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How Greek Cases are Used
This document provides general information about the use of Greek cases. It begins by describing the overall Greek case system, then briefly explains the various ways that each case can be used in a clause or sentence. A more detailed discussion of grammatical uses for each case is available through a link at the end of each explanation of each case.
However, this document does not discuss the case endings or inflections of nouns, pronouns, articles, adjectives and participles. For more information about the case endings, see the document The Greek Article and Case Endings.
My own comments are added, but the following information basically came from three sources: (1) Daniel B. Wallace's book, Greek Grammar: Beyond the Basics; (2) Ward Powers' book, Learn to Read the Greek New Testament, and, of course, (3) William Mounce's book, Basics of Biblical Greek Grammar. All of these are recommended grammars.
The Greek Case System
About 60% of all the words in the Greek New Testament (GNT) are declined into case forms. There are 28,956 nouns, 19,869 articles, 16,703 pronouns, 7,636 adjectives and 6,674 participles. Each one is an inflected form, indicating a grammatical case. In the Greek New Testament, the breakdown of these words into cases is as follows:
- Nominatives: 24,618 or 31% (with 7,794 nouns; 3,145 pronouns; 6,009 articles; 4,621 participles; 3,049 adjectives)
- Vocatives: 317 or 1% (with 292 nouns, 1 participle, and 24 adjectives. Note: Not all of these can be considered to be true vocative forms. Many are nominative forms.)
- Accusatives: 23,105 or 29% (with 8,815 nouns; 5,009 pronouns; 5,889 articles, 957 participles; 2,435 adjectives)
- Genitives: 19,633 or 25% (with 7,681 nouns; 4,986 pronouns; 5,028 articles; 743 participles; 1,195 adjectives)
- Datives: 12,173 or 15% (with 4,375 nouns; 3,565 pronouns; 2,944 articles, 353 participles, 936 adjectives)
The above numbers are all based on statistics in Wallace's book, calculated by acCordance software.
The study of the Greek case system is critical. As you can see above, there are very many Greek New Testament (GNT) words which indicate case. Each one's specific role, function and meaning in its clause or sentence is determined according to case. Therefore, if one cannot first identify the case of a word, to first determine its specific role and function in its sentence, very little meaning can be derived from the word. Thus, it is absolutely necessary to be able to identify the case forms correctly, then further identify exactly how each form is used.
The use of Greek cases is very flexible. Each case can serve in several different grammatical roles. Then each role can be broken down into several different kinds of grammatical functions, with different meanings implied by each. On top of all this, each function can imply different things in different contexts. All this is based on the lexical definition of the word, of course. Yet one lexical definition can imply radically different things in different functions and contexts.
So one role of a noun in the genitive case may be to modify another noun. But, in that grammatical role as a modifier, that genitive noun might be able to perform possibly any one of more than twenty different functions. Then the meaning of that specific genitive noun in the same specific role and same specific function can be different in a different context as well.
A specific example can be the genitive form of the noun Θεοῦ, when it modifies another noun in the phrase δικαιοσύνη Θεοῦ in Romans 3:21. Here it serves in the grammatical role of a modifier. But, as a modifier, what function does it serve? Does this genitive modifier serve the function of a possessive, or an ablative indicating a source, or some other function? If it functions as a possessive, it should be translated something like "God's righteousness." If it functions as an ablative indicating source, it should be translated something like "righteousness from God." Its context, and the lexical definition of the word, will determine its function. After we know that this word means "God," and refers to the one and only God, and we know the global context of all that is taught about God in the entire Bible, and we know the local context of what is stated, we can draw a conclusion about what function this genitive form, in the role of a modifier, serves. Thus, we know it should be interpreted "righteousness from God."
Thus, in order to read Greek with comprehension, one must be able to:
- know the lexical definition of the word, what it can mean in all possible roles, functions and contexts;
- clearly recognize and correctly identify its case form;
- understand the specific grammatical role that case is serving in its clause or sentence;
- know the context enough to be able to determine which specific function that case form is performing in that role; and
- identify and know the implications of its specific function, the way in which it is used to express meaning in its specific grammatical role.
This process of understanding Greek inflections can be very difficult for an English-speaking person, because, in English, we do not use very many inflected forms. And we only need a few inflected forms, because the grammatical roles of our words are determined primarily by the lexical definitions, context, and the order in which we place them in a sentence.
