Hebrews 1:1 Adjectival or adverbial participle?

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klitwak
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Hebrews 1:1 Adjectival or adverbial participle?

Post by klitwak » October 20th, 2016, 1:53 am

In Heb 1:1, I am looking at the participle λαλήσας . Πολυμερῶς καὶ πολυτρόπως πάλαι ὁ θεὸς λαλήσας τοῖς πατράσιν ἐν τοῖς προφήταις. On the one hand, it appears to be in an attributive position, and thus is an adjectival participle, "God who has spoken to the fathers by the prophets." An adjectival participle does not need to have a definite article and like an adjective, can come after the noun. On the other hand, it works equally well as an adverbial (circumstantial) participle: "God, after having spoken to the fathers by the prophets." I am trying to explain this to students in an exegesis course on Hebrews. Is there any way to decide with certainty from a syntactical point of view or is either possible (and probably didn't matter to the author which it was)?

Ken Litwak
Reference and Instructional Services Librarian
Gateway Seminary
Ontario, CA
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Robert Crowe
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Re: Hebrews 1:1 Adjectival or adverbial participle?

Post by Robert Crowe » October 20th, 2016, 11:22 pm

I would contend that λαλήσας, if taken adjectivally, must be in the predicate position. "God was speaking." This is tantamount to it being purely verbal, though it retains an adjectival force in qualifying the subject.

The English translation must adopt its own style. This can to some extent reflect personal preference. Personally, I think taking it as circumstantial, "God having spoken etc" is somewhat clumsy, especially as this doesn't do justice to the antithesis of πάλαι and ἐπ‘ ἐσχάτου. Best, I think, to take the verse as two independent clauses connected by 'whereas' or 'but now' or such like.
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RandallButh
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Re: Hebrews 1:1 Adjectival or adverbial participle?

Post by RandallButh » October 21st, 2016, 5:16 am

Is there any way to decide with certainty from a syntactical point of view or is either possible (and probably didn't matter to the author which it was)?
I would agree and go beyond the instinct that it 'probably didn't matter to the author.'
The choices in the question here about tagging λαλήσας in English metalanguage is artificial to the structure of the Greek language itself and to how the word is wired in the heads of the audience and author.

It is important to ask the right questions if we want to follow an author's thought and argument.

You might point out to the exegesis class the additional 'linking thread' between λαλἠσας and ἐλάλησεν in the communication of the first sentence.
The question becomes "why does the first clause use λαλήσας and the second clause use ἐλάλησεν?῾
The first clause communicates the same verbal idea as the second clause but it demotes the clause or lowers its relative prominence so that the ἐλάλησεν clause carries the author's intentional prominence, the prominence that the audience is expected to perceive instantly, almost sub-consciously, and to note for the development of the communication.
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Barry Hofstetter
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Re: Hebrews 1:1 Adjectival or adverbial participle?

Post by Barry Hofstetter » October 21st, 2016, 1:45 pm

klitwak wrote:In Heb 1:1, I am looking at the participle λαλήσας . Πολυμερῶς καὶ πολυτρόπως πάλαι ὁ θεὸς λαλήσας τοῖς πατράσιν ἐν τοῖς προφήταις. On the one hand, it appears to be in an attributive position, and thus is an adjectival participle, "God who has spoken to the fathers by the prophets." An adjectival participle does not need to have a definite article and like an adjective, can come after the noun. On the other hand, it works equally well as an adverbial (circumstantial) participle: "God, after having spoken to the fathers by the prophets." I am trying to explain this to students in an exegesis course on Hebrews. Is there any way to decide with certainty from a syntactical point of view or is either possible (and probably didn't matter to the author which it was)?

Ken Litwak
Reference and Instructional Services Librarian
Gateway Seminary
Ontario, CA
It's not attributive. It's predicate. The only time you would have an attributive adjective/participle without articular placement would be if the noun itself is anarthrous, and then only context would be your guide. Word order does not determine attributive/predicate position. Major translations, ESV, NET, LEB and NAS take it this way. I checked also several language based commentaries, and none even mention the attributive as a possibility -- they all assume the predicate. Now that doesn't means someone somewhere hasn't argued that it is, but it certainly doesn't fit any of the regular criteria for determining such.
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N.E. Barry Hofstetter
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Jack M. Barrack Hebrew Academy
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Barry Hofstetter
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Re: Hebrews 1:1 Adjectival or adverbial participle?

Post by Barry Hofstetter » October 21st, 2016, 1:47 pm

RandallButh wrote:
Is there any way to decide with certainty from a syntactical point of view or is either possible (and probably didn't matter to the author which it was)?
I would agree and go beyond the instinct that it 'probably didn't matter to the author.'
The choices in the question here about tagging λαλήσας in English metalanguage is artificial to the structure of the Greek language itself and to how the word is wired in the heads of the audience and author.

It is important to ask the right questions if we want to follow an author's thought and argument.

You might point out to the exegesis class the additional 'linking thread' between λαλἠσας and ἐλάλησεν in the communication of the first sentence.
The question becomes "why does the first clause use λαλήσας and the second clause use ἐλάλησεν?῾
The first clause communicates the same verbal idea as the second clause but it demotes the clause or lowers its relative prominence so that the ἐλάλησεν clause carries the author's intentional prominence, the prominence that the audience is expected to perceive instantly, almost sub-consciously, and to note for the development of the communication.
Excellent observations.
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N.E. Barry Hofstetter
Instructor of Latin
Jack M. Barrack Hebrew Academy
Χαίρετε ἐν κυρίῳ πάντοτε· πάλιν ἐρῶ, χαίρετε

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