Teaching the Genitive

Stephen Carlson
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Teaching the Genitive

Post by Stephen Carlson »

I'd like to ask the pedagogues, teachers, and self-learners on the forum how you teach what the genitive means.

Do you give a basic meaning of possession or intrinsic relationship and hope the student infers the full usage in their reading, or do you go the full Wallace and give the students a list of 30+ possible meanings to audition?
Stephen C. Carlson, Ph.D.
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Ken M. Penner
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Re: Teaching the Genitive

Post by Ken M. Penner »

Stephen Carlson wrote: June 10th, 2021, 2:36 am Do you give a basic meaning of possession or intrinsic relationship and hope the student infers the full usage in their reading, or do you go the full Wallace and give the students a list of 30+ possible meanings to audition?
I give a basic meaning of nominal qualification using "-type" and "of" as glosses, and then some Wallace-style examples to demonstrate the range of meaning.
Ken M. Penner
St. Francis Xavier University
Jonathan Robie
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Re: Teaching the Genitive

Post by Jonathan Robie »

Stephen Carlson wrote: June 10th, 2021, 2:36 am I'd like to ask the pedagogues, teachers, and self-learners on the forum how you teach what the genitive means.

Do you give a basic meaning of possession or intrinsic relationship and hope the student infers the full usage in their reading, or do you go the full Wallace and give the students a list of 30+ possible meanings to audition?
Using living language approaches, you work from concrete examples to teach the genitive, and the most concrete examples generally involve the core meaning of possession. Over time, that generalizes out to other examples.

To me, the categorized lists sometimes involve more than a little exegesis, conflating the meaning of the sentence or passage as a whole with the contribution of the genitive per se. If you have a solid feel for the core meaning, you can infer the more specific candidate meanings. It doesn't work the other way around.
ἐξίσταντο δὲ πάντες καὶ διηποροῦντο, ἄλλος πρὸς ἄλλον λέγοντες, τί θέλει τοῦτο εἶναι;
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Stephen Carlson
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Re: Teaching the Genitive

Post by Stephen Carlson »

Ken M. Penner wrote: June 10th, 2021, 8:14 am
Stephen Carlson wrote: June 10th, 2021, 2:36 am Do you give a basic meaning of possession or intrinsic relationship and hope the student infers the full usage in their reading, or do you go the full Wallace and give the students a list of 30+ possible meanings to audition?
I give a basic meaning of nominal qualification using "-type" and "of" as glosses, and then some Wallace-style examples to demonstrate the range of meaning.
So the answer is both? ;-)
Stephen C. Carlson, Ph.D.
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Stephen Carlson
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Re: Teaching the Genitive

Post by Stephen Carlson »

Jonathan Robie wrote: June 10th, 2021, 8:42 am Using living language approaches, you work from concrete examples to teach the genitive, and the most concrete examples generally involve the core meaning of possession. Over time, that generalizes out to other examples.

To me, the categorized lists sometimes involve more than a little exegesis, conflating the meaning of the sentence or passage as a whole with the contribution of the genitive per se. If you have a solid feel for the core meaning, you can infer the more specific candidate meanings. It doesn't work the other way around.
Yes, this probably how the genitive is acquired by native speakers. But I wonder how much of this generalization is guided by the teacher or standard materials and how much is individual to the reader?

And how helpful is it for exegesis? (Note: I might suggest that exegesis is not so much about understanding the text, though that is a precondition, but rather ways of structuring one’s understanding of the text and formulating it for communication to another.)
Stephen C. Carlson, Ph.D.
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Barry Hofstetter
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Re: Teaching the Genitive

Post by Barry Hofstetter »

Stephen Carlson wrote: June 10th, 2021, 2:36 am I'd like to ask the pedagogues, teachers, and self-learners on the forum how you teach what the genitive means.

Do you give a basic meaning of possession or intrinsic relationship and hope the student infers the full usage in their reading, or do you go the full Wallace and give the students a list of 30+ possible meanings to audition?
I teach them that it's the "of" case, that if you plug in the word "of" before the word in translation you get most of the meanings. Sounds oversimplified, but it tends to work. Then we pick up the various uses of the genitive in context as we go along. Wallaces's 30 plus categories -- no. Save that multiplicity for an exegesis course, but even then, many of his "categories" are specific contextual usages that probably should be re-taxonomized.
N.E. Barry Hofstetter
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καὶ σὺ τὸ σὸν ποιήσεις κἀγὼ τὸ ἐμόν. ἆρον τὸ σὸν καὶ ὕπαγε.
Jonathan Robie
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Re: Teaching the Genitive

Post by Jonathan Robie »

Stephen Carlson wrote: June 10th, 2021, 6:36 pm
Jonathan Robie wrote: June 10th, 2021, 8:42 am Using living language approaches, you work from concrete examples to teach the genitive, and the most concrete examples generally involve the core meaning of possession. Over time, that generalizes out to other examples.

