[B-Greek] APAITEW in Luke 12:20

Carl W. Conrad cwconrad at artsci.wustl.edu
Wed Sep 24 06:16:02 EDT 2003


At 3:20 PM +0700 9/24/03, james wrote:
>Dear listers
>
>First of all, thanks to Prof. Conrad for answering my previous post.
>
>I have another question from Luke 12.
>The text is Luke 12:20:
>
>EIPEN DE AUTWi hO QEWS. AFRWN, TAUTHi THi NUKTI THN YUCHN SOU APAITOUSIN APO
>SOU. HA DE hHTOIMASAS, TINI ESTAI;
>
>Most of translations I've read translated the clause THN YUCHN SOU
>APAITOUSIN APO SOU into the passive, for ex.: "... your life will be
>demanded from you" (NIV). Yet APAITOUSIN is in the Active Present indikative
>3rd person plural.
>I tried looking up to John Nolland's Luke commentary (WBC) and found this
>comment:
>
>"... and for APAITOUSIN it is difficult to see Luke using the impersonal
>third person plural in place of the passive (the same idiom, i.e., the
>request for the return of the soul, is found in Wis 15:8, but with the
>passive form of the verb)."
>
>Yet I'm afraid I still don't get his point (looks like my bad english
>prevented me), nor enlighten myself in trying to understand the use of
>APAITOUSIN here.
>
>So here is my question. How can we understand the use of the active voice
>and the plural for APAITEW in this context? Is the use of APAITOUSIN here
>idiomatic (so, literally, "... they are demanding your life" without any
>particular referencing on who "they" are) or impersonal (but why the
>plural?) or is there any other explanation?
>
>several side-questions: can anyone share to me what Luke commentary is their
>personal favorite? and perhaps what section of the grammar book should I
>come to, to make myself better prepared to deal with (for me)
>not-the-usual-Koine-Greek-construction-I-can-handle texts such as the above?
>:-)

I cite Robertson's Word Pictures (on-line version at
http://www.biblestudytools.net/Commentaries/RobertsonsWordPictures/
on this verse:

--Plural active present, not passive: "They are demanding thy soul from
thee." The impersonal plural (AITOUSIN) is common enough ( Luke 6:38 ;Luke
12:11 ;Luke 16:9 ;Luke 23:31 ). The rabbis used "they" to avoid saying
"God."

I don't know whether or not it's true that this is rabbinical usage as
Robertson claims or not; if so, I guess it's equivalent to the so-called
"divine passive" that some claim is Semitism in Hellenistic usage to avoid
use of the divine name. On the other hand, it seems to me that (a) the
impersonal third-plural is not uncommon in colloquial English, e.g.,
"they'll get you sooner or later." I would suppose its comparable to French
use of the impersonal third-person "on" or the German impersonal
third-person "man." As Robertson says, this passage is not the only
occurrence of the usage in Luke; I'm reminded of the passage that threw me
for a loop when I first met it in Mark more than 50 years ago (Mk 2:3): KAI
ERCONTAI FERONTES PROS AUTON PARALUTIKON AIROMENON hUPO TESSARWN. What's
the subject of ERCONTAI, I asked? and are the four who are carrying the
paralytic on a litter idential with those who come bringing it? What an odd
expression! I've long since satisfied myself that this is a colloquial
phrasing meaning that a paralytic on a four-man litter is brought before
Jesus, that the persons who brought the paralytic are not named, that being
a minor detail inasmuch as the focus of the narrative is elsewhere.

Beyond that, I rather marvel at the seemingly naive commentator's note
cited above,

>"... and for APAITOUSIN it is difficult to see Luke using the impersonal
>third person plural in place of the passive (the same idiom, i.e., the
>request for the return of the soul, is found in Wis 15:8, but with the
>passive form of the verb)."

Is it being suggested that all the MSS are wrong in indicating that this is
what Luke wrote? Or is Luke being faulted for bad grammar or bad style? Or
is it even perhaps supposed that Jesus would (at least in Luke's gospel)
surely not use a colloquialism? I suppose the appropriate response to the
cited comment is, "it may be difficult, but it's not impossible."
-- 

Carl W. Conrad
Department of Classics, Washington University (Emeritus)
1989 Grindstaff Road/Burnsville, NC 28714/(828) 675-4243
cwconrad at artsci.wustl.edu
WWW: http://www.ioa.com/~cwconrad/



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