2 Cor 9:7 ἀγαπᾷ Gnomic or Progressive

2 Cor 9:7 ἀγαπᾷ Gnomic or Progressive

Postby Stephen Carlson » June 19th, 2012, 8:43 pm

In his second letter to the Corinthians, Paul alludes to Prov 22:8a with the following statement:

2 Cor 9:7 wrote:ἱλαρὸν γὰρ δότην ἀγαπᾷ ὁ θεός.


I agree with every translation that I'm aware of that ἀγαπᾷ is gnomic: "for God loves a cheerful giver." What I cannot do (at the moment) is articulate why. In other words, why can't it be progressive: "for God is loving a cheerful giver"?
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Re: 2 Cor 9:7 ἀγαπᾷ Gnomic or Progressive

Postby Eeli Kaikkonen » June 20th, 2012, 7:54 am

This is only a gut feeling, but I think that in Koine, as in many other languages - including English - the "present" tense is actually non-past. The most natural and most common usage is gnomic or some kind of general non-past, not "at the moment" present. Just go through all posts in this forum, or didactic material in the NT, or today's newspaper articles or anything else - I believe that the present tense needs strong contextual hints to make it progressive.
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Re: 2 Cor 9:7 ἀγαπᾷ Gnomic or Progressive

Postby Stephen Carlson » June 20th, 2012, 11:50 am

Yeah, English in fact needs the progressive form (BE + -ING) to make it non generic.

Another way to ask the question: How can I tell whether the singular indefinite ἱλαρὸν δότην is generic (for all cheerful givers, God loves them), or existential (there is exists a cheerful giver, and God is loving him/her (right now))?
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Re: 2 Cor 9:7 ἀγαπᾷ Gnomic or Progressive

Postby cwconrad » June 20th, 2012, 1:31 pm

Stephen Carlson wrote:Yeah, English in fact needs the progressive form (BE + -ING) to make it non generic.

Another way to ask the question: How can I tell whether the singular indefinite ἱλαρὸν δότην is generic (for all cheerful givers, God loves them), or existential (there is exists a cheerful giver, and God is loving him/her (right now))?


I'm reminded of the old joke about the existentialist umpire who disdains both the pitcher's and the batter's judgment about whether the pitch was really a ball or a strike. "It ain't a ball or a strike until I say it's a ball or a strike."

The more i think about the question originally asked, the more I wonder why it was asked at all. Is it being supposed that the ἱλαρὸς δότης must refer to a concrete particular giver because it lacks the definite article? I think the citation is clearly proverbial and the γνώμη is in the characteristic style, e.g. Callimachus' μέγα βιβλίον μέγα κακόν or Hesiod, WD, 355-6 δώτῃ μέν τις ἔδωκεν, ἀδώτῃ δʼ οὔτις ἔδωκεν./ δὼς ἀγαθή, ἅρπαξ δὲ κακή, θανάτοιο δότειρα.
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Re: 2 Cor 9:7 ἀγαπᾷ Gnomic or Progressive

Postby Stephen Carlson » June 20th, 2012, 2:36 pm

cwconrad wrote:The more i think about the question originally asked, the more I wonder why it was asked at all. Is it being supposed that the ἱλαρὸς δότης must refer to a concrete particular giver because it lacks the definite article?


The background to this is that I'm working through Corien Bary's theory of aspect in ancient Greek. She only looks at the imperfect and aorist indicatives, so I'm trying to see whether it works for the present as well or whether it's underspecified.
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Re: 2 Cor 9:7 ἀγαπᾷ Gnomic or Progressive

Postby Stephen Carlson » June 30th, 2012, 8:53 am

Here's what Dan Wallace has to say about this example:

GGBB: Exegetical Syntax p. 524 wrote:That the gnomic present speaks of something that does happen, rather than of something that is happening, can be seen from this example: God does love a cheerful giver (rather than “God is loving a cheerful giver”).


The problem with Wallace's example of "is loving"--and with my original post--is that "to love" is a state in English. State verbs ordinarily do not take the progressive form, except in highly marked contexts (like the McDonald's slogan "I'm lovin' it" = "I am enjoying it"). So whether God generally loves a cheerful giver (non-referring) or there's a specific cheerful giver that God loves, the English should be the same: "God loves a cheerful giver." In both languages, the statement is ambiguous and needs to be disambiguated based on context. The appeal to a supposed progressive form as I did earlier in the original post fails because the progressive form a state verb in English has a special meaning and is therefore irrelevant to the ambiguity of the statement.
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Re: 2 Cor 9:7 ἀγαπᾷ Gnomic or Progressive

Postby Alan Patterson » July 2nd, 2012, 6:12 am

Out of curiosity, is not Gnomic or Progressive (or other categories, Ingressive, Constative, etc.) issues related to translation rather than Grammar or Syntax?
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Re: 2 Cor 9:7 ἀγαπᾷ Gnomic or Progressive

Postby Stephen Carlson » July 2nd, 2012, 7:10 am

Alan Patterson wrote:Out of curiosity, is not Gnomic or Progressive (or other categories, Ingressive, Constative, etc.) issues related to translation rather than Grammar or Syntax?


No, it's a question of the scope of the predication, whether God generally loves a cheerful giver or whether he happens to be loving at that instant. Such scope questions are usually considered syntactic.
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