Re: Philippians 1.10

From: Carl W. Conrad (
Date: Fri May 21 1999 - 06:29:42 EDT

At 9:50 PM -0700 5/20/99, D. Anthony Storm wrote:
>I apologize if this has been discussed, but I cannot get the archive search
>to provide me with meaningful responses.
>In Phil. 1.10 we read:
>Generally this is translated something like "so that you may approve what is
>excellent". I was wondering whether the Greek could sustain: "so that you
>may be tested as to what is excellent" ie "be made excelllent as a result of
>your testing".
>In the former case we do the approving or testing; in the latter we are
>ourselves tested.

I don't recall this particular question arising during the years I've been
on the list and it's an interesting one.

I've always assumed that hUMAS was the subject of DOKIMAZEIN and TA
DIAFERONTA the object, since one generally does see the subject accusative
of an infinitive precede the object accusative.

If I read your meaning rightly, you are suggesting that hUMAS is the OBJECT
of DOKIMAZEIN and either (a) that TA DIAFERONTA is the SUBJECT of the
infinitive or (b) that TA DIAFERONTA is an accusative of respect.

My reaction is, first of all, to doubt that TA DIAFERONTA could be an
accusative of respect (which seems implicit in your "as to what is
excellent." I really think that DOKIMAZEIN needs to have a subject. Could
TA DIAFERONTA serve as its subject? "so that what is excellent should put
you to the test"? I wouldn't rule it out dogmatically, but that seems to me

In sum, the traditional(?) understanding of this phrase still seems to me
the more probable one: "so that you may put to the test/proof (and thereby
come to learn and appreciate more fully) the things that are really
important (TA DIAFERONTA).

Upon reading again and reflecting the question itself, the logic of the
argument seems a bit stronger than I had thought--and YET, I still think
that DOKIMAZEIN needs a subject, preferably a personal subject, so that TA
DIAFERONTA could not serve as that subject; moreover, I don't think we can
make DOKIMAZEIN take a passive sense. On the other hand, it seems to me
that the sense you suggest is ultimately implicit in the fullness of the
process encapsulated in this little phrase: if you keep on (progressive
aspect of DOKIMAZEIN) probing the important things, then they will become
ever more completely determinant elements in your character; it seems to me
that this is consistent with the second half of verse 10, the notion of
spiritual growth continuing on until the Day of Christ, and consistent also
with the image of verse 11, where the righteousness of Paul's addressees is
envisioned as either ripe fruit on trees for the plucking or ripe grain in
the field ready for harvesting.

Grammatically, however, I don't see how hUMAS can be anything but the
SUBJECT of DOKIMAZEIN. Sorry this note is so disjointed; it was written as
I was thinking it through.

Carl W. Conrad
Department of Classics, Washington University
Summer: 1647 Grindstaff Road/Burnsville, NC 28714/(828) 675-4243

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