From: B. Ward Powers (bwpowers@optusnet.com.au)
Date: Tue Nov 06 2001 - 08:21:16 EST

With the discussion of "voice" continuing apace on b-greek , and now under
more than one subject heading, I note that some list members are indicating
their inclination towards accepting the position re middle and passive verb
forms which is being advocated by Carl.

Against this, I would contend that the case for which Carl is arguing has
not been made out: the evidence is just not there to support it.

First of all, let us be clear that this discussion relates to the aorist
and future subsystems of the koine Greek verb, these being the only two of
the four where -SAMHN/-SOMAI and -QH- forms both occur. In the other two
subsystems, the present ("durative") and the perfect ("perfective")
subsystems there are no -QH- forms, and we all recognize that "middle"
forms are used with middle or passive meaning.

Carl has said:

>We disagree on two significant matters, and to different extents; if I am
>misrepresenting Ward's view, I hope he will correct me:
>(1) Ward supports the conventional understanding that -QH- forms in the
>aorist and future tenses signals an authentic passive meaning EXCEPT in
>the case of the so-called "passive deponents"; MY working hypothesis (and
>I won't claim that it is fully demonstrable to my own satisfaction as yet) is
>RATHER that -QH- forms in the aorist and future tenses did, in the course
>of the historical growth and development of ancient Greek, gradually and to
>a considerable extent SUPPLANT older aorist 'middle-passive' morphology
>and then, in those verbs thus supplanted, also formed new future tenses in
>-QHSOMAI to supplant the older 'middle-passive' -SOMAI morphology.

Yes, this is a clear statement of our divergent viewpoints. I hold to a
basic correlation (certainly, as an initial starting point for examining
the use and meaning of verb forms) between: the ELUSA-type forms and the
concept of active voice; the ELUSAMHN-type forms and the concept of middle
voice; and the ELUQHN-type forms and the concept of passive voice.

Though Iver Larsen grants greater acceptance than I would to Carl's
position, he has said:

<<It may be the case that we only have two voice FORMS, but I think we
should maintain the underlying 3-way distinction between active, middle and
passive. As long as grammatical tagging is not only morphological, but takes
into consideration the syntax and semantics, then I believe we need to keep
those three tags: A, M and P.>>

In responding, Bryant J. Williams III has written:

<<Dear Iver:
I like the idea of maintaining the same divisions of Active, Middle, and
Passive. All that is being done is to indicate that a particular word is A,
M, or P in form. We must NOT confuse "form" with "meaning" or "use." The
same holds true in hermeneutics where too many people confuse application
with interpretation. This must not be done when discussing the Voice, etc.>>

These points have been well-made by Iver and Bryant, and I recommend we
keep them in view in this discussion.

The fact is that a three-way differentiation DOES exist morphologically in
Greek between the flexions of the aorist forms ELUSA, ELUSAMHN, and ELUQHN,
and correspondingly between the future flexions for LUSW, LUSOMAI, and

Carl has adduced good historical evidence for recognizing that the first
two of these (which I will, without prejudice, refer to as the active and
middle morphological forms) are very old, and that the flexion forms in
-QH- (though represented in Homer) were a later development, which had
expanded considerably in use by classical and koine times. Carl's
contention is that the older -SAMHN/-SOMAI forms had both middle and
passive meaning, and that the later-developed -QHN/-QHSOMAI forms, which
began to displace them to some extent, with some verbs, also had both
middle and passive meaning.

To cite him more precisely, Carl proposes, for our consideration, as a
"working hypothesis", that the ELUSAMHN-type forms have "older aorist
'middle-passive' morphology" and that "in the course of the historical
growth and development of ancient Greek, gradually and to a considerable
extent" these older forms were supplanted by "-QH- forms in the aorist and
future tenses" - which continued to be middle-passive in sense.

