Re: EXOUSIA (was "Re: Greek Help")

From: Carl W. Conrad (
Date: Tue Aug 26 1997 - 21:39:40 EDT

I'm not sure that this got through to B-Greek the way Larry had the "cc"
formulated, so I'm forwarding it.

>Date: Tue, 26 Aug 1997 20:17:25 -0500
>To: lakr <>
>From: "Carl W. Conrad" <>
>Subject: Re: EXOUSIA (was "Re: Greek Help")
>Cc: b-greek <>, lakr <>
>Bcc: "ÄB-Greek"
>At 5:59 PM -0500 8/26/97, lakr wrote:
>> > I'd translate (as literally as I can): "For even as (hWSPER) the
>>Father has
>> > life in himself, just so (hOUTWS) did he give (EDWKEN) to the Son (the
>> > ability/capacity/authority--I think EXOUSIAN is implicit here) to have
>> > Regards, cwc
>> > Carl W. Conrad
>> I've been curious for some time about this passage as to what exactly is
>> meant by the phrase 'EXEI ZWHN EN EAUTW'.
>> The LJS9 indicates that the word 'EXOUSIAN' (found at John 5:27, regarding
>> the judging) is related to EXESTI. I realize that usage is more important
>> than etymology, and I don't know how reliable these references are in
>> any lexicon, even Liddel Scott, however I always get the sense that such
>> 'authority' is always delegated from someone else. The other word I
>> associate with power is DUNAMIS, and I would think that this is more an
>> inner quality. If Christ is given to 'EXEI ZWHN EN EAUTW' in the same
>> manner as (hWSPER) the Father, the nuance of a delegated authority
>> or as the meaning of EXESTI alludes (it is allowable), does not seem to
>> fit with the ability of the Father, who gets authority from no one.
>> Perhaps I am reading too much into the comparison between the Father and
>> the Son is this regard as descriptive of the nature of the 'ZWHN
>> EXEIN EN EAUTW' of the Son.
>> I get an entirely different feeling about the usage of EXOUSIAN in verse
>> 27, since one does not need any innate quality to pronounce judgement
>> (KRISIS). There it fits that the son 'has permission' to perform the
>> judgement as given to him by the Father. But in the sense of the Son
>> acquiring the ability or power to raise the dead -- to have life in
>> himself -- as the Father has life in himself, authority seems too
>> weak a word to describe that.
>It is true that etymology can be misleading in some of the things it may
>suggest a word SHOULD mean when there's clear evidence that a word in
>actual usage DOESN'T convey the meaning we'd expect by virtue of its
>etymology. We've seen problems of this sort in the little-lamented last
>lost thread on MONOGENHS (the last thing in the world of my desire being
>to resurrect it). However, the usage of EXESTI in its relationship to
>EXOUSIA is helpful, I think, in clarifying the meanings which EXOUSIA can
>have. EXESTI(N) most commonly does equate to Latin LICET, "it is allowed"
>or "permission is granted"--and EXOUSIA deriving from that usage does
>readily translate as the English derivative of the Latin derivative of
>LICET-->LICENTIA-->"license." There's a wide range of senses of EXOUSIA
>branching off from this basic sense of "authority conferred, delegated,"
>"certification," etc. The centurion of the gospels declares himself an
>ANQRWPOS hUPO EXOUSIAN TASSOMENOS: he is in a chain of command and
>exercises command himself by virtue of being in that chain. Jesus is a
>maravel to those who observe him teach hWS EXOUSIAN ECWN KAI OUC hWS hOI
>GRAMMATEIS, where we might say that Jesus is one who "has credentials"--he
>teaches authoritatively because he's got what he's got directly from the
>source, and not from a tradition of scriptural interpretation. Here the
>sense of EXOUSIA goes half-way over into the other major sense of "power,"
>something closer to Latin IMPERIUM (the authority to command) or even
>AUCTORITAS, which doesn't really mean "authority" in our sense but rather
>_discernible legitimacy to speak and act_. That second sense of EXISTI +
>dative is "X CAN (do whatever the appended infinitive indicates)." One
>might argue that this is not originally inherent in the word EXESTI, but
>be that as it may, it is the confusion between the two senses is very much
>like that in English between "can" and "may." We are TAUGHT the difference
>between the two auxiliaries, but how often do we use them as precisely as
>we were taught to do? Even in German there seems to be a clear
>relationship between "moegen" and "vermoegen," the first meaning
>"may/might," the second "be able"--and "Macht" and its English
>cognate/equivalent "might" both mean "power" and both come from that same
>root seen in the verbs "moegen" and "may/might."
>So the words fade readily from one of the senses into the other, sometimes
>clearly pointing to the notion of delegated or conferred right ("license")
>to act in a certain way, and at other times apparently completely lacking
>in any notion that the capability for action comes from any source other
>than oneself. Thus in John 10:15 Jesus as Good Shepherd says of his life
>Here it's a matter of what Jesus can do, and if his power has been given
>him by some other, that's completely outside of any consideration.
>However, Pilate says in an almost identical construction in 19:10 EXOUSIAN
>as absolute a statement as did Jesus in 10:15, but in the very next verse
>Jesus tells him that he holds that EXOUSIA only by virtue of its having
>been delegated to him. One has to be very careful to discern the context
>in order to know whether "power" or "authority" or something in between
>these is most appropriate for EXOUSIA in a particular instance. There is
>another significant Hellenistic usage also that we occasionally see in the
>NT, and that is "astral power"--as in Ephesians and Colossians, where
>there seems to be an allusion to the notion that there is a ruler over
>each planetary sphere or orbit that one must transcend in order to gain
>freedom. That's an astrological sense, and in the NT it seems to be
>brought within the perspective of a network of evil powers that oppose
>God's will.
>Suffice it to say that this is only a cursory sketch. This is a word that
>will repay the effort taken to examine all the NT instances in their own
>contexts. It is not only profitable but even fun!

Carl W. Conrad
Department of Classics/Washington University
One Brookings Drive/St. Louis, MO, USA 63130/(314) 935-4018
Home: 7222 Colgate Ave./St. Louis, MO 63130/(314) 726-5649 OR

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