ὑπό with secondary agency? (James 1:14)

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

ὑπό with secondary agency? (James 1:14)

Postby nicholasj.ellis » January 28th, 2012, 10:09 am

James 1:14 is typically understood as emphasizing ἐπιθυμία to be primary agency: ἕκαστος δὲ πειράζεται ὑπὸ τῆς ἰδίας ἐπιθυμίας ἐξελκόμενος καὶ δελεαζόμενος· The ὑπό is taken to mean that Lust as a reified agent has baited and dragged away the ἕκαστος: each one is enticed by his own lust, with commentators going on to emphasize that no external agent (generally the Devil) is in view, but rather only James' overarching emphasis that sin rests with personal responsibility.

I was wondering whether ὑπό ἐπιθυμίας is inherently limited to such ultimately agency; while διά would seem to my mind a more standard use for means, can't ὑπό be used in subordinate agency? (noting LSJ ὙΠΟ section II: of Cause or Agency). Could James 1:14 be understood to say that "each one is led astray when enticed [to sin] through their own lust", i.e., as if lust were the worm on the hook, but with the assumption that someone is holding the fishing pole (in other words, James' anthropology and cosmology might still assume a malevolent figure in the picture)?
Last edited by Stephen Carlson on January 28th, 2012, 4:17 pm, edited 1 time in total.
Reason: Added citation to title
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Re: ὑπό with secondary agency?

Postby Mark Lightman » January 28th, 2012, 1:18 pm

ἠρώτησεν ὁ Νικολαος
can't ὑπό be used in subordinate agency?


χαῖρε φίλτατε

Yes, ὑπό plus the genitive is used this way throughout the GNT. For example Gal 1:11

τὸ εὐαγγέλιον τὸ εὐαγγελισθὲν ὑπ' ἐμοῦ…οὐκ ἐστιν κατὰ ἄνθρωπον.

where Paul is only the secondary agent with the primary (unexpressed) agent being the Holy Spirit.

LSJ won’t tell you this, but King Context will.
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Re: ὑπό with secondary agency?

Postby nicholasj.ellis » January 28th, 2012, 2:43 pm

χαῖρε Μαρκε,

Thanks much; Galatians 1:11 isn't quite getting at it, as Paul is probably still envisioning himself as the subject of the verb "preaching the gospel". Whilst theologically of course the gospel comes from the Holy Spirit, Paul is still the active subject: he's doing τὸ εὐαγγελιζειν.

Perhaps agency isn't the best way to approach my question. To rephrase/clarify: the ambiguity in James 1:14 has to do with the odd subject/object relationship embedded within the passive πειράζεται; moving this to an active verb, is ἑπιθυμία the "subject" of πειράζειν, with ἐκαστος the object? That is, does the author intend to say that it is ἑπιθυμία that entices and hauls away each person? Or does something/someone else do the enticing/hauling, using the ἐπιθυμια as its "bait"? In other words, using ἐπιθυμία as means or instrument. The former reading is the obvious grammatical option; is the second option also a possible reading? I can't identify such a reading in the NT, but LSJ seems to think it possible.

In the latter reading, we might artificially say reconstruct vs. 14-15:
"Testing happens when (something, the Devil, the human nature, etc.?) uses ἐπιθυμία to entice and then carry the person away into sin and death."

What say ye: possible use of or no in this use of ὑπό τῆς ἐπιθυμίας?
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Re: ὑπό with secondary agency?

Postby Eeli Kaikkonen » January 28th, 2012, 3:03 pm

nicholasj.ellis wrote:I was wondering whether ὑπό ἐπιθυμίας is inherently limited to such ultimately agency; while διά would seem to my mind a more standard use for means, can't ὑπό be used in subordinate agency?


We have to carefully distinct between what the author actually said and what he could have said or what he thought. The Greek language doesn't express "subordinate agency" with ὑπό. However, it doesn't limit the real world or extralinguistic agency to the grammatical agency either. What can be said to be the ultimate agent is beyond the text, unless the larger textual context says something about it. It's up to biblical and systematic theology to say how the writer might have thought or how we should think in large. ὑπό in itself can't be used as a proof for "immediate agency is the ultimate agency" view, nor for "immediate agency is different from ultimate agency" view. Whether we can tell something more than what is actually seen in the translation (English "by") depends on the context, not on the word ὑπό. If commentators argue for "James' overarching emphasis that sin rests with personal responsibility" they have to base it on the context, not on one word.