Again, Carl says:

<<(i) there appears to be sufficient historical evidence that the -QH-
morphoparadigms increasingly came to supplant the older -MHN/SO/TO
morphoparadigms in the aorist and the future tenses, although the older
morphoparadigms in MHN/SO/TO continued in use in the aorist and future for
many verbs in more common everyday use in the language;
(ii) the GNT database displays no more than three handfuls of verbs that
have BOTH the MHN/SO/TO AND the -QH- morphoparadigms in the aorist: and
some of these are clearly or at least arguably identical in meaning
-QH- morphoparadigm had already become the "standard" one for aorist
middle-passive, and that the -MHN/SO/TO morphoparadigm survived and
continued in use as a "strong" form simply because the verbs employing it
were in more common usage among Greek speakers and writers.>>

Yes: but why?? Here is the significant question: Why should these new -QH-
forms emerge, and be so successful in being adopted "in the course of the
historical growth and development of Ancient Greek"? I cannot recall Carl
having given any answer for this, beyond drawing our attention to the fact
that languages do change and develop.

However, I have an explanation to offer: These "new" forms in -QH-
developed and were used more and more widely, precisely because they met a
need: they permitted Greek speakers to make a plain distinction between
when they wished to convey middle meaning and passive meaning in aorist and
future tenses. That is, the "new" paradigms became popular because they
fulfilled a role: and that role was to differentiate the middle and passive

Two further comments re this:

1. The wonder is that this morphological differentiation device between
middle and passive did not spread to the present and perfect verb
subsystems also, not that it became so widely used in the aorist and future
subsystems. (Last month the question was posed on b-greek as to why the
-QH- forms (or some other equivalent) were only developed for two of the
four subsystems, and ideas and explanations for this were invited: if I
recall correctly, there was not a single explanation tendered.)

2. A small number of instances have been adduced where, in verbs which have
(or could have) -QH- forms, -SAMHN (middle) forms are found in the NT with
passive meaning; and in verbs which have (or could have) -SAMHN (middle)
forms, some -QH- forms are found which have middle meaning. I wish to
comment upon these instances further, but let it be noted here that the
number of verbs where this is commonly or uniformly the case, or instances
of verbs where it is occasionally the case, is very small. It is not good
linguistic procedure to base a description of a language upon such a small
number of instances, or to allow a few contrary examples to annul the
acknowledgement of a description (a "rule") which applies to most word
forms (in this case, verbs) most of the time. The standard linguistic
procedure is to identify the pattern which can be observed to function in
the language most of the time, and set it out, and then to see what one
makes of the apparent exceptions. (Is there anyone on b-greek who has had
formal training in linguistics who would disagree with this statement?)

Carl acknowledges the large number of verb forms for which this
differentiation holds good:

<<One final comment at this time: it may well be that MOST verb-forms in
-QH- are actually semantically passive, just as it is hardly disputable that
MOST verb-forms in the W/EIS/EI morphoparadigm are actually semantically
active. But even if that is true, it must be realized that there are great
numbers of verb-forms found in the -QH- morphoparadigms that are decidedly
NOT passive, are surely NOT displaced freaks that ought to have been
formulated in a different morphoparadigm (i.e. they are not "deponents"),
and they are not adequately explained in terms of some theory of the
passive as an "intransitivizer." So far as I can tell, the -QH- morphology
emerged originally as an extended form of the morphology of mostly
intransitive (or "quasi-passive) non-thematic ("third") aorists such as
EBHN, ESTHN, EFANHN, etc. which may readily function as aorist counterparts
for middle-passives in -MAI/SAI/TAI in opposition to CAUSATIVE aorist

Now, it is absolutely true, as Carl has noted, that the "third aorist
paradigm" of verbs such as EBHN and ESTHN (as Carl mentions), to which one
can add EGNWN (GINWSKW) and EDUN (DUNW), constitute the pattern on which
the aorist passive flexion was formed: add the passive morph -QH- to the
word's root, and affix the third aorist endings -N, -S, ZERO, -MEN, -TE,
-SAN. But I do not find that his statement holds up that

<<it must be realized that there are great numbers of verb-forms found in
the -QH- morphoparadigms that are decidedly NOT passive>>

If we can all agree on Carl's affirmation, above, that

<<it may well be that MOST verb-forms in -QH- are actually semantically

then this is the basis upon which we formulate basic grammar, and instruct
new students.

