Re: Passive Infinitive in John 3:30

From: Lee R. Martin (
Date: Mon May 26 1997 - 22:33:27 EDT

Jim Beale wrote:

> Thanks for the comments. In reply, I ask:
> But how can John neither act nor be acted upon? I don't understand
> that at all. Wouldn't that be equivalent to saying that there is no
> relation between EME and ELATTOUSQAI???

Philosophically, everything may have a cause, but grammatically, some
events are uncaused. "I grow older every day." In "growing" I neither
act, nor am I acted upon. "When I dropped the glass, it broke." The
glass neither acted nor was acted upon. On the other hand I could use
the passive and say, "The glass was broken by me."

> In John 3:30, the active and the middle/passive occur side-by-side;
> which according to Robertson, is meant to draw attention to the
> distinction (The Big Yellowish One, 805). (He also indicates that
> ELATTOUSQAI is passive, _Word Pictures_, ad loc.) How do you see
> the distinction?

I do not believe the active and the middle side-by-side has anything to
do with drawing attention to the distinction. ELATTOUSQAI is the best
way to say "decrease." The active voice is transitive and would not fit
at all.

> >I know this is simplistic but it helps me. Part of the difficulty is
> >the overlap of form and function. Middle,passive, and reflexive are
> >sometimes found in the same form.
> That's the problem all right! I guess we must be ever sensitive to
> the context! (Q. Do you intend to make reflexive a distinct voice
> which is sometimes found in a different form from the middle???)

No, the overlap of forms is in the middle/passive. Reflexive is the
same form as the middle. I'm sure that some people see the reflexive as
a subset of the middle voice. You may remember a post about 6 months
ago when I pointed out that the same is true of the Hebrew Niphal stem,
which may be middle, passive, or reflexive, with no difference in form.

Lee R. Martin
Adjunct Faculty in Old Testament and Hebrew
Church of God School of Theology
Cleveland, TN 37311
Pastor, Prospect Church of God

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