[b-greek] Re: Imperative in Rom 6:12

From: Carl W. Conrad (cwconrad@artsci.wustl.edu)
Date: Wed Jun 21 2000 - 06:36:50 EDT

At 5:23 PM -0700 6/20/00, Dennis Hukel wrote:
>Dear Carl,
>I have not seen the third imperatives in Greek explained very well. My
>model is that all imperatives are spoken
>or written by the first person to a second person with "I tell you..."
>understood as a kind of elipsis. In third-person
>imperatives, what the 1st person says to the 2nd person concerns a 3rd
>person. "Let him" is overused because it is
>essentially gives a "permissive sense" to the imperative, which is not
>always the case. A more general equivalent
>would be "arrange for him to..." (whether he wants to or not).
>I have heard some people say first-person imperatives are impossible; but
>since "let me go!" and "let us pray" concern
>the first-person, don't they function as first-person imperatives? I
>believe NT Greek does the same by adding a
>first-person pronoun to the regular second-person imperative.
>I would be interested to know what you think about this, but please answer

Although Dennis wrote me off-list and asked for an off-list response, I
know from threads in the past that this is a matter of more general concern
to B-Greekers, many of whom have their own wisdom about conveying
imperatives into a target language, and especially to those learners of
Biblical Greek who are first confronting first-person and third-person
imperative forms--so I think that airing my own and other responses to this
question may have some paideutic value.

Yes, it is awkward and there are at least two "schools" of thought
regarding translation of 1st and 3rd person "imperatives."

(1) On the one hand, it is CONVENTIONAL to refer to distinguish
second-person imperatives which one refers to simply as "imperatives" from
first-person subjunctives termed in some grammars "cohortative" or
"hortatory" constructions which are conventionally translated "let me (+
infinitive)" or "let us (+ infinitive)" and from third-person subjunctives,
often referred to as "jussive" or imperatives (the -TW/SQW, -TWSAN/SQWSAN
forms) which are conventionally translated as "let him (+ infinitive)" or
"let them (+ infinitive)." And there's at least some justification for this
translation as there's a comparable construction in several languages
(German, for instance, "lass sie kommen" = "let them come"), including even
NT Greek where one sees AFES + subjunctive (where AFES is 2nd sg. imptv. of
AFIHMI/AFIW, "allow" or "let"--and this has become in modern Greek the
standard form of the imperative (AS + NA + subjunctive from older AFES hINA
+ subjunctive).

(2) On the other hand, I'm aware of a more recent tendency of discontent
with that convention and to seek alternative ways of conveying in English
the force of the "cohortative" or "hortatory" first-person and "jussive"
third-person "imperatives." Such alternatives may include use of "should"
or "must" or the like, e.g. Mk 8:34 APARNHSASQW hEAUTON KAI ARATW TON
STAURON AUTOU = "he must deny himself and must take up his cross ..."

Carl W. Conrad
Department of Classics, Washington University
Summer: 1647 Grindstaff Road/Burnsville, NC 28714/(828) 675-4243
cwconrad@artsci.wustl.edu OR cwconrad@ioa.com
WWW: http://www.artsci.wustl.edu/~cwconrad/

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