Grammatical categories and Luke 6:12b

Iver Larsen iver_larsen at
Fri Aug 24 15:34:48 EDT 2001

> Mike asked
> >>
> >> > If the head noun to a genitive is a verbal
> >> > noun (in the semantic sense), then MUST the genitive be either
> >> > objective or subjective?

I commented on a further comment by Moon:
> >The verb/predicate is the nucleus of the clause. It verb root
> can generally
> >have one, two or three arguments, in syntactical terms corresponding to
> >subject, object and indirect object and/or complement. The verb/predicate
> is not complete without its obligatory arguments, even if they are left
> >implicit at times. On the other hand, expressions that denote
> time, place, reason are secondary elements in the clause. They are
> rather than
> >obligatory in relation to the predicate. Because of that they are often
> >attached to the predicate-argument unit by way of a preposition in Greek.
> >(Some languages use verbal affixes rather than prepositions.) Because of
> the secondary nature of these adjuncts I am doubtful that they can
> be expressed with a genitive.
> >If you can give me some examples, I am ready to revise my
> hypothesis. These
> >thoughts are based more on general semantics, than on a detailed study of
> >Greek genitives.

Glenn said:
> James 5:15 comes to mind as an example:  hH EUXH THS PISTEWS.  Normally,
> faith does not pray; nor does one pray to faith.
Since EUCH is the verbal noun of EUCOMAI, and since this verb requires an
animate agent and an animate recipient like TWi QEWi, the other noun PISTIS
cannot fill either slot. This genitive connection is therefore neither
subjective nor objective, but descriptive. It talks about a prayer
characterized by being spoken with/in faith.

This example answers Mike's question with a "no". It is not directly related
to my comment to Moon.

> But Iver's observation of the distinction on the clause level between
> obligatory arguments and secondary adjuncts is appealing and I
> would suspect
> might have bearing on phrase level parallels:  perhaps we can say that *in
> the absence of semantic factors to the contrary* (as the factors in James
> 5:15),  we should lean toward a subjective or (in the case of transitive
> verbs) objective understanding of the genitive adjoined to a semantically
> verbal noun.

I would say that the situation is simpler. We don't a priori need to lean
one way or the other. These genitives simply link a verbal noun with another
noun. If the second noun can fill a slot in the case frame of the underlying
verb from the first verbal noun, then the second noun is a candidate for any
slot it may be able to fill, based on the semantic constraints attached to
that slot (e.g. whether the slot must be filled with an animate or inanimate
noun.) Sometimes, it is able to fill more than one slot, and then the
context alone can help us to choose which.

> Relating this to Luke 6:12b, then nothing in the semantics would hinder an
> understanding of QEOU as the object of PROSEUXA, so since
> a direct object, one would favor interpreting QEOU here as an objective
> genitive (Jesus is already the semantic "subject" of EUXH), even though
> other interpretations are conceivable (manner, means,  etc.).

A verb like (PROS)EUCOMAI can have three arguments or case roles:
1) An agent which in Greek is expressed in the nominative,
2) A goal/recipient, that is, the person to whom the prayer is addressed.
This is normally expressed in Greek with the dative, but a directional
preposition like PROS can also be used. I prefer to call this an indirect
object, rather than direct object, but the semantic terms are more helpful
than the syntactical terms.
3) The thing prayed for. This is expressed in Greek by the accusative. In
semantic terms it is the "patient", and this normally corresponds to the
object or complement in syntactical terms. ("I pray this (to someone))",
e.g. Mk 11:24; Lk 18:11; Rom 8:26; Phil 1:19).

In the context of Luke 6:12b, EN THi PROSEUCHi TOU QEOU, the simplest option
is to let QEOS (from QEOU) fill slot number 2 above, since it cannot fill
slot 1 or 3, but fills slot 2 very well. After all, prayer in these contexts
are normally directed to QEOS. Without the definite article I would have
expected EN PROSEUCHi TWi QEWi.
Grammatically speaking it would be possible to take TOU QEOU as a
description of the prayer, but semantically, lexically and contextually, it
seems rather unlikely that TOU QEOU could mean "godly", "God-like" or "from

Iver Larsen

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