[b-greek] Re: Acts 7:59

From: Iver Larsen (alice-iver_larsen@wycliffe.org)
Date: Fri Mar 23 2001 - 04:45:01 EST

Moon wrote:
> Dear Iver,
> you seem to take the two participles as "attributive participles".
> But TON STEFANON is definite enough not to require further modification.
> Hence I would prefer to take the participles as predicative. If I use an
> English example, "singing" in " I heard Mary singing" is predicative
> rather than attributive with respect to "Mary". From the school grammar,
> I learned it is a combination of two clauses: "I heard Mary" and
> "Mary was singing". Did you find some reason that the Greek sentence
> does not have a structure similar to "I heard Mary singing"?

Dear Moon,
You probably remember our earlier discussion on the analysis of Greek noun
phrases. I accept that my analysis of Greek NPs may be different from how
traditional Greek grammars treat them. It is based on modern descriptive
linguistics and I am not saying this is the only valid analysis. However, in my
analysis of Greek NPs the distinction between attributive and predicative as it
relates to an NP has been shelved. A constituent in a sentence can function as a
predicate, but constituents of an NP are all "attributive", and I call them
modifiers. I realise that it is sometimes a question of analysis whether
something is actually a constituent of the NP or not.

In my article "Word Order and Relative Prominence" (which I believe you know
already) I have described a Greek NP as a head "noun" (which may be implied)
plus a number of modifiers of different kinds. (By "noun" I mean a common noun,
proper noun or a personal pronoun.) Many modifiers are at the word level, since
a phrase normally has words as constituents. These qualifying (modifying) words
may be article, adjective, numeral, demonstrative, quantifiers or a genitive
pronoun/noun. However, other levels of the grammatical hierarchy can also modify
a head noun, e.g. a prepositional phrase, a rankshifted relative clause or a
participial clause (traditionally - formerly? - called participial phrases.) The
order of NP constituents is in my scheme not a matter of attributive or
predicative, but a matter of relative prominence.

I am familiar with two kinds of relative clauses as NP modifiers: appositional
and continuative. The relative pronoun may introduce either an appositional or
continuative rel. clause, whereas the article can only introduce an appositional
rel. clause.

A participial clause may also function as a constituent in an NP in this scheme.
Often it is simply one participle alone. In most cases the participle
(participial clause) follows the NP head (default order), but if there is focus
on the idea expressed by the participle then it precedes the head, e.g.

Luke 22:45 hEUREN KOIMWMENOUS AUTOUS 'he found them SLEEPING!'

It is on this background that I prefer to analyse Acts 7:59 as an NP with a head
noun followed by a participial clause which again consists of two coordinated
participles one of which has a complement. There are many examples of an NP
modified by a participial clause in the Greek NT. In Rom 10:21 we find two
coordinated participles modifying a noun. Other complex NPs of interest can be
found at Matt 9:9, 27:33, Mark 5:31, 9:14, 11:4, 15:21, 16:5, Luke 12:28, 22:3,
23:7,25, 24:2, John 1:9 (ambiguous grammar), 1:29, 19:26, 20:1, Acts 2:22, 3:3,
7:55, 9:32. Often these participial clauses can be rendered as an NP constituent
by use of a relative clause in English, but sometimes a separate dependent
clause is needed, which brings it outside the NP structure in English.

Looking through the GNT for examples of modifying participles I came across Acts
8:31 which I cannot resist commenting on:


I think this is commonly translated as NIV: "So he invited Philip to come up and
sit with him." I find it questionable to translate the aorist participle as an
infinitive coordinated with "to sit". I would rather take the participle as a
modifier of TON FILIPPON, and since English is not as flexible in its use of
participles as Greek is, I would translate the modifying participle as a
modifying relative clause which is common in English, thereby getting:
"And (in the same breath) he begged Philip, who had come up, to sit with him." I
envision Philip already standing up on the footboard on the side of the
carriage, and then the Ethiopian asks him to come inside, now that he is halfway
in already. Is that too far-fetched? As an alternative to the relative clause we
could use a dependent clause as in:
"And he begged Philip, as he had (already) come up, to sit with him."

Concerning your English example, words like "hear" require a complement like "I
heard that Mary was singing." You can say that "I heard Mary singing" is short
for "I heard that Mary was singing." Now, you cannot do the same for "I killed
Mary singing". If you want "singing" to modify Mary, you have to use a different
construction in English, such as "I killed Mary as she was singing." or "I
killed the singing Mary." ("singing" describes Mary, not me or the killing.)
But English grammar is not like Greek grammar, as we all know.

In Danish I can say "I killed Mary singing" and it is clear that I am the one
who is singing as I am killing her. If I say in my language "I heard Mary
singing" it would still mean that I heard Mary while I was singing. (I am sure
she would be yelling at me to stop singing.) To express that Mary was singing
and this is what I heard, I would have to say "I heard Mary sing" or "I heard
that Mary sang/was singing" or "I heard the singing Mary." I can also say in
Danish "I killed the singing Mary." However, it would have a different nuance
from "I killed Mary as she was singing." But then, Danish is neither Greek nor
English, although it is very close to English.

Iver Larsen

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