From: Paul O. Wendland (email@example.com)
Date: Thu Feb 14 2002 - 21:41:07 EST
Carl Conrad wrote:
> >>forgiveness is something that depends upon a person's will or
> >> God's will; REMOVAL might be a matter of the instrument.
> I can't conceive of any circumstances in which one would want to translate
> ADUNATON GAR hAIMA TAURWN KAI TRAGWN AFAIREIN hAMARTIAS as "For it's
> impossible for blood of bulls or goats to FORGIVE sins."
This is helpful and I guess I made an elementary mistake. Which is okay,
I've made them before. "Forgiveness" is a personal act and "removal" is an
action that can be done with the instrument one *uses* serving as the
subject. I checked to see if there were any uses of AFIHMI with what might
be considered a non-personal subject, and there were few if any. Homer has
one where unripe grapes "put forth" flowers. But it's quite a different
thing when the word "sins" is in the picture, and the idea of pardoning them
is in view. At the same time, there were also very few "non-personal"
subjects that I found for AFAIREW. Which leads me to ask the following
(somewhat different) question:
In English we feel the collocational clash of saying "blood [of goats]
forgives sins." You can't say it without wincing. But you can say, "Blood
removes sins" (the way we might say: "Tide removes a stain in a shirt")
Now, would a Greek-speaker have felt the same clash? Why? Is it that when
you add hAMARTIAS as an object, it means the distinctly personal act of will
Carl describes above? And that AFAIREW *can* work that way without a clash
because the subject is felt to be working as an instrument of someone else
with a personal will? Okay. . .
Still I'm puzzled. If Greeks did feel such a clash, what am I to make of
9:22 CWRIS hAIMATEKCUSIAS OU GINETAI AFESIS--Without bloodshedding,
forgiveness doesn't happen. It would seem that blood (and I think he means
the blood of bulls and goats) has some kind of connection with forgiveness
here. And it doesn't seem to bother. Granted, the mental distance between
the words is greater since AFESIS is a predicate nominative and not a verb
And I don't know if it's at all to the point, but in Romans 11:27, there's
the expression: "This is my covenant hOTAN AFELWMAI hAMARTIAS AUTWN--when I
will remove their sins." In Romans of course we have a personal subject.
And "sins" is the object. Let's say the clash is felt with AFIHMI in Heb
10:4 because it implies an act of personal will and so can't be used with
blood as subject, but not felt with AFAIREW because it implies more of an
idea of instrumentality and so can be used with blood as subject. Yet, as I
observed before, AFAIREW is mostly used--just like AFIHMI--with a personal
subject. And here Paul can quote God speaking about "removing" sin as a
personal action. So why isn't the same clash felt in Hebrews 10:4 with
AFAIREW as is evidently felt with AFIHMI?
And then I wonder, would it ever have been possible for a Greek speaker to
imagine using blood as a subject, AFIHMI as the verb, and sins as the
object? Or would he always have felt the same clash we do in English?
No doubt I'm trying to unscrew the inscrutable. Sunt quae sunt. Maybe that's
just the way words are.
Paul O. Wendland
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