The lexical definition of English nouns are normally fairly constant, although they can change in context. But each is modified by an adjective when it needs to bear an implication beyond what the lexical definition suggests. The inflection or position of the noun in a construction or clause does not affect its meaning much. Then any function, other than the most obvious, is normally indicated through the use of a preposition, not an inflection. So most English nouns only need singular and plural forms, where plural forms can take a suffix or infix or both ("saint" and "saints," "man" and "men," "body" and "bodies"). And some of our pronouns take different forms according to gender ("he," "she"), case ("he," "him," "his"), and number ("he," "they"). But, aside from these few instances, we rarely ever think about inflections in English.
The opposite is true in Greek. One must always think about the inflections of all the words. Greek is a highly inflected language. Inflections are everything, and without understanding the role and function of each inflected form, one cannot comprehend much of anything in Greek.
So we must learn to think like the Greek writers, to fully comprehend their meaning through their use of inflections. We must understand Greek syntax, that is, the way in which the Greeks built the structure of their sentences through the use of inflections. Then we need to convert that Greek syntax into English syntax, and translate the Greek inflected forms into English non-inflected forms, with added prepositions and other words, to create the English structure of sentences, in order to convey the same meaning that the Greek text indicated.
The Five-Case System Versus the Eight-Case System
Some Baptist and Presbyterian Greek grammars and teachers may talk about eight cases, while the majority only recognize the existence of five cases. This course follows the assumptions of the more common five-case system. In order for you to understand what those other grammars and instructors are talking about, and to know why this course only delineates five Greek cases, the eight-case system is briefly explained here.
The five-case system is straightforward. A particular case takes a certain form, and a certain form is a particular case. So a genitive form is a genitive case, and a dative form is a dative case, plain and simple. Case and form are directly related, and one is the other. But the eight-case system categorizes case according to function, not form.
In the eight-case system, any one genitive form can be either one of two different cases, depending on how it is used in a sentence. In one Greek text, a particular genitive form of a certain word might be said to be of the genitive case, just as one would call it a genitive in the five-case system. But, in the eight-case system, they would only call it a genitive if it served certain kinds of normal genitive functions. However, they might say exactly the same word in the same genitive form was of the "ablative case" if it served a different kind of function in another sentence. Then the eight-case system designates three different cases for a dative form. The following chart describes the cases in the eight-case system.
by the form:
||Same as the five-case system.
||Same as the five-case system.
||Same as the five-case system.
||Most of the functions which can be indicated by a genitive form in the five-case system, except the ablative functions.
||In general, the genitive form indicates "separation" of some kind, such as:
- Separation: "from," "away from," or "out of" as in "dust from the feet," mostly replaced in koine Greek by prepositions like ἀπό ("from") + genitive, or ἐκ ("out of") + genitive.
- Source or Origin: "out of," "derived from" or "from" as in "the righteousness that comes from God," mostly replaced by ἐκ ("out of") + genitive.
- Comparison: usually found after an adjective in the comparative degree and is translated as "than" as in "wiser than men" or "worth more than many sparrows."
||Most of the functions which can be indicated by a dative form in the five-case system, except the locative and instrumental functions.
||Indicates a position in physical space, non-physical terms, or time, such as:
- Sphere: "in the sphere of," i.e., within all the things existing that are represented by the noun, as in "the pure in heart" or "death in the flesh."
- Time: "on," "at" or "in," referring to a point in time and answering the question "when?", as in "raised on the third day."
- Rule: "according to" or "in conformity with" the sphere of a body of standards, rules, codes of conduct, etc., as in "walk according to their own ways."
||Indicates the means or answers the question "how?" usually with regards to the action of a verb, such as:
- Association: "with" as in "unequally yoked [in association] with unbelievers."
- Manner: "with" or "in," as in "he speaks with boldness," mostly replaced by ἐν ("in") + dative, or μετά ("with") + dative.
- Means / Instrument: "by," "by means of" or "with" as in "justified by faith."
- Agency: "by" or "through" as in "done by him."
- Measure / Degree of Difference: after or before an adjective (or adverb) in the comparative degree, often the dative πολλῷ ("much") with the comparative adverb μᾶλλον ("more"), as in "saved much more."
- Cause: "because of" or "on the basis of " as in "persecuted because of the cross."
- Cognate: used in order to emphasize the verb's action, a cognate with same form as the verb as in ἐνυπνίοις ἐνυπνιασθήσονται ("will be dreaming dreams"), or with the same meaning as in ἀγαλλιᾶσθε χαρᾷ ("rejoice with joy").
- Material: "with" as in "anointed with oil."
- Content: "with" as in "filled with wisdom."
Wallace points out some of the things which cause disagreements between those who use the eight-case system (classified by the function of the cases), and those who use the five-case system (classified simply by form). The case system can affect the way in which one interprets the Greek text. From what I understand in Wallace's explanations, the eight-case system does not really allow for as much flexibility or integrity in the interpretation of cases.
