Lk.22:2b Fear them, what they would do to them or just do?

Semantic Range, Lexicography, and other approaches to word meaning - in general, or for particular words.

Lk.22:2b Fear them, what they would do to them or just do?

Postby Stephen Hughes » September 17th, 2013, 3:15 pm

Luke 22:2b wrote: ἐφοβοῦντο γὰρ τὸν λαόν.

There are 3 possible senses that I can see;
(1) They respected the will of the people :roll: (Unlikely)
(2) They were afraid of what the people might do to them (rebel against them and follow Jesus)
(3) They would forcibly crown Jesus as King of the Jews (rebel against Roman rule)

I had always had option (2) in mind when I read it, but not I favour option (3). I think my understanding of Greek has been shaped by English, eg, "I'm afraid of spiders" (="They might bite me"). But, after consideration, I feel that the meaning of the Greek is wider and more easily includes actions that do not directly relate to the fearer(s).

Any thoughts?
Stephen Hughes
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Re: Lk.22:2b Fear them, what they would do to them or just d

Postby cwconrad » September 18th, 2013, 10:59 am

Stephen Hughes wrote:
Luke 22:2b wrote: ἐφοβοῦντο γὰρ τὸν λαόν.

There are 3 possible senses that I can see;
(1) They respected the will of the people :roll: (Unlikely)
(2) They were afraid of what the people might do to them (rebel against them and follow Jesus)
(3) They would forcibly crown Jesus as King of the Jews (rebel against Roman rule)

I had always had option (2) in mind when I read it, but not I favour option (3). I think my understanding of Greek has been shaped by English, eg, "I'm afraid of spiders" (="They might bite me"). But, after consideration, I feel that the meaning of the Greek is wider and more easily includes actions that do not directly relate to the fearer(s).

Any thoughts?


I would assume that Luke is cognizant of if not even drawing upon the Marcan text:
14:1-2 ... καὶ ἐζήτουν οἱ ἀρχιερεῖς καὶ οἱ γραμματεῖς πῶς αὐτὸν ἐν δόλῳ κρατήσαντες ἀποκτείνωσιν· 2 ἔλεγον γάρ· μὴ ἐν τῇ ἑορτῇ, μήποτε ἔσται θόρυβος τοῦ λαοῦ.


and that they feared popular support of Jesus as Messiah would bring down a new repressive Roman reaction that could upset their own status and authority in Judea.
Carl W. Conrad
Department of Classics, Washington University (Retired)
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πίνειν, συνεκποτέ’ ἐστί σοι καὶ τὴν τρύγα Aristophanes, Plutus 1085
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Re: Lk.22:2b Fear them, what they would do to them or just d

Postby Stephen Hughes » September 18th, 2013, 11:59 am

Okay. I realise now that this could have been better situated in grammar / (implied) syntax / voice rather (i.e. asking the question, "What does φοβεῖσθαι mean here in this construction?" ) than in "Word Meanings" (i.e. asking the question, "What does φοβεῖσθαι mean?" per se), but anyway let's continue...

cwconrad wrote:I would assume that Luke is cognizant of if not even drawing upon the Marcan text:

14:1-2 ... καὶ ἐζήτουν οἱ ἀρχιερεῖς καὶ οἱ γραμματεῖς πῶς αὐτὸν ἐν δόλῳ κρατήσαντες ἀποκτείνωσιν· 2 ἔλεγον γάρ· μὴ ἐν τῇ ἑορτῇ, μήποτε ἔσται θόρυβος τοῦ λαοῦ.


and that they feared popular support of Jesus as Messiah would bring down a new repressive Roman reaction that could upset their own status and authority in Judea.


Okay. My concern with that reading (which I also prefer) is that now that deponent is defunct, that is a long road to a middle "voice". The Jewish leaders are afraid that the people might make Jesus king by force at the festival and then the Romans would put down the uprising by force and remove some or all of the tollerance that they had granted the Jews up until that point, and then the Jewish leaders would no longer have their power. There are a lot of notes being played with a single draw of the bow. Could you explain the use of this accusative with the middle.

