[B-Greek] A new stab at voice

Kimmo Huovila kimmo.huovila at helsinki.fi
Wed Oct 17 14:46:44 EDT 2007

On Tuesday 16 October 2007, Carl W. Conrad wrote:
> On Oct 16, 2007, at 2:13 PM, Kimmo Huovila wrote:
> > Thanks for your response. The bibliography was excellent. If only I  
> > had the
> > extra time to read more before I give a lecture on Greek voice :-(
> All you need do, of course, is state at the outset that you're not  
> giving anything more than a progress report on a work in progress.  
> That's the advice I used to give candidates writing dissertations who  
> supposed that they were supposed to settle the questions they were  
> writing about definitively and for all time.

Good advice.
> But why should we suppose that EBAPTISQHSAN is unconditionally  
> semantically passive? Morphologically speaking, its form would  
> represent middle or passive semantics -- or both: the subject may  
> function as voluntary patient. For what it's worth, let me simply  
> ask: if the subject of a baptismal process does not voluntarily  
> undergo the process, can we conceive the action/process as having any  
> efficacy? Or when Peter in Acts 2:38 says, βαπτισθήτω  
> ἕκαστος ὑμῶν ἐπὶ τῷ ὀνόματι  
> Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ εἰς ἄφεσιν τῶν  
> ἁμαρτιῶν ὑμῶν καὶ λήμψεσθε τὴν  
> δωρεὰν τοῦ ἁγίου πνεύματος (BAPTISQHTW  
> suppose that the imperative BAPTISQHTW hEKASTOS hUMWN means that the  
> persons addresssed are passive involuntary objects of action  
> performed by some other?

I don't think that the point here is a different theology of baptism. Rather 
perhaps we may have a different understanding of passive semantics. 

I think they were commanded to undergo baptism voluntarily. The middle 
semantics will do just as well in this passage. I just don't think that 
passive semantics would lead to a conclusion of an involuntary or passive 
object undergoing baptism. Both middle and passive semantics pretty much 
amount to the same thing in this context, don't they? With passive semantics, 
they are commanded to (indirectly) cause about them being baptized. With 
middle semantics their active involvement is expressed by the voice, and with 
passive semantics it is more assumed by context than stated (other than that 
an imperative does require a degree of control, which in the case of a 
semantic passive is indirect). I just don't see (at least for time being) why 
either semantics would be ruled out in this context.

> >
> >>
> >> Thank you, Kimmo, for a stimulating report. Keep at it!
> >
> > I'll keep thinking about it at least until my lecture. Afterwards I'll
> > probably find other things to think about :-)
> Pity: you should tell them you'll have more to say in your NEXT lecture!

The next lecture won't be on voice, but I will have more (or something else) 
to say on some other topic. :-)

Thank you for your stimulating input.


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