<< Unfortunately, the word HGEMONEUONTOS is always taken not for a noun,
but is mistaken as a verb in the present participle in the genitive case.
HGEMONEUMA is the feminine noun and HGEMONEUS is the masculine, and
HGEMONEUONTOS is the genitive of the noun, not the verb. >>
John, I am glad that you finally make this point plainly. It seems that it
has lain beneath the surface of several previous points. However,
gives HGEMONEWS as the genitive of the noun HGEMONEUS. How do you arrive at
the idea that the correct genitive for this noun is HGEMONEUONTOS?
I'm very pleased you asked this question since it is rather important. In
dialoguing with you I realize how awkwardly I put the matter. I obviously
stated the thing clumsily since, at first glance, no Greek word ending in
-ONTOS can be a noun. On the surface one might assume that I am arguing
"When does a noun take the inflectional form of a participle?" I realize it
sounds like "When is a circle a square?" The answer to both, obviously is,
I did not intend to refer to the noun HGEMONEUS but the adjective
HGEMONEUWN. So, list discussions are rather useful when one needs to
organize and clarify one's ideas.
Praefectus or governor is an adjective- noun always in the genitive coupled
with a person and/or place. Here, the adjective- noun HGEMONEUONTOS
clearly points to the action of governing of the office of commander or
governor of the province paired with a proper name. It appears in Lc 2,2
and Lc 3,1 (exactly the same inflectional form). However, the adjective-
noun HGEMONEUONTOS could also signify "place" since it also meant the
territory, district or province of a praefecture. This is a specialized
word that always takes the genitive adjectival form since it defines the
title and political rank appropriate to the person named, or designates the
district proper to the "topos" or "place" named. Therefore, it is always in
the genitive as too is the name pair partner "of the province", and/or "the
person named". Cf Lc 2,2 and Lc 3,1. This can be shown by comparing the
Greek formula used by Luke in both cases to those found in Latin for the
praefecti. All Latin titles for prefects are in the genitive. The Greek
translation used by Luke was too. Consequently, it must be an
HGEMONEUONTOS takes on the adjective ending in -WN where the gen. sing.
Adjective HGEMONEUWN gen. sing. = HGEMONEUONTOS
Most analyses of Lc 2, 2 interpret this passage as a genitive absolute.
For example, Cf. Max Zerwick, A Grammatical Analysis of the Greek NT (Rome,
1996) 176 describes Lc 2,2 as gen. absolute; 181 Lc 3,1 as gen. absolute.
However, according to MacDonald the genitive absolute is constructed:
gen. noun + gen. participle + adverb
The object of the participle is in the accusative.
cf. William G. MacDonald, Greek Enchiridion (Peabody, 1998) 82, n. 11
Following MacDonald's explanation Quirinius should be in the accusative
case, but he is in the genitive. So, is this a true genitive absolute? The
same is true for Lc 3,1 since it is in the same case.
James Swetnam, An Introduction to the Study of New Testament Greek. Part
One: Morphology (Rome, 1998) I: 393-95 explains legitimate and illegitimate
genitive absolutes, where legitimate ones are syntactically cut off or
independent and illegitimate ones are not. Yet, even this does not explain
how the object of the participle is not in the accusative.
Consequently we are left to find an alternate explanation of what
"grammatically" is the form that occur in Lc 2,2, and Lc 3,1?
The only other case commonly confused with the genitive absolute is the
nominative absolute. Both cases appear to employ the "circumstantial
participle" but the nominative absolute does not.
Robert W. Funk, Beginning-Intermediate Grammar of Hellenistic Greek II:
8471. "Nominative absolute. Not to be confused with circumstantial
participle, particularly the genitive absolute, is the nominative absolute
or hanging nominative with a participle. The real but not the grammatical
subject of the sentence is introduced in the nominative case, but the
referent of the participle appears in another case in the main clause:
However, Wallace and Mounce, Greek Grammar, available online:
"A nominative absolute does not occur in a sentence, but only in titles,
salutations, and other introductory phrases."
Now Wallace and Mounce hit on an important point regarding a title since all
of the fuss is about the very word I claim is a title: HGEMONEUONTOS.
Other alternatives are offered by James Kiefer.
James Kiefer, The Infancy Narratives in Matthew and Luke
Turning to the word PROTOS, translated "first," we note that it means
"earliest," but is also sometimes used to mean "earlier, prior, previous."
John the Baptist says (John 1:15,30), "he was first of me", meaning, "he was
earlier than I." Greek regularly uses "of" (the genitive case) rather than
"than" to express comparison. So that Luke's words can be translated: "This
enrollment occurred earlier than Quirinius governing Syria," meaning, "This
was the census just before the big one (the one that everyone knows about,
because it started a rebellion) under Quirinius." There are in fact three
plausible ways of parsing the phrase: (1) We can read it as "the first
census, Quirinius being governor of Syria." This treats "Quirinius governing
Syria" as a genitive absolute, similar to the Latin ablative absolute or the
English nominative absolute as in "Jones took notes, the regular secretary
being absent," or the more frequent, "The picnic will be on Tuesday, weather
permitting". This is the construction assumed by most English translators.
(2) We can read it as "the census earlier than Quirinius governing Syria."
This treats "Quirinius governing Syria" as a genitive of comparison. (3) We
can read it as "the census earlier (than the census) of Quirinius governing
Syria." This assumes that Luke omits the second occurrence of the word
"census", as if I were to say, "My dog is smarter than his," expecting
people to understand that he meant, "My dog is smarter than his dog." Such
omissions of repeated words are standard in many languages. In John 5:36, we
have, "The testimony I have is greater than (the testimony) of John." In 1
Corinthians 1:25, we have "The foolishness of God is wiser than (the wisdom)
of men, and the weakness of God is stronger than (the power) of men." If
this is the construction Luke intended, then "Quirinius" is an ordinary
genitive of possession, modifying "census" understood. On either the second
or the third interpretation, all difficulties vanish. George Ogg, who thinks
that Luke is wrong about Quirinius, objects that there are no undisputed
passages in which PROTOS followed by a participial phrase in the genitive
case clearly means "before." I think this is unreasonable. He does not deny
that PROTOS often means "before," or that participial phrases can occur in
the genitive of comparison. I think his objection is little like questioning
the authenticity of the Gettysburg Address on the grounds that Lincoln
nowhere else uses "fourscore" to mean "eighty." Even granted that he is
right, this would eliminate the second construction listed above, but leave
the third (which he does not consider) as a perfectly good possibility.
Peace in Christ,
John N. Lupia
501 North Avenue B-1
Elizabeth, New Jersey 07208-1731 USA
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