Re: Passive Infinitive in John 3:30

From: Randy Leedy (
Date: Mon May 26 1997 - 13:27:35 EDT

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

Someone else has probably already have answered this, but in case
not, I'll put in a brief word. Lots of verbs (especially those which
are causative in the active voice) are transitive in the active and
intransitive in the passive. BAGD usually notes this by dividing the
article into sections on the active and passive, often labeling the
passive as intransitive. I'm sure Carl's pet peeve about the way we
teach the Greek voices comes into play here.

At any rate, with this verb, the active means "to make [something]
less"; the passive means "to become less," intransitive. How would
the Greek writer say "to be made less" (true passive)? As far as I
know, he would use the passive and leave it for his reader to figure
out what he means, or else he makes it explicit by some means such as
adding an agent in the dative or as a prepositional phrase.

One of my favorite verbs of this sort is EGEIRW. When we read that
Jesus HGERQH, should we understand that "He arose" or that "He was
raised"? I believe we have strong arguments in favor of both
readings, so I tend to accept them as equally true. Certainly the
line between passive and intransitive can be mighty fine at times.

In Love to God and Neighbor,
Randy Leedy
Bob Jones University
Greenville, SC

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