Teaching the Genitive

Shirley Rollinson
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Re: Teaching the Genitive

Post by Shirley Rollinson »

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?
When I'm teaching in a face-2-face setting, the first lesson of the course leads into the alphabet - but each lesson starts with a bit of the Lord's Prayer, until by about half way through the semester we have the whole of it, and the students are beginning to know it by heart. So even before I start on the alphabet I tell the students (with an evil grin) that we're going to learn this terribly, terribly, difficult language - Oo, it's so difficult, with all these funny letters. So let's have a look at what it looks like. Then I write πατηρ on the board, and say it a couple of times, pointing at the letters, then get them to say it. We play around a bit, with me pretending I can't hear, and telling them to say it louder (deals with the fear of speaking a new language). Have them guess the meaning, then I write the English underneath, and point out similar letters - they already know half of those Greek letters, Oh it's so hard. Then we get ἡμῶν which I write with the breathing but not the accent. I don't say anything about the breathing at this point. I tell them that it's the Greek way of saying "of us", and that English says "our", and puts it in front rather than behind the word it goes with (the students generally know no grammatical terms at this point). I explain that it's the way Greek calls out to someone, rather than just talking about them, so we're going to practice hollerin' Greek until the students in the next classroom can hear us. Then we holler "Hey, Dad!" in Greek several times, good and loud, and they've lost the fear of Greek and begin to have fun. By the end of the week they've met the Vocative, Genitive, and Dative - but without knowing those terms yet - and know them in (partial) context. We meet the noun and the cases only a week-or-so later (after the verb), when I give the plain textbook meanings, but by then the students are coping with inflections and the fact that one language can't be translated automatically word for word into another.
This was a long answer, but it's fundamental to dealing with the fear of learning a foreign language. You can't just give them a list and say "Learn this by tomorrow. There'll be a test on Monday" One must enjoy a language and start reading and speaking it from the start; the grammar can come later.
Jonathan Robie
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Re: Teaching the Genitive

Post by Jonathan Robie »

Shirley Rollinson wrote: June 12th, 2021, 11:22 am So even before I start on the alphabet I tell the students (with an evil grin) that we're going to learn this terribly, terribly, difficult language - Oo, it's so difficult, with all these funny letters. So let's have a look at what it looks like. Then I write πατηρ on the board, and say it a couple of times, pointing at the letters, then get them to say it. We play around a bit, with me pretending I can't hear, and telling them to say it louder (deals with the fear of speaking a new language). Have them guess the meaning,
I wish we could all watch each other teach. I would love to sit in this class.
Shirley Rollinson wrote: June 12th, 2021, 11:22 amThis was a long answer, but it's fundamental to dealing with the fear of learning a foreign language. You can't just give them a list and say "Learn this by tomorrow. There'll be a test on Monday" One must enjoy a language and start reading and speaking it from the start; the grammar can come later.
Amen.
ἐξίσταντο δὲ πάντες καὶ διηποροῦντο, ἄλλος πρὸς ἄλλον λέγοντες, τί θέλει τοῦτο εἶναι;
http://jonathanrobie.biblicalhumanities.org/
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Re: Teaching the Genitive

Post by Jonathan Robie »

Barry Hofstetter wrote: June 11th, 2021, 7:41 am 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.
I think that works for most examples, and that is certainly what I would do when exposing people to the Genitive for the first time, hinting that there are some other uses.

Later, to cover the two sets of examples I posted, I think you need to add Genitive of Separation under some name:
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
I think you also need to say something about objective and subjective Genitive, also later on. I like Smyth's approach.
With a verbal noun the genitive may denote the subject or object of the action expressed in the noun.
I think it's easiest to convert the noun to a verb and ask who is the object or subject.

I am skeptical of the explanations that suggest adding words like "produced by" or "received by", I think we want to read as little English as possible into our understanding and that can go beyond the meaning of the construction per se. These seem to be aimed at translators, perhaps filling in a little more than the text itself says based on his understanding of what is implied in a given verse?
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.”
But that's only one of the interpretive possibilities, and there are ways to translate this that leave the interpretive choice up to the reader of the translation. Depends on the purpose of the translation, I guess. Regardless, this seems to go a little beyond the core meaning of even the subjective genitive.

In this case, in the "Love of Christ", if we change Love to the verb "loving", who is loving? In Mounce's interpretation, Christ is the subject, the one who is loving. To me, at least, that feels different than saying that Christ is the one who is "producing the Love", which reads something more specific into it. Beyond that, there are verbal nouns for which "producing" just won't fit, and "producing" is a little odd in a translation here.
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.
Again, I prefer Smyth here, for the same reasons.

Who is blaspheming? Not the Holy Spirit. Someone is blaspheming the Holy Spirit, which is the object and takes an objective Genitive. In the objective interpretation of "Love of Christ", Christ is the object, Christ is being loved.

Subject and object are normally properties of verbs in English. Converting the verbal noun to a verb makes it a lot more intuitive.

