Re: Some questions on the usage of participles

From: Carl W. Conrad (
Date: Sun Apr 25 1999 - 08:35:00 EDT

I apologize for the length of this message as a whole, but I don't really
see where I can readily omit earlier parts of the correspondence, and it
just may be that the question under discussion here is of sufficient
interest and importance (I personally think it IS) that those seeking to
understand the argument can see the whole of the discussion.

At 8:54 PM -0500 4/24/99, Moon-Ryul Jung wrote:
>On 04/24/99, ""Carl W. Conrad" <>" wrote:
>> At 5:54 AM -0500 4/24/99, Moon-Ryul Jung wrote:
>> >Dear B-Greekers,
>> >
>> >
>> >I have some elementary questions on the usage of participles. Some of the
>> >questions
>> >seem closely related and others are not.
>> >
>> >1. Attributive adjectivals without the article.
>> >
>> >The attribute position of adjectives is known to require the article in
>> >front of them, e.g. in
>> >hO KALOS AGGELOS or hO AGGELOS hO KALOS. But there are some cases where
>> >this rule
>> >is violated. E.g.:
>> >
>> >Rom 8:24: ELPIS DE BLEPOMENH OUK ESTIN ELPIS. "hope that is seen"
>> > "the word that is spoken"
>> The rule you've cited is meant to characterize and DISTINGUISH the function
>> of qualifying words or phrases when the qualifying words or phrases must be
>> understood as attributive FROM instances where the function of such words
>> or phrases must be understood as PREDICATIVE. The participle in these two
>> verses is NOT attributive but PREDICATIVE, meaning that it has to be
>> understood adverbially with the predicate of the sentence; in English these
>> seem often to work best--or be most clearly grasped--when translated as
>> adverbial clauses:
>> is seen." PARAKOUSAS TON LOGON LALOUMENON: " ... upon overhearing the word
>> WHILE (WHEN) it was being spoken ..."
>Carl, clear! But if you are right, then the textbook "New Testament Greek:
>A Beginning and Intermediate Grammar. James Allen Hewett, BA, BD, MA,
>is wrong. He said in p. 149 that those two verses are clear examples of
>attributive participles WITHOUT the article.

I am sorry to have to disagree. And while I don't want to say, without
having thoroughly examined all participles in the GNT in their context,
that there never are any attributive participles without the article, I do
NOT believe that these two verses are clear examples of it; rather I
believe that these are predicative. And I am strongly inclined to think
that what's going on in this grammatical declaration has more to do with
English translation strategy than it has to do with the right analysis of
the text. I readily admit that I may be wrong here, but I think that
analysis of the Greek text can often be hindered by concern for how best to
render that Greek into English; that concern can skew one's understanding
of the Greek and force the Greek into structural patterns that are
determined by English grammar rather than by Greek grammar. In general this
is one of the greatest perils and pitfalls of mastering any language that
is alien to one's own: the peril of imposing the uniquely idiomatic
features of either language upon one's understanding of the uniquely
idiomatic features of the other.

> Another example he mentions is
>He is like a man building a house, who....
>Translating it as "he is like a man when building a house, who..." seems
>akward. Moreover, if the rule of " the article + attributive phrases"
>can be broken at times, aren't these examples also such cases?

Perhaps a bit better would be, "he is like a man who, when building a
house, ..." That's clearer, at least, in reflecting the fact that
OIKODOMOUNTI is predicative, not attributive. Yet I don't find anything
awkward in "He is like a man building a house, who ..." It occurs to me to
wonder whether an Aramaic pattern underlies the Greek presented to us: if
Jack Kilmon is reading/listening, would he care to comment on this? I've
toyed with the thought that ANQRWPWi OIKODOMOUNTI is close to a
substantival use of the participle and might be equivalent to TWi
OIKODOMOUNTI, in which case we might legitimately translate it, "He is like
the builder who ..." Certainly a substantival participle is closer to an
attributive participle. It might be worth investigating all instances of
ANQRWPOS with a participle and consider whether this happens enough to be a
discernible category among GNT participial uses. If it IS so, then I'd be
inclined to suspect that it is a Semitism, but I don't know enough of what
I need to know to judge that, which is why I pose the question to Jack
Kilmon (I realize that there are other Aramaists on the list, but my
impression is that he's the professional, and Socrates always advised that
we should go to professionals when we have a professional question).

>> >3. Complementary participles after ARCOMAI (begin)?
>> >
>> >On recent posts on Lk 7:45 there were discussions on "complementary
>> >participles"
>> > used after verbs of ceasing: DIELIPEN KATAFILUOUSA (stop kissing]. I
>> >wonder if
>> > complementary participles can be used after verbs of beginning.
>> > This question was raised by the way most translations take Mk 2:23b.
>> >
>> >
>> >Most translations took 2:23n to mean "and his disciples began, as they
>> >went,
>> >to pluck the ears."
>> >
>> >My initial attempt was "his disciples began to make their way plucking the
>> >ears".
>> >
>> >The "official translations" take the infinitive clause hODON POIEIN as a
>> >temporal clause,
>> >even though there is no preposition in front of it, e.g. EN TWi. I wonder
>> >if this translation
>> >is grammatically possible.
>> I haven't even looked at the translations, "official" or other, but my
>> immediate reaction is to think that YOUR instinct is right here, that here
>> hODON POIEIN is a complementary infinitive TO HRXANTO, while TILLONTES must
>> be understood in this instance not as a complementary but
>as a predicative,
>> i.e. adverbial participle: "They began to tread a path (through the
>> grainfield) as they were stripping the ears of grain."
>But this translation seems akward in meaning. It implies that the
>of treading a path happened DURING their stripping the ears of grain.
>Also, participles describe circumstantial situations or something like
>In this case, the event of stripping the ears was the main event, and
>treading a path circumstantial....

awkward, superficially. But let me make another suggestion. Your initial
version was (from above): "his disciples began to make their way plucking
the ears." Now suppose you put a comma between 'way' and 'ears': "his
disciples began to make their way, plucking the ears (as they went along)."
Of course "as they went along" is not present in the Greek in so many
words--BUT, take note that your "official" translators have inserted it
earlier (from above): "and his disciples began, AS THEY WENT [my emphasis],
to pluck the ears." I don't think they are getting "as they went" from
hODON POIEIN but from the implicit sense of the whole. And here's why I
think they are right to do so: TILLONTES does not construe with HRXANTO but
rather with POIEIN: that is: the stripping of the ears is concurrent with
their treading a pathway through the grainfield. The participle TILLONTES
here becomes nearly an equivalent of KAI ETILLON. In fact,a better
construction, at least in classical Attic, would be ARXAMENOI DE hODON
POIEIN ETILLO;N TAS STACUAS. So I would continue to insist that TILLONTES
is a predicative participle that should be understood as dependent upon

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

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