Rev. 22:11 and 3rd person imperatives

Carl W. Conrad cwconrad at artsci.wustl.edu
Fri Oct 19 09:45:41 EDT 2001


At 10:57 PM +0000 10/18/01, boyd at huxcomm.net wrote:
>I've had a lingering question about 3rd person imperatives,
>which was further kindled by Revelation 22:11.  Here's the text:
>
>hO ADIKWN ADIKHSATW ETI KAI hO hRUPAROS
>hRUPANQHTW ETI, KAI hO DIKAIOS DIKAIOSUNHN
>POIHSATW ETI KAI hO hAGIOS hAGIASQHTW ETI.
>
>Wallace (sorry Clay :) discusses how the normal English
>translation of 3rd person imperatives ("let him . . .") often gives
>the wrong idea--permission--when in fact, "It's force is more
>akin to _he must_, or periphrastically, _I command him to . . ._"
>(GGBB, 486).  Do you agree with this assessment?
>
>A few pages later he has a category of "Permissive Imperative
>(Imperative of Toleration)," under which he places a couple of
>3rd person imperatives.  Are these "permissive imperatives"
>exceptions to normal usage of 3rd person imperatives?
>
>What are we to make of the imperatives in this verse?  Wallace
>himself calls it an "ironic command" (p. 491, n. 109).

Clay has responded to the issue of interpretation of the imperatives in
this verse. I'd like to comment on what you cite from Wallace, p. 486. I
think that Wallace's note #97 on that page is fundamentally correct, but I
think that the problem involved in our translating 3rd person imperatives
as "LET him/her/them perform X (action)" has more to do with the relative
rarity of the expression and the failure of readers/hearers to recognize
this as a standard imperative formulation in English: the reader/hearer
senses an emphasis on the "let" as permissive when in fact it isn't
intended thus. Already in Koine Greek the 3rd person imperative was
beginning to be supplanted by AFES/AFETE and, optionally: acc. + inf. or
hINA + subj. Modern Greek has a third person imperative that is the
end-result of the latter development: AS NA + subj. (AS < AFES; NA < hINA).
Different languages have their own idiomatic ways of expressing the
third-person imperative notion:

French: que + pron. + subj., e.g. "qu'ils viennent" = "let them come"
German: (a) moegen + inf., e.g. "moegen sie kommen" = "let them come"
        (b) lassen + acc. + inf., e.g. "lassen sie kommen" = "let them come"
-- 

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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