εἰμί vs γίνομαι

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

εἰμί vs γίνομαι

Postby Rob Campanaro » September 27th, 2013, 6:35 am

Here's a simple question. Are ειμί and γίνομαι synonyms?

Thanks,
Robert Campanaro
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Re: εἰμί vs γίνομαι

Postby Jonathan Robie » September 27th, 2013, 9:13 am

Do you have access to a lexicon?

The basic meaining of εἰμί is "to be", the basic meaning of γίνομαι is "to become", each has a variety of shades of meaning that can sometimes approach each other, but εἰμί is about being in a state of being and γίνομαι is generally about entering a state of being. Is there a particular passage you are curious about?
ἐξίσταντο δὲ πάντες καὶ διηποροῦντο, ἄλλος πρὸς ἄλλον λέγοντες, τί θέλει τοῦτο εἶναι;
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Re: εἰμί vs γίνομαι

Postby cwconrad » September 27th, 2013, 12:13 pm

It's worth noting that εἶναι is found only in the present, imperfect, and future tenses. Jonathan is quite right to refer you to a lexicon -- preferably an unabridged lexicon -- where you should read carefully through the entire entries for these two verbs. Some will say that the aorist γενέσθαι serves to indicate the aorist punctiliar sense of the verb εἷναι, but it's disputable. whether the verb γενέσθαι in any of its forms is ever free of a notion of generation/coming into being, whereas εἷναι always seems to involve static being.
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: εἰμί vs γίνομαι

Postby Rob Campanaro » September 27th, 2013, 7:19 pm

Thanks guys for your input. I do own a number of lexicons, BDAG and Kittel's being among them. The reason I posted the question was really to double check myself. Of course, I knew that although the two verbs were related, in that that both have to do with being, they had no strict semantic equivalence. Yet I found myself this week in a discussion with someone who teaches in seminary and holds a Ph.D in New Testament Greek who was arguing that the two are in fact synonymous on the level of 'commence' and 'begin', and in support, he cited several lexicons I'm not familiar with. Being self taught, I would assess my own skills at the higher end of intermediate, but when someone with that level of education disagrees with me, even on something this basic, it inclines me to think a second look at my own understanding might not hurt.

Thanks again,
Robert Campanaro
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Re: εἰμί vs γίνομαι

Postby cwconrad » September 28th, 2013, 6:34 am

Rob Campanaro wrote:... Of course, I knew that although the two verbs were related, in that that both have to do with being, they had no strict semantic equivalence. Yet I found myself this week in a discussion with someone who teaches in seminary and holds a Ph.D in New Testament Greek who was arguing that the two are in fact synonymous on the level of 'commence' and 'begin', and in support, he cited several lexicons I'm not familiar with. Being self taught, I would assess my own skills at the higher end of intermediate, but when someone with that level of education disagrees with me, even on something this basic, it inclines me to think a second look at my own understanding might not hurt.


I do in fact hold a Ph.D. myself, but it's always seemed to me that the persuasiveness of a proposition offered before the public is bolstered primarily by the evidence cited and the cogency of the argument presented, not by some authority vested in the holder of a degree as a holder of a degree. As one who spent most of his years in St. Louis, I'd have to say to that proposition of the synonymity of εἶναι and γινεσθαι, "I'm from Missouri; you'll have to show me.
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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