[b-greek] Re: Dative Absolute

From: Michael Haggett (michaelhaggett@lineone.net)
Date: Mon May 07 2001 - 07:54:07 EDT

Carlton Winbery wrote (6 May):

>A similar question (but not an exact parallel) is the question about the
dative with the other infinite verb form, the infinitive. Look for example
at the famous statement:


EMOI certainly refers to the subject of the infinitive in the same way that
the accusative usually does. However, the dative always has a personal
interest (especially for those who follow the eight case system). So I think
that explaining this as a DATIVUS COMMODI or at least a dative of reference
(probably too weak) is to be preferred.


Carton, I hope you don't mind me commenting on this, but I am always
slightly uneasy when I hear people talking about the subject of an
infinitive ... and nearly always suspicious when I see the word "certainly".
It took me a while to figure out what you might mean, and there is every
possibility that I have misunderstood you, but I think this dative can be
understood in a more obvious way.

I see the basic sentences as:

TO ZHN (subject) CRISTOS (complement) [with ESTIN implied]

KAI (conjunction)

TO APOQANEIN (subject) KERDOS (complement) [with ESTIN implied]

... and take EMOI GAR as something whch applies to the sentences as a whole
rather than just the infinitives. This gives,

"For to me (separating comma) to live is Christ and to die is gain."

which could perhaps be paraphrased as:

"For, in my opinion, to live is Christ and to die is gain."

Under this analysis the dative EMOI seems quite normal. It is the indirect
object of its sentence(s) the same sort of way as "John (subject) threw the
ball (direct object) TO ME (indirect object)".


In contrast, what I think you might be saying (please correct me if I've
misunderstood you) is that you understand the verse something along the
lines of:

"For 'me-to-live' (single concept) is Christ
and 'for-me-to-die' (single concept) is gain."

For this is the only way I can make sense of your contention that EMOI is
the "subject" of the infinitive.

Of course I don't think this second idea would be at all alien to Paul, but
I think it misses the tone, or nuance, of what is actually being said here.
In my opinion, the use of the dative EMOI makes it natural to understand the
verse in the first way, but virtually impossible to understand in the second

Michael Haggett

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