[B-Greek] Third-person commands

Chet A. Creider creider at uwo.ca
Sun Nov 13 07:13:05 EST 2005

On Sat, 12 Nov 2005, Glenden Riddle wrote:

> There are at least two major flaws in the discussion of the Greek imperatives:
> 1) Trying to analyze the Greek as if it fit English categories and ending up with non-imperative examples. For example:
>> CC:
>> It is perfectly possible for a third person imperative to be a
>> command.
>> The meaning would be something like, I say to him/her/them to do X, or
>> I say to him/her/them, do X.
> G.R. In this example the main verb is indicative "I say" and the content of the speech in neither case is THIRD PERSON IMPERATIVE, but is either (1) infinitive "to do X" using indirect discourse or (2) SECOND PERSON IMPERATIVE "you do X" using direct discourse.

Perhaps it wasn't clear enough, but I wasn't analyzing the Greek here.  It 
was not entirely clear to me that Iver was not claiming that a 3rd person
command was not possible, and my tortured expressions were not intended
as models of Greek translation but simply as a means of retaining the
force of a directive in a language, English, which lacked 3rd person 
imperatives.  Your understanding of them as involving indirect discourse
and direct discourse was exactly what I intended readers to understand.
I was not, however, trying to fit the Greek into English categories, but
rather the opposite -- to use English categories to illustrate, however
clumsily, that the Greek could be a command.

> 2) Failing to recognize the pragmatics of language. I think this is the number one problem and one that definitely affects our ability to understand N.T. Greek (or any other language for that matter). Let's take this on a word, phrase, and sentence level:

[material omitted]

> That, my friends, is what I consider to be pragmatics. Language has to be taken the way it is USED in speech contexts...not stopping with the grammar and sytax. Just because a verb form is IMPERATIVE in Greek you should not assume that it has to represent a COMMAND. Language is much more flexible than that.

Agreed.  However, not only should you not assume that just because a
form is Imperative in Greek it is a Command, you should also not assume
that just because a from is Imperative it is _not_ a command.  In fact
you should assume initially that it _is_ a Command (or whatever is
determined to be the default meaning of Imperatives in Greek) and then
look for contextual factors which suggest something else.  In the case of
the 1 Cor 7:15 example, where I looked at series of examples from
7:8 forwards to 7:15, it seems highly unlikely that, e.g., the sense
of each of these imperatives is sarcastic.  Paul is doing a careful
case-by-case analysis and intends his words to be taken literally.

Chet Creider

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