Re: Passive Infinitive in John 3:30

From: Carl W. Conrad (
Date: Mon May 26 1997 - 07:10:30 EDT

At 5:15 PM -0400 5/25/97, Jim Beale wrote:
>Greetings all;
>I was reading through John's Gospel, and I stopped to wonder at
>John 3:30,
>Since EME is in the accusative, and ELATTOUSQAI is passive, I
>wondered why this verse is invariably translated as if the
>nominative and the active voice were present? Why not rather
>translate it as passive, "It is necessary for Him to increase,
>but for me to be decreased"?

The reason is that ELATTOUSQAI is middle (or reflexive), NOT passive--and
the English equivalents most commonly used to translate both of the Greek
verbs here in the infinitive are generally intransitive: "He must wax, but
I must wane."

This verse always reminds me of the very idiomatic Thucydidean dictum, a
sort of expression of the second law of thermodynamics: PANTA FILEI
ELATTOUSQAI, "Everything tends to degenerate."

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

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