Re: Ephesians 5:18b

From: Carl W. Conrad (
Date: Tue Feb 22 2000 - 08:30:51 EST

At 7:55 AM -0600 2/22/00, Jason Hare wrote:
>Is there any merit in taking this EN a representing "content?" I looked
>this verse up in Wallace and he treated it as "means." He says that the
>preceding chapters indicate that we are filled with the fulness of God
>through the agency of Jesus and be means of the Holy Spirit.
>Can you offer clarity, for the book of Acts and other references use the
>genitive of content after PLHROW, speaking of believers being filled with
>the Spirit.

Most languages used by a large group of speakers and writers, particularly
if it is spread over a wide geographical area, is likely to have more than
one way of expressing identical conceptions. Although there are some
(including some on this list) who sincerely believe that there's a
difference of meaning whenever there's a different phrasing of a notion, I
personally don't think there's a lick of difference between indicating the
addressee of a verb of speaking with a prepositionless dative or with PROS
+ accusative. And there are other such alternatives, as expressing purpose
with a hINA + subjunctive clause or an EIS + articular infinitive or even
hWSTE + infinitive, etc., etc.

I would agree with Wallace in understanding the dative with EN in Eph 5:18b
as an instrumental usage indicating the means whereby the addressees are to
be filled; on the other hand the use of a (partitive) genitive as a
complement of PLHROUSQAI is common also. I wouldn't speak of EN + dative as
referring to the "content" of the filling, but ultimately it amounts to the
same thing, doesn't it? I think there IS a real difference between these
two expressions:
        (a) PLHROUSQE PNEUMATOS: "get yourselves full of Spirit" (where
PNEUMA, like Latin ANIMI or Greek ANEMOI, are at least metaphorically
envisioned as volatile gases that can expand and pressurize a bladder);
        (b) PLHROUSQE (EN) PNEUMATI "get yourselves filled," and use Spirit
to do that!

The upshot, however (in my opinion), is that the very same exhortation is
being offered in both these formulations: the difference is not really that
two different messages are being delivered by the two formulations, but
rather that two different conceptual frames are employed to express the

To "kill a dead horse" one might think of the difference between: (a) "Get
some air and inflate this tire" (partitive genitive), and (b) "Inflate this
tire using air to do so."

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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