The eight-case system appears to be somewhat academic and artificial. Yet Scriptures were natural and heart-felt communications to ordinary persons, packed with subtle implications, just like much of our conversational English. For instance, Wallace points out that the one who takes the eight-case view may not acknowledge that a genitive or dative word form may be intended to convey two functions (and thus two meanings) at once. But the five-case view, held by most grammars, maintains that a Greek writer could use a genitive or dative form with a double meaning, in a way that serves two functions at once.
Wallace also refuted two main arguments for the eight-case system. The eight-case system stands on two main premises: (1) the historical argument, that the older Sanskrit language (to which Greek is closely linked) had an eight-case system, so Greek should have an eight-case system too; and (2) the linguistic argument, that a case system should be a matter of function and not form. Wallace countered that we must look at the actual way the Greeks developed and used their own language. This is a more important consideration than anything regarding the historical origins of their language. History can help us understand reasons for many things which happen later on, but the fact is that things change. Also, Wallace says it is not a valid assumption that case is a matter of function. Both the Sanskrit and Greek had different forms for the different cases, and, therefore, "case is a matter of form rather than function."
Of course, each Greek case is clearly used for numerous different functions, especially the genitive and dative cases. And we need to understands these various functions. But it is simply inappropriate to begin any interpretation of a text by first classifying cases according to function, since it automatically distorts the meaning of the text before you even get started.
Wallace says, "If case is truly a matter of function only, then there should be over one hundred cases in Greek. The genitive alone has dozens of [distinct and very different] functions.... to begin with semantic categories [i.e., to categorize cases according to function, thus according to meaning] is to put the cart before the horse. Syntax [i.e., the way in which words are used to construct a clause or sentence] must first of all be based on an examination and interpretation of the structures. To start with semantics skews the data."
So a good and objective interpretation must start by obtaining a general overview of the sentence structure (syntax), which will indicate all the possible functions and meanings available for each case form found within that particular structure. Since the grammatical function determines the meaning of the word, to assign it a function is to assign it a very narrow area of meaning. Thus, one does not do that until one first explores all the possible options available.
Yet, in the eight-case system, assigning a function (thus a meaning) is done first, because a case is a function to them, and they need to know the case of each word (thus the function) before they can even continue to read the rest of the words in a sentence, before they can even begin to interpret anything. Therefore, they must assign the function (thus the meaning) very quickly and hastily, without really taking the time to consider the overall syntax and all the available options. So the eight-case system promotes hastiness and carelessness in determining the function, and therefore the meaning of all declined words.
But the five-case system simply determines the case by form, and the form is used first to indicate syntax only. So, when a declined word is found, all that needs to be done is to recognize the form, which only indicates the general grammatical role that word is serving. Then the rest of the sentence can be interpreted in a general way. After this, more time can be spent to accurately determine each word's precise function, and thus its exact implied meaning (or possibly multiple implied meanings) according to its entire context.
Syntax is about understanding the roles which the words serve in a clause or sentence, where and how each word fits into the surface structure of the sentence, how the sentence is constructed or put together. Determining the syntax is the first step towards determining the meaning of the sentence, and each individual word in it. In the five-case system, grammatical cases simply provide information about syntax -- about how and where a noun, pronoun, adjective or participle fits into the structure of a sentence. That is what we must know first, in order to interpret a clause or sentence. And that is really all a case form itself can tell us.
Then, after we know the syntax or structure, after we see what the sentence is saying in a general way, we can work on finding out the deeper meaning. We can determine -- through the local and global context, through the broad area of meaning given in the lexical definition of each word, and by many other considerations -- the precise function and implied meanings of each word. After the case form tells us the general role that the word plays in the clause or sentence, and after we see the big picture of the whole sentence structure and its context, then we can then figure out what the author specifically meant or implied when he used each word in a given role, that is, the function and meaning of each word.
Because function involves so many factors other than the case form, and because there are so many different functions, it is impossible to designate a case by function first, like they do in the eight-case system.To determine function and meaning, thus to delve into semantics, one must look at the whole context and other information, not just the case form.
The case form, which only indicates syntax, is only a starting point, the first step. Semantics, determining meaning or function, is the second step, after understanding the syntax. After one determines the syntax, then one can look at the words' lexical definitions more closely, determine what kinds of verbs and nouns used with the word, examine the context, put all the data together logically, and take into account many other considerations.
