Re: Romans 1:21 EN DIALOGISMOIS: instrumental or locative?

From: Carl W. Conrad (
Date: Thu Sep 04 1997 - 16:45:47 EDT

What follows is an off-list exchange between Eric and myself related to his
previously question on EN and EIS with ALLASSW/METALLASSW. He responded to
my suggestion that his question be put to the list with the equivalent of a
NIHIL OBSTAT, to which my response is IMPRIMATUR.

>Date: Thu, 4 Sep 1997 15:09:07 -0500
>To: Eric Weiss <>
>From: "Carl W. Conrad" <>
>Subject: Re: Romans 1:23,25,26 - (MET)ALLASSW + EN/EIS
>At 10:48 AM -0500 9/4/97, Eric Weiss wrote:
>>Carl W. Conrad wrote:
>>> (snip) ...What really bothers me here (and I never thought about this
>>>until Eric called attention to what appears--especially in the English
>>>translations of these verses--as a significant differentiation between
>>>the usage of ALLASSW/METALLASSW with EN + dative and of the same verbs
>>>with EIS. The English translations give "exchange for" to represent both
>>>constructions, but it seems to me that the way the dative is understood
>>>here is somehow wrong--at least if the dative is understood to indicate
>>>that INTO WHICH the exchange issues. Although the result may be the same
>>>ultimately, it seems to me that in both 1:23 and in 1:25 the
>>>construction of EN + dative is INSTRUMENTAL and indicates the MEANS
>>>whereby the alteration has been effected rather than the END-PRODUCT of
>>>the alteration. On the other hand, in 1:26 the EIS + accusative
>>>construction clearly DOES point to the end-product of the alteration.
>>It's interesting you should say this, since a friend asked me (and only
>>F.F. Bruce's paraphrase among all the translations I checked supported
>>what she was asking, so I said, "possible, but not the majority opinion")
>>if in Romans 1:21 the EN there could be instrumental - i.e., "they became
>>futile by-means-of their reasonings" - I think Bruce translates it "their
>>reasonings landed them into futility." Most translations are along the
>>lines of "become futile in their reasonings" (dative of sphere?). I
>>suppose the translation choice here might depend on whether the phrase
>>"EMATAIWQHSAN EN TOIS DIALOGISMOIS" is a Greek idiom - or it could
>>reflect translators' laziness and just assuming a dative of sphere is
>>meant by EN. Any thoughts?
>This really seems like a locative usage to me, and I see that Wallace
>makes "dative of the sphere" a subcategory of the locative dative. If it's
>locative, then the phrase answers the question: "WHERE did they end up in
>futility?" with "In their reasoning processes." But if it's instrumental,
>then the phrase answers the question, "HOW did they end up in futility?"
>with "By means of their reasoning faculties" or perhaps, "Through the
>exercise of their reasoning powers." The more I think about this second
>alternative, the more it makes sense to me. I guess I've generally not
>like the instrumental with EN because it doesn't seem "right" to me,
>although I know that it's occasionally found even in classical Attic, even
>if it's not the norm. But there's no question but that the instrumental
>with EN is an everyday thing in Hellenistic, certainly in NT Greek. So I
>guess this is really quite plausible, if it's not in fact right. At any
>rate, I'd like to see it demonstrated convincingly that it can't be
>That's the current state of my thinking on the issue. Looks like a good
>question to take back to the list.

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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