Re: DIATASSW -- Titus 1:5

From: Carl W. Conrad (
Date: Wed Feb 02 2000 - 07:03:38 EST

At 11:36 PM -0600 1/31/00, Carlton Winbery wrote:
>Clayton wrote;
>>Perhaps in Titus 1:5 the middle functions like the active, but looking
>>over the active/middle/passive instances of DIATASSW we find in 1Cor.
>>7:17 an example of the middle form which appears to me to show a
>>distinct function over against the active.
>>In this context the middle seems to imply an action of establishing a
>>state of order, a process in which Paul participated not just as an
>>external agent but also to some extent as a direct participant, so that
>>the middle could be seen as showing Paul's participation in the order
>>and ordering EN TAIS EKKLHSIAS. This may seem like splitting hairs to
>>some folks but I see this as a different kind of action than that of an
>>agent who just initiates a action from without. This is not a case where
>>Paul just does something to the churches, rather he does something
>>within the churches so that he is both an initiator and a recipient of
>>his own action. I may be just dreaming this up and I am sure someone on
>>the list will point this out.
>>BAGD does not draw a distinction between the meaning or function of the
>>active and middle of DIATASSW. However, LEH does draw a distinction,
>>giving for the middle: "to arrange for oneself" [ti] 4 Mc 8:3. This
>>distinction is also noted in LS (intermediate). I think this meaning
>>"to arrange for oneself" is applicable to 1Cor. 7:17c but not Titus 1:5.
>>As far as Titus 1:5 is concerned I don't see that the middle has much
>I would agree with Clay here. In some cases we could say that middle shows
>some slight emphasis on the subject. However, when the middle is compared
>with the active of the same verb in Paul it is hard to see a difference.
>I Cor. 7:17 "thus I have ordered in all the churches . . ." middle
>I Cor.9:14 "thus God ordered those proclaiming the gospel to live by the
>gospel" active
>I Cor 11:34 "I will give instruction when I come." middle
>I Cor 16:1 "as I ordered the churches in Galatia . . ." active
>Titus 1:5 "as I ordered you" middle
>I find it difficult to clearly distinguish these usages and think that for
>Paul there was no significant difference. We could always say something
>Paul, himself, ordered when it is middle, but I'm not sure about that.

I don't know that a case can be made out for one side or the other of the
opposing views on this question: Clay and Carlton have argued that there's
no discernible indication of special meaning to the middle in Titus 1:5;
Mike Sangrey and Mark House that there really is a distinction, whether
it's discernible or not (those are my words, not theirs). It rather reminds
me of the key line in an ice cream commercial for a dairy in St. Louis
(Chapman's, I think it was) that went out of business sometime in the 80's:
"the subtle difference that makes all the difference." Most observers by
taste-taste found it pretty hard to verify the dairy's claim and that's
pretty much the way I feel about the assertions of a real difference in NT
usage of active and middle of DIATASSW/DIATASSOMAI. There are 16 instances
of the verb in the NT, most of them bearing a fundamental sense of
"instruct," some having more the sense of "give an order." I can't discern
that either active or middle is dominant for one of these senses. So IS
there a difference? Maybe in the eye of the beholder, but I am personally
inclined to think that what's involved here is a process of linguistic
change in the usage of the verb--that in the NT period and its larger
chronological frame of the Hellenistic period this verb is moving from a
fundamentally transitive usage with distinct active and passive and middle
used in distinctive senses to a more-fundamentally intransitive usage. I
note that the dative complement is used regularly with it whether active or
middle. My suspicion is that like several other verbs, DIATASSW is becoming
more common in the middle voice form--and without any real difference of
fundamental meaning. A sense of the subject's involvement or personal
interest in the action may have played a role in the long-term process, but
I'm leery of thinking that the person or persons indicated by the dative
complement have any bearing on the voice of the verb: Jesus "instructs" the
disciples in Mt 11:1 in the active; the author of Titus in Ti 1:5
"instructed" Titus in the middle. Even the Greek verb "to be" is in a
long-term process of shift from the older active EIMI to what today is
EIMAI. So, for what it's worth and no more than that, I'm inclined to
believe that the variance in the GNT between active and middle forms of
this verb DIATASSW/DIATASSOMAI have to do more with slow linguistic change
in a period when the middle has not superseded the older active form. It
would take some effort to prove this, but that's what I suspect.


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 WWW:

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