[B-Greek] Third-person commands

kgraham0938 at comcast.net kgraham0938 at comcast.net
Wed Nov 9 23:37:01 EST 2005

I think that OIKODOMHSATW in Ezra 1:3 LXX is a request.  Because v'yiben is a jussive meaning "let him rebuild the house of Lord God."  I don't think this one is a command.

An actually, v'ya`al is a jussive in the Hebrew but the LXX uses a future middle in the same verse.
Kelton Graham 
KGRAHAM0938 at comcast.net

-------------- Original message -------------- 

> Don, 
> You made it fine until you left home plate; from there you're not even heading 
> toward first base. Your basic assumption that imperative FORMS must be COMMANDS 
> simply does not stand. Not in English; not in Greek; not in Hebrew. Because of 
> this faulty assumption you end up with faulty deductions, such as "That brings 
> me back to 1 Cor. 7:15. Grammatically, "let him leave" is 
> a command to the unbeliever, with no ambiguity." 
> Example #1--A police officer addressing a man with a gun on a bridge: "Put the 
> gun down, George. You know you don't really want to do this." In Parsing 101 we 
> classify "put" as an imperative verb. In pragmatics, the police officer is not 
> ordering anything. He is very gently encouraging/asking the man to act sensibly. 
> Example #2--A friend tells me he thinks the Libertarians had the last 
> presidential election stolen from them. I say, "Oh, get out of here!" In Parsing 
> 101 we would correctly classify "get out" as an imperative. In the language 
> event I'm expressing amazement at such a statement. No imperative intended. 
> My only point is is that imperative verb forms do indeed find many more uses 
> than giving commands. 
> Since you're not accepting Dan Wallace's excellent description, how about 
> Blass/Debrunner/Funk, section 387: "The imperative in the NT keeps for the most 
> part within the same limits as in classical usage. As in the latter it is by no 
> means confined to commands, but also expresses a request or a concession: Mt 
> 8:32 HUPAGETE, 2 C 12:16...." 
> Robertson & Plummer (ICC) are correct: "If, therefore, the heathen partner seeks 
> divorce, the Christian partner may consent. The Christian partner is under no 
> slavish obligation to refuse to be set free." 
> So, "let" does not clash with the idea of the imperative unless you take the 
> imperative totally out of context of the language and assume (incorrectly) that 
> it only communicates orders or commands. 
> glen riddle 
> albuquerque, NM 
> "Dr. Don Wilkins" wrote: 
> Hi everybody, 
> I would appreciate input on an issue that's bugged me for some time, 
> the possibility of a third-person command's being substituted for 
> second-person permissive command. It's complicated, so I apologize in 
> advance for taking considerable space to explain it. As a translator, 
> I have to deal with the issue of what to do with "let" used in a 
> third-person command. The problem is an old one: "let" is usually 
> read as permission, which clashes with the idea of an imperative. We 
> run into the same problem with Hebrew (the use of the jussive), which 
> I'll use as a point of comparison. We're all familiar with "let" 
> commands by deity (e.g. "Let there be light"), where "let" obviously 
> can't be permission because God doesn't need permission to create. 
> But where things get really thorny is in a passage like 1 Cor. 7:15: 
> "...if the unbeliever leaves, let him leave...." I have always taken 
> this to be a command to the unbeliever following the third-person 
> grammar, and I still do, but I'll bet that 95% or more of the Greek- 
> challenged English Bible readers see it as a command to the 
> congregation to permit the fellow to leave. Maybe even some listers 
> see it that way as well. To the latter I would suggest Matt. 27:42 as 
> a grammatical parallel: "...let Him now come down from the cross, and 
> we will believe in HIm." Clearly this command is not addressed to the 
> crowd, asking their permission for Jesus to leave the cross, but is a 
> derisive command or dare addressed to Jesus himself. 
> Now then, lately it occurred to me that there might be some grounds 
> for the idea that a third-person imperative could be addressed to a 
> superior from an inferior in the sense of a request. A good example 
> would be the idea of a command addressed to God as a request. To 
> illustrate this, consider a passage like Ps. 31:17: "...let the 
> wicked be put to shame, let them be silent." Again, the "let" is 
> problematic, but permission is not an option as an interpretation, 
> and in fact the grammar is actually two commands (jussives) addressed 
> to the wicked. I thought the LXX would have third-person imperatives 
> here, but instead it has optatives, which makes sense and shows that 
> the translators were aware of the grammatical issue. I don't know off- 
> hand whether the LXX always handles the issue the same way, but I 
> know that the translators paid attention to the context of these 
> third-person commands, because in Gen. 1:3 they use the Greek 
> imperative for "Let there be light." In this case it would be wrong 
> to have the optative, "May there be light," because God is 
> commanding, not wishing for it. 
> A passage like Ps. 31:17 finds its NT counterpart in such passages as 
> Matt. 26:39: "My Father...let this cup pass from Me" where Jesus (or 
> Matthew in translation) uses the third-person imperative. Putting 
> aside questions about what language Jesus was speaking etc., the 
> grammar is a command to the cup, but it seems more likely that the 
> real intent of the command is a request to the Father, where the LXX 
> mode might be optative ("may this cup pass"). So what we seem to have 
> here is a situation where the command does and does not express 
> permission. It seemingly does in the sense of the speaker's intent, 
> but grammatically it does not, with "let" serving only as a poor 
> English substitute for the third-person imperative. That is, the 
> average reader might be right in thinking that Jesus was asking the 
> Father to permit the cup to pass, but he would be right for the wrong 
> reason. 
> That brings me back to 1 Cor. 7:15. Grammatically, "let him leave" is 
> a command to the unbeliever, with no ambiguity. But is it possible 
> that Paul's intent is to order the congregation not to stand in the 
> unbeliever's way, and the third-person command is a polite way to 
> express this, i.e. a third-person being substituted for a second- 
> person command? 
> Now I anticipate that someone will be tempted to quote Dan Wallace to 
> me (GGBTB on or near p. 485), something like "The imperative 
> shouldn't be called the command mode because it does other things as 
> well." But IMO Dan is either trying to simplify the situation for 
> most Greek students, or he might be making the mistake of allowing 
> interpretation to assume too great a role in defining grammar. In the 
> case of 1 Cor. 7:15 it is a question of intent and style vis-a-vis 
> grammar, not of the meaning of the imperative. So what I am 
> requesting here is it that we go beyond his BTB, as fine a work as 
> that truly is. 
> Don Wilkins 
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