Re: 3rd-person imperatives in the Lord's Prayer

From: Carl W. Conrad (
Date: Thu Aug 14 1997 - 16:00:26 EDT

At 9:22 AM -0400 8/14/97, Jonathan Robie wrote:
>At 07:43 AM 8/14/97 -0400, Carl W. Conrad wrote:
>>At 6:45 AM -0400 8/14/97, Jonathan Robie wrote:
>>>2. This seems similar to the indefinite plural, but it is singular. BDR does
>>>not mention anything about singular versus plural in this usage - were both
>>>forms used in prayer?
>>I'm having a memory lapse about the "indefinite plural" (and I'm assuming
>>you're not talking about 3rd-singular verbs used with neuter plural
>>subjects?). Which is to say, I don't know what you mean: each of the
>>subjects in these clauses is in fact singular.
>Zerwick uses the term "indefinite plural" for uses like AFRON, TAUTH THi
>NUKTI THN PSUCHN SOU *APAITOUSIN* APO SOU (Lk 12:20). Literally, it says
>something like "fool, this night *they* will ask to have your soul back from
>you". Who "they" is isn't clear, which is why it is called the "indefinite"
>plural, kind of like "they say that nobody is perfect" in English.

Okay, now I understand that point, but I don't think it is really relevant
here. It seems to me that each of these subjects (and accompanying verbs)
is focusing upon an aspect of the godhead as it governs prayer: God's NAME,
God's REIGN, God's SOVEREIGN WILL. As I suggested in my original note,
perhaps these are the imperatives one ought to understand before offering
any petitions whatsoever. But again, that's only my working hypothesis.

>If hAGIASQHTW is a true passive, then there is no need to look for a
>subject. The subject of ELQETW is clear - the kingdom is to come. But who is
>the implied subject for GENHQHTW? are we asking God to bring about his will?
>or are we asking that his will "come about", without specifying a subject?

I don't see how this is a problem. God's will IS the subject. I would think
that, just as in the LXX of Genesis 1, God expressed his will in the
several sentences (imperatives, aren't they?) and each is answered by some
form of EGENETO. Indeed, John's gospel says simply: PANTA DI' AUTOU
EGENETO, KAI CWRIS AUTOU EGENETO OUDE hEN. So: the imperative is that God's
SOVEREIGN WILL is to come to fulfilment, as his REIGN is to come, and his
NAME is to be sanctified.

Carl W. Conrad
Department of Classics/Washington University
One Brookings Drive/St. Louis, MO, USA 63130/(314) 935-4018
Summer: 1647 Grindstaff Road/Burnsville, NC 28714/(704) 675-4243 OR

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