Re: Genative Absolute

From: Ray Clendenen (
Date: Fri Apr 16 1999 - 14:41:47 EDT

Ray Clendenen@BSSBNOTES
04/16/99 01:41 PM

I have just been reading Phyllis and Alan Healey's 1990 study on the
genitive absolute, or what they prefer to call the genitive circumstantial
participial clause(GCP). They explain that it is a circumstantial clause
with a participle and a substantive, both in the genitive case. It differs
from other circumstantial clauses in that it indicates that its subject is
different from the subject of the related independent clause. This is known
as "switch reference". As I understand it, an "absolute" is actually a
constituent of a clause that is not integrally connected to the clause.
There are other names for the grammatical phenomenon, such as
extraposition. But the koine 'genitive absolute' is actually not absolute
but is a separate but dependent clause. There are also nominative
circumstantial participial clauses in which the subject is the same as in
the main clause. They further explain that "Within a paragraph the primary
function of the GCP clause is as back reference between sentences, that is,
it reiterates, completes, or is a reciprocal statement of the end of the
preceding sentence or even of something further back. In this usaghe it
appears at the beginning of its own sentence and has lexical overlap with
items in the preceding context." Thus it carries mainly "old information".
In non-narrative it tends to have a nontemporal function, i.e., logical or
elaboration. In 1 Pet 4:1 as often elsewhere(e.g. Acts 27:9; 2 Cor 7:15) it
expresses reason-result.
The complete study is found in OPTAT (Occasional Papers in Translation and
Textlinguistics) 4.3 (1990).
Ray Clendenen
Broadman & Holman

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