John 3:19 - subject verb agreement

Michael Haggett michaelhaggett at onetel.net.uk
Sat Jan 26 23:57:42 EST 2002


Brian Tucker wrote, 27 January:

| 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'
| evil.
| 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)


MH: while I've got my Greek hat on (at 4:30am!)

I think Wallace has got it about right.  The only thing I'd
question is:

"Since the neuter usually refers to impersonal things
(including animals), the singular verb regards the plural
subject as a
collective whole."

I don't think the Greek neuter does usually refer to impersonal
things, so to use this as a reason seems a little contrived. I'm
more inclined to just accept it as "the way things are". Also
(beside noting the obvious fact that many masculine and feminine
Greek nouns refer to impersonal things too) there are some
places where a singular verb is used with a group of mixed
gender nouns, for example:

Jude :2
ELEOS hUMIN KAI EIRHNH KAI AGAPH PLHQUNQEIH
may mercy, peace and love be multiplied to you

Michael Haggett
London
www.ntgreek.com














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