So one must first determine the syntax, and understand the sentence structure. Only after one comprehends the structure, can one work on the semantics, to gain an understanding of the function and meaning of each particular word in its assigned syntactical role. Function is about expressing meaning, and is therefore a semantic category, thus a second step. But case is clearly just a syntactical category and does not provide much semantic information, only syntax, only a general indication of the role of a word in the structure of the sentence.
Consequently, as Wallace says, one cannot "put the cart before the horse," and classify case according to function and meaning first, according to semantic categories. Therefore, a case form is also a case category. Every genitive form is a genitive case, and every dative form is a dative case. Like the majority of grammars, BB Greek follows the five-case system.
The Nominative Case
A noun or pronoun in the nominative case is most often used as a subject of a clause or sentence. If the Greek clause or sentence uses a linking verb, a second nominative form may also be found in it, one used as a "subject complement" (which we place after the linking verb in our English translations). Sometimes this subject complement is also called a "predicate nominative," if it is a nominative form of a noun, pronoun or substantive (like an adjective or participle functioning as a noun). Or it may be called a "predicate adjective," if it is a nominative form of an adjective or participle which asserts something about the subject.
- The nominative singular form is the lexical form, the form found in a lexicon.
- English pronouns in the "nominative" case include: "I," "we," "he," "she" and "they." The Greek nominative case nouns are used grammatically in much the same way as we use these kinds of English pronouns in a sentence. However, Greek nominative nouns can be put almost anywhere in a sentence, since roles of words in a Greek sentence are primarily assigned according to inflections, but also by the use of articles or the word order at times (unlike English, which assigns the roles of words strictly according to the order in which the words are placed in a sentence).
- In Greek, when a nominative noun is the subject of the sentence, its position in the sentence is often after an action verb, unless it is placed at the beginning or end of a sentence or clause for emphasis. But a nominative pronoun (acting as the subject) is mostly placed in front of the verb. Also, a nominative noun subject will often have an article in front of it, so it is often easily recognized no matter where it is.
- An adjective or participle in the nominative case often modifies a nominative noun. If a noun has an article in front of it, its modifier will almost always have an article in front of it too. Either the modifier will be placed behind the noun's article, or the noun's article will be repeated in front of the modifier. The modifier's position, in relation to the noun, is called an attributive position:
- 1st Position: Article - Adjective - Noun
Here the modifier sits between the noun and its article:
ὁ ἀγαθὸς ἄνθρωπος ("the good man")
- 2nd Position: Article - Noun - Article - Adjective
Here the noun's article is repeated somewhere after the noun, and the modifier is placed after that repeated article. Sometimes a genitive may be placed between the noun and its modifier, but the article in front of the adjective will always be the same as the one in front of the noun it modifies:
ὁ ἄνθρωπος τοῦ Θεοῦ ὁ ἀγαθός ("the good man of God")
- 3rd Position: Noun - Article - Adjective
Here, if the noun does not have an article, but the modifier does, the modifier will be placed after the noun, never in front of the noun. This position is rare:
ἄνθρωπος ὁ ἀγαθός ("a good man")
- Other: Noun - Adjective or Adjective - Noun
If neither the noun nor the modifier has an article, they can be interpreted according to whatever fits the context. For example, whether it is written as ἄνθρωπος ἀγαθός or as ἀγαθὸς ἄνθρωπος, the adjective may function either as an attributive ("a good man") or as a predicate ("a man is good").
- In a Greek sentence with a linking verb, the nominative subject is often articular (i.e., it will have an article in front of it), and it is often placed in front of the verb, but may be somewhere else in the sentence. Then the predicate nominative or predicate adjective (i.e., a subject complement) is often placed immediately after the linking verb, or else usually somewhere after the nominative subject.
- In a Greek clause or sentence, a linking verb may be either (1) explicit, written into the clause or sentence; or (2) implicit, simply implied and not written. If it is implied, there will be at least one nominative substantive (a noun, or a word or phrase functioning as a noun), which is the subject of the clause or sentence. It can be either articular (with an article in front of it) or anarthrous (without an article). If the verb is explicit, the subject may be merely a pronoun implied by the verb's pronoun ending.
Then the clause will have another nominative form, normally anarthrous, which might be either another substantive (like a noun) or a modifier (like an adjective). Since both are nominatives, it implies they are linked together. So, in an English translation, a linking verb is used. The anarthrous nominative, which goes with the nominative subject, is said to be in a predicate position, and is translated after the linking verb in an English clause. Any nominative anarthrous adjective, before or after a nominative substantive (noun), is in a predicate position, and should be translated after a linking verb ("the man is good"). If both nominatives are substantives, and one has an article, the other one (which is anarthrous) is in the predicate position, thus translated after a linking verb. So there are basically three predicate positions:
- 1st Position: Article - Noun/Subject - Noun/Predicate
Here the construction must involve two nominative substantives, no modifier (like an adjective or participle). For one thing, an articular modifier is never placed in front of a noun it modifies. Then, if the anarthrous nominative is a modifier, this is an attributive position, not a predicate position. But, if both are substantives, the subject will be the one with an article, and the subject complement (put on the predicate side of the clause) will be anarthrous:
ὁ Θεὸς πνεῦμα ("God is spirit.")
