Re: Middle/Passive in Ro 9:22

From: Stephen C. Carlson (
Date: Fri May 01 1998 - 22:24:28 EDT

At 09:14 5/2/98, Mark O'Brien wrote:
>At 08:45 AM 5/1/98 -0500, you wrote:
>>Now with regard to KATHRTISMENA, I really think the context points toward
>>its having a passive sense: [...]
>>If that's the case, isn't it more reasonable to undertand
>>KATHRTISMENA as passive?
>Upon further reflection, I think you're right here... the context does
>seem to point towards the passive, and a reflexive sense just wouldn't fit.
> (Context, context, context, eh?)

I think that asking whether this participle is middle or passive may
be forcing the text to be more precise than Paul intended. Since this
verse comes up regularly, I enclose my message from eleven months ago:

I would like to voice a note of caution in this exercise in identifying
whether a particular medio-passive perfect participle is middle or
passive.  We must be cognizant of the possibility that the meaning of
this participle may be (intentionally) left imprecise.  The formal
morphology of Greek allows for either possibility, and the perfect
"tense" puts the focus on the present state that resulted from a past
action.  Thus, in Mk1:6, John the baptizer's present state is that he
is endued with the camel's hair and leather belt.  Who endued John is
not the point of the author and neither of Matthew, by the way (John
had a garment).

Likewise in Rm9:22, the present state is that the vessels are now fit for destruction, and the point is that God is enduring with much patience the vessels that are in that present state. How the vessels got into that state is immaterial to the grammar of the passage. We can try to determine what Paul probably thought about that issue from a thorough understanding of the context in specific and Paul's theology in general (my views are, in fact, contrary to the apparent consensus on this list), but I think we need to recognize that avoiding the active voice obscures or de-emphasizes, for whatever reason, the actual agent of the verb.

Stephen Carlson -- Stephen C. Carlson : Poetry speaks of aspirations, : and songs chant the words. : -- Shujing 2.35

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