Iver Larsen iver_larsen at sil.org
Tue Oct 23 14:28:09 EDT 2007

Dear Carl,

As we grapple with a difficult concept that has not been well understood or described in traditional 
Greek grammar, I think it is still useful to continue our discussion as we work together for an 
increased understanding. So, I am commenting on some of the issues below, since we are going back to 
the broader issue of voice beyond just BAPTIZW:

----- Original Message ----- 
From: "Carl W. Conrad" <cwconrad at artsci.wustl.edu>
To: "Iver Larsen" <iver_larsen at sil.org>
Cc: "BG" <b-greek at lists.ibiblio.org>
Sent: 23. oktober 2007 02:45

It appears that we are more fully in agreement here than I was
thinking, although I find some of your phraseology problematic,
especially when you speak of -QH- forms with an "active" sense.
Perhaps this is something that requires further clarification; I may
also be misunderstanding Danker's phraseology when he describes (in
BDAG) some verbs as "passive with active sense." I have supposed that
he is referring to the traditional notion of deponency, but he may be
using the term "active sense" to indicate that the verb is transitive
and takes a direct object; inasmuch as middle-voice forms, although
often intransitive, are nevertheless commonly enough transitive and
take a direct object, I find that use of "active sense" misleading.
The morphology of a Greek verb doesn't necessarily have anything to
do with transitivity; it might be better to speak of "agentive" verbs
where the subject is the initiator of the action. I do think it's
useful to distinguish between "agentive" and "non-agentive" middle-
voice verbs.

Iver: You are right, the term "active sense" is not helpful. I did not intend it to be the same as 
transitive, but it is probably a remnant of the "deponency" terminology that we want to get away 
from. It seems to me that there are many middle forms that can be adequately explained in terms of 
semantic roles, but some are probably beyond explanation. I cannot see any syncronic or semantic 
reason why LEGW should be active and APOKRINOMAI middle-passive. However, there may well be 
historical reasons, e.g. the sense of "answer" may have developed from the middle sense "defend 

... Clearly APEKRIQHN is the standard aorist form of the
verb. On the other hand EGENOMHN is still the standard NT Koine
aorist of GINOMAI while EGENHQHN is relatively rare. A less-common
verb is AGALLIAOMAI: BDAG lemmatizes this as AGALLIAW but the middle
is clearly the standard form, even if Lk 1:47 has an active
HGALLIASEN, Rev 19:7 AGALLIWMEN and Jn 5:35 has an aorist infinitive
AGALLIAQHNAI (the LXX has only one active form -- in the Odes of
Solomon! -- in 72 instances.

Iver: For these verbs, Danish uses the "reflexive" "sig" (self). We say "gl¾de sig" og "fryde sig" 
for rejoice. We can also say "Det gl¾der mig" (It makes me happy). So, maybe "jeg gl¾der mig" really 
means "I make myself happy" rather than just "I rejoice". (I don't know if you can follow these 
examples in a foreign language, but it is interesting how often the reflexive word in Danish 
corresponds to a Greek middle. In these reflexive middles the subject is both agent and experiencer 
(or beneficiary).
I am not sure about Lk 1:47 - HGALLIASEN TO PNEUMA MOU - but it may just be possible that the active 
is used because the agent could be different from the experincer in that the agent is "my spirit" 
and the beneficiary is an implied  "me". In that case, this is like the common situation where the 
active form is causative compared to the middle: "My spirit made me happy" or "My spirit caused me 
to rejoice".

A synonym for "jeg fryder mig" is "jeg jubler". This word does not use the reflexive, and I can see 
no reason for it. In the same way, I think that there are not always an explanation for why some 
verbs in Greek are middle while others are active, when there is no apparent difference in semantic 
roles. Why is POREOUMAI MP and PERIPATEW active?

CC: ... I'm thinking of what is commonly referred to in the grammars as the
"causative middle":

Smyth ¤1725. "The Causative Middle denotes that the subject has
something done by another for himself: EGW GAR SE TAUTA EDIDAXAMHN
'for I had you tught this' Xen. Cyroped. 1.6.2, PARATIQESQAI SITON
'to have food served up 8.6.12, hOSOI hOPLA AFHiRHNTAI, TACU ALL
POIHSONTAI 'all who have had their arms taken from them will soon get
others made 6.1.12, hEAUTWi SKHNHN KATESKEUASATO 2.1.30. [This last
does indicate beneficiary with a reflexive pronoun, of course. Smyth
also notes that this force does not belong exclusively to the middle
and points to a similar discussion of a Causative Active in ¤1711.]