- 2nd Position: Predicate - Article - Noun/Subject
Here, the second term, the articular nominative, always must be a substantive (a noun, or something functioning as a noun). If it is an adjective, preceded by an anarthrous noun, this would be an attributive position, not a predicate position. If the articular nominative is a substantive, the anarthrous nominative in front of it can be either a substantive or a modifier (like an adjective or participle). The articular nominative substantive is usually the subject, while the anarthrous nominative in front of it is the subject complement:
πνεῦμα ὁ Θεός ("God is spirit.")
- 3rd Position: Noun/Subject - Noun/Predicate
Here neither nominative will have an article. If one is a modifier and the other is a substantive, the modifier can be translated either as an attributive ("a good man") or as a subject complement ("a man is good"), depending on what seems to fit the context. But if both are nominative substantives, the first is usually translated as the subject, and the second as the subject complement:
Θεὸς πνεῦμα ("God is spirit.")
- In a Greek sentence with a linking verb, if both the subject and subject complement have an article, or both have no article, the first nominative usually will be the subject, and the second will be the complement. But this general rule does not always hold true. Context will usually make it clear as to which of the two nominatives will be the subject and which will be the predicate.
- In a Greek sentence with a finite verb (any verb form that indicates person and time, not a linking verb), the subject and its modifiers will often be the only nominative forms, and might be placed anywhere in the sentence. If there is a complement (like a direct object, usually in the accusative case) it may be placed just before the finite verb, unless it takes a place of emphasis at the beginning (or end) of a clause or sentence. And the complement is frequently anarthrous (has no article in front of it).
- The nominative form can be used in direct address, if no separate vocative form of the word exists (see "Vocative Case" below). When used as a vocative, an article may be with the nominative noun. For example, the Greek word πνεῦμα ("spirit") has no separate vocative form. So, in addressing a spirit, Jesus used the nominative form of the word:
τὸ πνεῦμα, ἐγὼ ἐπιτάσσω σοι, ἔξελθε ἐξ αὐτοῦ
So this verse (Mark 9:25) can be translated, "Spirit, I command you, come out of him." And the article in front of the nominative case noun ( τὸ ) is ignored. Of course, one does not translate a vocative as "The spirit, I command you ..."
- An "independent nominative" (or "hanging nominative") is a nominative noun which may be used in place of an accusative (or dative) at times, such as when the direct object (or indirect object) is referred to almost as a quote, as though someone were speaking the words. Powers gives this example:
φωνεῖτέ με ὁ διδάσκαλος καὶ ὁ κύριος
It can be translated, "You call Me the Teacher and the Lord" (John 13:13). The Greek words in green are nominative nouns with articles in front of them (articular), yet really should be the direct objects (in the accusative case) of the verb.
- An "appellation" is the introduction or indication of the name or title of a person or thing. Often an appellation is the subject and in the nominative case. But, in Greek, a name or title is often presented in the nominative case even though, in some instances, it should be grammatically in the accusative case. Powers provided the following example of an appellation which was not the subject of the sentence, yet in the nominative case:
ὄνομα ἔχει Ἀπολλύων
This was translated, "He has the name Apollyon" (Rev. 9:11). I believe the grammatically correct (accusative) form of this particular name should have been Ἀπολλυώνα. But the nominative form is used here instead.
For a more complete explanation regarding the grammatical functions of the nominative case, see The Nominative Case.
The Vocative Case
A noun in the vocative case is primarily used for direct address, as the word "Lord" in "Lord, who is it?" The vocative case, therefore, means the noun is grammatically independent from the rest of the sentence (it is not a subject, complement or any other grammatical part of the sentence). In addressing someone, it simply indicates who is being addressed.
- Each declension has its own vocative form:
- 1st Declension (singular, mostly masculine 1st declension nouns): To form a vocative, it will only add the alpha stem vowel, without any case ending, onto the stem of the noun: μαθητά, νεανία
- 2nd Declension (singular, mostly masculine nouns): To form a vocative, it will replace the omicron stem vowel with an epsilon, but add no other ending onto the stem of the noun: κύριε, ἄνθρωπε
- 3rd Declension (singular, mostly masculine nouns): To form a vocative, it will add nothing onto the stem of the noun: πάτερ, γύναι
- There is no real English pronoun in the vocative case. Usually we say, "Sir" or "Madam" or a title of some sort, or use the person's name when we address them: "Saul, why are you persecuting Me?"
