Re: (To Carl) Two routes to the passive voice

From: Jim West (jwest@Highland.Net)
Date: Sat Apr 17 1999 - 09:24:39 EDT

At 07:07 AM 4/17/99 -0500, you wrote:

>At any rate, Moon's question has prompted me to anticipate the major new
>item that I intended to add to my revised discussion of tense in the
>ancient Greek verb. It's only in the last couple years that I have come to
>think that BOTH the "middle/passive" morphology AND the -QH- morphology
>much more commonly bear "reflexive" or "deponent" senses, and much less
>commonly do they bear any real "passive" sense.
>Carl W. Conrad

This would be true except for one major problem: the writers of the NT are,
so far as we know it, Jews (except of course "Luke"). Being Jews they bring
with them their own cultural perspective. Perspective becomes language, and
language may or may not fall into neat categories. This is such a place.
For, in my estimation, the middle/passive form verbs are either active or
truly passive in function- and not so much middle. Why? That old bugaboo,
the "divine passive". Jews can readily conceive of action in an active
form, and action in a passive form, but activity in a reflexive form is good
Greek theology but really bad Hebrew theology.

The notion that Jews writing in Greek would have adopted Greek thought
patterns does not really seem to hold water. They would have used Greek- to
communicate Hebrew thought- and theres the rub. The Greek verb may be
middle/passive in form, but it would be a rare thing indeed for a Hebrew
thinker to use a Greek thought and make use of a form that had no place,
really, in their theology.

Now I realize that I am lumping "Jews" together- and that this is not really
the right thing to do- as Judaism was as fragmented and sectarian in the
first century as Christianity is today. Still, I think it is VERY important
to recognize that Hebrew thought (perspectives, whatever you want to call
it) was different than Greek, the work of James Barr and his cohorts
notwithstanding. That difference in perspective has to be kept in mind when
we translate the NT elsewise we will certainly translate poorly.




Jim West, ThD
Petros Baptist Church- Pastor
Quartz Hill School of Theology- Adjunct Prof. of Bible

fax- 978-231-5986
web page-

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