[B-Greek] Why is the Genitive different from all other cases?

Carl W.Conrad cwconrad at artsci.wustl.edu
Tue Mar 14 11:46:00 EST 2006

One final response from me on this subject; over and out! I shall not  
return to the topic, although I have no doubt that Virgil will  
readily continue to dialogue with anyone who is willing, perhaps even  
with some who are not willing, but that's between Virgil and  
themselves. I simply wish to state my position one final time as  
clearly as I can.

I honestly believe that much of the problem is that Virgil has been  
thinking of genitive case-forms that are objects of prepositions as  
as essentially adnominal genitive-case forms to which a preposition  
is attached. If that's the case, it would account for much of the  
failure of communication; but unless it is clearly understood that  
the genitive-case form PROGONWN is strictly the form required by the  
preposition APO and bears no relationship whatsoever to an adnominal  
type of genitive, I'm not sure that we can reach any shared  
understanding of the phrase APO PROGONWN in the construction hWi  

"Why is the Genitive different from all other cases?"

The truth is that it is NOT different from them, except INSOFAR as  
each case is used in some ways that are distinct and unparalleled. On  
the other hand, each grammatical case in ancient Greek tends, at one  
point or another, to admit of use that doesn't differ very much from  
a usage of another grammatical case. A dative of reference may serve  
the same function as an accusative of respect.  It is remarkable how  
far the dative with EN haas extended in Hellenistic Greek, inasmuch  
as it can be instrumental, can occasionally seem to indicate agent  
(more commonly indicated by hUPO + genitive). There is no semantic  
different whatsoever between PROS + accusative and a simple dative  
used with verbs of speaking.

The notion of PTWSIS with the distinction between "straight  
cases" (Lat. casus recti) and "oblique cases" (Lat. casus obliqui) is  
probably not very useful; to my knowledge there are similarities in  
morphology and accentuation  between the genitive and dative and, to  
a lesser extent in ancient Greek (to a greater extent in modern  
Greek, where the nominative is modeled upon the accusative case-form)  
between the nominative and the accusative.  The fact is that what  
seem to have been eight original IE cases have shrunk to four, five  
if one includes the vocative, although the vocative, when not  
supplied by the nominative case-form, is really just an endingless  
form of the nominal stem. In modern Greek the dative too has fallen  
away and the genitive can serve the function of the ancient dative.

On Mar 13, 2006, at 10:05 PM, virgil newkirk wrote:

>   For me, then, speaking to the Genitive case, I would say it is  
> the case
> that calls for us to "look into & consider the contents." This does  
> require
> more consideration, I would say.

For my part, I don't think it is any more true of the genitive than  
of the other cases that "it requires us to 'look into and consider  
the contents."

> I can only respond honestly to this comment by saying, "For me to  
> be able to
> realize what "kind of"; that is to say, what was characterizing Paul's
> service to God is what is prominent to my realization of what's  
> written in 2
> Tim 1:3. The words in the genitive case APO PROGONWN are what give  
> that
> classification so there are no apologies that I would offer for  
> their being
> considered carefully, no.

But "what kind of" characterizes the adnominal genitive and doesn't  
apply here at all. The noun PROGONWN in this instance is in the  
genitive case ONLY because the preposition APO requires a genitive  

[citation curtailed]
> I would want to note and remind ones reading these posts that I  
> specifically
> "refined" my use of the word "things" to mean that I was indicating  
> the
> idea, or quality perceived, known or considered to have a separate  
> existence
> or concrete substance "from what is of fathers." This is surely  
> different as
> well as an improvement on "things of the ancestors" and is why I
> specifically updated it to clarify what I was speaking to.

As I really have no idea what "the idea, or quality perceived, known  
or considered to have a separate existence or concrete substance  
'from what is of fathers" means, I hardly think it's an improvement  
over "things having to do with forefathers." I confess to finding  
both phrases enclosed within quotation-marks in the preceding sense  
equally unintelligible.

> As for your last comment above; the preposition APO only makes  
> clearer and
> more specific the idea inherent in PROGONWN. Service characterized  
> by what
> is "of fathers" being then with APO; those somethings (see above)  
> that was
> with fathers but now to us have separated from them and come to us in
> reality.

This is simply not true; moreover it involves a fundamental  
misunderstanding of the usage of the genitive-case form PROGONWN with  
the preposition APO; Virgil is attempting to attach the sense of an  
adnominal genitive in PROGONWN to the meaning of the preposition APO.  
If I wanted to be more precise, I would say that it is the ablatival  
genitive that is further characterized by APO or EK or CWRIS or some  
other preposition indicating separation or removal.

> That is to say..."somethings" were with fathers and are those  
> somethings
> that are characterized by being of them and have now come from  
> them...to us.

I have no idea what this is supposed to mean.

>> Now we're told that the genitive-case form means "there's a plaque
>> over here with some specifics on it that you must read to fully
>> appreciate what is over there ... just out of the normal line of
>> sight." The fact is that it is SO FAR OUT OF THE NORMAL LINE OF SIGHT
>> that to me and perhaps to one or two others it is altogether
> VN: I would say, no, not if one stops and has a look. You yourself,  
> Carl,
> speaking specifically of the adnominal genitive have suggested many  
> times
> that it is more a matter of understanding what this meant to the  
> Greek, more
> so than how it is to be translated.

PROGONWN is not an adnominal genitive in 2 Tim 1:3 but the object of  
a preposition APO. There is none of the semantic ambiguity involved  
in an adnominal genitive in this instance.

> I've never been able to understood this argument that the
>> genitive case is somehow privileged over the others,
> VN: I have never said it is more privileged over other cases, but  
> that it
> definitely carries more weight...more content, needs more careful
> consideration. It is a part of the whole; it does not stand by  
> itself having
> more privilege...not to me.

I think you have misunderstood what I meant by characterizing your  
argument as indicating the genitive is "more privileged." But since  
you now say that the genitive "carries more weight" than other  
grammatical cases, that's problematic enough. Why should PROGONWN in  
APO PROGONWN "carry more weight" than PROGONOIS in EN PROGONOIS?  
Where the noun in question is the object of a preposition that  
requires a genitive in the one instance or a dative in the other  
instance, why does the noun in the genitive "carry more weight"?

> CC:
>   I've thought
>> (and still think) that META FILWN means pretty much the same thing as
>> SUN FILOIS, that the "friends" are no less real for being indicated
>> by a word in the DATIVE case than when they are indicated by a noun
>> in the GENITIVE case.
> VN: I agree explicitly, Carl, that those friends referred to above  
> are no
> less real, one compared to another. As to what might be the  
> difference in
> inference, one would have to have a context to comment. One would  
> have to
> know what META FILWN is indicating classification to and hence why the
> writer was wanting us to focus on what are the actual  
> characteristics of the
> idea of friends. The dative and genitive have a different position  
> off of or
> away from the nominative. PTWSIS...there must be a reason for it,  
> istm.

Let me try this once more: here are some instances of ERCOMAI with  
SUN + dativez:


and here are some instances of ERCOMAI with META + genitive:


My contention is that there's not an ounce of semantic difference  
between ERCOMAI SUN + dative case-form and ERCOMAI META + genitive  

Carl W. Conrad
Department of Classics, Washington University (Emeritus)
1989 Grindstaff Road/Burnsville, NC 28714/(828) 675-4243
cwconrad2 at mac.com
WWW: http://www.ioa.com/~cwconrad/

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