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

Carl Conrad cwconrad2 at mac.com
Thu Nov 20 16:30:49 EST 2008

On Nov 20, 2008, at 4:07 PM, Mark Cain wrote:

> 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.

I certainly interpret it as referring to Group #3; the point at issue  
is not how to understand the text's meaning but how to understand its  

> 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")

That's precisely what the "dative of possession" -- or "dative of the  
possessor" is.
Smyth §1476 (http://tinyurl.com/6hmxwu):

§1476.  Dative of the Possessor.--The person for whom a thing exists  
is put in the dative with εἰ̂ναι, γίγνεσθαι,  
ὑπάρχειν, φυ̂ναι (poet.), etc., when he is regarded as  
interested in its possession.

ἄλλοις μὲν χρήματά ἐστι, ἡμῖν δὲ  
ξύμμαχοι ἀγαθοί [ALLOIS MEN CRHMATA ESTI, hHMIN DE  
XUMMACOI AGAQOI] others have riches, we have good allies T. 1.86 ,  
τῷ δικαίῳ παρὰ θεῶν δῶρα γίγνεται [TWi  
DIKAIWi PARA QEWN DWRA GIGNETAI] gifts are bestowed upon the just man  
by the gods P. R. 613e , ὑπάρχει ἡμῖν οὐδὲν  
have no supply of provisions X. A. 2.2.11 , πᾶσι θνᾱτοῖς  
ἔφῡ μόρος [PASI QNATOIS EFU MOROS] death is the natural lot  
of all men S. El. 860 .

Carl W. Conrad
Department of Classics, Washington University (Retired)

> ----- 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
>> (1Co
>> 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.

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