Dative Absolute

Carl W. Conrad cwconrad at artsci.wustl.edu
Wed Aug 29 07:47:32 EDT 2001

Well, I think I've introduced some confusion about my own thinking by
allowing the whole of the previous thread to stand in my previous
message--and consequently some assertions have been attributed to me that I
certainly did not mean to avow. So here, rather than interspersing, I'm
going to state up front what I CURRENTLY think about these matters--because
I don't see things quite the same as when I first responded to Richard's
initial query. Nevertheless, as I noted yesterday, this may be very boring
to some and they may well choose to delete the whole thing in advance.

(1) In my initial response I said that in Mt 14:6 (GENESIOIS DE GENOMENOIS
uncommon in literary narrative" I was simply WRONG; what is "not uncommon"
is an initial dative of a person construed with a participle and followed
by a verb that takes a dative (something like, e.g. Lk 8:27 EXELQONTI DE
that sort of construction when I said that the phrase in Mt 14:6 was "not
uncommon in literary narrative"--and I was in error in saying it.

(2) I certainly do NOT believe nor did I ever mean to assert that "in
Hellenistic times most writers wrote awkward Greek most of the time." As I
have said before, Hellenistic Greek--even before the Attic revival of the
2nd c. A.D.-- ranges over a broad spectrum of stylistic clarity and
eloquence from the clear and polished prose of , e.g., Polybius, Josephus
and Philo to the lower level of many a papyrus letter that is intelligible
enough although it would shock a GRAMMATIKOS in a Gymnasion. There's a
considerable range even within the  GNT between the intelligible but very
awkward writing in parts of the Synoptic gospels and in Revelation to the
eloquence of Paul when he shifts into high rhetoric and to the distinct and
rather difficult style of the author of Hebrews. Awkward writing is awkward
writing at any time or place, and when I speak of "schoolboy" (perhaps I
should have said "schoolmaster"?) style, I simply meant that boys taught in
the Gumnasia of Hellenistic cities were taught good style as well as
grammar. Moreover, with the advent of the "Second Sophistic" in the second
century A.D., the grammar schools tended more and more to teach the
children of those who could afford them to write in the Attic Greek of the
fifth and fourth centuries B.C., so that Attic Greek became the standard of
good Greek style just as Ciceronian Latin became the standasrd of good
Latin style at about the same time.

(3) I very much doubt that HRESEN in Mk 6:22 is to be understood as
impersonal, and I don't really get the impression from BDAG that the editor
(Danker in this instance, presumably?) really intended to assert that when
speaking of the impersonal usage (ARESKEI MOI = Lat. MIHI PLACET). So I
continue to think that there's an implicit subject hHRWDIAS to HRESEN in Mk
6:22. This seems different to me from the impersonal infinitive CWREIN in
about which we had considerable discussion a few months ago. So I still
think that the phrasing of BOTH Mark's AND Matthew's formulation of the
situation at Herod's birthday party is awkward. And while I'd agree that
Matthew (if we assume Marcan priority) sometimes improves the style of
Marcan narrative, he doesn't always do so, and I personally think that Luke
writes "better" Greek (from the perspective of a GRAMMATIKOS) than either
Mark or Matthew.

I'm somewhat surprised by the rather sharply polemic tone of this latest
message and I deeply regret anything I've done to contribute to it, whether
through my not-very-clearly indicated change of perspective on the passage
in Mt 14:6 or through insufficiently clear remarks about Hellenistic Greek
style or by my failure to acknowledge clearly that the citations and
assertions from Turner were just that.

I've found the exchange itself an interesting one and feel that I've
learned some things about Matthew's style that I wasn't aware of. Is this
inquiry of yours, Richard, directed toward research, or just a matter of
following up something about which you're curious?

At 11:11 PM -0400 8/28/01, Richard Ghilardi wrote:
>Dear B-Greekers and Carl,
>> Quite frankly I don't think either version is very eloquent although
>> both
>> are perfectly intelligible.
>Fine. Then we agree on the main point of this thread.
>> I think that GENOMENOIS here is a
>> circumstantial participle and that the construction
>> here is one that
>> is not uncommon in literary narrative...
>> this is not really very "good"
>> Greek,
>> although it's intelligible enough. That participle GENOMENOIS
>> construing
>> with GENESIOIS is really awkward;
>So we have here a case where a certain construction, though common enough
>in literary narrative, is really awkward and not very "good" Greek. Am I
>to understand that in Hellenistic times most writers wrote awkward Greek
>most of the time? I haven't read enough Hellenistic Greek to know whether
>they did or not.
>> classical Attic or "schoolboy" Greek would not use a
>> genitive absolute when the subject of the genitive absolute is
>> identical
>> with a syntactic element in the main clause.
>Why do you so glibly characterize classical Attic Greek as "schoolboy"?
>Do you think that the writers of the following Hellenistic period were
>more "sophisticated"? We might except the Atticizing ones, who, on your
>terms, could be labeled "adolescent". But judging by your previous
>comments above it would come as something of a surprise if you thought
>that Hellenistic writers were really very "sophisticated".
>> (presumably drawn from Turner) all are like this.
>I cited author, title and page number and put his words in quotes. Why
>the "presumably"?
>> Quite frankly I don't think in this instance Mt's version is any
>> improvement upon Mk's
>I agree. But then why did MQ bother to make such major structural changes
>if it wasn't to smoothe out the Greek?
> There is one real problem with Mark's formulation
>> that is,
>> in its own way, like the Matthaean genitive-absolute usage: we have
>> the
>> ORCHSAMENHS and then immediately we have a predicate (HRESEN TWi
>> hHRWiDHi)
>> for which the only intelligible subject must be the same Herodias
>> who is
>> the subject of the genitive absolute. It's intelligible, but not
>> very neat.
>I agree that it's intelligible but not very neat. I do not agree that
>hHRWiDIADOS is either the grammatical or logical subject of HRESEN.
>According to BDAG, the subject of ARESKW may be << Implied, i.e. impers.
>(Philo, Aet. M. 87; Jos., Ant. 14, 205; 207) ARESKEI MOI it pleases me
>(=mihi placet) >> 2b; p.130. So in MK 6:22 the implied impersonal subject
>of HRESEN is "it" and has as its antecedent the entire preceding double
>genitive absolute clause. I admit that this is awkward. But we already
>agree on that, eh? And yet it is just as inteligible as your reading.
>Yours in His grace,
>Richard Ghilardi -- qodeshlayhvh at juno.com
>New Haven, CT USA
>Nibai kaurno hwaiteis gadriusando in airtha gaswiltith,
>silbo ainata aflifnith: ith jabai gaswiltith, manag akran bairith.
>B-Greek home page: http://metalab.unc.edu/bgreek
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Carl W. Conrad
Department of Classics, Washington University (Emeritus)
Most months: 1647 Grindstaff Road/Burnsville, NC 28714/(828) 675-4243
cwconrad at artsci.wustl.edu OR cwconrad at ioa.com
WWW: http://www.artsci.wustl.edu/~cwconrad/

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