[B-Greek] Third-person commands
Y.W.Smith at tcu.edu
Thu Nov 10 17:38:41 EST 2005
I think we are all in a muddle here about an assumed difference
between "rhetorical effect" and "grammatical meaning." Let me propose
a counter example that turned up in my beginning Greek class today.
We were reading John 9:21
HLIKIAN ECEI, AUTOS PERI EAUTOU LALHSEI
Pony translation: Age he-has, he-himself concerning himself he-
Better English: "He is of age, let him answer for himself."
Now, without a doubt, the Greek has what we call a future indicative
third person singular of LALEW, he will speak. However, the future
indicative is being used very much like an aorist imperative. We also
do things like this, but usually in the second person, e.g., "You
WILL pick up your room!" So, one thing we should see is that part of
the meaning is the mismatch between literal or "grammatical" meaning
and intended meaning in context. Authors and writers, hearers and
speakers take note of this fact and use it to rhetorical advantage
all the time. But to say, "that is not the grammatical meaning" in
this case borders on the pedantic.
Let us say "grammatical meaning" is that meaning which one assigns
a morpheme independent of context. Or, perhaps, it is the first thing
one thinks of when one hears or reads something. This would be the
sort of "meaning" one would see in a dictionary or a first year
grammar. However, "grammatical meaning" or "meaning in abstract" is
mostly useless for interpretation. It is like a rule of thumb, an
abstraction and sometimes a DIStraction. This is especially true when
New Testament writers or anyone else makes use of the mismatch
between "usual" or "grammatical" or "literal" meaning and the
"contextual" meaning to create emphasis, nuance, irony or humor.
The meaning we are usually interested in is the meaning in context
and the language we are usually interested in for perposes of
interpretaion is language in use. In other words, we don't start with
the assumption that the "grammatical meaning" is the REAL meaning and
then try to explain away all the exceptions (like your "prayer
language," which is really the first step down the slippery slope to
the "deep end" you may think I have lept from.) The REAL meaning is
the meaning that is out there in the myriad, messy, creative ways
language is being used and was being used on the streets of Ephesus
and with Paul as he paced back and forth dictating, weeping, and
praying over a letter with a secretary at his side.
So, now that I have proven to be a 24 carrat pedant myself, what has
this to do with 1 Cor 7:15 CORIZESQW. The term Greek grammarians use
for "imperative" is PARASTATIKOS -H -ON, which means "able to exhort"
or "able to arouse." The LATIN grammatical term "IMPERATIVUS" comes
from impero I command, levy, rule (over). No end of grief has come
from using Latin grammatical terms for Greek grammar. Talk about
mismatch! So, the form in 1 Corinthians is, we might say, a
parastatic third person. Now, in this case, the third person
parastatic is not intended, and probably CANNOT be intended to
"exhort or arouse" the non-Christian, unless we assume that the
Corinthians were incorrigible gossips and Paul assumed they would
pass the note along to the unbelieving spouse, etc, etc. Of course
its audience are the believers and it probably had all sorts of
intended and unintended effects. But, again, what is the meaning for
the hearers of the letter?
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