Re: Verbal adjectives: how much verbal force?

From: Carl W. Conrad (
Date: Sun Mar 09 1997 - 17:28:16 EST

At 5:42 PM -0600 3/9/97, Jonathan Robie wrote:
>I was asked for more details on this, since it wasn't clear
>enough. I'm talking about adjectives in -TOS and -TEOS (yes,
>Virginia, there is one use of -TEOS!)
>Some of my grammars (e.g. Robertson) say that these verbal
>adjectives have primarily adjectival force, but also have
>verbal force similar to that of a passive participle. Others,
>especially Blass et al, feel that verbal adjectives have
>completely lost their verbal force, and are used as straight

I think I'd say that the forms below have lost their verbal force, EXCEPT
for B LHTEON, which is used exactly as it is in Classical Attic. In Attic
the -TOS forms had a sense, "able to be (x)ed," i.e. they were passive and
involved a sense of possibility, whereas the -TEOS forms were passive and
involved a sense of the obligatory nature of the action indicated by the
verb. My favorite examples of the classical usage of the -TOS forms are in
the two major divisions in Plato's "Figure of the divided line": hORATON
GENOS and NOHTON GENOS, the "visible" (= "able to be seen") and
"intelligible" (= "able to be entertained by the NOUS") categories.

>In examples like these, there does seem to be some verbal force:
>John 6:45 (GNT) estin gegrammenon en tois profhtais: kai esontai
>pantes *didaktoi* qeou: pas o akousas para tou patros kai maqwn
>ercetai pros eme.

I think that DIDAKTOI here is a LXX citation; it's not normal Greek (much
of the LXX is NOT normal Greek); my bet is that it represents a
construct-participle with -EL in the Hebrew original, something like
LAMUDEH-EL--but I admit I'm just guessing. The un-Greek thing about it is
the genitive QEOU; in Attic one would not find that verbal adjective used
substantivally without an article.

>2Tim 3:16 (GNT) pasa grafh *qeopneustos* kai wfelimos pros didaskalian,
>pros elegmon, pros epanorqwsin, pros paideian thn en dikaiosunh,

Here I'd say that QEOPNEUSTOS is adjectival. Incidentally, it is this same
PIE element which became the perfect passive participle. I'd say that
"inspired" here could be understood as equivalent to a perfect passive
participle but is really quite simply adjectival with a passive verbal

>Matt 3:17 (GNT) kai idou fwnh ek twn ouranwn legousa: houtos estin
>ho huios mou ho *agaphtos*, en hw eudokhsa.

This is similar--if any thing even clearer that it's adjectival, used
attributively with the repeated article.

>And for trivia buffs, here's the one use of -TEOS:
>Luke 5:38 (GNT) alla oinon neon eis askous kainous *blhteon*.
>Luke 5:38 (NASU) "But new wine *must* *be* *put* into fresh wineskins.
>The -TEOS implies "must be", so BLHTEON here means "must be put".

As noted already, this conforms to one of the common Attic constructions:
it is in the n. sg. with an implicit ESTI, and curiously, OINON NEON is the
direct object of the passive verbal adjective. The alternative construction
in Attic would have been to make the "new wine" the subject and make the

Actually DUNATOS is a -TOS verbal adjective also, from DUNAMAI, but it has
long since ceased to have real verbal force; the adjective DUNATOS means
"able" or "possible." In classical Attic, ADUNATOS is used substantivally
for a "cripple." In fact, there's a celebrated short civil court speech of
Demosthenes written on behalf of a cripple who is fighting to continue
getting his public support allowance from the Athenian government; it's

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

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