- Only some Greek nouns, mostly masculine nouns of the first and second declensions, and some third declension nouns, have a separate vocative singular form. And there are basically no plural vocative forms. Generally, the nominative form is used for addressing someone, if no separate vocative form exists. The nominative plural usually is employed as the vocative plural.
- Even when a vocative form existed, some koine Greek writers would still use the nominative form instead. The vocative case was beginning to fall into disuse during the first century when the New Testament was being written.
For a more complete explanation regarding the grammatical functions of the vocative case, see The Vocative Case.
The Accusative Case
A noun, pronoun, or adjective in the accusative case is mostly used as a direct object or the object of a preposition.
- English pronouns in the objective case -- which actually includes both the Greek accusative case (direct object) and dative case (indirect object) -- are "me," "us," "him," "her" and "them."
- When an action verb is used in a sentence, there may be an object directly receiving the action of the verb. That direct object usually is a noun in the accusative case and is called an "objective accusative." Powers gave the following example:
ἐγω ἐβάπτισα ὑμᾶς ὕδατι
This can be translated, "I baptized you in water" (Mark 1:8). The pronoun ὑμᾶς is the direct object, receiving the action of being baptized, and is in the accusative plural form.
- As a complement, the direct object often will not have an article in front of it, and might be placed immediately in front of the action verb (opposite to English order).
- The accusative is one of the three oblique cases. (The genitive and dative are also oblique cases.) And prepositions will take a noun from one or more of the oblique cases as an object of its prepositional phrase. If a preposition is found in front of a noun in the accusative case, the accusative form of the noun is an object of a preposition, not the direct object of the verb, of course.
- An "extentive accusative" (or "accusative of extent") implies "motion towards or extension towards, [or] the extent of something [like time, distance, etc.]." It answers questions like "How long?" or "How far?" The following example was provided by Powers:
ἐγω μεθ᾽ ὑμῶν εἰμι πάσας τὰς ἡμέρας
Literally this means, "I with you am all days." It means, "I am with you all days" (Mat. 28:20). The adjective, article and noun in green are all in accusative plural forms, and answer the question, "How long is Jesus with us?"
- An accusative noun, pronoun or adjective (used substantively) may be used as the "subject" of an infinitive. Powers gave the example:
λέγουσιν ἀνάστασιν μὴ εἷ|ναι
This is literally, "They say a resurrection not to be," but is translated something like, "They say a resurrection will not be / happen," or, "They say there will not be a resurrection" (Mark 12:18). The infinitive is εἷ|ναι ("to be") with a negative (μή). And ἀνάστασιν is the accusative singular form of ἀνάστασις ("a resurrection").
For a more complete explanation regarding the grammatical functions of the accusative case, see The Accusative Case.
The Genitive Case
A noun, pronoun, or adjective in the genitive case is often used as a possessive form or the object of a preposition.
- English pronouns in the genitive (possessive) case include "my," "our," "your," "his," "her," "its" and "their." The Greek genitive case is used and translated in much the same way we use these English pronouns.
- A genitive noun often has a genitive article in front of it, and is usually placed after another noun. The noun in front of it can be of any case. For example:
ἡ εἰρήνη του Χριστοῦ
This means, "the peace of Christ." The article του, and the noun Χριστοῦ, are both in the genitive singular masculine case. (The article must agree with its noun in case, number and gender.) But the noun which precedes it (εἰρήνη), and its article (ἡ), are both nominatives.
- In Greek, a genitive usually follows after the noun it qualifies, which is called its head noun. The head noun in the above example is "peace."
- As you can see in the example above, the genitive form is usually translated with the word "of," and its article frequently is not translated at all. But we could also have translated the above phrase as "Christ's peace."
- In the example above, the genitive "of Christ" could be possessive and indicate that its head noun is His personally owned peace within Himself. But the genitive may also indicate that Christ is the source or cause of peace enjoyed by another person. A genitive is not always about ownership, but may also indicate cause or source, or connote something like, "concerning the matter of," and so on.
- A genitive may generally portray two kinds of "relationships" to a head noun. A "true genitive" is one which defines the genus of the head noun, i.e., the kind of thing it is, further describing the head noun like the possessive form often does in English, "Bill's bike," "the ocean's waves." An "ablative" is a genitive form which indicates "the derivation, source or origin of something, [a source or origin normally] from which that something is now separated."