A follow-up question;
If the verb were to be supplied after the φοβεῖσθαι, would it be used directly, or would a μὴ "lest" preceed it? And what aspect / mood / tense would that verb be? (Perhaps we could work from some or other of the verbs in John 6:15 (ἔρχεσθαι καὶ ἁρπάζειν αὐτὸν ἵνα ποιήσωσιν αὐτὸν βασιλέα) to syntactically expand this statement out into the sense we conjecture - understand what might have been said but wasn't - and then better understand what was said.
Last edited by Stephen Hughes on September 18th, 2013, 12:15 pm, edited 1 time in total.
Stephen Hughes
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Re: Lk.22:2b Fear them, what they would do to them or just d

Postby cwconrad » September 18th, 2013, 12:13 pm

Stephen Hughes wrote:... Okay. My concern with the reading (which I prefer) is that now that deponent is defunct, that is a long road to a middle "voice". The Jewish leaders are afraid that the people might make Jesus king by force at the festival and then the Romans would put down the uprising by force and remove some or all of the tollerance that they had granted the Jews up until that point, and then the Jewish leaders would no longer have their power. There are a lot of notes being played with a single draw of the bow. Could you explain the use of this accusative with the middle.


I'm not sure that I understand your question. the middle φοβεῖσθαι takes an accusative of the person or thing feared, while the active φοβεῖν is causative, "frighten" or, on the battlefield, "rout" -- and takes an accusative of the person (or animal?) frightened.

Stephen Hughes wrote:A follow-up question;
If the verb were to be supplied after the φοβεῖσθαι, would it be used directly, or would a μὴ "lest" preceed it? And what aspect / mood / tense would that verb be?


Ordinarily φοβεῖσθαι does take a μὴ + subjunctive construction expressing the outcome that is feared; Here I think I'd put it in the terms suggested by the Marcan account: "μήποτε γένηται θόρυβος τοῦ λαοῦ."
Carl W. Conrad
Department of Classics, Washington University (Retired)
… ἐπειδὴ καὶ τὸν οἶνον ἠξίους
πίνειν, συνεκποτέ’ ἐστί σοι καὶ τὴν τρύγα Aristophanes, Plutus 1085
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Re: Lk.22:2b Fear them, what they would do to them or just d

Postby Stephen Hughes » September 18th, 2013, 12:22 pm

cwconrad wrote:I'm not sure that I understand your question. the middle φοβεῖσθαι takes an accusative of the person or thing feared,
Taking it in this sense, ultimately it is the Romans who are feared and who could affect the status quo in drastic ways. Can you see any logic in expressing their fear of τὸν λαόν "the people" - which would start a chain of events leading to their being affected, rather than saying directly "the Romans" - which would be the ultimate factor which would immediately affect them (reflexively).
Stephen Hughes
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Re: Lk.22:2b Fear them, what they would do to them or just d

Postby cwconrad » September 18th, 2013, 12:34 pm

Stephen Hughes wrote:
cwconrad wrote:I'm not sure that I understand your question. the middle φοβεῖσθαι takes an accusative of the person or thing feared,
Taking it in this sense, ultimately it is the Romans who are feared and who could affect the status quo in drastic ways. Can you see any logic in expressing their fear of τὸν λαόν "the people" - which would start a chain of events leading to their being affected, rather than saying directly "the Romans" - which would be the ultimate factor which would immediately affect them (reflexively).


