Re: 1 peter 4:1,2

From: Carl W. Conrad (
Date: Wed Jun 30 1999 - 07:32:31 EDT

At 10:40 PM -0400 6/29/99, wrote:
>I just have some questions about gramatical constructs in this passage. i am
>stiudying it for a class at church. The first is about genitive absolutes.
>Do they function like english nomative absolutes? My book on English grammar
>said that an absolute modifies not one part in a sentence but the whole
>sentence. Eg. "The foreman being absent, I was given the order". The
>absolute "the foreman being absent" modifies the whole clause "i was given
>the order" and just a part of it. Therefore, does the genitive absolute
>"XRISTOU PAQONTOS" modify the rest of verse 1 and 2? Is it the cause of the
>rest of Peter's exhortation? I just want to make sure that i am not reading
>English grammar on to the Greek text.

I would explain the functioning of a genitive absolute construction as that
of an abbreviated adverbial clause setting forth the circumstances
governing the predicate of the main clause of a sentence; it may be
temporal, causal, concessive, even conditional. In this instance, I would
understand it as causal and link it primarily to the imperative clause:
hUMEIS THN AUTHN ENNOIAN hOPLISASQE: "Since/because Christ has suffered,
you should arm yourselves with the same attitude ..." Technically speaking,
I would link the genitive absolute primarily to the predicate of the main
clause, i.e., in this instance, to hOPLISASQE. Verse 2 actually spells out
the content of THN AUTHN ENNOIAN; although it has reference to the
suffering of Christ, but that is expressed in the subject of PEPAUTAI,
namely hO PAQWN SARKI; consequently the logical sequence extending from the
genitive absolute through verse 2 is clear, but I don't think I'd say that
the genitive absolute really "governs" verse 2 as such.

> Second, I am having trouble with the phrase "hO PAQWN SARKI PEPAUTAI
>hAMARTIAS". Any suggestions on the interpretation of this verse would gladly
>be accepted offlist, but my main question is about the articular participle.
>Robertson and Wallace (author's of greek grammars) both contend that a
>participle with the definite article suggests a general situation and does
>not usually refer to a specific person. This would be an argument against
>the referent of the participle being only Christ. Thanks a bunch.

I would agree with this--in this instance, at least--although I think that
an articular participle could be construed with an explicit or implicit
proper name and so be not necessarily generalized. Here however I think a
generalized ENNOIA is stated: that (any)one who has undergone suffering in
the flesh has come to a state of abstention (PEPAUTAI) from sin with the
consequence (verse 2) that he/she lives hereafter no longer by human
appetites but by God's will.

That is, I hope, sufficient to clarify the syntactical problem. I won't
attempt to comment on the theological matters involved other than to say
that I think the argument is closely parallel to that presented by Paul in
Rom 7:4-6. And perhaps it should be added here that the suffering of Christ
set forth in the genitive absolute introducing these verses is the
prerequisite condition for the stance which the believer is urged in the
imperative to assume. Perhaps, although this is not explicitly stated, it
is necessary to understand PAQEIN here to mean APOQANEIN: otherwise the
state of permanent abstention from sin to which hO PAQWN is said to have
come (PEPAUTAI) might not seem to have been reached in one who has not
physically died and risen again.

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

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