[b-greek] Re: participles in Luke 15:4

From: Carl W. Conrad (cwconrad@artsci.wustl.edu)
Date: Fri Nov 17 2000 - 19:40:34 EST

At 3:50 PM -0500 11/17/00, Cassian DelCogliano wrote:
>I have a question and a sub-question about the participles in Luke 15:4:
>Why does APOLWLOS, a second perfect *active* participle have a
>middle/passive meaning when used intransitively? Or to put it another way,
>why isn't the middle/passive participle used? The NT usage is consistent
>(Mt 10:6, 15:24; Lk 15:4, 6, 24, 32 and 19:10). What are the
>historical/grammatical reasons why an intransitive use of this verb was
>employed in the perfect? Is the intransitive force 'middle', i.e. 'one who
>has gotten himself lost' or 'passive', i.e. 'one who is lost'?

As I have not infrequently endeavored to herald, "tense" is not the only
standard grammatical category to be attached to standard grammatical forms
in such a fashion as to mislead the unwary. It is true that "active"
morphology tends to include verbs that take a direct object more than
intransitives, but there are plenty of intransitives with "active"
morphology, and plenty of others that have a "middle" morphology. I really
am inclined to think that the opposition between "active" and "middle"
morphology has no real relationship to transitivity of verbs but rather
that the "active" forms are default forms, while "middle" forms are
subject-intensive (which is why they often but by no means always assume a
passive meaning)

I don't know just how many second-perfects there are, but I do know that
they have some tendency to be intransitive verbs and those perfect forms
tend to relate to middle-voice presents, e.g.

hESTAA (ptc. hESTWS <-- hESTAWS) present: hISTAMAI (hISTHMI is causative)
GEGAA (ptc. GEGWS <-- GEGAWS) present: GI(G)NOMAI: 'come to be'
BEBAA (ptc. BEBWS <-- BEBAWS) present: BAINW (fut BHSOMAI): 'stride'
EGRHGORA (ptc. EGRHGORWS) present: EGEIROMAI: wake up, arise
APOLWLA (ptc. APOLWLWS) present: APOLLUMAI: perish, spoil (APOLLUMI's

In your consideration above, I think that the FORM of the English "lost"
has misled you into supposing that APOLWLOS has a passive sense; it
doesn't; rather it means something like "having come to naught" or "having
gone to waste"

>[Interestingly, the 87 uses of APOLLUMI in the NT break down as such (thank
>you Bibleworks!):
> (1) active + object: 39 (Jn 10:10 and Jam 4:12 have an clear
>object); the Vulgate consistently translated this with some form of
> (2) middle/passive: 41; the Vulgate is consistent with 'pereo' in this
> (3) active used intransitively: 7 (all second perfect active
>the Vulgate employs 'pereo'.]
>My sub-question regards the interpretation of adverbial/circumstantial
>participles linked with KAI, as with ECWN...KAI APOLESAS. Does the KAI
>imply that *both* participles should be interpreted in the same way, i.e.
>as relative clauses, concessives, conditionals, etc.? Or is the usage of
>KAI in this case just one of those times when the genius of Greek language
>cannot be literally translated into another language? Both the Vulgate and
>the Sahidic render ECWN by a relative clause and APOLESAS by an
>conditional. I think in this instance, I would prefer to render both
>participles the same way, i.e. either as conditionals or relatives, but not
>one of each. To me, the KAI seems to imply this. But I am overdoing it?

No; I too think it more natural to render them both the same way; you could
just as well use the conditional for both--but you could do it with just
one adverbial conjunction or just one relative pronoun: "Who, if he has 100
sheep and has suffered loss of one, doesn't leave the 99 ..." OR "Who that
has 100 sheep and has suffered loss of one, doesn't leave the 99 ..."
Certainly the KAI here links two circumstantial participles that qualify
ANQRWPOS in exactly the same way. Ultimately, however, the better
translation is an altogether different question from the right
understanding of the construction; different languages will sometimes
express the same ideas or content in very different ways. Translation must
always involve, I think, understanding the original as precisely as
possible and THEN finding the most natural way to express that content in
the target language.


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: http://www.artsci.wustl.edu/~cwconrad/

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