[B-Greek] Dative participial clauses

Iver Larsen iver_larsen at sil.org
Wed Jul 4 08:48:17 EDT 2007

Form Iver Larsen, comments below:

----- Original Message ----- 
From: "Carl W. Conrad" <cwconrad at artsci.wustl.edu>
To: "Iver Larsen" <iver_larsen at sil.org>

On Jul 3, 2007, at 3:44 AM, Iver Larsen wrote:

> I did not use the term "dative absolute" because I don't think it  is helpful, 
> nor do I like the term
> "genitive absolute".

I noticed that you didn't; the reason I used it for the clauses you
listed was that you seemed to be arguing that the dative participles
and nominals  of those clauses were independent syntactically from
the main clause; my observation that they more likely ARE linked
syntactically with main-clause verbs taking dative complements was
intended to counter that claim of syntactic detachment.

Iver: That was one of the things I was investigating, but only one instance was 
clearly detached, so I ended up by agreeing with you that the dative is probably 
used because it anticipates a dative object in the main clause.

On the other hand I would readily grant that these dative participial
clauses do function in the same manner as "genitive absolute" clauses
in that they precede the main clause and that they are fundamentally
circumstantial -- adverbial. I'm not so sure that they are
necessarily temporal only (I rather doubt it, and I doubt that the
temporal function of the locative dative has anything to do with
employment of that case for the nominal and participle); as I noted
in my last post, I really think that this matter deserves a fuller
investigation beyond the Biblical corpus into Hellenistic prose --
and I think that such a study ought also to take into account older
Classical Greek usage as well as Classical Latin prose usage, which
may very well have influenced those NT writers who had some schooling.

Iver: The dative case is much more than locative as you know. It struck me when 
I looked at all the fronted dative participial clauses in the GNT that they were 
all temporal. I am not sure whether this is a coincidence, but it needs further 

Yesterday I was looking at two adjacent adverbial phrases in Luk 24:1:

(On the first day of the week during deep early morning...)
The temporal dative points to a particular point in time, here a day, whereas 
the circumstantial genitive describes the environment.

The genitive (and at times the accusative) seems to be used for a time period - 
and DIA could be used to indicate the same idea. It is not pinpointing a 
specific time. For instance:

(...during day and night - or: whether day or night)

It seems to me that the temporal dative is "on" or "at" a specific time (related 
to EN) whereas the genitive is during a time period (related to DIA).


Upon consulting Smyth I find one participial clause in the dative
cataloged among the circumstantial participial usages; this is pretty
much like the ones we've reviewed in the GNT:

"§2061 Time. -- The time denoted by the participle is only relative
to that of the governing verb, and is to be inferred from the
context. Each participial form in itself expresses only stage of
action. ἀκούσασι τοῖς στρατηγοῖς
ταῦτα ἔδοξε τὸ στράτευμα συναγαγεῖν
hearing this it seemed best to the generals to collect the troops."
Xenophon, Anabasis 4, 4.19."

To which I'd note that I don't really know why this should be
classified as especially temporal, other than the fact that the
hearing precedes the decision of the commanders; one might as easily
see this as causal: "Hearing that made the commanders decide to
gather the troops." I think we might just stick with the catch-all
adjective, "circumstantial."

Iver: On the other hand, I could easily see this as temporal and Smyth has 
apparently classified this under time (§2061 Time). "As soon as the generals 
heard this..."

What I am investigating is whether it would be reasonable to call the genitive 
absolutes "circumstantial participial clauses" and the dative constructions for 
"temporal participial clauses".

Iver Larsen 

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