I suspect that the things I mention here cover a lot of the cases, fairly simply:
  • "Of"
  • Separation (with verbs denoting to cease, be apart from, want, lack, etc.)
  • Subjective and Objective (with verbal nouns - convert the verbal noun to a verb, identify the subject and object)
What other cases does it miss?
ἐξίσταντο δὲ πάντες καὶ διηποροῦντο, ἄλλος πρὸς ἄλλον λέγοντες, τί θέλει τοῦτο εἶναι;
http://jonathanrobie.biblicalhumanities.org/
Stephen Carlson
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Re: Teaching the Genitive

Post by Stephen Carlson »

Barry Hofstetter wrote: June 11th, 2021, 7:41 am 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.
English “of” does have a huge overlap with the genitive, and I suspect that many of Wallace’s categories merely document when the “of” gloss doesn’t work. I wonder how much the taxonomy is affected by English glosses generally. Wallace also mixes in syntactic behavior in his categories (e.g., the predicate genitive and the genitive in apposition [which is distinct from the appositive genitive]).
Stephen C. Carlson, Ph.D.
Melbourne, Australia
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Re: Teaching the Genitive

Post by Stephen Carlson »

Jonathan Robie wrote: June 11th, 2021, 10:50 am [
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.
I didn’t have a specific exegetical issue in mind, but thinking about it, there are perennial issues like the subjective vs. objective genitive πίστις Χριστοῦ which come to mind. (IIRC, no one here has volunteered subjective vs. objective genitives among the meanings of the genitives.)
Stephen C. Carlson, Ph.D.
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Stephen Carlson
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Re: Teaching the Genitive

Post by Stephen Carlson »

Shirley Rollinson wrote: June 12th, 2021, 11:22 am When I'm teaching in a face-2-face setting, the first lesson of the course leads into the alphabet - but each lesson starts with a bit of the Lord's Prayer, until by about half way through the semester we have the whole of it, and the students are beginning to know it by heart.
Hey, I did that too!!!
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 12th, 2021, 6:31 pm
English “of” does have a huge overlap with the genitive, and I suspect that many of Wallace’s categories merely document when the “of” gloss doesn’t work. I wonder how much the taxonomy is affected by English glosses generally. Wallace also mixes in syntactic behavior in his categories (e.g., the predicate genitive and the genitive in apposition [which is distinct from the appositive genitive]).
In Wallace and quite a bit of the exegetical literature, a lot. That's why I'm a minimalist in these sorts of things. Give the broadest category possible and then introduce various usages as they occur in actual text (thereby combining a grammar and CI approach). I want students to get a real feel for how it works, and not have them hunting through lists to find the real meaning sort of thing.
N.E. Barry Hofstetter
Instructor of Latin
Jack M. Barrack Hebrew Academy
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 12th, 2021, 6:35 pmI didn’t have a specific exegetical issue in mind, but thinking about it, there are perennial issues like the subjective vs. objective genitive πίστις Χριστοῦ which come to mind. (IIRC, no one here has volunteered subjective vs. objective genitives among the meanings of the genitives.)
Let me stick my neck out. After going through the usages, I think a minimal-but-adequate account might need to say three things. I listed them in an overly long post. Let me shorten it and make a proposal.
  • "Of" - the most common, easiest to understand, and most general. Teach this first.
  • Subjective and Objective (with verbal nouns - convert the verbal noun to a verb, identify the subject and object). Note that this can also be explained using "of" in English. Teach this simply later on, but do teach it.
  • Separation (with verbs denoting to cease, be apart from, want, lack, etc.). This is an entirely different meaning that should also be taught. "Of" doesn't cut it for these.
So far, I think you have to teach all three of these, but the second and third can be taught much later. I suspect these three things cover most cases rather well. I would love to be told that I am right or wrong here based on the experience of others.

When you get around to teaching subjective and objective, I think Smyth is quite good:
With a verbal noun the genitive may denote the subject or object of the action expressed in the noun.
I think it's easiest to convert the noun to a verb and ask who is the object or subject. Yes, "of" works for some examples, but it doesn't for others. Consider this, an example I might use in teaching:
ἡ δὲ τοῦ πνεύματος βλασφημία οὐκ ἀφεθήσεται (Matt 12:31).
But the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven.
Blasphemy. Related verb: blaspheming. The genitive can tell you either: (1) Who is blaspheming (the subject) or (2) who is being blasphemed (the object). If someone calls it a subjective or objective genitive, that means they think that's the role it is playing in this particular sentence, but you have to interpret the sentence first, then you know what role it plays, the genitive is ambiguous here. Which role does the Spirit play in this example? The Spirit is being blasphemed, it is not blaspheming. Note that "of" is misleading here in English - "the blasphemy of the Holy Spirit" has a different meaning than the original text.

I am skeptical of the explanations that suggest adding words like "produced by" or "received by", I think we want to read as little English as possible into our understanding and that can go beyond the meaning of the construction per se. These seem to be aimed at translators, perhaps filling in a little more than the text itself says based on his understanding of what is implied in a given verse?

I would also teach this separately:
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
ἐξίσταντο δὲ πάντες καὶ διηποροῦντο, ἄλλος πρὸς ἄλλον λέγοντες, τί θέλει τοῦτο εἶναι;
http://jonathanrobie.biblicalhumanities.org/
Stephen Carlson
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Re: Teaching the Genitive

Post by Stephen Carlson »

One thing I noticed is that Wallace spends more time on the nominal genitive, while the Cambridge Grammar is more concerned with verbal usages. Not sure what to make of the difference.
Stephen C. Carlson, Ph.D.
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Philip Arend
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Re: Teaching the Genitive

Post by Philip Arend »

Genitive etc.jpg
Genitive etc.jpg (926.49 KiB) Viewed 734 times
It would be nice to see an intermediate Greek seminary textbook with these kinds of explanations of the use of the cases as this one from "Lucian's A True Story, An Intermediate Greek Reader"
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