a.t.robertson on middle voice

From: BTHURMAN@unca.edu
Date: Fri May 30 1997 - 18:57:07 EDT

a.t.robertson on middle voice

as severe as my own critiques of a.t.r. have been through the years, i must
admit to his great usefulness on some themes.

yes, he's much too verbose. yes, his work would have been far more useful, if
he had written out the most salient of his examples for his readership rather
than simply citing them to be looked up by the few least lazy or by those
forced by their mentors to do so (of which i hear there has been a great
multitude at s. b. seminary, louisville).

still, he could read and did read many excellent grammatical contributors, and
summarized them for us.

have relevant observations been contributed here regarding middle voice that
had been omitted from pp. 803-14 of 'a grammar ... '

so. i'd like to suggest the possible advantages of looking at a.t.robertson,
especially the examples listed.

p. 803 (a) 'origin'

<<Homer ... middle is rather more common than in later ... >>

from Draeger <<remnant of Latin middles like miror, sequor, utor ... >>

from Jannaris <<final disappearance of ... future and aorist middle before the
passive ... >>

<<But at first we are not to think of the passive at all, that interloper that
finally drove the middle out of use.>>

p. 804 (b) 'meaning'

<<Gildersleeve ... clearly right ... in holding that the interpretation of the
difference between active and middle is in many cases more lexical than
grammatical. "The middle adds a subjective element." Sometimes the variation
from the active is too minute for translation into English. This "word for
one's self" is often very difficult of translation, and we must not fall into
the error of explaining the force of the middle by the English translation.>>

p. 804 (c) 'often difference from active acute'

some thoughtful examples, regarding one of which mr. black slipped up in 'bible
review' within the last couple of years. it was so elementary, it was salient,
and thus to me memorable.

pp. 804-5 (d) 'use of the middle not obligatory'

<<Winer correctly says that "it depended on the writer" which he would use. Of
course, but that is not to say that no distinction existed.>>

<<When the active and the middle occur side by side the attention is drawn to
the distinction.>> regarding which i noted especially:

mark 14,47 cnacamevoc = spasamenus (or -os for illatinates) <-> matthew 26,51
anecnacev = apespasen

p. 806-7 (f) see this section for examples of direct middles to be considered!

pp. 808-9 (g) 'causative or permissive middle'

this section seems to contain material similar to carl's (to which i did not
object, since aristotelian grammar will have been almost 100% functional and
synchronic and allow morphology to continue as a diachronic and geographic

<<This occasional use of the middle does not distinguish it from the active

<<It is, like transitive and intransitive, more the notion of the word than a
phase of the middle voice. ... It is not to be forgotten that originally there
was no passive form at all. The verb idea and the context then alone decided
the voice as between middle and passive.>>

eventually you may get my loci vindicating elattouc0ai = elattusthae (or -ai
for illatinates) as a passive.

hereunder i think a.t.r. gives his readership pure junk with his mis-citation
of banticai = baptisae or -sai in acts 22,16 which is probably a clearcut case
of autobaptism, especially in the light of 1st corinthians 10,2 and the case of
naaman in the ogr of 4th kingdoms, for one would be hard put to it to adduce
any setting for the middle of this verb other than one that demands it to be a
clearly direct middle.

again, i much prefer the methods of rashi. ignore the grammatical jargon and
present the most resembling or identical instances. with all our movement arts
ministry and other obligations, do not have the time for carl's kind of patient
and pleonastic treatment. he does b-greek a service by his entering in and upon
the turf where he well knows many b-greekers stand.

pp. 809-10 (h) 'indirect middle'

<< ... by far the most frequent use, but it finally faded before the active and
the intensive (reflexive) pronoun or the passive.>>

next comes a point apparently borrowed from Findlay re 1st Corinthians 15,28
unotaghcetai = hypotagesetae <<the passive may bear the middle force>>

the transformation of the oblique functionally reflexive pronominal idea,
particularly in his suggested translations, into functionally intensives
congruent with the subject reinforce one of my continual observations: that in
traditional grammar it can really be shown that all things really amount to the
same thing and that therefore human communication must be impossible and can
only be attributed to an ongoing miracle.

<<No fixed rule can be laid down for the translation of this or any other use
of the middle.>>

p. 810 (i) 'reciprocal middle'

<<Since eautwv =heauton was used in the reciprocal sense, it was natural for
the middle to fall in with this idiom.>>

i hardly see how i could justify his wording. i would feel much more
comfortable with his statement, if he had not directly connected the verbal
forms in thought with eautwv =heauton or any other word used in alternations,
reciprocities, &c. i would rather say that since reflexive functions can
readily undergo metamorphosis into alternating, reciprocal, &c. functions, the
middle also does this.

p. 811 (j) 'redundant middle'

<<Here the pronoun and the middle both occur. ... a dimness in the force of the
middle on the part of he speaker.>>

his illustration from acts 12,8 works well. 7,58 worked well too, but he goofed
it up by feeling a compunction to call the form autwv = auton a 'personal
pronoun'. i dare say that in hellenistic greek this so-called 'personal
pronoun' in reality functions for the earlier eautou =heautu so frequently that
it ought to be considered just as likely to be reflexive as any of the other
senses, e.g. identifying, intensive like ipse, &c.

pp. 811-3 (k) 'dynamic (deponent) middle'

a.t.r. quotes gildersleeve's expressions "drip-pan middle" and navdekthc =
pandectes (learned for 'catch-all'), and here we find what looks like carl's
cup of tea.

<<The name "deponent" is very unsatisfactory.>>

<<But these verbs in most cases never had an active voice.>>

he refers to Moulton's view that the term deponent in reality <<applies as well
to active verbs that have no middle as to middle verbs that have no active.>>

the term deponent reminds me of a perennial source of error in the evolution of
traditional grammatical terminology, namely, that words in phrases and
sentences often end up depicted as actually doing things that, it should go
without needing to be said, they really do not do, e.g. verba deponentia as
'putting aside forms'.

<<They are indeed either transitive or intransitive, but some are in the middle
voice, others passive. But the point about all the 'dynamic' middles is that it
is hard to see the distinctive force of the voice. The question is raised
whether these verbs have lost the middle voice or never had it.>>

and he quotes Moulton: "it is useless to exercise our ingenuity on interpreting
the middle, for the development never progressed beyond the rudimentary stage."

next comes a point that i continually make:

<<It is possible that the Greeks were more sensitive to the exact force of this
middle than we are, ... >>

<<The French says "je me apercois," 'I perceive.'>>

where've you seen something like that lately?

<<Not all the 'deponents' of mental action are middles in the aorist.
((examples)) These are commonly called passive deponents in the present as well
as in the aorist and future, but the matter is not clear by any means. At any
rate there are middle verbs which are very hard to explain, ((list, including
epxomai = erchomae)) >>

p. 813 (l) 'middle future, though active present'

<<No real explanation of this phenomenon is known.>>

<<Clyde quotes Curtius' explanation that an act in the future lies mainly in
the mind of the speaker.>>

p. 814 (m) 'the middle retreating in the n.t.'

<<... from the day of Homer on the function of the middle was indistinct in
many verbs.>>

<<... the writer's Greek culture ...>>

<<...the author's feelings at the moment ...>>

<<... all the distinctions of earlier times did not survive with all the

p.s. change 'allow' to something like 'will have allowed', which jarred me up
there somewhere and put ? at end of par. starting 'have relevant'.

bearded bill of asheville <bthurman@unca.edu>
unca not having approved either whom or thereof.

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