- Some verbs may take a genitive form as a direct object, to basically indicate "what owns or possesses the action of the verb." Powers tells us that these are mostly verbs of "touching or grasping (ἅπτομαι, 'I touch'); perception and feeling (ἀκούω, 'I hear'); remembering and forgetting; emotion and accusation; or ruling and surpassing (ἄρχω, 'I rule')." Powers gave this example:
τὰ πρόβατα τὰ ἐμὰ τῆς φωνῆς μου ἀκούουσιν
Literally this is, "The sheep of mine of the voice of me continuously hear," but is better translated as, "My sheep continuously hear My voice" (John 10:27). So the direct object of the verb is in the genitive case, indicating that His sheep hear "of His voice," where His voice is a "source" and owns the action of the verb.
- The genitive is one of the three oblique cases. If a preposition is found before a noun in the genitive case, the genitive form of the noun is an object of the preposition in a prepositional phrase. As an object of a preposition, it is not indicating possession, so the word "of" will not be used in the translation of that genitive noun -- unless the word "of" is part of the translation of the preposition itself (like the preposition ἐκ is translated "out of," and, by the way, always uses a noun in the genitive case as its object).
- The general "relationship" of the genitive to its head noun can be described by the terms "true genitive" and "ablative." But a more specific relationship can be described by the following terms. A close examination of a genitive's context will help one determine what kind of relationship is expressed by each genitive.
- Possessive Genitive: Indicates the head noun is owned, possessed, "belonging to" the genitive; ἀγρῷ αὐτοῦ ("field of his")
- Subjective Genitive: If the head noun is an "action noun" (a noun referring to an action, like "love" refers to the action of loving), the genitive modifying this noun may indicate the "subject" performing the action of that noun: ἡ ἀγάπη τοῦ Θεοῦ ("the love of God" or "God loves [us]," where the genitive Θεοῦ refers to the subject, telling us who performs the action of loving).
- Objective Genitive: Again, if the head noun is an "action noun," a genitive might indicate the "object" which receives the action: τὸ φῶς τοῦ κοσμοῦ ("the light of the world" or "[we] light up the world," where the genitive κοσμοῦ refers to the object, telling us what receives the action of being lit).
- Durative Genitive: If a head noun refers to an event, a genitive may indicate the time in which that event took place. Also, a durative genitive sometimes may not even modify a head noun, but stand alone after a verb. An example might be: φυγὴ χειμῶνος ("flight of winter" or "flight during the winter," where the genitive χειμῶνος indicates when the flight takes place).
- Comparative Genitive: When a comparitive form of an adjective or adverb (e.g., "greater, smaller, purer") is followed by a genitive, the genitive may be translated with the key word "than" instead of the key word "of": μείζων τούτων ("greater than these," where the genitive demonstrative pronoun τούτων indicates what the subject of the sentence was "greater than").
- Definitive Genitive: A genitive may be the same person or thing as the head noun, and simply present the head noun in a different way, to draw a clearer picture of the head noun in one's mind: παραμύθιον ἀγάπης ("comfort of love," where the genitive ἀγάπης refers to the same thing as the head noun παραμύθιον -- love is a kind of comfort, and comfort is a kind of love).
- Adjectival Genitive: A genitive may simply describe, specify, qualify or modify the head noun in some way, like an ordinary adjective: οἱ λόγοι τῆς χάριτος ("the words of grace," or, "the graceful words," where the genitive χάριτος describes the kind of "words," and functions as an adjective modifying the head noun λόγοι).
- Partitive Genitive: This type of genitive indicates what category its head noun belongs to, describing the head noun as being a part of some whole: οἱ λοιποὶ τῶν νεκρῶν ("the remainder of the dead," where the genitive νεκρῶν describes the category of the head noun -- where οἱ λοιποί, "the remaining ones," are part of the whole of all the dead).
- Genitive of Content: The genitive describes the contents of the head noun: ὑδρίας ὕδατος ("the waterpot of water," where the genitive ὕδατος describes what is in the waterpot).
- Genitive Absolute: This is a grammatical construction consisting of a genitive participle and a genitive noun, but exists independently from the rest of the sentence (is not a subject, object, modifier, etc.). This construction just adds some "aside information" to the sentence: γενομένου σαββάτου ("of a coming of a sabbath," or, "when the sabbath came," Mark 6:2). The genitive participle γενομένου is modified by the genitive noun σαββάτου. Then a full clause is provided after this, complete with a subject and predicate. So these two genitives are not necessary for the grammatical construction of the clause, and stand alone as a separate construction or phrase. This phrase (genitive absolute) simply adds some loosely related or interesting information to what was said in the clause it is being joined to.
