[B-Greek] Adjectival and Adverbial Prepositional Phrases

James Davis jamesdavis at focusonthescriptures.com
Fri May 13 15:30:00 EDT 2005


Concerning adjectival and adverbial prepositional phrases, I appreciate so very much the comments of Carl W. Conrad, James Tauber and Iver Larsen. 

I have understood from their comments that the case of the object of the preposition does not govern whether a prepositional phrase is adjectival or adverbial.  

Date: Wed, 11 May 2005 23:43:55 -0400, Carl Conrad wrote:
"META with the genitive can be an adjectival phrase ONLY if it is  found in a context where that prepositional phrase can be said to characterize a noun.  In the sentence, HLQEN hO IHSOUS META TWN MAQHTWN AUTOU, META TWN MAQHTWN AUTOU can only be construed with HLQEN and so is adverbial.  On the other hand, if we have the prepositional phrase within an article-noun phrase, hH MET' EKEINOU TOU ANQRWPOU GUNH, the phrase MET' EKEINOU TWO ANQRWPOU is adjectival--but I think the adverbial function is far more common.

More controversial is the OT text cited by Paul in Rom 1:17 hO DE DIKAIOS EK PISTEWS ZHSETAI.  Some will insist that EK PISTEWS is adjectival and qualifies hO DIKAIOS, and it may well be the case that this is how Paul understood it, but the case can be made for the  proposition that EK PISTEWS is adverbial and qualifies ZHSETAI.  Is it "will live as a result of faith" or is it "the one who is righteous by faith will live"? 

Date: Thu, 12 May 2005 16:33:58 -0400, Carl Conrad wrote:
"Whether the prepositional phrase is adjectival or adverbial depends upon its syntactic usage in the clause in which it appears, NOT upon the case of the object of the preposition."  

Date: Fri, 13 May 2005 02:10:43 +0800, James Tauber wrote: "Whether a particular prepositional phrase is adverbial or adjectival is, I suspect, almost always something that has to be inferred from the context rather than there being any syntactic rules.  Consider the English sentence: 'I saw the man with my binoculars.'  The prepositional phrase is ambigous in that it may be modifying the verb 'saw' (Ihad the binoculars) or qualifying the noun phrase 'the man' (he had the binoculars)."  

Date: Fri, 13 May 2005 09:10:19 +0300, Iver Larsen wrote: "Sometimes deep-structure, semantic distinctions are neutralized at the surface level (the syntax) as here.

Your sentence has two possible semantic interpretations:

1. the semantic verb is "see" which is divalent, i.e. expects two participants. One participant is the agent "I", another is the patient "man". A preposition at the surface level often corresponds to adding a semantic role, thereby changing the semantic verb from divalent to trivalent. In this case the role added is "instrument", and the participant filling that role is "my binoculars".

2. The semantic verb "see" remains divalent and is connected to two participants. But the patient role is filled not by the simple noun "man", but by a complex noun phrase consisting of the head noun "man" modified by a rankshifted clause "who had my binoculars". In the semantic structure one needs to supply an implicit verb like "have".  

...The distinction between adjectival and adverbial is a syntactical distinction only.  It does not apply to the semantic level."

The preceding comments are really very helpful.  It has been nearly 60 years since I studied NT Greek.  The grammars that I have do not really address the issue.

Wallace argues;
"There are exceptions to the adverbial force of prepositions.  Some function at times adjectivally.  In general, the prepositions that take accusative and dative case objects function adverbially, while those that take a genitive case object often function adjectivally.  ...A proper understanding of prepositions is vital to exegesis.  Many an exegetical debate has turned on the use of a particular preposition."

My next question concerns Luke 9:39.   KAI IDOU PNEUMA LAMBANEI AUTON KAI  EXAIFNHS KRAZEI KAI  SPARASSEI AUTON META AFROU KAI MOGIS APOCWREI   
AP' AUTOU SUNTRIBON AUTON (My first attempt to transliterate Greek text into B-Greek).

English translation: "and behold a spirit takes him and suddenly he cries out and it throws into convulsion him with foaming and with difficulty departs from him bruising him. 

Now regarding the prepositional phrase "META + the genitive AFROU" does it not characterize AUTOU, the preceding pronoun.  Is this not a case where the evil spirit convulses and he foams. Mark 9:18 says: "and whersoever him it seizes, it dashes down him; and he foams (KAI AFRIZEI).

James Davis
jamesdavis at focusonthescriptures.com 
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