Re: Rom 9:22 (Wallace's response)

From: Jonathan Robie (
Date: Tue Jun 03 1997 - 13:57:34 EDT

I can appreciate that Dan Wallace probably won't be able to really enter
into this discussion given his health, but I do want to respond because it
seems as though he feels attacked, and I don't think that anybody was
attacking him. In fact, I think that most people respect him and his work -
I certainly do. There is no need for him to respond to this, but I would
appreciate it if you would forward this to him, together with our
appreciation for his grammar and our prayers for his recovery.

I suspect that Dan Wallace may be responding to only one message in the
thread, and that he may not have seen the whole discussion. I was not
criticizing his grammar, I was discussing the meaning of the middle in one
particular passage. Later, when someone asked about Wallace's treatment, I
cited the paragraph in which he mentions his four points, verbatim. I think
that Wallace's grammar is significant and very useful; I do not agree with
everything in it, but I think that Wallace is a good exegete and a good
scholar. I guess writing a grammar is just asking for trouble, because you
just can't write something as big and detailed as Wallace's grammar without
making some mistakes, and you can't work in Greek grammar without hitting
some controversies, but I think Wallace has done a good job.

>The following is a response by Dan Wallace to the recent discussion of his
>Grammar and Rom 9:22.
>Dear b-greek list:
>As one who is not on this list, allow me a brief response to the criticisms
>of my grammar at its discussion of Rom 9:22.First, I ask you all to show
>some civility and scholarly deference. The grammar occasionally gets
>lambasted by those who hear snippets; yet they do not take the trouble to
>look at the page or read it in its context. That is neither civil nor
>scholarly. This is the main reason I am not in this list: too much heat, too
>little light.

Well, I think the discussion has been more about the use of the middle than
about your grammar. I don't think anybody has attacked you or your grammar,
but I do think that there has been some disagreement with what your grammar
seems to say about the use of the middle in one passage. I've read most of
the grammar carefully, and appreciated most of what I read, disagreed with
some of it, been confused by a few things...I read your discussion of this
one passage carefully before I posted anything to b-greek. Looking at the
discussion of this passage in the archives, I thought I saw more light than
heat. In fact, I feel that way about b-greek in general.

>To be specific, I did not say
>that ALL perfect middle-passive participles in the NT, in an unqualified
>sense, are actually passives. Although the statement may look unqualified,
>it is in the context of speaking about KATARTIZW. 'Tis true, I could have
>been clearer. Still, I listed three verses in parentheses at the point "in
>the perfect tense, the middle-passive form is always to be taken as a passive
>in the NT"--and each of these verses involves KATARTIZW.

Thanks for the clarification. As I read it again, it still *looks* like it
says what I thought it said; in fact, it looks like it applies to *all*
middle-passives in the perfect, not just the participles. This could
probably use a little editing for clarity.

>"--a fact that, in the least, argues against an
>idiomatic use of this verb as a direct middle." I find it incredible that
>this was left out of the discussion by those who should have known better.

But it wasn't - I suspect that you may have read only one or two of the
messages in the thread. I'm not sure that I'm one who "should have known
better" since my knowledge of Greek is quite uneven, but I did quote your
entire paragraph with all 4 points intact, and in the discussion, your last
point, the one about context, was the one that seemed to prevail if there
was a consensus in the thread. I don't think that the grammatical argument
alone would have been sufficient, but the context does seem to clinch it.
Also, I have to point out that my views on this passage changed throughout
the discussion.

>Second, no one (so far) has noticed the previous discussion of the direct
>middle, on which the present treatment of Romans 9:22 is keyed. On p. 416, I
>argued that "In the NT, the direct middle is quite rare, used almost
>exclusively with certain verbs whose lexical nuance included a reflexive
>notion (such as putting on clothes), or in a set idiom that had become fixed
>in the language." Hence, with reference to Rom 9:22, my point is that if the
>participle is a middle, it looks to be a direct middle.

But why would it have to be a direct middle?

>But if direct, we
>would expect to find other instances of this principal part in the middle or
>some sort of idiomatic expression. Neither is forthcoming with this verb in
>the NT. Hence, to take it as a middle smells a little fishy. Not that it's
>impossible, of course, just that corroborative proof is needed.

Well, there are only three uses of KATARTIZW in middle-perfect participles.
Two of them make perfectly good sense as middles (Romans 9:22 and 1 Cor
1:10), two make perfectly good sense as passives (Romans 9:22 and Luke
6:40). I wasn't convinced by your grammatical argument alone.

>Third, the entire argument needs to be looked at. It seems quite misleading
>to quote one part of one argument (not even the full sentence) as though
>that's all I said about the matter. I gave four arguments, covering more
>than half a page of text (pp. 417-18). Why wasn't this mentioned?

It was not only mentioned, a great deal of it was quoted verbatim, including
all 4 arguments. In the end, the last argument, appealing to the context,
was the one I found convincing.

>Fourth, the argument was presented as though I was making some sort of truth
>claim, rather than a mere observation. Quite frankly, even if I had produced
>100 examples on one side (passive) to none on the other (middle), this would
>not seal the argument. Many factors go into an exegetical decision. Context
>is a major one (and very much on the side of the passive in this text, I
>believe). Read "The Approach of this Book," esp. pp. 1-2 (which addresses
>the issue of a sufficient database) for my method. You would have seen there
>that I try to avoid making dogmatic statements on the basis of mere
>statistics. You may read them that way; they are not intended as such.

The language may have been misleading here. Statements like "in the perfect
tense, the middle-passive form is always to be taken as a passive in the NT"
do feel like absolute laws to me; a global search for words like "always"
and "never" might help reveal ways to soften the language in the grammar,
and I think that would improve the grammar for me.

>Fifth, this points up the need to read an author holistically. When I have
>seen statements in other grammars that look odd, I give the author the
>benefit of the doubt. I look at the broader context. I look up the
>examples. And I try to give him the benefit of the doubt. I ask you to do
>the same for me--before going to the b-greek for a discussion.

I was trying to decide which of two ways to interpret the passage. B-Greek
is a great place to discuss this kind of question, and a grammar is not an
interactive medium. Since grammars disagree on how to interpret this
passage, I can't give all authors equal benefit of the doubt and still come
to a conclusion! I learned a lot from the discussion on B-Greek, and I'm
glad I was involved in it.

> I was very concerned about getting such a different book to the market
>within a few months of the first edition. Hence, I asked that the publisher
>make available for free these new indices. Zondervan was more than willing
>to comply. They are available (as was noted) on the Internet at Bill
>Mounce's web page. Or you may get hard copies directly from Zondervan. The
>third printing mentions on the cover that it has the new indices. (CBD
>bought up the remainder of the second printing; if one orders from Zondervan,
>he will be sure to get the third printing.)

And I really appreciate these additional indexes - they are really quite

>But the first printing--contrary to what some suggested--does have an index.
> It may only be a Scripture index, but it is still an index. All major
>discussion are put in bold-italics. Romans 9:22 could have been easily

I told people the page number, too, in order to help them find the
discussion, in addition to quoting quite a bit of the text verbatim.

>I hope this clears up some of the misunderstandings. Since, as many of you
>may have heard, I am in very poor health presently, I will not be able to
>respond further to this issue.

I appreciate your taking the time to respond to this extent, and I don't
expect any further response. May God bless you.


Jonathan Robie
POET Software, 3207 Gibson Road, Durham, N.C., 27703

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