Iver: These are interesting examples that I was not familiar with. A common usage of the middle is 
when the subject is both agent and beneficiary, but here it seems that the subject is only the 
beneficiary and the agent is unspecified, but different from the subject. I probably wouldn't call 
them causative middle, especially if the causative sense does not belong exclusively to the middle, 
but there is a similar "causative active".

BDF ¤317 (p. 166) The middle in the sense of 'to let oneself
be ...' (cf. German _sich lassen_) (causative; cf. °314) also occurs
in scattered passages in the NT:
'get themselves emasculated' (cf. APOKOMMENOS LXX Dt. 23:1;
PERITEMNESQAI on the other hand is treated as a pass.). EBAPTISAMHN:
Acts 22:16 BAPTISAI KAI APOLOUSAI (1 Cor. 6:11 APELOUSASQE) can be
explained as causal; but in 1 Cor. 10:2 -ISANTO appears to be
spurious (KLP; in p46 corrected from EBAPTIZONTO) and -ISQHSAN alone
to be correct; EBAPTISQH in Lk 11:38 in an entirely different sense
'to dip his hands' is incorrect (EBAPTISATO is correct with p45
minusc. 700). APOGRAFESQAI Lk 2:1, 3 also belongs here 'have oneself
enrolled' on account of the aor. -GRAYASQAI in v. 5. -- Mayser II 1,
89; 109, Robertson 808f.

BDF ¤314 (p. 165) The passive in the sense of 'to allow oneself to
be ...' (cf. German _sich lassen) was common from earliest times:
ADIKEISQE 1 Cor 6:7 'let yourselves be wronged' (in the sense of
allowing it), likewise APOSTEREISQE in the same vs. BAPTIZESQAI 'get
oneself baptized' (in the sense of to cause it; aorist EBAPTISQHN,
cf. however ¤317.
Permissive: DOGMATIZESQAI 'submit to regulations (lit. let yourself
be regulated)' Col. 2:20, GAMIZESQAI (¤101), SUSCHMATIZESQAI and
METAMORFOUSQAI Rom 12:2, hILASQHTI 'let yourself be disposed to
grace' (lk 18:13. Causative: hAGNISQHNAI Acts 21:24, 26 DIAKONHHNAI
MT 20:28=MK 10:45, often PERITEMNESQAI (also in the sense of allow).
Cf. Robertson 808f.

Since these excerpts are rather self contradictory, it shows that more research is needed to sort 
out what is actually happening.

BDF ¤317 says that the middle can be used in the sense of "to let oneself be" (lassen sich), but in 
¤314 they say that the passive can be used in the same sense of "to allow oneself be" (sich lassen). 
It looks like these are the same MP forms, whether middle or passive in morphology, but I would need 
more time to properly research this.
BDF does not build on your insight about MP forms, and it seems to me that some of these forms are 
better analysed as passive, even when the morphology may be middle, e.g. "to be enrolled" is 
probably passive throughout Luke 2 rather than one middle and the rest passive. I have already 
indicated that my analysis of BAPTIZW lead me to consider Act 22:16 as passive, even though it is 
middle morphology.

Robertson does indeed deal with this in his big grammar, 808f., but I
won't cite that.
Guy Cooper (1998 revision of Kruger), Attic Greek Prose Syntax:
Revised and Expanded in English, Volume 1 (Attic Greek Prose Syntax),
¤52.11.0: "The middle is used to show an action which is carried out
at the command or behest of the subject"; ¤52.11.1 "This force is
simply a matter of conception É understood without difficulty in ages
of widespread and often easy subordination. It is a causal use of the
verb which is not essentially different from comparable uses of the

Kimmo in an off-list comment referred to something similar in John 19:1 where the text says that 
Pilate "took - ELABEN - Jesus and scourged him - EMASTIGWSEN". The difference is that here active 
forms are used rather than middle.
What is happening here has nothing to do with middle versus active. It is a cultural implication in 
hierarchical societies where an action is described as done by someone in authority, when in fact it 
is understood that some servants, disciples or soldiers did the actual work. Cooper says the same 
when he explains that this is related to expected subordination and is not essentially different 
from comparable uses of the active.
It is therefore confusing to say that "the middle is used to show an action carried out at the 
command of the subject" as if this was a characteristic of middle verbs, when exactly the same can 
be said about active verbs.

Iver Larsen 

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