From: Carl W. Conrad (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Date: Mon Feb 11 2002 - 07:38:50 EST
At 6:12 AM -0500 2/11/02, Edward Otte wrote:
>I have a question concerning the active or passive duality of a verb use
>in many places in the Bible. I am refering to the verb that can be
>transliterated "take" or "receive." The verb appears in John 10:17-18
>where I have seen it transliterated both ways in several translations. To
>be sure, the difference between an active take to a passive receive does
>change the meaning of at least this verse. Is there some rule or
>grammatical understanding to how to transliterate? Is it just by context
>and thus more subjective?
I think you are confused about the meaning of "transliteration" -- it is
the manner of spelling out the foreign text in characters of an alien
language: what we do when we represent a Greek text using Roman ASCII
characters according to some convention of regular representation, as the
Greek text of Jn 10:17-18 is represented below. You actually mean, I think,
TRANSLATION, when you speak of whether LABEIN is "transliterated" as "take"
or "receive." You are also using "active" and "passive" in a sense that
doesn't correspond to normal use of these terms in grammatical parlance.
I'll try to sort this out below without going into excessive detail.
>INA PALIN LABW AUTHN OUDEIS HREN AUTHN AP EMOU ALL EWO TINQHMI AUTHN AP
>EMAUTOU EZOUSIAN EXW QEINAI AUTHN KAI EZOUSIAN EXW PALIN LABEIN AUTHN
First let me recast this in our more conventional transliteration scheme
and punctuate it according to the USB4 text:
10:17 DIA TOUTO ME hO PATHR AGAPAi hOTI EGW TIQHMI THN YUCHN MOU, hINA
PALIN LABW AUTHN. 18 OUDEIS AIREI AUTHN AP' EMOU, ALL' EGW TIQHMI AUTHN AP'
EMAUTOU. EXOUSIAN ECW QEINAI AUTHN, KAI EXOUSIAN ECW PALIN LABEIN AUTHN;
TAUTHN THN ENTOLHN ELABON PARA TOU PATROS MOU.
The verb about which you are raising the question is LAMBANW, which appears
in this passage three times: as LABW (aor subj. 1 sg act.) in verse 17, and
as LABEIN (aor. inf. act.) and ELABON (aor. ind. 1 sg. act.) in verse 18.
The Greek verb is grammatically ACTIVE in each of these three instances. I
think, however, that what you find disturbing and perhaps misleading is
that this verb LAMBANW is sometimes TRANSLATED into English as "receive" --
which seems more to emphasize the "passive" role of Jesus as one to whom
YUCH is being given by another -- and at other times as "take" -- which
seems more to emphasize the "active" role of Jesus as one who actively and
deliberately GRASPS YUCH.
You would do well to study carefully the five columns of BDAG's discussion
of this verb in its various usages (10 headings with subheadings to two of
the headings) and/or the SIXTEEN distinct semantic categories/subcategories
into which Louw & Nida classify the verb's meanings.
I don't know whether this will be very helpful to you or not, but I have
personally found it easier to see how the semantic range of this verb
reaches by starting with a most fundamental concrete sense of "get a grip
on" or "take in hand." Depending on how we visualize or conceive of a
particular instance of a person "taking in hand" something, it is possible
to think of the action as one governed wholly by the intention of a subject
who grips the object in question, seizes it and appropriates it to his/her
own possessions and/or purposes or, on the other hand, it is possible to
think of the action as one governed by the subject's ACCEPTANCE/RECEPTION
of something that is given/offered to him/her by another. LAMBANW may thus
mean, on the one hand (in the right context) "I am seizing/taking by force
(something) or, on the other hand (in the right context) "I am
accepting/receiving (something) given/offered by another person."
The text about which you are asking uses the verb LAMBANW in the aorist
with the object YUCHN (or its equivalent pronoun, AUTHN), and it uses the
phrase which I will designate with the infinitive form YUCHN LABEIN in
antithesis to the phrase YUCHN QEINAI. In this context YUCHN QEINAI
normally would have the sense "lay down (one's) life" = "voluntarily die"
while the antithetical phrase YUCHN LABEIN normally would have the sense
(particularly with PALIN as here) "get/receive (back) (one's) life.
I want to sustain the focus upon language and conceptual perspective here;
I do NOT wish to get into theological concerns. I hope that I may stay
within those limits by noting that the death and resurrection of Jesus are
represented in the NT from alternative perspectives on that death and
resurrection: the death as a voluntary act performed by Jesus or as a
suffering inflicted upon him by enemies, the resurrection as a deliberate
resumption of life by Jesus or as an "awakening" or "revival" of a dead
person by the power and will of God. That ambivalence of perspective may be
noted even in the ambiguity of the verbs used to refer to the event of
resurrection: ANISTHMI and the middle-voice EGEIROMAI are both used to
describe the resurrection from the perspective of awakening from sleep or
rising from a reclining position, but both verbs certainly seem to imply
that the rising or awakening is something performed by the sleeper/recliner
rather than initiated by another or by an external factor. Yet on the other
hand the resurrection is sometimes referred to by use of the verb EGERQHNAI
in a fully PASSIVE sense: Jesus is "awakened" or "raised up" by God --and
the agent is clearly represented by an agent construction, hUPO QEOU or
hUPO TOU PATROS.
Now, to return to the passage at hand, John 10:17-18. It seems to me that
in this instance the semantic emphasis rests upon the POWER held by Jesus
to die and rise AT WILL. He asserts that he has EXOUSIAN: whether one
chooses to understand that EXOUSIA as "power" or "authority," the
implication is clear enough: the initiative is his own for his death, which
he describes with the phrase of YUCHN QEINAI ("lay down (one's) life") and
the initiative is his own for his resurrection, which he describes with the
phrase LABEIN PALIN AUTHN (THN YUCHN)--he says that he holds the EXOUSIA to
do these things--and he says that he does so "of my own accord" (AP'
EMAUTOU). And yet, nevertheless, he ALSO clearly indicates that this
authority (EXOUSIA) and even obligation (ENTOLH) are things that were given
him "BY MY FATHER" (PARA PATROS MOU).
I only hope this may have been more helpful than confusing.
Carl W. Conrad
Department of Classics, Washington University (Emeritus)
Most months:: 1647 Grindstaff Road/Burnsville, NC 28714/(828) 675-4243
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