Strange article in Ephesians 1:7

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Strange article in Ephesians 1:7

Postby Jesse Goulet » May 6th, 2013, 4:21 pm

The construction I'm dumbfounded over is underlined in bold:
Ἐν ᾧ ἔχομεν τὴν ἀπολύτρωσιν διὰ τοῦ αἵματος αὐτοῦ, τὴν ἄφεσιν τῶν παραπτωμάτων, κατὰ τὸ πλοῦτος τῆς χάριτος αὐτοῦ


At first I thought nothing of this construction until I remembered that πλοῦτος is masculine and should have a masculine article, and I'm stuck trying to figure out what the neuter article's purpose and meaning is here.

I was wondering if Paul might have merely switched this article to the other side of κατὰ, where the article would be functioning like a relative pronoun (τὸ κατὰ πλοῦτος = "which is according to the richness...). But the previous clause has two parallel but distinct ideas that the article could be referring to, it doesn't make sense for the article to be referring to only one of the ideas, yet the article is singular. But as seems to often be the case with the neuter gender, could a singular neuter article (functioning as a relative pronoun) have a plural antecedent?

If the article isn't referring to a clause or train of thought, the only neuter antecedent I see is τοῦ αἵματος, but that seems like an odd antecedent giving the context to me.
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Re: Strange article in Ephesians 1:7

Postby timothy_p_mcmahon » May 6th, 2013, 7:42 pm

Jesse Goulet wrote:I was wondering if Paul might have merely switched this article to the other side of κατὰ, where the article would be functioning like a relative pronoun (τὸ κατὰ πλοῦτος = "which is according to the richness...).

That solution doesn't work because πλοῦτος is the nominative form; it would have to be κατὰ πλοῦτον.

I'm wondering if there's a by-form of πλοῦτος which is a 3rd declension neuter (like γενος)?
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Re: Strange article in Ephesians 1:7

Postby MAubrey » May 6th, 2013, 8:38 pm

BDAG has this handy note:

Paul, who also uses the masc., in eight passages (2 Cor 8:2; Eph 1:7; 2:7; 3:8, 16; Phil 4:19; Col 1:27; 2:2) has in the nom. and acc. the neuter τὸ πλοῦτος (AcPh 109 [Aa II/2, 42, 5]; Is 29:2 [acc. to SA; s. Thackeray 159]); Tdf., Proleg. 118; W-H., app. 158; B-D-F §51, 2; Mlt-H. 127; Gignac II 100; ‘wealth, riches’.


And the by-form comment is right on. Gignac (volume II, 98-100) states that explicitly. πλοῦτος is a 3rd declension by-form in -ος.
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Re: Strange article in Ephesians 1:7

Postby George F Somsel » May 7th, 2013, 1:40 am

In addition to the note in BDAG, you should consider the entry in BDF §50
In the second declension: the examples of fluctuation between masculines in p 29 -ος and neuters in -ος have increased somewhat in comparison with classical Greek. Thus τὸ ἔλεος, τὸ ζῆλος (also MGr), τὸ ἦχος, τὸ πλοῦτος (also MGr), τὸ σκότος (neuter after τὸ φάος = φῶς) as opposed to Attic ὁ (Fraenkel, KZ 43 [1911] 195ff.); ὁ θάμβος (formed earlier) for τὸ θ.—Egli, Heterokl. 64–73; Th. St. Trannetatos, Τα εἰς -αρχης, -αρχος συνθετα ἐν τῃ ἀρχαιᾳ Ἑλληνικῃ γλωσσῃ (Πλατων I [1949] 1–18).


Blass, F., Debrunner, A., & Funk, R. W. (1961). A Greek grammar of the New Testament and other early Christian literature (28–29). Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
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Re: Strange article in Ephesians 1:7

Postby Barry Hofstetter » May 7th, 2013, 6:28 am

The easy way to say this is that the word is sometimes treated as a masculine, sometimes as a neuter...
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Re: Strange article in Ephesians 1:7

Postby Jesse Goulet » May 7th, 2013, 4:46 pm

I've never heard of a "by-form" before. What is it exactly? How do they work?

And why would Paul use a by-form when he could have just used the masculine article in the accusative with the accusative masculine form of πλοῦτος?
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Re: Strange article in Ephesians 1:7

Postby timothy_p_mcmahon » May 7th, 2013, 11:47 pm

A by-form is just an alternative form of a word. I've encountered the term a lot more frequently in the discussion of Hebrew than of Greek. I'm trying to think of an example in (much less inflectional) English; perhaps 'worked' and 'wrought' as alternative past tenses of 'work' would qualify, or 'forums' and 'fora' as plurals of 'forum'.

Why would Paul use a less common form? Probably impossible to answer. Generally, people who speak inflectional languages don't consciously choose which forms they use. It works pretty much on an intuitive level. Why does a Spanish speaker say "dije que me lo hiceras" instead of "dije que me lo hiceses" to communicate what we would say as "I told you to make it for me"? I doubt in many cases the speaker deliberately chooses one form over the other. It's not like Paul is sitting around thinking, "Should I use the masculine or the neuter variant of πλοῦτος?"
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Re: Strange article in Ephesians 1:7

Postby Scott Lawson » May 8th, 2013, 1:47 am

timothy_p_mcmahon wrote:"dije que me lo hiceras" instead of "dije que me lo hiceses"


FWIW, regarding hiciera versus hicieses, I've heard the (ra) form of the preterite subjunctive used more in my area and that's what comes to my mind first. There does seem to be some difference between the two in that the (ra) form can substitute for the potential where the (se) form would not.

Thanks Timothy for the introduction to the word "by-form"!
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Re: Strange article in Ephesians 1:7

Postby Jonathan Boyd » May 8th, 2013, 9:23 am

Scott Lawson wrote: FWIW, regarding hiciera versus hicieses, I've heard the (ra) form of the preterite subjunctive used more in my area and that's what comes to my mind first.


I agree, but I would add that the "hicieses," at least here in Colombia, sounds more elegant or erudite. I think that Spanish also illustrates the changes in gender with some words. For example, a computer here in Colombia is usually a masculine word (computador), whereas in most countries it's feminine (computadora). A Colombian more influenced by websites or people from other countries may use the feminine form because of his or her experience. This may be a conscience decision or simply as Scott says, "what comes to mind first." I would think that the same would be the case for πλοῦτος.
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Re: Strange article in Ephesians 1:7

Postby David Lim » May 10th, 2013, 4:55 am

timothy_p_mcmahon wrote:A by-form is just an alternative form of a word. I've encountered the term a lot more frequently in the discussion of Hebrew than of Greek. I'm trying to think of an example in (much less inflectional) English; perhaps 'worked' and 'wrought' as alternative past tenses of 'work' would qualify, or 'forums' and 'fora' as plurals of 'forum'.

I'm not too sure "worked" / "wrought" are very good English examples because they actually have different semantic ranges, so a speaker/writer might choose one over the other to prevent ambiguity.

Here are some examples in Greek:
"σκοτια" (fem.) / "σκοτος" (neut./masc.)
"σκηνη" (fem.) / "σκηνος" (neut.)
"δωρεα" (fem.) / "φωρον" (neut.)
"νικη" (fem.) / "νικος" (neut.)

And here are some in English:
"octopodes" (original) / "octopuses" (english pluralization) / { "octopi" / "octopii" } (hypercorrection)
"dwelt" / "dwelled"
"learnt" / "learned"
"leapt" / "leaped"
"spilt" / "spilled"
"travelled" / "traveled"
"labelled" / "labeled"
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