To me, the categorized lists sometimes involve more than a little exegesis, conflating the meaning of the sentence or passage as a whole with the contribution of the genitive per se. If you have a solid feel for the core meaning, you can infer the more specific candidate meanings. It doesn't work the other way around.
Yes, this probably how the genitive is acquired by native speakers. But I wonder how much of this generalization is guided by the teacher or standard materials and how much is individual to the reader?
I suspect that depends on the individual and the context. Think of a child learning a language - the child makes mistakes all the time, the parents find it cute, they correct some of the mistakes a little at a time, the child begins to get it. No, that's not a cat, it's a little dog. No, we don't use the genitive that way, we use it this way. That also happens when people read the Greek New Testament together - no, I don't think that's what it means, I think this is what it means. We do that here on B-Greek, too. If we're lucky, we may be making the same distinctions they made back then most of the time.
Stephen Carlson wrote: June 10th, 2021, 6:36 pmAnd how helpful is it for exegesis? (Note: I might suggest that exegesis is not so much about understanding the text, though that is a precondition, but rather ways of structuring one’s understanding of the text and formulating it for communication to another.)
Can you point me to a few examples of exegesis that turn on interpretation of specific genitives? How do you see the relationship between close reading and exegesis?

I would like to get a feeling for what you consider good exegesis before trying to answer. To me, some of Wallace's categories describe the exegetical significance he thinks a particular phrase has in a passage, going beyond the contribution of the Genitive.
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Re: Teaching the Genitive

Post by Ken M. Penner »

Stephen Carlson wrote: June 10th, 2021, 6:27 pm
Ken M. Penner wrote: June 10th, 2021, 8:14 am I give a basic meaning of nominal qualification using "-type" and "of" as glosses, and then some Wallace-style examples to demonstrate the range of meaning.
So the answer is both? ;-)
Well, a bit of both. I certainly don't give them all of Wallace's categories up front.
Ken M. Penner
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Jonathan Robie
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Re: Teaching the Genitive

Post by Jonathan Robie »

Here's what Mounce does. Seems pretty helpful.
Genitive

1. The most common use of the genitive is when the word in the genitive gives some description of the head noun (descriptive).

ἐνδυσώμεθα [δὲ] τὰ ὅπλα τοῦ φωτός (Rom 13:12).
Let us put on the armor of light.

2. The head noun can be possessed by the word in the genitive (possessive).

ὕπαγε πώλησόν σου τὰ ὑπάρχοντα (Matt 19:21).
Go, sell your possessions.

3. In a general sense, if you have a noun that in some way equals the meaning of another noun, the writer can put the noun in the genitive, and it is said to be in apposition to the head noun. It is as if you drew an equals sign between the two words. The translations will often add a word or punctuation to help make this clear.

λήμψεσθε τὴν δωρεὰν τοῦ ἁγίου πνεύματος (Acts 2:38).
You will receive the gift, the Holy Spirit.

4. The word in the genitive can indicate something that is separate from the head noun or verb. It will often use the helping word “from” (separation).

ἀπηλλοτριωμένοι τῆς πολιτείας τοῦ Ἰσραήλ (Eph 2:12)
being alienated from the commonwealth of Israel

5. This category and the next two are extremely important. They occur with a head noun that expresses a verbal idea (i.e., the noun can also occur as a cognate verb). These three categories often present the translator with significantly different interpretations.

Sometimes the word in the genitive functions as if it were the subject of the verbal idea implicit in the head noun (subjective). You can use the helping word “produced” to help identify this usage. “The love produced by Christ.”

τίς ἡμᾶς χωρίσει ἀπὸ τῆς ἀγάπης τοῦ Χριστοῦ (Rom 8:35).
Who will separate us from Christ’s love?

6. The word in the genitive functions as the direct object of the verbal idea implicit in the head noun (objective). This is the opposite of the subjective genitive. You can use the key word “receives.” “The blasphemy received by the Spirit.”

ἡ δὲ τοῦ πνεύματος βλασφημία οὐκ ἀφεθήσεται (Matt 12:31).
But the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven.

7. Sometimes it appears that the word in the genitive is a combination of both the objective and subjective genitive (plenary).

ἡ γὰρ ἀγάπη τοῦ Χριστοῦ συνέχει ἡμᾶς (2 Cor 5:14).
For the love of Christ compels us.

8. The genitive can indicate a familial relationship between a word and its head noun (relationship). Often the head noun is not expressed, so it is up to the translator’s interpretive skills to determine the exact nature of the relationship.

Σίμων Ἰωάννου (John 21:15)
Simon, son of John

Μαρία ἡ Ἰακώβου (Luke 24:10)
Mary the mother of James

9. Sometimes the noun in the genitive is a larger unit, while its head noun represents a smaller portion of it (partitive).