That said, I think that your paraphrase "each one is led astray when enticed [to sin] through their own lust" isn't what the text says. The text says that it's the lust which entices. Yet what is behind that truth is another thing. What one writer says in one passage is only one viewpoint to reality, no matter whether the text is religious or not, inerrant or not. One word, sentence, passage or book can't be exhaustive, only sufficient for certain purpose. James' purpose in this specific word or sentence wasn't to explore what is or isn't behind the lust. The larger context is a different thing.
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Re: ὑπό with secondary agency?

Postby nicholasj.ellis » January 28th, 2012, 3:22 pm

Eeli Kaikkonen wrote:The text says that it's the lust which entices.


I guess the point of my question is that this in point of fact is not what the text says, just how it's typically read. What the text says, literally, is that "each one is tested (passive) 'being ruled and enticed" (passive) ὑπὸ τὴς ἐπιθυμίς. The question is what are the range of possibilities for that final prepositional phrase (agent means, etc.). Are the options indeed limited to your paraphrase above? Or do we have a wider use of ὑπό available?
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Re: ὑπό with secondary agency?

Postby Eeli Kaikkonen » January 28th, 2012, 5:37 pm

nicholasj.ellis wrote:
Eeli Kaikkonen wrote:The text says that it's the lust which entices.


I guess the point of my question is that this in point of fact is not what the text says, just how it's typically read.


I'll still stick to my earlier comment. It's what the text says.

What the text says, literally, is that "each one is tested (passive) 'being ruled and enticed" (passive) ὑπὸ τὴς ἐπιθυμίς.

That's true, but it's not helpful because it's a tautology, it just repeats the words under question verbatim. We are trying to discuss about the meaning, right?

The question is what are the range of possibilities for that final prepositional phrase (agent means, etc.). Are the options indeed limited to your paraphrase above? Or do we have a wider use of ὑπό available?


I'm not quite sure what's my paraphrase, if not "it's the lust which entices". But I indeed believe that what the English translations naturally mean here when read without prejudice is what the Greek text means. If James would have wanted to explicitly say that lust is only "intermediate agent" he could have said so by using δια. ὑπό doesn't mean intermediate agency, it means agency, but it allows "real world" intermediate agency if context says so. As does the English equivalent. I don't know if I can say it more clearly.

If you still feel I haven't understood your point or you haven't understood mine, it may be because of different preunderstanding. I have read some semantics and tried to make clear to myself the limits of the language and the difference between linguistic and extralinguistic realities (which isn't easy!). Therefore I believe that what one word or sentence means doesn't limit or rule the reality, it just offers a viewpoint. And what language "means" is not the same what can be deducted from it. If we talk about the meaning of pass.+ὑπό construction, in my opinion it doesn't mean intermediate agency, but neither it means that the agency can't be intermediate in extralinguistic reality. And what that extralinguistic reality is, doesn't belong to B-Greek.

Someone might find dozens or hundreds of instances where ὑπό is used with "intermediate agent". But that wouldn't prove ὑπό means it - only that it can be used in such contexts. Mark Lightman's example was relevant, but it shows only what I'm trying to argue: that ὑπό, which means agency, can be used in contexts where the real world agency is clearly intermediate.
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Re: ὑπό with secondary agency? (James 1:14)

Postby nicholasj.ellis » January 28th, 2012, 6:28 pm

If James would have wanted to explicitly say that lust is only "intermediate agent" he could have said so by using δια. ὑπό doesn't mean intermediate agency, it means agency, but it allows "real world" intermediate agency if context says so. As does the English equivalent . . . . If we talk about the meaning of pass.+ὑπό construction, in my opinion it doesn't mean intermediate agency, but neither it means that the agency can't be intermediate in extralinguistic reality.


Let me use your point from pragmatics in English to further this. We could say "he was killed by the sword", and be fairly certain that this is probably instrumental usage, since it's likely the sword didn't jump up and kill with any kind of volition. However, "by" can of course have greater semantic range than ὑπό, especially when we want to build a metaphorical situation.