Sorry. Once again, I really think that it is indeed ὁ λάος that arouses the anxiety of the Temple authorities; they don't know how the populace are going to react; they're afraid of what the rabble may do. Of course their "ultimate" concern is with how far-reaching the Roman response to a tumult might be and how it might affect their own status, but their immediate anxiety is focused on how this rabble amassed in Jerusalem for the Passover festival may respond to an arrest and execution of Jesus during the festival.
Carl W. Conrad
Department of Classics, Washington University (Retired)
… ἐπειδὴ καὶ τὸν οἶνον ἠξίους
πίνειν, συνεκποτέ’ ἐστί σοι καὶ τὴν τρύγα Aristophanes, Plutus 1085
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Re: Lk.22:2b Fear them, what they would do to them or just d

Postby Stephen Hughes » September 18th, 2013, 12:38 pm

cwconrad wrote:Sorry. Once again, I really think that it is indeed ὁ λάος that arouses the anxiety of the Temple authorities; they don't know how the populace are going to react; they're afraid of what the rabble may do. Of course their "ultimate" concern is with how far-reaching the Roman response to a tumult might be and how it might affect their own status, but their immediate anxiety is focused on how this rabble amassed in Jerusalem for the Passover festival may respond to an arrest and execution of Jesus during the festival.

So, the semantic range of φοβεῖσθαι may be more concerned with the emotional reaction and feeling, rather than a logcially thought out fear / concern about long-ranging consequences?
Stephen Hughes
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Re: Lk.22:2b Fear them, what they would do to them or just d

Postby cwconrad » September 18th, 2013, 1:07 pm

Stephen Hughes wrote:
cwconrad wrote:Sorry. Once again, I really think that it is indeed ὁ λάος that arouses the anxiety of the Temple authorities; they don't know how the populace are going to react; they're afraid of what the rabble may do. Of course their "ultimate" concern is with how far-reaching the Roman response to a tumult might be and how it might affect their own status, but their immediate anxiety is focused on how this rabble amassed in Jerusalem for the Passover festival may respond to an arrest and execution of Jesus during the festival.

So, the semantic range of φοβεῖσθαι may be more concerned with the emotional reaction and feeling, rather than a logcially thought out fear / concern about long-ranging consequences?


Yes, I think that's right on the mark. One of the middle categories discussed by Rutger Allan (The Middle Voice in Ancient Greek: A Study in Polysemy is what he calls the "mental process middle." He describes it thus:
The mental process middle involves an animate subject that experiences a mental affectedness. The subject, accordingly, has the semantic role of experiencer. This affectedness can be of an emotional kind, as in φοβοῦμαι 'fear', or of a cognitive kind, as in μιμνήσκομαι 'remember', ἐπίσταμαι 'know'. In the present stem, these middle verbs designate states, that is to say, they do not involve change over time. However, mental states are typically temporary. As such mental states are different from states that have a more permanent character such as 'be king', 'be small', 'be red.' The aorist forms of these verbs generally designate that the subject entered a mental state (ingressive meaning of the aorist). For instance, aorist ἐφοβήθην 'I became afraid' vs. φοβοῦμαι 'I am afraid.'
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Re: Lk.22:2b Fear them, what they would do to them or just d

Postby Mark Lightman » September 18th, 2013, 1:53 pm

cwconrad wrote:...the middle φοβεῖσθαι takes an accusative of the person or thing feared, while the active φοβεῖν is causative, "frighten" or, on the battlefield, "rout" -- and takes an accusative of the person (or animal?) frightened.

φοβεῖ μέν τις τοὺς ἀνθρώπους, σοβεῖ δὲ τοὺς ὀρνίθας.
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Re: Lk.22:2b Fear them, what they would do to them or just d

Postby Vasile Stancu » September 20th, 2013, 5:52 pm

It seems to me that the τὸ πῶς construction is key to understanding the matter, in that the high priests' and scholars' simply ἀνελεῖν αὐτόν (which they felt they needed to do) would naturally generate a strong and immediate negative reaction of the λαός, so they needed to devise some 'method' (τὸ πῶς...) to accomplish that, and generate thus the public perception that their action was a legitimate one.
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