LHMYESQE: Indicative or imperative meaning

From: David L. Moore (dvdmoore@ix.netcom.com)
Date: Thu Apr 02 1998 - 12:32:36 EST

Greetings to all members and chairs of the list:

        Recently I did a search in the LXX on the use of LHMYESQE, the 2nd person
plural future indicative middle of LAMBANW, and came across some
interesting data. Although this verbal form is indicative, its meaning in
the LXX is most often imperative. The categorization of the data is as

    Verse ind./imp. type of imp.

Gen. 42:36 indicative ---
Ex. 12:5 imperative commandment
         22 " "
      25:2 " "
         3 " instructions
Lev. 23:40 " commandment
      24:5 " "
Num. 13:20 " instructions
      14:34 indicative ---
      18:1 " ---
         1 " ---
         32 " ---
      31:29 imperative instructions
      34:18 " "
      35:31 " commandment
         32 " "
Deut. 2:6 " instructions
1Sam. 6:8 " "
Ezek. 23:49 indicative ---
Ezek. 45:18 imperative commandment
Dan. 2:6 indicative ---
Mic. 6:16 " ---

In total, there are 8 instances which are indicative and 14 which are

        Many of the citations I have classified as imperative could come under the
heading of the imperative use of the future as is common in commandments -
especially as enunciated by God or some other authority who expects to be
obeyed. Others, however, are contained in instructions. See especially
1Sam. 6:8 where the Philistines receive instructions on how the ark is to
be returned to the people of God. But there appears to be, in these cases
as well, where LHMYESQE conveys instructions, some element of authoritative

        These observations may be significant for certain instances of LHMYESQE in
the NT. Matthew 21:22; Jn. 5:43 and Acts 1:8 all appear to be clearly
indicative in meaning. John 16:24 and Acts 2:38, however, bear closer
scrutiny. Although LHMYESQE is traditionally interpreted as indicative in
both of these cases, in both, we have the word in the context of an
authoritative statement; Jesus, in Jn. 16:24, is giving instructions to his
disciples; and Peter, in Acts 2:38, is speaking in the authority of Jesus
to those who have responded to his message. If these represent usages
similar to LHMYESQE when used as commandments and instructions in the LXX,
understanding the word as imperative would be in order.

        John 16:24 appears to make better sense if LHMYESQE is understood with
imperative meaning. It has always seemed to me like changing horses in
midstream to understand an indicative meaning immediately after the
imperative AITEITE. A Gramcord search for an identical construction - even
allowing a two-word distance on each side of the KAI - turned up only this
verse. And even putting a *present*, middle, indicative, 2nd person,
plural for the second verb turned up nothing. With a *present*, *active*,
indicative, 2nd person, plural for the second verb, one verse came up which
is Acts 2:33. But I think the database is in error here, since BLEPETE,
which is before the KAI in this verse, is indicative rather than
imperative. Changing the second verb to imperative, however, with present
tense, imperative mood, 2nd person, plural does give some hits in both
active and middle voices. So, apparently, an imperative paired with an
indicative, as Jn. 16:24 is customarily read, is not a common NT
construction, and one might question whether it should be so read. And
especially since the LXX testifies amply to the imperative use of LHMYESQE,
to understand this word as imperative in Jn. 16:24 looks like the best option.

        Relative to Acts 2:38: how one intially reads LHMYESQE here most probably
will depend on whether one accepts the idea of an infilling or baptism with
the Holy Spirit which is distinct from conversion. Complete books have
been written to examine this point - _Baptism in the H. S._ by J. D. G.
Dunn and _Conversion-Initiation and the Baptism in the H. S._ by Howard M.
Ervin to name just a couple of them. So in this b-greek post I'll try not
to get involved in this matter, but I will mention several factors that, to
my mind, point toward an understanding of LHMYESQE in Acts 2:38 as
imperative in meaning.

        The numerous imperative uses of LHMYESQE for authoritative commands and
instructions in the LXX provides a precedent for understanding Peter's use
of this word as an imperative in the context of authoritative speech in
Acts 2:38. The possibility of such a correspondence is strengthened by the
consideration that Luke often (Might one say "characteristically?") employs
LXX-style language in portraying speech regarding religious subjects as is
the case in this passage. In terms of the immediate context, it is
important to remember that Peter is answering the question, "What shall we
do?" of verse 37. The answer, consists of the three verbs METANOHSATE,
BAPTISQHTO and LHMYESQE. These are all joined by KAI's: one between the
first two verbs and one between the second and third. The first two verbs
are both imperative in mood, although they differ in person, number, and
voice; the third (LHMYESQE) may also function as an imperative as we have
seen from the LXX. Since the GAR of v. 39 marks a change in the discourse
to explanation and encouragement, it seems better to take LHMYESQE as
related in grammatical function to what precedes than to what follows.

Regards to all,
David Moore
David L. Moore
Miami, Florida, USA
Southeastern Spanish District of the A/G Dept. of Education
E-mail: dvdmoore@ix.netcom.com
Home Page: http://members.aol.com/dvdmoore


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