So again, limiting the usage of ὑπό to non-metaphorical/anthropomorphic uses, can the semantic range of ὑπό include meaning such as the above "killed by the sword" (ἀποκτανθῆναι ὑπὸ ῥομφαίας), as opposed to the dative (ἀποκτανθῆναι ἐν ῥομφαίᾳ) or with with διά (ἀποκτανθῆναι διὰ ῥομφαίας)?
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Re: ὑπό with secondary agency? (James 1:14)

Postby Stephen Carlson » January 28th, 2012, 6:39 pm

nicholasj.ellis wrote:James 1:14 is typically understood as emphasizing ἐπιθυμία to be primary agency: ἕκαστος δὲ πειράζεται ὑπὸ τῆς ἰδίας ἐπιθυμίας ἐξελκόμενος καὶ δελεαζόμενος· The ὑπό is taken to mean that Lust as a reified agent has baited and dragged away the ἕκαστος: each one is enticed by his own lust, with commentators going on to emphasize that no external agent (generally the Devil) is in view, but rather only James' overarching emphasis that sin rests with personal responsibility.


Are you construing ὑπὸ τῆς ἰδίας ἐπιθυμίας with (a) πειράζεται, (b) ἐξελκόμενος καὶ δελεαζόμενος, or (c) both?

Stephen
Stephen C. Carlson, Ph.D. (Duke)
Post-Doctoral Fellow, Faculty of Theology, Uppsala
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Re: ὑπό with secondary agency? (James 1:14)

Postby nicholasj.ellis » January 28th, 2012, 7:00 pm

Hi Stephen,

Well, good question. There's a lot of abstraction going on in the verse, and it's not clear whether the ἐπιθυμία is doing the πειράζειν, or just the ἐξελκόμενος καὶ δελεαζόμενος. That being said, it's pretty clear the sentences is juxtaposed against the previous verse:

Μηδεὶς πειραζόμενος λεγέτω ὅτι ἀπὸ θεοῦ πειράζομαι· ὁ γὰρ θεὸς ἀπείραστός ἐστιν κακῶν, πειράζει δὲ αὐτὸς οὐδένα.

So, the phrase "each one is tested when dragged away and enticed by his own desire" likely stands in juxtaposition to (a) ἀπὸ θεοῦ πειράζομαι; (b) πειράζει δὲ αὐτὸς οὐδένα, or the logical combination of both: God does not test, something else does. What does? Well, it's kinda left unspoken, isn't it? The phrase "ἕκαστος δὲ πειράζεται" anticipates a contrast to the "ἀπὸ θεοῦ πειράζομαι". But rather than stating simply ἕκαστος δὲ πειράζεται ὑπὸ τὴς ἐπιθυμίας, the author complicates it: ἕκαστος δὲ πειράζεται ὑπὸ τῆς ἰδίας ἐπιθυμίας ἐξελκόμενος καὶ δελεαζόμενος. Does this mean that "each one is tested not by God, but rather by desire", as per the logical train of thought; or, is the agent left unspoken: each one is tested . . . when enticed and dragged away ὑπὸ τῆς ἰδίας ἐπιθυμίας (and perhaps the change of preposition from από θεοῦ to ὑπὸ ἐπιθυμίας is significant in that there is not a linear comparison between the two?). In this case, the agent of testing is left unspoken, and the ἐπιθυμία can be either the agent of dragging and enticing, or the means by which the testing agent drags and entices.
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Re: ὑπό with secondary agency? (James 1:14)

Postby nicholasj.ellis » January 28th, 2012, 7:08 pm

To take an errant example of ὑπό with an instrumental usage that assumes an alternate primary agency, consider the following

Rev. 6:8 - καὶ ὁ ᾅδης ἠκολούθει μετ᾿ αὐτοῦ καὶ ἐδόθη αὐτοῖς ἐξουσία ἐπὶ τὸ τέταρτον τῆς γῆς ἀποκτεῖναι ἐν ῥομφαίᾳ καὶ ἐν λιμῷ καὶ ὑπὸ τῶν θηρίων τῆς γῆς.

Here, we have a pretty clear use of ὑπό as instrument, in combination with several ἑν+dative constructions: "authority was given . . . to kill with the sword, and with famine, and with the wild beasts."

The difference, of course, is that this use is with an active infinitive, rather than a passive. So, could one have said "they would be killed "ἐν ῥομφαίᾳ καὶ ἐν λιμῷ καὶ ὑπὸ τῶν θηρίων τῆς γῆς", or does the move to passive completely preclude?
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