[B-Greek] Special use of the dative James 4:17

Mark Cain mark at markcain.com
Thu Nov 20 16:07:06 EST 2008

Your comments are the exact reason why I raised the question in the first 
place and I am indebted to those who have taken their time to ponder the 
issue.  I perceive that my friend, with whom I had the discussion, has a 
belief that needs to be defended in his own mind and springing from that 
belief, his only explanation for the text was to assign a particular use of 
the dative which would not interfere with his belief structure.  I would 
take him to task on the matter at great length but I fear that I, too, may 
me made of similar material which is so want to be right that few things can 
be held tentatively -- especially the concept of sin. :-O

In his own word he is shy of a "relative" definition of sin.  The thought 
that this could only be sin to the one that knows the good and not sin to a 
greater body at large who does not posses that knowledge was disconcerting 
to him.  Therefore, his explanation was that this was a dative of 
disadvantage maintaining in essence, that it he is not unique in his knowing 
but rather is unique in his not doing and therefore at a disadvantage. (His 
logic not mine.)

>From a logical point of view I personally could hold this particular matter 
with a degree of tentativeness and do find textual support from other NT 
books (but I digress to a theological issue).  Returning to the Greek text 
at hand, the compound nature of the subject in question gives rise to 4 
groups of individuals:
Group # 1 - Those Knowing and Doing
Group # 2 - Those Not Knowing and Doing
Group # 3 - Those Knowing and Not Doing
Group # 4 - Those Not Knowing and Not Doing

The warning in the text is explicitly directed to Group #3 which is what 
Webb Mealy posits but which is challenged by Carl Conrad.  Couldn't we use 
the simple dative as indirect object and the existential of EIMI to get the 
stilted translation "A sin exists to him" or perhaps better "It is a sin to 
him." ?? (Sorry, Carl, for the dreaded "it")

Mark Cain
Sarasota, FL USA

----- Original Message ----- 
From: "Vasile STANCU" <stancu at mail.dnttm.ro>
To: <b-greek at lists.ibiblio.org>
Sent: Thursday, November 20, 2008 02:38 PM
Subject: Re: [B-Greek] Special use of the dative James 4:17

> It seems to me it is time to devise a new definition: what about "dative 
> of assignment" or "dative of labelling"? Compare with expressions like 
> 14:35).
> One might think I am joking - which is partially true - but what I'd like 
> to point out is that, instead of debating whether a dative of possession 
> is used or one of respect or advantage/disadvantage etc., - which will 
> ultimately lead to forging such definitions as, perhaps, "dative of 
> believing" when we explain PISTEUW SOI or "dative of accompaniment" for 
> AKOLUQETW MOI or "genitive of listening" for AKOUONTES AUTOU - we should 
> better use the simple term "Dative" and then explain the given situation 
> in more than one or two words. Such method would help keeping one somewhat 
> more flexible when judging things like this and other things in general.
> Vasile STANCU
> -----Original Message-----
> From: b-greek-bounces at lists.ibiblio.org 
> [mailto:b-greek-bounces at lists.ibiblio.org] On Behalf Of Carl Conrad
> Sent: Friday, November 21, 2008 2:04 AM
> To: Webb Mealy
> Cc: b-greek at lists.ibiblio.org
> Subject: Re: [B-Greek] Special use of the dative James 4:17
> On Nov 20, 2008, at 11:03 AM, Webb Mealy wrote:
>> I'd call it a dative of respect or relation, and English it as "it's
>> sin for
>> him", making hAMARTIA a predicate nom. It's sin in his regard, or
>> it's sin
>> in relation to him. James's assumption is that the thing not done is
>> not sin
>> in relation to the person who *does not* know the good thing that
>> should be
>> done and fails to do it. In relation to that person the "not doing"
>> is not
>> sin.
> If hAMARTIA is a predicate noun, then what (on earth) is the subject
> of ESTIN? It cannot be KALON POIEIN because that is complementary to
> EIDOTI? The "It" in your English version is an expletive that doesn't
> represent anything in the Greek.
> Carl W. Conrad
> Department of Classics, Washington University (Retired)

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