Re: APEPLANHQHSAN in 1 Tim 6:10

From: Carl W. Conrad (
Date: Mon Apr 27 1998 - 11:32:55 EDT

At 7:47 AM -0500 4/26/98, clayton stirling bartholomew wrote:
>Jeffrey B. Gibson wrote:
>> I have noticed recently while consulting the commentaries on 1 Tim 6:10
>> that some commentators (e.g., J.N.D. Kelly) render APEPLANHQHSAN as
>> "have been led astray" while others (e.g., Dibelius/Greeven) render it
>> "have gone astray". Guthrie points out that the verb is passive, and
>> Kelly obviously takes it in this sense. But D/G and others obviously
>> give it an active sense. So which is it to be? And why?
>BAGD renders APEPLANHQHSAN as an active in 1 Tim 6:10 and so does J.E. Huther
>(Meyer's Handbook) who quotes Luther as doing the same. Am I correct that the
>form APEPLANHQHSAN is a probable case of the passive form marking a
>intransitive use of an otherwise transitive verb? Or is there some other kind
>of issue involved here?
>As far as the context in 1Tim 6 is concerned, I can see no compelling reason
>to go either way on this. If APEPLANHQHSAN is read as a passive then one would
>look for an agent. Perhaps the question comes down to whether OREGOMENOI
>indicates an internal agent or an external agent. If it is an internal agent
>then APEPLANHQHSAN could be read as intransitive. If it is an external agent
>the APEPLANHQHSAN could be read as passive. Some might argue that the agent
>is actually FILARGURIA, but this resolves nothing. The same question arises
>with FILARGURIA, whether its an external or internal agent.
>These are but the musings of a muddled mind. Perhaps someone else can clear
>this up.

Jeffrey, Clay:

I think that this verb is a wonderful (Greek DEINOS, which, as Heidegger
reminds us, also means "overwhelming" or "terrible") illustration of the
problem of Greek voice and the sorts of terminological difficulties
entailed in our endeavor to makes sense simultaneously of the MORPHOLOGY of
the -QH- forms and their actual SEMANTIC content.

I've just done a careful read-through of the LSJ entries on PLANAW (our
verb here) and the very closely related (not etymologically, but
semantically) verb PLAZW. Etymologically (and I realize that's not what
interests most people, but it interests me nonetheless, wherefore I feel
obliged to comment on it), these are two different verbs, although PLAZW
functions as the poetic verb, PLANAW as the prose equivalent. Both mean
pretty much the same thing, "make stray off course," but PLAZW derives
originally from the root PLAG- whence we also derive EKPLHTTW (drive out of
one's wits) and PLHGH "blow" as well as the related verb PLHGNUMI, "smite,"
"strike hard"; PLANAW, however, derives from the root PLAN- meaning
"level," "flat," and there are various Greek and Latin (and English)
derivatives meaning "plain" in the sense of either "level" or "an unrutted,
i.e. trackless field." PLAZW therefore originally means (etymologically)
"knock off course" while PLANAW means "make go without direction." In
practice, however, both verbs function to have the same meaning. We see the
first in the second line of the Odyssey:

        "Recount to me, Muse, the versatile man, who roamed quite a lot (MALA
        POLLA PLANGCQH), after he had sacked the sacred citadel of Troy ..."

Now the problem with these verbs, so far as VOICE is concerned, is that the
active clearly is used in the sense of "make go astray," whereas the middle
voice is used in what we call an INTRANSITIVE sense, "go astray"--and the
-QH- "passive" forms provide simply the aorist of this middle
"intransitive" sense of "go astray." That is to say, this is one of those
verbs for which it is hard to demonstrate any genuine passive sense UNLESS,
as Clay notes, one can show an external agent as the key factor in the

I think the "lesson" of this is that it is dangerous to make an assumption
that a -QH- aorist conjugated with active endings is passive in
meaning--UNLESS one can see or reasonably surmise the implication of an
external cause or agent--or, to state the same thing in an alternative
fashion, although it may be easiest to IDENTIFY an aorist -QH- form as
"passive" in morphological terms, it is PERILOUS to assume for that reason
that its MEANING is really passive.

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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