Re: Accusative Absolute? (was: Concerning 1 Peter 2:4)

From: Carl W. Conrad (
Date: Fri Jan 17 1997 - 07:19:30 EST

At 11:48 AM -0600 1/16/97, Carlton Winbery wrote to me off-list (and it
seemed to me that the subject merits further on-list discussion--I hope he
will not take offense at my sharing this exchange with the list):
>Do you think that the following could be seen as absolutes?

Not really; I think all of these can be understood as loosely-atached in
apposition to an object. I would stick by the standard usage of "Accusative
Absolute" in Attic: the neuter acc. ptc. of an impersonal verb that stands
in no drect relationship to the elements of the clause but gives the sort
of information that an adverbial clause would.


Here I think I'd see this phrase as continuation of the series of objects
"May God give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation in discernment of him,
(and give you) eyes of your heart made open so that you know ...

>Eph. 2:1,5 hUMAS ONTAS . . . ONTAS hHMAS . . .

This is a mess, but I still don't think I'd call it accusative absolute;
rather I'd call it anacoluthon--a grammatical breakdown occasioned by a
flood of logorrhea such that the implicit subject and verb governing hUMAS
ONTAS in 2:1
is lost for the time being and never resumed--but it's implicit, I think,
and the writer (I can't believe this is Paul himself) revises his object in
2:5 as ONTAS hHMAS with the same participial phrase as in 2:1, NEKROUS TOIS
PARAPTWMASIN KTL. as predicate complement of hHMAS and now supplies the
verb and subject which (I think) he must have had in mind in 2:1:
SUNEZWOPOIHSEN TWi CRISTWi. I think this is particularly characeristic of
the author of Ephesians, the opening sequence of which in chapter 1,
although more or less intelligible, is a syntactic nightmare.


Here the word-order is confusing, but nevertheless it seems to me that the
construction is reasonably understood as follows: the introductory element
governing the last part of vs. 7 is DIA TO ECEIN ME EN THi KARDIAi hUMAS:
"... because I have you in my heart; what follows is a clarification of the
reason he has them in his heart, "because you all are (PANTAS hUMAS ONTAS)
my co-partners of grace (SUGKOINWNOUS MOU THS CARITOS); but the
clarification of this whole participial phrase functioning as a clause is
given in advance of that acc. + ptc.: EN TE TOIS DESMOIS MOU KAI EN THi
APOLOGIAi KAI BEBAIWSEI TOU EUAGGELIOU. This is a very compact group
tightly linked by TE ... KAI ... KAI, however lengthy. In sum, it seems to
me that the entire section from EN TE TOIS DESMOIS through PANTAS hUMAS
ONTAS stands in apposition to the hUMAS that is the immediae object of
ECEIN earlier in the verse. One could understand that participial phrase as
the equivalent of a clause that is either adverbial or relative: "because I
have you in my heart, because you are all my co-partners, not only in my
imprisonment but also in the defense and confirmation of the gospel" OR
"because I have you in my heart, you who are all my co-partners, etc."

Finally let's consider the phrase you suggested in your original response
to Jim Beale's question on 1 Peter 2:4:

>>3. Is LIQON here an accusative absolute? If not, then how does it
>>relate grammatically to the rest of the sentence?
>No, no. Its in apposition to the pronoun hON. The closest thing to an
>accusative absolute in the NT would be maybe Acts 26:3 GNWSTHN ONTA, "since
>you are an expert about . . ."

I agree that this is closer and I agree with Carlton about what it must
mean, but regarding its structural linkage to the rest of the sentence, I
think I would make it dependent upon hHGHMAI in vs. 2 and parallel to the
first object of hHGHMAI, EMAUTON MAKARION--"I deem myself fortunate
..."--and then, "(because I deem) you especially knowledgeable about ... "

In sum, I think that wherever we can link a participle + accusative phrase
explicitly or implicitly to a verb in its context, we should NOT call it an
accusative absolute--because in such contexts these phrases really do fit
into the structure of the whole, intelligibly, however loosely. But the
accusative absolute, as it is understood in Attic grammar, is really
independent syntactically in the same way that a genitive absolute is.

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

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