From: Carl W. Conrad (email@example.com)
Date: Tue Oct 23 2001 - 20:17:12 EDT
At 10:16 PM +0200 10/23/01, Iver Larsen wrote:
>> Perhaps I've misunderstand the question: did you mean (a) in ALL
>> THREE--Active, Middle, and Passive? or (b) in BOTH: Active Middle-Passive?
>> Probably (a).
>I meant (a).
Good, I'm glad I didn't misunderstand you.
>> I think probably this has to be looked at in terms of individual
>> verbs, but
>> I wonder if there really are many verbs that actually do have aorists of
>> all three sorts.
>Your examples have been helpful and especially your last sujmmary paragraph.
>It looks like one does have to look at the individual verbs. As you say very
>few of them in KOINE have anything near a full range of forms.
>I was just looking at POREUOMAI today as it occurs in the NT. There are no
>active forms (Did they ever exist?). For future tense only the middle forms
>are used, and Friberg tags them as D - middle deponent. For aorist tense
>only the passive forms are used, and they are tagged as O - passive
>deponent. The meaning of all of these appears to be active whether or not
>the form is middle or passive. The aorist "passive" imperative POREUQHTI
>means "go" and not "be gone". Just like the present "middle-passive"
I would not say "the meaning of all of these appears to be 'active' at all;
the verb is intransitive, as is the case with many verbs with present tense
in MP morphology. This, by the way, underscores the absurdity (I think) of
the term deponent; no, there never was, so far as is discoverable, an
'active' form of this verb. One of the most misleading errors of the
traditional conception of "deponency" is the notion that a verb such as
POREUOMAI or DUNAMAI or somehow eccentric forms of a verb that originally
had 'active' morphology. Voice morphology has nothing essentially to do
with transitivity; it is concerned rather with alternation between a
default form (what's traditionally termed 'active') and a subject-intensive
form (what's traditionally termed 'middle-passive' or, in the -QH-
morphology, what's traditionally termed 'passive'.). You are right to call
attention to the identical sense of the imperative forms POREUOU and
POREUQHTI: they are NOT 'middle' and 'passive' forms respectively of the
same verb but are rather competing, alternative forms of the 2nd sg.
imperative of this verb, exactly as EIPAN in Mt 12:2 and EIPON in Mt 12:24
are competing alternative forms of the 3d pl. aorist 'active'
indicative--and also just as ESTAQH in Mt 2:9 and ESTH in Lk 24:3 are
competing, alternative forms of the aorist 3d sg. intransitive indicative
with the sense, "stood."
>Since there are a few verbs that do have the 3-way contrast between active,
>middle and passive, I would assume that for these few verbs, we still have
>the 3-way distinction in meaning.
>I couldn't find many 3-way forms, and it seems you had difficulty finding
>Just an example in the future:
>John 16:13 AKOUSEI - he will hear
>Acts 21:22 AKOUSONTAI - they will hear (and take in?) is it intensive?
>Middle forms only in Acts.
>Luke 12:3 AKOUSQHSETAI - it will be heard
Interesting verb: there are 13 future tense forms in the GNT, of which ALL
are indicative, 7 are 'active,' 5 are 'middle', and 1 is 'passive'. Lk 12:3
AKOUSQHSETAI does indeed seem pretty clearly authentically passive, but I
cannot discern any difference in meaning whatsoever between the 'active'
futures and the 'middle' futures. I think that what has happened in the
case of this particular verb is that the earlier Greek subject-intensive
future (-SOMAI, etc.) is giving way to a Koine 'active' or 'default' future
(-SW/SEIS/SEI, etc.). Here again we have competing alternative forms.
Let me add two comments here:
(1) It is in fact NOT the case that only 'middle' futures appear in Acts:
Acts 28:26 has AKOUSETE, but in general it is only Luke--who writes, it
would seem, a more 'school-book' Greek who displays the five 'middle'
future indicatives of the verb;
(2) While in general I do approve of the linguists' insistence upon looking
at Greek morphology and syntax synchronically rather than diachronically, I
think some familiarity with Greek earlier and later than Koine can protect
them from a certain degree of grammatical myopia regarding just such
phenomena as are here under investigation, namely, where concurrent
alternative (older and newer forms with identical meanings are found in the
>I understand you to say that a passive aorist or future form might as well
>function as a middle form in the case where the verb in question is not used
>in the middle. You also seem to say that whether an MP form is in fact to be
>understood in a passive or middle or even active sense depends on the
>context as well as the range of forms of that particular verb.
>Is this a reasonably correct understanding?
Yes. In fact, I was asked off-list this morning with regard to Heb 10:14
about the voice-designation of the participle hAGIAZOMENOUS. My reply was:
>I might want to
>argue that hAGIAZOMENOUS in this passage COULD be understood as MIDDLE
>rather than as passive: "those undergoing sanctification"--that's really
>"subject-intensive", isn't it? I think that's what's really involved in
>this instance, because there is no AGENT indicated, only the PATIENT or (as
>Iver expresses it) the EXPERIENCER.
>You suggested that when an MP form is followed by hUPO, it is passive in
>meaning. That sounds reasonable. However, I would be surprised if we could
>infer anything from an absence of a hUPO. In that case, I think it could
>still well be passive, but the implied agent is just not specified. Maybe I
>did not understand your statement about hUPO?
Yes, I am inclined to agree with you that the absence of a hUPO + genitive
expression (or an instrumental dative) doesn't necessarily mean that a -QH-
form should NOT be interpreted as passive. So, for instance, our form
AKOUSQHSETAI in Lk 12:3 probably SHOULD be understood as passive.
Nevertheless, such a form really is "subject-intensive"; I can imagine this
being converted into German as "Das wird man wohl hoeren!"--that is to say,
it's an impersonal formulation, not at all unlike some wonderful archaic
Latin poetic expressions--Vergil in Aeneid 6: ITUR IN ANTIQUAM SILVAM,
where ITUR is 3d sg. 'passive' We can't say "it is gone into the forest
primeval" but something like "into the forest primeval one enters"--except
that's not right either, and we certainly wouldn't want to resort to "they
enter the forest primeval."
I thank you very much for the exchange.
Carl W. Conrad
Department of Classics, Washington University (Emeritus)
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