASQH,
whereas it changed to eta very early in Ionic dialect. I think that the
form HDUNASQH is really a secondary one formed, as I said, by analogy with
such verbs as PEIRAOMAI (attempt, try), which has an aorist form EPEIRASQHN
(1 sg.), although the S is secondary there too. But the verb common -AZW
verbs, such as DIKAZW have stems in -AD- that form aorist passives in

I hope that clears up at least the question about alternative forms of the
Aorist of the verb. Alternative forms are something that one should expect
in any language.

Carl W. Conrad
Department of Classics, Washington University
One Brookings Drive, St. Louis, MO, USA 63130
(314) 935-4018 OR

This archive was generated by hypermail 2.1.4 : Sat Apr 20 2002 - 15:37:32 EDT