1 Corinthians 7:15

Steven Lo Vullo doulos at merr.com
Sun Jan 6 23:19:29 EST 2002

on 1/6/02 5:13 PM, Frazier Conley at fconley at airmail.net wrote:

> Translators generally render CHWRIZESQW as "let it be so" or "let him
> depart" or "let him go" or "let him leave." Now I recall from my elementary
> or secondary schooling that in an imperative phrase such as "let it alone,"
> "you," the second person, is understood: "You let it alone."
> However, I understand CHWRIZESQW to be a third person singular present
> passive imperative. Three questions for the grammarians: (1) Isn't it
> misleading for translations to imply that this is a second person when it is
> not?

I'm not sure what you mean. Do you mean they imply that CWRIZESQW is second
person? If this is what you mean, which versions do you have in mind? I
checked 10 different versions and found none with the second person: "let
the separation take place" (NJB), "let him separate" (NAB), "let them go"
(NLT), "let him do so" (NIV), "let it be so" (RSV & NRSV), "let him depart"
(ASV), "let him depart" (KJV), "let him leave" (NASB & NASB95). Even those
that are more or less paraphrased do not use the second person.

It should be noted also that when some versions depart from a more or less
"literal" translation, it is still understood that CWRIZESQW means "let
him/her depart." Note that when RSV/NRSV say "let it be so," CWRIZESQW is
implied from their rendering of the protasis EI ... CWRIZETAI ("if the
unbeleiving partner separates"). So "let it be so" means nothing other than
"let him/her separate," since in English the protasis is rendered "if the
unbelieving partner separates."

Finally, it is important to understand that in a third person imperative,
the subject is not being addressed. The hearer/reader is being addressed,
and the subject of the verb is the one acted upon. So it in this way differs
from the second person imperative, where the subject is also the person
addressed. (I'm aware that this is an oversimplification, and lacks the
necessary nuancing, but I think it meets the needs of the present
discussion.) This may be the source of your confusion with regard to "second
person." The verbs are third person, but the address is, in a certain sense,
"second person," though this is not a grammatical way of looking at it.

> (2) Would it not be more in harmony with the grammar to render
> something like: "Divorce it must be"; or, "it is permitted." See: "They may
> separate"(JB); "it is permitted"(LB); or, as I think Moulton in his
> Prolegomena implies, p. 172, "If the partner insists on divorce, divorce it
> must be."

No, not really. Both verbs, CWRIZETAI in the protasis and CWRIZESQW in the
apodosis are third person forms of the same verb, and the permission
expressed by CWRIZESQW in the apodosis answers to the condition expressed in
the protasis. So it is most natural to assume they have the same subject,
i.e., hO APISTOS, though it is expressed in the protasis, but only implied
in the apodosis. The apodosis expresses permission to the subject of
CWRIZESQW to perform the action expressed by CWRIZETAI in the protasis. The
idea is: "If the unbeliever departs, do not stop him/her from departing,"
i.e., "let him/her depart." There's nothing mysterious here. Rather than try
to stop the unbeliever, the Christian is told to let him/her go so that
there will be "peace" (EIRHNHi).

The above translations you cite are paraphrases. I'm not saying there is
necessarily anything wrong with that, but it is important sometimes to ask
ourselves why certain translators paraphrase in a certain way in any given
instance. I would almost be willing to bet that in this case the dilemma is
NOT that the translators thought CWRIZESQW had a different subject from
CWRIZETAI, but that they found it difficult to bring out in a third person
singular verb without an expressed subject the idea that both sexes are
meant. The subject of CWRIZESQW is implied in the ending of the verb itself.
It is the understood hO APISTOS from the protasis, but it is not expressly
stated in the apodosis. As for hO APISTOS, even though this noun is
masculine, it is clear from the context that both husbands AND wives are in
view (hO ADELFOS H hH ADELFH). When both are in view, Greek will default to
the masculine. But this leaves a dilemma: How do you express the implied
third person singular subject of CWRIZESQW? You could repeat the subject
from the protasis without letting on that it is masculine: "If the
unbeliever departs, let the unbeliever depart." But this is pretty rough and
redundant. On the other hand, if you follow the gender of hO APISTOS and
render "let HIM depart," you will not (in the view of some) adequately bring
out the idea that both sexes are meant. Another option is to go with
"him/her," but this is very awkward. Some, like NLT, convert to the plural.
So the translators you mention above paraphrase in different ways to get
around this difficulty. In any case, it is not good policy to try to
understand the Greek on the basis of any English translation.

> (3) Is this possibly a case of the divine passive?

No. As I explained above, both the third-person verb in the protasis and the
third-person verb in the apodosis, to the highest degree of probability,
have the same subject, since one clause answers to another. And both are
passive in form, so there is no reason to believe that one has hO APISTOS as
subject, while the other is a so-called theological/divine passive. There is
no good grammatical reason to posit any other subject.

Steven Lo Vullo
Madison, WI

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