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Genitive construction in 2 Corinthians 3:6

Posted: June 23rd, 2018, 1:24 pm
by dougknighton
2 Corinthians 3:6 ὃς καὶ ἱκάνωσεν ἡμᾶς διακόνους καινῆς διαθήκης, οὐ γράμματος ἀλλὰ πνεύματος, τὸ γὰρ γράμμαἀποκτείνει, τὸ δὲ πνεῦμα ζωοποιεῖ.

In this text is it appropriate to construe διακόνους to govern not only καινῆς διαθήκης but also γράμματος and πνεύματος, so that the relationship of διακόνους is the same with all three of the terms? If the first relationship is an objective genitive, it means Paul is someone who administers a new covenant, in that he is not someone who administers law but spirit; the construction talks about the content of Paul’s ministry. If it is a descriptive genitive, it means Paul is someone who ministers in a new covenant-like way, that is not in a law-like way, but in a spirit-like way; the construction talks about the character of Paul’s ministry. Of course, there could be another genitive construction that should be considered. The basic question is about whether or not the relationship of the head noun must be the same to the secondary nouns.

Doug Knighton

Re: Genitive construction in 2 Corinthians 3:6

Posted: June 23rd, 2018, 1:42 pm
by Stirling Bartholomew
We get a lot of questions like this one. You need to focus your inquiry to one specific well defined issue.

Postscript: the labels attached to genitive constituents are arbitrary ill-defined and generally cause more confusion than anything else. Quibbling over them is a waste of time.

Re: Genitive construction in 2 Corinthians 3:6

Posted: June 23rd, 2018, 2:38 pm
by Robert Emil Berge
I agree with Stirling about the confusing designations of different types of genitives. If there is a doubt about how to understand a genitive, the categories usually just obsucre the matter. I find your main question quite simple to answer, though: I would translate it like this: "He has made us officials of a new testament, not of the letter, but of the spirit, for the letter kills and the spirit brings to life."

The "not of the letter, but of the spirit" clearly goes with "a new testament". Anything else would be very forced. It also makes much more sense since διαθήκη is a technical term for a written document of a person's will stored in an archive until his death, when an official of the state would distribute the inheritance. Many such documents are preserved on papyri found in Egypt. Here, of course, the point is that the will is not written on papyrus, but is of a spiritual nature.

Re: Genitive construction in 2 Corinthians 3:6

Posted: June 24th, 2018, 3:35 am
by Stephen Carlson
dougknighton wrote:
June 23rd, 2018, 1:24 pm
The basic question is about whether or not the relationship of the head noun must be the same to the secondary nouns.
No, there's no such rule, although a noticeably different relationship can create a rhetorical effect called "zeugma."

Re: Genitive construction in 2 Corinthians 3:6

Posted: June 25th, 2018, 2:24 pm
by dougknighton
Thanks to all for your helpful comments.