Passives in Hellenistic Greek

From: Micheal Palmer (
Date: Sat Apr 19 1997 - 22:54:29 EDT

I have a question about passives in Hellenistic Greek (including Biblical
Greek). With a verb like DIDWMI, the Noun Phrase that would be assigned
accusative case in an *active* construction (i.e. the Direct Object) may be
made the subject of a *passive* construction in the usual way:

        EDWKEN EMOI *PASAN EXOUSIAN* Accusative object of active verb
        He gave me all authority

        EDOQH EMOI *PASA EXOUSIA* Nominative subject of passive verb
        All authority was given to me (Matthew 28:18)

In English we can also take the NP that would be the Indirect Object of an
active verb (dative case in Greek) and make it the subject of an equivalent

        He gave me all authority
        I was given all authority [by him]

But you canNOT do this with DIDWMI in Greek. EGW EDOQHN PASAN EXOUSIAN
would be totally ungrammatical (and does not appear anywhere in the New

So... here's my question: Is DIDWMI unique in this regard, or is it
*always* impossible to take what would be the indirect object of an active
construction and make it the subject of an equivalent passive construction
in Greek? I suspect that it IS impossible, but I can't demonstrate that yet.

Phrased a little differently, my question would be, 'Can any of you provide
me with an example where the subject of a passive construction in the Greek
New Testament (of in any other Hellenistic Greek document) would clearly be
dative case in an equivalent active construction?'

Thanks in advance for any help you may provide.

Micheal W. Palmer
Religion & Philosophy
Meredith College

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