Similarly, re koine Greek ELUSAMHN forms. Carl cites just one example of an
aorist middle form with passive meaning:

<<One other point: I was going to respond separately to the thread on
APOLLUMI/APOLLUMAI but I think I can state my point rather briefly. ...
There is no "passive" -QH- paradigm for this verb; I'm inclined to think
that it continued to carry its ambivalence to express middle or passive
sense in the aorist APWLOMHN and future APOLOUMAI on into
the period when such forms were shifting into new QH paradigms. Verbs like
this tend to retain 'archaic' forms (just as the older folk in these Blue
Ridge mountains still say "holp" for the past tense of "help" while most
English-speakers say "helped"). And I think that's why we have that
expression in 1 Cor 10:10 KAI APWLONTO hUPO TOU OLOUQREUTOU: this is not an
aorist middle with an agent construction but an authentic 'archaic' aorist
passive--or, more properly expressed, aorist MP used in the passive sense.>>

Notwithstanding such an exception as Carl cites, the data shows that
ELUSAMHN (i.e., morphologically middle) forms normally have middle meaning.

So I am contending that there is a fundamental correlation of ELUSA-type
forms with active voice, ELUSAMHN-type forms with middle voice, and
ELUQHN-type forms with passive voice.

And the data is similar for the future.

Carl cites the information given by A T Robinson, for whose work (as for
Carl's) I have the utmost respect. Robinson says:

<<The future passives without certain passive sense are illustrated by the
KOIMHQHSOMAI (1 Cor. 15:51),
FANHSOMAI (Mt. 24:30),
FOBHQHSOMAI (Heb. 13:6).>>

This is a list of nine instances where (Robinson says) passive forms are
used <<without certain passive sense>>.

Actually, I cannot find ANAKALUFQHSOMAI in Matthew 8:11 (or anywhere else
in the GNT for that matter) - perhaps Robinson may have been using a
different text, though I do not find reference to such a textual variant at
that point either. But I do find ANAKLIQHSONTAI there, in Matthew 8:11, so
maybe it's a typo. There is another typo: Mark 12:16 should read Mark 12:6.

Yet in some of these instances, I can see why a writer may have felt a
passive form was appropriate. Especially where there is a causative idea,
with the implication that someone or something is the cause of the event
referred to. Thus in Matthew 8:11 those who come and "recline at table"
with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob are "caused to recline at table" (i.e., given
the right to recline) - it is not their own doing.

And in Luke 10:6: ("If there is a son of peace there, your peace shall rest
on him"), I can see the idea that God will cause this to happen. Similarly
those (Rev 17:8) who will be astonished at what they see will be caused to
be astonished BY what they see.

And 1 Corinthians 15:51 ("we shall not all sleep", i.e., die) could well be
passive in recognition that this is not something which we CHOOSE to do
(i.e., die) but of which God is the active agent.

Hebrews 7:21 ("The Lord ... will not change his mind") - the Lord will not
have his mind changed by any factor or circumstance.

Hebrew 13:6 ("The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid"): I will not be
caused to fear by any other person or circumstance.

But as for Mark 12:6: yes, it does seem to be a future passive form that
has a non-passive sense.

What does that leave us with? FANHSETAI (Matthew 24:30): we have here a
verb which has a recognized distinct meaning in its passive form.

And APOKRIQHSOMAI (Matthew 25:37), "[The righteous] will answer [him]" this
verb is the most common example of "a passive form with active meaning",
what most of us hitherto have referred to as a deponent, and thus treated
as one of a group which were exceptions to the main rule. Carl has
explained his three reasons for rejecting the term "deponent": the term
implies that these forms have supplanted or replaced some prior active
forms (and the evidence is against this); they "should not be deemed
somehow "deviant" from normal Greek expression"; and we must avoid
confusing questions of transitive/intransitive with voice. I myself do not
consider that the term "deponent" is guilty of any of these things which
Carl attributes to it. To me the term is just a handle for referring to a
category of verb which I find does exist in Greek. If there is a better
term for this category, I will be persuaded; but my point is: this category
DOES exist.

