From: Carl W. Conrad (
Date: Wed May 24 2000 - 07:46:21 EDT

At 4:06 AM +0000 5/24/00, Emory Pitts wrote:
>In Colossians 4:6, EIDENAI PWS DEI ... APOKRINESQAI appears to me to be
>modifying PERIPATEITE EN SOFIA (of verse 5), but it seems that all
>translations I can find have this clause modifying the implied verb (ESTW ?)
>of LOGOS.
>Is there any reason why this can not modify SOFIA?
>To know 'how' to do something seems to be the by-product of wisdom.

Text (it would really be helpful if people posing questions like this would
make it a practice to cite the whole text of the passage in question. Of
course we ALL have a GNT at our fingertips as we read our e-mail, don't we?
This is not directed specifically at Emory, it's just getting to be a minor
peeve with me; I think it really facilitates thinking about a question like
this to have the whole of the relevant text in front of us):


No, I don't think that EIDENAI depends in any clear way directly upon
SOFIAi; I think rather that we have a catena of ethical precepts here, each
one equivalent to an imperative, although some are worded more informally.
We should assume therefore, I think, an implicit imperative ESTW in verse 6
as linking the subject hO LOGOS hUMWN with the predicate expressions
PANTOTE EN CARITI, hALATI HRTUMENOS; in the second half of the verse, PWS
DEI ... APOKRINESQAI is pretty obviously an object of EIDENAI.

The question then is: how are we to understand the syntactic function of
the infinitive EIDENAI. The translators to whom you refer pretty obviously
understand it as indicating purpose or result (and certainly purpose and
result constructions are closely enough associated that Koine Greek no
longer distinguishes between modes of indicating them, inasmuch as we see
infinitives with hWSTE and EIS TO ... used as frequently or more so than
hINA and hOPWS with a subjunctive); that is to say, the translators
understand the knowing how to answer every individual as a reason for or as
a consequence of talking as the initial admonition of the verse advises. I
think that is a reasonable way of understanding the relationship of EIDENAI
to that initial admonition, which I might rephrase in English as something
like: "When you speak to each other, do so with good will and with a sense
of humor." The following clause will then be understood as "... so that
everybody understands the right way to respond to each individual."

Yet it occurs to me that alternatively the infinitive EIDENAI might just as
well be representing an imperative: OIDATE or ISTE (PWS DEI hUMAS hENI
hEKASTWi APOKRINESQAI). While it isn't all that common that an infinitive
is substituted for an imperative it does happen (as also a participle may
serve in the right context as an imperative); if we DO understand EIDENAI
that way, then the upshot of our whole (rather colloquially-phrased)
precept will be: "Speak to each other with good will and with a sense of
humor: understand the right way to respond to each individual."

If I didn't make myself clear why I DON'T think EIDENAI depends upon
SOFIAi, my reasoning is that in this catena of moral precepts each verse
seems more or less independent, and I think therefore that EIDENAI ought
more properly to relate to the first half of the unit (sentence/verse) in
which it is found, i.e., it ought to clarify the advice to speak with good
will and humor.

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

B-Greek home page:
You are currently subscribed to b-greek as: []
To unsubscribe, forward this message to
To subscribe, send a message to

This archive was generated by hypermail 2.1.4 : Sat Apr 20 2002 - 15:36:26 EDT