For a more complete explanation regarding the grammatical functions of the genitive case, see The Genitive Case.
The Dative Case
A noun, pronoun, or adjective in the dative case most often used as an indirect object or the object of a preposition.
- Again, English pronouns in the objective case, used as both direct objects (accusative case) and indirect objects (dative case), would be "me," "us," "him," "her" and "them."
- Basically there were originally three different cases which were all combined into one "dative" case over time. Those three cases are:
Sometimes a casual look at the context does not make it entirely clear as to whether a dative is instrumental or locative. For example:
- The "true dative case" (or "dative proper"): It connotes receiving or accrual, and "has the primary idea of personal interest or reference, designating personal relations or involvement" (Powers). So a Greek "true dative" is usually translated with either the key word "to" or "for" in front of it. For example, the dative pronoun ὑμῖν can be translated as "to you" or "for you."
- The "instrumental case": It indicates "the means by which or with which the action of the verb is carried out" (Powers). So it may express the noun's role as an instrument or agent in causing something. Therefore, an "instrumental" might be translated with either the key word "with," "by," or "in" before it, or sometimes "on" or "at." For example:
ἐξέβαλεν τὰ πνεύματα λόγῳ
Here the dative noun "λόγῳ" can be translated into the prepositional phrase, "with a word," and the whole clause as, "He cast out the spirits with a word" (Matthew 8:16).
- The "locative case": It is used to indicate location (a place); or a point in time. Thus, it may be translated with the word "in" or "on." One of Power's examples was the dative noun, τῷ πλοιαριῷ (John 21:8), which is translated "in a small boat." Another was the dative noun phrase, τῇ τρίτῃ ἡμέρᾳ (Mat. 17:23), which means, "on the third day."
ἐγω ἐβάπτισα ὑμᾶς ὕδατι
The noun ὕδατι might be used as an "instrumental dative," indicating what was used to perform the baptism: "I baptized you with water." But it could also be a locative dative," indicating where the baptism took place: "I baptized you in water" (Mark 1:8). However, since the core meaning of the verb βαπτίζω means "immerse," the dative is likely locative and means "in water."
Most dative nouns can be translated into the English word order -- subject / verb / indirect object / direct object. In English, the indirect object is always placed immediately after the verb and in front of the direct object. However, most translators like to turn the Greek indirect object into a prepositional phrase instead, which they generally place after the direct object.
The key words (i.e., the prepositions "to," "for," "with," "in," "at," "on") often portray the meaning of the dative case more clearly, especially for instrumental or locative datives. But, in many instances, the English word order works just as well. Example:
ἀγοράσωσιν ἑαυτοῖς βρώματα
The word ἑαυτοῖς ("for themselves") is a dative plural form. We could translate the dative noun into a prepositional phrase, placing it after the direct object, like this: "They may buy food for themselves" (Mat. 14:15). Or we can simply translate it into the English word order, placing the indirect object after the verb and before the direct object like this: "They may buy themselves food."
Although the dative case mostly indicates an indirect object, some verbs will often take a "direct object" in the dative case, instead of the accusative case. As a "direct object," the dative noun indicates "the person [or thing] involved" (Powers). Powers also gave the following examples of verbs which will sometimes take a dative "direct object": ἀκολουθέω ("follow"), ἀποκρίνομαι ("answer"), δουλεύω ("serve"), προσεύχομαι ("pray"), and πιστεύω ("believe"). When no direct object (a noun in the accusative case, outside a prepositional phrase) exists, you can generally judge by context whether the dative noun is being used as the direct object. If the dative noun is used as a direct object, we would not always translate it with a key word like "to," "for" or "with." So a verb with a dative "direct object" of αὐτῷ might be translated something like "follow Him," "pray to Him," "believe Him" or "believe it."
The dative is one of the three oblique cases. If a preposition is found in front of a dative noun, the dative noun is an object of a prepositional phrase, and not an indirect object. If a dative noun is an object of a preposition, we do not add any of the key words ("to," "for," "with," "in," or "by") before the dative noun in addition to the preposition. For example, the preposition ἐπί means "at" or "on the basis of" when it takes a dative object, as in the sentence: οἱ δὲ μαθηταὶ ἐθαμβοῦντο ἐπὶ τοῖς λόγοις αὐτοῦ. The preposition ἐπί, with its dative plural noun object, λόγοις, is translated, "at His words/teachings," and the whole sentence can be translated, "And the disciples were amazed at His words" (Mark 10:24).
For a more complete explanation regarding the grammatical functions of the dative case, see The Dative Case.
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