Re: Permissive Subj. in Acts 7:34B

From: Jonathan Robie (
Date: Tue Oct 14 1997 - 14:16:59 EDT

At 10:36 AM 10/14/97 +0000, Clayton Bartholomew wrote:

>In Acts 7:34b we have :
>Both Wallace (p464) and BDF (364(1)) call this an example
>of a permissive subjunctive. BDF states ". . . in the first
>person singular . . . an invitation is extended to another to
>permit the speaker to do something."
>I checked the LXX and the syntax of Ex 3:10 in BHS and
>read U. Cassuto on Ex 3:10 and my conclusion is that
>whatever the subjunctive is doing in this passage it is
>most certainly not permissive. The LORD is not asking
>Moses if He can send him to the Egyptians.

The "Permissive Subjunctive" can generally be translated "let us", but it is
a command, not a request. If I say, "Let's go!", I am not asking you to
grant permission for the two of us to go, and I am not asking your opinion
about whether you think we should go, I am telling you to come with me. A
better name for this is the "Hortatory Subjunctive", which makes it clear
that this is a kind of imperative, not a request. In fact, both BDR and
Wallace use the term "Hortatory Subjunctive" as the main heading of the
sections to which you refer. I have also seen the term "Volative
Subjunctive", but Robertson quotes Monro to point out that the element of
"will" in the volative subjunctive belongs to the speaker, not to the one
addressed - it expresses what the speaker "resolves or insists on".

So we SAY "Let's go", but we MEAN "move it!".

Robertson says this is the normal way that imperatives are done in the first
person, since there is no first person imperative. When I think about it,
this seems to be a very normal way of doing first person plural imperatives
in English. I can't think how we would do this for the first person singular
in English, but Greek uses the hortatory subjunctive for both.


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

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