τινες τῶν κλάδων (Rom 11:17)
some of the branches


Mounce, W. D. (2019). Basics of Biblical Greek Grammar. (V. D. Verbrugge & C. A. Beetham, Eds.) (Fourth Edition, pp. 64–65). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.
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Re: Teaching the Genitive

Post by Jonathan Robie »

Jeffrey Rydberg-Cox is pretty helpful here too.

Genitive

In general, I think it's helpful to expose people to lots of examples, organized by categories, without weighing them down with really complex explanations. Especially for examples where English and Greek are similar enough that it's obvious - assuming the students speak English well.
Genitive

1. limits the meaning of a noun

2. expresses the idea of source or separation.

These relationships can be expressed by the English prepositions of or from.

Possession: Denotes possession or ownership Smyth 1297-1302

“ὁ Κύρου στόλος” Xen. Anab. 1.2.5; the expedition of Cyrus

Partitive: Denotes the general class to which a specific noun belongs. Smyth 1306-1319

“οἱ ἄποροι τῶν πολιτῶν” Dem. 18.104; the needy among the citizens

Quality: Denotes the quality of a person or thing. Used mainly as a predicate. Smyth 1320-1321

“οἱ δέ τινες τῆς αὐτῆς γνώμης ὀλίγοι κατέφυγον” Thuc. 3.70; but some few of the same opinion fled

Explanation: Denotes the specific class to which a general noun belongs. Smyth 1322

“ἄελλαι παντοίων ἀνέμων” Hom. Od. 5.292; blasts of wind of every sort

Material: Denotes the composition or contents of a noun. Smyth 1323-1324

“ἑξακόσια τάλαντα φόρου” Thuc. 2.13; six hundred talents in taxes

Measure: Denotes the extent in space or time of a noun. Smyth 1325-1327

“ὀκτὼ σταδίων τεῖχος” Thuc. 7.2; a wall eight stades long

Subjective: Denotes the subject of a verbal adjective expressed by a noun, usually with an active sense. Smyth 1330

“τῶν βαρβάρων φόβος” Xen. Anab. 1.2.17; the fear of the barbarians (which they feel: οἱ βάρβαροι φοβοῦνται)

Objective: Denotes the object of a verbal action expressed by a noun, usually with a passive sense. Smyth 1331-1335

“φόβος τῶν Εἱλώτων” Thuc. 3.54 the fear of the Helots (felt towards them: φοβοῦνται τοὺς Εἵλωτας)

Price or Value: Denotes the price or value of an object Smyth 1336-1337

“χιλίων δραχμῶν δίκην φεύγω” Dem. 55.25; I am defendant in an action involving a thousand drachma

With Certain Verbs: The genitive is used as the object verbs that denote sharing, touching, beginning, aiming at, obtaining, smelling, remembering, hearing, perceiving, filing, ruling, differing, commanding, etc. Smyth 1341-1371

“τῆς θαλάττης ἐκράτει” Plat. Menex. 239e; he was master of the sea

Charge: Denotes the crime with verbs of charging, summoning, and convicting. Smyth 1375-1379

“ἐμὲ ὁ Μέλητος ἀσεβείας ἐγράψατο” Plat. Euthyph. 5c; Meletus prosecuted me for impiety

Separation: The genitive expresses the ideas of separation with verbs denoting to cease, be apart from, want, lack, etc. Smyth 1392-1400

“λήγειν τῶν πόνων” Isoc. 1.14; to cease from toil

Comparison: Denotes the person or thing being compared when used with comparative adjectives, comparative adverbs or verbs expressing the idea of comparison. Smyth 1401-1404

“ἄρχων ἀγαθὸς οὐδὲν διαφέρει πατρὸς ἀγαθοῦ” Xen. Cyrop. 8.1.1; a good ruler differs in no respect from a good father

Cause: The genitive expresses cause with verbs denoting wonder, admiration, anger, etc. Smyth 1405-1407

“τὸν ξένον δίκαιον αἰνέσαι προθυμίας” Eur. IA 1371; it is right to praise the stranger for his zeal

Source: The genitive expresses the idea of source. Smyth 1410-1411

“πίθων ἠφύσσετο οἶνος” Hom. Od. 23.305; wine was broached from the casks

Time or Place within which: The genitive denotes the time or place within which an event happens. Smyth 1444-1449

“ᾤχετο τῆς νυκτός” Xen. Anab. 7.2.17; he departed during the night

Agency: The genitive with ὑπό expresses the agent of a passive verb. Smyth 1491

“περιερρεῖτο δ᾽ αὕτη ὑπὸ τοῦ Μάσκα κύκλῳ” Xen. Anab. 1.5.4; And this was encircled by the Mascas

Purpose: The genitive articular infinitive can express purpose. Smyth 1408-1409

“τοῦ μὴ τὰ δίκαια ποιεῖν” Dem. 18.107; in order not to do what was just
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