John 3:19 - subject verb agreement

Brian Tucker Niqmaddu at
Sat Jan 26 23:14:45 EST 2002

John 3:19 But this is the judgment, that the light has come into the world
and men loved darkness rather than the light; for their works/deeds 'were'
Question - Why is "works" plural (ERGA) with a singular verb (HN imperfect
singular of EIMI)? -  "...their works/deeds was evil" Have I messed up?
What's going on here? I didn't see any textual variants and I thought about
treating ERGA as an accusative but that doesn't make sense. This was a
question asked by one of my students, here was my response, quoting Wallace,
"Neuter Plural Subject with Singular Verb. Although there is a lack of
concord in such constructions, they are not infrequent. Indeed, a plural
subject normally takes a singular verb. It is an example of constructio ad
sensum (construction according to sense, rather than according to strict
grammatical concord). Since the neuter usually refers to impersonal things
(including animals), the singular verb regards the plural subject as a
collective whole. It is appropriate to translate the subject as a plural as
well as the verb, rather than translate both as singulars." (399)

Anything else to add or offer to explain or clarify this rule?


Brian Tucker
Riverview, MI
niqmaddu at
editor at

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