What is a "Genitive of Location"?

Grammar questions which are not related to any specific text.
WAnderson
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What is a "Genitive of Location"?

Post by WAnderson » June 6th, 2016, 1:27 am

This description is used a lot by Dave Mathewson in his new Baylor Handbook on Revelation. For example, he describes "the stars of heaven" in Rev. 12:4a as a "Genitive of location." I understand what is meant, but I don't find that particular genitive category in the basic references I've consulted. Is it usually known by another name?
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cwconrad
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Re: What is a "Genitive of Location"?

Post by cwconrad » June 6th, 2016, 5:18 am

WAnderson wrote:This description is used a lot by Dave Mathewson in his new Baylor Handbook on Revelation. For example, he describes "the stars of heaven" in Rev. 12:4a as a "Genitive of location." I understand what is meant, but I don't find that particular genitive category in the basic references I've consulted. Is it usually known by another name?
There is something about the genitive case, perhaps especially the adnominal/adjectival usage of the genitive case, that seems to spur grammarians or grammatical commentators to generate fresh categories. I suspect that translation preferences may govern this designation: if "stars in the sky" or "sands on the beach" or "animals at the zoo" is better English than "stars of the sky," "sands of the beach," or "animals of the zoo," then such a usage deserves, it is thought, a category of its own. I think one of the aspects of the adnominal/adjecival genitive that bothers (some) grammarians is that this is a structural rather than a semantic usage. The linkage of one noun to another, with or without a hyphen or by a preposition of association, links two nominal notions together, doesn't really require a category or subcategory.
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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)

WAnderson
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Re: What is a "Genitive of Location"?

Post by WAnderson » June 6th, 2016, 7:58 pm

Thank you. The reason I asked is because some commentators take the genitive "stars of heaven" in Rev. 12:4 as "possessive," meaning (according to them) that therefore the stars "belong" to heaven and so cannot symbolize, for example, believers. I understand this forum doesn't deal with interpretations, but it seemed to be a case where how the genitive is understood here might influence one's interpretation. That's why I was curious about D. Mathewson's categorization. Thanks again.
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Eeli Kaikkonen
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Re: What is a "Genitive of Location"?

Post by Eeli Kaikkonen » June 7th, 2016, 4:20 am

WAnderson wrote: some commentators take the genitive "stars of heaven" in Rev. 12:4 as "possessive," meaning (according to them) that therefore the stars "belong" to heaven and so cannot symbolize, for example, believers.
That sounds very much like a classic case of eisegesis. It's really just impossible to arrive to such conclusion by interpreting the genitive case here. In real communication (which the texts of in Bible are) the writer/speaker wants to get a point across without overspecifying or underspecifying it. The interpretation above is overspecifying, putting more there than is warranted by normal laws of communication and Greek grammar.

When someone connects the ideas of "stars" and "heaven" in a general way so that "stars" is thing which is qualified and "heaven" is a qualifier, what it communicates? Everyone really knows what is the relationship between stars and heaven, and knows it intuitively without specifying it further. Just imagine how you look at the dark sky and see stars there. More could be said, for example that stars are located in the heaven, or they belong to the heaven, or they are part of heaven, or even that they are "heavenly". But these must be said explicitly OR they are dictated by context. In this case nothing specific is explicitly said and context doesn't lead necessarily to any one interpretation exclusively. In my opinion Location is more natural here than Posession, but there's no need to use even that label. Again, you intuitively and immediately recognise the connection between stars and heaven without conscious interpretation, do you?
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WAnderson
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Re: What is a "Genitive of Location"?

Post by WAnderson » June 7th, 2016, 6:05 pm

Thank you, EK. Yes, as I think about it, it does sound like eisegesis, in this case overthinking something that is meant to be taken at face value in order to support a particular interpretation. So, what D. Mathewson is saying is simply that these stars are located in heaven--i.e. the stars we look up and see at night--and whatever the interpretation is, it can't make more of the grammar itself than what is plainly stated. In other words, just because it's in a symbolic context doesn't mean that the genitive takes on some "special" significance that would not also apply in a non-symbolic context. Thanks, this has been helpful.
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Stephen Carlson
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Re: What is a "Genitive of Location"?

Post by Stephen Carlson » June 7th, 2016, 6:57 pm

WAnderson wrote:Thank you. The reason I asked is because some commentators take the genitive "stars of heaven" in Rev. 12:4 as "possessive," meaning (according to them) that therefore the stars "belong" to heaven and so cannot symbolize, for example, believers. I understand this forum doesn't deal with interpretations, but it seemed to be a case where how the genitive is understood here might influence one's interpretation. That's why I was curious about D. Mathewson's categorization. Thanks again.
"Possessive" seems inapt because the stars aren't animate. (Given how flexible symbolism can be, I tend to be skeptical of grammatical objections to claims of symbolism: it is better to engage them at a higher level by looking at the larger context and the author's overall presentation of ideas.)

