[B-Greek] Mt. 7:14 Perfect participle

Randall Buth randallbuth at gmail.com
Thu Jun 1 11:30:15 EDT 2006

I would like to bring this discussion around full circle and discuss a
larger principle.

>I really don't think that the word reflects any particular change in the
condition of the road but rather the fact that it is ** in the condition **
of being narrowed.  I would suggest "constricted."  This would be the
significance of the perfect here.  QLIBW was possibly chosen for its
relationship to QLIYIS.  Cf. Is 30.19 ff. where the words hODOS, STENOS, and
QLIYIS appear together.
>>yancywsmith <yancywsmith at
I basically agree with Carl, but would suggested that the perfect
is due to the phenomenology of path walking. When one takes a path
through a hilly or desert region at times the same path may "become"
narrow or broad as the case may be according to where the traveller
is. The perfect tense reflects the "change" in path conditions. A
path that was previously broader becomes and remains for some time
narrowed. Such well known physical characteristics and experiences in
eretz Israel would readily be understood and not over interpreted by
Jesus' audience.
Yancy Smith>>

Firstly, the meanings of words and categories in any language are defined,
in part, by the other options available. For example, consider the options

QLIBOMENH with its "in process" aspect might seem to describe the situation
that Yancy was referring to, a road that is getting narrower. However,
Greeks used QLIBOMENH to refer to "tight spots" just like an adjective. See
dictionaries for good examples. Likewise QLIFQEISH sounds like a road that
had changed. It seems to imply an event in the background.
It is the "perfect" participle that has the primary stative quality and was
apparently chosen here without any reference to change whatsoever, parallel
to STENHS. It appears to be a synonym with the function of QLIBOMENH
and does not appear to carry much functinoal distinction, to be explained

This is what Carl called, a basic adjectival sense and is pretty common in
In fact, one of the basic adjective shapes in Greek is virtually a perfect
passive participle: -TOS, e.g., AGAPHTOS "loved" (without any implication of
previous non-loving).

However, in a gospel context, one most also think in parallel to Hebrew
(substitute Aramaic, if you will, the morphological parameters are the
same). The PA`UL form would correspond to TEQLIMMENH and would not imply a
change. Why TEQLIMMENH instead of QLIBOMENOS? This may be a non-Septuagintal
Hebraism. In order words, a good Greek form to mimic an underlying Hebrew
morphology and with the same meaning as the more common QLIBOMENOS.

[[I might add that I sense a meaningful difference between a perfect
indicative and a perfect participle. The participle is less-likely to imply
a changed state, while indicative "perfect" verbs (especially of actives)
would more likely imply a change. This is especially true where aorist and
perfect indicatives are show up in similar contexts.]]

Secondly, I am increasingly conscious that the metalanguage labels (that's
"grammar labels" to the non-linguist) in a foreign language may do more
damage than help for the foreign student. [NB, caveat, "foreign language"
here means 'not the language being learned', which includes English for this
b-greek list. It might be Arabic for someone describing Dinka, or Spanish
for Hebrew.] There is nothing wrong with grammar labels, per se. They flow
from my lips with unconscious ease so that on many an occasion I've had
students respond to a discussion with, "I'm not sure if I'm following you."
that would be my fault, of course, not theirs. However, the kicker is when a
student responds with an example or explanation that is the opposite of what
I might have been saying. This is usually the result of some connection in
the foreign language. Someone takes a label like "perfect", or "present", or
"future", or it doesn't matter what label, and then makes a connection with
something in English and says, this is what the Greek grammar
indicates. (PS: we get this all the time in Hebrew from visiting students.)

A follow-up on the third point: the most effective language learning takes
place when metalanguage is not relied upon, but students hear/read correct
Greek in clear, understandable contexts. When teachers say, "these students
can't learn [French/Hebrew/Greek/(or other to be supplied)] because they
don't know English grammar", I would say that some interesting discoveries
await those teachers. This gets into an area of second-language acquisition
that is discussed and researched around and around in connection with modern
languages, but may sound crazy or be almost incomprehensible for practioners
in the field of ancient languages.

Randall Buth
Randall Buth, PhD
ybitan at mscc.huji.ac.il
randallbuth at gmail.com

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