Re: Mt 28:19a, attendant circumstantial partic.

From: Carl W. Conrad (
Date: Wed Oct 29 1997 - 10:36:22 EST

I'm going to limit this response to the one question below, because I think
there is a (relatively) clear answer to make to it:

At 7:20 AM -0600 10/29/97, Paul F. Evans wrote:
>In this case, MAQHTEUSATE, BAPTIZONTES, and DIDASKONTES express the mission
>in a threefold sense. The mission is to make disciples, baptize and to
>teach. What if anything is the effect of the present tense of the
>participles, other than linking their action as contemporaneous to that of
>the finite verb? In other words is there anything inherently durative
>about the action expressed by the participles that is not expressed in the
>aorist verb (a suggestion made by someone on the list earlier)? Or are we
>to understand the action of the particples in light of the tense of the
>main verb, since the present simply links the participles to the verb in a
>particular way but says nothing about whether the action is durative or
>punctiliar? If these are attendant circumstance participles, exactly what
>does that mean? That the action of the participles supports the main verb
>(close to instrumental), or that the action of the participles is simply
>connected with the verb but "independent" of it in all practical senses.

The interesting thing here is that we have an aorist imperative and
coordinated with it two present-tense participles. Now the aspect "geeks"
may each of them have their own preferred way of explaing this, but it
seems to me that the sense of the aorist imperative is a simple command:
"this is what you are to achieve," Then the force of the two present
participles, it seems to me, is that these are things that are to be done
EACH AND EVERY TIME that one achieves the objective of making a
disciple--so that the force of the present participles is to indicate
repetition, even though the aorist imperative doesn't specify when or how
often or how long the process of making disciples is to last. I'd try to
express the force of it in this paraphrase: "Your mission is to make
disciples, and every time that you do so, you should baptize and instruct
the new disciple thoroughly in all the lore that you have received from
me." Does that help?

>I am trying to grasp to what extent participles depend upon the main verb,
>and if there is any independent character about them. This may be a naive
>suggestion, but I have heard many arguments for the dependence of
>participles which then went on to make wild assertions about them as though
>they expressed a great deal of independent quality. (I am asking about
>participles in general not only this particular case.) It seems to me that
>one cannot have it both ways!

Why not? The difficulty is that participles technically agree with
substantives and yet they always have some relationship to a finite verb--a
relationship that has to be discerned somewhat perilously each time you
confront a participle. What Vergil said about women (I know I'll regret
this): VARIUM ET MUTABILE SEMPER/ FEMINA -- "a many-splendored thing is a
woman, and one that will always keeping showing you different aspects";
Vergil's dictum could be translated in less flattering ways, but it doesn't
have to be translated in an unflattering way. At any rate, my point here is
that this is exactly the way a participle works in Greek: it is immensely
flexible and capable of a marvelous range of usage, but it resists neat and
simple pigeonholing into half a dozen clear and distinct categories, one of
which is going to be the right one for any participle you ever meet; rather
one could describe the Greek participle also in terms of the unflattering
translation of the Vergilian dictum: "a chameleon is what a participle (or
a woman) is, and a thing that always manifests itself differently." The
participle, more than any other feature of the Greek verb, is what makes
Greek more versatile and harder to pin down precisely than most languages
one is ever likely to encounter.

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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