[b-greek] Re: genitive absolute

From: Carl W. Conrad (cwconrad@artsci.wustl.edu)
Date: Mon Oct 30 2000 - 14:06:43 EST

This was, of course, meant for the list rather than for me alone. I quite
agree with what's said here. What seems "lax" in the Koine usage is simply
a matter of non-observance of the classical Attic restriction of the
genitive absolute construction to a person or persons outside of the main
clause. Touche/.

>From: dhwarren@attglobal.net
>Date: Mon, 30 Oct 2000 12:59:13 -0500
>Reply-To: dhwarren@attglobal.net
>X-Accept-Language: en,pdf
>To: "Carl W. Conrad" <cwconrad@artsci.wustl.edu>
>Subject: Re: [b-greek] Re: genitive absolute
>> At 11:17 AM +1000 10/30/00, Rick Strelan (from Brisbane) wrote:
>> "It looks like Acts has some exceptions to the genitive absolute rule
>> regarding the grammatical relation between the main clause and the GA. For
>> example, 21:34 and 28:6 appear not to be strictly GAs. . . . have I
>> GAs?"
>> In reply, Carl W. Conrad wrote:
>> "It is true that both these are instances where it is evident that the
>> subjects of the main clause are identical with the subjects of the genitive
>> absolute, the singular subject in 21:34 and the plural subject in 28:6. I
>> think what we must say about these (and I haven't checked any grammars as
>> yet) is that the genitive absolute, which in standard usage does have a
>> subject different from that of the main clause on which it depends, a
>> circumstantial (adverbial) genitive absolute is occasionally being used
>> simply to characterize the setting exactly as would an adverbial clause or
>> a circumstantial participle in agreement with the subject of the main
>> clause. . . . So I would agree with you on these, Rick, and I suspect that
>> there are probably others that could be found where the participial
>> genitive construction with a subject serves no other purpose than to
>> indicate circumstances governing the main clause, even if the subject is
>> the same--and that would have to constitute a Koine deviation from
>> 'standard' usage."
>I would add that one must distinguish between that which is "standard"
>usage for
>classical Greek and that which is "standard" for Koine. For that reason, I
>am not sure
>what Prof. Conrad means by his statement that either of these instances
>(Acts 21:34 or
>28:6) constitute "a Koine deviation from 'standard' usage." They do
>constitute a
>"deviation" from classical usage, but such instances are rather common in
>Koine texts.
>In his _Biblical Greek_ grammar (sec. 48), Zerwick writes, "In classical
>usage this
>construction [i.e., the genitive absolute] is properly restricted to
>expressions whose
>subject does not occur in the main sentence, whether as subject or in ANY
>function; if the subject of the subordinated phrase occurs in the
>principal sentence,
>the subordinate participle is simply put in agreement with the noun or
>pronoun of the
>main sentence to which it refers" (emphasis added).
>He cites as an example Matt 5:1, where KAQISANTOS AUTOU PROSHLQON AUTWi
>would have
>been written in classical Greek as KAQISANTI AUTWi PROSHLQON. Note here
>that the
>subject of the genitive absolute (AUTOU, i.e. Jesus) does not reappear in the
>principal clause as the subject (as it does in the instances which Mr.
>Strelan cites,
>Acts 21:34 or 28:6), but as the OBJECT of the verb! In other words, if the
>subject of
>the genitive absolute reoccurs in the principal clause IN ANY FUNCTION
>(e.g., subject,
>direct object, indirect object, object of the preposition, etc.), then a
>concern for
>classical elegance would have caused a more careful writer to refrain from
>using the
>genitive absolute and to employ the circumstantial participle in concord
>with the
>principal clause instead.
>A good contrast can be found again in Matthew. In Matt 9:18, we find,
>of the
>genitive absolute (AUTOU, again Jesus) reoccurs in the principal clause as
>the direct
>object (AUTWi) of the verb PROSEKUNEI, this genitive absolute is not
>really "absolute"
>from the rest of the sentence. For a true "absolute" would stand apart
>from any
>syntactical relation with other words in the principal clause. Smyth notes
>that there
>are some exceptions to this norm even in classical Greek, but these are
>"exceptions" which prove the rule and are intentional in order "to
>emphasize the idea
>contained in the genitive absolute" (_Greek Grammar_, sec. 2073).
>If the writer of Matt 9:18 had been concerned with classical standards, he
>would have
>employed a circumstantial participle in the dative. And that is what he
>does just nine
>verses later! In 9:27, he writes: KAI PARAGONTI EKEIQEN TWi IHSOU
>TUFLOI. Since the participle refers to TWi IHSOU, which is the object of
>the verb
>HKOLOUQHSAN in the principal clause, the writer does not employ a genitive
>(even though that is what he did in verse 18) but rather a simple
>participle in the dative case.
>The failure to maintain the absoluteness of the genitive clause by reusing
>its subject
>in the main clause became rather common in Koine Greek, as does a general
>neglect for
>classical norms. As Mr. Strelan has discovered, even Luke, one of the best
>writers in
>the New Testament, is not always so careful. These "deviations" become
>even more
>common in the apocryphal acts. In the Acts of John, the Acts of Paul, and
>the Acts of
>Thomas, nearly one third of all the genitive absolutes violate the "rule"
>and reuse
>the subject of the genitive absolute somewhere in the principal clause. In
>the Acts of
>Peter, this occurs about fifty percent of the time. In contrast, the
>author of the
>Acts of Andrew, who shows a marked concern for classical standards in
>several areas of
>grammar and vocabulary, maintains the "absoluteness" of his genitive
>absolutes in 13
>out of the first 14 occurrences (Acts of Andrew 1-10).
>Even the particular case to which Mr. Strelan refers, where the subject of the
>genitive absolute is the same as the subject of the principal
>(independent) clause, is
>not so uncommon in the New Testament. Taking up again the book of Matthew for
>illustration, one soon runs across a grammatical parallel to the cases
>which he cites
>from Acts. In Matt 1:18, one finds, MNHSTEUQEISHS THS MHTROS AUTOU MARIAS
>Greek this would have been written MNHSTEUQEISA H MATHR AUTOU MARIA . . .
>GASTRI ECOUSA. . . . And in Matt 17:14, one finds a genitive absolute
>without any expressed subject: KAI ELQONTWN PROS TON OCLON PROSHLQON AUTWi
>GONUPETWN AUTON. Here ELQONTWN obviously refers to Jesus and his
>disciples, but one
>would expect the subject to be expressed, and so several manuscripts
>happily supply
>one (see further Zerwick, _Biblical Greek_, sec. 50). But at least in this
>the genitive clause is "absolute" from the rest of the sentence!
>Many other examples could be cited. Let it suffice to say that the neglect
>of concord
>in prefering the genitive absolute over the circumstantial participle "is
>common in popular and Hellenistic Greek" (Zerwick, _Biblical Greek_, sec.
>49), and
>does not really represent a "deviation" in Koine. We just think that it
>does simply
>because we learned the classical rule.
>David H. Warren
>Th.D. student at Harvard Divinity School

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

B-Greek home page: http://metalab.unc.edu/bgreek
You are currently subscribed to b-greek as: [jwrobie@mindspring.com]
To unsubscribe, forward this message to leave-b-greek-327Q@franklin.oit.unc.edu
To subscribe, send a message to subscribe-b-greek@franklin.oit.unc.edu

This archive was generated by hypermail 2.1.4 : Sat Apr 20 2002 - 15:36:39 EDT