Re: Romans 1:20 apo ktisews kosmou tois poihmasin *nooumena**kaqoratai*

From: Carl W. Conrad (
Date: Sun Mar 02 1997 - 12:20:35 EST

At 2:18 AM -0600 3/2/97, H. Fred Nofer wrote:
>On Sat, 1 Mar 1997 20:37:09 -0800 (PST) Micheal Palmer
><> writes:
>>At 6:18 PM -0500 3/1/97, Jonathan Robie wrote:
>>>"Neuter plurals often have singular verbs." Thanks! That's what I
>>>didn't know. After reading what you said, I looked it up in Smyth,
>>>who says this:
>>>Subject in the Plural, Verb in the Singular
>>>958. A neuter plural subject is regarded as a collective (996), and
>>has its
>>>verb in the singular: KALA HN TA SFAGIA "the sacrifices were
>>While this is OFTEN true in the New Testament, it is not nearly always
>>This is one of the handicaps of using Smyth (which is an excellent
>>grammar). Smyth's focus is on an earlier period, and this is one of
>>things which was in change at the time of the New Testament. Smyth's
>>description probably does cover the majority of instances in the New
>>Testament, though.

I have to accept the credit/blame for suggesting to Jonahan that Smyth is
one of the indispensable grammatical tools for Greek. Of course it is true
that Smyth's focus is on classical Attic (including Hellenistic Attic) and
he deals only sporadically with distinctly Homeric or NT Koine features.
Nevertheless, it is worth having a standard of comparison that is sensible
regarding syntax against which to weigh the the great variety of
idiosyncratic NT grammars which, increasingly, pride themselves on being
strictly synchronic and rather shamelessly multiply new syntactic
categories even when older ones WILL suffice.

>And then you wrote:
> response to my statement:
>> NOOUMENA is a pres. part. neut. plural, as you surmised, and as a
>> participle, would not have a subject;
>>But I'm still confused - since this is my native state, it no longer
>>bothers me, but I'll keep asking questions anyways-first off, Smyth's
>>Greek Grammar talks about participles agreeing with a subject, at
>>least if they are circumstantial participles, e.g.:
>>2056. The subject of the participle is identical with the noun or
>>pronoun subject or object of the leading verb, and agrees with it
>>in gender, number, and case.
>If NOOUMENA is circumstantial, I can understand the use of "subject" in
>connection with it, though I still would not feel comfortable using the
>term if I understand ATR's participial designations of adjectival and
>adverbial correctly, but I would suggest you might want to consider
>NOOUMENA as being the instrumental use of the adverbial participle.
>This would view the participial clause (TOIS POINMASIN NOOUMENA) as in
>agreement with the subject (TA AORATA) of the leading verb (KAQORATAI)
>and modifying the latter in an instrumental capacity, i.e. "His invisible
>things...are being seen by means of understanding the things that are
>made," with the dative being translated as a direct object in English
>(see H. P. V. Nunn, A Syntax of New Testament Greek, p. 48).

I don't really disagree with this, but it seems to that it can be explained
more simply than by using "instrumental" (which I think of as a "case
usage" category) to explain the function of NOOUMENA.

I'd construe the disputed parts of the sentence thus:


Glibly: "His invisibles, discerned in (his) creations, are (have been) on
view since the world's establishment."

Yes, NOOUMENA is in agreement w/ AORATA, which is subj. of KAQORATAI.

The participial phrase, TOIS POIHMASIN NOOUMENA, can be understood in at
least two different ways (and I'm not sure that it makes an immense
difference which of the three you prefer):

(1) adjectival = "which are being discerned in (his) creations"; viewed
thus, the phrase further characterizes TA AORATA AUTOU;
(2) circumstantial (adverbial) = "since/inasmuch-as they are discerned in
(his) creations"; viewed thus, the phrase explains what Paul means by
KAQORATAI: exactly how have they been on view since the foundation of the

> Now, I am way past my bed time, so the "glue" that should be holding the
> above together may be oozing between the cracks, so please keep that in
> mind.

I am not so certain that what I write at high noon (my computer clock is
still on central time) from my Blue Ridge mountain hideaway is likely to be
much clearer than what Fred wrote late at night from his oasis in the

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

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