Dative Absolute

Clwinbery at aol.com Clwinbery at aol.com
Sun May 6 10:51:28 EDT 2001


Carl answered Eric;
<<<<<<<<<At 11:42 PM -0500 5/5/01, Eric Weiss wrote:
>While reading Matthew, in 8:23 and 9:27 I noticed what appears to be a
>dative absolute functioning like the genitive absolute:
>
>KAI EMBANTI AUTWi EIS TO PLOION HKOLOUQHSAN AUTWi hOI MAQHTAI AUTOU
>
>KAI PARAGONTI EKEIQEN TWi IHSOU HKOLOUQHSAN [AUTWi] DUO TUFLOI KRAZONTES
>KAI LEGONTES ELEHSON hHMAS, hUIOS DAUID
>
>Yet, I could not confirm this in Wallace, Smyth, BDF, Brooks-Winbery,
>Zerwick, or Robertson & Davis by looking in their indexes either for
>these verses or for the term "dative absolute" under "Dative" -- unless,
>of course, I overlooked it. Porter's IDIOMS says "It is debated by
>grammarians whether there are examples of the dative absolute in the
>Greek of the NT." (p. 184). Richard Young's INTERMEDIATE grammar
>discusses Matthew 8:23 but doesn't suggest that the dative participle
>and pronoun are a "dative absolute."
>
>I did however find both verses discussed as Dative Absolutes in
>Perschbacher's NEW TESTAMENT GREEK SYNTAX.(also Acts 22:6 & 17), and THE
>EXPOSITOR'S GREEK TESTAMENT suggests it might be such at Matthew 8:23.
>
>So ... is Perschbacher being idiosyncratic or iconoclastic (he does,
>however, say its usage is rare in the NT)? Or is it that these other
>widely-used grammars have omitted a Greek grammatical construction in
>their discussion of the usages of the dative?
>
>Or am I misunderstanding or overlooking something?

I can see how some might want to categorize this as a "dative absolute" --
particularly any who are quick to define new grammatical subcategories --
but I think this is a simple matter of dative construing with HKOLOUQHSAN
and the circumstantial participle in standard fashion positioned at the
beginning of the sentence where an adverbial clause would be stationed.

At the same time, it might be possible to discern a "Semitism" in the first
instance (Mt 8:23?), where the second AUTWi might seem redundant (and
indeed is in standard Greek): isn't this pretty much the way Hebrew uses
ASHER to start a relative clause and then concludes it with an appropriate
pronoun-preposition conjunct?>>>>>>>>>>>

CLW
I would agree with Carl that the datives cited from Matthew are more related 
to AKOLOUQEW than to the participles. The participles function as 
circumstantial participles so there is a "grammatical" relationship to the 
main clause. 

A similar question (but not an exact parallel) is the question about the 
dative with the other infinite verb form, the infinitive. Look for example at 
the famous statement:

EMOI GAR TO ZHN CRISTOS KAI TO APOQANEIN KERDOS. Phil. 1:21.

EMOI certainly refers to the subject of the infinitive in the same way that 
the accusative usually does. However, the dative always has a personal 
interest (especially for those who follow the eight case system). So I think 
that explaining this as a DATIVUS COMMODI or at least a dative of reference 
(probably too weak) is to be preferred. 

Another place where some have claimed an absolute construction is with the 
accusative with an accusative participle. Most of these are in Ephesians. 
Perhaps the strongest case can be made for Ephesians 1:17-18;
hINA hO QEOS . . . DWHi hUMIN PNEUMA SOFIAS KAI APOKALJUYEWS EN EPIGNWSEI 
AUTOU, PEFWTISMENOUS TOUS OFQALMOUS THS KARDIAS  
". . . so that God . . . might give to you a spirit of wisdom and revelation 
in full knowledge of him, the eyes of your heart being opened . . ."  
The question that has to be answered is, "Is there a grammatical relationship 
between the participle or subject of the participle and the main clause?" 
Also keep in ming that the acusative case can also show reference or even 
sometimes advantage. However, it still seems difficult to me to show a 
grammatical relationship rather than a conceptual relationship of the 
participle and its "subject" to the rest of the sentence.

Carlton Winbery
Louisiana College



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