[b-greek] RE: dat. in James 3:18

From: Iver Larsen (iver_larsen@sil.org)
Date: Fri Apr 13 2001 - 08:22:51 EDT

Comments by Iver Larsen below:
> James 3:18
> How is the dative TOIS POIOUSIN used in this verse? I'm thinking that it
> could be a dative of advantage ("is sown FOR those who make peace") or a
> dative of means ("is sown BY MEANS of those who make peace"), or some
> might want to call it a dative of agency ("is sown BY those who make
> peace"), although the only clear instances of this category occur with a
> perfect passive verb (acc. to Wallace).
Obviously the verb has to be passive for a dative to be used as agent, but I would not
have thought that the perfect form would be a requirement. In James 3:7 we have two
coordinated passive verbs, one in present and one in perfect followed by a dative as agent
(Every animal species is tamed and has been tamed by the human species - THi FUSEI THi

It is not common to use a dative as agent, but there are some examples. I guess there
could be a Hebrew influence here, since the normal Greek agentive marker is hUPO,
occasionally EN, and since the few other examples I have found in the GNT are either from
LXX or Matthew. (I suspect more examples could be found, especially in the LXX itself.)

Matt 23:5 says "in order to be seen by people - QEAQHNAI TOIS ANQRWPOIS.
Matt 27:57 says "he was discipled by Jesus - AUTOS EMAQHTEUQH TWi IHSOU.
Rom 10:20 says, quoting from Is 65:1 "I was found by those not seeking me - hEUREQHN TOIS

The last example is interesting in that we can compare Paul's words with the LXX. Several
NT manuscripts, including p46 and B, have EN before the dative, although this word is not
in the LXX. It is better Greek to have the EN, and it is not clear whether it was added by
some manuscripts or whether Paul added it. Most likely, it was added in some manuscripts
as a "correction". The Hebrew has the particle L, corresponding somewhat to the Greek

Whether the dative is one of advantage or agency is not easy to resolve. Looking at the
context, I am inclined to favour the agency for the following reasons:

1. The following verse talks about a lack of peace and peacemakers among the audience.
They seem to harvest strife because they "sow" (in) their own selfish ambition rather than
sowing peace. People do not need to be urged to harvest peace, but to sow peace. Those who
are peace makers already have peace and do not need to harvest it as much as those who are
not peace makers.

2. The preceding context in 3:13-17 contrast the wisdom from above which is characterised
by peace, among other things, and the earthly, from-below selfishness. James is saying
there is too much of the second kind and too little of the first kind among them.

3. The metaphor of sowing and fruit-producing is very brief and needs to be expanded for a
fuller understanding. It seems that James is urging his hearers to make or "sow" peace and
righteousness. If they do that, there will be a harvest of righteousness and peace. I
would suggest that the harvest is not primarily for the benefit of those who make or sow
the peace, since they already live in peace, but the harvest is produced by some who "sow"
peace for the benefit of the others who harvest/experience the results of their peace
making, which is again peace. We are back to the general principle of sowing and reaping.

A literal translation would give the impression that a harvest is sown, but that cannot be
the intended meaning. One cannot sow a harvest, but one has to sow a seed that eventually
becomes a harvest. So, with some implied information in parentheses a possible translation
(There will be) a harvest of righteousness in peace (when peace and righteous/wise acts)
is/are sown by those who make peace.
(It is not clear whether EN EIRHNHi is to be taken with the harvest, with the sowing or
with both. I have taken it grammatically with the harvest, but it does not make much
difference, since both the sowing and the harvesting is characterised by peace.)

A possible, more idiomatic, translation that avoids the passive might be: When people sow
peace and righteous acts, the harvest will be righteous acts and peace.

Iver Larsen

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