Re: UPAKOUW + case?

From: Carl W. Conrad (
Date: Sun May 02 1999 - 17:50:47 EDT

At 3:36 PM +0100 5/2/99, John M. Moe wrote:
>In the LXX the object of the verb UPAKOUW is most often in the genitive
>case with rare occurrences of the dative. In the NT it is nearly always
>in the dative. In the modern Gr. (Bible translation) it is consistently
>construed with EIS + accusative. The latter is almost certainly the
>result of a change in Gr. usage over time. My question: Is the
>difference in usage between the LXX and NT due to evolution of the
>language over time also? Or is there some other explanation?

This is an interesting question, and I'm not going to do much more than
speculate on it, although some of it is, I think, pretty plausible.

(1) hUPAKOUW is not the ordinary classical word for "obey"--that was rather
PEIQOMAI (the middle of "persuade"); AKOUW in classical Greek normally
construed with a genitive of the person heard and an accusative of a sound;
hUPAKOUW might reflect the usage of AKOUW, since hUPAKOUW would have a
sense of "pay attention (as a subordinate) to the person whom one is
hearing. Alternatively, it's conceivable, but I somehow think less likely,
that it is the hUPO element of the compound hUPAKOUW that accounts for the
genitive, since hUPO quite regularly construes with an ablatival genitive
of a person to whom one is subordinate (as in an agent construction).

(2) I wouldn't be surprised if the use of dative with hUPAKOUW reflects a
change in the understanding (or perception) of the nature of the verb--i.e.
it has come to be viewed as an intransitive verb that would more normally
take a dative complement (what's traditionally called an "indirect
object"). Another possibility which I would raise here only as a bare
possibility, but not altogether implausible, is Latin influence; although
there are other Latin verbs for "obey," the one coming to the forefront in
vulgar Latin and the one that therefore enters into the Romance Languages
ultimately is OB-OEDIRE which is a compound of OB and the Latin verb
corresponding to Greek AKOUW, namely AUDIRE. OBOEDIRE is the Latin source
of our "obey" through the French OBE'IR--and it is an intransitive verb
that takes a dative complement ("indirect object").

3. Modern Greek's Bible translation may use EIS TON OR EIS THN or EIS TOUS,
but that is actually the artificial language called the "Katharevousa," The
Demotic has STON, STHN, and STOUS, which are compounded forms from the
preposition and the article. And that IS the way an indirect object is
formed with a regular noun--in a pronoun the genitive case form is used for
indirect object. But the Dative of Classical Attic and Koine ultimately
disappeared and its functions were taken over by preposition and
object-noun. It would probably be more accurate to say that prepositions
and object-nouns gradually replaced the ancient precise case-functions of
the genitive and dative, and the dative atrophied completely while the
genitive diminished considerably in its range of functions.

That's a least a working hypothesis that might be checked against the
evidence; but I don't claim more for it than working hypothesis.

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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