So I do not find many in this group which argue against accepting that -QH-
indicates some kind of passive idea, i.e. where the subject is not the one
initiating or performing the act.

But just suppose that in looking at these nine future verbs I have been
blessed with an overactive imagination, and these are all, morphologically,
real future passive forms with definitely non-passive sense. And, moreover,
Robinson says these are "illustrative" of his point, so there could be
others. Even so, they are a small number of instances, and do not nullify
the general recognition that futures with -QH- are passive.

Here then is my conclusions:

1. The linguistic principle applies: A few instances to the contrary of a
generally observed language phenomenon do not invalidate the recognition of
the existence of that language phenomenon, and its utilization as a pattern
in an explanation of that language, and in teaching students who are
learning that language.

APPLICATION: We recognize the correlation between the voice categories
Active, Middle, and Passive, and the morphoparadigms (to use Carl's
felicitous term for morphologically differentiated paradigms) of ELUSA,

2. To just about any rule, exceptions exist. In his "Learning A Foreign
Language" (1950; p.15), E A Nida says, "There is no reason but a historical
one for any irregularities, and historical reasons are not really any
reasons. They are just statements that the irregularity has been in the
language for a long time. It does not tell us how the complexity arose. We
do know something about these irregularities, namely, that they occur in
all languages, that they are very persistent, especially if they occur in
some frequently used form of the language, and that some irregularities are
constantly disappearing and others being introduced."

APPLICATION: We recognize the existence of exceptions to the above
correlation, that is, that there occasions where a form which
morphologically is Active, Middle, or Passive, is being used (either on a
regular basis by a given verb, or in particular instances) in a way which
in at variance with its morphological indications.

3. As cogently stated by Iver Larsen and Bryant Williams (see beginning of
this posting), recognition of the meaning of a verb form must not be based
purely upon "grammatical tagging", but must take into consideration syntax
and semantics: and for voice, this means retaining the three tags, A, M,
and P. We need to identify that a word is A, M, or P in form: but then we
must not confuse "form" with "use" when discussing voice.

APPLICATION: We start with a recognition that there are three
differentiated morphoparadigms in the aorist and future tense systems, and
that there are three different types of voice in koine Greek, Active,
Middle, and Passive; and we recognize the correlation between the two: but
we also recognize that there will be numbers of occasions when a verb is
being used in a way at variance with its morphological structure.

4. When verb usage is at variance with a verb form's morphological
structure, sometimes this will be because of the lexical meaning of a
particular verb, sometimes because of historical factors which persist in
the language, and sometimes for no discernable reasons whatsoever. On the
one hand this does not invalidate the primary pattern of verb use discerned
in a language. On the other hand, the next step is to assess whether, and
how, these exceptions to the usual pattern can be identified, explained,
and categorized.

APPLICATION: Patterns are to be discerned in those instances of verb use
which depart from the standard "rule" of correlation of voice with
morphological paradigms (as above). One of those is where morphologically
the forms in the Greek are middle or passive (or both) and the
corresponding English meaning is active: what would hitherto have been
designated "deponent". Perhaps we have to define more precisely what we
mean by this term to avoid misunderstandings; perhaps we need a new term:
but this linguistic phenomenon definitely exists in koine Greek. There are
however other situations where particular verbs exhibit specific semantic
idiosyncrasies which need to be noted: e.g., where they have no active
forms in the future, but use middle forms instead (what hitherto we would
have classified as "verbs with deponent futures"). And verbs which differ
in other ways (e.g., having no forms in use which have the -QH- morph; and
isolated occurrences of a verb where it does not have the voice form which
would have been expected of it in context). As has been suggested, it would
seem that there is scope for further research in this area.

Submitted for consideration.



Rev Dr B. Ward Powers Phone (International): 61-2-8714-7255
259A Trafalgar Street Phone (Australia): (02) 8714-7255
PETERSHAM NSW 2049 email: bwpowers@optusnet.com.au
AUSTRALIA. Director, Tyndale College

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