Re: Verbal adjectives: how much verbal force?

From: Micheal Palmer (
Date: Sun Mar 09 1997 - 23:29:18 EST

At 3:42 PM -0800 3/9/97, Jonathan Robie wrote:
>I was asked for more details on this, since it wasn't clear
>enough. '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

This is a really tough and interesting question. I find any general
statements about whether whole classes of forms have "lost their verbal
force" etc. to be somewhat suspect. Words aquire or loose verbal force or
other features of meaning in ways which can be quite independent of other
words in their same morphological class. For that reason, SOME of these
verbal adjectives may have lost most of their verbal force, but that
certainly does not mean that they all had. I think that the best policy is
to do exactly what Jonathan has done: examine specific uses of these
adjectives and see whether a sense stripped of verbal implication will work
in each context. My strong suspicion is that it will in some, but clearly
not in others, as Jonathan's own examples (repeated below) illustrate.

Still, it is true that if the specific morphemes -TOS and -TEOS may may be
said to take on new meaning or loose old meaning IF it can be demonstrated
that these forms were "live" at the time of the New Testament. That is, how
free was John, for example, to coin new words by adding the morpheme -TOS
to the end of an already existing root? If this could be done at will, then
it makes sense to talk about the posibility of -TOS (not necessarily the
individual words to which it is attached) loosing verbal force over time.
Even so, however, some words with -TOS would have probably been used so
frequently that their verbal implications would remain even if the "live"
morpheme -TOS was loosing its verbal force. That is, these particular words
may have become what historical linguists sometimes call "frozen"
forms--forms which remain the same over time even if the morphemes from
which they are composed undergo significant semantic shift.

All of this simply means that making blanket statements about changes in
the meaning of specific morphemes like -TOS may be helpful, but we have to
remember that there will always be exceptions to such statements, and they
clearly cannot be applied to all forms which incorporate the morpheme -TOS.

>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.
>2Tim 3:16 (GNT) pasa grafh *qeopneustos* kai wfelimos pros didaskalian,
>pros elegmon, pros epanorqwsin, pros paideian thn en dikaiosunh,
>Matt 3:17 (GNT) kai idou fwnh ek twn ouranwn legousa: houtos estin
>ho huios mou ho *agaphtos*, en hw eudokhsa.
>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".
>Do other people feel a passive verbal force in these examples,
>similar to a passive participle?

By the way, a great little tool which is tremendously helpful for this kind
of discussion in Harold Greenley's _New Testament Greek Morpheme Lexicon_
which is now out of print. Does anyone know if there are plans to reprint
it? I value my copy precisely because of discussions like this one.

Micheal W. Palmer
Religion & Philosophy
Meredith College

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