instances of (accusative) objects in passive constructions

Alex / Ali alexali at
Fri Oct 19 09:54:23 EDT 2001

I was most interested last night to see the posts from Wayne (on behalf of
Timothy Friberg), Iver, and Carl on (accusative) objects in passive
constructions.  I had just finished off a Greek class by explaining to one
of my students some of the grammatical interest Romans 3:2 holds for the
reader, and when my wife allowed me enough time at the computer to download
the email, there was Romans 3:2 mentioned in Wayne's post, along with a
couple of verses read in my daily Bible reading (Matthew 15:6, 16:26).  My
wife, however, though a slight woman, was not about to yield to me access to
the computer for long enough to compose a reply, and it is only now that she
has gone to spend the weekend away on a Womens Retreat that I can secure the
computer long enough to respond.

The questions Wayne conveyed on behalf of Timothy Friberg are intriguing
ones, and they are matters that we looked at, in a different light, not so
long ago, in a discussion during which my own contribution was but to
mention the terminology 'retained accusative' which is used by some

I'll start by commenting on Romans 3:2b. (Paul has asked what advantage has
the Jew, and affirmed 'much in every way.') PRWTON MEN [GAR] hOTI
EPISTEUQHSAN TA LOGIA TOU QEOU Firstly, in that they have been entrusted
with TA LOGIA of God.

In seeking to understand this construction, I find it helpful to work from
the simpler to the more complex, taking as a starting point an analagous
construction in English.  In our own tongue, we can say

    I gave the book to her.

Or we might say,

    I gave her the book.

When this sentence is rephrased in the passive voice, we might say

    She was given the book [by me],


    The book was given to her [by me].

It is easy to see that in the first form of the active sentences "the book"
is direct object and "to her" is indirect object, and in the second, we have
a double accusative construction.  In the passive sentences, it is
noticeable that it is what had been the *indirect object* (the recipient of
the book) that is made the subject of the verb;  but in the second it is the
*direct object* of the active sentence (the book iself) that is made the

It is the first of the passive sentences that is most helpful to me in
understanding the Greek construction.  If a person were to hear only the
words "She was given" they might imagine that the sentence could be
concluded with words such as "to slave traders" or "to a husband in
marriage" because the words "was given" could be taken as indicating that
"she" is what would have been the *direct* object of an active verb.  But as
soon as we say "She was given *the book*" it becomes apparent that "she" is
what would have been the *indirect* object of the sentence expressed

The nice thing about the Greek is that, in this regard, the languages have
the same capabilities.  It is possible in both languages to express the
*indirect object* as the subject of the passive sentence, as well as the
direct object.

And so, amongst the constructions used by PISTEUW (which include its use
with EIS and EPI, but perhaps not with EN!) is PISTEUW TI TINI, I entrust
something to someone.

EPISTEUQHSAN TA LOGIA TOU QEOU is simply the passive equivalent of an
actively expressed sentence [(God) entrusted TA LOGIA of God to them], with
what would have been the indirect object of the active sentence made the
subject of the passive verb.

The accusative case that would have been used of TA LOGIA in the active
sentence is maintained when the sentence is recast in the passive.

At 2 Thess 2:15 we read, KRATEITE TAS PARADOSEIS hAS EDIDACQHTE, hold fast
the instructions which you were taught.  Although the active form would in
this instance use a double accusative construction (just as in English we
say 'teach somebody something'), the accusative of TAS PARADOSEIS in the
active is similarly maintained in the passive recasting of the sentence.

For this reason, this type of accusative is sometimes called the "retained
accusative" or similar.  (See e.g. Smyth 1747, 1748; A. T. Robertson's A
Short Grammar of the Greek New Testament, pages 96-97; BDF 159; Wallace's
GGBB p197 and p439.)

An interesting passage in the light of such a discussion is Romans 6:17,

If PAREDOQHTE is understood to express what in the active form of the
sentence would have been the *direct* object, the sentence can be
translated, "But thanks be to God that, though you used to be slaves to sin,
you wholeheartedly obeyed the form of teaching *to which you were
entrusted*."  (NIV; NRSV, NKJV, etc.)

But if PAREDOQHTE is understood to express what in the active form of the
sentence would have been the *indirect* object, the sentence can be
translated, "But God be thanked, that ye were the servants of sin, but ye
have obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine *which was delivered you*"
(KJV; Good News, NLT, etc.).

(In the above example, the hON is not a retained accusative, as its case is
governed by the preposition EIS, so it is not significant to the class of
instances listed by Timothy; it is the use of the passive that is parallel
to what I understand to be his interests.)

Timothy mentioned that he "suggested to several scholars that maybe the
accusative (with the passive FOBEW) was accusative of specification or
reference."  I haven't yet looked at the FOBEW instances you supplied (but
would not suggest the accusative in those instances be explained in terms of
the "retained accusative";  they seem far more easily explained as object
accusatives after a deponent verb).  My own reading of the grammars
convinces me that no single explanation is given for other instances of the
type shown in your list.  I think I mentioned a few weeks back John 11:44,
to which Grosvenor / Zerwick say "TOUS PODAS KAI TAS CEIRAS acc. of respect,
lit. bound 'as to his feet and hands' with bandages, i.e. with his hands and
feet bandaged"'  but BDF 159 point 3 takes this as retained accusative.
Wallace speaks of Revelations 16:9 under the heading "accusative of retained
object" and says "this is also an example of cognate accusative."  Instances
of such varying grammatical terminology could be multiplied.  This is of
some relevance in answering the question of the helpfulness of giving some
general explanation of such phenomena in the introduction to a revised
ANLEX.  It is in reference to this question that I make my final point.

My own preferred terminology is to call the accusatives in many of these
passive constructions "retained accusatives", because the reference to the
accusative of the conceptualized active form of the sentence helps me easily
to understand and so accept the accusative being present in the passively
formed sentence.  But where the terminology is deficient is that it tends to
imply a deliberate reworking of a sentence from active to passive form.  A
Greek who heard Romans 3:2 would no more think of TA LOGIA as having being
retained as the accusative of an active sentence than an English speaker
would feel a need to resolve 'I was given a book' into '<Unspecified
subject> gave a book to me.'  I suppose what I am saying here is more a
comment on our grammars than on the Greek syntax - they should do enough to
help the reader understand the Greek without choking off understanding by
creating a fear of anything that cannot easily be analysed in terms of their
pre-packaged nomenclature.

I find the questions raised very interesting;  I hope they will be taken
further to elucidate our understandings.  I, however, must now turn to other
email needing response, before my wife returns.

Alex Hopkins
(Melbourne, Australia)

PS I notice, Timothy, that you mentioned in your list (under PERIKEIMAI)
Hebrews 5:2, PERIKEITAI ASQENEIAN.  Is the construction different from that
of Acts 28:20, THN hALUSIN TAUTHN PERIKEIMAI (which isn't in your list)?

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