[B-Greek] "result" expressed by adverbial participles?

Steve Runge srunge at logos.com
Tue Apr 20 12:51:06 EDT 2010

To Eddie, Ladislav and Carl,

I think it would be useful to step back and look more broadly at the problem raised. Much attention is devoted to what the grammarians had to say, to the categories they postulated. However, little attention is given to their opening or closing remarks on the matter that often provide important caveats. Below is an extended quote from my "Discourse Grammar of the GNT." The footnotes are changed to parentheses to survive the purging of the server.

--Begin block quote--
Second, there is widespread acknowledgement that more specific verb forms were available that could have more specifically grammaticalized the relation of the participial action to the main verb it is dependent on. In other words, if the writer had wanted to be more specific about the relation to the main action, he had plenty of more specific options available than a participle. 

Funk makes this point commenting on circumstantial participles:
For this construction, two finite verbs connected by καί would serve equally well, since the participle of attendant circumstance does not specify the relation between the action of the main verb and the attendant circumstance. (Robert W. Funk, Grammar of Hellenistic Greek, §846.8)
The Greek circumstantial participle is therefore a less precise form of expression than corresponding subordinate clauses of time, condition, concession, etc. (ibid, §845.)

MHT make a similar observation regarding participles of means, manner, etc.:
These analogies are only adduced to show that the use of the participle always lay ready to hand, with or without the auxiliary verb, and was a natural resource whenever the ordinary indicative (or, less often, imperative) was for any cause set aside. (MHT 1, 224.)

Robertson makes the same point in the form of a warning:
In itself, it must be distinctly noted, the participle does not express time, manner, cause, purpose, condition or concession. These ideas are not in the participle, but are merely suggested by the context, if at all, or occasionally by a particle like ἅμα, εὐθύς, καίπερ, ποτέ, νῦν, ὡς. There is no necessity for one to use the circumstantial participle. If he wishes a more precise note of time, cause, condition, purpose, etc., the various subordinate clauses (and the infinitive) are at his command, besides the co-ordinate clauses. (Robertson, Grammar, 1124.) 

BDF affirm Robertson's assertion stating, “The logical relation of the circumstantial participle to the rest of the sentence is not expressed by the participle itself (apart from the future participle), but is to be deduced from the context; it can be made clear, however, by the addition of certain particles. Other more extended but more precise constructions are available for the same purpose: prepositional phrases, conditional, causal, temporal clauses, etc., and finally the grammatical co-ordination of two or more verbs” (§417). 

Wallace devotes the most time to classifying verbal participles into sub-categories, acknowledging at various points the overlap or ambiguity that exists in the classification. After describing all of these categories, he concludes with the following caveat: “Yet it should be stressed that the participle in itself means none of these ideas”.(Wallace, Greek Grammar, 638) These comments make clear that the concepts of means, manner, condition or time are not part of the semantic meaning of the participle, they are part of the semantics of the context. These concepts or relations (theoretically) would have been present whether a participle or a finite form had been used. In their absence, these relations are left implicit.

The preoccupation with classification for the sake of translation has done much to distract attention from understanding the discourse function of the Greek participle. It is as though exegetes would have preferred an explicit hypotactic or paratactic marker that makes explicit the relation of the action to the main action. However, participles leave such relations implicit. Had the writer chosen to make them explicit, there are ample remedies available. The exegetical significance of this choice must not be overlooked. The propensity to assign classifications to the kind of participle seems driven by a desire to address the mismatch in usage between Greek and English by minimizing or eliminating it.

--End Block quote--

My point here is that Greek did not require the same degree of specificity as we are used to or perhaps prefer in English. Remember that English has constructions that allow imprecision just as Greek had constructions that allowed for more precision, as noted by the grammarians above. This "exegetical problem" about the kind of participle has more to do with differences between the languages than it does with classifying Greek participles. Knowing that the Greek writers had every ability to be more specific, had they wanted to, we must not overlook the fact that *they opted not to provide the detail we would have liked.* Yes, I am yelling here! We need to get over this. So our options are to either to conjecture what they meant to say had they spoken English, or to let the Greek be Greek instead Englishing it. This is where the wide reading and sense of the language comes in. Translation can sometimes be just as poor a metalanguage for communication as grammatical or linguistic jargon, IMHO.

Steven E. Runge, DLitt
Logos Bible Software
srunge at logos.com

-----Original Message-----
From: b-greek-bounces at lists.ibiblio.org [mailto:b-greek-bounces at lists.ibiblio.org] On Behalf Of Eddie Mishoe
Sent: Tuesday, April 20, 2010 9:11 AM
To: Ladislav Tichy; Carl Conrad
Cc: B-Greek at lists.ibiblio.org
Subject: Re: [B-Greek] "result" expressed by adverbial participles?

It almost seems like an obligation to defend Dr. Wallace's book GGBB, and I do think that Carl is well aware of our differences. I really do not think Wallace in his book under stresses the need to evaluate any word/phrase/clause in the context in which it appears.

Secondly, Wallace is often faulted for explaining Greek nuances using English grammatical terms, but I'm really not sure what other way there is to communicate a second language. 

To address Carl's opening comment, "I think we've noted in other instances that Wallace's categories and 
subcategories are based upon interpretation of the context rather 
than on anything inherent in fundamental semantics of a construction."

Here, Wallace is acknowledged for his use of the "context" to bring about nuances of the Greek construct. His "interpretation" is simply his explanation of the inter-relationship among context, words, phrases, grammar, syntax, semantics. Again, I know of no other way to explain a Greek text to a non-Greek speaker than his approach. And "Yes," I believe a native Greek mentally goes through what Wallace suggests, only as a native speaker s/he is able to do this in a nano-second or two.

Carl knows as well as others who have paid attention to my previous comments out here that I think Carl's knowledge of Greek surpasses that of Wallace, and an other scholar. But for the life of me I just can't understand his comments about GGBB and Wallace's methodology. Explaining Greek concepts with English terms is perfectly legitimate and often the only way to teach a second language. Greeks had to determine if a participle was used as Purpose or Result; we do too. Wallace is simply explaining what is going on behind the scenes, in the mental processes of understand a text.

So, I do believe that a native Greek speaker had to run through a list of adverbial participial functions to interpret correctly what was written or said. In other words, the native Greek guy goes through the categories and subcategories at a blinding mental speed, quite able intuitively to eliminate most categories in a moment's time, whereas those learning Greek have to go down the categories and subcategories line by line until you reach the level of a Wallace or Carl (I'm not omitting Buth or many others, I'm just using these two as examples).

On this comment by Carl, "they seem designed to train the student to identify readily which 
category or subcategory of usage one has encountered and so avoid 
thinking through the contextual factors in every exegetical analysis"

I think this statement fails to take the book as a whole. Nowhere does Wallace lead one to "avoid thinking through the contextual factors..." Wallace is simply putting the microscope on one aspect of grammatical analysis. This seems a bit unfair to say. 

Let me conclude that I've not found many who agree with my assessment of Wallace so take my comments with caution. Every time I have this exchange with Carl I feel like I am overlooking the obvious, that I'm misunderstanding something so basic as to preclude us from having a rational discussion over this. I really think what I am saying is simply Grammar 101; that is what is so perplexing to me.

As I've said before, if you have to choose between my comments and Carl's, go with Carl... every time. You will be far better off. Obviously you can tell that I've found GGBB of great help to my understand of Greek, even thought I rate myself as a sophomore, a perpetual student who has few instincts when it comes to grasping grammar.

Eddie Mishoe

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