αφίημι: Active, Middle, and Passive

Semantic Range, Lexicography, and other approaches to word meaning - in general, or for particular words.
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Louis L Sorenson
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αφίημι: Active, Middle, and Passive

Post by Louis L Sorenson » June 21st, 2011, 9:26 pm

I've been looking at the word ἀφίημι. This is one of the more rubbery words in the NT. BDAG for most verbs lists and active and passive. Many times they give a middle form meaning section. For this verb, I do not see any middle given in BDAG. The middle is also scarce in LSJ, perhaps about 5% of the entire entry:
ⓑ fig. of impers. obj. give up, abandon (Aeschyl., Prom. 317 ὀργάς; Arrian, Anab. 1, 10, 6; Jos., Ant. 9, 264 ἀ. τ. ἄρτι βίον) τὴν πρώτην ἀγάπην Rv 2:4; τ. φυσικὴν χρῆσιν Ro 1:27; leave (behind) to go on to someth. else (in orators; Plut., Mor. 793a; Epict. 4, 1, 15 al.) τὸν τῆς ἀρχῆς τοῦ Χρ. λόγον Hb 6:1; neglect (Diod S 1, 39, 11; POxy 1067, 5) also omit (Diod S 8, 12, 11) τὰ βαρύτερα τοῦ νόμου what is more important in the law Mt 23:23; τὴν ἐντολήν Mk 7:8 (Hyperid. 5, 22 νόμον).
So what I'm wondering about is the semantics of ἁφίημι. Is this a verb which has a middle force in the active forms? BDAG lists a middle imperative. But that's about all.
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Louis L Sorenson
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Re: αφίημι: Active, Middle, and Passive

Post by Louis L Sorenson » June 21st, 2011, 9:39 pm

A clarification. If the middle would have been 'leave off' doing, "release" e.g. release your anger," "let go of...." Was it that other verbs took place of middle ἁφίημι?
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cwconrad
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Re: αφίημι: Active, Middle, and Passive

Post by cwconrad » June 22nd, 2011, 6:27 am

Louis L Sorenson wrote:I've been looking at the word ἀφίημι. This is one of the more rubbery words in the NT. BDAG for most verbs lists and active and passive. Many times they give a middle form meaning section. For this verb, I do not see any middle given in BDAG. The middle is also scarce in LSJ, perhaps about 5% of the entire entry:
ⓑ fig. of impers. obj. give up, abandon (Aeschyl., Prom. 317 ὀργάς; Arrian, Anab. 1, 10, 6; Jos., Ant. 9, 264 ἀ. τ. ἄρτι βίον) τὴν πρώτην ἀγάπην Rv 2:4; τ. φυσικὴν χρῆσιν Ro 1:27; leave (behind) to go on to someth. else (in orators; Plut., Mor. 793a; Epict. 4, 1, 15 al.) τὸν τῆς ἀρχῆς τοῦ Χρ. λόγον Hb 6:1; neglect (Diod S 1, 39, 11; POxy 1067, 5) also omit (Diod S 8, 12, 11) τὰ βαρύτερα τοῦ νόμου what is more important in the law Mt 23:23; τὴν ἐντολήν Mk 7:8 (Hyperid. 5, 22 νόμον).
So what I'm wondering about is the semantics of ἁφίημι. Is this a verb which has a middle force in the active forms? BDAG lists a middle imperative. But that's about all.
Louis L Sorenson wrote:A clarification. If the middle would have been 'leave off' doing, "release" e.g. release your anger," "let go of...." Was it that other verbs took place of middle ἁφίημι?
(1) What we refer to as "active" voice is really a "default" or "unmarked" voice form; there are lots of "subject-affected" verbs that appear in "active" voice form (e.g. πάσχω, ἀποθνῄσκω); the middle is the verb form of choice when you want to mark the verb for subject-affectedness -- and, of course, many standard verbs have ONLY middle forms -- especially those that fall into several clearly-defined categories that I won't try to catalog here.

(2) One thing that I have noticed but haven't yet studied is middle verbs which are regularly used in the middle -- in an intransitive sense -- but are commonly found in the active imperative. One of these is ἐγείρομαι, ordinarily used in the middle in the sense "arise," "awaken", or "rise/get up" (including "rise from the dead") but commonly used in the active imperative forms ἔγειρε, ἐγείρετε (only once in the GNT in the middle ἐγείρεσθε) in the same sense.

(3) As for other verbs that might be used in the middle sense of ἀφίημι, this is one useful feature of Louw & Nida in a digital format: type in ἀφίημι (or whatever verb) then scroll through all the hits for various usages of ἀφίημι, then see what other verbs are found in that sense or in a sense that is close. One thing I find is χαρίζομαι:

57.223 ἀφίημι g; χαρίζομαι c: to release a person from the obligation of repaying what is owed — ‘to cancel a debt, to forgive a debt.’
ἀφίημι g: τὸ δάνειον ἀφῆκεν αὐτῷ ‘he cancelled his debt from the loan’ Mt 18:27; πᾶσαν τὴν ὀφειλὴν ἐκείνην ἀφῆκά σοι ‘I forgave you that entire debt’ Mt 18:32.
χαρίζομαι c: μὴ ἐχόντων αὐτῶν ἀποδοῦναι ἀμφοτέροις ἐχαρίσατο ‘neither of them could pay him back, so he cancelled the debts of both’ Lk 7:42.

Nevertheless, it would appear that ἀφίημι is a verb that is ordinarily used in the active form and as a transitive verb with an object/complement. One of its most common usages is as an auxiliary used with an infinitive like our "let/allow."
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οὔτοι ἀπ’ ἀρχῆς πάντα θεοὶ θνητοῖς ὑπέδειξαν,
ἀλλὰ χρόνῳ ζητέοντες ἐφευρίσκουσιν ἄμεινον. (Xenophanes, Fragment 16)

Carl W. Conrad
Department of Classics, Washington University (Retired)

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