Re: Stanley Porter and Periphrastic Participles

From: Micheal Palmer (
Date: Sun Mar 23 1997 - 23:54:10 EST

At 10:09 PM -0600 3/22/97, Eric Weiss wrote:
>[I don't know why my e-mail is running words together. Maybe it's a flaw
>in Netscape 4.0 Beta 2 which I'm using. Anyway, here is my last post
>again, hopefully with correct spacing between words.]
>Stanley Porter's "rule" for periphrastic participles confuses me.

This is not surprizing. As far as I can tell his 'rule' is simply unfounded.

>In his
>IDIOMS OF THE GREEK NEW TESTAMENT he states (pp. 45ff.):
>"In determining whether a given instance of EIMI and a participle is
>periphrastic, it is useful to keep in mind that no elements may
>intervene between the auxiliary verb [EIMI] and the participle except
>for those which complete or directly modify the participle (not the verb
>EIMI). Hence 2 Cor. 2.17 (OU ... ESMEN hWS hOI POLLOI
>KAPHLEUONTES TON LOGON TOU QEOU [we are not like many, peddling the word
>of God; NOT: we are not peddling the word of God, as do many]) and Lk.
>1.21 (HNhO LAOS PROSDOKWN TON ZACARIAN [the people were there,
>expecting Zacharias]) are not periphrastic constructions, since in each
>case the grammatical subject is placed between the auxiliary verb and
>the participle."

I have a very hard time seeing how Porter came up with this 'rule'. There
is no reason to expect that the intervening material should modify the
participle rather than EIMI.

One way of analyzing 2 Cor. 2:17 as NOT being periphrastic would be to take
hWS hOI POLLOI as the complement of OU. . . ESMEN (We are not like the
many), then construe the participial clause as a modifier of POLLOI in a
sense like what Ronald Ross called a 'participial relative clause' earlier.
(We are not like the many--who peddle the word...) Still, this would not
satisfy Porter's 'rule' since it has the participial clause modifying the
intervening material, not the intervening material modifying the participle.

Even if we concede that this reading DOES comply with Porter's 'rule',
however,there is no reason to prefer it over the periphrastic reading (We
are not peddling the word as many do...)

As far as Luke 1:21 goes, Porter's reading seems to me to border on the
absurd. He says it should be "The people were there, expecting Zacharias,"
rather than "The people were expecting Zacharias." In both Porter's
translation and the more traditional one, however, hO LAOS serves as the
subject of PROSDOKWN (it is 'the people' who are expecting Zacharias). His
insertion of "there" does not change this fact, it merely adds some
unwaranted semantics (the reference to the place).

>consider the Lk. 1.21 participle periphrastic, as does Friberg's
>Analytical GNT (which also considers the 2 Cor. 2.17 participle
>periphrastic). I also find Porter's "rule" failing at Luke 2:33 (KAI HN
>AUTOU), for it seems to me that HN...QAUMAZONTES must be periphrastic
>(even though it seems to follow the same pattern as Luke 1.21) - unless
>I misunderstand what Porter is saying. Not surprisingly, Zerwick and
>Perschbacher and Friberg consider Luke 2.33 periphrastic.

I agree with your analysis of Luke 2:33. It's hard to imagine that Porter
would actually want us to translate this as "His father and mother were
there, amazed at what was being said about him" since to mention that
Joseph and Mary were there would be totally redundant in this context, a
move which would be very uncharacteristic of Luke's style.

This 'rule' is one which I hope teachers of 2nd year Greek will NOT teach
their students.

Micheal W. Palmer
Religion & Philosophy
Meredith College

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