[B-Greek] EKSESTIN + acc + infinitive?

Randall Buth randallbuth at gmail.com
Wed Jun 3 07:25:13 EDT 2009

A couple of comments below marked **

On Jun 2, 2009, at 9:47 PM, Richard Ghilardi wrote:

> Hello Folks,
> Recently someone asked about a Machen exercise that went something
> like
> this:
> << It is not lawful for them to take the clothes. >>
> Dr. Buth responded that the "them" might be put into the dative or the
> accusative as the subject of the infinitive. But Dr. Conrad only
> mentioned the dative. Whether his silence about putting "them" into
> the
> acc as subject of the inf was meant to exclude that possibility, I
> don't
> know and I don't care to discuss. Dr. Conrad can clear that up if he
> wants to.

Upon checking and finding this, I see that Randall and I responded to
Mike Noel's question from far corners of the earth within the same
minute (Randall: May 20, 2009 3:24:34 PM EDT, myself: May 20, 2009
3:24:54 PM EDT); his response and mine were independent, not
competitive or in dialogue. I wrote:

**pretty amazing coincidence SYGKYRIA in time.**

"Here the major consideration is the ordinary construction of the
impersonal verb EXESTIN, which means, more or less literally, "power/
possibility/authority to do X (this being expresssed by an infinitive)
belongs to Y (this being expressed by a dative of the person who
holds  the power/possibility/authority). So "for them" is going to
have to be  in a dative form expressing the sense of "for them." That
would be  AUTOIS."

This is the ordinary construction of EXESTIN, in both older Classical
Attic and in NT Koine. Since it is the ordinary construction, I
thought that's what I would write in a composition exercise.

**Yes, so would I, but see below.**

> After examining all the instances of EKSESTIN in the NT I could not
> find
> one example of EKSESTIN + subj acc + inf.

Randall in his message cited Luke 20:22 ἔξεστιν ἡμᾶς
Καίσαρι φόρον δοῦναι ἢ οὔ; [EXESTIN hHMAS
KAISARI FORON DOUNAI H OU]. I'd have to call that an unimpeachable NT
Koine instance of an accusative used with EXESTIN and infinitive. In
Luke 20:22  I see that there's a variant reading hHMIN (Codex Bezae
has hHMEIN, TR and MT have hHMIN; it would appear that a scribal
"emendation" has replaced a well-attested early accusative hHMAS, the
reading that the editors of NA27/UBS4 retain as well-attested in
earlier MSS.

I think there may be some confusion about such impersonal verbs that
take a dative or accusative subject and an infinitive (DEI, ANAGKH,
EXESTIN, ENDECETAI, KTL.); some more commonly use a dative, others an
accusative; the fact that an accusative is ordinarily the subject of
infinitive may play some role in the variance in usage with the
impersonal verbs. At any rate, I see no reason to assume that Luke was
too good a composer of Koine Greek to have written hHMAS with EXESTIN
and DOUNAI in 20:22.

**For clarification, I certainly agree with Carl that EKSESTIN would normally
take the dative. And obviously some early scribes thought so,
who apparently corrected Luke to a dative (at first unconsciously?).
However, in deference to the beginning Greek student
I did not want to say that his Accusative was "wrong", it was just different
and would certainly have been instantly understandable to ancient Greeks
without any ambiguity. Yes, they probably would also have felt the slight
hiccup of a case detached from its governing verb. Worse things have
happened in Greek! And in actual speech the amount of 'falsestarts'
and mis-concord in real use of any language can be amazing. Writing
cleans up most of this, but not all.
In the future he may want to use DOTIKH with EKSESTIN, but if he ever slips
up he can always take comfort in knowing that mothertongue Greeks often
produced some things that were 'according to sense', like what frequently
happens when relative pronouns follow the case of their antecedent rather
than their position within their own clause. In any case, the student should
get full credit for a job well done, even if able to be improved.
All language learning is a spirally up process. You use a language to
learn a language and one can learn to tighten one's style as one compares
ones output with exemplary texts.

> EKSESTIN + dat + inf is found
> as well as EKSESTIN + inf, but not EKSESTIN + subj acc + inf. (E/
> STIN +
> subj acc + inf is also not in the NT.) Both of the introductory Greek
> textbooks that I learned from, Chase & Phillips and Hansen & Quinn,
> clearly teach that EKSESTIN may be followed either by the dative or
> the
> accusative. Like Dr. Conrad, Smyth is nearly silent about this
> construction:
> << When the subject of the infinitive is the same as the object (in
> the
> genitive or dative) of the governing verb, it is often omitted, and a
> predicate noun is either attracted into the genitive or dative, or
> stands
> in the accusative in agreement with the omitted subject of the
> infinitive. See 1060-1062. EKSESTIN hHMIN AGAQOIS EINAI or EKSESTIN
> hMIN
> AGAQOUS EINAI it is in our power to be good (lit. to be good is
> possible
> ENQYMHQENTAS hOTI KTL. we ask you therefore to listen to what is said,
> considering that, etc. 1. 14. 6. Cp. NYN SOI EKSESTIN ANDRI GENESQAI
> is
> in your power to become friends to the Lacedaemonians” T. 4.29. The
> latter construction may be explained as abbreviated for EKSESTIN hYMIN
> And...
> << The construction of the accusative with the infinitive seems to
> have
> originated from the employment of the infinitive to complement the
> meaning of transitive verbs; as in KELEYW SE APELQEIN I command you to
> depart. Here the accusative was separated from the transitive verb and
> felt to be the independent subject of the infinitive (I command that
> you
> depart). Gradually the accusative with the infinitive was used even
> after
> verbs incapable of taking an object-accusative. >>
> In that last sentence Smyth seems to hint that in post-classical Greek
> one might find EKSESTIN (ESTIN) + subj acc + inf., but not in the
> NT. Can
> anyone tell me if this construction is found in the LXX or the
> apostolic
> fathers or anywhere else?
> Yours in His grace,
> Richard Ghilardi - qodeshlayhvh at juno.com
> West Haven, Connecticut USA

Randall Buth, PhD
randallbuth at gmail.com
Biblical Language Center
Learn Easily - Progress Further - Remember for Life

More information about the B-Greek mailing list