I would prefer an ordinary partitive genitive here: the stars are simply part of the sky. Mathewson doesn't seem to conceptualize the sky / heaven that way and seems to a create a category that better fits his conceptualization of heaven as an abstract location.
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Stephen C. Carlson, Ph.D.
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Stephen Hughes
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Re: What is a "Genitive of Location"?

Post by Stephen Hughes » June 8th, 2016, 7:26 pm

Within NT Greek grammar, there are genitives that do indicate location.

The word αὐτοῦ in Mt 26:36, Acts 18:19 and 21:4, means "here" or "there". It is a genitive singular form of αὐτός "the same", and αὐτοῦ means "in the same place". There is also a not infrequent relative adverb οὗ, used for example in the familiar "Where two or three are gath..." (Οὗ γάρ εἰσιν δύο ἢ τρεῖς συνηγμένοι εἰς τὸ ἐμὸν ὄνομα, ἐκεῖ εἰμὶ ἐν μέσῳ αὐτῶν.).
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cwconrad
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Re: What is a "Genitive of Location"?

Post by cwconrad » June 9th, 2016, 5:38 am

Stephen Carlson wrote:
WAnderson wrote:Thank you. The reason I asked is because some commentators take the genitive "stars of heaven" in Rev. 12:4 as "possessive," meaning (according to them) that therefore the stars "belong" to heaven and so cannot symbolize, for example, believers. I understand this forum doesn't deal with interpretations, but it seemed to be a case where how the genitive is understood here might influence one's interpretation. That's why I was curious about D. Mathewson's categorization. Thanks again.
"Possessive" seems inapt because the stars aren't animate. (Given how flexible symbolism can be, I tend to be skeptical of grammatical objections to claims of symbolism: it is better to engage them at a higher level by looking at the larger context and the author's overall presentation of ideas.)

I would prefer an ordinary partitive genitive here: the stars are simply part of the sky. Mathewson doesn't seem to conceptualize the sky / heaven that way and seems to a create a category that better fits his conceptualization of heaven as an abstract location.
I'd agree that the partitive genitive is appropriate for indication of spans of time within which (τῆς νυκτός) or areas of space within which something occurs (ἐπὶ τῆς γῆς) or of stuff drunk (οἴνου πίνειν) or of stuff reached (μή μου ἅπτου), etc., but I wonder whether that's the usage when in conjunction with another noun. On the other hand, although I once thought otherwise, I'm dubious whether it makes much sense to differentiate in Hellenistic Greek between partitive genitive, ablative genitive, and "possessive" -- i.e. the standard adnominal genitive usage.
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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)

cwconrad
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Re: What is a "Genitive of Location"?

Post by cwconrad » June 9th, 2016, 5:49 am

Stephen Hughes wrote:Within NT Greek grammar, there are genitives that do indicate location.

The word αὐτοῦ in Mt 26:36, Acts 18:19 and 21:4, means "here" or "there". It is a genitive singular form of αὐτός "the same", and αὐτοῦ means "in the same place". There is also a not infrequent relative adverb οὗ, used for example in the familiar "Where two or three are gath..." (Οὗ γάρ εἰσιν δύο ἢ τρεῖς συνηγμένοι εἰς τὸ ἐμὸν ὄνομα, ἐκεῖ εἰμὶ ἐν μέσῳ αὐτῶν.).
Unquestionably this is the genitive of the Intensive pronoun αὐτός/ή/όν, but don't we distinguish, at least when it's used with a noun and article between a predicative usage αὐτὸς ὁ Σωκράτης "Socrates himself" and an attributive usage ὁ αὐτὸς Σωκράτης "the same Socrates"? I think that αὐτοὐ is the intensive usage: "the very place" rather than "the same place." Or is that just a quibble? I raise the question because it seems to me that older pronominal forms in Greek (e.g. ὁ ἡ τό, τῇδε) continued to be employed in later eras.
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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)

Stephen Carlson
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Re: What is a "Genitive of Location"?

Post by Stephen Carlson » June 9th, 2016, 8:38 pm

cwconrad wrote:I'd agree that the partitive genitive is appropriate for indication of spans of time within which (τῆς νυκτός) or areas of space within which something occurs (ἐπὶ τῆς γῆς) or of stuff drunk (οἴνου πίνειν) or of stuff reached (μή μου ἅπτου), etc., but I wonder whether that's the usage when in conjunction with another noun. On the other hand, although I once thought otherwise, I'm dubious whether it makes much sense to differentiate in Hellenistic Greek between partitive genitive, ablative genitive, and "possessive" -- i.e. the standard adnominal genitive usage.
I'd agree that the term "partitive" is least controversial when the different parts are relatively homogeneous or the same in relevant part, as in your examples, but BDF § 164(2) also calls the genitive in Acts 22:3 ἐν Ταρσῷ τῆς Κιλικίας a partitive genitive, and that seems to fit the case at hand tolerably well. For what it's worth, Wallace would apply the term to non-homogenous parts as well (his example "the bumper of a car").

As for as semantic categorizations, some people are lumpers, some are splitters. Both should agree that the categories, whether lumped or split, are not substitutes for actual knowledge of how they function in actual contexts.
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Stephen C. Carlson, Ph.D.
Melbourne, Australia

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